“I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends,” David Samuels quotes Ben Rhodes in an article that has something of the same confusion.
Samuels, we are told by our betters, “has nearly autistic command of minor details and facts” and “achieves the glorious breadth and detail of a mural painter.”
But much of the detail we have competence to evaluate in his article on Rhodes is just wrong, which makes one a little suspicion of the rest of his “long-form journalism”, whatever that is. He confuses, twice, Laos and Cambodia, something anyone not acquainted with Southeast Asia might well do, but not to be incorporated in a piece where discussion of “the bombing of Laos” takes on such importance. His discussion of one of the minor characters in his screed, Robert Malley, and Malley’s father, Simon, neglects to point out the elder Malley was a Communist as well as editor of a minor magazine, and at one point expelled from France.
His interpretation of relations between the Obama Administration and Iran talks about the President’s aim of cultivating the so-called Iranian moderates. But Samuels neglects to point out Washington turned its back on the 2009 appeal by the Green Movement after fraudulent elections led to widespread anti-regime demonstrations. “By eliminating the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program xxx” How is that again? Books on Rhodes’ bookshelves? I wonder, if not like mine, they may represent as much as anything else review copies that floated in and not the owner’s taste in serious reading material?
What a mish-mash this article is! If it has a central argument, it is that Rhodes exercises enormous influence over American foreign policy through his “melding” with the President. But then, we are told, he does it without the assistance of the Blob, the foreign policy experts, and any knowledge of the details of such places as the Middle East. It’s a hypothesis that is both frightening and perhaps could be true.
But except for a somewhat muddied description, ostensibly, of Rhodes successful campaign to overcome Congressional and other critics of “the deal”, it doesn’t really tell us much about how he operates. He never mentions, of course, that “the deal” should have been a treaty and it was by that hook and crook that the Obama Administration was able to achieve what it claims was the halt to Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. Samuels seems to be endorsing the Administration’s insistence that it purposely excluded other issues with Iran – its state sponsored terrorism around the world and its use of surrogates in Hezbollah and Hamas, the former until recently having killed more Americans than any other terrorist group.
In one of the many diversions, Samuels tells us how important Valerie Jarrett is as Obama’s “work wife”. But when he gets into how she and Obama have great empathy because they both spent time as children in foreign cultures is, to say the least, stretching credulity. It may be the case that Jarrett and Obama do cultivate that notion. But it is very unlikely that as a pre-adolescent as Obama was during his four years [six to 10] living with a step-father and his mother in Djakarta, he either understood or was affected by the attempted Communist coup and its massacres as an aftermath that had occurred three years before he was born.
One should not be surprised that Samuels is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. This article like so many in that publication piles anecdote and digression, one on top of another, and suddenly without much warning just walks away from the whole pile.
Yes, it seems likely that Rhodes exerts a great deal of power within the Administration and in areas for which he has neither formal training nor accrued experience. That does not, by the way, distinguish him from most of what used to be called “the kitchen cabinet” that surrounds Obama. And it may be, too, that Rhodes implements the only strategy that the current President has: to abandon longtime post-World War II commitments of the U.S. as leader of the society of nations in an effort to preserve peace and stability. The results, although both Samuels and Rhodes justify it by using Iraq’s current quagmire as the way Syria would have gone had there been the original Obama intervention, are all too visible. That forgets of course Obama’s quit and run Iraq policy.
But all of these are speculations. And we thought Samuels was strong on detail.
Category Archives: Hez’bollah
“I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends,” David Samuels quotes Ben Rhodes in an article that has something of the same confusion.
The descent of Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration into a brutish tyranny is rapidly becoming a problem which The White House will have to face. That the Washington Brookings Institution almost canceled Erdoğan’s speech after his security detail manhandled American and Turkish reporters is illustrative of what has been happening in Turkey for months.
Now the London-based Amnesty International documents Erdoğan’s expulsion of refugees back into Syria – including unaccompanied small children – among the degeneration of Ankara policies. Obviously this violates Erdoğan’s blackmail of the Western European powers to halt the flight of refugees to Greece in exchange for massive payments to bolster a flagging Turkish economy. Some 2.7 million migrants have reached Europe since the Syrian conflict began; another 151,104 crossed the Aegean from Turkey to Greece this year alone while 366 drowned trying. Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency warned that Greece’s overburdened asylum system is close to a collapse, further adding to its continuing economic crisis.
Turkish and EU leaders in March agreed on a deal curbing the influx that has plunged Europe into its biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. And the Turks are hosting some 2.7 million Syrian refugees. But the new agreement with the Europeans, principally Germany, is supposed to allow one legitimate Syrian refugee to migrate to Europe in exchange for every migrant [not necessarily a true refugee] Ankara takes back. This all will cost the Europeans $3.3 billion, ostensibly to pay Ankara’s costs. Germany has already said it will take the first Syrian refugees with children in this strangest of new developments.
Whatever the outcome of the refugee pact, however, what has to concern Washington policymakers is Erdoğan’s internal policies and his relationship with his terrorists in the region. He has turned his back on his earlier effort to negotiate the decades-long insurgency, resulting from Ankara’s refusal to acknowledge the aspirations of its huge Kurdish minority. That’s doubly complicated by the fact that Ankara is waging a campaign against the Kurds inside Syria who are Washington’s only successful weapon against the Basher Al Assad government, ostensibly as much a target for the Turks as the U.S. and its allies.
Pres. Obama in the early days of his administration sought to ignore Erdoğan’s Islamicist past; the President even saying he was one of the few foreign leaders with whom he had intimate relations. The relationship has soured with Erdoğan following increasingly Islamicist policies at home and playing footsie with both Hamas and Hezbollah, both on Washington’s terrorist list and Israel’s mortal enemies.
When Erdoğan turned up for an international meeting in Washington last week, the White House first refused to see him shuffling him off to Vice Pres. Joe Biden as a diplomatic snub. But then, in typical Obama fashion, the President accorded him a private session on the edges of the international meeting on nuclear proliferation.
There’s little hope Sec. of State John Kerry’s international peace conference on Syria is going to make much progress soon. Germany’s idea of swapping open access to Turkey’s 75 million people by dangling eventual EU membership doesn’t yet seem likely to produce better policy in Ankara. As an important NATO power, with that treaty’s importance again growing with renewed Moscow aggression [despite candidate Donald Trump’s warped understanding of international affairs], finding a U.S. strategy to handle Erdoğan and his critical role in the Mideast chaos is dire.
The chaotic Middle East is taking on convolutions which bring it ever closer to a clash among the major powers.
- Despite his rapidly deteriorating economy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is taking an increasingly aggressive role in supporting the Basher Al Assad Syrian regime and its Iranian partners. His efforts to strengthen the Damascus regime have kept it alive but show no signs of a significant victory against its opponents, some of whom represent jihadist goals with liaison to international Islamic terrorism.
- Israel’s security on its northern border is deteriorating as its traditional Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah – with a long record of terrorism against the U.S. – becomes increasingly embroiled as an Iranian ally in Syria. Hezbollah’s operations beyond the Middle East, especially in Latin America in league with local guerrillas and drug traffickers, are a growing challenge to American influence and stability there.
- A seemingly leaderless explosion of individual terrorist acts against Israeli civilian and military targets has assumed new significance with an attack by a U.S.-trained Palestinian Liberation Organization security official on Israeli military. The knifing attacks are generally by teenagers schooled by UN-supported Palestinian educational institutions where anti-Semitism is standard curriculum. They are an expression of the collapse of secular Palestinian leadership which is hanging on Israeli security support. The growing strength of the Muslim terrorists Hamas, again being rearmed by Iran, are now infiltrating the West Bank from Gaza.
- Saudi Arabians are persuaded of their abandonment by the Obama Administration in its pursuit of agreements with Tehran. In the face of an Iranian attempt at Mideast hegemony, Jeddah is lashing out militarily with the support of its traditional Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. But explosions of Sunni-Shia violence, including in the Saudi’s southeastern oilfields, and its see-saw battle in Yemen against Iranian-back rebels is inconclusive at best.
- Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] continues to recruit young Muslims, even in the West and the U. S. Those who remain in their homelands present the prospect of “lone wolf” terrorist massacres resembling the almost daily occurrences in the Mideast. Despite effective continued FBI surveillance and discovery of terrorist plots, it seems only a question of time until new episodes such as San Bernardino and Ft. Hood will erupt in the Homeland.
The Obama Administration’s strategic response to this growing catastrophe is an incremental injection of small special forces teams in the Mideast conflicts. Sec. of State John Kerry has carried on frenzied whirlwind diplomatic activity. [Are secretaries of state now being judged by how many flight miles they put in?] And he has persuaded all parties to attend a Syria peace conference. But no one believes in its success with parties – including the U.S. and the Russians — pursuing directly contradictory goals.
Not even the other Republican candidates for president appear prepared to adopt Jeb Bush’s formula for a massive all-out military effort to destroy Daesh as a threat to U.S. national security. Meanwhile,Yeltsin pretends to have a common enemy with Washington in the Daesh terrorists, but Russian initiatives in Syria have been largely limited to direct support of the al Assad regime. Israeli, and American interventions in pursuit of their own direct security – for example, transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria by Iran – run the risk of confrontation despite intense communications to control the traffic. The continued violation of Turkish sovereignty by Russian fighter-bombers and Ankara’s past winking at jihadist communications through its territory pose a growing problem for NATO and Washington.
Despite its continued professions of loyalty to the U.S.-Israeli alliance, the Obama Administration moves closer to the growing antagonism and pro-Palestinian policies of the Europeans. Paris, for example, now threatens to recognize a non-existing Palestinian state if bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians do not go forward, an exceedingly unlikely phenomenon given the lack of a viable Palestinian negotiating partner.
The latest sign that the Obama Administration is moving away from Israel is its adopting the Europeans’ designation [and implied boycott] of Israeli manufactures from the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank which employ tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, the “Palestine” cause has united old European anti-Semites with the traditional left for the creation of a Palestinian state which would be a direct threat to Israeli security.
Whether this turmoil will await a new approach, at least one generally anticipated, by a new U.S. president in another year before some unintended action ignites a larger explosion, remains problematical.
It is hard to exaggerate the strategic disaster that has befallen American relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
At a time of increasing acts of terror – unfortunately now “lone wolf” murders that have no central command – the Obama Administration in a series of encounters has emboldened one wing of Islamic terrorism. It may be ironic but hardly laudatory that the U.S. and its allies are now more dependent for their ultimate defense on the conflict between the two wings of Islam, Sunni and Shia, and their terrorist offspring.
The Obama Administration early on lost its strategic bearings in dealing with a fanatical regime in Tehran aiming to become the hegemonic power in the Mideast. That defeat is at every level – strategic and military, economically, and in propaganda. It is true, of course, that much of the difficulties of dealing with the mullahs predates Obama’s seven years in the White House. One might even, at the risk of offending those who quite rightly worship at the shrine of Ronald Reagan, recall his failure to cope with Tehran. It was, after all, Reagan who did not retaliate after calling the suicide bombings which killed 299 American and French Marines in October 1983 in Beirut a “despicable act”. There was circumstantial evidence of Iranian complicity. Contradictorily, Reagan withdrew from the Lebanese peacekeeping force.
When a grass roots movement against the mullahs took to the streets following the stolen president elections of 2009 calling for American assistance, the Obama Administration turned its back on them. For all the talk about moderates and radicals in the Tehran regime, there is little hope that its leaders would modify their regional aggression and worldwide terrorist activity so long as it is successful in increasing Iranian influence. That is very much the case now with full-fledged allies on the Mediterranean: Hezbollah in Lebanon, the reeling but still functioning al Assad regime in Syria, and even the Sunni Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
Instead, Obama has sought to make some sort of pact with the mullahs, apparently believing American concessions would satisfy their hunger for international aggrandizement. It is only likely to feed it. The lengthy negotiations to limit Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction have turned into a farce. When Tehran objected to inspection of their military installations as part of the enforcement arrangements, the issue was simply dropped by Washington. At the very moment the success of the agreement was being heralded in Washington, Iran launched tests of new intercontinental ballistics missiles in defiance of UN Resolutions which could one day strike the U.S..
It may be a long time before we know why a group of American sailors were captured and then publicly humiliated by Tehran to prove U.S. impotence in the region. We may not know soon whether it was indeed a navigation accident and engine problems which called for a quick and nonconfrontational return, or perhaps even more threatening, Iranian technical capacity to interfere with the ship’s GPS. But the spectacle will highlight the reputation of the U.S. in the region for a very long time, and undermine any American strategy. Again, as in the swaps with the Taliban, Washington has given back a disproportionate number of proven terrorists – including some involved in bombings against Jewish installations in Argentina, and at the very moment a new administration in Buenos Aires has again promised to take up investigations of the incidents. It seems not only possible but likely, that like the released Guantánamo prisoners, most soon will be back at their trade.
The removal of sanctions and return of blocked funds probably exceeding $150 billion will be significant in helping the mullahs through their current economic crisis brought on by heavy military expenditures – including maintaining Iran Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria. Renewed oil and gas sales in the price-gutted world market will help only marginally. But there is little hope for regime change without substantial assistance from abroad. That, obviously, will not come from this American administration, leading from behind to enhance rather than diminish the major threat to peace and stability posed by the Tehran fanatics.
The volatility of Middle East events notwithstanding, a new picture is emerging of alliances very different from those preceding the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the now five-year-old Syrian civil war.
That new reality is obscured by the Obama Administration, suspended in contradictory strategies of removing the American military option from the table while incrementally increasing U.S. special forces and bombing, adamantly calling for the ouster of Basher al Asaad in Damascus but negotiating for his participation in a “settlement”, and most of all, insisting on talking up an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation which has died.
There are growing signs that the relatively artificial national-states created by Britain and France in the Ottoman Empire breakup after World War II may be crashing.
Central to the new picture emerging is Saudi Arabia’s position. Western pressure and internal reformists are moving against the most egregious aspects of the regime, e.g., its long time allegiance to Wahhabism – an Islamic fundamentalism at the root of much of the current terrorism. Although the Saudis are flooding the world oil markets in an attempt to criiple their competitors, the Shale Revolution in the U.S. has deflated its once pivotal energy role. Saudi movement is occasioned by some internal reform elements, but more importantly the Obama Administration’s flirtation with Riyadh’s chief rival Iran. [Thet have just announced women will be permitted to vote, a revolution in a country which does not permit them to drive.] The Saudis themselves have been forced into direct talks with Tehran in an effort to short circuit Washington-Tehran deals. But at the same time, the Saudis are rallying Sunni allies in Syria against the growing influence – including direct military participation – of Iran. The nomination of a pro-Syrian president in Lebanon and the growing domination of the Iranian ally, the Shia Hezbollah, is a defeat for the Saudis.
Whether traditional family domination and loyalties can withstand this turmoil remains to be seen.
The Israeli-Arab conflict which has dominated Mideast politics may be dissolving in the face of the greater fear of an aggrandizing Iran. The recent announcement that Israel is opening a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, although enmeshed in a number of subterfuges, is the most dramatic recent evidence of the growing new tacit alliances. Jerusalem and Cairo are in a tight security and military alliance against Hamas in Gaza, supported by Iran, and the remnants of the Moslem Brotherhood fighting a guerrilla movement against the al Ssisi regime. But virtual disintegration of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under aging Pres. Mohammed Abbas – under bitter attack from Hamas– means there is no negotiating party on the Palestinian side. The current wave of Palestinian violence –“lone wolf” episodes unorchestrated by any Palestinian organization if encouraged by Hamas – is being met stoically by an Israeli public. It has not slowed a growing French Jewish in-immigration occasioned by violent anti-Semitic episodes in France, Despite American and EU opposition [the latter in a trade offensive], Israel is consolidating its enclaves [”settlements”] in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
The Obama Administration’s response to these dramatic reversals in the region is an attempt to find a negotiated settlement to the Syrian Civil War. While Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin has nominally joined the effort, he has bid up his hand in the Syrian conflict in support of the al Basher regime which Washington still insists must go. How long Putin, with a collapsing economy facing Western sanctions over the Ukraine issue and a tumbling international oil price for its only export, can maintain the Syrian thrust remains to be seen. But the use of sea-born missiles this week was a dangerous escalation, not the least because some Russian missiles fired earlier from the Caspian earlier had fallen short in Iran
While references to World War III [by none other than Pope Francis himself] are exaggerated, the volatility of events suggests the possibility of miscalculations at any moment with even more escalating violence.
Hovering over Vladimir Putin’s reckless adventurism in Syria is the Moslem demographic shadow threatening his Russian Federation.
The Russians’ mushrooming Moslem population is part and parcel of the Russian leader’s whirling-dervish act to try to resurrect Moscow’s status as a superpower. It explains, in some measure, Putin’s desperate attempts to bring back under Moscow control the Slavs of Ukraine, Byelorussia, and ewven Russian-speakers in the Baltic States.
When Putin recently opened one of the world’s largest mosques in Moscow, it was a tacit acknowledgement of the power of his growing Muslim population. It was also an effort to forge a compact between a Moslem state organization and the Russian regime, modeled after that which ties the Kremlin – and Putin – to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The official 2002 census reckons Putin has 14.5 million Moslems [out of a total population of 144 million]. Ravil Gaynutdin, head of the Council of Muftis [Putin’s official Moslem religious hierarchy] claimed in August 2005 that Russia’s population included 23 million ethnic Moslems. The latter figure seems closer to reality with some estimates, for example, counting more than 3 million Moslems in Moscow alone, out of a total of some 13 million. Russian Federation population figures got a slight boost when, after the implosion of the Soviet Union, there was an immediate influx of Russian Slav ethnics from the former non-Slav majority “Soviet Republics” in Central Asia.
But the Moslem factor takes on additional significance because the overall Russian population is in sharp and unprecedented historical decline. It reached a tipping point at 148.6 million in 1991, somewhere around 140-145 million now, but declining toward a projected less than 130 million by 2025 While the Russian Federation’s Muslim population is also not reproducing at a rate to sustain it, it is considerably higher than for the Slavs.
That means that when Putin plunged into Syria to fight Moslems and called up an additional 150,000 conscripts, he had to wish away a Russian general staff estimate that by 2025, most of his new soldiers would come principally from Moslem non-Slav ethnic groups.. Contradictorily, his growing jingoistic domestic appeal – and in part the basis of his popularity — to traditional Russian Orthodox Christian loyalties is bound to clash, sooner or later, with the growing body of increasingly Islamicized Moslems on which his armed forces will be dependent.
The Russian leader’s highly unreliable puppet, Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman “president” of Chechnya, called on Putin to expand his operations in Syria, “using Moslem ground troops”. Kadyrov was slyly reminding Putin, with whom he has had a stormy relationship, that increasingly the Russian regime is dependent on good relations with its Moslem minority. Even with Kadyrov’s gangster regime, with its long history of Russian wars of domination going back to the 18th century, Chechnya is a virtually occupied region. And its violence has spilled over to the neighboring North Caucus states, the route of traditional Russian imperialism toward Georgia and Armenia, and the dream for an opening one day to the Indian Ocean.
But whether or not Putin is taking the Chechen leader’s advice, on his way to a wider conflict with Daesh [ISIS, ISIL], he took time out to smack the shaky anti-Assad rebels backed by CIA. It was growing Russian air activity over Syria that took Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu, not as traditionally waiting on his American ally, to Moscow a week ago, ostensibly to set up traffic controls. For the Israelis, the transfers of Iranian weaponry for Hezbollah’s participation on the Russian-Iran-Damascus side in the bloody civil war, is an important strategic and tactical issue. Did that mean that Israeli intelligence, unlike Washington, was prepared for the spurt in Putin’s Syrian intervention?
By bombing the CIA-supported relatively ineffectual anti-regime forces in Syria, especially those on the edge of Syrian leader Basher al-Assad’s Allawite base on the Mediterranean, Putin taunted Obama and his continued call for Basher to step down before a provisional end of the war can be found. It was also a way at thumbing his nose at Obama, answering the American and EU sanctions against Moscow for his flagrant aggression in Ukraine. Whether Putin can maintain a longer term commitment in Syria given the generally sorry state of the Russian military remains to be seen.
But with what the White House acknowledges is no U.S. strategy on Syria and almost total disarray among the Western allies, Putin comes across as a skilled strategist. The old Greek proverb, “In the kingdom of the blind, a one-eye man is king”, is well known to the Russians too.
Putin’s appeal to live with the worst of the Arab dictatorships in Damascus, hoping it will eventually keep a peace of the dead, flies in some circles even outside Russia, some European rightwingers and American isolationists. But it frightens America’s traditional regional allies, ironically Israel in tacit alliance with the Arabs led now again by Egypt, who see Obama’s “deal” with Iran as enhancing Tehran’s hand as it, and Putin, go all out to support the nominally secular Damascus tyranny.
With Pres. Obama’s self admission that the U.S. has no Syria strategy and a destabilizing flood of millions of refugees piling into neighboring countries and now Europe, Vladimir Putin who usually plays it by ear seems to be betting on a climax to the barbarous five-year civil war.
U.S. sources report that Moscow is expanding its base at Latakia, Syria’s chief port and the traditional home of Pres. Basher al-Assad’s Alawite minority. The Alawites, a Shia offspring and therefore culturally linked to Iran’s mullahs, despite their inferior numbers have dominated recent Syrian regimes. Their hold on the Syrian Air Force, long time client of the Soviets/Russians, was a fulcrum to power in the multi-ethnic, always unstable caricature of a state the French created in the post –World War Ottoman empire implosion.
But when peaceful demands for reform of the Syrian regime were brutally repressed by al-Assad and loosed the whole gamut of conflicting religious and ethnic forces, al-Basher reacted with unrestrained violence. That hasn’t been enough, despite the fragmentation of the opposition and no help from the U.S. – after an initial Obama statement of support and then withdrawal – to restore his rule. The Damascus regime, despite the conflict among its opponents, appears to be on its last legs.
Furthermore, Obama’s flirtation with the Tehran mullahs, ostensibly to end their immediate pursuit of nuclear weapons, has realigned Mideast forces. Fear and opposition to Tehran’s bid to become the hegemonic power in the region – now seemingly with U.S. acquiescence — has created a new and tacit alliance among the Gulf states, Egypt, and even Israel, against the American-Iranian modus operandi – if indeed one has been successfully negotiated.
In order to reassure America’s traditional allies in the region that his deal with Iran would not jeopardize their security, Obama has made repeated promises to increase U.S. assistance. This past week in Washington, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz publicly accepted Obama’s assurances – even though Saudi spokesman privately leaked their unassuaged andd growing concern with the U.S.-Iran deal.
Encouraged by their beating off, at least temporarily, a takeover by pro-Iranian forces in neighboring Yemen which the Saudis consider vital to their security, the Saudis are privately announcing their continued effort to topple al-Basher in Syria. The aggressive nature of what is traditionally accommodating Saudi policy obviously has to do with al-Basher’s Iranian alliance, anathema to Jeddah and its Sunni Arab following.
The Saudis are buying billions worth of arms, from the U.S. and Western Europeans, in what their friends in the Western media call their attempt to turn themselves into a major military power. Ironically, Obama has had to go along with what now is the seemingly inevitable unstable arms race in the region between Iran and its allies and the Gulf states and Egypt, which critics of his Iranian deal promised would be its dangerous outcome.
Although it has been trumpeted as Putin’s renewed effort to bolster the besieged al-Assad regime – with its main support coming from Iran and the mullahs’ Levantine ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah – something else may be afoot.
Putin just told a Vladivostok audience – at the other end of a Russian empire suffering economic devastation with a halving of the oil and gas price and U.S. and European sanctions over his Ukraine aggression – that al-Assad was ready for a compromise. But what the reinforcement of the Russian installations in Latakia may mean is that Putin anticipates a Syrian breakup and he is grabbing onto a piece of the carcass dominated by his Alawite allies. That would give even Moscow’s sagging international stature a continuing spoon in the continuing boiling Mideast pot.
But it puts the catch-up incremental U.S. strategy for peace and stability in the area in that much more jeopardy.
The growing disintegration of Palestinian secular forces promises a new Mideast threat as difficult as Daesh [ISIL]
Luckily for the U.S., Israel and the Western allies generally, so far the growing Islamicist Palestinians have not merged with Daesh, even confronting it in several areas. This is, of course, part of the internal chaotic Muslim wrangle which so far has benefited their secular opponents.
But the daily individual terrorist attacks by individual Palestinians against Israelis, both inside the Green Line and in the West Bank [traditional Judea and Samaria where Jewish claims on the ancient Hebrew states reside] are evidence of a fracturing leadership. The attacks, almost unremarked in the Western media, range from stabbings of Israeli military and civilians, to automobiles used to mow down passengers waiting at bus stops. They have been answered in kind, to a much lesser degree, by Israeli rightwing terrorists’ attacks on Arab paramilitary and civilians.
The 80-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, who extended his Palestinian presidency officially ending in 2009, now suddenly, has dissolved its executive committee without naming a successor. His call for a new executive from the Palestine parliament – which has not met in 20 years – may not be enough to stop the erosion among secularist forces under siege from the growing Islamicist Palestinian Hamas leadership in Gaza. Most observers believe free elections among West Bank Palestinians could bring them to power there, as it did in Gaza where they now use every means to hang on against internal opposition from both secularists and even more radical Islamicists.
Hamas is the offspring of the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood, much appreciated by then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton – her chief assistant Huma Abedin has family ties to the Brotherhood – and the Obama Administration But it has jumped the Sunni-Shia divide and is now empowered by money and arms from Tehran’s mullahs. Hamas’ “military wing” is rearming with Iran’s help, apparently for another go with the Israelis, the third only last year. Meanwhile, Egyptian Pres. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has joined Israel; in trying to shut off dual-use imports to the Gaza strip because Hamas actively supports a growing insurgency in Sinai against the Cairo government.
The usual Western suspects – those Paul Hollander called “political pilgrims”, “activists” and intellectuals who fall in and out of love with insurrectionary regimes, first the Guatemala Communists, then the Castros, then the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, etc. – have transferred their affection to the “Palestinians”. They ignore the lack of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s accountability and its successor Fatah, and the massive corruption financed by the U.S., the EU and the UN. That’s gone into Swiss bank accounts and such projects as Abbas’ new palace in Rammalah.
The Palestinians, taking their cues from their Israeli opponents, have become a group of powerful if vulnerable professionals throughout the region. Unlike Israel which absorbed some 800,000 Jews either expelled or in flight from Arab and Moslem countries, the Arab regimes refused the 650,000 Palestinians absorption, now to a second and third generation. The Palestinian “cause” until recently when the new threat from an increasingly powerful and aggressive Tehran regime became the overwhelming menace, was used against the Israelis. But now — despite the Obama Administration’s effort to appease Tehran with an increasingly controversial nuclear weapons deal – the Persian Gulf Arab states and the Egyptians have become tacit allies with the Israelis against the growing Iranian menace, particularly manifested in its support of the embattled Basher al Assad regime in Syria.
This virtual abandonment of the Palestinians by the other Arabs is certain to increase their radicalization. It will make them more susceptible to Islamist terrorist seduction and a growing menace not only to Israel and its controversial occupation of the West Bank, but to U.S. interests. Hopefully, Pres. Barack Obama will not see them too as another “varsity” team which led the U.S. to ignore Daesh in its early days.
One of the most fundamental principles of the American constitutional system is the institution of civilian dominance and control of the military. The Founders, concerned with so many possibilities of the usurpation of liberty by an aggrandizing central government, had strong views on the subject. Thomas Jefferson, whose duties in Europe kept him from being a direct participant at the Constitutional Convention, abhorred even the idea of a standing military. But he found, alas!, its necessity when in his own presidency an issue he personally had struggled with diplomatically for a decade, piracy along the Barbary Coast, necessitated he order military action by the young Republic.
As with most fundamental constitutional issues, implementation of a lofty however beneficent concept has not always been easy. The power to go to war resides with The Congress. But fighting any conflict, now excruciatingly if less than perfectly laid out in repeated legislation, is left to the President as head of the executive and therefore commander in chief of the armed forces.
In more recent times, crises have developed over differences between what the professional military see as threats to the Republic and the Oval Office’s estimate, granted, a wider view of U.S. interests. The line between bringing their point of view not only to the President, but to the people/electorate, has also been a difficult one to tread since the essence of military evaluations and strategy is secrecy.
When the famous war hero Gen. Douglas Macarthur argued during the stalemated Korean War that only confrontation with Communist China would win the day, Pres. Harry Truman demurred – not the least because he feared a nuclear confrontation. Macarthur was forced to step down, honored in the breach by the public through a dramatic farewell to the Congress, but losing his argument as he began “to fade away” in his own famous phrase despite his own and his well-wishers’ presidential ambitions. Geopoliticians and historians will argue forever whether Truman’s policy which prevailed did not, in fact, create a permanent threat to world peace as Macarthur had argued but on the other hand avoided a catastrophic war with Communist China.
Another less flamboyant but equally important crisis arose when Pres. Jimmy Carter moved to withdraw American forces on that same Peninsular in order to defuse the continuing provocations from Communist North Korea. The consensus among American military was then – as now – that Korea was “a dagger pointing at the heart of Japan”, and that American military presence there was an essential part of the Cold War strategy. No one, either on the military or the civilian side of any postwar Administration has questioned Japan’s keystone role in any Asian or world strategy. But when John K. Singlaub, a highly-decorated former OSS officer, a founding member of Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], criticized Carter’s position in a Washington Post interview, he was recalled as U.S. Commander in South Korea. Singlaub, drummed out of military service, continued campaigning for the eventual successful reversing of Carter’s original initiative.
There is growing evidence that a similar crisis is brewing now between the American military and Pres. Obama and his closest advisers. Major concessions to the Iranians at the Lausanne negotiations in an effort to head off an Iranian nuclear weapon is seen by the Obama Administration as a cardinal foreign policy goal. But the exclusion of such critical elements as the Mullahs’ sponsorship of Hizbollah and Hamas as well as other worldwide terrorism from those negotiations obviously sticks in the craw of those charged with worldwide military strategy.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, although virtually ignored by the mainstream media put it forthrightly while visiting Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in Israel on June 9th: “[If current sanctions were removed] I think they [the Iranians] will invest in their surrogates; I think they will invest in additional military capability.” That clashes violently with Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew’s claim a bit earlier that “most of the money Iran receives from sanctions relief will not [emphasis in original] be used to support those activities.”
Dempsey, reappointed to a second term as Obama’s chairman of the joint chiefs in 2013, will be retiring shortly. Obviously, there is speculation about his refusal to tackle these issues more publicly in the U.S. Giving him the benefit of the doubt about his motivations, it is likely that old conundrum of a dissident public servant, whether to remain inside the magic circle to work against current policy, or create the kind of scandal Macarthur and Singlaub felt was necessary to change policy. But it seems unlikely that whatever Dempsey decides to do in his last few months, this issue will continue to be batted back and forth across the policy/strategy gap between 1600 Pennsylvania and The Pentagon for the year and a half remaining of the Obama Administration. And it is too important an issue for The Congress to continue to ignore in its own deliberations.
One of the many anomalies of Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s collapsing foreign policy is Washington’s growing rift with Israel, despite the two countries’ historically intimate ties at every level.
Obama’s fundamental antagonism toward Israel was always apparent: during the 2008 campaign he announced one of his “transformations” would be putting “light between the U.S. and Israel”. Nor were his various close relationships to bitter American Israeli critics secret: Obama sat through two decades of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in turn a friend of the notorious Louis Ferrakhan. There was his close friendship with Rashid Ismail Khalidi, once Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization spokesman. [Obama’s 2005 speech at a send-off party for Khalidid departing the University of Chicago for Columbia University is bottled up along with all his other records.] The traditional “Arabists” in the Washington bureaucracy – for example, Obama’s CIA Director John O. Brennan, who continues to deny “jihad” is a call to war against the West – bring up the rear.
All this was somewhat camouflaged by the presence in the Obama entourage of a number of secular Jewish campaign apparatchiks – including some grownup Red Diaper babies. And, of course, there is his continued Democratic Party’s traditional hold on the miniscule but critical Jewish vote and political contributions since the days of FDR.
But now with presumably no more elections for Obama and a growing personalization of the Administration’s foreign policy in the President’s hands, the differences between Washington and Jerusalem are leading to strategic divergence.
In what to all intents and purposes looked like an Administration inspired plant, an “analysis” in The New York Times suggested Obama offers a “deal” to Jerusalem: lay off criticism [and lobbying on Capitol Hill] against Obama’s Iran proposals and Washington will not join the Europeans in the UN pushing a Palestinian state. [One of the fundamentals of American Mideast policy, of course, had been that only a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves, rather than a dictated “peace”, would be long-lasting.] But this is a “bargain” even the most fervent Israeli Netanyahu critics among leftwing “peace” advocates could not accept.
The ugly truth is that – bitterly criticized by the Obamaites when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated it during his election campaign – there is no possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian compromise, at least for now.
First, of course, is that there is no negotiating partner on the Palestinian side. In their Arabic language pronouncements, at odds with what they feed their media friends in English in the West, Palestinian officials [and popular opinion] refuse to acknowledge the Jewish state’s right to exist. Secondly, of course, the Palestinians are divided – at least into two groups. There is the PLO kleptocracy of Mohammed Abbas on the so-called West Bank. [Called Judea and Samaria from Biblical times,“the West Bank” came into fashion only after the Jordanian state, itself carved illegally out of the League of Nations Palestine mandate took it in the 1947-48 war.]
The PLO is in a bitter struggle with Hamas which dominates Gaza. [Gaza PLO partisans have been thrown off roofs without benefit of parachute.] Furthermore, despite its ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood origins, Hamas has become a client of the Shia terrorists in Tehran who supply it arms. Although Abbas has postponed elections indefinitely on the West Bank, there are growing indications that Hamas’ Moslem terrorists would gain control there too absent the PLO’s collaboration with Israeli security.
All this has written finis to the whole concept of Israeli trading “land for peace”. An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank – as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2005 exit from Gaza – would invite another hostile force within mortar range of Israel’s “heartland”. The proposed demilitarization of a Palestinian state by United Nations guarantees has vanished. On the contrary, UN peacekeepers on the Lebanese, Syrian and Gaza borders have become liabilities for the international community, unable to defend themselves in deteriorating situations.
In reality the whole concept of two states west of the Jordan River is dead for now, perhaps permanently. If, indeed, there is any possibility of compromise, it would go back to a plan drafted by the then Israeli foreign minister Yigal Allon just after the 1967 Six Day War. Allon proposed designating Jordan ruled by the old British allies, the Hashemite dynasty, the Palestinian state. It already has a Palestinian majority. Arab cantons on the West Bank would be annexed to its present territory east of the Jordan, and Israel would take over the traditional Biblical Hebrew centers. The fact that the Allon Plan gets no mention these days suggests the emptiness of Secretary of State John Kerry’s frantic calls to revive “the peace process”.
Obviously, reading Obama’s mind on the Mideast is an exercise in more than the usual frustration. It is hard to know whether his earlier adamant statements on policy, now completely reversed, were only politically convenient statements.
But whatever is behind his wholesale concessions to Tehran he publicly refused only months ago, it certainly does not include the interests of what has been the U.S.-Israeli alliance.
On this issue as in his proposed concession to the mullahs in Tehran, he will face overwhelming opposition in his own party as well as among Republicans in the Congress. But, once again, the enormous power of the American presidency is being tested by an executive who has always insisted he intended “to transform” long-held U.S. policies.
Why is one of the world’s poorest countries [40% living in poverty, halfway down on list of countries in per capita GDP]] building capital-intensive nuclear power facilities?
Iran has the third largest oil and the second largest gas reserves in the world [without recourse to new shale gas potential]. 2006 oil production level was enough for 88 years if no new oil were found. But only in the last weeks a whole new huge reserve was located offshore in the Caspian Sea. Iran’s fossil fuel export potential is so great that were current sanctions ended suddenly, the world price of oil might well drop $10. That’s despite Tehran’s official rationale that nuclear plants for desalinization are necessary to halt diversion of oil and gas exports.
Why do the Tehran mullahs insist on construction of high cost nuclear power facilities when Iran produced 254 billion kWh gross in 2012 from fossil fuels and hydro, with consumption only 200 TWh?
Demand – before the sanctions — was growing at about 4% per year, according to the World Nuclear Association, London. But although Iran trades electricity with Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Turkey, it had small net surplus. Tehran plans to boost generating capacity by 2022 would have produced additional substantial exports.
Why did Tehran keep details of its nuclear program secret after signing a safeguards agreement with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency  and other additional weapons of mass destruction limiting treaties since?
Iran’s experimental nuclear program was initiated by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi  under the U.S Atoms for Peace Program. But in November 2003 the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] announced Tehran systematically had violated its internastional agreements over 22 years, concealing nuclear weapons capability. Iran confirmed the IAEA’s accusations but denied their importance.
Why has Iran violated its agreement with Russia for a fuel supply including the return of used fuel?
Adherence to the agreement would have removed any necessity for uranium enrichment which Tehran now admits after dissident Iranian expatriates revealed the details of a secret enrichment plant in 2002. Furthermore, some 20 countries have nuclear power facilities which do not depend on locally sourced enriched nuclear fuel.
Why is Iran enriching nuclear fuel at at least three plants with the IAEA in March 2015 questioning whether another undisclosed facility may also exist?
In about 2000 Iran started building a sophisticated enrichment plant, which it declared to IAEA only after it was identified in 2002 by exiled dissidents. A second and and third plans for uranium conversion are under international safeguards, though IAEA says its monitoring is limited.
Why has the subject of Iran’s role as the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism been excluded from present negotiations?
Diplomacy to end Iran’s nuclear arms program by the 5+1 [United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany] with Tehran began in the spring of 2003 with continual extensions deadlines. During that period, Tehran has successful extended it aid to the Syrian regime of Basher al-Assad that has killed some 200,000 of its own people, been suspect in the murder of an investigator in the two 992 bombings of Israeli diplomatic and Jewish 1community centers in Buenos Aires, set up a new Latin American infiltration and subversion center in Bolivia, armed and now rearms the Hamas terrorist in Gaza, attempted [but was thwarted by the Israelis killing a prominent Irnian general] to extend its puppet Lebanese Hezbollah to a new anti-Israeli installation on the Golan Heights, expanded a drug smuggling and intelligence network with sympathetic Venezuelan [and Cuban] officials throughout Latin America and in the U.S., among other worldwide subversion activities targeted against the U.S. and its allies.
In November 2014, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said, “In order to avoid a bad deal, the P5+1 must hold strong on achieving an agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program to a reasonable civilian capability, significantly increases the timelines for breakout to nuclear weapons, and introduces enhanced verification that goes beyond the IAEA’s Additional Protocol. A sound deal will also require Iran to verifiably address the IAEA’s concerns about its past and possibly on-going work on nuclear weapons, which means Iran must address those concerns in a concrete manner before a deal is finalized or any relief of economic or financial sanctions occurs.”
The Obama Administration and its supporters have presented a dire dilemma: either accept an increasingly watered-down agreement now being negotiated which would ostensibly limit Tehran’s nuclear weapons program with [what can only be described as a highly suspect] monitoring, or go to military action to end or degrade Iran’s program with the possibility of an ensuing regional conflict in the chaotic Mideast.
This formulation ignores several counterarguments:
1] With the current dramatic drop in world fuel prices – likely to continue even in the notoriously unpredictable oil and regional gas markets because or rising production in Iraq and Libya [and by Iran’s own black-markets operations]. That forecast is despite local violence because of new entries of shale gas in the U.S. and abroad, Saudi Arabia’s current low price regime to retain share in a dwindling market, and increasing fuel economies in a depressed world economy.
2] Continued sanctions or elevated sanctions could well bring about a capitulation of the mullahs or regime change in Tehran. [The Obama Administration not only refused to publicly endorse Iran’s Green Revolution after stolen elections in 2009 but ignored demonstrators’ signs in English calling on Obama’s intervention. Instead the Obama Administration moved for negotiations which strengthened an endangered regime.] .
3] As Washington [in 2006] proved in its successful efforts against North Korea counterfeiting of dollars, threatened or actual sanctions against third parties by the U.S. can be enormously effective. [Chinese banks temporarily withdrew their support from North Korea in the face of American pressure until it ended its most flagrant counterfeiting and distribution of $100 bills.]
. 4] If military action were to be taken even against parts of the Iranian program, it does not have the capacity quickly to restore the weapons program since it does not have the domestic industrial backup which has produced the current level of activity. It has relied on imported machinery and technology. It would produce an extended period of a halt to nuclear [and perhaps missile] development, and would critically impact a regime with growing serious economic difficulties.
So, the ultimate question:
Why has the Obama Administration continually given ground in its negotiations with Tehran, now permitting not only continued enrichment, but in effect, reducing the “breakout” time for conversion of enriched fuel to weapons?
Any hope for an exit from the current Middle East chaos lies with the efforts of Gen. Pres. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to stabilize its politics and rebuild the Egyptian economy.
With its 90 million people and traditional role as the intellectual leader of the Sunni Arab world, el-Sisi’s efforts to move out of the collapse of four years ago is critical not only for his own country but for the region as a whole.. There is general acknowledgement in the area of Egypt’s overwhelming importance and leadership – except in the pro-Iranian elements dominant in Damascus, Lebanon-Hezbollah, Gaza-Hamas, and Yemen-Houthi, and increasingly in Baghdad.
Egypt’s importance brought thirty country leaders, dozens of financial companies– more than 1,000 potential investors— including non-Arab states for his conference at Sharm el-Sheikh in mid-March. The Gulf states alone pledged $30 billion in loans and investments. That’s in addition to larger earlier Gulf emergency loans to Cairo after el-Sis’s takeover.
El-Sisi has laid out an ambitious economic agenda: he has launched a second, wider Suez Canal, proposes to build a new capital linking Cairo to Suez, and invites a massive inflow of foreign investment.
His political agenda is even more ambitious. He has declared war on the Moslem Brotherhood and other Islamic radicals, imprisoning thousands of activists of the previous regime. He proposes to lead a strengthened Arab alliance against ISIL, now controlling large sections of Iraq and Syria. When the Islamic terrorists murdered 30 Copt Christian Egyptians in Libya, he immediately struck with air raids and is pushing his Arab allies and the Western powers to come down militarily on the Libyan Islamicists.
Perhaps his most important contribution to the current scene, however, has been his courageous attempt to address the traditional Moslem origins of the current outbreak of terrorism. He went to al-Azhar University, the fountainhead of Sunni theology, to personally to call on the Muslim clergy there for a reformation of Islamic thought. . He said that without such a revision of traditional Muslim thought, the basis of the present terrorism will not be eradicated. In effect, he has turned his back on Western apologists– including Pres. Barack Hussein Obama—who identify Islam as “a peaceful religion”.He made a demonstration visit to a Coptic church at Christmas, acknowledging that this 15% of the population has been under traditional persecution and particularly recently by Muslim extremists.
El-Sisi’s undertaking cannot be underestimated. Three-quarters of Egyptians are under the age of 25, one of the most youthful populations in the world. This demographic bulge drives an additional 4% of the population into the workforce annually, with a formal unemployment figure estimated at 14%. Unemployment among college graduates is even higher.
Although his 2013 military overthrow of the previously elected Brotherhood government of Pres. Mohammed Morsi was generally popular, and despite his brutal efforts to smash its remnants, el-Sisi may be facing a growing insurgency. Islamic terrorists have controlled parts of the Sinai peninsular for several years. He has broken with Hamas in neighboring Gaza because of its terrorist activities and its flirtation with Tehran. But individual urban terrorist acts threaten a full revival of Egyptian tourism which at its peak employed about 12% of Egypt’s workforce as well as contributing more than 11% of GDP and 14.4% of foreign currency revenues.
Although the U.S. was officially represented by Sec. of State John Kerry along with American firms at the investment conference, the Obama Administration still flirts with remnants of the Moslem Brotherhood whom some of its leading lights believe represents “moderate” Islam. The cutoff of $1.3 annual American military aid after the 2013 coup— especially delivery of F16s needed in the Sinai campaign– has sent el-Sisi searching for other suppliers, including a recent initialization of a French fighters deal and negotiations with the Russians.
El-Sisi’s relations with the Israelis remain formally cool. The Israelis, despite their request, were denied entry to the investment conference. But there are reports of frequent personal contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And there is obvious on the ground collaboration in further isolating the Hamas regime in Gaza, a common Egyptian-Israeli concern.
Despite repeated public and private appeals by el-Sisi for a resumption of the U.S.-Egyptian alliance, the Obama Administration— bending to its leftwing human rights critics and pro-Palestinian sympathizers – has refused. The danger, of course, is that as el-Sisi’s project becomes more intense and difficult—and with outside support for the Islamic terrorists—he will move further away from Washington toward a more independent position. Washington risks that, particularly, with its present attempt to find a working arrangement with the Tehran mullahs despite their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
One thread runs through all the miasma of the tribal and ideological jungle of contemporary Mideast politics. Through it all is interwoven the power and influence of Iran.
With its 80 million people, its vast territory – the world’s 17th largest country, about the size of Alaska – and its abundant resources, Iran towers over all the other Mideastern territories [except Egypt and Turkey]. Despite its sudden cataclysmic downturn in fertility – a drop-off much deeper than Europe, Japan and China are also experiencing – Iran currently still has a young population that will reach 100 million by 2050.
But more than anything, Tehran is heir – unlike Egypt’s largely historical and tourist attractions – to the traditions of the ancient Persian empires dating from 500 years before Christ. Contrary to the primitive intolerance of the current regime, the Persians through the ages built remarkably strong political entities simultaneously using various ethnicities. [Again what a contrast to the neighboring puny Arab sheikhdoms, however endowed with petrodollars.] That thrust toward power is again a central issue in the region.
There is no dearth of evidence for Tehran’s aggressive ambitions beginning with worldwide terrorism that punctuated recent decades. Whether in the Beirut military barracks bombing of Americans and French troops  or the attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires  or the bitter IED offensive against American forces during the Iraq war, Tehran’s gloved hand was there.
However vulnerable the ties, today Tehran has jumped the security fences first set up post-World War I by Britain and France, and then the U.S.. Its alliances extend to the Mediterranean with the Assad regime [if under siege] in Syria, Hezbollah that dominates ethnic-chaotic Lebanon, and even the scion of the bitterly anti-Shia Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas in Gaza.
Moving toward weapons of mass destruction with the help of other rogue states headed by North Korea and greedy merchants in Russia, Germany, Tehran’s mullahs are reaching for great power status. One suspects even their bitterest domestic enemies do not vouchsafe their country this role.
There is, indeed, growing evidence Iran may shortly be a “threshold” nuclear state, that is one able to produce nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in short order. Never mind its oft repeated threat to wipe out Israel, a bomb will give Tehran dominance in the region, possibly setting off a dangerous nuclear weapons race among the region’s inherently unstable regimes.
How is the world to cope with Iran as it again flexes its muscles in an effort to restore its ofttimes regional hegemony?
The U.S. once thought it could live with Iran as a regional super-power; Washington allied with Shah Reza Pahlevi, encouraged his stewardship of the area. He was seen as an important ally during the Cold War, blocking the old, old Russian ambition of reaching the warm waters. The U.S. was even prepared to tolerate Iran as a leader of the cabal to create an OPEC monopoly on world energy at higher prices. But in one of those moralistic flights of fancy. Amb. William Sullivan – who had already made his contribution to the debacle in Southeast Asia – helped pull the rug from under the Shah, buying into the false promises of the Muslim theocrats.
Looking back now, one could make the case that the seizure of Western oil in Iran and the Gulf states was the original sin. Their inability to efficiently absorb enormous wealth which flowed into their coffers was more than “a tax on the world economy” that the then Secretary of Treasury William Simon rationalized. Those dollars became the source of a major destabilization of the world order with huge surpluses in the hands of small backward populations led by tyrannical, shortsighted leaders. [One can only hope this aspect will perhaps to be tempered, finally, by the Americans’ shale revolution which is rapidly bringing down the real price of energy and defanging the Mideast’s hold on world oil and gas.].
But how to deal with this new set of chessmen continues to be a central problem of U.S. efforts to maintain world peace and stability. And perhaps the greatest unknown in the whole equation is trying to deduce what path the Obama Administration thinks it is pursuing.
There apparently is one train of thought with the career diplomats which sees U.S. benign neglect as the best answer to the Mideast problems. That would have been the inspiration for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement of a “pivot” from U.S. concentration on the Mideast to deal with the growing potential threat of a nascent China. That was soon grabbed by the White House speechwriters as an answer to the self-evident failures of Obama’s initial outreach to the Moslem world which elicited only scorn and the false hopes of “the Arab spring”. It soon became all too apparent that the tarbaby with which Washington has been ensnared could not be wished away. [The President has just announced new reinforcements for ground troops in Iraq which he said he wouldn’t commit.]
And so the mystery of what the Obama Administration thinks it is doing in the Middle East continues.
Its rejection of an alliance of minor powers as a counter to Iran’s growing power based on the bilateral U.S.-Israeli alliance is all too obvious, even before Jerusalem’s latest Hamas engagement. Now, of course, Washington finds a tacit alliance between Israel and Egypt and even the Gulf states against the Muslim Brotherhood with whom so many of Obama’s advisers were infatuated. It has had to double back to try to create an alliance to destroy one of the Brotherhood outgrowths, ISIL, and even toys with unacknowledged cooperation with Tehran to defeat it, if slowly.
Obama’s advisers earlier had rejected the possible option of Iranian regime change in 2009, even when a near revolution erupted after falsified elections brought out the old Persian values and young activists calling for American help. Obama’s much ballyhooed personal relationship with Turkey’s pretended strong man, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Persians’ old, traditional cultural and political competitor, collapsed in the face of Ankara’s pipedream of recreating a version of the old Ottoman Empire’s domination of the Arabs. Even when the Egyptian public turned against an elected Moslem Brotherhood administration, supporting a military coup, Obama found it impossible to abandon support for that Sunni ideological mother of so much Mideast violence.
So the No. 1 mystery of the region is not the constant shifting of loyalties and alliances but the intent of American policy.
Obama has publicly hinted that he could salve the thousand-year-old Sunni-Shia vendetta. That might be an expression of a strategy of building a balance of Shia Persia against the Egyptian-Turkey-Gulf states Sunnis. If that were the intent, the Obama seers have blown it with their naïve expectations of “the Arab spring”, their flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and subsequent antagonism of the Egyptian military and false hopes for Turkish leadership.
There is some circumstantial evidence on the other hand that the Obama Administration is thinking that there is an inevitability about the Iranian hegemony in the area, and that a deal can be struck with it. How else to explain the constant unrequited supplications to the mullahs [including the most recent “secret” personal letter from the President] and the refusal to support Iranian dissidents?
That presumably would be the rationale for what looks like a negotiation to permit Iran to retain a capacity to enrich uranium, ostensibly for a nuclear power industry, but which would make them a “threshold” nuclear weapons state. For any but the most idealistic observer, it is hard to rationalize the past history of this fanatical Muslim regime’s secret nuclear efforts and any hope that it would abide by such an agreement, or, indeed, that UN or other surveillance would be more effective than in the past.
With the outlook for salvaging any of Obama’s domestic agenda poor what with not only a Republican-led Congress but a reinvigorated GOP, it could well be that Obama would turn to foreign policy in his two lame duck years of office. That is why the mystery of the Persian thread as it winds through the Obama Administration is a political conundrum of moment.
As usual, there are more questions than answers about the current Middle East situation. And, for that matter, there is difficulty following the gyrations of Obama Administration policy.
But there is growing evidence a defiant Israel, stoic in the face of Hamas’ ability to exploit the misery of its own making for Gaza’s 1.8 million and growing pressure from the Obama Administration for an indecisive ceasefire. Jerusalem appears dedicated to the destruction of the most dynamic terrorist organization in the Mideast. Successful demilitarization of Gaza would not only remake the Israel-Palestine relationship but could be the world’s first conclusive victory in the war on Islamic terrorism. In a rapidly evolving situation, not only changing conditions but loyalties and alliances is breathtaking.
Here are some basic considerations:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beset with the typical domestic Israeli ideological in-fighting, from peace advocates on the left to proponents of reoccupation of Gaza on the right. But he rides a wellspring of domestic support, despite heavy casualties, for refusing a temporary compromise with Hamas such as those in 2008, 2009 and 20012 . Furthermore, what is seen now as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004-5 unilateral Gaza withdrawal and destruction of its four Israeli Settlements has further discredited “land for peace” – that is abandoning 1967 conquests of the locales of the historic Hebrew kingdoms for a “two state solution”. But the Israeli public is still absorbing the evidence of a major intelligence failure in underestimating Hamas’ capacities with its sophisticated tunneling operations. That surge of suicide bombing, mayhem and kidnapping was planned for September 2014 Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year]—to take advantage of a Jewish holiday, an echo of the Arab surprise of the 1973 Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] War. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Jerusalem with the tacit concurrence of Cairo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Mohammed Abbas’ Fatah movement, will have the stomach for completing of Hamas decimation.
Destruction of Hamas would be a severe blow to Tehran’s mullahs, who have used it as a further diversion from demands by the U.S., Israel and other American allies to halt the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. It was not only that Hamas represents part of the strategic pincers in the south with Iranian supported Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the north against any Israeli attempt to take out Iranian nuclear weapon potential. But the ability of Shia Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to jump the deadly 1600-year-old sectarian divide to support Hamas as a product of the ultra-anti-Shia Sunni Moslem Brotherhood. The Tehran-Gaza alliance unites Islamic terror in a way not seen before. Even Iran’s traditional enemy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now reaching for ultimate power in the Turkish presidential elections this fall as he moves closer to the Brotherhood, had also become one of Hamas’ patrons. Will the Tehran mullahs watch this asset fall apart, or would they, for example, finally unleash Hezbollah and its missiles on Israel’s north in order to try to rescue the Hamas remnant?
Contrary to the 2012 Gaza ‘truce” when Mohammed Morsi rode the wave of a Moslem Brotherhood electoral victory, Pres. Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sees Hamas as an enemy. The ruling Egyptian military is in a brutal campaign to wipe out the Brotherhood’s domestic political and paramilitary following. Furthermore, Hamas’ Iranian connection on Egypt’s doorstep imperils Cairo’s traditional political and cultural leadership of the Arab and Muslim world. Tacit military cooperation with the Israelis is restoring Egypt’s control over Sinai and presumably would close the smuggling routes for longer-range Iranian missiles and other weaponry reaching Hamas through the Red Sea and Sudan. It remains to be seen if al Sisi can maneuver a ceasefire/truce in tacit cooperation with the Israelis which will dismantle Hamas’ military as a minimum while all the while paying enough homage to Gazan victims to quiet the Arab Street’s overall sympathies for the Palestinian cause.
This tiny little Gulf sheikhdom with only 2 million people – if the highest per capita income in the world from its enormous gas reserves – has taken a hit. That’s because Qatar’s al Thani family’s high stakes game of playing all sides included being the principal backer of Hamas. It was not only Qatar’s financing but IT controls which permitted Hamas to launch thousands of missiles at Israel from its sophisticated tunnels, protecting them from air power and preparing a growing terrorist plot against Israel. While Qatar played a principal role in the Obama Administration’s “lead from behind” in toppling Muamar Qadaffi in Libya, it is the principal funder for the jihadists against Washington-backed moderates seeking overturn of the al Basher regime in Damascus. Qatar also was middleman in swapping of five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held for five years by the Taliban/ Although it has the smallest military force in the region – 11,800 conscripts – Washington sold it $11 billion in weapons earlier this year including anti-aircraft missiles and looking forward to a major fighter purchase later. This was the price for use of a major air base where Washington strategists attempt to coordinate defense for all the Gulf states against an increasingly menacing Iran. Washington reached agreement to continue to operate and maintain troops at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base at least through 2024, having moved there when Saudi Arabia reversed course after originally hosting U.S. forces during the Gulf Wars. Qatar’s bitter feud with Saudi Arabia, restrictions on the use of the base and meddling in its Gulf neighbor’s domestic politics limit that cooperation. A collapse of Hamas could prejudice the whole shaky network of Qatar’s activities, perhaps demanding a new American strategy to oppose Tehran in the Gulf rather the dawdling talks extended for four months which are neither inhibiting Tehran’s weapons progress, and now lightened sanctions, are restoring its economy.
Admission that three UN Gaza schools stored Hamas armaments [then returned to Hamas] is finally giving currency to the region’s greatest “secret”, the 70-year-old effort of the UNRWA, a highly paid international secretariat [including Hamas members], with the collaboration of neighboring Arab states, to cultivate a “refugee” status for Palestinians. UN operated schools have preached anti-Semitic hatred and jihad against the Israeli state. Simultaneously while Israel absorbed 800,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, shorn of all their possessions, the oil-rich Gulf states imported millions of labor from South and Southeast Asia, largely refusing Palestinian Arabs emigration or naturalization. Recent events have forced UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon into condemnation of Hamas violation of repeated attempts at cease fire in contradiction to the UNWRA. Slowly the barbarity of Hamas’ strategy of deliberately exposing Gazans to additional jeopardy from Israeli aerial and ground bombardment in order to exploit world sympathy is seeping through a media unable to report actual conditions in Gaza for fear of their reporters’ lives. For example, CNN interviews with spokesmen for Hamas have without identification taken place in one of the area’s largest hospitals. Some UN officials – for example, from the head of the UN Human Rights organization condemning the U.S. for its participation in developing Israel’s Iron Dome defense and suggesting Washington should aid Hamas in a parallel effort – may finally be bringing some semblance of balance into mass media reporting in the area. It remains to be seen whether Washington, as the disproportionate bankroller of UN activities and massive direct payments to the Palestinians, will use its leverage to reform the aid-giving process. U.S. .Sec. of State John Kerry’s proposal – apparently “demanded” in a bitter conversation by Obama with Netanyahu – to use Qatar and Turkey as mediators in a Gaza ceasefire outraged the Israelis and their American supporters. The effort to cut out Egypt, the traditional mentor for the Gazan Arabs, appeared to be a continuation of the Obama Administration’s flirtation with the Moslem Brotherhood and its cool relations with the Egyptian military. But, almost immediately, including public statements, Washington flipped back to endorsing Cairo as the mediator, including a role for Mohammed Abbas and his West Bank Palestinians. Cairo’s backing by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Arab League has not only strengthened what had been seen as Abbas’ fading role but that of the Palestinian “moderates” despite their public caterwauling in defense of Hamas.
Washington, momentarily, has few options but to wring its hands over the civilian carnage in Gaza and to hope that others will find the basis for ending the crisis successfully, that is, with the demilitarization of Gaza.
The horror of 298 innocents, oblivious to the warfare 33,000 feet below them, blown out of the sky by criminally negligent fanatics supported by Russian Vladimir Putin, forebodes greater catastrophes.
The incident is a part of a worldwide scene wherein Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s strategy of withdrawal from what he — and a large part of the apolitical war-weary American people – sees as overreaching worldwide projection of U.S. power.
But Obama’s clumsy retreat has led to a continuing welter of probes by opponents – and even allies — of Pax Americana. Whatever the merit of arguments about a declining U.S., its power and influence on the rest of the contemporary world remains enormous. Obama’s withdrawal creates an international and regional power vacuum, setting up the kind of ambiguities that throughout history has led to misperceptions, and, often, major wars.
The classic example, often cited if by simplistic interpretation of a very complex episode, is Dean Acheson’s speech to the National Press Club on January 12, 1950. In what was considered a seminal statement, the secretary of state did not include the KoreanPeninsula in a statement of the all-important United States “defense perimeter”. Its omission was widely interpreted as a signal that Washington would not defend South Korea, a product of the division of the Peninsular at the 38th parallel at the end of a 50-year-Japanese Occupation on Tokyo’s World War II surrender.
With concentration on the postwar Soviet takeover of Eastern and Central Europe, the U.S. had absent-mindedly occupied the Peninsular with only a vague understanding of its potential threat to highly industrialized if decimated Japan. Into that vacuum, the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin, riding the full thrust of the developing Cold War, instigated his puppets, the well disciplined army led by Kim Il Sung, a former Soviet officer, to attack the South with the intention of reunifying the country as another Moscow satellite. The U.S. responded, if lamely in the beginning, but in force, and initially was victorious in threatening a complete reversal of the two superpowers’ goals.
But Mao Tse-tung, frightened by the prospect of a reunited Korea, an American ally on Communist China’s most important northeastern land frontier, hurled tens of thousands of former surrendered Nationalist troops as cannon fodder into the combat. Pres. Harry Truman, engaged on other European and Middle Eastern “fronts”, denied Gen. Douglas Macarthur his “all-out” strategy for a military victory even were it to bring on possible direct and perhaps nuclear conflict with Beijing, and the war ended in stalemate. “The Forgotten War” cost five million lives – including almost 40,000 U.S. soldiers — devastated the Peninsular, and left a festering international problem.
Today, looking around the world, there are too many places where just such complex unsolved geopolitical nodules present the same sort of potential.
In Europe, Obama cancelled anti-missile defense in Poland and Czechoslovakia.aimed at Tehran and Pyongyang’s potential for Intercontinental Ballistic warfare. The annulment as a concession to Moscow of an onerously arranged reinforcement of the Europeans’ spine only fed Putin’s growing fantasy of restoring the Tsarist/Soviet Empire. It also put into question effective American leadership of the always tenuous trans-Atlantic alliance.
Not even Russia’s partial dismemberment of pro-Western Georgia in 2008 brought an American response. Six years later, a “hot mike” revealed an obsequious American president trying to appease the all-but Russian dictator. Putin’s snatch of the disputed Crimea from Ukraine has been followed by a cat-and-mouse game to muscle Ukraine’s 50 millions back into the Russian orbit. Sec. of State John Kerry’s participation in trilateral talks aimed at deciding the future of the unstable Kyiv regime has inched toward just that sort of outcome. Other former Soviet appendages are next if Putin’s bluff – posturing because of his fragile economic and limited conventional forces despite his nuclear and ICBM armory – were accommodated again.
But were Moscow to move, for example, on the Baltic States with their accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, no American administration could remain aloof and conciliatory. That would be the case despite Obama’s habitual drawing of porous “red lines”. Such a thrust would have to be met, probably even moving the pampered and feckless Europeans.
In Asia, despite Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s “pivot” to Asia, Obama Administration policies have produced similar results. Bending to American business by refusing to name China as a currency manipulator – albeit a policy relic of the Bush Administration – Beijing’s grasp for regional and Pacific power led by a subsidized economic campaign has run amuck. Increasing bellicosity of Chinese military in public statements, matched in private conversations, is wished away with U.S. offers of military exchanges. Dangerous Chinese forays over their home islands air space forces incessant Japanese fighterplane scrambles. Exaggerated claims on East China Sea atolls – with their possible subterranean oil and gas reserves — and even more outrageous South China Sea map aggression establishes a Chinese pattern. All have been met with little more than U.S. diplomaticese and as yet largely unfulfilled promises of security collaboration with the frightened Southeast Asians
Washington’s cool relations with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinto Abe in his efforts to restore “normality” to Japan as the world’s third economy and a potentially powerful military player have deepened suspicions in Tokyo. In riposte, Abe’s effort to diffuse the issue of North Korean kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 70s and 80s with concessions to Pyongyang’s desperate need for economic aid is fracturing the effort to contain North Korea’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. But Abe may not ignore the one foreign policy issue that has aroused domestic concern now that the American alliance has become acceptable even to Japan’s leftwing cliques and media. But at some point, Tokyo may question the reliability of its American shield and join its neighbors in a nuclear arms race.
A similar pattern has developed in the Mideast where the Obama Administration’s relations with Israel, its only dependable regional ally, are fraught with personal antagonism to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel’s acceptance at face value of Tehran’s threats of annihilation is endemic to Jewish history. That threat is enhanced by Tehran’s network of Shia allies in Damascus, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and even Sunni Hamas on Israel’s southern border. It is leading to a major war of preemption by the Israelis.
In Iraq the Obama Administration’s abandonment of the always difficult negotiations for a status of forces agreement to protect a residual American military on the U.S. withdrawal has led to disaster. Tehran has more influence with a rump Baghdad regime than Washington. With the country literally falling apart, an additional threat of international Sunni fundamentalist terrorists’ redoubt and sanctuary out of Syria’s civil war has arisen in the strategic center of the Arab world.
Abandoning partial sanctions in all but name, the Obama Administration seems dedicated to a continued pause – at best – in Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons with a four-month extension of negotiations and handing Iran some $4.6 billion in frozen assets.. Furthermore, there is a growing suspicion that the Obama Administration would settle for “nuclear threshold”, that is, the ability of Tehran to produce nuclear weapons but a self-imposed restraint to be policed by a UN organization that for 17 years did not know the Persian were in the enriched nuclear business. Removing the threat – despite table-thumping declarations to the contrary – of U.S./Israeli military strikes to destroy its nuclear capacities, creates the kind of climate that could only encourage a fanatical theocratic regime to nibble further toward its goal of regional hegemony.
In its own always neglected Western Hemisphere, the Obama Administration’s flirtation with a Communist regime in Cuba now on the ropes mobilizes its followers for a lifting of the economic embargo. Whether Putin’s just concluded Habana visit really represents an attempt to renew the Soviet-Cuban Cold War alliance [given the Russian economy’s crippled state] remains to be seen.[It could mean at least “swaps” again of Russian for Mexican oil as the Cuban’s recent bankroller in Venezuela collapses.] Moscow has denied leaks from Russian security echelons it intends to restore the massive Lourdes monitoring of American domestic communications, perhaps not even at this stage technically necessary. Meanwhile, a North Korean merchant ship – much like one the Panamanians recently captured carrying arms – skulks around the Caribbean, and, theoretically, could even be carrying short-range missiles.
The assault on the southern border by an avalanche of Central American youths – no small number of whom are late teenagers with gang and drug cartel connections – is met only with humanitarian consideration. Never mind that even Administration surveys show the motivation was not as the kept media contends chaotic conditions in the region but the widespread belief that illegals would be welcomed. Overarching is the Mexican collaboration in facilitating the thousand mile journey over its territory. Turning away from the violence incurred by the fight against and between the drug cartels, Mexican Pres. Enrique Peña Nieto is invited by U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder to join in the federal government’s constitutional challenge of Arizona’s more stringent laws against illegal entrants as amicus juris, friend of the court, an historic precedent.
Any of these probes could, of course, become another dramatic incident further unsettling the world scene. But it is in their totality they suggest the amateurishness of the Obama Administration’s statecraft, its ideological weakness and its incompetence even judged from its own pronouncements and political self interest.
Already in a dangerous and volatile period, these continuing largely unmet tests of American resolve add to world insecurity and could be leading to new general war.
By Sol Sanders
It must have been a shock to its “allright-nick” listeners. But even government-subsidized National Public Radio [NPR] had a commentator last week declaring that the so-called Israel-Palestine “Peace Process” isn’t going anywhere. And, more importantly, he noted, the rest of the Middle East at the moment doesn’t care all that much about the issue. That’s quite an admission for the increasing anti-Israel lobby which now counts The New York Times and NPR among its brightest stars.
Nor was Pres. Barack Obama likely to have heard much about the Israel-Palestine schmoozle in his peripatetic travels including trying to put a band aid on worsening Washington-Riyadh relations. True, the Arab League – which has more differences among its members than the United Nations Security Council –recently did come out against “a Jewish state”. But the Arab League has become less and less a spokesman for the Arabs. Its anti-Israel screeds are all that’s left of what broke away from British tutelage with Gama Nasser’s overthrow the British protected Egyptian monarchy in the early 50s.
Indeed, the list of issues is long facing the Arab world, and Muslim majority nations in general, and the Western powers ostensibly led by the U.S. in the Middle East. It is fraught with so many other threats that the problem of Israel’s relations with the Arabs pales in comparison. Nor does anyone believe the myth held among Pres. Obama’s Arabist coterie that “solution” of the Israel-Palestine problem would be an open sesame to solving all the Middle East myriad difficulties.
Foremost now, for the Sunni Arab regimes – and even those nominally secular such as Egypt’s new military rule – is the specter of the growing regional power of the mullahs in Tehran. That’s exemplified for the Saudis by the growing evidence that the bloody Syrian Dictator Basher Assad relies on Iran for life support. The Saudis publicly keep reminding Obama and the Europeans they had promised to eliminate him. Instead, there is even the prospect that Assad may negotiate his way into some sort of permanence through, ironically, Washington-sponsored peace talks.
The Saudis, who continue to call for an American commitment in Syria – which Pres. Barack Obama originally promised and then welshed on — see it as an extension of Tehran’s increasingly successful reach for regional hegemony. That’s not only by its support of Assad [along with Moscow] with both boots on the ground and armaments, but its encouragement of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah. Hezbollah, the terrorist organization which before 9/11 had taken most American lives, has now become the dominant force in always sectarian strife-torn Lebanon. Furthermore, its troops blooded in the Syrian civil war are armed by Iran with increasingly state of the art missiles for any new engagement with Israel. Hanging over all this is the threat of the Tehran mullahs acquiring nuclear weapons and delivery systems which U.S. allies in the region increasingly see Washington’s efforts to halt faint-hearted.
Yet Obama puts an Israel-Arab settlement at the top of his public agenda most of the time, and Kerry frenetically hops from one side to another with professions of “progress”. They both ignore the reality, clear to all to see but Washington and Obama’s advisors – including CIA Director John O. Brennan, who continues to view the notorious Moslem Brotherhood as the Islamic equivalent of European Christian Democrats.
As this is written, there appears to be a considerable chance “the peace process” will break down completely. That could be the best thing all around, at least for the time being. In fact, there is in reality no negotiating process because there is no Arab partner and no policy but stonewalling from the Palestinian self-appointed leadership. No Israeli government facing these conditions can do more than stall, too. So anti-Israel forces in Europe and America use the failure as a weapon to beat the Israelis.
As this is written, a further “dispute” has paralyzed continuing talks: Israel refuses to release unilaterally another 30 Palestinian prisoners – some terrorist killers – unless the Palestinians agree to further “talks” before they are released. And the Palestinians say no talks resumption until the prisoners are released. This is just one more piece of the inanity of the whole “process”.
In the first place, Washington’s efforts are with an Arab leadership –only installed on the so-called West Bank. No one is prepared to negotiate, were it possible, with Hamas in Gaza. There terrorists, officially labeled by both the U.S. and the Europeans. publicly boast of their refusal to recognize Israel or give up claims to the whole of the old British League of Nations Palestinian Mandate.
No Palestinian leader – speaking in Arabic rather than English or French – has given a clear-cut statement of acceptance of the existence or the right to exist of an Israeli state. More recently, that has been reinforced with Washington’s chief Arab interlocutor, Mahmoud Abas now rejecting the concept of “a Jewish state”.
Obama and Kerry have reinforced the Palestinian objections to Jewish “settlements” on the West Bank, although, obviously, any agreement would have to include some 1.7 million Arabs living within Israel’s 1967 armistice lines. A two-state solution would have to include large minorities of each group or call for an enormous population swap – which Israeli Arabs have already forcefully rejected.
Demilitarization of any future Palestinian state would have to be a basic issue for the Israelis given the pattern in Gaza, where a withdrawal [including the Israeli destruction of Jewish “settlements”] has resulted in a base for constant missile harassment. Yet Abbas has already rejected the Israeli insistence that its security [concurred on by Jordan] requires it hold on to bases in the JordanValley, its first line of defense on the east.
Abandonment of the traditional Hebrew centers in Judea and Samaria [the time-honored names for the West Bank] would further the outrageous radical Muslim campaign to deny Jewish/Hebrew history despite their own religious texts reliance on it. In fact, it was there for the most part where the ancient Hebrew kingdoms which the Zionists seek to restore in their modern state were located – not in the plains around Tel Aviv, now its largest center of Jewish population. Abandoning them would further the whole campaign to delegitimate Israel.
Increasingly, so-called “pro-Palestinian” sentiment in the West has either merged with traditional anti-Semitism or the remnants of the Communist and their fellow travelers.. Whatever excesses exist – in an embittered Israeli Occupation of predominantly Arab areas — have followed six unsuccessful attempts of the Arab coalitions to wipe out the Jewish state.
Hamas and its rival Islamic Jihad in Gaza are gaining strength for Muslim jihadists in the West Bank [as witness recent rioting in Jenin, a flashp[oint going back to 1936 Arab attacks on British Mandate authorities and the then small Jewish community.]. There is every reason to believe that were elections held, Abbas and his “moderate” following in the non-Gaza areas would be decimated by Hamas [which may partially explain his tortured extension of his current office]
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRRA], the only organization created for a single refugee group, has well over a billion dollar basic annual funding. It perpetuates the refugee problem by including all descendants of those who either voluntarily left or were pushed beyond the 1948 armistice lines, its schools are a hot bed of racist propaganda against Jews and its summer camps sponsor training for terrorists according to its former counsel. The Palestinians’ negotiating demand for a return of all Arab “refugees” to Israel is not only unrealistic but is just one more stumbling block to real negotiations.
And the list goes on and on.
So what are Obama and Kerry talking about when they sponsor a continued “peace process”?
It appears more than anything else an extension of Obama’s highly trumpeted outreach to the Muslim world announced early in his first Administration [with the rather shaky historical review of his Istanbul and Cairo speeches]. Since then, we have seen The Arab Spring turn to The Arab Winter, a brutal massacre of his own people by Assad in Syria with an answering radicalization of the opposition, the fall of an Egyptian autocrat to the Muslim Brotherhood’s “one man, one vote – one election” to the reinstitution of a military authoritarian Cairo regime which Obama has spurned and therefore with whom Washington has little influence, and a frightened and disaffected group of Persian Gulf American allies.
There are times when “just stand there” is the proper advice.
Minus the encouragement – and financing of some of the most corrupt politicians in the world – by the U.S. and the Europeans of the so-called Palestinian cause, the current Israel-Palestinian stalemate continues intractable. Statesmanship dictates that it be put on the back burner, at least for a while, and a turn to other far higher priority problems from the Black Sea to the Baltic as well as the continuing threat of the Iranian bomb and East Asia where the results of the ballyhooed “pivot” are still awaited.
The Obama Administration’s foreign policy begins to look like that tightly wound ball of crocheting thread which the kitten has been playing with for several hours and is now finally completely unraveling. How innocent the kitty is may be a question in the eye of the beholder. But the disarray is so vast as to be unfathomable:
The agreement not to reach agreement on a six-months pact for adjusting U.S. and Western interests with Iran, which Pres. Obama said only had a 50-50 chance, is falling apart even before it officially begins. Sources from inside the never very effective UN International Atomic Energy Commission say the agreement cannot be policed or enforced. The $10 billion in additional oil exports it permts the Mullahs in Iran will help bail them out of crisis economic situation while they continue to hurl threats at the world and call for an end to all sanctions. The Administration after giving Tehran relief by not instituting penalties against new violations of the existing sanctions regime, has now reserved itself. But Pres. Obama opposes bipartisan Senate and House members pushing legislation for new sanctions if and when the short-term agreement collapses. All sides admit/claim that Iran’s search for enriched uranium and nuclear weapons and a delivery system is going forward without hindrance during the truce period.
Ignoring the fact Secretary John Kerry’s negotiations mandate is only dealing with one of the three Palestinian elements – the PLO on the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan – new obstacles have arisen. Kerry has thrown over bitterly and long time negotiated U.S.-Israeli guidelines for its security if a Palestinian state comes into being. So he has inadvertently manufactured a new crisis over Israel’s continued presence in the JordanValley. With growing threats from Iran-armed officially designated terrorists, Hezbollah in the Lebanon north and Hamas in the Gaza south, armed by Iran, no Israeli government is going to accede to any major concessions on their eastern flank with an always fragile Jordan now facing new difficulties with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
Washington has had to abandon the dribble of aid to the “moderate” opposition in Syria fighting for an overthrow of the Assad regime because of a takeover of the motley anti-Assad forces by jihadists. A new and even more violent jihad group has supplanted earlier groups linked to Al Qaeda. There are no prospects for the proposed U.S.-Soviet sponsored conference to end the civil war. Not only has the mechanics for disarming Assad’s chemical weapons collapsed, but the bloody dictator – perhaps now in the hands of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – is currently carrying out a bloody air war against opposition elements in the second city of Aleppo. In part because of Obama’s maybe-in, maybe-out Syrian initiatives, the Assad government has a new lease on life, But this more and more desperate use of air power and heavy weaponry against poorly armed opposition forces and civilians not only continues the humanitarian crisis, but threatens to spread the war to its neighbors, including Israel.
Saudis and Gulf States
:The U.S. has lost all credibility with its longtime allies, the Saudis, and the Gulf sheikhdoms, because of its failure to formulate an effective Syrian policy and its hostility to the new military-sponsored government in Egypt [below]. Reports of Saudi overtures to both the Soviets and Iran are probably propaganda, but the Saudis – always pragmatic – are now apparently thinking of trying to compromise their differences with the Shia mullahs given the seemingly inevitable approach of a nuclear-capable Tehran. Intelligence cooperation between the Israelis and the Saudis, sharing their mutual hostility to Washington’s flirtation with Tehran, are probably exaggerated. All this is complicated for the vulnerability of the Saudis [and the rest of OPEC] to the shale revolution in the U.S. which is turning North America into major net exporter of fossil fuels and breaking the hold over the longer term of Mideast oil. China’s appetite for increasing imports of energy are also feeding into a deteriorating presence of the U.S. in the region, ironically despite the fact that the President is surrounded by “Arabists” long sympathetic to anti-Israel machinations of the radical Arabs.
Washington’s alliance with Cairo [which along with the Egyptians’ peace treaty with the Israel and the alliance with Jerusalem] has been the cornerstone of U.S. middle east policy for almost four decades. It is now in tatters. The Obama Administration’s refusal to recognize the general popularity of the military coup which overthrew a growing oppression of the Islamicist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood has alienated the Egyptian military. And for the first time since former Pres. Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out of the Mideast, Cairo is letting the Russian nose back under the tent. Moscow probably cannot fulfill its promised deliveries of arms to Cairo – nor are the Saudis and the Gulf sheikhdoms now footing Egypt’s deficits likely to permit it – but it has handed Russian President Vladimir Putin another bit of useful propaganda. The erosion of U.S. relations wit Egypt, by far the most populous Arab state and the longtime center of Sunni culture, is a major disaster for peace and stability in the area.
With his tacit ally, Iran, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin has become the arbiter of the Syrian situation, continuing to support the Assad regime against the jihadist-dominated opposition which Washington now fears to support. By going to the aid of Pres.Viktor Yanukovych with emergency financing and discounted natural gas prices, Putin has forced the Ukrainian regime to curb its growing ties with the European Community. The hostility between the nationalist western Ukraine and the Russian-speaking eastern rust-belt threatens the unity of a very fragile new state. But Putin can, at least for the moment, quietly trumpet it as part of a growing successful plan to reassemble the old “Soviet republics” into a new Moscow sphere of influence and customs union resembling the old Communist state. Despite the refusal of the German, British and American heads of state to attend, Putin has lavished some $70 billion – and still counting – on the February Winter Olympics where he hopes to crown his and Russia’s return to superpower status. Obama’s concessions to Moscow on missile defense – embarrassing Polish and Czech allies – and other attempts at concessions for a modus operandi with Putin’s Moscow have fallen disastrously short. And while Putin’s ambitions are likely to be short-lived, he has the capacity to add additional muddle to U.S, policies in the Mideast, Europe and Asia.
While Beijing’s dependence on exports and massive overexpansion of its capital plant and infrastructure has had to be reigned in, U.S. economic policy still refuses to confront the enormous and increasing trade deficit with China which threatens the U.S. dollar. Luckily, Beijing does not have any place to go with its foreign exchange hoard – Sterling long ago was defrocked as a reserve currency, the Euro is in an attenuated crisis, and the Japanese refuse to permit the yen to become a reserve currency. But the Obama Administration refuses to indict the Chinese for currency manipulation which has gutted much of U.S. manufacturing and permitted the Chinese to have pretensions for their own internationalization of the yuan and to make significant if small overseas investments. Increasingly the U.S. is faced with a dilemma of either permitting semi-government Chinese companies to acquire American assets – with their record of mismanagement and corruption – or inhibit the play of market forces in the U.S. economy. The “pivot” to East Asia so portentously announced by former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton – despite all denials an effort to meet an increasing aggressive “rising” China – is being inhibited by the continuing pull of the Mideast on military resources and a lack of clarity on the U.S. strategy in Asia. In riposte, the Chinese are proceeding with more and more territorial claims against their neighbors in the East and SouthChinaSeas further incurring demands on American military capacity.
The Obama Administration has failed to enthusiastically grasp the popularity and strategic clarity of the Abe Administration. In the case of the contested Senkakus Islands, it has taken an internally contradictory stand: it recognizes Japanese longtime occupation, it has repeatedly said the little, uninhabited rocky outcroppings which may or may not sit above fossil fuel deposits, are covered by the U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. But the masters of ambiguity at Foggy Bottom maintain Washington does not take sides in the dispute and does not recognize Japanese sovereignty. There must be some limit even to diplomatic “modalities”! Having initiated the Trans Pacific Partnership, an initiative to create a vast new common market – excluding China but including Japan – the Obama Administration has been allowed the project to dawdle. With Canada and Mexico having joined in, the issues are enormous for all the partners, especially for traditionally protectionist Japan with Abe staking his political life on their negotiating success. Yet it has not engaged the President in more than an occasional passing reference. And, probably correctly, it is no secret that Abe has maintained a stiff upper lip in the face of relatively little attention from his ally, and, in fact, political embarrassment with a growing suspicion in Tokyo’s elite circles that the President’s coterie is incompetent.
Seoul, succumbing to a campaign of seduction by Beijing, has steeped itself in the old arguments of the bitter half century of Japanese Occupation. Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel, on his recent tour, shocked Tokyo and discomfited Seoul when he indicated he would be trying to mediate the growing Tokyo-Beijing tension, but then publicly refused to play conciliator to the two most important bilateral allies in the region, Japan and Korea. The Obama Administration seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that an accomodation between Japan and South Korea is the sine qua non of any multinational alliance in Northeast and Southeast Asia to meet the growing aggressive feints of the Chinese regime.
Meanwhile, coordination in a joint effort to anticipate the next unpredictable events in North Korea is less than adequate among the three allies, the U.S., Japan and South Korea. Washington’s continued reliance on Chinese intervention seems to be the weakest reed with the recent purges in Pyongyang, apparently, in part aimed at elements seeking to take Chinese advice and move toward liberalization of the economy. The current South Korean administration, with few illusions about North Vietnam, is nevertheless not in synchronization with Washington. Even military strategy, with its ultimate goal the further reduction in American forces but maintaining the nuclear shield is not being given its due priority. The conundrum remains of a North Korea, with the example of Qadaffi’s Libya before them and its profitable technical collaboration with other rogue states such as Iran, which is most unlikely ultimately to abandon its nuclear weapons. The Allies’ alternative is to seek regime change. But fear of the chaos of a post-Kim North Korea is preventing the formulation of alternative strategies to Pyongyang’s continued blackmail for additional aid to keep a starving if militarily advanced economy from collapsing.
Just as its predecessor Republican administrations, the Obama team has had illusions about the prospects of an alliance with New Delhi. India’s dreams of hegemony in the Indian Ocean, its largely continued reliance on Russian weapons, and the predisposition of its professional foreign service corps for a close relationship with Moscow, always defeat any American effort at closer relations. With the Indian economy still hidebound by its inheritance from its socialist and colonial past, there are dwindling prospects of extensive foreign investment and transfer of technology to accomplish the kind of economic superapid progress China has made in the past two decades.
The blowup over the arrest and indictment of a member of the Indian New York City consulate-general for alleged maltreatment of an employee seems a legitimate action of the American criminal justice system. But it does seem that the State Dept. with its inordinate pride in its diplomatic traditions might have handled the problem more discreetly. The degree to which the episode has been exaggerated and exploited in New Delhi suggests the underlying faultlines which continue to divide the U.S.-India relationship. The Obama Administration appears to have only deepened them.
It was, of course, unavoidable that the immense and complicated structure created since 1948 with the central theme its effort to fend off Communist aggression, would have had to be modified and reorganized after the post-1990 implosion of the Soviet Union. But afterfive years of the Obama Administration, it is caught in the toils of its leftwing participants’ fight against the largely post-World War II U.S. foreign policy. It has only contributed to further confusion. It remains to be seen if in three years, another administration in Washington, whether Republican or Democratic can rescue the still necessary role of American leadership in the world.
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