American Elephants

There Are Also Consequences to Not Having a Foreign Policy. by The Elephant's Child

In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan says:

Sept. 11 started the century and brought forward the face of terrorism. It is still there and will continue to cause grave disruptions. Since then we have seen we are living in a time of uprisings, from the Mideast to Africa to the streets of Kiev. We are learning that history isn’t over in Europe, that East-West tensions can simmer and boil over, that the 20th century didn’t resolve as much as many had hoped.

A Mideast dictator last year used poison gas on his own population and strengthened his position. He’s winning. What does that tell the other dictators? What does it suggest about our future?

At the American Enterprise Institute, John Bolton writes:

President Obama has three significant Middle East diplomatic initiatives underway, treating, respectively, Iran’s nuclear weapons program; Syria’s deadly, exhausting conflict; and the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Into these negotiations, Obama and his administration have poured enormous amounts of American prestige, time and effort.

Although rarely considered collectively, these three efforts constitute a significant strategic package for a White House that all too often hardly bothers with foreign policy. These initiatives truly reflect Obama’s view of America’s international role: His is a world of rhetoric and talk, not power.

Thus, Iran has not feared U.S. military strikes against its nuclear weapons program, and now, as a result of November’s interim agreement in Geneva, it does not even fear international economic sanctions. Neither the Bashar Assad regime nor Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria see any prospect of material U.S. intervention. And the main pressure being applied in the Israeli-Palestinian matter is against Israel, heretofore Washington’s strongest regional ally.

The Obama administration’s three initiatives will come to naught because they are based on error. Iran uses negotiations to buy time to continue work on their nuclear program. Obama thought Russia shared his objective of a peaceful transition from the horror of the use of chemical weapons on his own people, to something else. We could have dealt with it directly by helping the opposition in Syria, or tackling the problem’s root cause, the regime of the mullahs in Tehran.

We don’t seem to know who our friends are. The Palestinians have no legitimate governing institutions that are capable of hard decisions, like making compromises or overcoming resistance from Hamas or other terrorists. A regime that trains its small children to grow up to be suicide bombers is not going to make reliable agreements about anything.

Failing to understand reality, and failing to grasp the consequences of such failure weakens the United States and emboldens our enemies.

An interview with Col. Austin Bay pointed out that there are approximately 200 wars going on currently in Africa — real wars.

Venezuela is falling apart. Their foreign minister blames the United States and called US Secretary of State John Kerry a “murderer” who has fomented unrest that has killed 28 people in their country. Since street demonstrations began against President Nicholas Maduro’s socialist government in early February, Venezuelan ministers have been accusing Washington of stirring u[ the country’s worst political troubles in a decade. President Maduro says that a bird is giving him advice from the late President Chavez.

There’s more, of course. Argentina is in deep trouble, our newly appointed ambassador neither speaks the language, nor has ever been to Argentina, but did provide significant funds for Obama’s reelection.

Qatar hosts the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, but also supports the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and radical Sunni outfits in Syria. Support for Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels was too much for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the U.A.E. all recalled their ambassadors from Qatar.

And so the World turns on, altering and illuminating the affairs of man. Or something like that.

Fickle Foreign Policy, Increased Risk. by The Elephant's Child

I rely a good deal on Richard Epstein’s take on President Obama. Epstein knew Obama at the University of Chicago, and through Epstein’s next-door neighbor, who is one of Obama’s best friends. Epstein’s description of Obama was simply a clear-eyed assessment of the man, but not pejorative. It was a fair assessment. One particular thing he said has stuck with me. He says that Obama does not change his mind. If he once believed something, he still believes it today.

Early on, Obama expressed his idea that the crisis and trouble in the Middle East was entirely due to Israel’s refusal to make peace with the Palestinians, and if the Israelis are forced to make peace, return land to Palestine, and give Palestinians the “right of return” then there would be peace in the entire Middle East — Obama’s great accomplishment.

This seems a remarkably strange take on a group who teach their little children to hate Israel, bomb Israeli cities and houses, and grow up to be suicide bombers. But that is clearly the marching orders Obama has given to Kerry.  “In a short time, John Kerry has managed to make the Israelis and the Arabs hate him almost as much as American do. And he did it in the traditional way by saying stupid and ugly things.”

The State Department hastened to say that Kerry didn’t really mean that, “Today’s status quo absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary.” That’s what he said at the Munich Security Conference. But that same status quo has been maintained for two decades.

How odd that you seldom see mention in the press of the Palestinian children needing complicated heart surgery or other advanced medical treatment, and the Israelis step in and save lives. Syrians bring their badly wounded people to the Israeli border in hopes that the Israelis will save them. Obama clearly has no interest in foreign policy, and wants America to pull back and let others cope with it. He has no understanding of the nature of the world.

Angelo M. Codevilla is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and a fellow of the Claremont Institute.  He is the author of To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves And With All Nations to be published by the Hoover Institution Press. His article for The Federalist: “Obama’s Unserious Foreign Policy And America’s Permanent War Footing,” is really worth your time. The subtitle”Fickle foreign policy, increased risk”sums it up.

He ended the war in Iraq, and is ending the war in Afghanistan. In Syria, he is supporting the good guys. He has put al Qaeda “on the path to defeat, and is doing the same to all similar folk. He is ridding Syria of Chemical weapons, while American diplomacy is at work settling the Arab-Israeli war – the key to a larger peace. He asked Americans to believe that Obama is moving the country “off a permanent war footing.” How, he gave no hint. It is difficult to imagine foreign nations, friend and foe alike, taking any of this seriously. Or Americans for that matter.

In fact, foreigners ceased taking Obama seriously long ago. That is one reason why so much of the world is moving in directions that do not augur well for America.

Do read the whole thing.

Obama’s Risky Bet On Iran And The Ayatollahs by The Elephant's Child

The White House is playing hardball in its attempt to stop the Senate from adopting a new and tougher program of sanctions for Iran. Obama wants peace and diplomacy. One of the leading congressional loyalists, minority whip in the House of Representatives, angrily criticized a White House official for saying lawmakers who are still pursuing Iran sanctions are pushing for war.

There have been some that have suggested in the White House that those folks were more interested in war than they were in the resolution by peaceful means. I think that is absolutely untrue, [an] irresponsible assertion, and ought to be clarified and retracted by those who have made it within the administration,” Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters Tuesday morning. “Nobody believes, as far as I know, that going to war with Iran is anything but a dangerous objective that none of us would seek.”

Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, in a statement made to multiple news organizations said “If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be upfront with the American public and say so. Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”

This is a straw man argument. Nobody is suggesting going to war. Arguments against sanctions are illogical. The only thing that even brought Iran to the negotiating table have been stiff sanctions. John Kerry lost whatever leverage he had when the sanctions were loosened.  Iran is still busily working on centrifuges, and now has funding restored.

This is especially alarming since the Geneva agreement did not demand that Iran stop all of its uranium enrichment programs and nuclear weapons research., in return for the West’s lifting some sanctions. Iran has never allowed U.N. inspection of all its nuclear sites and repeatedly stated that it will not allow this now.

Tehran under this deal gets to keep permanently the ability to make a nuclear weapon, and build further advanced uranium centrifuges….There is an informal “secret side deal” that the U.S. and the other powers haven’t admitted exists, but which Tehran is now touting as a “surrender,”

This is especially alarming since the Geneva agreement did not demand that Iran stops all of its uranium enrichment programs and nuclear weapons research, in return for the West’s lifting some sanctions. Iran has never allowed U.N. inspection of all its nuclear sites and repeatedly stated it will not allow this now. – See more at:
This is especially alarming since the Geneva agreement did not demand that Iran stops all of its uranium enrichment programs and nuclear weapons research, in return for the West’s lifting some sanctions. Iran has never allowed U.N. inspection of all its nuclear sites and repeatedly stated it will not allow this now. – See more at:

The administration has taken Iranian threats about ditching negotiations so seriously that it has become hostage to Tehran. The triumphant rhetoric coming from Tehran about the current nuclear deal being a victory for the Islamists, indicates that the Iranians believe that Obama is more concerned about achieving a “peace” with them than he is about shutting down their nuclear program. The ayatollahs believe that they have the West on the run, and administration devotion to the idea that further sanctions would “break faith” with their “new partners” in Iran, proves that.  The administration has its heart set on appeasement.

President Obama seems committed to the idea that the problems of the Middle East are a result of Israeli intransigence. If Israel would just stop settlements, make peace with Palestine and give back Palestinian territory, then there would be peace in the Middle East. That’s my take. I believe Obama is of those leftists who just don’t believe in war, and assume that to be a righteous and proper position. A little short on history and monumentally short of understanding of the Islamic world.  Why would the administration be more concerned with keeping faith with Iran, than keeping its word to the American people and our word with our allies.

Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures And Why They Matter. by The Elephant's Child

Mackubin “Mac” Owens is an American military historian. He has been a Dean at the Naval War College, a senior fellow at the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and is the editor of its journal Orbis. He had an important column on Obama’s Foreign Policy at Real Clear World this week, one that everyone should read, to understand the shambles of American Foreign Policy, what we’re doing, and why it matters.

U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept of how to apply limited resources to obtain our foreign policy goals because this administration has articulated no clear goals or objectives to be achieved. The foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration are legion: the Russian “reset” that has enabled Vladimir Putin to strut about as a latter-day czar; the betrayal of allies, especially in Central Europe, not to mention Israel; snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq by failing to achieve a status of forces agreement (SOFA) that would help to keep Iraq out of the Iranian orbit; the muddled approach to Afghanistan; our feckless policy-or lack of policy-regarding Iranian nuclear weapons, not to mention Libya and Benghazi, as well as Syria. President Obama has said that he was elected to end wars, not to start them, as if wars are fought for their own purpose. Ending wars is no virtue if the chance for success has been thrown away, as it was in Iraq.

Observers disagree about the causes of the Obama failures in foreign policy. Some attribute them to indifference, others to incompetence-although the two are not unrelated. Still others contend that the results we are seeing represent the desired outcomes of more insidious motivations. But no matter the cause of Obama’s dysfunctional foreign policy, the result is the same: weakness that opens the way for those who wish America ill. Winston Churchill’s 1936 characterization of the Stanley Baldwin government as Hitler gained strength on the Continent echoes ominously today: it was, said Churchill, “decided only to be undecided, resolved to irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”

To the extent that it has any intellectual foundation, the Obama foreign policy represents a species of “liberal internationalism,” which holds that the actors in the international political system (IPS) tend towards cooperation rather than competition. Liberal internationalists contend that the goals of actors within the IPS transcend power and security; they also see an important role for actors in the IPS other than states, including international institutions such as the United Nations.

Here is the rest of the story:


David Hobson: A Little Rousing Joy by The Elephant's Child

David Hobson – Carols by Candlelight – The Holy City
Monday, 24th December 2012
Sidney Myer Music Bowl — Melbourne, Australia

Go ahead, enlarge this one to full screen.

And once again the scene was changed,
New earth there seemed to be.
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea.
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night,
Or sun to shine by day;
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away,
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away.

(h/t: American Digest via Maggie’s Farm)

How Worried Should We Be About Iran? Very. by The Elephant's Child


So many of President Obama’s policies leave one puzzled. What can he possibly be thinking? Why would he do this? Why would he assume this to be a good idea? Particularly in the case of the interim agreement that the United States and its partners cut with Iran last week in Geneva which seems to be a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. The core objective of the past two decades — preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — and threatening fundamental regional and global interests have been ignored. Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, strengthening the forces of radicalism and terrorism in the region — what can he be thinking?

We have compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who pursued a policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler, and agreed to the Nazi demand that Czechoslovakia should cede the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany to stave off a threatened invasion — without consulting the Czechs.

Obama does manifest some of Chamberlain’s trusting naïveté and insular self-righteousness. More important perhaps, like Chamberlain, Obama thinks his job is to accommodate domestic war-weariness and to keep us out of foreign conflicts. Also like Chamberlain, Obama in the Middle East has inclined toward appeasing Muslims at the expense of Jews in the Holy Land. And like Chamberlain, Obama will go down in history as a failed leader of the leading Western democracy, one whose policies will have to be reversed—one hopes this time at less cost—by his successor.

Churchill succeeded Chamberlain in 1940 and saved the West.

The Obama administration apparently believes that the supreme leader might forsake his historic quest for nuclear weapons begun under the Ayatollah Khomeini and carried forth under Khamenei and every Iranian president. The United States, “the epicenter of evil” has rallied the West against the Islamic Republic.

The idea seems to be that the supreme leader, and his Revolutionary Guards who control the nuclear program, terrorist operations and domestic riot-control aren’t sufficiently committed to developing a nuclear weapon that the persuasive voices of moderation from the Obama administration can seduce them from this dangerous path. Um, they seem to believe that the newly elected president Hassan Rouhani, and foreign minister Mohammad Zarif are forces for moderation. The evidence for this is a nice smile and a lot of fantasy. They believe that Rouhani must be a reformer — he has a PhD from a Scottish university. Ruel Marc Gerecht, who is an expert, spells out the evidence for fantasy. Do read the whole thing.

At the core of Washington’s debate about Iran’s nuclear program is a confluence of naïveté and fear of another war in the Middle East. The latter reinforces the former and bends the analysis of Iran’s internal politics. It makes America’s foreign policy elite, which has never been a particularly God-fearing crowd, even more blind to the role of religion in Iran’s politics. The president himself appears to believe passionately that an irenic American foreign policy insulates the United States from Muslim anger and terrorism.

No one in the Middle East believes that Obama would order a strike. The Washington foreign-policy establishment have conceded the bomb to Iran. They argue for “containment.” The only thing that matters is that we will not bomb Iran’s nuclear sites. Most on the Left do not envision any need for a militarily strong and aggressive America pushing back against Iranian adventurism. Containment is a synonym for  patient, peaceful engagement and American withdrawal. Gerecht summarizes:

President Obama’s eagerness to avoid an unpleasant binary choice—surrender publicly to Tehran’s nuclear fait accompli or preempt militarily—will have led him to a situation where he confronts the same choice, but with Iran’s hand stronger and America’s weaker. Khamenei will have called Obama’s bluff—and will have billions more in his bank account. In all probability, the president has bought into a process of diminishing returns that he cannot abandon for fear of the cruel binary choice. For that matter, he may already have decided that the left-wing of the Democratic party is right.

Well, that’s what we get when the president can’t be bothered to attend his intelligence briefings. Does he worry at all about the new ICBMs being developed by North Korea and Iran?

Dan Bongino, former Secret Service member, now running for Congress in Maryland, has said that the White House staff were like kids with a shiny new toy. No one knew anything about government, and they treated the president like a cult figure — if he said it, it must be true. Nothing could be more dangerous than an ideologically-driven megalomaniac surrounded by obsequious yes-men in the White House.

Appeasement. Concessions. Not a Winning Strategy. by The Elephant's Child

The headline read: “Iran: White House Lying About Details of Nuke Deal.”

Iranian officials say that the White House is misleading the public about the details of an interim nuclear agreement reached over the weekend in Geneva. …

The White House released a multi-page fact sheet containing details of the draft agreement shortly after the deal was announced. However, an Iranian foreign ministry official on Tuesday rejected the White House’s version of the deal as “invalid” and accused Washington of releasing a factually inaccurate primer that misleads the American public.”

Iran’s right to enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, is fully recognized under the draft released by Tehran. Iran proclaims no limits on their  right to continue enriching uranium which should set alarm bells ringing loudly. They want time off from the sanctions that are disrupting their economy, so they can enrich in peace. John Bolton, who has long experience with Iran, says:

In exchange for superficial concessions, Iran achieved three critical breakthroughs. First, it bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing, weaponization research and fabrication, and its entire ballistic missile program). Indeed, given that the interim agreement contemplates periodic renewals, Iran may have gained all of the time it needs to achieve weaponization not of simply a handful of nuclear weapons, but of dozens or more.

Second, Iran has gained Legitimacy. This central banker of international terrorism and flagrant nuclear proliferator is once again part of the international club. Much as the Syria chemical-weapons agreement buttressed Bashar al-Assad, the mullahs have escaped the political deep freezer.

Third, Iran has broken the psychological momentum and effect of the international economic sanctions. While estimates differ on Iran’s precise gain, it is considerable ($7 billion is the lowest estimate), and presages much more. Tehran correctly assessed that a mere six-months’ easing of sanctions will make it extraordinarily hard for the West to reverse direction, even faced with systematic violations of Iran’s nuclear pledges. Major oil-importing countries (China, India, South Korea, and others) were already chafing under U .S. sanctions, sensing President Obama had no stomach either to impose sanctions on them, or pay the domestic political price of granting further waivers.

Iran declares regularly its radical hatred for Israel and the United States. It continues to sponsor terrorism on a wide scale. It regularly states its wish to annihilate Israel even at the risk of its own self-destruction. From the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran and imprisonment of embassy personnel for 444 days until today, we have had no reason to trust Iran at any time. It is appeasement of the worst kind, and puts one of our greatest allies at greater risk.

If President Obama thought he was changing the subject from the ballooning disaster of ObamaCare with a “deal” that Americans would like, he was mistaken. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) spoke out at the end of October about a report claiming Iran is one month away from a nuclear bomb, ‘extremely alarming. ‘ The Institute for Science and International Security says Iran could produce one bomb in as little as 1 to 1.6 months, or using only 3.5 percent low enriched uranium, could make 4 bombs in 1.9 to 2.2 months using all of its existing 3.5 percent enriched uranium. Seems like a fine time to go for appeasement.

Inexperience, Misplaced Trust, Utter Foolishness, and Weakness. by The Elephant's Child


General Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces said, according to the Fars News Agency, run by the Revolutionary Guards, “America’s interests and all of Israel are within the range of the Islamic Republic and there is not the  slightest doubt among Iran’s armed forces to confront the American government and the Zionists.” He mocked President Obama’s position that the military option remains on the table over Iran’s nuclear development. “If America had the ability and the will for war, it would allow no doubt in attacking Syria. America will soon find out that Iran’s power cannot be ignored.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran will not agree to halt its nuclear enrichment rights under any deal with the West. “The Islamic Republic of Iran makes no deal over its right” Zarif told reporters after daylong negotiations with the West in Geneva over Iran’s state-run nuclear program.

Iranian negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi revealed on Thursday that the West had accepted Tehran’s proposed framework for a nuclear deal. He said that Iran’s enrichment rights are the county’s ‘redline.”

U.S. sources familiar with the talks said that America is prepared to relax sanctions on Iran and work closely with it during a “six month confidence building period,” according to Reuters.

According to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the proposed agreement to relax economic sanctions while reigning in only parts of Iran’s nuclear program —was a “sucker’s deal.” It was Mr. Fabius and the French government whose well-deserved skepticism blocked the bargain intensely sought by the Obama administration and the Iranian mullahs. Yet in Geneva even France seems ready to join the U.S., Russia, China, the U.K. and Germany in being ready to grant de facto recognition of the Islamic republic’s “right” to enrich uranium. — because they have already accepted Iran’s spinning centrifuges. The deal-breaker for France was that construction would continue on Iran’s heavy-water reactor, giving Tehran a pathway to a plutonium bomb, and no single piece of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would be dismantled.

What are these people thinking? Right now, Iran is a weak country.We will never again have as much economic leverage over Iran as we do just now. The sanctions have been working and helped to jump-start the presidential campaign of Hasan Rouhani who was elected on promises to court the West and rescue their economy. Whether or not sanctions work depends on the threat of escalation, where restrictions scare off foreign businesses who want Iran’s energy.

New financial sanctions could lock up all of Iran’s currency reserved held abroad, which would effectively collapse Iran’s currency. Iran is intent upon becoming a nuclear power, but after the deplorable American policy in Syria, it is America that seems to be the weak nation with no commitment to it own power.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” discussing negotiations in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program, Nov. 10:

“This is a country that has tens of thousands of people in the street chanting “death to America,” the other day. “This is a country that is participating, as we speak, in a mass slaughter of men, women and children—tens of thousands of them—in Syria.”

It’s not only my concern that this is a bad deal. There are many, many Arab leaders in the region who are saying this is a very bad deal for the region and for the world. And you know, when you have the Arabs and the Israelis speaking in one voice, it doesn’t happen very often, I think it’s worth paying attention.

Obama’s Elusive Hunt For A Really Big Accomplishment by The Elephant's Child

(Iranian President Hasan Rouhani)

It’s a theme I’ve run into many times in novels, the idea that there is a certain point at which many people stop in their growth and openness to new ideas. They do fine for years, but at some point they have received all accepted knowledge, and are no longer open to revision of their worldview. I sort of accepted that as a little weird, but I knew a few people who did seem stuck in the past. The adult who remains the cheerleader she was in college, the man who can’t quite relinquish his football hero days.

Barack Obama was swept up in radical politics at Columbia, if not before. He said in his book that he went to every socialist meeting he could find, and somewhere in there or in his community organizer days he acquired fixed ideas about the country and about the world. Richard Epstein notes that once Obama believes something, it is set in concrete. He does not change his mind.

The president has been certain that the central problem in the Middle East is the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and if that is solved, there will be peace. He has continually been trying to “restart” the “peace process,” without the slightest notion that as long as Palestinians teach their little children that killing Jews is their noblest goal, there is no hope of any peace process.

The foreign policy experts who study Iran are worried about Iranian progress on nuclear weapons, but Obama is sure that his charisma will allow his Secretary of State to make peace with the mullahs in Iran. The collapse of the so-called “Arab Spring” made no dent in his convictions, he has denied the resurgence of al Qaeda, refused to give up on the Muslim Brotherhood, and slashed aid to the Egyptians who threw Morsi out. The Saudis have lost all faith in help or assistance from the Americans in controlling Iran, and are looking for nuclear technology., and turning for help to the Russians.

Obama’s signature accomplishment is turning sour. As James Taranto said “The exposure of Obamacare as a massive consumer fraud —and of Obama as the Bernie Madoff of politics— is well underway.” Obama wants a major triumph, and he wants it badly. Ordinary things like 20,000 jobs on the Keystone XL pipeline don’t measure up. He needs something big to match the presidential ego.

The only world leader who seems to understand what is happening is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is warning that a pact easing sanctions “would be a mistake of historic proportions.” The deal being hatched in Geneva, and apparently we are already easing the sanctions, is precisely an effort to short-circuit Israel’s own options. History is not kind to appeasers.  The New York Sun is not kind to Secretary of State Kerry’s history, character, and role in the current negotiations.

The Times of Israel reports that “the Obama administration plans to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough at the beginning of 2014. The Americans want to move from coordinating between the two sides to a phase of active intervention.”

According to Gal-on, whose left-wing Meretz party is in the opposition, the plan is based on the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps and will cover all of the core issues. …

The scheme is spread out over a gradual timetable, calls for the investment of billions of dollars in the Palestinian economy, and will include a suggestion for a broader regional peace treaty based on the Arab Peace Initiative. The initiative, first proposed by the Arab League in 2002, calls for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians together with normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world. Central to the initiative was the complete withdrawal of Israel to its pre-1967 lines and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The Obama Administration, eagerly seeking a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, is now signaling that it will ease the sanctions that finally forced Tehran to the negotiating table.

In fact, the White House has already chosen to lighten Iran’s sanctions burden by slowing the implementation of existing sanctions and delaying congressional legislation that would impose new sanctions. Eli Lake and Josh Rogin reported in today’s Daily Beast that the Administration began softening sanctions after the June election of Hassan Rouhani by slowing the pace of designating Iranian front companies, individuals, ships, and aircraft as sanctions violators.

The Administration has also lobbied Congress to postpone any new sanctions to avoid disrupting the current round of negotiations with Iran. But this is a gross misreading of the situation. The prospect of new sanctions would enhance American bargaining leverage with Iran and increase the chances that an acceptable agreement can be negotiated with the recalcitrant regime in Tehran.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is saying that only sanctions and the threat of the use of force on Israel’s part are the only things that brought Iran back to the negotiating table, it’s hard to understand why making it harder for Tehran to sell its oil and conduct business with those willing to risk the ire of the West would scare them away again.  But many Democrats are not willing to ease sanctions.

Most of the articles suggest that this is Kerry’s initiative, but I suspect that Kerry has his marching orders from Obama, and knows what he has to try to bring back to his boss. Any assumption that Rouhani’s charm offensive is meaningful is based on wishful thinking of the West. The time is running short. Be very worried.

Here are some additional links:
How Can We Possibly Trust Obama on Iran? PJ Media
Iran Nuclear Deal Expected as Early As Friday Wall Street Journal
More Pressure on Iran Can’t Wait Commentary
Exclusive: Obama’s Secret Iran Détente The Daily Beast
More Obama Problems: Kerry’s Peace Push Commentary
Kerry meets Iran foreign minister to close gaps in nuclear talks Reuters

Saudi Arabia Threatens to Sever Diplomatic Ties With U.S. by The Elephant's Child

And on the Foreign Policy front, all is not well either. So how is that vow to “repair America’s frayed alliances” supposedly frayed and battered by the Bush administration working out?

The Kingdom is not keeping secret any longer its disgust with the administration’s policy drift in the Middle East. Prince Turki al Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador in Washington explained his view of the deal Washington struck with Moscow over Syria’s chemical weapons.

“The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal,” the Prince told a London audience, “would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down, but also to help Assad butcher his people.” It’s a rare occasion when a Saudi royal has the moral standing to lecture an American President, but this was one of them.

The Saudis asked the U.S. to beef up our naval presence in the Persian Gulf against a potential Iranian counter-strike, only to be told that we didn’t have the ships. Mr. Obama was nonchalant about our shrinking Navy. But there are consequences for our actions on the international scene.

If you look at foreign newspapers, it is surprising how much of their “news” is devoted to America and what we’re doing, whether it’s fads or politics or policy. Americans, on the other hand, probably because we live in a big country with major cities across the U.S., don’t really pay much attention to what is going on elsewhere. Part of that is simply language. Most other countries learn English as their second language, Most Americans take a language course in high school, but never learn to speak one.

Mr. Obama has been quite clear that he wants the U.S. to be just another nation among other nations, not a superpower. He opposed the Iraq War as a “dumb war” with no understanding of why we were there, and assumed that the only reason for being in Afghanistan was to “get” bin Laden, which he couldn’t quite bring himself to order when it came to it, until forced into it. We had won the Iraq war, but V.P. Biden could not arrange a status-of-forces agreement, and when al Qaeda in Iraq returned and started killing Iraqis, their foreign minister begged for us to return, but too late. The War in Afghanistan was to be conducted “nicely,” with our troops training Afghan recruits with unloaded weapons to show our niceness, which got a lot of our troops killed. I would be willing to bet that Mr. Obama has never seen a military movie, nor read either any military history, nor any of the great military novels. I may be wrong.

The troubles with Saudi Arabia have been developing for some time. David Ignatius wrote that “Saudi officials in Riyadh that they told him that they increasingly regarded the U.S. as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security. in 2011.” They were dismayed when we deposed Mubarak and even more so when we backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi. They are afraid of the Iran/Syria nuclear adventurism, as are many other countries in the Middle East, with reason. The Syrian rebels have learned that there really aren’t any red lines, and any adversary can call our bluff. Obama is more eager to court enemies than reassure friends, as the Poles and Czechs have learned, when we withdrew ballistic-missile defense as a way to appease the Russians.

Fouad Ajami explains the problems of the Obama foreign policy cogently in a piece at the Wall Street Journal today, which may be behind a subscription barrier, but read it if you can.

We must not underestimate the tenacity of this regime and its will to rule. We should see through the rosy Twitter messages of President Hasan Rouhani, and the PowerPoint presentations of his foreign minister, Mohammed Jawad Zarif. These men carry out the writ of the supreme leader and can only go as far as the limit drawn by the Revolutionary Guard. …

The gullibility of Mr. Obama’s pursuit of an opening with Iran has unsettled America’s allies in the region. In Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates there is a powerful feeling of abandonment. In Israel, there is the bitter realization that America’s strongest ally in region is now made to look like the final holdout against a blissful era of compromise that will calm a turbulent region. A sound U.S. diplomatic course with Iran would never have run so far ahead of Israel’s interests and of the region’s moderate anti-Iranian Arab coalition.

That Was Then, This is Now, And Tomorrow? by The Elephant's Child

Back in 2007, when Barack Obama was a mere senator, he was asked when Presidents have the authority to launch a military strike without congressional authorization. He had a precise answer at the ready. He told The Boston Globe:

The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

The interview goes on, but of course it is hard to be consistent over time, and particularly when you are commenting on a situation and when you are embroiled in the situation yourself. Yet, it is useful to understand the changing views of an official. This is difficult territory. Still the interview is interesting, and Senator Obama is quick to grasp the opportunity to attack Bush with all the usual leftist talking points. Do not the comment on “warrantless surveillance of American citizens,” I think that’s something like hoist with your own petard.

The president, in an imprudent moment, announced that “Assad must go,” but did nothing at all to salvage his pronouncement, lessen the conflict, nor encouraged others to keep the rebellion from getting worse. Then he announced that he was drawing a”red line” in regard to chemical weapons, but did nothing about that either. People all over the Middle East seem to be killing their own people without any serious reaction from the rest of the world.

If we have a clear policy in regard to the Middle East, no one seems to know just what it is. One day Bashar al Assad is a “reformer”, then he is a perpetrator of crimes against humanity. Poison gas seems somehow worse than just shooting people, but for all of Obama’s declarations of red lines and crimes against humanity — we seem to have no policy except the delusion that all problems in the Middle East are because of the “conflict” between Israel and Palestine, and if the Israelis will just stop “building settlements” than all will be well. No mention of Palestinians rockets, of course.

It just doesn’t add up to a policy.

Turkey Clears Bird Accused of Spying for Israel by The Elephant's Child


When you hear that the Americans are killing people with drones, and you live in a  village in Elazig province of Turkey, and you find a strange bird wearing a metallic ring stamped with the words “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel,” well you just might suspect that the bird has been on a spying mission for the Jewish state.

Villagers turned the bird over to local authorities. So great was the level of concern for medical personnel at Elazig’s Firat University, that they initially identified the kestrel as “Israeli Spy” in their registration documents. Intensive medical examinations — including x-rays —determined that the bird was indeed, just a bird. There were no signs of a microchip that might transmit information back to Israel. The bird was allowed to fly off after authorities determined there was no need to press charges.

The incident does, however, demonstrate the degree of paranoia and xenophobia regarding Israel that exists among large segments of Turkish society. It comes at a time when talks between Turkey and Israel over compensation for families of those killed in the 2012 Mavi Marmara incident have stalled.

Eight Turks and one Turkish -American were killed on May 31,2010 when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish vessel carrying “aid” to the embargoed Gaza Strip. The vessel was suspected of carrying weapons.

Saudi Arabia detained a vulture on spying charges. Homing pigeons ware accused in 2008 after being caught near the Nantaz nuclear facility. When our miniaturization technology appears on You Tube, and our Media filled with talk of surveillance techniques, it is likely we will be suspected of the worst. Americans are usually unaware of the extent to which other countries follow American news.

I’m glad they released the accused Kestrel. Looks like a nice bird.


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