Saturday, June 30, 2012

A US Attack on Iran's Nuke Facilities is Not an Act of War (?!)

Come again?

But that, evidently, is the view of a US military planner discussing how 2013 might provide a window of opportunity for such an attack:

We would employ a totally stealthy force of F-22s, B-2s and Jassms [joint air-to-surface standoff missiles] that are launched from F-15Es and [Block 40] F-16s,” says the third planning veteran. “We should give Iran advanced warning that we will damage and likely destroy its nuclear facilities. It is not an act of war against Iran, the Iranian people or Islam. It is a pre-emptive attack solely against their nuclear facilities and the military targets protecting them. We will take extraordinary measures to protect against collateral damage.”

More details at Greg Scoblete's Compass post at Real Clear World.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Arab World's "Fear Factor"

Thomas Friedman pens one of his not-so-bad essays in yesterday's NY Times, piggybacking on a Foreign Policy essay from Daniel Brumberg about, as TF puts, how "the Arab awakenings happened because the Arab peoples stopped fearing their leaders — but they stalled because the Arab peoples have not stopped fearing each other."  Brumberg's (and, to some extent, TF's) focus is on Egypt, and especially on how Egypt's new president, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, will need to reach out to Egyptian liberals, secularists, and Christians,  assure them that they and Egypt's Islamists can work together in common cause, and then sustain that sense of unity, especially against the military junta that seems determined to keep its collective hand firmly on the levers of the state.

Friedman even goes so far as to endorse a US policy of reaching out to, and working with, the new Egyptian president, notwithstanding his Muslim Brotherhood origins.  I suppose TF will be taking some hits from those many commentators who decry Morsi's ascendancy in Egypt as the spear-tip of the coming Islamist take-over of the Middle East.  Thus, former IDF general Ephraim Sneh, likewise at Foreign Policy, foresees an Islamist tidal wave about to sweep the Middle East, leaving American - and Israeli - interests gasping for air in its wake.

If Sneh and his ilk truly fear such an outcome, seems to me they'd better hope that Morsi does indeed prove to be a unifier, and that the generals (who, with Egypt's supreme judiciary in their pocket, were able to dissolve parliament and neuter the presidency even before the outcome of the election was declared) will afford him some degree of real authority and forestall massive protests returning to the streets of Cairo and elsewhere.  Some have already opined that the generals have, in fact, set Morsi up to fail; again, they have the upper hand politically, while the Egyptian economy is on the ropes and the Egyptian people are desperate for a better life.  Morsi will need to deliver - fast - some improvement, or at least some reason for Egyptians to believe that better times are around the bend.  If he's thwarted by the generals, or by foreign actors intent on wrecking any chance for an Islamist-led government to take hold and be successful in Egypt, he's likely to get pinned with the blame; people will return to the streets.  And let's not forget - Morsi garnered only about 52% of the vote.  Almost half of those who voted, voted against him - for, in fact, Hosni Mubarak's former prime minister, whose candidacy offered a return to the authoritarian-style law and order that had been the Egyptian default mode for the last 60 years.

A final quibble with TF: he writes about how the Egyptians need to write a new social contract if democracy is to take root.  Perhaps so.  But to assert - in the same breath - that "America midwifed that social contract-writing in Iraq" - as if Iraq, thanks to the US, has provided a model for Egypt?!  Sorry, TF, but that "social contract" that America "midwifed" in Iraq seems not to be working out so well - and it's hardly something for which you, or any American, ought to be slapping your back for a job well-done.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jimmy Carter's Challenge to Obama

In today's NYT, an op-ed from former president Jimmy Carter that's reminiscent of a phrase Mr. Obama likely knows from playing hoops:

In your face.

To quote:

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

Does Mr. Carter specifically call out Obama?

No.

Is Mr. Carter himself blameless on the human rights score?

No. Right up to his overthrow in 1979,  Iran's Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi could count on the stalwart support of the Carter White House, even as the shah's SAVAK secret police was incarcerating, torturing, and "disappearing" ant-shah dissenters.

But as Glenn Greenwald (in his own encomium to both Carter's and Misha Glenney's NYT ope-ds earlier today at Salon), Mr. Carter is the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, and did a hell of a lot more to earn that did the new shiny-bright Mr. Obama early in his presidency.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Amigo McCain is at it Again re Syria Intervention

Report at Business Week that John McCain is yet again calling for US-led air strikes against Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria.

While opposing the use of U.S. ground troops, the Arizona senator said the U.S. should give weapons to the Syrian rebels and establish “sanctuaries” in the war-torn country that would be protected by allied air power.

“For the United States to stand by and for the president of the United States not to say a word on behalf of these people is shameful,” McCain said today at a Bloomberg Government conference in Washington on defense strategy.

With Iran aiding the Syrian government and Russia providing weapons to the regime, “it’s not a fair fight,” McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “Here we are, standing by, watching a massacre go on.”

Fortunately, Michigan's Carl Levin and (Republican) Mike Rogers are holding the line.

Several weeks ago I blogged about whether or not McCain had ever learned to play chess.  Chess, of course, is a game the mastery of which entails planning several moves ahead as well as foreseeing contingencies.  One would hope that after an Iraq "intervention" for which McCain became cheerleader in chief (and which he still seems to believe was a "victory" for the US), and which became a debacle largely because Bush and the neocons failed to foresee contingencies, McCain would have been left more wary of where new US interventions in the Middle East - Syria, specifically - might lead.

Instead, the Chief Amigo seems unable to get beyond conceptualizing foreign-policy decision-making as the equivalent of coming to the rescue in a schoolyard brawl.

(And, by the way, on the matter of the US victory in Iraq, and what we left behind . . . I recommend highly Ned Parker's new essay in Foreign Affairs, where he makes it quite clear - with a plethora of evidence - that Iraq is descending into failed-state status.  Not recommended, but nonetheless worth noting, are the two responses to Parker's essay at the Foreign Affairs site.  They stand as textbook examples of poorly supported refutations designed to cover the boss's ass.)

Hey WINEP: What About the Gazans?

In today's NYT appears an op-ed by two denizens of the Israel lobby's favorite think-tank (WINEP) encouraging the US to exercise its influence (say what?) to push Turkey and Israel toward a reconciliation on the matter of the Mavi Marmara incident.

If you've forgotten -  IDF commandos boarded a Turkish freighter that was trying to run Israel's blockade of Gaza and provide humanitarian assistance to its people.  The ensuing mayhem led to the deaths of nine on board (one of them a US citizen - not a peep from Mr. Obama's people) and the injuring of some of the commandos.  Since then, Turkey's government has demanded an apology from Mr. Netanyahu - unsurprisingly, to no avail.

Now, the afore-mentioned WINEPers (Messrs. Herzog and Cagaptay) insist that the time is right for a reconciliation, if only the US is willing to jump in and push the two sides together.  Their reasoning is strictly real politik: common interests in thwarting Iran's ambitions, common concerns about Syria and the Arab Spring in general.

But, as perhaps one ought to expect from the Likud's favorite think-tank in DC, not a word about why the Turkish flotilla was trying to run the blockade in the first place: to alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza.

Nor is it surprising that the word "Palestinians" never appears in the op-ed.  The turbulence in Syria and Egypt (and Yemen), along with Bibi's constant hyper-inflating of the Iranian "nuclear threat," has provided perfect cover for the Israelis to keep Gaza in lock-down and off the media radar.

Something else that Herzog and Cagaptay don't address: Turkish public opinion and the possible reactions to a reconciliation with Israel.  What they outline as part of any deal includes essentially a non-apology apology from the Israel government, supposedly then opening the way to Israel and Turkey (as they put it) "making nice."

Somehow, I'm hard pressed to believe that that's gonna fly with the Turkish people . . . who, by the way, get to vote.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Multiple Axes of Egypt's Current Crisis

Hussein Ibish (at Now Lebanon) has a superbly cogent analysis of where things now stand in Egypt after SCAF's moves to disband the parliament and perhaps eviscerate the presidency . . . and also notes that a judical ruling that may come down today may again reduce the Muslim Brotherhood to illegal status as a political party.

For many Egyptians and outside observers, the recent moves by the courts and the military—even without denying Mursi the presidency, assuming he has really won it legitimately, or again illegalizing the Muslim Brotherhood—already represent a coup d’état by forces associated with the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. Yet the results of the presidential election suggest that there is a very significant popular constituency for these forces, assuming that Shafik was widely understood as representing them.

Egyptian society, in other words, is deeply divided along multiple axes. Islamists and their allies among revolutionary forces, who prefer anyone over remnants of the former regime, are likely to view ongoing events as a dictatorial plot by a junta to thwart democracy. Most Shafik voters, by contrast, may well see the developments as an unpleasant but necessary step to forestall Islamist domination, which would, they undoubtedly feel, lead to an even more oppressive system, albeit backed up by some degree of popular mandate.

A large number of liberal revolutionaries who were crucial in bringing down the former regime have adopted a stance condemning both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military and its allies. And it’s likely that most long-suffering Egyptian voters are ideologically unaffiliated and simply want jobs, economic security, law and order, and to have their votes recognized rather than bypassed by decrees.

The Muslim Brotherhood traditionally doesn’t like confrontation, but it may be left with little choice and can try to deploy new leverage by claiming a popular mandate. The military has the guns and, for now at least, control of most state institutions. An accommodation is hard to envisage.

The coming months in Egypt, therefore, are almost certainly going to test the relative strengths of these forces. And this struggle will come at the expense of the Egyptian people.

 

I wonder how Jordanians - and King Abdullah II - will respond to all of this.

An Opportunity for Obama to Earn That Nobel Peace Prize

The situation in Egypt seems to change almost by the hour, but the trend lines suggest that the military junta that has been calling the shots ever since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak (an ouster in which the junta was more than complicit) is determined to castrate any sources of potential threat to its dominance.  They have forced Egypt's top judiciary to issue a judgment that disbanded the recently elected Islamist-dominated parliament.  Now, after a presidential election regarded to be the first essentially free and fair one in a major Ara country, they have decided that the power of the new president (who according to the latest reports will be the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Muhammad Morsi) will be quite circumscribed by prerogatives that the junta (SCAF - Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) insists that it must retain.  SCAF seems to be trying to calm things down by insisting that it will indeed turn over effective power to the newly elected president.

And if you believe that . . . .

For months, commentators such as Rami Khouri have been trying to remind us that that march to democracy that the "Arab Spring" seemed to have launched would be long and slow, but nonetheless inexorable.  We can only hope that Khouri et al will be proved right on that score, but as Egyptian journalist Sara Khorshid notes in today's NYT, at this point the SCAF regime has used its position of power to stack the deck and deal itself by far the strongest hand.

And the United States, despite its high-falutin' pro-democracy rhetoric in re Syria and Libya, has been content to stand by and watch.  As Khorsid notes,

Despite the army’s blatant power grabs, the Obama administration has had no qualms about restoring American military aid, waiving a Congressional requirement that links military assistance to the protection of basic freedoms, so as to preserve the United States’ longtime alliance with Egypt’s rulers.

America could have sided with the Egyptian people if it had wanted to. But the question is whether the American government really has the will to see Egypt become a democracy.


On the basis of his highly praised 2009 Cairo speech and similar expressions of "Yes We Can" hopefulness for the world scene, Mr. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  As critics pointed out at the time, he'd done next to nothing to really earn it.  And as Mr. Obama's adopted mode of peace-making "drones on" (so to speak), perhaps it's folly to hope that at this juncture he'll utter more than a sotto voce tsk tsk as SCAF dashes the hopes of Tahrir Square.  And after all, SCAF = stability . . . a military machine that relies on US weapons-makers (thereby sustaining American jobs), and that understands that its continued supply of kaboom-toys also means dampening down the Islamist-dominated anti-Israel Egyptian "street."  Obama, SCAF, Congress are all on the same page, on both scores.

Yet, as Ms. Khorshid concludes, 

If the Obama administration genuinely supports the Egyptian people in their pursuit of freedom, then it should realize that democracy will take root only through the revolutionary path that started on the streets in January 2011 — not through the dubious ways of the Mubarak-appointed military council.

She's right.  And if Barack Obama has any hope of restoring some portion of that bright shiny luster that got him elected in 2008 (and that he'll surely need if he's to win in November 2012), he'd best acknowledge that. . . and do something to show both his fellow Democrats and Middle Eastern democrats that the 2009 Cairo speech that helped get him that Nobel Prize was something more than super-heated oratory.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Iraq and the US's "Liberation" Yardstick

This morning's news reports are full of accounts of the coordinated bombings that have killed at least 56 people in and around Baghdad, as well as in the southern city of Hilla and in Balad, north of the capital.  Some of those killed were police trainees; the majority were Shii pilgrims participating in the commemoration of the death of the 8th-century Imam Musa al-Khadim.

Obviously, the latent sectarian tensions that were stirred up by Curious Boy George's Iraq Adventure continue to tear at that country's social and political fabric, even as Sunni fighters from Iraq move across the border to fight Mr. Assad's forces in Syria and Syrian Kurds stream into the Kurdish area of Iraq.  Even with its ramped-up oil production and the promise of vast revenues to the central government in Baghdad, Iraq teeters at the edge of failed state-dom.  It government may be the most corrupt on the planet.  The old principles of patronage and first taking care of one's own, as opposed to the interests of the Iraqi "nation" (however that may be constituted, if ever), are deeply rooted - no more so that in the office of the prime minister, where Mr. al-Maliki has surrounded himself with a security apparatus that might have made Saddam Hussein proud.

Yet many experts seem to view Iraq as in a kind of holding pattern that will inevitably be able to land in happier times.  Why?  This morning's report at Foreign Policy recites the explanatory mantra: 

But, the country is not expected to return to the levels of violence that occurred between 2006 and 2007.

Therefore, not to worry.  Iraq's really OK.  We've liberated them.  (Hey, didn't Rummy tell us in 2003: freedom is messy.) Such bloodshed is simply Iraq's new normal.  We don't need to care.

At Salon, Glenn Greenwald writes about how Obama's never-ending drone campaign may be hastening the day of another 9-11 attack in the US.  Perhaps we ought to add the wall-paperization of Iraq's sectarian violence to the reasons why so many of "them" might still hate "us."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Are Republicans Intentionally Trashing the US Economy?

. . . all because they want to get rid of Obama?

Michael Cohen makes the case in The Guardian, and I recommend the entire piece. He concludes:

Whether you believe the Republicans are engaging in purposely destructive fiscal behavior or are simply fiscally incompetent, it almost doesn't matter. It most certainly is bad economic policy and that should be part of any national debate not only on who is to blame for the current economic mess, but also what steps should be taken to get out from underneath it.

But don't hold your breath on that happening. Presidents get blamed for a bad economy; and certainly, Republicans are unlikely to take responsibility for the country's economic woes. The obligation will be on Obama to make the case that it is the Republicans, not he, who is to blame – a difficult, but not impossible task.

In the end, that might be the worst part of all – one of two major political parties in America is engaging in scorched-earth economic policies that are undercutting the economic recovery, possibly on purpose, and is forcing job-killing austerity measures on the states. And they have paid absolutely no political price for doing so. If anything, it won them control of the House in 2010, and has kept win Obama's approval ratings in the political danger zone. It might even help them get control of the White House.

Sabotage or not, it's hard to argue with "success" – and it's hard to imagine we've seen the last of it, whoever wins in November.

A Turning Point in Syria?

The AP reports (via Time) from Beirut another blood-letting that killed 17 civilians in Daraa in Syria, along with, evidently for the first time, sustained fighting in the streets of Damascus itself. 

The Damascus violence was a dramatic shift, since the capital has been relatively quiet compared with other Syrian cities throughout the uprising. Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s largest, are under the firm grip of Assad’s security forces.

“Yesterday was a turning point in the conflict,” said Maath al-Shami, an opposition activist in the capital. “There were clashes in Damascus that lasted hours. The battle is in Damascus now.”

Blasts shook the neighborhoods of Qaboun and Barzeh until about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday.

“We spent a night of fear,” one resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. The resident said the shooting and explosions in the capital “were the worst so far.”

As tanks fired shells, troops clashed with rebels in the two neighborhoods, al-Shami said via Skype. He said at least four people were killed.

The battles in the two neighborhoods began during the day Friday, when troops opened fire on anti-Assad protest marches, witnesses said. Also Friday, troops clashed with rebels from the Free Syrian Army in Damascus’ Kfar Souseh district in fierce fighting sparked when the armed fighters attacked a military checkpoint in the area.

The FSA, which groups defectors from the Syrian military with protesters who have taken up weapons, had made an unusually public appearance Thursday night in Kfar Souseh, overtly joining a large opposition rally. The bolder moves were a strong sign the ragtag group is pushing to take its fight to the regime’s base of power.

 

The US Military's Threat to American Democracy

. . . not that, realistically speaking, all that much is left of an American Democracy increasingly succumbing to special and corporate interests.
But the CNAS's Andrew Exum spotlights in a new World Politics Review article (subscription) a late-April NYT report on how Congress was able to gather the courage to reject a request from Adm. William McRaven, director of SOCOM (Special Operations Command), that would have given him much greater latitude and autonomy in setting up and launching special operations in faraway places.  As the NYT reports,
The request, which included seeking approval to train foreign internal security forces that had been off-limits to the American military, was the latest effort by the command’s top officer, Adm. William H. McRaven, to make it easier for his elite forces to respond faster to emerging threats and better enable allies to counter the same dangers.
Given the command’s influence in shaping American strategy toward extremism, the proposal seemed to have momentum. President Obama and his Pentagon’s leadership are tapping Special Operations troops more to hunt militants and train foreign security forces in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. And Admiral McRaven is a White House favorite, especially after he oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
But in a rare rebuke to the admiral and his command, powerful House and Senate officials as well as the State Department, and ultimately the deputy cabinet-level aides who met at the White House on the issue on May 7, rejected the changes. They sent the admiral and his lawyers back to the drawing board with orders to use security assistance programs already in place, particularly one created last year by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the defense secretary at the time, Robert M. Gates, for just these types of issues.
“Right now, anything Socom wants they pretty much get — they’re hot,” said one senior Congressional aide involved in the deliberations, using the command’s nickname. “But this was a nonstarter. They were overly zealous.”
The episode offers a rare window into the sometimes uneasy relationship between the powerful Special Operations Command, whose dynamic boss, Admiral McRaven, is pushing hard to achieve broad changes to his forces, and the more traditional interests of Congress, the State Department and some top military commanders. In this case, Congressional and State Department officials shared the command’s goals, but lawmakers said it was moving too fast and its request was causing “unnecessary confusion and friction.”
Exum correctly highlights how such moves by McRaven pose a serious threat to the interests of American democracy:
In the past, special operators were content to remain in the shadows. But a slew of recent movies and books -- especially about Navy SEALs, who even starred in their own Hollywood movie! -- have revealed an organization that has grown more comfortable marketing its personnel and capabilities. As one special operations commander bluntly told me, "We have a good story, and we should tell it."
Despite the publicity blitz, though, U.S. congressmen and other elected or appointed officials do not understand much about the capabilities and limits of special operations forces. Fewer and fewer military veterans serve in the U.S. Congress, and to my imperfect knowledge, no key U.S. congressman has relevant experience in special operations. Senators such as John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Jack Reed have never shied away from asking incisive, hard questions about the military in which they once served. But few if any congressmen know enough about the organization and activities of special operations forces to ask similarly focused questions. 
This trend is especially worrying considering the ease with which the executive branch of the U.S. government has found it to utilize special operations forces. President Barack Obama has deployed special operations forces to Central Africa, Yemen and Somalia without any congressional authorization for these forces to engage in combat. On the one hand, Americans are not likely to question whether or not special operations forces on short missions to rescue hostages or to seize a terrorist had the proper congressional authorization. No one particularly cares if Navy SEAL snipers kill a group of pirates -- because aside from the SEALs’ obvious popularity, these kinds of missions are one-off events. 
On the other hand, few Americans, who on the whole are war-weary, realize that the U.S. military is waging a more comprehensive and enduring campaign in Yemen. For all intents and purposes, the United States is waging a war against the enemies of the state of Yemen -- for the most part working with and through local Yemeni forces, but also conducting direct kinetic strikes with drones or other weaponry. Good luck, though, trying to find the formal declaration of war that preceded that campaign.
In addition, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, as successful as it was, highlights a dangerous precedent by which U.S. special operations forces are placed under the operational control of the U.S. intelligence community. Placing those forces outside the operational control of the U.S. military removes many of the mechanisms for accountability and transparency that are hallmarks of both the U.S. military and the relationship between the U.S. military and the legislative branch of the U.S. government.
There is reason to believe that bureaucratic rivalries will check the ambitions of U.S. Special Operations Command going forward in the same way they did in April. But the U.S. Congress, in particular, should start asking harder questions of the way in which the U.S. military's special operations forces are operating globally. The past 10 years have left the White House with a remarkable amount of leeway to prosecute the war against transnational terrorist groups in ways that it sees fit. Special operations forces have been at the tip of the spear. It's past time for Americans to begin reining them both back in.  [my emphasis]

Friday, June 8, 2012

Does US Truly Want to Help Syria's People?

Tony Karon at Time Global Spin lays out the realities confronting any hopes of Syria spinning off into a full-fledged civil war - one that already has sucked in all of Syria's neighbors as well as other regional and global powers.  Meanwhile, reports of new massacres large and small - most recently at Hama, again - continue to roll in.

TK makes it plain that despite the hectoring of the Three Amigos, the US and its allies remain reluctant to intervene militarily; more injury than salving would come from that.  Rather, the only significant leverage that might be brought to bear on Assad will likely have to come from his allies.  And the ally with the most at stake is Iran.

Have Obama's people entertained the possibility that Iran just might be persuaded to drop its support for Assad's butchery if the US et al were to offer, in return, backing off the ever harsher sanctions on Iran's oil sales, agreeing to limited nuclear enrichment, and proposing talks that might lead to a "grand bargain" in the region.  Netanyahu and his acolytes in Congress would scream bloody murder - that Obama was selling out Israel - but it's those same acolytes (like the aforementioned Amigos) who've been demanding the rescue of Syria's people.

And one might note that Iran's backing away from Assad might allow Iran's Hezbollah allies in Lebanon to recoup some of their social-justice halo that has been so badly tarnished by being linked to Assad via Hezbollah's relationship with Syria.

Many in the US foreign-policy establishment - and everyone associated with the Israel lobby - is looking to bring down the Iranian regime by bringing down Assad.  But as things now stand, Syria's people will keep getting butchered, Iran's people will endure ever more suffering as US-led sanction efforts ramp up (and the price they get for their diminishing oil exports goes down as a result of increased Iraqi and Libyan production) - and they will increasingly blame the US for the evils befalling them.

If Obama truly cares about the fate of Syria's people, or hopes to reclaim any of the shiny promise of his 2009 Cairo speech, he needs to reach out to Iran, with a serious offer that might induce Khamenei et al to back away from Assad.

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