Tag Archives: Obama
Goldberg, left, in conversation with Michael Oren, Bibi’s man in Washington
The first question to ask when considering how seriously to take Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest alarmist screed about Israel gearing up to attack Iran, is “Why do people talk to Jeffrey Goldberg?”
In the course of an Atlantic Monthly cover story that veers all over the place but whose intended message is that if President Obama won’t bomb Iran, then Israel will — and that everyone will be better off if the U.S. does the job because it can do it so much better — Goldberg describes conversations with 40 leading decision makers in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And all of them pretty much tell him the same thing; that Israel will give the Obama Administration’s sanctions until the end of this year to demonstrate results in forcing Iran’s surrender on the nuclear question, after which the Israelis will take matters into their own hands, launching an air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities without getting Washington’s go-ahead — because most of Israel’s key decision makers doubt whether Obama is willing to launch another war in the Middle East.
Goldberg, an early enthusiast for invading Iraq, also describes a White House meeting at which Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel appears to have convened the likes of Dennis Ross, Dennis McDonough and pretty much all of the President’s top national security advisers, all for the purpose of persuading a columnist from the Atlantic Monthly that Obama is, in fact, acting tough on Iran.
And the answer in both cases, is that people use Jeffrey Goldberg to send messages.
Okay, I don’t have much time here, it’s recycling night — and the New York Times seems to revel in recycling really tired Israeli PR lines. Today, it’s Ephraim Karsh trotting out a mish-mash of misrepresentations and tar-balls of wishful thinking to make the case that the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians, and now that they’re on their own, they’re more likely to surrender to Israel’s terms at the peace table.
The evidence for this claim, first and foremost, is an unscientific survey by an Arab news organization that found that ” a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. Uh, Ephraim, buddy — you may not know this, but the percentage of Palestinians that have no interest in those peace talks is probably higher. Nobody outside the Netanyahu-AIPAC echo chamber believes anything will come of such talks as long as the U.S. declines to force the issue with Israel. That’s hardly the same thing as saying the Arabs have tired of the Palestinians; on the contrary, most surveys of Arab opinion find the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains their primary foreign policy concern. Arabs tiring of the Palestinians is wishful thinking. Continue reading
Beinart chats with friends in high places: Liberal “hawks” like him played a major role in enabling the Iraq debacle
In 2003, the United States launched an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, a country that had neither attacked nor threatened it — and we, and the Iraqis, are still living with the consequences. Going to war in Iraq was made possible — easy, even — for the Bush Administration not only by Republican hawks and neocon extremists (the wannabe Army Corps of Social Engineers) baying for blood, but even more importantly, by supposedly sober and moderate liberal voices — the Peter Beinarts, Ken Pollacks, George Packers and the editors of the New York Times — not only failing to challenge the basic logic of the case for war, but providing their own more elegant (although equally brutal when stripped of their high-minded rhetoric) rationalizations for invading Iraq.
It was the liberal “hawks” and the New York Times, by failing to ask the right questions of the case for war, that did more to make the war a “thinkable” option for America than any neocon. They allowed the question to be posed simply as one of whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction or not. And because nobody could give an absolute assurance in the negative, the argument became “better safe than sorry”. The liberals and the New York Times offered no challenge, and asked no questions, of the basic assumption that if Saddam had, in fact, had a couple of warehouses full of VX gas and refrigerator full of anthrax, that necessitated launching a war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of upward of half a million Iraqis (and thousands of Americans) and left America weaker and more vulnerable.
And the bad news is that they’re doing it again on Iran. Continue reading
Despite the escalating war rhetoric, conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. military establishment and even President Obama himself believe that the potential consequences of a military strike that plunges America into a third war in the Muslim world are so grave — and the prospects for such a strike preventing or deterring Iran from eventually attaining nuclear weapons so dubious — as to render it too reckless an option. Nor is there any legal basis for it; a U.N. Security Council authorization for military action against Iran is unthinkable unless Iran attacked another country or was moving to do so. And most of the international community — including most of those countries that backed the latest round of sanctions — would strongly oppose it. President Obama is an indefatigable internationalist, and if he were planning to launch a military strike against Iran, it’s reasonable to expect that he’d be engaged in the protracted process of trying to establish a basis for such action at the U.N. and in international public opinion. No signs of that, at least not yet.
Obama has, however, insisted that a military option remains “on the table.”
Obama is unable to offer Abbas an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, because that is not what Netanyahu has in mind. Indeed, recent reports suggest that during his meeting last weekend with Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, the Israeli prime minister presented a proposed map of a Palestinian State that fell well short of the Arab League’s proposal for peace. Nor is Netanyahu under pressure from the US to offer more. In fact, Netanyahu believes that he can bend Washington to his will, as he so memorably explained to a family of Israeli settlers in a recently surfaced video clip from 2001: “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.”
The “right direction” that Netanyahu made clear in the video, was “to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders”. Unable to offer a state based on the Arab League’s peace terms, Obama hopes to entice Abbas into his “peace event” by offering him a flag pole – specifically, the right to fly the Palestinian flag outside the PA mission in Washington. This is not any flag pole either, but one that provides diplomatic immunity for his envoys there: Palestinian diplomats will soon be able to ignore parking tickets in Washington, DC. Can the “stamps, parades and carnival” predicted by Uzi Arad be far behind?
Anti-Ahmadinejad protestors in New York last time: The Iranian leader will hope to see the Israeli flag flying prominently among those denouncing him
The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was clearly unsettled by the news that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, plans to show up in New York on Monday at the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
As far as the US is concerned, Iran is a pariah in the international conversation about proliferation, and halting its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons is one of Washington’s key objectives at the New York conference.
“If [Mr Ahmadinejad] believes that by coming he can somehow divert attention from this very important global effort or cause confusion that might possibly throw into doubt what Iran has been up to … then I don’t believe he will have a particularly receptive audience.” At least she hopes not.
Somewhere in Tehran, Mrs Clinton’s remarks will have prompted Mr Ahmadinejad to smile his pantomime villain’s smile. He’s going to New York because he believes he’ll have an opportunity to confound US objectives.
Sure, he’ll be the focus of much opprobrium – senators from Mrs Clinton’s own party tried to reverse her administration’s decision to grant him a visa, apparently ignorant of their country’s obligations as host to the United Nations. And there will be hundreds of demonstrators across from the UN headquarters, perhaps some waving Israeli flags. At least, Mr Ahmadinejad hopes so, because he too intends to make an issue of Israel – not by threatening to wipe it out, but by pointing that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out Iran 20 times over, and yet doesn’t feature in Washington’s non-proliferation agenda.
So while the US hopes to use Iran’s failure to fully comply with the transparency requirements of the treaty to raise support for new sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians plan to draw attention to western double standards in applying the NPT. Continue reading
To some it may seem as if President Hamid Karzai has a death wish. The Afghan leader has lately begun sticking it to the U.S. and its Western allies — the only force protecting him from a surging Taliban, which hanged the last foreign-backed President when it reached Kabul in 1996. But Karzai is doing it not just because he can get away with it, knowing he’s the only game in town for Washington, but also because he must if he’s to survive in the Afghan political environment once the U.S. leaves. Continue reading
My latest on Tomdispatch:
Obama’s peace plan is doomed because failure costs Israel nothing
Uncomfortable at the spectacle of the Obama administration in an open confrontation with the Israeli government, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman — who represents the interests of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party on Capitol Hill as faithfully as he does those of the health insurance industry — called for a halt. “Let’s cut the family fighting, the family feud,” he said. “It’s unnecessary; it’s destructive of our shared national interest. It’s time to lower voices, to get over the family feud between the U.S. and Israel. It just doesn’t serve anybody’s interests but our enemies.”
The idea that the U.S. and Israel are “family” with identical national interests is a convenient fiction that Lieberman and his fellow Israel partisans have worked relentlessly to promote — and enforce — in Washington over the past two decades. If the bonds are indeed familial, however, last week’s showdown between Washington and the Netanyahu government may be counted as one of those feuds in which truths are uttered in the heat of the moment that call into question the fundamental terms of the relationship. Such truths are never easily swept under the rug once the dispute is settled. The immediate rupture, that is, precludes a simple return to the status quo ante; instead, a renegotiation of the terms of the relationship somehow ends up on the agenda.
This from my latest on TIME.com.
Having concluded that President Obama’s outreach has failed to halt Iran’s nuclear program, the final weeks of 2009 find his Administration focused on mustering support for new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Iran’s rejection of the terms offered thus far by the U.S. and its partners has prompted Obama to largely revert to the Bush Administration’s approach of ultimatums backed by sanctions — with little obvious prospect of producing a substantially different result.
So how did he get here? In a nutshell, he allowed the Washington hawks, in concert with Israel and European hawks such as Sarkozy, to paint him into a corner by setting an artificial deadline on his diplomatic effort, and more importantly, basing them on the same demands as the Bush Administration which Iran had repeatedly rejected. Not only has Iran’s domestic turmoil limited its own regime’s room for maneuver, Iran’s opposition is as vehement as its conservatives in rejecting Washington’s demand that Iran give up uranium enrichment.
So Obama is going out on the road of further sanctions, now, but it’s generally agreed that sanctions aren’t going to change Iran’s position. At which point those who set the time-limits on diplomacy will demand that Obama go to war….
As he prepares his Tuesday speech to present Americans with his plan to increase troops in Afghanistan, the US president Barack Obama could be forgiven for feeling like the economist in the old joke that finds him marooned on a desert island along with an engineer, a chemist and hundreds of cans of food but no way of opening them. The engineer gets to work trying to fashion tools for the job; the chemist tries combinations of salt water and sun to get the tins to rust. Having had no luck, they ask the economist to lend the insights of his profession. His answer: “Assume a can opener…”
The “can opener” in Obama’s Afghanistan exit strategy is the Afghan security forces. Continue reading