Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Obama Foreign Policy a "Disaster" Says Author of "The Strong Horse"

On February 28, inFOCUS Editor Matthew RJ Brodsky interviewed Lee Smith (photo right), author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations. The interview is posted at the website of the Jewish Policy Center, which publishes inFocus. I found his views to be profound and intriguiging, and look forward to reading The Strong Horse. Mr. Smith does not criticize the concept of engagement with the Arab and Muslim world, but rather the way in which President Obama has gone about implementing that policy.

In particular, in this interview, he deflates the idea that U.S. support for Israel has weakened its relations with Arab nations, or that the U.S. can strengthen its ties with the Arab world by distancing itself from Israel. Paradoxically, he notes, the appearance of lessened support for Israel by the United States actually discourages Arab nations from being perceived as American allies. Mr. Smith notes:

Washington has relations with virtually every member of the Arab League. The amount of money that U.S. taxpayers have spent protecting our oil-producing Arab friends in the Persian Gulf dwarfs the amount of aid we've given Israel. So, no, our relationship with Jerusalem does not come at the expense of our many Arab allies.

There are lots of reasons we're not liked in the Middle East, and yes, backing Israel is one of them. This hardly means, as some counsel, that we should check our support for the Jewish state. This is not a realist argument, but a preposterous one. Imagine the consequences: it would set a precedent for anyone who doesn't like U.S. policies that the easiest way to get what you want is kill American citizens and threaten to kill more unless Washington changes its policies.

Martin Kramer is someone who makes a genuinely realist argument: it is because the Arabs know that our reliable Israeli ally is strongly backed by Washington that has kept the peace in the Eastern Mediterranean and prevented the outbreak of state-on-state wars since 1973. Kramer argues that our problems in the Persian Gulf – Saddam, al-Qaeda, Iran – are because we have no ally there like Israel.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The President's National Security Adviser Jones Tells A Jewish Joke?

And the joke uses the stereotype of Jews as greedy merchants?

Am I overreacting, or is this event simply unbelieveable?

Well, I guess we must believe our own eyes. Here's the video of National Security Adviser General James Jones giving the keynote speech at a meeting of the Washington Institute For Near East Policy:

I am a little pressed for time today, so will simply say that this is so wrong and so inappropriate on so many levels that I hesitate even to being trying to list them. I'll simply ask what would be happening if a Republican had made this mistake. And I'll refer you to The Lid, who provides many links on the reaction to this, and a plateful of trenchant commentary.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, and Religion-Based Comedy

This clip is ten minutes long but very much worth watching, especially for those interested in discussion of religion in the public square:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
South Park Death Threats
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

I have some more comments about this at Article VI Blog.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Jeff Pugh

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taliban Gunmen Murder Government Official at Prayer in Mosque

The next time someone accuses the U.S. of insensitivity toward Moslems or worse for launching a military operation in Ramadan; the next time that the world protests the "atrocity" of Israeli forces returning fire after enemy militias fire at them from a mosque, please remember this story. Taliban gunmen burst into a mosque in Kandahar yesterday and murdered the Deputy Mayor of that southern Afghan city in the midst of his evening prayers. The truth is that both U.S. and NATO armed forces and the Israeli Defense Forces show more regard for the sanctity of Islamic holy places and objects than do the Islamist terrorists and militias, and infinitely more regard than Islam has historically and to this day shown for the holy places and objects of other religions, including Christianity and Judaism.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ronald Lauder, President of World Jewish Congress, Writes Open Letter to President Obama

Mr. Lauder (photo right) calls upon the President to end the diplomatic rift between the United States and Israel, and focus on the real threat to Middle East and world peace, the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The entire letter, which will appear today in full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, appears here.

Released Lockerbie Bomber Celebrates Birthday, Has Made "Remarkable Recovery"

As reported in the New York Daily News on April 2, 2010, convicted Lockerbie Bomber Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi celebrated his 58th birthday the previous Thursday. When Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was given a compassionate release from prison some eight months ago, Scottish prison officials stated that they had been assured by doctors that he had less than 3 months to live before he would succumb to terminal prostate cancer. According to the Daily News:

An ex-Libyan intelligence officer, Megrahi was given a hero's welcome home [see photo above left], where he's been embraced by Libyan President Moammar Khadafy and has apparently been on the mend.

"Since returning to the love of family and friends, he has made a remarkable recovery," a diplomatic source told the (London) Daily Mail.

Last week, Megrahi blocked the public release of his medical records.
As cynical and skeptical as I may be, I do not believe that Megrahi's doctors or the Scottish prison officials engaged in any dishonest subterfuge. It is perfectly plausible that the progress of a prisoner's cancer would be slowed by a release from prison, a joyous return home, better nutrition and care, and the love of friends and family. However, that is precisely why he should not have been released at all. He was sentenced to life in prison and should have died in prison.

One can only imagine the anguish experienced by family members of the Lockerbie victims who hear about the bombing conspirator's birthday celebration. Actually, we need not imagine it--here is a quote from Susan Cohen of Cape May, New Jersey, the mother of Theodora Cohen, a Syracuse University student who was among the 270 men, women and children who died on December 21, 1988, when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded from a bomb detonated as it flew over Lockerbie, Scottland:
"It's absolutely despicable. It's horrific because my daughter had only 20 birthdays."

[Hat tip to an anonymous tipster.]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Has Obama Conceded That Iran Will Become a Nuclear Power?

Greg Sheridan (photo right) is the foreign editor of The Australian, Australia's leading national newspaper, and is considered by many to be the most influential foreign affairs analyst in Australian journalism. On April 3, he published a column entitled "US Allows Iran Its Nuclear Vision," in which he wrote:
US President Barack Obama has decided to abandon any serious effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He is determined instead to live with a nuclear Iran, by containment and, if possible, negotiation.

This is the shifting tectonic plate in the Middle East.

This is the giant story of the past few weeks which the world has largely missed, distracted by the theatre of the absurd of Obama's contrived and mock confrontation with Israel over 1600 apartments to be built in three years' time in a Jewish suburb in East Jerusalem.

Iran is the only semi-intelligible explanation for Obama's bizarre over-reaction against the Israelis.

According to Mr. Sheridan, having conceded that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, the overriding concern for the Obama Administration is to prevent Israel from launching a military attack against Iran in an effort to stop what Israel understandably views as an existential threat. As Mr. Sheridan notes:

In 2008, Israel told Washington it was planning to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. Washington talked Jerusalem out of the move, not least by showing its own determination to stop the Iranians.

In those days, senior Americans from then-president George W. Bush down, often said that "all options are on the table" in their determination to stop Iran acquiring nukes. All options explicitly included an American military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Having backed down from the assurances given Israel by his predecessor (one more George W. Bush policy that President Obama is now disavowing), the Administration must do everything in its power to discourage Israel from taking matters into its own hands. According to Mr. Sheridan:

This is where the Obama-Israel dust-up comes in. By so isolating Israel, by irresponsibly unleashing a global wave of anti-Israel sentiment, especially in nations which normally support Israel, Obama has made the possibility of Israel considering unilateral action against Iran much more unlikely. The Israelis would weigh such action very carefully. There are many pluses and minuses. By creating the impression of Israel as a besieged, isolated and reckless nation, which the wildly disproportionate reaction to the East Jerusalem apartments accomplished, Obama has made the potential cost to Israel of action against Iran much greater.

I do not know that Mr. Sheridan's theory completely explains the recent dust-up in American-Israeli relations. The public stances of the Obama Administration may also be due in whole or in part to a desire on the part of the Administration to closen U.S. relations with the Arab and Islamic world, which in turn requires, in the President's own words, that the U.S. "create some space" between itself and Israel. However, Mr. Sheridan makes sense and his theory should be heeded by all friends of Israel, and anyone else concerned by the prospects of a nuclear-armed Iran.

[Hat tip: Jay Shapiro at Israel National News--Arutz 7 Radio]

Obama Administration Blocks Visas for Israeli Nuclear Scientists, As Egypt and Turkey Push for Inspection of Israeli Nuclear Plant

The Israeli newspaper Maariv has reported that the Obama Administration had denied visas to visit the United States to some Israeli nuclear scientists employed at Israel's Dimona nuclear facility (see photo). According to Maariv: “… workers at the Dimona reactor who submitted visa requests to visit the United States for ongoing university education in Physics, Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering — have all been rejected, specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor. This is a new policy decision of the Obama administration, since there never used to be an issue with the reactor’s workers from study in the USA, and till recently, they received visas and studied in the USA.” [Source: Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media]

In what the Kosher Hedgehog believes to be a related story, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu recently cancelled a planned trip to the United States for President Obama's summit on nuclear security summit opening tomorrow. Netanyahu decided to instead send a deputy prime minister to the summit when he learned that Egypt and Turkey planned to raise the issue of Israel's assumed nuclear weapons arsenal at the summit and to demand that Israel sign the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty. By not signing that treaty, Israel has avoided treaty obligations to renounce nuclear arms and admit international inspectors to its Dimona reactor, which experts believe has produced plutonium for between 80 and 200 warheads.

One might speculate whether the US denial of visas to Israeli scientists employed at Dimona is intended to subtly encourage the move by Egypt and Turkey to raise the subject of the Dimona nuclear plant at the nuclear security summit. Egypt has always made an issue of the Dimona plant, since the possibilty of Israeli nuclear weapons has been a continuing strategic deterrent to Arab aggression against Israel. At one time, Turkey had a close military strategic relationship with Israel, to the point of conducting regular joint military exercises, directed primarily at a perceived common threat from Syria. However, in recent years, the current Islamist govenment in Turkey now weakened those ties in favor of closer relations with Iran (the patron state of the Syrian regime). Just last week Israeli-Turkish relations further chilled when, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Israelas "the principal threat to peace" in the Middle East.

The action by the Obama Administration to deny visas to Dimona scientists can only encourage the Egyptian-Turkish initiative, and may even be a subtle signal by the Obama Administration that it approves the effort to open up the Israeli nuclear program to international inspection. In doing so, the Obama Administration would be buying into the argument heard in Europe and the Islamic world that the US has treated Iran and North Korea according to a double standard, trying to curtail nuclear weapons development in those nations while ignoring the possible existence of a nuclear arsenal in Israel. Previous adminstrations answered such concerns in the manner exemplified by John Bolton in October 2003, when the then under secretary of state for arms control responded to a challenge from London journalists regarding an American double standard by saying, "The issue for the US is what poses a threat to the US." Under the current administration, however, as demonstrated by recent very public diplomatic flaps, Israel is the issue for the US.

Friday, April 09, 2010

As American Power Declines under President Obama, Afghanistan's Kharzai Courts Iran

Why has Afghani President Hamid Kharzai recently taken public anti-American and anti-NATO stands, even to the point of hinting that he might join the Taliban in a campaign of national resistance? Fouad Ajami (photo right), professor at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, is not surprised. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Professor Ajami explains that President Kharzai is purposefully distancing himself from the United States because the Islamic world has come to a consensus that the Obama Administration is engaged in a discernible retreat in the Middle East. Those who hope to survive in the wake of that retreat are doing whatever they need to do in order to curry favor with the rising power in the region, Iran.

Thus President Kharzai, whose father was murdered by the Taliban, threatens to join with the Taliban to expel the foreign forces who in fact are propping up his corrupt regime.

In an eerily parallel diplomatic development, in December, at the prompting of Saudi Arabia, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Damascus, to cozy up to Syrian President Bashar Assad, who not only heads Iran's ally and client state, but also is believed to be behind the 2005 assassination of Hariri's brother, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That assassination led to the creation of an anti-Syrian, anti-Iranian alliance in Lebanese politics, which served as a counter force to the growing military and political power of the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah movement. Syrian control over Lebanese affairs was widely perceived to be in decline.

However, there was a different U.S. President in 2005. Now, seeing how the Obama Administration undercuts its regional allies, such as Israel, Prime Minister Saad Hariri is willing to make peace and common cause with his brother's murderers, just as Afghani President Kharzai is threatening to ally with his father's murderers. Prime Minister Hariri is due to make a second trip to Damascus this month, at which new treaties between Syria and Lebanon will be signed. So much for the decline of Syrian influence in Lebanon.

Although not mentioned by Professor Ajami, can anyone doubt that the recent reapproachment of Turkey to Iran, at the expense of what once was a firm Turkish-Israeli relationship, is also a byproduct of the perceived weakening of American resolve in the Middle East?

However, the Obama Administration is not without foreign policy achievements. Yesterday the President signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. One can imagine how that additional sign of decreasing American military power and superiority is perceived in the Middle East and among the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.

And earlier in the week, Obama Administration counterterrorism officials announced that all references to Islamic extremism and radical Islam will be removed from the National Security Strategy, the central document outlining American national security policy. The current version of that document, written during the George W. Bush Administration, states, "The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century." The revised document is intended to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, the Administration officials explained.

Apparently, the Obama Administration feels that the great ideological struggle of the 21st century is not against militant Islamic radicalism, but rather against Jews building apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned, it seems, to direct the Middle East policy of the Obama administration.--Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, in The Weekly Standard.

Mr. Abrams then goes on to list and discuss the "five clear lessons" about Middle East peace-making efforts, derivable from the 17 years of diplomatic efforts since the Oslo Accords, through the administrations of 3 U.S. Presidents (counting President Obama)and six Israeli prime ministers, all of which, Abrams argues, the Obama Administration is ignoring, to the great detriment of "real efforts at peace."