Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

December 3, 2008

Remember this simple catchphrase for priorities: “It’s the economy, stupid”?

Many think that should be the watchword for the new President Barack Obama.  But a confusing and dangerous miasma of foreign policy challenges lurks and lurches ahead. Without carefully applied wisdom, the United States could make matters worse on a wide range of international fronts and issues…

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two Blackberris and some light reading.
(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Yesterday, two think tanks said the U.S. should move away from Iraq and work like the devil on the nuclear covetous Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran.

The Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations said it is time to make peace in the Middle east as a “top priority.”  For the past six years under President George W. Bush, U.S. foreign policy in the region has been dominated by Iraq, said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at Brookings, and Richard Haass, president of the Council.

Now the two agree the real problem is Iran.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Nuclear aspirant: Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran

One difficulty with this line of thinking is that, depending on the day, the think tank report one considers, and the newspaper headline, America faces stadium full of “top priorities.”

In Russia, Medvedev and Putin believe they should be tops on the Obama agenda.  Mr. Medvedev even threatened to deploy nuclear armed missiles in Eastern Europe unles and until the U.S. backed off of its missile defense ambitions with Poland and the Czech Republic.

And the Medvedev/Putin thrust cannot be overlooked: the two had no qualms about invading Georgia to get the attention of the U.S. and NATO: and it worked.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits a ballistic missile ...
Russia’s Medvedev, in front of a startegic Russian missile, said his missile advances will overwhelm U.S. defensive measures in the next few years.
AFP/Pool/File/Dmitry Astakhov

Terrorism could be the number one priority.  Just yesterday the U.S. Director of National Security said in essence that the Pakistani Islamist radical militant group  Lashkar-e-Taiba  blew up Mubai, India, last week, killing nearly 200.

On the same day, yesterday, a group of wise men said the U.S. can expect to face a biological or chemical attack.

Is another 9-11 in America’s future?  And are we ready to defend or respond?

Pakistan itself might lay claim to Mr. Obama’s top priority.  Bankrupt, last weekend rioters ripped through the nations largest city, the Pakistani Army was pinned down by terrorists in the tribal areas, and the nuclear-armed government was under fire from all domestic and international sides over Mumbai.

A Pakistani newspaper wondered yesterday if the Army was about to break with the elected government of mr. Zardari and his Minister Mr. Gilani.

Then there are a few small matters with China, North Korea and you name it.

Oh and there are just a few domestic realities and campaign promises that need our next president’s attention: OPEC and oil, drill or not to drill, schools and education, tax relief, jobs and unemployment,health care, AIDS and the list goes on.

You won’t convince me for a second that the modern miracle of multi-tasking and several Blackberries will resolve this poisonous soup.

America needs to take a deep breath and close its eyes: too much Obama-mania could cause one not to think.

Mr. Obama, the United States, all Americans and all Western allies are in for some very hard work, sacrifices of an unknown nature, and difficult decisions.

Here’s a simple truth: The age of simplicity is over.

*****

From Wikipedia:

It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton‘s successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy developments such as the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf war. The phrase, coined by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, refers to the notion that Clinton was a better choice because Bush had not adequately addressed the economy, which had recently undergone a recession.

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Experts Warn Barack Obama of ‘Hornet’s Nest’ in Middle East, Including Nuclear Iran

December 2, 2008

Iran poses the greatest foreign policy challenge to the new president with Tehran on course to produce a nuclear bomb in the first year of an Obama administration, an unprecedented coalition of top think tanks warned yesterday.

Barack Obama must follow through on his promises of direct talks with Tehran and engage the Middle East region as a whole if he is to halt a looming crisis that could be revisited on the United States, the experts warned.

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two BlackBerries….
.(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

“Diplomacy is not guaranteed to work: it is not,” Richard Hass, one of the authors said. “But the other options – military action or living with an Iranian weapon are sufficiently unattractive for it to warrant serious commitment.”

The warnings came in a report called “Restoring the Balance,” a Middle East strategy for the incoming president drafted by the Council for Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. Gary Samore, one of the authors, said the level of alarm over the “hornet’s nest” facing the new president in the Middle East, and the need for the swift adoption of previously untested approach, had inspired the unprecedented decision to write policy for him. “New administrations can choose new policies but they can’t choose next contexts,” Mr. Samore said. “This is what they inherit.”

By

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world
/us_and_americas/us_elections/article5275647.ece

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Ahmadinejad

Related:
 Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

Obama’s strong-willed national security team

November 30, 2008
With Clinton as secretary of State, retired Marine Gen. James Jones Jr. as national security advisor and Gates remaining in Defense, Obama will have a choice among often starkly differing views.
By Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times
November 30, 2008
Reporting from Washington — President-elect Barack Obama says he wants to lead an administration where strong-willed senior officials are ready to argue forcefully for differing points of view.

It appears that in two months, he’ll get his wish, and then some.

Obama’s new national security team is led by three veteran officials who have differed with each other — and with the president-elect — on the full menu of security issues, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, nuclear weapons and Arab-Israel conflict.

The president-elect is expected on Monday to begin introducing a team that includes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), whom he has chosen as secretary of State; retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr., tapped to be the new national security advisor; and Robert M. Gates, who has agreed to stay on as Defense secretary.

Clinton, Gates, Jones

Carolyn Kaster / AP; Roslan Rahman / AFP/Getty Images; Dennis Cook / AP
THE TEAM: No longer a rival, Clinton and Obama hold similar positions on many issues. Gates, center, is admired by the Obama team despite significant differences over nuclear weapons policy. Jones has separated himself from the Obama playbook on a few issues, including troop withdrawal.

Their collaboration isn’t likely to be as contentious as the first-term Bush administration battles between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. Clinton, Gates and Jones have worked smoothly, with the only visible clashes coming between Clinton and Gates’ deputies over Iraq.

But Obama will have some clear choices among their views, which differ in nuance in some cases and more starkly in others. Obama appears to be determined to keep them in line; advisors say he believes the Pentagon has become too strong in the Bush years, and he wants to reassert White House control.

Some American supporters of Israel have already been buzzing over the potential for conflict between Clinton and Jones on Arab-Israeli issues.

Jones, an admired former Marine commandant and supreme allied commander of NATO, was appointed last November as a Bush administration envoy charged with trying to improve the often dysfunctional Palestinian security forces. As part of that assignment, he drafted a report that caused a stir in Israel by criticizing the Israeli Defense Forces’ activities in the Palestinian territories.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-security30-2008nov30,0,7160819.story

For Obama, No Higher Priority Than Arab-Israeli Peace

November 21, 2008

The election of Barack Obama to be the 44th president is profoundly historic. We have at long last been able to come together in a way that has eluded us in the long history of our great country. We should celebrate this triumph of the true spirit of America.

By Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski
The Washington Post

Election Day celebrations were replicated in time zones around the world, something we have not seen in a long time. While euphoria is ephemeral, we must endeavor to use its energy to bring us all together as Americans to cope with the urgent problems that beset us.

When Obama takes office in two months, he will find a number of difficult foreign policy issues competing for his attention, each with strong advocates among his advisers. We believe that the Arab-Israeli peace process is one issue that requires priority attention.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/11/2
0/AR2008112003008.html?hpid=
opinionsbox1

The Testing of Obama Rolls On

November 20, 2008

The ink had barely dried on the final vote count when the testing of President-elect Barack Obama began.

One of the first was by Vladimir Putin’s puppet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declaring that if the United States continued with its plan to deploy 10 ABM interceptor missiles into Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, then Russia would move short range missiles into Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic, targeting Europe. Russia’s excuse for this threat is that they were forced into it because the U.S. defensive system could be converted to an offensive system, targeting Russia. This is a contrived argument and Mr. Putin knows it is groundless.

By James Lyons
The Washington Times

What’s more disturbing is that Mr. Putin’s European proxies like the former German defense minister, Peter Struck, currently the parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, called Mr. Medvedev’s threat understandable and blamed President Bush for provoking Russia. This is incredible since he knows Russia was invited to participate in this very limited defensive shield whose fundamental purpose is to destroy any ballistic missile fired at Europe or the United States from a “rogue state” such as Iran.

During Mr. Medvedev’s recent visit to Washington, he appeared to soften his opening salvo by saying he hoped a compromise on the planned defensive shield deployment could be worked out with the new administration. He suggested a potential global system of protection against rogue states or perhaps use of existing systems to defeat such an attack. Existing systems clearly will be inadequate for this task. Mr. Medvedev concluded his comments by saying Russia will not make the first move.

With NATO’s weak response to Russia’s blatant invasion of Georgia, plus Russia’s increasing control of energy resources provided Europe, Mr. Putin sees the defensive shield issue as another opportunity to embarrass and further weaken U.S. influence while furthering his own agenda. If Mr. Putin can cause President-elect Obama to eventually back down on the deployment of the defensive shield, then Mr. Putin’s influence in dealing with the Eastern European border states, as well as the rest of Europe, will be significantly strengthened. Mr. Putin and his KGB cronies can be expected to further expand their control over the energy systems fueling Europe, as well as promoting the gas cartel.

Just last week, we saw the European Union reverse its position on withdrawing from negotiating with Russia on a “strategic Partnership” – the negotiations now will proceed even though Russia has not lived up to its obligations in the EU-brokered agreement with Georgia. Led by France and Germany, the EU has essentially caved and will resume business as usual. After all, since they have mortgaged their energy requirements, they cannot afford to have Mr. Putin turn off the energy valves as he did to the Ukraine in the winter of 2006.

I believe Mr. Obama will come under intense pressure from our European “partners” to cancel the deployment of defensive missiles to Poland. With no change in Iran’s drive to achieve a nuclear weapon capability, we would be sending all the wrong signals by canceling the deployment.

Related:
 Russia’s Putin and the Great Deception

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov
/20/testing-has-begun/

Iran Now Said to Have Enough Nuclear Material For Bomb

November 20, 2008

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

The figures detailing Iran’s progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country’s main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.

“They clearly have enough material for a bomb,” said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. “They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that’s another matter.”

Iranian Shahab-2 (L) and Shahab-3 missiles stand on display ... 
Iranian Shahab-2 (L) and Shahab-3 missiles stand on display in front of a large portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a square in south Tehran in September 2008. Many experts believe Iran now has enough nuclear material for at least one bomb and has delivery options with missiles.(AFP/File/Atta Kenare)

Related:
Israel Scared, Wants U.S. More Engagement on Iran
.
 
Iran increases stockpile of uranium

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/
world/middleeast/20nuke.html?_r=1&hp

Israel Scared, Wants U.S. More Engagement on Iran

November 20, 2008

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the U.S. and Europe should put aside differences with China and Russia over human rights and missile-defense issues to focus on working together to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends the opening of ... 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran November 19, 2008.REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN)

“The triad of nuclear proliferation, radical Muslim terror, and rogue states, epitomized in the Iran case, can be defeated only through a paradigm shift in international relationships,” Barak said in an interview at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv late yesterday. 

By Gwen Ackerman and Calev Ben-David, Bloomberg

Barak said criticism of Russia’s actions in Chechnya and China’s human rights record are hurting efforts to put up a united front against Iran. He also said that U.S. plans to deploy missiles in Eastern Europe — which the Americans say are aimed at countering Iran and which Moscow perceives as a threat — also aren’t helpful.

“The other issues are not as urgent,” he said.

The U.S. and its European Union allies, who accuse Iran of using its nuclear energy program as a cover for developing a weapon, are pressing for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions. Iran has rejected UN demands to halt its work on enriching uranium, which can be used to fuel a power station or form the core of a bomb.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, Israeli Prime Minister ...
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, center, attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008.(AP Photo/Gali Tibbon, Pool)

“The time for sanctions is still there, but it is short,” said Barak, 66, who heads Israel’s Labor Party and is the country’s former prime minister. “The way I see to make it effective is to cut through the psychological obstacles about cooperating with Russia and China and open a new discourse.”

Read the rest:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=
20601085&sid=amPtKPQhJ82w

Israel says will boycott U.N. forum on racism

November 19, 2008

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Wednesday that Israel had made a final decision not to participate in a U.N. forum on racism and urged other countries to boycott what she termed an “anti-Israel tribunal.”

The United Nations said it regretted the decision.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni speaks to the media after ... 
Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni speaks to the media after her meeting with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, October 26, 2008.(Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in Geneva in April, is a follow-up to a 2001 summit in Durban, South Africa on the same issues.

Israel and the United States walked out of the first conference in protest over draft texts branding Israel as a racist and apartheid state — language that was later dropped.

In a speech to visiting U.S. Jewish leaders, Livni said she announced last February that Israel would not participate in the 2009 meeting unless it was clear it would not be used “as a platform for further anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic” activity.

She said documents prepared for next year’s forum showed it was “turning once again into an anti-Israeli tribunal, singling out and delegitimizing the State of Israel.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081119/ts_nm/us_israel_conference;_
ylt=Av7maFbmBMM_JfVVnngZ.e6s0NUE

Israeli Air Force chief: We are ready to deal with Iran

November 19, 2008

“We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us” in order to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, IAF commander Maj. -Gen. Ido Nehushtan told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Tuesday.

Nehushtan told the magazine that whether a military strike is eventually decided upon is a political question and not an issue of Israel’s military capabilities.A strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities “is a political decision,” the IAF commander said, “but if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table… The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us.”

From the Jerusalem Post


Above: Brig.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan, commander of the Israeli Air Force.
.

When asked by the paper whether the Israeli military was able to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are spread around the country and partly located underground, Nehushtan said, “Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question.”

Read the rest:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=122640477112
0&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Israeli Tanks Move into Gaza; Mortar, Rocket Fire from Palestinian Militants

November 18, 2008

Israeli tanks forged into the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, drawing mortar fire from Palestinian militants and intensifying violence that has chipped away at a tenuous cease-fire.

By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer

Israel and Hamas have been trading fire for two weeks after nearly five months of relative quiet. The June 19 truce is due to expire next month, and both sides might be trying to dictate more favorable terms in anticipation of the agreement’s renewal.

The Israeli military described the activity as “a routine operation to uncover explosive devices near the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip.” It said two mortars were fired at troops, causing no injuries or damage.

Militant groups said they fired both mortars and rockets.

Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a protest in Gaza ... 
Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a protest in Gaza November 18, 2008. The rally on Tuesday was organized by the Hamas movement against the arrest of Hamas members by the security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA)

The tanks, backed by a bulldozer and military jeep, rumbled about a quarter-mile into the tiny seaside strip, residents and Gaza security officials said. Residents said they leveled lands along the border east of the city of Rafah. It was the first ground action in a week.

The tanks did not respond to the Palestinian fire.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081118/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_
palestinians;_ylt=AmVOQgaLgmgkAeryU5QHwYkUewgF