Today's sampler and analysis of Mideast media content from my pal Soccer Dad:
1) Faith in the electorate
Though, this is not my usual area of commentary, this week President Obama made a very telling remark to outgoing President Medvedev of Russia.
“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space...This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”Martin Peretz writes in Where's an Open Mic When We Really Need It? for the Wall Street Journal:
But really the message, the important one, concerns us, here in America. It is that the American people can't be trusted if the president is honest with them about what he proposes. More bluntly, that the American people are not trusted by their own president. Otherwise the president would tell us the truth about his intentions. And here he is, admitting his distrust of his own people to a leader of a nasty foreign government that seeks to thwart our purposes in the Middle East and elsewhere. President Obama is in cahoots with the Russian regime against America's very body politic.The editors of the Washington Post criticize President Obama’s bad bet on Vladimir Putin:
Where is an open mic when we need one? It is ironic that this president, who is committed to the programmatic pacification of Russian anxiety about defensive nuclear policy, has wasted more than three years in trying to talk with the regime of the ayatollahs about its craving for an offensive atomic capability.
More likely than not, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are already embarked on a scientific campaign to match Tehran's not-all-that-hidden military accomplishments and ambitions. When these come close to maturing, President Obama's cares about Russian missile anxieties will mean less than nothing.
Instead, Mr. Obama has invited Mr. Putin to meet in Washington shortly after his inauguration in May to discuss an agenda that Mr. Obama says will include a new agreement on reducing nuclear weapons. His lobbyists are pressing hard, meanwhile, for the repeal of a 1974 law limiting trade with Russia while resisting a congressional proposal, supported by many Democrats, that would tie the repeal to a new law punishing Russian human rights abusers.If there's a sign that the New York Times is hopelessly out of touch on almost every issue (not just the Middle East) editor Andrew Rosenthal's Reducing Nuclear Arms Is Not ‘Alarming.’ It’s Necessary is an excellent sign.
Last month Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Moscow’s obstruction of action by the U.N. Security Council on Syria was “just despicable.” Yet last week the Obama administration agreed to support what amounts to Russia’s plan for keeping the Assad regime in power, by dispatching a U.N. envoy to broker peace. Mr. Obama’s assurance to Mr. Medvedev, meanwhile, has raised a reasonable question: What “flexibility” will Mr. Obama be prepared to offer on missile defense, given that Mr. Putin surely will not be satisfied with anything short of scrapping the system or giving Russia a veto over its use?
Mr. Obama said Tuesday that “at a time of great challenges around the world, cooperation between the United States and Russia is absolutely critical to world peace and stability.” But that cooperation — and progress on Mr. Obama’s priority of more nuclear arms reductions — should not come at the expense of U.S. defense and security interests. Moreover, Mr. Obama would be foolish to center his policy on an autocrat whose people are clamoring for democratic change. Has nothing been learned from the Arab Spring?
A couple of readers have compared President Obama’s live-microphone remark about flexibility after the election to the Etch A Sketch line from Mitt Romney’s political adviser, and wondered why I came down harder on the latter than the former.To Rosenthal (and I would assume to many of his fellow editors at the New York Times) a statement made about political expediency by an adviser to a candidate is worse than that a statement of contempt by the President to a rival head of state about the people who elected him (and he hopes will elect him again.) To quote Frasier Crane, "Tell me, what color is the sky in your world?"
There are, to my mind, vast differences between what Mr. Obama said and the suggestion by Mr. Romney’s adviser that Mr. Romney can simply shake the Etch A Sketch if he gets the nomination, erase all of the loony right-wing tunes he’s been singing all year and change his positions to more moderate ones.
Mr. Obama is not suggesting any change in position. He has been working for desperately needed reductions in nuclear arms for years. Russia is the only relevant country to talk to about that, and it is in Russia’s interest to reduce nuclear arms stockpiles, just as it is in the interest of the United States.
2) When peace is war by other means
Assaf Romirowsky critiques Peter Beinart:
The American Jewish community is facing a crisis, one that has made the red lines of Jewish identity blurry and led to the "big tent" debate - in other words, the perceived Jewish need to accept everyone in the name of being open and pluralistic. Of course, such well meaning individuals who have made Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) a religion would not dare "occupy" another people, ergo, Israeli policies are bad.So has Barry Rubin:
Despite the above, the Zionist enterprise of 2012 is alive and well - not perfect but indeed thriving, as illustrated in Start Up Nation. The so-called crisis is only in the minds of Beinart, JStreet and its followers, who feel uncomfortable with the measures Israel has to take in order to ensure its survival. The failure among such "open minded" Jews to understand the damage they do to the historical Zionist narrative by adopting the Palestinian one will only prolong the "occupation," rather than end it.
That is why the Israeli peacenik left collapsed and Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister. It wasn’t that Israel had moved to the right but that reality had done so.Nathan Guttman has written an apology for J-Street in the Forward. Guttman never writes that J-Street has become irrelevant but he reports:
Thus, the problem of American liberal Jews is not to save Israel from reactionary religious extremists and hardline rightists but to come to terms with the views of the majority of Israelis, the centrists and those left of center.
Along the lines of their thinking we would have to rewrite the Haggadah along these lines:
“For we have not merely projected our paranoiac thinking that just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but we’ve been so overwhelmed with irrational fear that we think in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; even though they are just standing around doing nothing except occasional texting and discussing the big game on television last night. But fortunately the left-wing critics, blessed be They, verbally attack us, help our enemies, and launch boycotts against us which save us from our own stupidity.”
The crowd gave only muted applause to comments touting the administration’s positions on the Middle East, Iran and the Palestinian issue. But the audience offered a lengthy standing ovation to Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett when she trumpeted the president’s health reform plan. Her mention of women’s rights to birth control brought the J Street delegates to their feet.At the J-Street convention the crowd was more interested in reproductive rights than they were in the Middle East!
3) Ain't no way to treat an ally
A number of sources have picked up on a campaign to undermine Israeli efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Earlier this month Omri Ceren observed White House Official: We’re Making Israel’s Decision to Attack Iran “Hard as Possible”:
Most pro-Israel president evuh: “We’re trying to make the decision to attack as hard as possible for Israel,” said an administration official… he suggested that any Israeli strike on Iran before international oil and gas sanctions take effect this summer would undermine the tenuous unity the United States and its allies have built to oppose Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Privately, White House officials say the coalition would explode with the first Israeli airstrike.Ron Ben Yishai:
To sum up, the American publications caused the following damage:
- Iran now has a decent picture of what Israel’s and America’s intelligence communities know about Tehran’s nuclear program and defense establishment, including its aerial defenses.
- The Iranians now know about the indications that would be perceived by Washington and Jerusalem as a “nuclear breakthrough”. Hence, Iran can do a better job of concealment.
- The reports make it more difficult to utilize certain operational options. These options, even if not considered thus far, could have been used by the US in the future, should Iran not thwart them via diplomatic and military means.
Needless to say, this is not how one should be treating an ally, even if this is a relationship between a superpower and a satellite state. The targeted assassination campaign currently undertaken by the US government also sharply contradicts President Obama’s declaration at the AIPAC Conference, whereby he and the US recognize Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself by itself. One cannot utter these words and a moment later exposes Israel’s vulnerabilities and possible strike routes to its enemies.and Benny Avni
It’s also at odds with Obama’s belief, stated at AIPAC this month, that Israel has the “sovereign right” to “defend itself, by itself.”have shown how the administration (or elements within the administration) have been working against Israel through selective leaks.
The leaking campaign provides Iran with too many details about America’s capabilities — weakening Obama’s (or a future president’s) ability to fulfill his promise to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by using “all options on the table.”