Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rami Khouri on Obama's "300"

As ever, Rami Khouri tells it like it is - in this instance, reminding us that it was Mr. Bush's Iraq escapade, and its enforcers, that lit the fire that threatens to consume Iraq altogether.  He also spotlights the hypocrisy of Obama's warning Iran that it must play a constructive role:

Obama’s comments on Iran are truly offensive. He resorts to his hallmark “audacity” in saying that Iran can be part of the regional diplomatic action needed to bring calm to Iraq if Iran plays a constructive role in Iraq. There is zero credibility in such statements coming from the president of a country whose war on Iraq probably created the most destruction there since the Mongol invasion and sacking of Baghdad in 1258. If there were a global award for willful and criminal destruction of a sovereign state by a foreign power, the U.S. and the United Kingdom would have to share that prize for their policies in Iraq.

Obama’s disdainful treatment of Iran reflects, however, a pattern of American attitudes that the U.S. can do anything around the world and not be held accountable for the death and destruction it causes, while smaller and darker states in the South must conform to behavioral norms set in Washington (and sometimes in Tel Aviv, though Israel usually is exempt from adhering to the same norms, as we witness today in the mass arrests, collective punishments and continued arrest and killing of children in Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands).

Indeed.  Well said.




Read more: 


(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: 

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Pathetic Figure that is Dick Cheney

Amy Davidson's New Yorker post spotlights the recent column by the Cheneys (Dick and Elizabeth) calling out Mr. Obama for not manning up and reinserting US forces into Iraq.  As Davidson puts it:

On Tuesday, Dick and Liz Cheney published a column in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that it was a shame and a failure that the American war—which the elder Cheney had helped start—had not gone on and on. American soldiers, they suggested, should be there right now. “It is time the president and his allies faced some hard truths: America remains at war, and withdrawing troops from the field of battle while our enemies stay in the fight does not ‘end’ wars. Weakness and retreat are provocative.”


In the Cheneys’ contorted diagram of history, going to war is itself a victory. They seem to see Iraq’s wreckage as a vindication of that war, not an indictment of it. It is difficult, otherwise, to explain their contempt for Obama’s withdrawal of troops. (“President Obama seems determined to leave office ensuring he has taken America down a notch.”) On this question, the Cheneys appear to be out of touch even with many in their own party. When Megyn Kelly, interviewing the Cheneys on Fox News, told Cheney that he had made a historic mistake in Iraq, he seemed startled enough to address her as “Reagan.” Perhaps the Cheneys and other conservatives do realize that the American public has come to view the Iraq War as a disaster, and have simply persuaded themselves that the only way to void that judgment is to get the war going again.

Sad, isn't it, that such a once-powerful public figure is utterly unable to imagine a world stage without American full-spectrum dominance.  Nor can he imagine - much less accept - that the actions he encouraged, and policies he advocated (torture, anyone?), merit his own disgrace and banishment from the cohorts of serious discussion.  (One might consider Tony Blair as a similar case in point.)

Watching CNN's broadcast special on the Vietnam War last night, I couldn't help noticing its serendipitous timing with a new  insertion (in this instance, re-insertion) of American military forces into a region whose cultural dynamics they and their leaders cannot comprehend, and into a conflict in which (contra Dick Cheney and John McCain) they cannot "prevail" (to borrow General Westmoreland's promise of almost 50 years ago). 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Holocaust Denial - in California?!

There are times when all you can do is scratch your head and wonder about the idiocy of some people.

Noted Holocaust scholar and expert Deborah Lipstadt has an important essay at Tablet about a report that 8th-grade students in the school district of Rialto, California, were provided an assignment in which they are to debate whether or not the Holocaust actually happened.


This is scary stuff.  Thankfully (see Below), the district dropped the assignment after protests began to roll in.

But what were they thinking?  Who were these people who dreamed up this assignment?  Who would let them within a mile of a school building?

And how many numbskulls are now wondering, "golly, why did they pull the assignment? Isn't it important to hear both sides?"
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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Apartheid in the West Bank

Peter Beinart distinguishes between apartheid as indeed practiced under Israeli hegemony in the West Bank versus what Israeli Arabs must contend with day-to-day in Israel itself.   Beinart doesn't recognize how consistently Israeli Arabs have to deal with discrimination, not to mention the increasing calls for their expulsion and the blatant racism with which many Israeli Jews regard them.  But given all of that, you have to credit Beinart for calling it like it is in the West Bank:

. . .  there’s a territory—the West Bank—where Israel is practicing apartheid right now. The International Criminal Court defines “apartheid” as “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups.”  Yes, Jews and Palestinians aren’t races. They’re peoples. But what matters is that the boundary between them is sealed. For all practical purposes, West Bank Palestinians cannot become Jews and because they cannot, they are barred from citizenship in the state that controls their lives, cannot vote for its government, live under a different legal system than their Jewish neighbors and do not enjoy the same freedom of movement. That’s “systematic oppression and domination” by one group over another. And it’s been going on for 46 years.  . . .   Apartheid is not a problem Israel must avoid in the future. It’s the reality West Bank Palestinians face today. For Jews and non-Jews who care about justice, that should be all the incentive we need. 

So, kudos then to Beinart.  But even more kudos to Gideon Levy, who shares my disgust with John Kerry's retreat from his claim, not that Israel was, at present, an apartheid state, but that it was on the road to becoming one.  Here's Levy, in full:

Is Israel at risk of becoming an apartheid state, as John Kerry said on Friday, or not, as he said on Tuesday? Who knows? Given his feeble performance as U.S. secretary of state and his disgraceful apology, maybe it no longer matters what Kerry thinks or says. Given the aggressiveness of the Jewish lobby and the weakness of the Obama administration, which capitulates to every “pro-Israel” whim, Israel doesn’t need enemies with friends like these. Look what happened to its genuine friend, who was only trying to warn it from itself.

What a miserable secretary of state, up to his neck in denial. And how unfriendly to Israel he is to retract his frank, genuine and friendly warning merely for fear of the lobby. Now millions of ignorant Americans, viewers of Fox News and its ilk, know that Israel is in no risk of becoming an apartheid state. They believe the power of Hamas and the sophistication of Qassam rocket pose an existential danger to Israel .

But Kerry’s vacillations do not change the reality that shrieks from every wall. From every West Bank Palestinian village, from every reservoir and power grid that is for Jews only; apartheid screams from every demolished tent encampment and every verdict of the military court; from every nighttime arrest, every checkpoint, every eviction order and every settlement home. No, Israel is not an apartheid state, but for nearly 50 years an apartheid regime has ruled its occupied territories. Those who want to continue to live a lie, to repress and to deny are invited to visit Hebron. No honest, decent person could return without admitting the existence of apartheid. Those who fear that politically incorrect word have only to walk for a few minutes down Shuhada Street, with its segregated road and sidewalks, and their fear of using the forbidden word will vanish without a trace.

The history of the conflict is filled with forbidden words. Once upon a time, it was forbidden to say “Palestinians” was forbidden, after that came the prohibitions against saying “occupation,” “war crime,” “colonialism” or “binational state.” Now “apartheid” is prohibited.

The forbidden words paralyze debate. Did you let the word “apartheid” slip out? The truth is no longer important. But no political correctness or bowdlerization, however sanctimonious, can conceal reality forever. And the reality is an occupation regime of apartheid.

The naysayers can find countless differences between the apartheid of Pretoria and that of Jerusalem. Pretoria’s was openly racist and anchored in law; Jerusalem’s is denied and repressed, hidden beneath a heavy cloak of propaganda and messianic religious faith. But the result is the same. Some South Africans who lived under the system of segregation say that their apartheid was worse. I know South Africans who say that the version in the territories is worse. But neither group can find a significant difference at the root: When two nations share the same piece of land and one has full rights while the other has no rights, that is apartheid. If it looks like apartheid, walks like apartheid and quacks like apartheid, it’s apartheid.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Bible and Oklahoma Public Education

from today's Politico Morning Education

HOBBY LOBBY PRESIDENT PROMOTES BIBLICAL CURRICULUM: Public schools in Mustang, Okla., will offer a Bible course next fall developed by Steve Green, president of the Hobby Lobby craft chain. It's the start of an ambitious bid by Green to introduce Scripture to public school students across the U.S. Within a few years, Green hopes thousands of schools will offer his curriculum - a sequence of four full-year classes exploring the Bible's content, history and impact on society. The classes will be electives in Mustang, but Green has said he hopes districts will one day make them mandatory.
- The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that it's legal for schools to teach the Bible as long as it's presented "objectively" as part of a "secular program of education." Green himself has said that he wants students to understand that the Bible is "true" and "good," but it's unclear if the classes will take that approach. The scholar Green tapped to run the program, Jerry Pattengale, told Religion News Service that the courses "may or may not espouse those views." More on the curriculum from RNS:

That more people don't see the threat that people like Steve Green represents to young Americans, and the US's future, stuns me.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thomas Friedman's Simple Boxes

There he goes again.  Thomas Friedman reconstructs global politics (for the umpteenth time) with simple boxes.  (OK OK, so he calls them categories.)  This time it's
The first category . . . countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea, whose leaders are focused on building their authority, dignity and influence through powerful states.
The second category, countries focused on building their dignity and influence through prosperous people, includes all the countries in Nafta, the European Union, and the Mercosur trade bloc in Latin America and Asean in Asia.
And of course, he must have an all-the-others third box, lumped as "disorder":
a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” . . . They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions like: Who are we? What are our boundaries? Who owns which olive tree? These countries include Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and other hot spots.
All of this, of course, as an entree for TF to briefly touch upon Ukraine's turmoil, and then conclude by noting that
we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them.
Indeed.  Well said.  Agreed.

But not a word from TF, of course, about how his cheerleading (remember "suck on this?") in 2002 and 2003 helped rip Iraq from box 1 to dump it into box 3.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Roger Cohen's Disappointing Essay on BDS

The NYT's Roger Cohen writes this morning that the BDS movement is simply not to be trusted, even if its goal of ending Israeli occupation in the West Bank is laudable.  The reason?  BDS supporters ultimately wish to see the enforcement of the Palestinians' right to return (in Cohen's words, the "so-called" right to return).  For that reason, Cohen comes perilously close to arguing that BDS supporters are anti-Semites.  Undoubtedly some are, but Cohen ought to know better than to come as close as he does to tarring the entire movement with that brush.  It's not fair, and it doesn't help.
Cohen goes on to say that the UN gave an "unambiguous mandate" to a Jewish state in 1947.  Well, perhaps, although anyone who's read deeply into the history knows how much arm-twisting by the US went into that vote.  But if Cohen is going to cite that vote as the ultimate legitimizer of the creation of a Jewish state, he can't be permitted to dismiss at the same time those provisions of international law that state that the ethnic cleansing that was inflicted on Palestinians from 1946 on was illegal and that forbidding expelled Palestinians from returning was likewise illegal.
As so many commentators have noted, the crux of the issues that continue to separate Israelis and Palestinians is not the events of 1967, but the events of 1947-1948.  For Cohen to dismiss the concerns and claims of those Palestinians who were victimized then, even in the interests of securing a Jewish refuge and homeland, is - again - not fair, and it doesn't help.

Friday, January 10, 2014

About Those US Demands That Maliki Include Sunnis

At Bloomberg, former Bushie Meghan O'Sullivan calls upon Mr. Obama and his officials to head off a new Iraq war by making better use of the US's "new leverage" to convince Iraq PM Nuri al-Maliki to make his government more inclusive of Sunni representation.

She, of course, is not the only notable former official/expert/pundit calling for this.  And anyone who's been paying attention in recent years knows that much of Iraq's malaise post-US pullout stems from Maliki's failure to bring Iraq's Sunnis alongside.  Indeed, it's been more than a failure to simply include them.  Rather, in dealing with Sunni opposition, Maliki has resorted to the kind of repressive tactics - intimidation, torture, executions - that, even if we've no evidence of mass burials of people killed by the government, could have come from Saddam Hussein's manual of How to Run Iraq.

We all know that Iraq's chances of remaining a relatively unitary state (I say relatively because the Kurds have been out that door since even before 2003) hinge upon the ability of the Iraqi leadership, and Iraq's people, to create a political-social contract that will enable them to rise above the sectarian divisiveness that Saddam fostered (despite his supposed Baathist secularism) and that the Coalition Provisional Authority and its aftermath exacerbated and helped solidify, including  in the new Iraqi constitution.  Many have noted that non-sectarian Iraqi nationalism still runs deep in some elements of Iraqi politics and society.  How long that can persist if Iraq's current  cacophany of violence persists remains to be seen.

But all the American calls for Maliki to change his ways, seems to me, fail to take into account certain realities:

Nuri al-Maliki, besides being Iraq's prime minister since 2006, has also been the head of a Shi'ite religious party, al-Da'wa.  Members of that party were persecuted and executed, brutally, under Saddam's Sunni-led Baathist regime.  Maliki himself was forced into exile during that time.  The current members of al-Da'wa, and members of other Shi'ite religious parties, bear deeply seared memories of what they and their families suffered at the hands of a predominantly Sunni government.  American politicians like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who so stridently demand that Maliki change his ways cannot possibly understand the extent to which such deeply seated fear, as well as feelings of revenge, might motivate Maliki and those who back him - including millions of Iraqi Arab Shi'ites.

Although the US has professed to be a friend and ally of Maliki, much more important - and potentially much more useful - to him is the support of the friend and ally next door: the Shi'ite Islamic Republic of Iran.  That, of course, is the same Shi'ite republic that Saddam attacked in 1980, launching an eight-year war during which the Sunni-led Baathist regime of Iraq was supported by the U.S. under Ronald Reagan.  And with U.S. backing, Saddam's forces inflicted hundreds of thousands of deaths and maimed lives on Iranian soldiers and civilians, using poison gas as well as more "conventional" weapons of mass destruction.  But the more important point here is that, given the awfulness of that war, the very last thing the Iranian leadership can countenance is the re-empowerment of Sunni parties or politicians in Iraq.

All of this means that Mr. Maliki is going to be inclined to turn a very tinnish ear to U.S. entreaties and demands that he bring Sunni elements within anything close to striking distance of effective power in Iraqi politics.  Given Iraq's history over the last several decades, this ought to be obvious.  McCain, Graham, Boehner - all of those now demanding more of Maliki, as well as more of Obama - need to wise up.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

McCain and Graham Pave Path to New Intifada

Disturbing report from WashPo about how Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have lined up with Mr. Netanyahu in expressing grave reservations about proposals emerging from the recent John Kerry-led "peace process."  Per usual for the vast majority of US congressmen, their concerns hinge almost entirely on Israel's security needs - which, in their minds (and, of course, Bibi's), can only be served by an agreement that permits the IDF almost unhindered access to the West Bank.

Graham's comments are especially worrying:

Graham said that despite detailed security proposals for the West Bank developed by a special U.S. envoy, retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen, senior Israelis remain unconvinced. “Here’s the one thing that I think dominates the thinking in Israel: that once you withdraw, then the ability to go back is almost impossible,” Graham said. “Look at Gaza. What’s the chance of going back into Gaza militarily?”


Israel can defend itself against rocket attacks from that formerly Israeli-occupied territory, but withdrawal meant giving up the “ability to chart your own destiny,” Graham said.



“I really do believe that the idea of withdrawing has to be considered in light of Gaza,” Graham said.


None of the above indicates that Graham and his ilk are going to accept any kind of Palestinian state that would also be acceptable to Mr. Abbas or any other of the more moderate Palestinian political leaders, not to mention those of a more militant stripe - i.e., a return to pre-1967 borders (with suitable land swaps) and a Palestinian government with responsibility for maintaining security with its own security forces.  That others in Netanyahu's govermnent are also insisting on Israeli control of the Jordan Valley - something that, I'd bet, McCain and Graham are prefectly okay with - further dims the prospects for Kerry's success.

I'm also struck by Graham's focus on Gaza as the template for what Israel ought not to do in the West Bank.  Implicit in his comments is the assumption that Israel had been justified in occupying and colonizing Gaza in the first place, and that Israel ought never to have left Gaza, but instead ought to have ramped up the number of settlements there as well as the degree of military occupation.

All of this, of course, plays into the established and well-justified perception that the US political leadership as a whole will accept a Palestinian state only if such a state remains completely under the security domination of Israel.  Equally justifiably, most Palestinians will view Kerry's efforts as little better than a smokescreen while Netanyahu and his right-wing government cement the creation of "Greater Israel."

And that, of course, feeds a growing probability of another intifada - something that the WashPo report likewise points out. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time for a Deal with Iran is Now

Kudos to Thomas Friedman for his piece in today's NY Times (quoted, in full, below).  With all the boo-hooing about how such a deal would be a betrayal of our Israeli and Saudi "allies," as Friedman notes, a deal that might lead to a detente with Iran would be a huge boon to US interests across the Middle East.

On the other hand, the imposing of a new, crippling round of sanctions on Iran - one that might completely eliminate Iran's ability to export its oil - could very likely stop negotiations in their tracks and in so doing, deal a potential death-blow to any chance of averting war with Iran or securing Iran's help in bringing an end to the holocaust that is Syria (and that threatens to engulf Lebanon and Iraq as well).  Yet the GOP-dominated House of Representatives is aching to impose those sanctions, as are some of the usual suspects in the Senate.  (I'm looking at you, Lindsey Graham - and you ought to be embarrassed by your bogus comments that if we do it just "right", sanctions can work even better.  Ask the people of Iran about that. For that matter, ask the people of Iraq about how that worked out for them.  Or just go read some of Joy Gordon's reports on how wonderfully sanctions have worked, in both countries.)

The NYT reports that AIPAC and its ilk are wearing out the carpets in Congressional offices, insisting that harsher sanctions go forward.  Other of the usual suspects have hastened to the dailies to pound the same point: WINEP honcho Patrick Clawson (in the WashPo) hastens to remind us that "Israel, the Gulf states and Iranian democrats will be reassured only by vigorous U.S. actions to address their concerns" - and that besides, and despite evidence to the contrary, all that Iranians really want is regional "hegemony" (not, of course, that the US and Israel have ever aspired to that).  The ever-pesky Elliott Abrams, hoping to drive his own nail into the coffin into which Bibi's amen chorus wants to put the negotiations,  also chimes in (likewise in the WashPo) with a reminder of how nasty the Iranian government has been to the Baha'is.  No argument; they have been brutal; but, gee, why did Abrams pick this particular time to make that point?

To my mind, none of this carping is enough to override Friedman's point: detente with Iran can serve US interests much better than would ratcheting up sanctions.  And along the waym detente just might lead to a more stable, more peaceful Middle East.  So . . .

I'm reminded of the oft-used expression about how one should "lead, follow, or get out of the way."  Congress is both too divided and too discredited (shut-down, anyone?) to lead.  As Bibi knows, though, they're good at following.  But where Bibi wants to take them, American interests - and, I should think, those of the planet - won't be well served.  That leaves only one option.

Get out of the way. Please.


November 12, 2013

What About US?


It goes without saying that the only near-term deal with Iran worth partially lifting sanctions for would be a deal that freezes all the key components of Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, and the only deal worth lifting all sanctions for is one that verifiably restricts Iran’s ability to breakout and build a nuclear bomb.


But there is something else that goes without saying, but still needs to be said loudly: We, America, are not just hired lawyers negotiating a deal for Israel and the Sunni Gulf Arabs, which they alone get the final say on. We, America, have our own interests in not only seeing Iran’s nuclear weapons capability curtailed, but in ending the 34-year-old Iran-U.S. cold war, which has harmed our interests and those of our Israeli and Arab friends.


Hence, we must not be reluctant about articulating and asserting our interests in the face of Israeli and Arab efforts to block a deal that we think would be good for us and them. America’s interests today lie in an airtight interim nuclear deal with Iran that also opens the way for addressing a whole set of other issues between Washington and Tehran.


Some of our allies don’t share those “other” interests and believe the only acceptable outcome is bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities and keeping Iran an isolated, weak, pariah state. They don’t trust this Iranian regime — and not without reason. I don’t begrudge their skepticism. Without pressure from Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the global sanctions on Iran they helped to spur, Iran would not be offering to scale back its nuclear program today.


But that pressure was never meant to be an end itself. It was meant to bring Iran in from the cold, provided it verifiably relinquished the ability to breakout with a nuclear weapon. “Just because regional actors see diplomacy with Iran as a zero-sum game — vanquish or be vanquished — doesn’t mean America should,” said Karim Sadjadpour, the expert on Iran at the Carnegie Endowment.


Why? Let’s start with the fact that Iran has sizable influence over several of America’s most critical national security concerns, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, terrorism, energy security, and nuclear proliferation. Whereas tension with Iran has served to exacerbate these issues, détente with Tehran could help ameliorate them. Iran played a vital role in helping us to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and can help us get out without the Taliban completely taking over again.


 “Iran has at least as much at stake in a stable Iraq, and a stable Afghanistan, as we do — and as an immediate neighbor has a far greater ability to influence them, for good or ill,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, the Iranian-American co-founder of Macro Advisory Partners and a former top aide to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.


There is a struggle in Tehran today between those who want Iran to behave as a nation, looking out for its interests, and those who want it to continue behaving as a permanent revolution in a permanent struggle with America and its allies. What’s at stake in the Geneva nuclear negotiations — in part — “is which Iranian foreign policy prevails,” argued Mousavizadeh. A mutually beneficial deal there could open the way for cooperation on other fronts.


Moreover, there is nothing that threatens the future of the Middle East today more than the sectarian rift between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. This rift is being used by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hezbollah and some Arab leaders to distract their people from fundamental questions of economic growth, unemployment, corruption and political legitimacy. It is also being used to keep Iran isolated and unable to fully exploit its rich oil and gas reserves, which could challenge some Arab producers. But our interest is in quelling these sectarian passions, not taking one side.


The Iran-U.S. cold war has prevented us from acting productively on all these interests. It is easy to say we should just walk away from talks if we don’t get what we want, but isolating Iran won’t be as easy as it once was. China, Russia, India and Japan have different interests than us vis-à-vis Iran. The only man who could unite them all behind this tough sanctions regime was Iran’s despicable previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The new president, Hassan Rouhani, is much more deft.  “Our sanctions leverage may have peaked,” said Sadjadpour. “Countries like China won’t indefinitely forsake their own commercial and strategic interests vis-à-vis Iran simply to please the U.S. Congress.”


All this is why the deal the Obama team is trying to forge now that begins to defuse Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and tests whether more is possible, is fundamentally in the U.S. interest. “The prize of détente with Iran is critical to allowing the U.S. a sensibly balanced future foreign policy that aligns interests with commitments, and allows us to rebuild at home at the same time,” said Mousavizadeh. There are those in the Middle East who prefer “a war without end for the same tribal, sectarian, backward-looking reasons that are stunting their own domestic development as open, integrated, pluralist societies,” he added. “They can have it. But it can’t be our war. It’s not who we are — at home or abroad.”





Friday, November 8, 2013

Bibi Pissing in the Geneva Punchbowl

With growing signs (John Kerry has flown to Geneva to take part) that a deal between Iran and the US-led P5+1 is steadily being pieced together, Mr. Netanyahu's attempts to demean and trash the process are becoming more insistent.  As reported at WashPo, Bibi "utterly rejects" the deal that seems to be emerging.  (Of course, we hoi poloi are not privy to the details, but we can assume that Bibi is being kept abreast of where things stand.)

Kerry, however, seems content to fob him off with some comments to the effect that the US is going into any deal with its "eyes open" and is looking for results, not just words.  He has gone a step further by putting Bibi on notice that the Israelis need to give ground in the current negotiations with the Palestinians, or else, as Kerry warned, face a "third intifada."  Such an eventuality seems a bit less remote now, what with Palestinians' patience running out, West Bank settlers' shameless destruction of Palestinian olive groves increasingly exposed, and troubling new evidence suggesting that former PA president Yasser Arafat's death was the result of massive polonium poisoning.  At this point, the Israelis are the only logical perpetrator - especially in light of recent reminders of how much former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon hated Arafat and would have loved to have had him liquidated.

What Netanyahu means by "utterly rejects" will become clear very soon.  What we all ought to fear, though, is that the troops at AIPAC, the brain trust at WINEP (and, of course, Elliott Abrams at the Council on Foreign Relations), and the pastors aligned with the Rev. John Hagee and the useful idiots of CUFI will be rallied to the halls of Congress, websites at Foreign Policy, and pulpits of Christian Zionist congregations across the land in a crusade to stop the negotiations in their tracks.

Mr. Obama will likely need to play all the cards in his grasp, and any new ones he can draw, to win this hand.  The stakes are enormous.  If Bibi and pals succeed in derailing this train, they may also succeed in blowing up the tracks leading to any peaceful and timely resolution, not only of the issue of Iran's nuclear program, but also the issue of the horrific war in Syria, and the rekindled civil war in Iraq.

Elliott Abrams and Hasan Rouhani's siren song

My latest at Your Middle East.  Here's the tease:

Elliott Abrams' intention – as is Mr. Netanyahu's – is to do whatever he can to sabotage any chance of a diplomatic accommodation with Iran that might leave that country any shred of a nuclear program - and, for that matter, any shred of dignity on the international stage, writes John Robertson.


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