I have been doing a little reading and thinking about President Obama’s demonstrated foreign policy and have a few thoughts. I was looking for some indication of his guiding principles so that I might, perhaps better understand him. His campaign was a marvel of veiled promises of change, gauzy rhetoric regarding hope, and mystery when talking about exactly what hopes he had for America and exactly what changes would be made. It’s now obvious he feels that most Americans should look to the government for just about all things. This seemingly guiding principle of his where American government is to protect its citizens in all things begs the question: How will his presidency act in fulfilling its responsibilities of the defense and security of its people in the context of an increasingly dangerous world?
Note: End Thoughts will be in a seperate post following this because it looks like one is limited to so much volume per post (The text is about 21 pages long)
In negotiations with foreign national powers it is important to identify the goals of all interested parties. This would seem obvious, but lately western diplomats have vexed us as to their inability to correctly assess the goals of the DPRK (North Korea) or Iran as to their national interests and intentions re their respective nuclear programs. The Palestinian/ Israeli problem is a different situation that stems from a misreading or just an ignorance of history combined with plain disingenuousness. Mix this with politicians seeking simple solutions to such issues within the context of their constituencies’ narrow interests and these problems become more complex than need be. Compromise is certainly in order but some actors’ compromises might seem greater than others, but necessary for the overall good. Who determines the overall good? Well let’s keep this as neutral as possible and say the UN (United Nations). The UN has its limitations but it seems a valid enough institution when considering international consensus on such a narrow issue as Nuclear Weapon responsibility. This seems a valid conclusion because the U.S nurtured the meme of anti nuclear proliferation through the international community (proposed initially by Ireland and Finland) with the ultimate result being the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) which was signed by, among others, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in 1968. All told 189 members are a party to this treaty. The DPRK acceded to the treaty in 1985, signed a nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA in 1992, violated it, and withdrew from it in 2003.
Presently, many say the DPRK must stop its unseemly and deadly actions for the overall good so defined. Foreign currency counterfeiting, kidnapping of foreign nationals, and human rights violations aside, let’s focus on NPT violations in specifically. This goal also is concordant with President Obama’s personal crusade to rid the world of nuclear weapons. This then gives a fair assessment of the “international community’s” goal and certainly an Obama sub-goal Re the DPKR problem. But, this is only one side of the story (actually this side must be examined later in more detail as to the separate actors Russia, China, ROK (S. Korea), and Japan).
So what are the goals of the “other side”, specifically, the DPRK? Some say security but Victor Cha who was deputy chief of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks in 2005 allows us a fly on the wall perspective of those negotiations:
“"The Americans are serious," the head of the Russian delegation told the North Koreans in a meeting in Beijing in September 2005. "You see this? This is called a negative security assurance. We tried to get this from them throughout the Cold War and were unsuccessful…” The issue of the moment was a clause that had just been approved in Washington, stating that the United States "would not attack North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons… It was a big step for the Americans, and the Russians, at least, recognized that. It meant that Kim Jong Il had finally received the security guarantee -- and the end to alleged American hostility -- that he'd always sought. But when the North Korean delegates later brushed off the clause as a mere piece of paper that did nothing to truly assure North Korean security, it dawned on me that things that seem exquisitely important to the North Koreans at one moment can suddenly become unimportant the next. Their demands and their desires can diverge considerably. "
So, DPRK is not interested in security per se. So is it, as some say, a Pyongyang just crying out for assistance against Chinese domination? Even if so, this is no reason to make the DPRK a ward of the U.S. since this still denies the interests of those states in the region who find a nuclear tipped N. Korea totally unacceptable and whose help the U.S. will need to solve this problem.
Cha warns us further
:” It is easy for analysts to blame North Korea's belligerence on U.S. inconsistency. Pyongyang has dealt with wild swings from Washington, from Bill Clinton's affinity for bilateral negotiations in 1994 to George W. Bush's wholesale rejection of them in his first term to the hard-charging dealmaking of his second term. Sure, a consistent U.S. approach would help, but shifts from Washington are not what drive Kim to take the peninsula periodically to the brink of war.”
President Obama take note: This is not America’s fault.
Some have pointed to an aged stroke victimized Dear Leader trying to establish a nuclear DPRK to hand over to his son. This is closer to reality but Cha’s experience in the talks allows him to put a finer point on this:
“The ideal outcome of this negotiation, in the North's view, is a situation similar to India's; that is, an agreement in which North Korea accepts safeguards and monitoring under the International Atomic Energy Agency but is also assured of a civilian nuclear energy program. Most important, Pyongyang would want to keep part of its nuclear program beyond the reach of international inspectors, serving, in the North's eyes, as a nuclear deterrent. The regime would certainly also want energy and economic assistance, normalized relations with the United States and a treaty ending the Korean War. But on the nuclear side of the equation, they want the global rules rewritten for them, much as they were for India.”
How does Cha know this? He continues:
” Even after long insisting that their nuclear program was ultimately peaceful and intended for energy, the North Koreans would tell Amb. Christopher Hill, our lead negotiator, that the United States should accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, like India or Pakistan. When we told them that this was not likely to happen, one official countered that denuclearizing North Korea unilaterally was tantamount to "stripping us naked." Real talks, the official told us, should focus on mutual nuclear arms reductions between two established nuclear powers, "you know, like you used to have with the Soviet Union during the Cold War."
Our friend Asherman who has provided invaluable information on many threads here on A2K has weighed in on this issue by responding to one of my A2K questions Re the DPRK problem . His answer, posted almost 5 years ago, was prescient:
“…Kim, and his government, have as their two highest priorities the survival of the existing regime, and the reunification of the peninsula…DPRK negotiation tactics have remained unchanged since 1948. They are demanding, unreasonable, rude, and resistant to any compromise whatsoever. They give way only when forced to by the application of credible counter-force. If they concede a point, it is only to shift their intransigence to another. At the first opportunity they will return the conceded point to the table, and in the interim they will covertly continue to pursue what they have publicly discarded and disavowed. They understand and deeply believe that force and the will to use it is the foundation of success. Raw force has maintained the Kim’s in power for over half a century, and it has kept their pitiful little country at center stage in the worlds attention. It has worked for them, so there is no reason to suppose that they will suddenly change their tactics. Nothing, beyond buying a little more time is likely to occur by continuing endless negotiation with the DPRK.”
So the DPRK leaders’ goal is purely survival via any means necessary and negotiations will only prove advantageous to the DPRK. Aggression on their part is possible but, overall, unlikely since any such military adventurism might receive an American response at least in kind if not provide an excuse to resolve the matter once and for all and would certainly involve the destruction of the present regime. At least that’s the way it stood on 19 Jan 2009. Obama and his world view now stands astride this disaster of international diplomacy. What chance for final resolution now in the next 4 years? Does Kim see a weak U.S. Admin that will allow N. Korean military mischief in the ROK?
The answers to those questions, we now see, depend partly on the foreign policy of the present U.S. admin but mostly only in the context of America’s cooperation with its four partners in the six party talks. Two courses present themselves: The status quo or the ultimate elimination of Kim’s regime. The present American administration should not delude itself about persuading the DPRK to stand pat while removing their nuclear bargaining chip. We have seen, for the above reasons ,that this will never be. The status quo should be unacceptable for the U.S… Henry Kissinger (former National Security Advisor to Nixon and Secretary of State) informs us that:
” De facto acquiescence in a North Korean nuclear program would require a reconsideration of U.S. strategic planning. More emphasis would need to be given to missile defense. It would be essential to redesign the American deterrent strategy in a world of multiple nuclear powers -- a challenge unprecedented in our experience. The enhanced role of non-state actors with respect to terrorism would have to be addressed. The concepts of deterrence against state actors are familiar, though not in a world of multiple nuclear powers. They have little or no relevance to non-state actors operating by stealth.”
But let us, for a moment, forget the former Sec. of State’s implied future involvement of a nuclear DPRK, ROK, and Japan in addition to the present nuclear powers. Kim’s proven cooperation with Syria and Iran (Who the U.S. State Dept calls the biggest state sponsor of terrorism) Re the terrorist aspect of DPRK’s nukes is a very real global threat, such that the concurrent existence of a nuclear N. Korea and a Kim regime are simply unacceptable.
So if we cannot accept the status quo, so defined, what is a non deluded President Obama to do? Military actions should never be removed from a list of options but they should be reserved as resorts of last measure. But in this case there is a better option, should the American President so choose.
Instead the American challenge should be on how to help and prepare Russia, Japan, ROK, and, most of all, China for the collapse of the Kim regime. Given the above real world alternatives, or lack thereof, this is most important. ROK’s newly elected president Lee Myung-bak expresses this rather succinctly in his June 13th interview with WSJ’s Mary Kissel:
"The North Koreans have gained, or bought, a lot of time through the six-party-talks framework to pursue their own agenda. I think it's important now, at this critical point in time, for us not to repeat any past mistakes,". [Now, it's] "very important for the remaining five countries -- which excludes North Korea -- to come to an agreement on the way forward."
So us and our partners need to get our Sh*t together. Japan has the same interests as us and, to a greater degree, S. Korea. Russia has some power here and a (very tiny) border with DPRK. But the real player here is China. If America wants to influence China it must look to and respect its goals and interests Re DPRK. Why? Well, even though they hold a significant portion of America’s debt and have a definite dependence in America’s economy, this is not the avenue the U.S. should pursue in convincing China to help. China, since the fall of the U.S.S.R, has been the major financial supporter of the Kim regime (ROK has also, until recently, been a supporter, but this has changed with the present Lee Admin). Given the goal of a united democratic free Korean peninsula, America must come to a meeting of the minds with both S. Korea and China on what will happen when the present DPRK regime finally falls. It is only when these five partners have addressed the potential chaos so involved and all parties feel they have each other’s support that the N. Korea problem can be brought to a successful conclusion.
Given N. Korea’s past behavior since the middle of the 20th century and the global threat that the DPRK presents, President Obama should first support a united front with Russia, Japan, ROK, and China. The U.S. must seek out, understand, and take actions to support their related interest. Thus prepared and united these five members can then demand that the Kim regime remove itself from power. When they refuse, all aid should then stop immediately. There should be absolutely no run-up time that would allow the present N.Korrean regime to store and hoard material and food stuffs to prolong the cut off of its life support. Kim has a history of diverting humanitarian aid to the elite (Himself and supporters) so all aid must stop unconditionally. Thought should be given to timing to allow for weather and food requirements for the people of N. Korea and also to facilitate any mass movements of immigrants whether in China or, especially S. Korea (who already has a unification admin in place). Obama cannot allow Kim Jong Il any other choice because of his past behavior in negotiations. Will the American President step out of character and pursue those actions to eliminate this threat to the world and thereby put the lie to a rapidly growing perception that he is merely America’s apologist? Or will his response be merely that which the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said were just "words, speech and slogan”?
Note: N. Korea just renounced the 1953 interim agreement (again) that halted hostilities. We could finally take the DPRK at their word and assume a resumption of hostilities. This would allow the U.S. all manner of actions, such as boarding their ships, that would bring this episode to a long awaited end. The UN has insisted that the N. Koreans are being silly and, further, that the interim agreement cannot be broken. Well, silliness there definitely is but, in this instance, it is not in the N. Korean camp.
In 1968 Iran signed the NPT and, more importantly, has consistently claimed that its nuclear activities are directed only to peaceful purposes. But according to an East West Institute JTA (Joint Threat Assessment) dated May of this year:
“In 2003"2005, following revelations by an Iranian opposition
group about secret nuclear sites, the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted intensive inspections,
which revealed that for almost twenty years
Iran had engaged in a range of undeclared nuclear activities,
including uranium enrichment and plutonium
Iran was then found, by the IAEA, to be in noncompliance with its Safeguards Agreement in July of 2006. A UN resolution was passed (UNSC Res. 1696) demanding it cease and desist. It did not. The UN dutifully passed three more resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran for not heeding its first resolution. In September of 2008 the IAEA came to the conclusion that Iran was still not in compliance with its NPT responsibilities and reported, again, to the UNSC, those findings. As of 18 Nov 2008 Iran had 1010 Kg (Kilograms) of LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpiled. Despite Iran’s denial, the IAEA through intelligence received from member states, feels Iran’s research in areas from High Explosives research to high voltage simultaneous activation of detonators to the involvement of an expert on the radius of a nuclear explosion ball points towards military uses of the nuclear material. The IAEA remains unsatisfied regarding Iranian assurances that all this work is for purely peaceful non military purposes. Iran had lied and broke international law.
Iranian missile technology demonstrates ranges from 315 to perhaps 2000 Km (Kilometers) at best. Shorter range missiles are essentially N. Korean versions of the Soviet Scuds. The longer range Iranian Shahab3M is mostly a N. Korean Nodong in its technology (rocket motor). All are liquid propellant single stage missiles. The Safir SLV (space launch vehicle) is a two stage missile also based on N. Korean Nodong technology. On 2 Feb 2009 Iran put a 27 Kg satellite into low earth orbit using the Safir two stage rocket. This demonstrates engineers with increasing sophistication but is not a fundamental technological breakthrough for Iran.
The main choke points to an Iranian rocket delivered nuclear device are two fold. Given it can fashion a workable nuclear device in the near future it, additionally, must wed a warhead that is small and robust enough to fit onto a delivery vehicle. This means a payload approaching 1000Kg (37 times the satellite payload of the successful Safir SLV) in combination with a more powerful delivery device. Iran has yet to develop a rocket/warhead combination with such capabilities. Current designs of Iranian rockets are not strong enough to withstand the added stress from increased fuel requirements and the greatly enhanced G-forces produced with the higher thrust rocket motors so needed. If Iran is to have a credible nuclear deterrent force its current missile technology is insufficient. All the larger Iranian rockets take about two days to set up on a launch pad and about 90 minutes to fuel. Given western satellite and tactical weaponry the Iranians would probably not be able to get such a vehicle off the ground if it was deemed offensive in nature.
So why are so many concerned about an Iran with an atomic explosive device? After all, even if Iran were to get a nuke tipped rocket off and hit a target such devices always have return addresses which would make such actions almost suicidal. Well, that’s where Hamas, Hezbollah ,Islamic Jihad, and The Muslim Brotherhood enter the picture as Iranian surrogates. If we still are unconvinced even after Britain's PM Chamberlain’s historic mistake of not taking Hitler’s word for what he wanted to do in his manifesto Mein Kampf
perhaps we will heed Jonathan Rosenblum when discussing such civilizational threats in relation to a documentary called The Third Jihad:
“The West still remains incapable of acknowledging evil or giving credence to the pronouncements of evil men. Ayatollah Khomeini long ago made clear that he was prepared to see Iran go up "in flames," if the worldwide rule of Islam were thereby furthered. Mutual assured destruction, says Bernard Lewis, the greatest living authority on Islam, is for Ahmadinejad, "not a deterrent but an incentive." Surveying the scene in Beslan, where Chenyan Muslims killed nearly 300 Russian schoolchildren, one of the speakers on The Third Jihad puts the point succinctly: Why should those who don't hesitate to send out their own children to be killed hesitate to kill other peoples' children?"
Iran is on a messianic mission. It’s not just about Iran. It’s about Islamic domination that will take the form of a Persian hegemony in the Middle East, at first anyway. They will not attempt overt confrontation because they cannot give the West any excuse to kick down their door and put them out of business. They will use “non state actors” i.e. terrorist, like in Israel and Iraq to do their bidding. Short term, the easiest thing Iran could do would be the deployment of a dirty bomb using the nuclear material they have already amassed and wrap it around some fuel oil, fertilizer, and dynamite and detonate it (by way of such surrogates) in the financial district of say, London.
America should define its goals. If these are merely the acceptance of a nuclear Middle East ruled by totalitarian governments nothing needs to be accomplished other than to decide how to handle our relations with our Mid-East allies Israel and the newbie Iraq in that context, a rather daunting task. However, if Obama wants to promote freedom and the NPT then we need a clearly defined policy and a meeting of the minds with our allies coupled with a coherent strategy to accomplish those goals. I have yet to see any indication of the former in the Obama Admin other than words and parsimony of concrete actions. As to the latter (in the context of Obama’s goal of a nuclear weapons free world), the U.S. must decide whether (and if so, how) to work with European allies that, so far, have failed to produce any tangible results in “talking” with Iran and a recalcitrant Russia who is trying to punish the U.S. for past democracy promotion in Ukraine and Georgia and who has reverted to a cold war mentality to protect a Putin/KGB old boy oligarchy. Why should we expect much from a short term risk adverse Europe and a Russia whose populace finds democracy too hard and a regime that, by its very nature, must fear it? China’s concerns Re Iran are: Respecting Iran’s Sovereign right to Nuclear Power, Promoting the NPT, Bilateral economic and energy policy, and its relationship with the U.S. The latter two being the most considered. So the only promising partner to the U.S. is really China. But China has its own reasons for hesitating when considering helping the U.S. The Chinese must take into consideration their ever growing energy needs in balance with desired good economic relations with the U.S.
A de facto acceptance of a nuclear Iran, which, presently, seems to be oozing from the Obama administration will, ultimately, be unmanageable since this will convince Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others that America has lost its resolve and will no longer be able to include them under its security umbrella. Thus they might very well develop their own nukes in response. Fact of the matter is that the U.S. might be able to get more done with these very same emboldened countries than with a dithering Europe and a prickly Putainia. The Iranian JTA (with both Western and Russian members) mentions that, in its opinion, the 10 missile interceptors that would be stationed in Poland are destabilizing. They are so because Russia fears many things about them, but, none of these are Russian perceptions involving a serious direct threat to its vast arsenal. More threatening is Polish and Czech friendship with a fellow American government being in conflict with a Russian realpolitik-like zero sum game attitude. Add the fact that Russia wants to trade with and build Nuclear reactors for Iran for additional cash, and we find very little accommodation between American and Russian national interests. A U.S. effort to prevent a Nuclear Iran with Europe and Russia as partners seems fruitless.
But even if the Obama Admin suddenly woke up to find the leaders of Europe, Russia, and China banging on the White House doors to the rose garden demanding, in concert, that we must so negotiate with Iran, would Iran so accommodate? Why would they bother? Even with all their so called “isolation” from the “international community” they are well on their way towards their obvious goal of nuclear devices and delivery systems. Arguably, Iran shares the same hopes of global respectability as does The DPRK. If the Obama administration is unable to change either Iran or DPRK’s Risk/Reward calculus and political ferment still exists in Iran, the world may have two very unpredictable regimes in possession of nuclear weapons in the very near future
The sanctions imposed upon Iran’s leaders have, so far, left them unfazed. However, Obama continues to miss a golden opportunity to put Iran’s regime on the back foot. Some U.S. meddling is in order (since Iran has so accused us, why not use that coupon?). How about some Obama “realistic” actions towards supporting those in Iran who feel their freedoms are being trampled upon? Can we beam radio, IMs, and tweets into the hearts of Iranians of like mind? How about our president performing a Bush like virtual separation of Iran regime from the Iranian people by siding with those demonstrators who cry out for true freedom of choice?
Secondly, The Republic of Iran’s founding father, Ayatollah Khomeini inserted into Iran’s constitution the principle of Velayat e-Faqih or “the rule of the jurist” which is used as justification for the Supreme Leader’s all powerful position. This tactic uses theology to establish his power but, in turn, exposes itself to attack by theology. Shiite imam Mohsen Kadivar does just this in his “The Theories of the State in Shiite Jurisprudence". Bret Stephens of the WSJ explains:
"The principle of Velayat e-Faqih is neither intuitively obvious nor rationally necessary," Mr. Kadivar wrote. "It is neither a requirement of religion nor a necessity for denomination. It is neither a part of Shiite general principles nor a component of detailed observances. It is, by near consensus of the Shiite Ulama, nothing more than a jurisprudential minor hypothesis."
Or, as Mr. Kadivar simplified it for me in an interview in the back of his van, "There are two interpretations of Islam. The aggressive Islam of Ahmadinejad, or the mercy Islam of Mousavi."
Why is this significant? Take a look at the color Mr. Mousavi's supporters have chosen for their movement: Green is the color of Islam, meaning the demonstrators are taking on the regime on its own terms. Part of that challenge is to Iran's republican pretensions, mocked by voter turnout that the regime itself admits exceeded 100% in some 50 districts”
Wouldn’t have President Obama looked spiffy putting that argument forth in his Cairo speech or, better yet, the day after the massive demonstrations in Iran?
Additionally, we should reinforce present sanctions by leveraging our power with a gasoline embargo against Iran. We could sweeten the deal by offering gasoline futures contracts with premiums to companies that support the embargo. Obama could kill two birds with one stone: pressure the Iranians to drop nuclear ambitions thereby working towards his Wilsonian goal of a nuclear arms free world and raise the price of gas in the U.S. thereby increasing incentives for Americans to buy more fuel efficient cars--a use of soft power for a Change You Could Believe In!
The last and most obvious semi-solution would be a military destruction of Iran’s nuclear sites. Truth be told, this might be coming sooner rather than later. This is due to Obama’s propensity for avoiding hard choices Re the Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons and his recent hard-line attitude towards Israel. The overall tone of the Obama administration paints Israel as the one state in the two state solution that is obstructionist. But Obama either has not paid attention to the history of this conflict or has simply focused on the only entity he has control of in this conflict.
Obama and his state department have little control over Fatah, and are on the minus side of the ledger when it comes to Hamas and Hezbollah (The secret to their control lies with Iran, but, this is yet another story). Israel sees a nuclear Iran, rightly, as an existential threat because Iran has so informed, directly, and through their support of Hamas and Hezbollah. The only thing keeping Iran from going nuclear is either successful negotiations towards that goal or the destruction of its nuclear facilities. Since the former is unlikely, we must look at the latter possibility. It is presently perceived by most that Israel must have U.S. (if only tacit) approval to conduct any such operations as this and, historically, in Syria and Iraq. Presently, Obama has given the Iranians until the end of this year to…whatever. When they don’t do what he thinks they should do, and they won’t because, so far, they have no incentive to, it will probably be another 3-6 months before, any “action” will be in the works. That gives the Iranians almost another year (recently Obama has moved up this deadline to September of this year. Perhaps he feels the present Iranian regime will no longer be around by December? MUST TALK! MUST… FIND… SOMONE… TO… TALK… TO! The point is: WHAT STICK is Obama going to use on the Iranians and to what effect? Not WHEN he is to use any such stick, although, sooner is better). The Israelis will find waiting almost intolerable and the temptation to strike Iran will mount. If they do strike, Obama will get blamed anyway. Does he know this? Perhaps so, as of this writing VP Biden left open this possibility in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, of ABC News after the VP’s return from Iraq. If Israel does strike Iran without U.S. permission this will demonstrate an absolute desperation on the Israeli side, but we will probably not know this (whether the U.S. granted this option or not) for sure.
President Obama has beseeched Iran to “unclench” its fist, offered to talk to it without preconditions, ignored pesky Iranian street demonstrators who have threatened to steal his thunder with their cries for freedom, or at least a fair vote, and rejected President Bush’s “diplomacy of freedom” that has threatened all the autocracies of the Middle East for the last 6 years or so in favor of his apologetic "realism" in the hope this would provide the opening for a “Grand Bargain” with the Mullahs. None of this is new or has even been successful. Fouad Ajami informs:
“But in truth Iran had never wanted an opening to the U.S. For the length of three decades, the custodians of the theocracy have had precisely the level of enmity toward the U.S. they have wanted -- just enough to be an ideological glue for the regime but not enough to be a threat to their power. Iran's rulers have made their way in the world with relative ease. No White Army gathered to restore the dominion of the Pahlavis. The Cold War and oil bailed them out. So did the false hope that the revolution would mellow and make its peace with the world.
Mr. Obama may believe that his offer to Iran is a break with a hard-line American policy. But nothing could be further from the truth. In 1989, in his inaugural, George H.W. Bush extended an offer to Iran: "Good will begets good will," he said. A decade later, in a typically Clintonian spirit of penance and contrition, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright came forth with a full apology for America's role in the 1953 coup that ousted nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.
Iran's rulers scoffed. They had inherited a world, and they were in no need of opening it to outsiders. They were able to fly under the radar. Selective, targeted deeds of terror, and oil income, enabled them to hold their regime intact. There is a Persian pride and a Persian solitude, and the impact of three decades of zeal and indoctrination. The drama of Barack Obama's election was not an affair of Iran. They had an election of their own to stage. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- a son of the Ayatollah Khomeini's revolutionary order, a man from the brigades of the regime, austere and indifferent to outsiders, an Iranian Everyman with badly fitting clothes and white socks -- was up for re-election.”
It would seem President Obama's, and others, olive branches find the Iranian mullahs unimpressed. After all, their respect has always been reserved for those emanating power not weak kneed apologies.
President Obama seems lost and disoriented in the shark tank of international diplomacy. Next up was Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Putin…err Medvedev. Obama dodged the bullet there. He spent most of his time with figure head Russian President Medvedev where they signed a “arms reduction treaty” that was already in the works, made some “pretty speeches”, and pushed some reset buttons-- all this right up President Obama’s alley. Had a short breakfast with Putin where Obama asked about Georgia freedoms and help with Tehran. Putin nixed both. But that was OK for Obama because he still has the ”pressure” on Iran’s reset button until December err...September and Georgia (or anybody’s) freedoms is the last thing on his mind anyway. But then he did meet with opposition leader Garry Kasparov who is doing yeoman duty for democracy in Russia via The Other Russia party. Garry, we MACs know how you feel"God Speed. But then Kasparov seems to have become desperate when he said:
” "This government is not ready for a dialogue. This government has the mentality of street hoodlums. I think that after looking into Obama's eyes Putin understood that this guy won't stand any jokes."
Well, Gary got the first two thirds right but I wouldn’t be surprised if Putin had a different opinion of a U.S. president that spends taxpayer money to shuttle around the globe as its Apologist in Chief.
In examining the Israeli/Palestinian conflict a bit of history is in order. Nineteenth century Jewish intellectuals founded the Zionist movement with the goal of establishing a national homeland for the Jewish people. This spurred by centuries of anti-Semitism by Christians and Muslims alike- from 11th century pogroms against Jews in North Africa, through the Spanish Inquisition, to the Holocaust. The area in question was controlled by the Ottoman Empire which sided with Germany in WWI. Being at war with Germany Britain therefore encouraged the Arabs in this region to rebel against the empire. The modern Arab (Palestinian) claim to this area stems from a vague promise and fuzzy border distinctions by British officers to the Arabs for their rebellion which started in 1916. The next year British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour expressed official support for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine. This Balfour Declaration spurred Jewish immigration and saw Britain repeatedly affirming its desire for Palestine to be home to both Jews and Arabs. This was later affirmed by the League of Nations (a UN precursor) which gave Britain control over present day Israel and Jordan (The British Mandate). Clashes over Jerusalem’s west wall and in Hebron raised tensions, Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, and Jewish immigration continued as did Jewish/Arab tensions. A British effort to find causes of the conflict, The Peel Commission, recommended abolition of the British Mandate and reaffirmed the Balfour Declaration’s division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. The dominant Arab leadership, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (Haj Amin al-Husseini) opposed while mainstream Jewish leadership whole heartedly agreed to it. In November of 1947 the new UN passed Resolution 181 calling, like the League of Nations, for separate Jewish and Arab states. Arabs rejected the proposal and in May of 1948, after the British officially leave, Israel declares its Independence. The Arab states Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq invade and then lose much of the land the UN had set aside for the Arabs. And so it went and so it goes.
The Arabs (Palestinians) say they were robbed by westerners of land that they occupied for hundreds of years and that the British Officers’ promise was broken. Israelis cite history and ancient biblical passages that name Zion and Jerusalem, whereas the more recently written Koran is silent on this. Israelis also can point to modern actions of The League of Nations and The United Nations that legitimatize both Israeli and Palestinian states. But, where the Israelis seized the day regarding statehood, Palestinian leadership seems hell bent on an all or nothing attitude and refuses to agree to any solution that recognizes a Jewish state.
Obama has stated in his Cairo address:
“Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”
This is misleading in that it mistakenly links European (Western) actions of anti-Semitism and the holocaust with the Arab narrative that the Palestinians must pay for European crimes by the presence of a Jewish state in their midst. Obama is correct in saying that Holocaust denial is wrong and hateful. But, he is wrong when he equates the founding of the state of Israel with the Holocaust. The previous short history informs us that the concept and actual creation of Israel was pretty far along well before Hitler killed his first Jew, if any thing, a well established Jewish state would have worked against the Holocaust had it existed before Hitler. As to anti-Semitism, those in Cairo would do well to remember Egypt’s welcoming back of Grand Mufti Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini, as a hero, who spent the war years as Hitler’s guest facilitating the murder of the Jews. North Africa was just as guilty as the Europeans.
The second paragraph of the Obama quote demonstrates Obama’s attempt at analogy between Jewish suffering and an Arab people who have been denied a “homeland… for more than sixty years...” President Obama forgets to mention that all during that time Palestinian leaders have absolutely refused any and all deals that involved a Palestinian state co-existing peaceably along side a Jewish one. From the Balfour Declaration thru the 1967 Arab League’s “Three Nos” Khartoum Resolution (No peace, No recognition, or No negotiations with Israel) to Camp David to Oslo to the Road map Arab leaders have been the consistent obstacles to a solution, not the Israelis. Indeed, to this day Hamas, and Hezbollah still call for the destruction of Israel. Fatah controlled media still produce hateful anti-Semitism in the West Bank. Many like to opine that President Obama’s recent efforts to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem (along with all the other kowtowing towards Muslims) is an attempt to appease or assuage the Iranians to drop their nuclear program. If so, this is wrong headed. One of the keys, in the region, to pressuring the Iranians to drop the nuclear thing, lies with Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia who fear an emergent Persian hegemony more than a possible two state solution. Actually, an attenuated Iran could arguably lessen Iranian support of Hamas terrorists and Hezbollah militants, facilitating further, a two state solution. Iran and its nuclear ambitions should be dealt with first.
Obama made a big deal out of the settlements issue:
” the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."
This is the first time an American president has denied Israel’s settlements in occupied territories. Indeed, all agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, including The Road Map, has admitted this issue can only be addressed in the final peace agreements and is not a precondition for negotiations .Elliott Abrams, who handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009 tells us:
” Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.”
Indeed, regarding Obama and his Secretary of State’s newly found aversion to Israeli settlements, Charles Krauthammer asks:
” To what end? Over the past decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements -- and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself. That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why expel people from their homes and turn their towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?
This idea is not only logical, not only accepted by both Democratic and Republican administrations for the past decade, but was agreed to in writing in the letters of understanding exchanged between Israel and the United States in 2004 -- and subsequently overwhelmingly endorsed by a concurrent resolution of Congress.
Additionally the” right of return” of those Palestinians who chose to leave (many stayed and now enjoy Israeli freedoms) during the earlier conflicts is a dead issue simply because those Palestinians are mostly dead themselves. To allow their children and their children’s children, who have little if any memory of life in such areas, to return spares no one suffering and only works towards an Israeli boycott of any such negotiating position (Israeli acquiescence would mean the eventual destruction of the Jewish state) and is, therefore, an impediment to peace. However, it does work towards the original Arab goal of the destruction of the state of Israel. This is, of course, consistent with the “bargaining” position of groups such as Hamas and Fatah.
The refugee problem that President Obama mentions in his context of Palestinian suffering should have him asking the question of why it has persisted “For more than sixty years”. Jordan has taken in many of these refugees over the years. Obama should hold other Arab nations accountable and ask why more don’t offer naturalization to those remaining. Do those nations find the refugees undesirable for the same reasons the Israelis do or do those Arab nations merely find Obama’s “stalemate” politically convenient for their own purposes? Richard Chesnoff opines:
” Let's face it. Why has every major post war refugee problem in the world been settled except for the Palestinian one? You know the reason: the Arab states have never wanted to settle it. With the exception of Jordan, no single Arab state has ever offered citizenship to Palestinian Arabs, preferring instead to maintain them as political fodder, locked in refugee camps, surviving on the international dole and the political wet dream of destroying the Jewish state.”
Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city has enjoyed peace and unprecedented plurality ever since the Israelis took over the ancient city in 1967 during the Six Day War. Even candidate Obama clarified this on June 04, 2008 in a speech to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Council) :"Let me be clear … Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." But President Obama just cannot seem to stop his micromanagement tendencies. First insurance then automobile companies and now real estate in Jerusalem. Jeff Jacoby informs:
” Late last week, the Obama administration demanded that the Israeli government pull the plug on a planned housing development near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. The project, a 20-unit apartment complex, is indisputably legal. The property to be developed " a defunct hotel " was purchased in 1985, and the developer has obtained all the necessary municipal permits.
Why, then, does the [Obama] administration want the development killed? Because Sheikh Jarrah is in a largely Arab section of Jerusalem, and the developers of the planned apartments are Jews. Think about that for a moment. Six months after Barack Obama became the first black man to move into the previously all-white residential facility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, he is fighting to prevent integration in Jerusalem.”
Meanwhile the centrifuges in Iran whir on.
Perhaps the Obama admin’s present focus on Israel as the bad guy is simply a failure to understand the history or perhaps it is simply a lack of diplomatic imagination. Of all the ME actors, who does the U.S. have the most leverage with… Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, or Israel? But to those who know the history, making Israel the bad guy here is like looking for your lost car keys under the street light while knowing full well you dropped them somewhere in the unlit back alley down the street. Is this policy for pure show?
But even if we assume that President Obama is right, I think it is safe to say that the Obama admin would insist that any two state solution agreement would have, as its number one priority, secure borders that guarantee both states their national security and, therefore, their right to exist. If so, exactly what entity should Obama force Israel to sign on the dotted line with? That is, who will administer the proposed Palestinian state responsibly?
We all are familiar with the incessant string of No’s that continually punctuate Palestinian answers to negotiation efforts. But, how about if they discontinue the spewing of hatred against Israel in schools, mosques, and the media? This is the stock in trade of, not only, Hamas and Hezbollah but Abbas’ Fatah. Perhaps, when Abbas weeds out corruption and stops naming computer centers after terrorists that hijack buses and kill women and children, they can be considered a bit more responsible.
After Prime Minister Sharon withdrew from Gaza and Palestinian elections put Hamas in power, how did a responsible Hamas run government respond to the needs of its Palestinian charges? We all know. They launched thousands of rockets into Israel forcing Israel to become an international Boogie man when they set up security into and out of Gaza to prevent or, at least, diminish the rocket attacks. This prevented normal trade and employment in the region and therefore led to suffering of the Palestinian people. Voila, the “international community” laments the suffering of the Palestinian people and blames…wait for it…Israel!
The most glaring problem recognized by many is Palestinian deflection of blame. This is a subject in and of itself that I addressed in a thread that examined the fertility of the Middle East regarding democratic governments a few years ago, but Palestinian blame deflection in combination with the modern liberal mindset of many western statesman has been the main impediment to peace in this conflict.
Simply, Obama, on examination of the history and actions of the players in this conflict, would have a better chance of success in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict if he recognized and informed the “international community” where concurrent American actions would be directed and most effective, including:
--Stalwart support of the robust democratically based U.S. ally and the internationally recognized state of Israel with assurances it would help ward off any entity moving towards its destruction.
--Ceasing any and all support to those groups who interfere with or co-opt humanitarian aid (UN or otherwise) to the Palestinian people.
-- Ceasing any aid (while working towards international concurrence of same) to those entities who call for or whose actions imply the destruction of the state of Israel.
--Calling for greater responsibility of the Arab nations to help the Palestinians form their own secure and responsible state
--Imposing painful sanctions upon those (especially state actors) that support groups that fall under the third action above.
That is, Obama should put the pressure on Palestinian “leaders” to abandon their dream of Israel’s destruction and settle for just a mere peaceable internationally recognized Palestinian state. Obama must realize that a true and just two state solution depends upon a Palestinian state recognizing and living alongside, in peace, with a Jewish state of Israel. Israelis have been reluctant about a two state solution for one simple reason; many Arab negotiation points would ultimately threaten Israel’s preservation. If Obama is to be successful he must help, cajole, and force the Palestinians to present their plan for a peaceful responsible Palestinian state. For if it is the Palestinians that say they wish a nation of their own, they must demonstrate this willingness through responsible actions. The Israelis already have theirs and have had it for, well… “over sixty years”.
The flap in Honduras deserves some mention. Honduras has a constitutional form of government a Congress, President, and Supreme Court similar to ours so this story is relevant to Americans. Its former president, Manuel Zelaya is good friends of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. He was elected president of Honduras on November 27, 2005, with a narrow margin and was inaugurated on January 27, 2006. In January of this year the country was to appoint 15 new Supreme Court judges, as it does every seven years. Following legal procedure, an independent board made up of members of civil society had nominated 45 candidates. From that list, Congress was to choose the new judges. President Zelaya had a few names himself, including the wife of a minister, but these were not on the approved list. So, on the day of the vote he placed a military cordon around congress and sent a group of his men, including his defense minister, uninvited, to pressure congress, Well, things got so heated congressional members had to call security to have these men removed. Congress held their ground.
In May the president pushed for a plebiscite on rewriting the constitution. In the July edition of the L.A. times Miguel Estrada (no, not the guy on CHiPs ) tells us why this is a Honduran No-No:
” … the Honduran Constitution may be amended in any way except three. No amendment can ever change (1) the country's borders, (2) the rules that limit a president to a single four-year term and (3) the requirement that presidential administrations must "succeed one another" in a "republican form of government."
In addition, Article 239 specifically states that any president who so much as proposes the permissibility of reelection "shall cease forthwith" in his duties, and Article 4 provides that any "infraction" of the succession rules constitutes treason. The rules are so tight because these are terribly serious issues for Honduras, which lived under decades of military rule.
As detailed in the attorney general's complaint, Zelaya is the type of leader who could cause a country to wish for a Richard Nixon. Earlier this year, with only a few months left in his term, he ordered a referendum on whether a new constitutional convention should convene to write a wholly new constitution. Because the only conceivable motive for such a convention would be to amend the un-amendable parts of the existing constitution, it was easy to conclude -- as virtually everyone in Honduras did -- that this was nothing but a backdoor effort to change the rules governing presidential succession. Not unlike what Zelaya's close ally, Hugo Chavez, had done in Venezuela
It is also worth noting that only referendums approved by a two-thirds vote of the Honduran Congress may be put to the voters. Far from approving Zelaya's proposal, Congress voted that it was illegal.”
The Attorney General indicated prosecution may be in the offing and Zelaya sent some 100 or so goons down to his office with machetes to voice their opinions.
The Attorney General sued to and did stop the referendum. Zelaya renamed it a “survey” and ordered armed forces head Gen. Romeo Vasquez to proceed, he declined and was dismissed by the president. The Honduran Supremes ordered him reinstated which he was. The ballots for the “survey” Zelaya had printed in Venezuela were impounded when they arrived in Honduras. Undeterred Zelaya and a group of supporters proceeded down to the customs house intending to liberate the ballots and conduct the survey anyway. The attorney general sought a warrant from the supreme court on charges of treason, got it, and arrested the president on 28 June. Interim President Roberto Micheletti was duly appointed to the post.
It has become quite clear Zelaya’s arrest and removal from office were entirely legal and constitutional under the Honduran law of the land.
So why, in God’s name, have President Obama and U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton been siding with such socialists as Zelaya, Hugo Chavez, OAS (Organization of American States) Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, and the Castro clan by calling for Zelaya’s reinstatement to power? The only thing that might be questioned is his exile to Costa Rica. But even this is understandable with Zelaya’s recent history given on these pages. Additionally, his actions after the fact further argue towards the Honduran government doing the right thing. The airport clash ended in one death and even Sec. Clinton labeled his brief border crossing into Honduras from Nicaragua “reckless”.