BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

No Consequences Obama

10 January 2010
Rehovot, Israel

It’s a great time to be alive, if you happen to Islamic fundamentalist terrorist, fighting America and all it supposedly still stands for. Why is that? Because, whether you are holed up in a cave in Afghanistan, the mountains of Yemen, the Islamic Emirate of Gaza or a recently exposed secret Iranian nuclear site, there are no consequences for your actions. You can send suicide bombers, foment civil wars, plot mass murder, and expect nothing more than “good talking to” from American president, Barack Hussein Obama.

“Why do you say such things about such a distinguished statesman?” you ask. After all, didn’t he just win the Nobel peace prize after just three weeks in office? He gives hope to millions and the promise of change is in the air! Unfortunately, it is not quite clear to which millions he is giving hope or the type of change that is exactly promised. Consider the following.

On June 12, 2009 the Iranian people went to their voting booths and chose between two candidates that had been pre-selected by Ayatollah Khamenei himself. Since the Ayatollah had personally vetted both candidates, could he possibly care about which one actually won the election? A great many Iranians were dismayed when incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term. They turned to the street in peaceful protest, when Iran’s Guardian Council, which is appointed by the Ayatollah, conceded that the number of votes in fifty Iranian cities exceeded the number of registered voters. It seems that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had transferred Tammany Hall to Teheran.

Then Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed he had learned another new trick: the Chicago-style police riot. Thousands of protesters were tear-gassed and beaten. Hundreds were arrested. Scores were killed, perhaps more. All of this is documented in video uploaded by hundreds of daring Iranian citizen-journalists. Pictures flooded into Internet sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. The beatings, arrests and murders continued.

How did Barack Obama react? Certainly this Nobel Prize winner could bring hope and change to the people of Iran, who had been cheated of fair elections and them brutalized for protesting this fact. Obama told stated that the world was “watching.” This is a stark contrast to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to ensure the survival and success of liberty.

Obama is watching.

When the communist government of Poland started to crush the Solidarity Movement, President Reagan stated:

We view the current situation in Poland in the gravest terms, particularly the increasing use of force against an unarmed population and the violation of the basic civil rights of the Polish people.

Obama is watching.

President George W. Bush proclaimed in his second inaugural address:

“When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you.”

Obama is watching. Watching while people risk their lives to bring about the change that candidate Obama spoke of; dying in hopes of achieving the basic freedoms that President Obama spoke of in his (in)famous Cairo University speech of 4 June 2009. This is the change that President Obama has brought to the Middle East: no dictator, no terrorist, no Islamic radical need fear America, need fear democracy. It is something the radicals and terrorists have been hoping for!

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Middle East, Obama | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Between the Lines of Obama’s Pandering

President Obama’s whirl-wind tour of Saudi Arabia and Egypt earned him many kudos for stating things that previously were not said publicly by American or other world leaders. His speech covered many topics, but it left out important details, contained hidden messages and ignored important Middle East realities. And of course, he sugar-coated it with numerous quotes from the Koran, designed to evoke the applause the man needs more than oxygen.

On detainees
“I have unequivocally prohibited the use or torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.” Naturally, his Cairo audience applauded him.  Would they have applauded if he told them that his administration is now planning to use Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan as a replace for the tainted Guantanamo?

As MSNBC – hardly a fountainhead of conservatism – reported on June 3rd, the Obama administration is challenging an April 2 decision by U.S. District Judge John Bates that applied the Boumediene (the ruling that granted prisoners at Guantanamo habeas corpus rights to challenge their detention) ruling to some Bagram prisoners.   Administration mouthpieces are arguing that Bates’ ruling would for the first time in American history extend habeas corpus rights to non-Americans (in fact, Muslims) in a theater of war in a foreign territory.

On the Holocaust

“Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is 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.” Not surprisingly, there were no applause for the President’s admonishment.   Arab attempts to demonize Israel as a Nazi-like state have been going on for years, and this propaganda weapon has become increasingly potent.  Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah are unlikely to surrender it.

There were two audiences for this statement, actually.  One audience was sitting there is Cairo and other Arab capitals and metropolises.  The second one was in Israel.  Combined with the acknowledgment earlier in his speech that there are now 7 million Muslims in the US, the message was to Israel: you are small and your supporters in the US are now outnumbered. American Jewry was instrumental in Bill Clinton’s two victories; not so in Obama’s.

On Palestinian Responsibilities

For many years, the world has treated Palestinian, indeed, most matters related to Arab countries, with kit gloves. The standards applied to Israel were those that America and Europe applied to themselves (or at least told themselves they were). However, these same standards were not applied to the Arab world. It is why Hamas was able to launch 40,000 rockets and missiles at Israel over a two-year period without so much as a whimper from the Eurostinians, or America bogged down in two wars.

Now, President Obama arrives with the message “It is neither a sign of courage or power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” Adding to this, “Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build.  The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people.” Unfortunately, the PA must contend with burgeoning population: they fear the cadres of 18 -24 year-old unemployed young men more than they do the Israelis.

Once the undergrads start parsing these and other statements in Obama’s speech, they will see the numerous quotes from the Koran as the pandering they really were.  And maybe Israelis will start to calm down a bit, despite the harsh spotlight that was shined on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Obama, Palestine | , , , | Leave a comment

The other shoe dropping

From the ‘I told you so files’

On May 15th I posted a column to this site entitled “When will the other shoe drop?”  It analyzed a little-covered diplomatic scuffle that occurred on May 5th, when the US Assistant Secretary of State of State Rose Gottemoeller urged Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea to sign the non-proliferation treaty.  In his June 4th speech in Cairo, President Obama stated “I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not.  No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons . . . And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Propaganda Victory? Not likely!

If Israel were to sign the NPT treaty, it would theoretically open the door to IAEA inspections.  This means Dimona, the site of most of Israel’s nuclear research activities.  The reasoning goes like this: if Israel were to sign and admit inspectors, it would put pressure on Iran to give IAEA inspectors access to Iranian facilities, and also put pressure on them to start abiding by previously agreed upon limitations.  However, reason and Iran seldom go together.

Some would contend that signing the treaty Israel would score a major propaganda victory over Iran in the struggle to contain the latter’s nuclear development program.  This is shortsighted.

Israel has a well-documented public relations problem.  Even when it takes actions that are totally justified, it takes a beating in the court of world public opinion.  Signing the NPT would focus the non-proliferation spotlight on Israel.  Secondly, signing the NPT would cause Israel to incur many, many obligations vis-à-vis the treaty’s mandatory clauses.  Every time Israel hesitated to fully disclose its nuclear capabilities, failed to give IAEA inspectors full access or provide complete documentation, it would make front-page headlines.

Giving Away Bargaining Chips

Secondly, signing the NPT and fully living up to its commitments would be an intelligence bonanza for the Arab and Iranian governments.  They would know the exact extent of all of Israel’s nuclear development programs.  They would know what technologies were being used and how they are being used.  Israel’s nuclear program would then be a yardstick by which they could measure the need to accelerate their own domestic programs.
Israel has a range of options on this matter, but is going to find itself increasing constrained over the next several years.  The options are:
•  Not to sign NPT and continue the policy of deliberate ambiguity as far as its nuclear weapons program is concerned.  This policy probably has a shelf-life of two years, three years top.
•  Sign the NPT without any pre-conditions and regardless of the fact that Iran has dropped out of it.  This option is flawed for the reasons I stated above.
•  Attempt to cut a deal similar to the one India made with the Bush Administration.  President Obama is unlikely to be so generous, however, what if Israel were to sign a similar treaty with China, India or Russia?  Both China and Russia would benefit immensely in terms of their presence on the world stage, and both countries are quite resilient to international criticism. Israel already has deep military ties with India.
•  Make a bold diplomatic move by announcing its intent to sign the treaty, if India, Iran, Pakistan and North Korea do so.  Since Iran and North Korea are almost certainly going to be unwilling to sign the NPT, it would be any empty gesture.  However, it would put the proliferation question, at least in part, back into its global perspective.

There are probably several more options that are available – like conducting a nuclear test – which I haven’t discussed.  The fall out from that option – excuse the pun – would be too negative to imagine.  Regardless of which option it chooses, either Binyamin Netanyahu or his successor will have to deal with it. The other shoe has dropped, it just hasn’t hit the ground yet.

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , | Leave a comment