Friday, January 30, 2015

Obama's MidEast Dance

Israel’s reported strike January 18 on a joint Iranian-Hezbollah convoy driving on the Syrian Golan Heights was one of the most strategically significant events to have occurred in Israel’s neighborhood in recent months.

[I]t is clear that in one fell swoop the air force decapitated the Iranian and Hezbollah operational command in Syria. According to a report from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the Iranian losses included three generals.

The fact that the men were willing to risk exposure by traveling together along the border with Israel indicates how critical the front is for the regime in Tehran. It also indicates that in all likelihood, they were planning an imminent attack against Israel.
Iran’s willingness to expose its forces and Hezbollah forces also indicates something else. It indicates that they believe that there is a force deterring Israel from attacking them.

From the Golan Heights to Gaza, from Yemen and Iraq to Latin America to Nantanz and Arak, Iran is boldly advancing its nuclear and imperialist agenda. As Charles Krauthammer noted, the nations of the Middle East allied with the US are sounding the alarm. Earlier this week, during Obama’s visit with the new Saudi King Salman, he got an earful from the monarch regarding the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israel’s January 18 strike on Iranian and Hezbollah commanders in Syria showed Israel’s strategy wisdom and independent capacity. Israel can and will take measures to defend its critical security interests. It has the intelligence gathering capacity to identify and strike at targets in real time.

But it also showed the constraints Israel is forced to operate under in its increasingly complex and dangerous strategic environment.

Due to the US administration’s commitment to turning a blind eye to Iran’s advances and the destabilizing role it plays everywhere it gains power, Israel can do little more than carry out precision attacks against high value targets. The flipside of the administration’s refusal to see the dangers, and so enable Iran’s territorial expansion and its nuclear progress, is its determination to ensure that Israel does nothing to prevent those dangers from growing – whether along its borders or at Iran’s nuclear facilities.
[Jerusalem Post]

Do We Really Mean "Never Again"? - Charles Krauthammer

Amid the pledges of "never again" on Tuesday's 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, anti-Semitism has returned to Europe with a vengeance. It has become routine. The rise of European anti-Semitism is, in reality, just a return to the norm. While the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly wherein anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable, the hiatus is over. Jew-hatred is back.
For America, Europe and the moderate Arabs, there are powerful reasons having nothing to do with Israel for trying to prevent an apocalyptic, fanatically anti-Western clerical regime in Tehran from getting the bomb: Iranian hegemony, nuclear proliferation (including to terror groups) and elemental national security. For Israel, however, the threat is of a different order. Direct, immediate and mortal.
The Iranian bomb is a national security issue, but it is also a uniquely Jewish issue because of Israel's situation as the only state on earth overtly threatened with extinction, facing a potential nuclear power overtly threatening that extinction.
Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living - Israel and its 6 million Jews. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day. 
(Washington Post)

Israeli officials told Israel Channel 10 TV they are convinced the Obama administration "has given the Iranians 80% of what they want" in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the U.S. will soon strike a deal that will leave the Iranian regime with a "breakout capacity." Iran will be permitted to keep over 7,000 centrifuges, enough to produce enough enriched material to sprint toward the bomb within a matter of months.
These developments have apparently fueled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's sense of urgency in traveling to Washington and addressing Congress. "We are in a continuous struggle with Iran which is opening new fronts against us, which is engaged in terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world," Netanyahu said.
(Jerusalem Post)
Debating the U.S. Approach to Iran - Michael Doran (Mosaic)

  • Instead of trying to paper over the disagreement, Obama has done everything in his power to advertise it. In making his personal rift with Netanyahu the subject of intense public debate, the White House means to direct attention away from the strategic rift between them - and from the fact that the entire Israeli elite, regardless of political orientation, as well as much of the U.S. Congress, regards the president's conciliatory approach to Iran as profoundly misguided.
  • The president is depicting his congressional critics as irresponsible warmongers. He would have us believe that there are only two options: his undeclared detente with Iran and yet another war in the Middle East. This is a false choice. It ignores the policy that every president since Jimmy Carter has pursued till now: vigorous containment on all fronts, not just in the nuclear arena.
  • As a matter of ideology as much as strategy, Obama believes that integrating Iran into the international diplomatic and economic system is a much more effective method of moderating its aggressive behavior than applying more pressure. He appears also to believe that his method is working.
  • In the meantime, the seasoned thugs in Tehran grow stronger and bolder: ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity, ever more confident in their hegemonic objectives. At minuscule and temporary inconvenience to themselves, they have not only reaped the economic and diplomatic rewards pursuant to participation in the interim agreement, but also fully preserved their nuclear ambitions and the means of achieving them.

  • Having bested the most powerful country on earth in their drive for success on their terms, they have good reason to be confident.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council.


Speech Gives Israel a Seat at Iran Talks - Seth Lipsky

Why doesn't Israel have a seat at the table in the main negotiations with Iran, which is openly declaring its intention to destroy the Jewish state? It's one thing to parse the fine points of etiquette with respect to who gets to invite the prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress. But what do those who want to exclude Netanyahu from addressing Congress have to say about Israel's absence at the P5+1? This whole charade with Iran is being conducted in exclusion of the very state against whom Iran intends to use the nuclear weapons it covets.

The idea that either the Speaker inviting Israel to speak to the Congress or the Congress preparing contingency sanctions is a violation of some kind of diplomatic tradition is bizarre, given more than 50 years of congressional involvement in arms-control talks, as detailed in the Wall Street Journal.

The White House Is Lonelier on Iran - Walter Russell Mead 
  • The longer the President and his top aides keep pretending that critics of his Iran policy have no concerns that are worth taking seriously, the more they feed the narrative that the White House is in over its head on Iran - that it has lost sight of some important considerations in a headlong drive to get a deal.
  • The gravest danger to the balance of power in the Middle East today is Iran's push to consolidate its domination of the swath of territory from Iraq through Syria to Lebanon. Instead of coming down like a ton of bricks on Iran's regional ambitions, the administration appears to be edging toward embracing Iran as a useful partner against ISIS and its fellow travelers. A nuclear deal that lifts the sanctions without addressing the question of Iran's regional ambitions would have the effect of greatly strengthening Iran's hand.
  • Iran has consistently cast its quest for regional power as a movement of "Islamic Resistance" against the U.S. and its sidekick in Jerusalem. Iran and its allies have consistently taken the hardest possible line against both the U.S. and Israel. It would seem that the larger Iran looms in the region, the more it will need the image of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism to legitimate its position. Why does it makes sense to think that a stronger Iran will choose alignment with the U.S. when its own political interests would benefit from a more anti-American posture?
  • It is argued that moving to a less polarized relationship with Iran will accelerate a transition toward a more democratic and less theocratic regime within Iran. Certainly a democratic revolution in Iran would be a welcome development. But Americans generally are bad at predicting when revolutions will take place in foreign countries, and we are worse at predicting the course those revolutions take once under way.
  • Finally, there is the question of our current unhappy allies. In pursuit of a new understanding with Iran, the White House has put severe stress on our existing relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel. As a result, Iran has been able to watch America's regional position and alliance network weaken without lifting a finger or spending a dime. Under the circumstances, it looks to many as if the U.S. is dumping its old allies without securing a replacement.
  • If the administration has a serious case for how its Iran policy will leave the U.S. with a stronger and more useful regional alliance network than it now has, that case has not been made. The bits and pieces of the strategy that we know about don't make sense, and the President and his team don't seem to understand how weak and vapid the case they make to the public really is.

    The writer is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Professor of American foreign policy at Yale University. He served as Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations until 2010.
(American Interest)

No comments: