NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP & EDITOR’S COMMENTS: April 9

Israel cries wolf

“Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option.”

Benjamin Netanyahu 2009? Try again. These words were in fact uttered by another Israeli prime minister (and now Israeli president), Shimon Peres, in 1996. Four years earlier, in 1992, he’d predicted that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.

You can’t accuse the Israelis of not crying wolf. Ehud Barak, now defense minister, said in 1996 that Iran would be producing nuclear weapons by 2004.

Now here comes Netanyahu, in an interview with his faithful stenographer Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, spinning the latest iteration of Israel’s attempt to frame Iran as some Nazi-like incarnation of evil… [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — In the interest of precision it’s worth pointing out that Netanyahu doesn’t merely liken Iran’s leaders to the Nazis — he says the Iranians are more dangerous. What happened in Germany was horrific but what the Iranians might do is even worse.

In the likes-to-be-called “progressive” Huffington Post, Mort Zuckerman offers some more scare-mongering on steroids:

    Fundamentally, a nuclear Iran represents a unique threat. The fear of mutually assured destruction has long restrained other nuclear powers. There is a real risk that Iran is not rational, that driven by its mad hatreds it will act in ways that are irrational, even self-destructive. Anti-Americanism is a cornerstone of the ideology of this Islamic State. The virulence of Iran’s hostility is impervious to reason. “Death to America!” has provoked the Iranian street for over a quarter of a century and is the venom upon which an entire generation of Iranians has been raised.

Thank goodness the cool rational voices of Zuckerman and Netanyahu are speaking out to alert us to the diabolical threat. And let’s add another dispassionate voice: The Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, announced on Tuesday that his office is making every effort to prosecute “perhaps the largest supplier of weapons of mass destruction to the Iranian government.”

Everyone’s been warning about the risk of Iran producing its own nuclear weapons and now we learn from the Manhattan DA that Iran has WMD suppliers — several of them — perhaps. This is terribly alarming — perhaps.

U.S. to join Iran talks over nuclear program

The Obama administration said Wednesday that the United States would start participating regularly with other major powers in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

The decision was a further step toward the direct engagement with Iran that President Obama has promised. It followed an invitation to Iran to join in a new round of talks, which would include Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. And it coincided with an unusual expression of conciliation toward the United States by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in a speech that his government would welcome talks with the Obama administration, provided that the shift in American policy was “honest.” [continued…]

Biden warns Israel off any attack on Iran

Vice President Joe Biden issued a high-level admonishment to Israel’s new government Tuesday that it would be “ill advised” to launch a military strike against Iran.

Biden said in a CNN interview that he does not believe newly installed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would take such a step. Even so, his comment underscored a gap between the conservative new Israeli government and the Obama White House on a series of questions, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran. [continued…]

U.S. reiterates 2-state solution after Lieberman remarks

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that Western-backed peace efforts with the Palestinians had reached a “dead end” and that Israel intended to present new ideas for diplomacy, prompting a response from the State Department re-emphasizing the American goal of establishing two states.

“There is definitely a regression here and we must understand and admit that we are at a dead end,” Lieberman told members of Yisrael Beiteinu during a party meeting. “We definitely intend to present new ideas.”

The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman also said that he planned to remain foreign minister for at least “four and a half years,” and vowed that his faction would stay a central component of the current government coalition until the next round of elections.

The State Department did not react directly to Lieberman’s statements, preferring instead to reiterate Washington’s commitment to a two-state solution. [continued…]

With ‘Annapolis,’ a warning to Israel

By forcefully rebutting Mr. Lieberman’s repudiation of Annapolis, and in such a public fashion, Mr. Obama is issuing a warning to Mr. Netanyahu that the United States will push for a two-state solution, and will expect him to publicly articulate his own support for such an initiative, many experts said.

“At a minimum, Bibi will need to disown these statements and come out explicitly in support of the two-state solution before his meeting with President Obama,” said Ghaith Al-Omari, a former Palestinian negotiator who now works with the American Task Force on Palestine. “If not,” Mr. Al-Omari said, “the issue will become the focus of the meeting.” [continued…]

Lieberman’s paradoxical strength

In the absence of a peace process – a situation that did not start with Lieberman’s appointment – the Palestinian position is likely to improve, much to the dismay of Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu. When Israel becomes entrenched in the world’s eyes as an obstacle to the peace process, thanks to Lieberman’s shoot-from-the-hip statements, what will prevent Europe from easing the pressure on Hamas, funneling cash to Gaza without Israel’s approval, requesting that Egypt open the Rafah crossing, freezing the upgrade in Israel’s relations with the European Union (as the EU has hinted) and opening consulates in the West Bank? All this would be to signal that the Europeans recognize the principle of two states for two peoples.

What will happen if Washington does not automatically veto every resolution condemning Israel in the Security Council? Or worse, what if Washington decides to join the condemnation? After all, it will have a good excuse: Lieberman. Paradoxically, Lieberman is likely to become a part of Obama’s new doctrine of global arrangements: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not end, but Israeli obduracy will enhance, not diminish, the United States’ standing in the Middle East. While Lieberman can continue to bang on his tom-toms every time somebody mentions the phrase “diplomatic process,” he will not be able to direct forces much larger than him or Israel. He will be the perfect excuse for these forces to act. This is his strength, nothing more. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Whatever you might think of Lieberman, it’s hard not to find his bluntness refreshing. A peace process that’s reached a “dead end” is hard to rejuvenate. It really does provide an opportunity to open up debate instead of expending energy on giving CPR to a corpse.

Unfortunately, given that the Obama administration has lately discovered some virtue in the so-called Annapolis “process”, I’m skeptical about how soon we’ll be hearing US officials openly referring to “Israeli obduracy”. Instead, I predict, in the coming months we’re going to hear officials, face cast down, chin withdrawn, saying that such-and-such a statement or development is “unhelpful”. And when it gets really, really bad the Israeli government might even be admonished for being, “frankly, unhelpful”.

The wild card here is whether there will emerge a significant split between the US and Europe. In that event, there may well be European-made fait accomplis to which Washington (with hidden relief) stoically acquiesce.

Obama team readying for confrontation with Netanyahu

In an unprecedented move, the Obama administration is readying for a possible confrontation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by briefing Democratic congressmen on the peace process and the positions of the new government in Israel regarding a two-state solution.

The Obama administration is expecting a clash with Netanyahu over his refusal to support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

In recent weeks, American officials have briefed senior Democratic congressmen and prepared the ground for the possibility of disagreements with Israel over the peace process, according to information recently received. The administration’s efforts are focused on President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, which now holds a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. [continued…]

Obama saying Israel still bound to two-state solution

Dialogue between Jerusalem and Washington over the past week has been done via speech-making. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman swept aside the Annapolis process, and U.S. President Barack Obama swept it right back. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the two-state solution and Obama “clarified” that the United States not only “strongly” supports it, but he himself intends to advance it.

What’s going on here? Clearly the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration have not yet developed discrete communication channels to let them coordinate their policy and avoid statements that would embarrass the other party. The response from Netanyahu’s bureau after Obama’s speech was mainly intended to play for time “to formulate a policy.” [continued…]

Grappling with the ‘Problem of Lieberman’

… therein lies the Problem of Lieberman. It is tempting to characterise him as a radical populist, but his rhetoric clearly mirrors what many Israelis feel, namely that the Palestinian minority in Israel should be treated as a fifth column and that Israel should prioritise its Jewishness over democratic values.

To Palestinian citizens of Israel, the minority has always been viewed and treated that way and Mr Lieberman is only reaping the benefit of spelling out what are already both official and common attitudes. From 1948 to 1966, Palestinians in Israel lived under military rule that allowed them little freedom of movement and no recourse to civil law. Large swathes of land were confiscated to make room for new Jewish immigrants. The situation has improved since then, but Palestinians still complain of discrimination in budget allocations and in the health and education sectors, and the minority is the poorest and least educated sector in Israeli society.

“Lieberman only gives voice to what is already a very racist mentality [in Israel] against Palestinian citizens,” said Johnny Mansur, a Haifa historian. “This mentality exists because Israel has never resolved the question of whether it is possible to define itself as a Jewish state and at the same time offer full rights to non-Jewish citizens.” [continued…]

Rattling the cage: The threat from within

Lieberman talks a lot about “the threat from within” being more dangerous than the threat from without – that the Arabs inside our borders can destroy this country easier than the Arabs outside. He’s right about the threat from within, but it isn’t from Israeli Arabs, it’s from Lieberman himself and what he represents and the power he’s gained. He’s now taken over the Foreign Ministry. He’s gotten the stamp of approval from the leading parties of the right, center and center-left – the Israeli consensus. He’s being laundered and sanitized by virtually the entire American Jewish establishment.

And he’s not through by a long shot. At this point, he seems to have an even brighter future ahead.

Lieberman is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad because we have the military power to deter Iran’s threat to destroy us physically. I don’t know if we have the power to deter Lieberman from destroying us morally – from turning us into the image of what we claim to hate. [continued…]

Losing the ‘war on terror’

By lumping together the disparate forces, movements, armies, ideas and grievances of the greater Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaysia; by placing them in a single category (“enemy”), assigning them a single identity (“terrorist”); and by countering them with a single strategy (war), the Bush administration seemed to be making a blatant statement that the war on terror was, in fact, “a war against Islam.”

That is certainly how the conflict has been viewed by a majority in four major Muslim countries — Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Indonesia — in a worldpublicopinion.org poll in 2007. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believe that the purpose of the war on terror is to “spread Christianity in the region” of the Middle East.

Indeed, if the war on terror was meant to be an ideological battle against groups such as Al Qaeda for the hearts and minds of Muslims, the consensus around the globe seems to be that the battle has been lost. [continued…]

“I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD”

“Sgt. X” is built like the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he rode in while in Iraq. He’s as bulky, brawny and seemingly impervious as a tank.

In an interview in the high-rise offices of his Denver attorneys, however, symptoms of the damaged brain inside that tough exterior begin to appear. Sgt. X’s eyes go suddenly blank, shifting to refocus oddly on a wall. He pauses mid-sentence, struggling for simple words. His hands occasionally tremble and spasm.

For more than a year he’s been seeking treatment at Fort Carson for a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature injuries of the Iraq war. Sgt. X is also suffering through the Army’s confusing disability payment system, handled by something called a medical evaluation board. The process of negotiating the system has been made harder by his war-damaged memory. Sgt. X’s wife has to go with him to doctor’s appointments so he’ll remember what the doctor tells him. [continued…]

For America, the problem is Pakistan

We will need to remind ourselves often in the next few years that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not the Obama administration’s fault. It inherited from George W. Bush a crisis so deep and so horribly complex that dealing with it would tax the powers of St Peter, let alone a US government with many other things on its mind and on its grossly overstrained budget. Improving the situation is the best that we can hope for. Finding a “solution” to the Afghan war and its repercussions in Pakistan is not even a possibility.

On Afghanistan itself, the administration’s new strategy, set out last week, strikes most of the right notes. In particular, it is correct to emphasise the critical importance of building up the Afghan National Army, without which nothing can be achieved in Afghanistan in the long term; and on the need for the US to work towards an exit strategy rather than engage in empty rhetoric about “staying the course”. Talk of creating a modern, western-style democracy in Afghanistan has been drastically scaled back.

The administration has also done something that should have been obvious from the very beginning and reached out to Afghanistan’s northern and western neighbours. When the US eventually leaves Afghanistan, regional powers – perhaps grouped in the Shanghai Co-operation Council – will have to try to manage Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict. [continued…]

Do U.S. drones kill Pakistani extremists or recruit them?

Even as the Obama administration launches new drone attacks into Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, concerns are growing among U.S. intelligence and military officials that the strikes are bolstering the Islamic insurgency by prompting Islamist radicals to disperse into the country’s heartland.

Al Qaida, Taliban and other militants who’ve been relocating to Pakistan’s overcrowded and impoverished cities may be harder to find and stop from staging terrorist attacks, the officials said.

Moreover, they said, the strikes by the missile-firing drones are a recruiting boon for extremists because of the unintended civilian casualties that have prompted widespread anger against the U.S. [continued…]

US bounty scheme struggles in Pakistan

In Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal territories, where the Taleban and al-Qaeda are resurgent, the US does benefit from a loose network of informants.

But anyone caught betraying a fellow Muslim risks finding their family dishonoured for generations.

Mike Scheuer believes this explains why after all these years Osama Bin Laden is still a free man.

“It’s very unlikely that any Muslim is going to turn him in to the Americans for money,” says the former CIA officer, making reference to al-Qaeda’s attacks on the US in 2001.

“He’s been in Afghanistan since 9/11. It’s the third poorest place on the planet. We have $200m of reward money outstanding, including $50m for Osama and no-one has come forward to take a cent.

“I think we need in the West to grow up a little bit, everything doesn’t pivot on money.”

“In the Islamic world, at least when it comes to Osama Bin Laden, it pivots off of religion,” Mike Scheuer says. [continued…]

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2 thoughts on “NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP & EDITOR’S COMMENTS: April 9

  1. DE Teodoru

    Cohen fails to note that Netanyahu is the first Israeli PM not to suffer from East European schizophrenia. Yet he is an able political “shmeker.” He’ll say anything to get needed attention, support or votes. He must now personalize the Israel Govt. in order to lead it. It is a war chariot pulled by mad horses; everyone of them is a shameful self-serving Napoleon III-type patriotic hyperbolist. To rule pragmatically Netanyahu needs to be loudest amongst them. But unlike them, he is sure he knows the difference between theatrics and policy. US Jews are doing penance for their declining Zionism right around Passover. But it is all hot air as drama is an old schmaltz habit, not bloodthirsty nor really panic. For good Jews who would like to spend at least one Passover without fear that unless they observe with a Zionist paroxysm, the will be left out like Moses, I offer the amazing and able understanding of Trita Parsi’s book TREACHEROUS ALLIANCE showing how unreal is this self-induced psychiatric fear of an Iranian Holocaust of Israel. Secretly, Israel and Iran have been “mates” under the table and reading Parsi’s words
    http://www.tritaparsi.com/
    instead of Netanyahu’s curtain of hyperbolas behind which he very pragmatically maneuvers would be good for your health. Bibi is really smart; you’ll realize it if you go by what he does instead of what he says.

  2. Aditya

    Regarding R. Cohen’s Israel Crying Wolf piece, it’s quite something that the New York Times is running articles of this nature now, that is, telling the truth about the hysterics coming out of Israeli and US leaders regarding Iran, especially considering just a few months ago they allowed Benny Morris to write that lovely op-ed threatening to turn Iran into a “nuclear wasteland.” I couldn’t find it in the US in edition however.

    In complete Seriousness, we must be vigilant. Chamberlainesqe appeasers are everywhere. Just listen to this clown:

    “Iran is not a suicide nation. They may have some people in charge that don’t appear to be rational, but I doubt that the Iranians intend to attack us with a nuclear weapon. …There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran. Let’s face it. We lived with a nuclear Soviet Union. We’ve lived with a nuclear China. We’re living with nuclear other powers as well.”

    Do you believe this joker weaseled his way up to four-star general in charge of CENTCOM? It’s that damn Iran lobby, as well as those far-left terrorist-sympathizers over at the McLaughlin group that even allow nonsense like this to be uttered.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-durang/beware-kyllieberman-pro_b_65797.html

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