NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: March 18

Israel may launch missile strike on Iran, report warns

A leading foreign policy think tank in Washington said a strike by Israel on Iran will give rise to regional instability and conflict as well as terrorism.

A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said that due to the complexity and risk involved in an air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel may opt to strike with ballistic missiles if there are no other means to curtail the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme. The study said that in the event of such an attack a strike on the Bushehr nuclear reactor would cause the immediate death of thousands of people in the area. Thousands or even hundreds of thousands would subsequently die of cancer and radioactive contamination would “most definitely” heavily affect Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. [continued…]

What ‘J Street’ is up against

Halfway thru the event [The Nation‘s Eric Alterman] said that the Jewish community suffers from hypocrisy around the issue of dual loyalty. “I find this very confusing.” Of course there’s dual loyalty to Israel. He was raised with it. In Hebrew school, they were told they had to be supportive of Israel. At 14, on his first trip to Israel, at the behest of the ZOA, it was drilled into him that he should always do what was best for Israel.

And while complaining that he gets quoted by Walt and Mearsheimer for making the point, Alterman cited the maxim of foreign policy that the strategic interests of two states inevitably will diverge and said, “Sometimes I’m going to go with Israel” when its interests and the U.S.’s interests diverge. Because the US can take a lot of hits, but Israel can’t.

You heard that right, boss. To her credit, Eisner asked Alterman to name a situation in which the two countries’ interests diverge. Alterman offered: that bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorists were “to some degree inspired” by the U.S. relationship to Israel. The general environment of “terrorist attacks” and their “pool” of supporters in the Arab/Muslim world obviously draws on the the U.S.-Israel relationship.

“Dammit, if that’s the price we have to pay [for the special relationship], let’s pay it… But let’s be honest about it.”

I wonder: how many Americans would share that view? [continued…]

Freeman’s fight

Charles Freeman Jr.’s withdrawal of his acceptance of a high-level intelligence position in the Obama administration was a national-security drama more riveting than an episode of “24.” The moral was clear: even a president who owes his job to a progressive movement in American politics could not support a longtime public servant who had made the mistake of criticizing Israel. Fierce advocates of the Jewish state, notably Sens. Chuck Schumer and Joe Lieberman and Reps. Eric Cantor and Steve Israel, played important roles in Freeman’s exit, while present and former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee flitted in and out of the wings.

The message to all office-seekers is obvious. “They want to kill the chicken to scare the monkeys. They want other people to be intimidated,” Freeman told The American Conservative just before he withdrew his name to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He went on, “If the administration does not stick with me, then it’s destroying the argument that the Israel lobby is only a mythic entity and does not control the public space. … It will show the world that it is not able to exercise independent thinking on these issues.” [continued…]

The debate Commentary doesn’t like

The Chas Freeman affair continues to reverberate and for good reason—a lot is at stake. The coalition of pro-Israel bloggers that started the campaign against him wished things would end there. He would go quietly and be replaced by a pliable figure who would put no roadblocks in the way of their desired war with Iran. But he didn’t. He named the Israel lobby in his withdrawal statement, and much of the mainstream media agreed with him.

The lobby sits uneasily now: Israel’s new government is naming an out-and-out racist as foreign minister, President Obama supports a two-state solution, boycotts against goods produced in the occupied territories are gaining traction in Europe. Its essential instinct is defensive, to try to block all discussion. America should go on as before, giving Israel $4 billion dollars a year, blocking critical resolutions in the UN, saying that peace with the Palestinians would be nice while doing nothing serious.

But discussion is happening anyway. It can no longer be contained or marginalized. Still they try. Commentary blogger Noah Pollak has produced a post attacking TAC for what he considers “un-American” language criticizing the lobby. TAC takes its polemical manners seriously, and Pollak’s charge deserves an answer. [continued…]

U.S. weighs Taliban strike into Pakistan

President Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.

According to senior administration officials, two of the high-level reports on Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been forwarded to the White House in recent weeks have called for broadening the target area to include a major insurgent sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta.

Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led the Taliban government that was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001, has operated with near impunity out of the region for years, along with many of his deputies. [continued…]

The Afghanistan Americans seldom notice

Want a billion dollars in development aid? If you happen to live in Afghanistan, the two quickest ways to attract attention and so aid from the U.S. authorities are: Taliban attacks or a flourishing opium trade. For those with neither, the future could be bleak.

In November 2008, during the U.S. presidential elections, I traveled around Afghanistan asking people what they wanted from the United States. From Mazar in the north to Bamiyan in central Afghanistan to the capital city of Kabul, I came away with three very different pictures of the country.

Dragon Valley is a hauntingly beautiful place nestled high up in the heart of the Hindu Kush mountains. To get there from Kabul involves a bumpy, nine-hour drive on unpaved roads through Taliban country. In the last couple of years, a small community of ethnic Hazara people has resettled in this arid valley, as well as on other sparse adjoining lands, all near the legendary remains of a fire-breathing dragon reputedly slain by Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed. [continued…]

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