Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WikiLeaks and unintended consequences

[Updated and edited December 3, 2010]

If we needed further evidence that Julian Assange is a fool and an amateur in his understanding of international affairs (though admittedly technically clever), how about the apparent unintended consequences of this round of WikiLeaks? He claims to have caught the US government in some grand "gotcha" moment of lies, deceit, inhumanity, and generally bad behavior (See  -- when it's not being hacked down that is).  While the USG is embarrassed by the leaks and concerned they will hinder diplomacy going forward, they suggest that the US and other democratic governments are apple-tree cutting George Washingtons compared to their non-democratic counterparts.  The revelations are much more at the expense of the latter than the former. He claims to support government transparency and internet freedom as general principles, but he pushes these principles only in the easiest case--vis a vis a government where such leaks are possible and one does not incur risks to the lives of one's family members.  See his now defunct blog (via Michael Totten). Finally, for all Wikileaks' invocations of free speech and transparency, there is good reason to think American diplomacy will become more secretive and diplomats less frank as a result of the leaks.  Freedom as a form does not necessarily make for freedom as a result, as my man Montesquieu teaches (as articulated by Mansfield).  

Diplomats to start talking like Congressmen, i.e. less honesty in government
I don't think anyone can be sure what the consequences will be to frankness among American diplomats and their counterparts abroad--in large part because the diplomatic institutions of authoritarian countries seem inherently more opaque and more unpredictable.  Nonetheless, I think that the bleak assessments are plausible. Moreover,  it makes sense to emphasize the great risks to deter further leaking and throw cold water on the praising of leakers and leakees (thanks to Gabriel Schoenfeld for that term). I don't blame them for being angry and emphasizing the worst case scenario.

See also, Richard Haass, "How to Read WikiLeaks." Council on Foreign Relations. November 29, 2010.

SEE ALSO: Paul Schroeder, "Op-Ed: The Secret Lives of Nations," The New York Times. December 2, 2010.

The State Department, its own tools weakened, may increasingly have to defer to the tools of Defense and Treasury
James Rubin, "The Irony of Wikileaks: by undercutting diplomacy, the hard left is threatening its own worldview." The New Republic. December 1, 2010.

The US government is not telling any "big lies" about its foreign policy. It's non-democratic countries who are. Gotcha!...Saudi Arabia? China?
Also from James Rubin
The Wikileaks document dump, unlike the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, shows that American private communication with foreign leaders by and large reflects the same sentiments offered by U.S. officials in public. There is no grand conspiracy, no grand hypocrisy to uncover and expose. The big hypocrisies here are not being perpetrated by Americans; they are being perpetrated by foreign governments, namely non-democratic ones.
Relatedly, see Jeffrey Goldberg on what WikiLeaks reveals about the nefarious cabal trying to influence US foreign policy in the Middle East....the Arab Lobby!

And the one country that has got to feel pretty good about the political implications of "Cablegate" is...Israel!  That's what you were trying to do, Assange, right? 
Marc Tracy, "For Bibi and Israel, Vindication." Tablet Magazine. November 29, 2010.

UPDATE: Maybe because it's all he's got to work with, or maybe because his worldview is not uniformly of the illiberal leftist persuasion, Assange is pointing to some of Netanyahu's comments as evidence of WikiLeaks' "public service."

...Which of course boosts Iran's and Turkey's insistence that Wikileaks is a Zionist conspiracy.

These cables make it pretty clear that Israel's geopolitical analysis is actually shared by most of its neighbors, though they don't have the stomach to say so publicly.  Few leaders actually believe the lies they often affirm in public, that Israel is the serious regional threat. In private its Iran Iran Iran. The leaks suggest that Israel is the only country telling the truth in public. Moreover, they suggest that robust American intervention in their region is what Arab leaders want. As Jeffrey Goldberg puts it, turns out Arab leaders are a bunch of neocons.

Whether or not the leaks will actually help address the global threat Iran represents is an entirely different question though. They may clarify understanding of the threat and forge unity of purpose in Western countries, but at the same time make it more difficult for Arab monarchies to participate in efforts to undermine the Iranian regime and its nuclear program. 

See also, Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, "Unexpectedly, Israel Welcomes WikiLeaks Reveations."  Inter Press Service. December 1, 2010.

Also, the leaked cables detail corroboration of arguments Israel and its defenders often make, but too many brush aside and even mock as paranoid or fabricated:
-Turkish PM Erdogan and his regime hate Israel with a religious fervor.
-The Iranian government actively supports terrorist operations against Israel via Hezbollah and others, including by commandeering Red Crescent ambulances to smuggle weapons

See also, Raymond Bonner, "'By Whatever Means Necessary': Arab Leaders Want Iran Stopped." The Atlantic. November 29, 2010.


Monday, November 29, 2010

A few pieces on WikiLeaks

(The many quotes from Arab officials condemning Ahmadinejad and his regime, and urging the U.S. to take action are not exactly news. Nonetheless, it does seem to lend credence to the geopolitical reading of the Middle East many Israelis and Americans have been forwarding. See especially Tzipi Livni, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Barry Rubin.)

Laura Rozen on WikiLeaks Reax

Aaron Miller on the two leaks he sees as actually shedding unfavorable light on the US government. 

A cute series of photos of Middle Eastern leaders and comments US diplomats made about them in the leaked cables. From Now Lebanon.

Anne Applebaum, "Watch Your Mouth." Slate. November 29, 2010.
I'm sure the Russian people will be shocked—shocked!—to discover that U.S. diplomats think the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, "plays Robin to Putin's Batman." Italians will be equally horrified to learn that their prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is considered "feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader," just as the French will be stunned to hear President Nicolas Sarkozy called "thin-skinned and authoritarian."
...It seems that in the name of "free speech" another blow has been struck against frank speech. Yet more ammunition has been given to those who favor greater circumspection, greater political correctness, and greater hypocrisy. Don't expect better government from these revelations, expect deeper secrets...
The result: Very soon, only authoritarian leaders will be able to speak frankly with one another. A Russian official can keep a politically incorrect statement out of the newspapers. A Chinese general would never speak to a journalist anyway. Low-level officials in Iran don't leak sensitive information to WikiLeaks because the regime would kill them and torture their families. By contrast, the soldier who apparently leaked these diplomatic cables will probably live to a ripe old age.
In fact, the world's real secrets—the secrets of regimes where there is no free speech and tight control on all information—have yet to be revealed. This stuff is awkward and embarrassing, but it doesn't fundamentally change very much. How about a leak of Chinese diplomatic documents? Or Russian military cables? How about some stuff we don't actually know, like Iranian discussion of Iranian nuclear weapons, or North Korean plans for invasion of South Korea? If WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange is serious about his pursuit of "Internet openness"—and if his goal isn't, in fact, embarrassing the United States—that's where he'll look next. Somehow, I won't be surprised if he doesn't.


Wikileaks' Assange in his own words

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments -- even the most corrupt -- around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

Does anyone besides Julian Assange and his groupies actually think he has embarrassed the U.S. more than himself?


Hezbollah "draining the life blood out of Lebanon"

Now Lebanon Opinion: "It's our dignity too." November 29, 2010.
In truth, Nasrallah is missing the point. All his babbling about US-Zionist projects and the wild theories of Israelis hacking into the mobile network to frame Hezbollah for the Hariri murder may serve his party’s longevity but it is draining the life blood out of Lebanon, and once again Nasrallah has shown that Lebanon plays second fiddle to his own fiendish agenda.
Nasrallah told the graduates that the STL [Special Tribunal on Lebanon] is an attack on the party’s dignity. Does he think Hezbollah has a monopoly on dignity? The rest of the nation is entitled to theirs too.
To read more:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lebanon on my mind

Things are not looking good in Lebanon. The pending announcement of conclusions from the UN's Special Tribunal on Lebanon concerns all of Lebanon's neighbors as well. 

US Sen. John Kerry was in Beirut (as well as Syria, Israel, the West Bank, and Turkey) a couple of weeks ago in an apparent attempt to show US support for the UN probe of Hariri's 2005 assassination--and reassure the Lebanese that they will not be left to wolves. Let's just note that this tribunal was requested by the government of Lebanon and is assigned to enforce national criminal laws. 

See also, Michael Young, "Trial or error?" Now Lebanon. Nov. 19, 2010.
Q&A with Paul Salem, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Nov. 22, 2010.

Hanin Ghaddar, "Southern Exposure."  Tablet Magazine. Nov. 18 , 2010.
Hanin Ghaddar, "My Grandmother Loves Hezbollah." Tablet Magazine. Jan. 20, 2010.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Michael Young: U.S. looks the other way as Lebanon slides towards chaos

This is a couple weeks old, and still worth reading.

Michael Young, "The US looks the other way as Lebanon slides towards chaos." Al-Arabiya. September 23, 2010.

See also Lee Smith, "Cinders of Lebanon." Tablet Magazine. August 11, 2010


Monday, October 18, 2010

Mudar Zahran on abuse of Palestinians at the hands of their self-proclaimed defenders

Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian heritage, highlights the hypocritical silence on the abuse of Palestinians at the hands of their fellow Arabs.

"Israel, the Good Enemy," Mudar Zahran. Qudosi Chronicles. October 6, 2010.


Monday, October 11, 2010

The politics of Gilad Shalit

A cruel lesson in why the everyday morality of decent people often makes for foolish political strategy.

Via Michael Totten.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Our Man in Palestine," Nathan Thrall

This is an extremely comprehensive investigation of Fayyadism and the PA-Israeli-American security cooperation in the West Bank. Thrall shows us the good, the bad, and the ugly, with an extra dose of the ugly.
Still digesting it, and wondering whether I agree with what seems to be his conclusion.

"Our Man in Palestine," Nathan Thrall. New York Review of Books. October 14, 2010.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Hamas paranoia re, and crack-down on, Gazans suspected of collaborating with Israel proceeds apace.

"Hamas action to catch spies spreads panic Gaza," IBRAHIM BARZAK and DIAA HADID. Associated Press (Via Kansas City Star). September 22, 2010.


Game theory and peace processing

Lee Smith interviews Robert Auman, and Israeli Nobel Laureate in Economics about how game theory helps to explain the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. 

"Wrong Move," Lee Smith. Tablet Magazine. September 22, 2010.  


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

2 good pieces on NYC mosque

Leon Wieseltier, "Mosque Notes." The New Republic. Sept. 2, 2010.

Peter Skerry, "The Real Debate is Among Muslims." Boston Globe. Aug. 19, 2010.


Goldberg goes to Cuba

You can't make up a story this good.

Fidel Castro and I apparently have the same tastes in journalists. 

I am late on posting this, but there was an interesting interview with Jeffrey Goldberg (National Correspondent at the Atlantic) and Julia Sweig (Director of Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations) this morning on The Diane Rehm Show about their conversations with Fidel Castro a couple weeks back. 

"Fidel to Ahmadinejad: 'Stop Slandering the Jews,'" The Atlantic. Sept. 7, 2010.
"Fidel: 'Cuban Model Doesn't Even Work For Us Anymore,'" The Atlantic. Sept. 8, 2010.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hamas and Fatah at war with each other

This is just really sad.
With each incident, the wedge is hammered deeper and the hostility grows between the two halves of what is meant to be a future Palestine, just as the U.S. relaunches Mideast talks at the White House this week in hopes of getting an agreement within a year.

The talks aim to create a Palestinian state, but it appears unlikely any deal could be implemented as long as the split persists, particularly if Hamas - shunned by Israel and the West as a terror organization - remains in charge in Gaza.

In the West Bank, touted by the international community as the cradle of a democratic Palestine, rights violations committed in the name of protecting that vision could end up destroying it, rights activists say.

"Palestinian rivals crack down harder on opponents," Karin Laub and Diaa Hadid/The Associated Press. Washington Post. August 29, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Walter Reich on why Israelis despair of peace

"The Despair of Zion," Walter Reich.  The Wilson Quarterly. Summer 2010.

Walter Reich sheds some light on Israelis' profound doubts about the prospects for peace after the failure of the Oslo process,  the fallout from recent attempts to withdraw from territories, and the rise of Hamas.  "Any effort to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians," he writes, "must reckon with the fact that bitter experience has taught many Israelis to doubt that their foes want a lasting concord."

He offers a list of ten beliefs and fears contributing to Israelis' despair over the prospects for peace.

Here are two that I think many self-proclaimed "students of The Conflict" are completely blind to, even as they insist that Americans are always "beaten over the head with the Israeli narrative." Somehow, despite this much-hyped control of the media, Israelis' views about the challenges to peace are not at all on their radar. The two concerns below are at least as relevant to questions of "justice" and "peace" in the  Levant as any other purported fact mustered to implicate Jewish wrongdoing: the systematic indoctrination to hatred of Jews and Israelis and delegitimization of the modern state of Israel throughout the Palestinian territories (and beyond), and the growing exploitation of the language and laws of human rights--by those in no position to call out others, who even mock Israelis' own respect for human life--but invoke them in order turn those who respect human rights against the one nation in the Middle East that also respects and systematically protects human rights.

The Palestinians will never accept the existence of Israel, and systematically teach their children that they must never do so, either.

It’s this belief, probably more than any other, that causes Israeli despair.

Israelis have grown accustomed to being pilloried in the most crude and violent terms in Palestinian mosques. And they’ve grown accustomed to media controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank that regularly undermine the readiness to accept Israel alongside a future Palestinian state—that glorify suicide bombers, quote Muhammad as saying that Jews must be killed, accuse Israelis of poisoning and spreading AIDS among Palestinians, deny that the Holocaust happened, claim that Jews never had a history in the land and that there was never any Temple in Jerusalem, and insist that Jews should leave the area and go back to their “original” homelands—Europe and Ethiopia.

Israelis might feel reassured that peace is possible if it were promoted in the Palestinian Authority’s education system; even if the current Palestinian generation isn’t ready to accept the Jewish state, maybe a future one will. But they know that Palestinian students study maps in their textbooks on which Israel doesn’t exist and watch television programs aimed at young people that identify cities in Israel as being part of Palestine.

Moreover, the other Palestinian territory—Gaza—is governed by a group, Hamas, that is forthright in declaring that it will fight until Israel is gone, and that promotes this ideology in every way it can in its own media and education system. Even if the Palestinian Authority were to foster the ideal of coexistence among its students, what about the students in Gaza?

Palestinians attack Israel from behind civilian human shields, but any response by Israel, however careful, that harms those civilians is condemned, while the tactic itself, which is a crime of war, is ignored.

Israelis have concluded that this new form of warfare has undercut the effectiveness of the military strength on which they long relied. They know they have a powerful army—the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF—that faces, in the cases of the Palestinians and Hezbollah in Lebanon, adversaries that lack tanks or planes. But Israelis have discovered that their military superiority is blunted, even useless, when their adversaries are willing to use the very people whose cause they claim to champion as shields behind which to fire rockets. That’s what happened during Israel’s three-week incursion into Gaza in the winter of 2008–09, which it launched after being bombarded by thousands of rockets. And that’s what happened during the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the Palestinians’ ally on Israel’s northern border, which hid its rockets in schools, mosques, and hospitals, so that Israel couldn’t target the rockets without also destroying those schools, mosques, and hospitals—and killing civilians. Like the United States and other countries fighting in the Middle East, Israel doesn’t know how to fight such a war. And when it tries, it’s accused of war crimes. Israelis worry that the military they built to defend their country can’t do it without bringing upon Israel international condemnation.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Michael Totten in Israel

Totten is a rare example of net journalism actually living up to all its promise. He just recently shifted his blog over to Pajamas Media. PM is definitely not a typical go-to source for me but I have to give them props for recognizing Totten's talent, as well as that of Richard Landes.

Here, Totten discusses how he does his reporting, and shares an interview with a long-time source and interlocutor on things-Israel, Benjamin Kerstein.

"The Greatest Collection of Nightmares on Earth," Michael J. Totten. Pajamas Media. August 4, 2010.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More on exploiting the Palestinian cause at the expense of actual Palestinians

A couple of years ago, a Palestinian refugee camp was encircled and laid siege to by an army of tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers. Attacks initiated by Palestinian militants triggered an overwhelming response from the army that took the life of almost 500 people, including many civilians. International organizations struggled to send aid to the refugee camps, where the inhabitants were left without basic amenities like electricity and running water. During the conflict, six U.N. personnel were killed when their car was bombed.
Government ministers and spokesmen tried to explain to the international community that the Palestinian militants were backed by Syria and global jihadist elements. Al Qaeda condemned the government and the army, declaring that the attack was part of a "crusade" against their Palestinian brothers.
At the time, there was little international outcry. No world leader decried the "prison camps" in Lebanon. No demonstrations took place around the world; no U.N. investigation panels were created and little media attention was attracted. In fact, the plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon garners very little attention internationally.
Today, there are more than 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who are deprived of their most basic rights. The Lebanese government has a list of tens of professions that a Palestinian is forbidden from being engaged in, including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. Palestinians are forbidden from owning property and need a special permit to leave their towns. Unlike all other foreign nationals in Lebanon, they are denied access to the health-care system. According to Amnesty international, the Palestinians in Lebanon suffer from "discrimination and marginalization" and are treated like "second class citizens" and "denied their full range of human rights."
Amnesty also states that most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have little choice but to live in overcrowded and deteriorating camps and informal gatherings that lack basic infrastructure.
In view of the worsening plight of the Palestinians in Lebanon, it is the height of irony that a Lebanese flotilla is organizing to leave the port of Tripoli in the next few days to bring aid to Palestinians in Gaza. According to one of the organizers, the participants are "united by a feeling of stark injustice."
This attitude exposes the dishonesty of the whole flotilla exercise. Whether it is from Turkey, Ireland or Cyprus, those that participate in these flotillas reek of hypocrisy. There are currently 100 armed conflicts and dozens of territorial disputes around the world. There have been millions of people killed and hundreds of millions live in abject poverty without access to basic staples. And yet hundreds of high-minded "humanitarian activists" are spending millions of dollars to reach Gaza and hand money to Hamas that will never reach the innocent civilians of Gaza.

Read the rest: "The Flotilla Farce," Danny Ayalon. Wall Street Journal. July 29, 2010.


Lee Smith follows up on the predictable rage generated by his column last week

Lee Smith follows up on the predictable rage generated by his column last week:

"Playing With Fire," Lee Smith. Tablet Magazine. July 29, 2010.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Israel: a nation of laws, not men

Ladies and gentleman, this is what "rule of law" looks like:

"IDF punishes Yair Netanyahu for tardiness," Hanan Greenberg. Yediot Aharanoth. July 28, 2010.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Turkey working to prevent Lebanese sail to Gaza,"  Itamar Eichner. Yediot Aharanoth. July 27, 2010.
Officials in Jerusalem were surprised to learn that Turkey is working to prevent Lebanese ships from attempting to sail to Gaza in violation of an Israeli blockade on the Hamas-run territory, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Tuesday.

Israeli officials estimate that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who visited Damascus and Beirut last week, asked the Lebanese government to prevent the flotilla's departure as part of Ankara's efforts to ease tensions with Israel.

Methinks Erdogan and his party bit off more than they can chew, both internationally and domestically, with their flotilla demagoguery.  Perhaps they even realize it. From what I understand, many Turks are not impressed with the direction he's taking their nation. There has been much speculation that the flotilla business was manufactured, at least in part, as a stunt to boost his party's standing before upcoming elections. He thought the time was right to solidify the Islamicization of Turkey, with that necessary element of any good Islamicist movement, an orgy of public Jew-bashing. Has Erdogan's scheme backfired? Am I jumping to wishful conclusions?

See also: 
"An Open Letter to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan," IPT News, July 1, 2010

Ceki Gülcü's blog "Erdogan and the next election"

Each time the Turkish PM Erdogan picks a fight with Israel, his approval ratings go up by several points. On January 2009, at a panel on the Middle-east at Davos (Switzerland), Erdogan had very harsh words towards Israeli President Shimon Peres, calling him an expert-assassin and a baby-killer. Erdogan, talking in Turkish, addressed President Peres in the colloquial "Sen"-form instead of the more polite "Siz"-form. The "Sen"-form when addressing a foreign statesman is unheard of in Turkish politics. On his return to Turkey, Erdogan was greeted as a hero by a huge crowd. Anti-jewish and anti-western sentiment is very strong in Turkey, especially within the least educated parts of society. The West in general and the Jews in particular are routinely blamed for a variety of ills ranging from AIDS to the economic difficulties facing the country. Two months after Davos, in April 2009, the AKP (Erdogan's party) won the elections by a 20% margin. The race was expected to be much closer before Erdogan's intervention at Davos.

Standing up to Israel has so far been a winning strategy for Erdogan and the AKP. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for November 2010. According to several polls, if elections were held today, Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi or CHP (Republican People's Party), the leading opposition party, would prevail by a 10% margin. These polls predate the Gaza flotilla operation, mounted with the help and full-knowledge of the Turkish government.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

And while we're talking about John Mearsheimer...

Let's check in with his most recent ramblings about THE LOBBY.

From The Judeosphere, "Another Weird John Mearsheimer Speech"

The Israelis can do almost anything and get away with it….If I went to the Middle East, and visited Israel, and I was killed, somebody shot me, do you think there would be any accountability? Seriously. If any of you went to the Middle East and were killed, do you think there would be accountability? There wouldn’t be. This is how outrageous this situation is. Just think about the [USS] Liberty, think about Rachel Corrie, think about this Turkish-American who was just killed on the flotilla.

The lobby believes it can finesse any issue. They’ve never seen an issue that they can’t finesse…..America’s interests and Israel’s interests are going to continue to diverge. And the end result of that, back here in the United States, is that the lobby is going to have to work overtime to cover that up and make it look like everything is hunky-dory when in fact it’s not.

As the Judeosphere puts it,"Yes, he’s now fantasizing that the Israelis would shoot him and the Lobby would cover it up. Paranoid narcissism, thy name is Mearsheimer."

See also Pejman Yousefzadeh's critique of Mearsheimer's argument in this speech that Israel shouldn't have nukes.


Pejman Yousefzadeh at The New Ledger on the shameless Jew-baiting of Walt and Mearsheimer

Pejman Yousefzadeh, a lawyer blogging at The New Ledger, writes this in response to the predictable outrage of Stephen Walt, Andrew Sullivan, Phillip Weiss over Lee Smith's recent article arguing that their blogs are "Mainstreaming Hate." A former student of both Walt and Mearsheimer when he was at the University of Chicago, Yousefzadeh has nothing but praise for the education he received from them. He has nothing but disgust for what they've become. Below is just a quick glimpse. The whole thing is worth reading.

Walt has become exceedingly irresponsible in his rhetoric since the time that I knew him. His argument–and that of his cohorts–that bloggers are not responsible for what their commenters write is a somewhat appealing one, but at the end of the day, that’s a rather facile response to a serious issue. Writing about Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the status of the Palestinians, and the Middle East as a whole is an enterprise fraught with emotion, anger, outrage, and ancient grievances. Those who engage in these discussions owe it to others to keep their heads level so as not to fan the flames of an already inflammatory subject. They also owe it to others to try to keep the heads of their supporters level. If that means repeatedly denouncing those supporters who take one’s contentions and extend them to despicable levels, then so be it. That means that Zionists have to denounce–repeatedly, if need be–people who think that Baruch Goldstein was a swell guy, and that means that people like Stephen Walt, Philip Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, and Glenn Greenwald have to denounce–repeatedly, if need be–those who latch on to their arguments to openly preach anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism that is nothing more than thinly-disguised anti-Semitism.

That’s taxing work, to be sure. But those who complain about having to do that work won’t win any sympathy from me, and shouldn’t win any sympathy from anyone else. Want to gain respect and credibility in writing about Israel and the Middle East? Make it clear–crystal clear–that you will have nothing to do with the crazies who use your arguments to propagate their own racist rantings. If you say “oh, it goes without saying that I am not a racist, and don’t believe what the racists say,” and think that this will be enough, well, get ready to find out that it won’t be enough. If all of this is too much work for your fragile, little self, stop blogging about the Middle East.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

AJC Mideast Briefing: Understanding the Latest Conversion Crisis

This is the clearest account I've read of the current Israeli conversion bill (to be put off until the October session of the Knesset). The American Jewish Committee (AJC) Mideast Briefing explains both the problems the bill was intended to address and the controversial concessions MK Rotem had to make to Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) in order to get their approval on the legislation.

If I have time over the weekend, I will try to add a few thoughts about this, having made a serious attempt this week to try to understand this bill and how conversions have been governed in the modern state of Israel.

"AJC Mideast Briefing: Understanding the Latest Conversion Crisis," July 21, 2010.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Jewish conspiracies become mainstream

"Mainstreaming Hate," Lee Smith. Tablet Magazine. July 21, 2010.

This is a gutsy piece.  Smith has called a spade a spade, and the spade, which fancies itself a flower, isn't going to like it.
One reason for the surge of public criticism of Israel over the last decade is the increasing interest of American media consumers in the Middle East as U.S. involvement in the region deepened after Sept. 11. The other reason is the triumph of the Internet, which lends itself to anti-Semitic narratives. The genius of the web is its interconnectedness, the facility with which it is capable of making links based on other links, which allows a chain of unbroken and unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo to acquire the stature of fact...
“It hasn’t been secret,” writes Carroll, a commenter on a Lobelog post, that “for a long time that we have a small cabal of US zionist operating in and manipulating the US for their vision of Israel and a group of US Neocons and other assorted special interest who never met a war they didn’t like. … What do we have to do to put an end to them? … Suicide the cabal?” On another post at the same site, a commenter named Rowan Berkeley writes: “It seems to me that it is no exaggeration to say roundly that the USA in its entirety is under Jewish control of one variety or another.” He then makes an entirely accurate observation: “Ten years ago, it would have been a safe assumption that only ‘neo-Nazis’ would say such a thing.”

What is notable about such comments is not that they are original or unusual, but that there are hundreds and thousands of them, each sicker and crazier than the next, appended like a mile-long oil slick to nearly any mainstream news story or opinion piece that mentions Israel. In addition to creating the impression of a wave of popular hatred directed against the Jewish state—an impression belied by polls that show nearly two-thirds of Americans support Israel—the commenters attempt to swamp the news with paranoid anti-Semitic rantings that are entirely detached from even the BBC’s version of reality. On Glenn Greenwald’s Salon blog, there were close to 1,000 comments when the news of the Gaza flotilla incident broke. One commenter took the episode as proof that “The jewish state intends to clean itself of all non-jews. Anything that might slow the starving of the hated ones will be dealt with in the most harsh of terms. This slow-motion genocide/ethnic-cleansing is a horror to witness.” One prominent contributor to Greenwald’s blog, a commenter calling himself Shingo, also appears in the comments section at Stephen Walt’s place, where he manfully exposes Zionist lies: “There is no archeologically and historically evidence that a Jewish state did exist,” he wrote in response to a Walt post.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Exploiting the Palestinian cause at the expense of actual Palestinians

Khaled Abu Toameh, veteran reporter at the Jerusalem Post, among other places, showing once again that the standard-bearers of the "Palestinian cause" are committed to an idea more than to the actual well-being of those they claim to defend.

"Palestinians in the Arab World," Khaled Abu Toameh. Hudson New York. July 20, 2010.

When was the last time the United Nations Security Council met to condemn an Arab government for its mistreatment of Palestinians?

How come groups and individuals on university campuses in the US and Canada that call themselves "pro-Palestinian" remain silent when Jordan revokes the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians?

The plight of Palestinians living in Arab countries in general, and Lebanon in particular, is one that is often ignored by the mainstream media in West.

How come they turn a blind eye to the fact that Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and many more Arab countries continue to impose severe travel restrictions on Palestinians?

And where do these groups and individuals stand regarding the current debate in Lebanon about whether to grant Palestinians long-denied basic rights, including employment, social security and medical care?

Or have they not heard about this debate at all? Probably not, since the case has failed to draw the attention of most Middle East correspondents and commentators.

A news story on the Palestinians that does not include an anti-Israel angle rarely makes it to the front pages of Western newspapers.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Britain's double-standards on use of forged passports

Michael Weiss of details the remarkably different reactions to two incidents involving forged British passports. It's an unforgivable crime when Israelis are suspected of using British passports as a part of targeted assassination of a Hamas arms dealer, and a charming little joke when its the Russians to spy on the U.S.

"Spies, Passports, and & The Guardian," Michael Weiss. The Weekly Standard. July 17, 2010.

See also Ireland's double-standards on forged passports. Apparently its only a crime when the Jewish state does it.

"Irish should expel Russian diplomat after spy passport fraud," Niall O'Dowd. Irish July 6, 2010.



Western activists shun Israeli doctors aiding burn victims in Congo

"Israeli doctors in Congo to aid burn victims get slammed for occupation," Cnaan Liphshiz. Haaretz. July 18, 2010.

Israeli doctors working in Congo learn locals turned out to be good hosts -- but working with Western volunteers is more complicated.





Thursday, July 15, 2010

Attacks against Jews on the rise in Europe

Ever more reasons to be grateful to live in the U.S...

"Anti-Semitic Alliance: The Shared Extremism of Neo-Nazis and Migrant Youth," Sven Röbel. Der Spiegel. July 14, 2010
It was supposed to be a carefree festival in Sahlkamp on the outskirts of the northern German city of Hanover. Billed as an "International Day" to celebrate social diversity and togetherness, the June celebration included performances by a multicultural children's choir called "Happy Rainbow" and the German-Turkish rap duo 3-K. Music from Afghanistan was also on the program.
But then the mood suddenly shifted.
When Hajo Arnds, the organizer of the neighborhood festival, stepped onto the stage at about 6:45 p.m. to announce the next performance, by the Jewish dance group Chaverim, he was greeted with catcalls. "Jews out!" some of the roughly 30 young people standing in front of the stage began shouting. "Gone with the Jews!"
The voices were those of children -- voices full of hate, shouted in unison and amplified by a toy megaphone. Arnds, the organizer, was shocked. He knew many of the children, most of them from Arab immigrant families in the neighborhood.
A social worker, Arnds tried using the tools of his profession -- words -- to save the situation. But his words were met with stones, thrown at the stage by people taking cover in the crowd.

"Jews reluctantly abandon Swedish city amid growing anti-Semitism," Donald Snyder. The Forward via Haaretz. July 11, 2010.

A continentwide study, conducted by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, released in December 2009, found that that 45.7% of the Europeans surveyed agree somewhat or strongly with the following statement: “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” And 37.4% agreed with this statement: “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews.”


Gerecht on the PC way to be condescending to Muslims

"Islam: Unmentionable in D.C.," Reuel Marc Gerecht. The New Republic. July 14, 2010. 

Gerecht suggests that our political leaders are so concerned with trying to "be nice" to Muslims that they are actually being quite condescending to the very objects of their purported niceness--not to mention neglecting violent threats to liberal civilization.

President Obama’s operating philosophy toward the Muslim world appears to be that being “offensive” towards Muslims can’t be good for Muslim–non-Muslim relations. Mr. Obama’s dispensation more or less follows the arguments made by a wide variety of liberal intellectuals while Mr. Bush was president. To wit: The Iraq war (though not the Afghan war), Guantanamo, rendition, waterboarding, and Mr. Bush’s existential presence (his Christian Evangelical essence) accentuated the Muslim–non-Muslim divide, thereby contributing to anti-American anger and the manufacture of holy warriors. We never knew how many holy warriors Mr. Bush produced, but the implication was lots.
And the black Barack Hussein Obama would do wonders to fix all this. In the immortal words of The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, Mr. Obama’s “face” would be “the most effective potential rebranding of the United States since Reagan."
...The history-annulling quality of this “New Beginning” line of thought (Islamic militancy has a very long history; it attracted many of the Muslim world’s best minds to its standard long before President Bush destroyed Saddam Hussein; being a black Christian son of an African Muslim is much more important and estimable in America than in the Middle East) really should have encountered a bit more resistance from those who knew the Muslim world.
...When Mr. Obama’s attorney general twists himself into knots trying to avoid juxtaposing the word “Islam” with the word “terrorism,” and when the president’s senior counterterrorism advisor gives speeches on Islam that would be more appropriate on “Sesame Street,” you gotta wonder whether the dumbed-down level of public Washington discourse is the visible sign of internal bureaucratic rot. In any case, we would do well to remember the observation that Princeton historian Michael Cook made about Islamic history:
"It was the fusion of … [an] egalitarian and activist tribal ethos with the monotheist tradition that gave Islam its distinctive political character. In no other civilization was rebellion for conscience sake so widespread as it was in the early centuries of Islamic history; no other major religious tradition has lent itself to revival as a political ideology—and not just a political identity—in the modern world."
Osama bin Laden, a rebel if there ever was one, is much older than he appears. We would do well also to remember that the libraries in Iran’s dissident-rich universities and the homes of the country’s increasingly secular intellectuals are full of books that are chapters to the exquisitely invidious but enormously productive dialogue between the West and Islam. And great books, like great statesmen, are almost never nice.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

U.S. Senators criticize legislation in Knesset

America is finally telling the Israelis that we've had enough! We will use our undeniable influence to pressure you to change your policies!

Incidentally, it has nothing to do with Arabs. We have more important things to discuss, actually.

"Conversion bill dismays US senators," Hillary Leila Krieger. Jerusalem Post. July 15, 2010.

The bill includes a provision to put conversions under the control of the Orthodox chief rabbinate, anathema in any case to non-Orthodox Jews but particularly raising concerns that those who have undergone Conservative and Reform conversions abroad would no longer be eligible for Israel citizenship under the Law of Return.
It’s very rare for members of Congress to criticize a law under consideration by the Knesset, particularly in the form of a senatorial letter. But American Jewish officials who have been in touch with members of Congress on the issue attributed the reaction to the depth of consternation.
See more links in this previous post.


Paul Berman: What You Can't Say About Islamism

"What You Can't Say About Islamism," Paul Berman. Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2010.
[link to full article not permanent]

Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism (2003), a book I cannot recommend highly enough, reflects on the critics of his recent book, Flight of the Intellectuals (which I have not read).


Hollow Men -- Lee Smith's column in Tablet this week

"Hollow Men: Why Israel's enemies will always be the darlings of Western intellectuals," Lee Smith. Tablet Magazine (July 14, 2010).

Smith is on a roll these days, here exploring why it's so fashionable to be anti-Israel among today's intellectual elite.

In reality, of course, Israel isn’t all that heroic. No one and nothing is. Israel’s men and women of honor do not accomplish Homeric deeds in south Lebanon or Gaza to the beat of martial songs, like the resistance; instead they ride the bus home on the weekend to see their parents, go out drinking with friends, and pick up the wrong guy or girl in a smoky bar with awful pop music. “Our warriors,” says one former tank driver, “are Jewish boys who are bossed around by their wives.” And yet during the war with Hezbollah four years ago, the country’s incompetent political and military leadership sent too many of those Jewish boys to their deaths, without sufficient training or a strategy for victory. It seems like almost every day there is news that another of Israel’s chief political leaders is under investigation for corruption charges, which is to say the system is rotten and the system works. To say that Israel is normal is to say that it is, like all democracies, mediocre.
Intellectuals are not interested in the quotidian mediocrity of a functioning democracy. They are interested in ideas. Once an idea is realized in the form of a political organization that must function on a day-to-day basis, it is difficult for men and women of ideas to stomach the result.
 Read the whole thing


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lee Smith's (sort of) defense of Octavia Nasr at The Weekly Standard

"The Western Press and Hezbollah," Lee Smith. The Weekly Standard. July 13, 2010.

I think he's right that Nasr is, in a way, a scapegoat for a much more profound problem that the Western media is unwilling to address in earnest.

"Who knows what Octavia Nasr really thinks about Fadlallah, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that she fell prey to minority politics, twice over. As a Christian journalist working in a Muslim majority region, she imagined her profession of respect for a theorist of terror would win her bona fides as an “objective” reporter. And as an Arab she’s taking the fall for a conviction held by virtually all of her Western professional peers."


Giving the lie to latest theory of why Jews are responsible for all our problems

"Why the Death of Israel Would Not Slow Anti-U.S. Terrorism," IPT News (The Investigative Project on Terrorism).  July 12, 2010.

Knesset conversions bill

Governing conversions--one of the biggest intra-Jewish controversies

It's hard to believe that the fault line here is merely Israel versus the Jewish diaspora.
What else it means, well, I am happy to hear suggestions.

**For previous news about this conversion bill, see my permanent page on "Other stories in Israeli and Jewish politics."

"Sharansky: We can't divide Jewish people," Yediot Aharanot. July 13, 2010.


IDF's report on flotilla: commandos performed well despite poor intelligence

The IDF internal investigation panel, led by retired Israeli Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, presented its conclusions today.


"Stark variance in coverage of IDF flotilla probe," July 13, 2010.

"IDF to blame navy in scathing report on Gaza flotilla raid," Tomer Zarchin, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel. Haaretz. July 12, 2010.

"Eiland Report Finds, 'Mistakes, But No Failures,'" Hanan Greenberg. Yediot Aharanot. July 12, 2010.

"Israeli Military Finds Flotilla Killings Justified," Ethan Bronner. New York Times. July 12, 2010.

"Israel Report Cites Flawed Planning," Charles Levinson. Wall Street Journal. July 12, 2010.

"Gaza Flotilla: Tsahal identified 'errors'-- The IDF military investigation exonerates the commandos but criticizes their hierarchy," Adrien Jaulmes. Le Figaro. July 12, 2010.


Israel: more than just foreign policy

"Knesset committee approves conversion bill," Kobi Nahshoni. Yediot Aharanot (July 12, 2010).

See my permanent page on this and OTHER big stories in Israeli and Jewish politics.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Netanyahu in his own words, at the Council of Foreign Relations

A speech by and Q&A with Israeli PM Netanyahu from this afternoon at the Council on Foreign Relations in NYC.

As Allison Hoffman at Tablet described his U.S. trip, "The intended effect of all this is to present Netanyahu—an American-educated speaker of faultless English—and, by extension, Israel, as friendly, reasonable, and familiar. Which necessarily raises the question: What took so long?"


Walter Russell Mead on why American intellectuals have become part of the problem rather than the solution

Mead reflects on his transition from the Council of Foreign Relations and the think-tank world to online journalism and undergraduate education. As a young academic in the social sciences, I could not agree more with Mead's diagnosis of what ails the intellectual class, our purported "experts" on political life.  Avoiding both extremes to which intellectuals are vulnerable--irrelevance on the one hand and ideological activism on the other--is not easy under any circumstances, but today's intellectual class (my own field of political theory as guilty as any) somehow manages to be both irrelevant and ideological at the same time. 

If the country has never been so rich in policy institutes and policy scholars producing policy positions and policy papers, we don’t seem to be doing so well when it comes to adopting and sticking to good policies.  Our capacity for sensible public discussions about our alternatives, and our ability to produce and elect leaders who understand the world we live in also look weak.  This isn’t just a criticism of the Obama administration; the Bush and the Clinton administrations were both better at rhetoric than at policy.  Increasingly I’m drawn to the conclusion that the weak links in the American foreign (and domestic) policy processes reflect weaknesses in the way we train and prepare people for this kind of work and more generally in the relationship of intellectuals to American society overall.
 As someone who has worked and hopes to keep working in the three major groups of institutions where American intellectuals are most active (the academy, ’serious’ journalism and publishing, and policy institutes or think tanks), I find that the relations among these institutions and between all of them and the educated lay public are shifting in complex and not always helpful ways.  The problems we face cannot simply be addressed by writing more and better policy papers in think tanks; we need to prepare for big changes in the institutions where intellectuals work, in the way that intellectuals understand their role in society, and in the way that intellectuals are formed.
The rise of the think tank world (the Council on Foreign Relations alone has gone from about maybe one dozen senior fellows when I joined to several times that today) partly reflects a crisis in the universities.  A generation ago, university professors were the country’s repository of talent for most policy matters, foreign and domestic.  Henry Kissinger was teaching at Harvard before he joined the Nixon Administration.  Partly as a result of the Vietnam War, which created an entire generation of academics who believed that to serve the American government was to betray the purity of the scholarly calling, and partly as the result of academic pressures for ever narrower specialization and ever more emphasis on theoretical constructs, the universities have become less and less relevant to the policy process.  (Law schools and economics departments are the principal exceptions to the rule.)  Great scholars with global reputations like Joe Nye at Harvard can still move between the academy and government, but each generation is finding that harder to do.
The rise of think tanks reflects many forces, including the interest of ideological or economic special interests to collect and promote 'stables' of thinkers who will reliably produce work that reflects a given worldview.  But the reason think tanks have become so valuable in the government and policy world is because a gap grew up that needed to be filled.  The academy has abdicated its former role of providing comfortable resting places for out of power (or preparing for power) policy thinkers.  The political studies and international relations departments of many leading universities are becoming places for introspective, sometimes naval-gazing study aimed chiefly at clarifying and reflecting on the terms of debate and the scholarly discourse; the think tanks have emerged to host extroverted study aimed primarily at changing the external world.  This is not, I think, a particularly elegant, cost-effective or intellectually fruitful way of organizing American intellectual life or of teaching young people, but there it is.

...In the late Middle Ages many monkish scholars pursued ever finer theological distinctions and arguments as the church rotted away in gross corruption and society moved beyond the ideas and institutions that had once served it well.  Something like that seems to be happening today in the United States; it’s not a good trend.

...Many Americans come out of the higher educational system with a combination of detailed knowledge about a specific subject area and quite naive and simplistic ideological views.  Simplistic ideas about ‘nation building’, the relationship of development and democracy, the nature of democracy and both the nature and direction of the historical process itself are widespread among American policymakers and even more prevalent among the bureaucrats and experts who staff large government institutions.  Quite responsible people sometimes have shockingly crude ideas about the relationship of power to ideals in history, the nature of a liberal international order, and the relationship of culture and history to contemporary politics not only in the United States but around the world.

Like the urban planners of past generations who devastated whole cities by building vast projects that ignored the human factor, many of the people who think about policy in this country are in the grip of great theoretical abstractions and are poorly prepared to manage the inevitable problems when the grand concept meets the friction and resistance of history and human reality.  The ambitious globalism of the Clinton administration, the Bush administration’s dash for democracy and the Obama administration’s liberal internationalism are very different approaches intellectually speaking, but they share a common abstraction from the real world...

 The individuals who try to apply these caricatured ideals to history aren’t stupid; they are often extremely intelligent.  But the educational system that created them and the intellectual life and discourse that has surrounded them have failed to prepare them for their tasks.  We are failing to provide what in an earlier post I called the που στω, or ’standing place’ (as in “Give me a lever and a place on which I can stand, and I will move the world”): a vision of culture and history that enables someone to see far, reflect broadly, think deeply and communicate clearly about the major issues of the day.

See the whole thing at The American Interest Online.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Today's big question in soccer politics: to root for the Germans or not to root?

Diaa Hadid of the Associated Press reported last week on the ease with which many Israelis have in cheering on Team Germany in the World Cup.  It's a good story.

I'll root for Germany today against los Espanish, but I'm for the Low Countries in the final (presuming Germany wins today, which is presumptuous).


The NYTimes and its Cynically-Timed Non-News about American NGOs and the West Bank: politics by other means

The only "news" conveyed in the ridiculously long lede piece from yesterday's NY Times is the paper's decision to publish the piece on the day Netanyahu came to DC for a much-awaited meeting with Obama.  The story is so stale that anti-Zionist bloggers are not sure whether to be pleased with or resentful of the Times for publishing the story as "news" just now--and without giving them credit to boot!

As Uriel Heilman notes, when Abbas came to town, the Times said nothing about the PA's failure to end state-sponsored incitement against Israel and the Jewish people, a stipulation of previous agreements.  Yet  the paper apparently considers its journalistic responsibilities to include fomenting tensions between the U.S. and Israel precisely on the day when the two governments are trying to solidify relations. 

And while I am extremely suspicious of conspiracy theories, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Times' staff members are participating in the (demonstrably) coordinated efforts of far-left Jewish organizations in Israel to challenge the 501c3 status of other Jewish organizations they don't like. Much of the information in the Times story, and the angle taken, parrots the multi-year campaign of Gush Shalom and others to lobby the IRS to de-tax-exempt the competition. It's not just charities funding rec centers and bullet-proof vests for settlements that they are targetting: mainstream organizations like Nefesh B'Nefesh, The Israel Project, and StandWithUs also make their hit list.

Finally, in what is perhaps the major mark of a partisan agenda in this story, the writers brush past the reality that dozens of U.S. charities promote controversial policies/projects in the Middle East, which are arguably more fundamentally opposed to U.S. policy and more destructive to the peace process, i.e. incitement against Jews, demonization and delegitimization of Israel, and the one-state agenda. See Marc Tracy's discussion of this point at Tablet Magazine's The Scroll. In a press release calling attention to the partisan imbalance in the Times' story, NGO Monitor mentions just a few of the anti-Israel groups with tax-exempt status: International Solidarity Movement, Birthright Unplugged, and Free Gaza (a group closely involved with the flotilla debacle).

For more, see
"Half the Truth Fit to Print," Gerald Steinberg. Hudson New York. July 14, 2010.

"Times tries to drop settlements funding bomb on Obama-Bibi meeting," Uriel Heilman. Jewish Telegraph Agency. July 6, 2010.

"All the Tax-Exempt Charities," Marc Tracy. Tablet Magazine--The Scroll. July 6, 2010.

 "Conspiracies?" Elder of Ziyon. July 7, 2010.

"NY Times Shocker: Colluding with Radical NGOs to Upstage White House Summit," July 7, 2010.

See also B'Tselem's politically-timed press release, specifically "embargoed" until the day of Netanyahu's meeting with Obama.


Monarchs still calling the shots in the Netherlands!

"Dutch Establishment Rejects Election Results," Thomas Landen. Hudson New York. July 7, 2010.

I don't pretend to know anything about Dutch politics, I just find it extremely interesting that the Dutch Queen Beatrix is playing a substantive--and controversial--role in influencing the formation of government. We Americans have a hard time wrapping our heads around the reality that European countries became democracies without ceasing to be monarchies. 


PM Netanyahu in his own words: Good Morning America Interview 7/7/10

Netanyahu was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America, this morning.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

UAE Ambassador endorses U.S. strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities

Jeffery Goldberg gets the scoop, naturally, in his interview with UAE Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef al-Otaiba, at the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival (sounds like a pretension-fest, but good people do seem to be involved).

Al-Otaiba stated in no uncertain terms that he favors a U.S. strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.  He made it clear that Iran is by far the UAE's main security concern.  In response to the question, "Do you want the U.S. to stop the Iranian nuclear program by force?" al-Otaiba answered:

Absolutely, absolutely. I think we are at risk of an Iranian nuclear program far more than you are at risk. At 7,000 miles away, and with two oceans bordering you, an Iranian nuclear threat does not threaten the  continental United States. It may threaten your assets in the region, it will threaten the peace process, it will threaten balance of power, it will threaten everything else, but it will not threaten you.
Our military, who has existed for the past 40 years, wake up, dream, breathe, eat, sleep the Iranian threat. It's the only conventional military threat our military plans for, trains for, equips for, that's it, there's no other threat, there's no country in the region that is a threat to the U.A.E., it's only Iran. So yes, it's very much in our interest that Iran does not gain nuclear technology.

 And they call Netanyahu a hawk!

What's more frightening than contemplating the fallout of a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities?  al-Otaiba's suggestion that, if Iran isn't knocked off its high horse, that countries in the region will feel compelled to fall in line with Iranian axis in order not to incur its wrath.

There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the U.S. is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran. Small, rich, vulnerable countries in the region do not want to be the ones who stick their finger in the big bully's eye, if nobody's going to come to their support.

In a follow-up post, Goldberg reminds us that Arab preoccupation with the Iranian threat should come as no surprise.  Middle East 2.0, as Barry Rubin puts it, would seem to be a return to the norm, and the era of a concerted Arab military campaign against Israel the aberration.