* Lee Smith: This weekend, more than 10,000 pro-Israel activists, Jews and non-Jews alike, will gather at the Washington convention center for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference. But just how powerful is AIPAC if a man who refers to it as the “Jewish lobby” and has defiantly claimed that he is not an “Israeli senator” is slated to be our next secretary of Defense? And, most significantly, how much influence does it actually exercise if it can’t carry the day on the single issue that’s been at the very top of its agenda for over a decade: stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
* Fouad Ajami: If John Kerry merely picks up where his predecessor had left off, there is no salvation in sight for the Syrian people. For the length of two brutal years, while tens of thousands died, Hillary Clinton engaged in “lead from behind” diplomacy and ran out the clock on the Syrian rebellion… but for Mr. Kerry, there is yet another burden – his own role in the disastrous U.S. policy that the Obama administration pursued in Damascus when it came into office… the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon was sacrificed at the altar of engaging the Syrian ruler.
* The WikiLeaks cables from Damascus of 2009 and 2010 bear testimony to the fact that Mr. Kerry took it upon himself to serve as an interlocutor with the Syrian dictator. He was part of the chorus that saw hope in reasoning with Assad,
* Fouad Ajami: there is no substitute for military aid that neutralizes the Assad regime’s deadly firepower. We must be done with the alibi that we can’t arm and see this rebellion to victory because the jihadists now have the upper hand in the ranks of the rebels. The idea that a nation willing to pay such a terrible price for its freedom, to brave fighter jets and Scud missiles, is eager to slip under the yoke of fighters from Libya and Chechnya is manifestly false.
* Barry Rubin: Two unarmed Finnish soldiers assigned to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization were observing along the Israel-Syria border from the Syrian side. Armed men stopped their car. While the two Finns didn’t speak Arabic they were quickly made to understand that the men wanted their UN vehicle and their other possessions. In short, the supposed representatives of the world’s community were being mugged and they could do nothing about it, or at least nothing but to give in…The world is constantly held up by terrorists and nowadays it tends to give in, if not to the specific operations to the narrative being imposed on it.
* Upper West Side man reveals his hate for The New York Times – in his New York Times death notice
I attach four articles below. The authors of the first three are all subscribers to this list.
* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.
1. “How AIPAC Is Losing” (By Lee Smith, Tablet, Feb. 27, 2013)
2. “Kerry’s Syrian Second Chance” (By Fouad Ajami, Wall St Journal, Feb. 28, 2013)
3. “Islamists to West: Put Up Your Hands and Hand Over Your Property!” (By Barry Rubin, Feb. 24, 2013)
4. “Times ‘dead’ line: death notice includes hate for Gray Lady” (NY Post, Feb. 27, 2013)
“TEHRAN HAS THE UPPER HAND AND THE ALL-POWERFUL PRO-ISRAEL LOBBY HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO SWALLOW IT AND SMILE”
How AIPAC Is Losing
Chuck Hagel will be secretary of Defense, and Iran will go nuclear. So much for an all-powerful Israel Lobby.
By Lee Smith
February 27, 2013
This weekend, more than 10,000 pro-Israel activists, Jews and non-Jews alike, will gather at the Washington convention center for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference. These friends and supporters of the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship will hear from members of Congress and the executive branch who will all testify to the singular influence that AIPAC, as the pillar of the pro-Israel community, wields in the capital of the free world.
But just how powerful is AIPAC if a man who refers to it as the “Jewish lobby” and has defiantly claimed that he is not an “Israeli senator” is slated to be our next secretary of Defense? And, most significantly, how much influence does the lobbying organization actually exercise if it can’t carry the day on the single issue that’s been at the very top of its agenda for over a decade: stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
Despite an operating budget of more than $60 million, on the most crucial issue facing Israel’s security, AIPAC has lost the policy debate. The winners include those who believe you can’t stop a nation from getting the bomb if it’s determined to do so, those who think the Iranians have a right to nuclear weapons, and those who argue the Iranians can be contained – among them, our new Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
For the past two months, those invested in the Israel-U.S. relationship have been fixated on whether or not Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would fundamentally alter U.S. policy toward Israel. In addition to his revealing statements about Jews, the former senator from Nebraska voted against sanctioning Iran and against designating the Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization.
Yet AIPAC has remained totally mum. The group says it focuses its energies on matters of policy rather than personnel. If it campaigned against Hagel, where would it stop? The organization would potentially have to take a position on every Cabinet nominee. Meantime, in the absence of AIPAC, other pro-Israel organizations have come out publicly against Hagel, like the Emergency Committee for Israel. For taking the lead on this issue, they have been labeled partisans, while AIPAC has preserved its bipartisan status.
But it’s not clear how much that label matters when a very influential segment of the Democratic party has made it plain that supporting Israel isn’t a top priority. I’m not just referring to the delegates who booed pro-Israel changes to the party platform on the floor of the convention in Charlotte last summer. I’m talking about the White House.
Pro-Israel Obama supporters on the Hill and in the press keep trying to make the case that in spite of how it might look on the surface, the administration cares deeply about the U.S.-Israel relationship. They point to the success of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries as evidence that the security and military cooperation between the United States and Israel has reached unprecedented highs under Obama’s stewardship. But politics is mostly about how things look. And if the administration really cared that much about Israel, it wouldn’t nominate a secretary of defense who referred to defenders of the U.S.-Israel relationship as “the Jewish lobby.”
The paradox is that by giving personnel a pass, AIPAC has lost the policy debate. Policy is made by people who believe in certain ideas, principles, and even fantasies. What Hagel seems to have learned from his tours of combat in Vietnam is that it is a fantasy to imagine that you can bomb a country into submitting to the will of the United States. Presumably, this is why he also opposed the war in Iraq. The problem is that deconstructing such a fantasy does not necessarily leave you with reality. In Hagel’s case it has left him only with an equally dangerous fantasy: that instead of waging war, it is possible to reach an accommodation, if not an amicable understanding, with nations that have clearly identified themselves as adversaries.
This fantasy is shared by much of the U.S. policymaking elite, including Obama. Indeed, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution every White House has sought comity with the Iranians. The fact that all, including Obama, have failed, is proof that the endeavor is not possible. From this perspective, it is also clear that Western sanctions against Iran and the secret war conducted against Iranian scientists and installations are intended less to destroy the nuclear program than to prolong the fantasy that at some point the Iranians will come to their senses and abandon their search for a bomb. It is noteworthy that the majority of the American electorate does not share this fantasy, with a Pew poll last year showing that 58 percent support U.S. military action against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
But AIPAC – and this 58 percent majority – lost the debate to a host of adversaries. Some on the winning side argued for engagement. Among these were the stars of the policy pantheon, like former Secretary of State Jim Baker, and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who argued that a combination of incentives and pressures might get the Iranians to the table.
And if Iran didn’t want to negotiate, some claimed that wasn’t such a big deal anyway. As Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has said, it’s no problem containing Iran. Journalists like Fareed Zakaria agreed. Some went even further, arguing that Iran was in fact a natural American ally. More extreme yet in their efforts were the single-minded obsessives, the creeps, like Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, and Trita Parsi, who argued that in fact the problem was not with Iran but with the United States.
If, as Hagel has said, the Jewish lobby truly intimidated “a lot of people up here,” you’d expect to see Washington all humming the same tune on Iran. Instead, it’s the Iranians calling the shots. “You must raise the level of your tolerance,” the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization recently told the West. “Try to find ways for cooperation with a country that is moving towards technological progress.”
The Iranian negotiating team meeting with its Western counterparts in Kazakhstan this week has earned the right to its smugness. The Iranians are installing equipment that will allow it to accelerate the production of nuclear fuel. And then there was North Korea’s nuclear test two weeks ago. At the very least, it signaled to the Iranians that in the end, despite all of the tough talk coming from the White House, the Americans are not going to stop the Iranians from acquiring the bomb.
Tehran has the upper hand in negotiations because it recognizes that all the White House wants is some sort of deal it can sell as a victory. And the all-powerful pro-Israel lobby has no choice but to swallow it and smile.
THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER MEETING AROUND THE CORNER
John Kerry’s Syrian Second Chance
Not so long ago, the new secretary of state was among those who saw hope in reasoning with Bashar Assad.
By Fouad Ajami
The Wall Street Journal
February 28, 2013
As the war that has degraded and all but partitioned Syria enters its third year, the amorphous coalition known as the Friends of Syria continues to hover just off-stage. The Western democracies, moderate Arab governments and international organizations that constitute the coalition are indeed friends of the opposition to the despotic regime of Bashar Assad – but at arm’s length. There is always another meeting around the corner, another set of benchmarks laid out by these friends, who then judge that the opposition has not achieved a sufficient level of pluralism and democratic devotion to merit the coalition’s wholehearted support.
The latest meeting comes Thursday in Rome, where Secretary of State John Kerry’s get-to-know-you European tour will bring him together with the Friends of Syria – and with representatives of the Syrian rebellion. The Friends of Syria would like to broker peace negotiations, but what the Syrian opposition wants and needs is not negotiations: The rebels want to overthrow the murderous Assad regime. Walid Bunni, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, told Al Arabiya television Monday that opposition leaders would attend the Rome meeting following assurances that the U.S. and the U.K. would increase direct aid to the rebels. The group would go to Rome, he said, and “see if the promises are different this time.”
Mr. Kerry, for his part, promises a new beginning: “We are determined that the Syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind wondering where the support is or if it’s coming,” he said Monday. “We are determined to change the calculation on the ground for President Assad.”
Yet the European arms embargo remains in place and official U.S. policy remains “nonlethal” aid only. If Mr. Kerry merely picks up where his predecessor had left off, there is no salvation in sight for the Syrian people. For the length of two brutal years, while tens of thousands died, Hillary Clinton engaged in “lead from behind” diplomacy and ran out the clock on the Syrian rebellion.
To Mrs. Clinton’s credit, news recently came to light that she and the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency had argued in favor of arming the Syrian opposition last year but were overruled by a president who wanted no new burdens in an Arab theater of war. One doesn’t know what to make of the revelation, or its seriousness. No one resigned on principle.
For Mr. Kerry, there is yet another burden – his own role in the disastrous U.S. policy that the Obama administration pursued in Damascus when it came into office. Obama advisers were convinced that the Bush policy had needlessly antagonized the Damascus regime, and that the Americans could “flip” the regime away from Tehran. To that end, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon was sacrificed at the altar of engaging the Syrian ruler.
The WikiLeaks cables from Damascus of 2009 and 2010 bear testimony to the American solicitude shown Bashar Assad. He was told that President Bush’s “diplomacy of freedom” was a thing of the past. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry took it upon himself to serve as an interlocutor with the Syrian dictator. He was part of the chorus that saw hope in reasoning with the son of Hafez Assad, the military man and Baathist who seized control of Syria in 1970. In Bashar, and his stylish British-born wife, they saw a modern couple bent on opening up a drab and sterile dictatorship.
In his defense, Mr. Kerry would maintain that he was only testing the intentions of Damascus, that he had trod a path pursued by such seasoned diplomats as Henry Kissinger and James Baker: The isolation of Damascus had failed as a policy, and he had given “engagement” a try.
This is in the past, but not entirely. Mr. Kerry wants to change Assad’s calculus, but the despot knows his mind and the rules of the terrible sectarian war he ignited. It would take a major break with the passivity of the past two years to upend the regime. The stalemate on the ground has resulted in a de facto partition: Damascus is contested, the regime holds sway on the coast and the Alawite Mountains, while the rebellion has the upper hand in the north and in the eastern part of the country. The very nationhood of Syria is coming apart.
If Mr. Kerry wants to break the stalemate, he must will the means. The promise to provide “nonlethal” aid directly to the opposition that he is said to have taken to Rome is a step in the right direction. Past humanitarian assistance from the U.S. was channeled through the regime or neighboring countries. Now the push will be to empower the opposition with financial support and equipment.
But there is no substitute for military aid that neutralizes the Assad regime’s deadly firepower. We must be done with the alibi that we can’t arm and see this rebellion to victory because the jihadists now have the upper hand in the ranks of the rebels.
The idea that a nation willing to pay such a terrible price for its freedom, to brave fighter jets and Scud missiles, is eager to slip under the yoke of fighters from Libya and Chechnya is manifestly false. Yes, the Nusra Front, a band of non-Syrian jihadists that the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, brought guns and money into the fight. But the opening for the Nusra Front was born of the abdication of those who had it within their means to tip the scales in favor of the rebellion.
American passivity proved contagious. In the face of that passivity, other powers held back. A ramshackle Syrian army was depicted as a mighty force, so much so that the vastly superior forces of the Turkish state overlooked countless Syrian provocations, and the Syria-Turkey border had to be defended by Patriot missiles provided by NATO.
That passivity was of no small consequence to the Sunni Arab states as well. The fight for Damascus, and the specter of an Iranian victory as it backs Assad in that big Sunni-Shiite struggle, terrifies the moderate Arab regimes. But they, too, have not given this fight their all. Largely because they haven’t had the U.S. to lead them.
This is “the East,” with a scent for power and weakness, with a feel for the intentions and the staying power of strangers. Syria is the place where the will of Iran could be broken.
Daily, it seems, we warn Iran of the consequences of its defiance and of its pursuit of nuclear weapons. But could it be that the Iranian theocrats pay U.S. power little heed because they see American passivity not so far from them?
THE WEST IS UNARMED
Islamists to West: Put Up Your Hands and Hand Over Your Property!
By Barry Rubin
Feb. 24, 2013
Here’s the perfect parable for understanding not just the contemporary Middle East but the wider world today.
Two unarmed Finnish soldiers assigned to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) were observing along the Israel-Syria border from the Syrian side. Armed men stopped their car. While the two Finns didn’t speak Arabic they were quickly made to understand that the men wanted their UN vehicle and their other possessions.
Similar things have happened to Belgian and Italian soldiers in the UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon.
In short, the supposed representatives of the world’s community were being mugged and they could do nothing about it, or at least nothing but to give in.
A Finnish officer explained that the men weren’t in fear of their lives; the gunmen just wanted their property.
Now let me make it clear that I’m not criticizing the two soldiers. What are you going to do when you are unarmed and terrorists with guns hold you up? Yet this little story struck me as incredibly symbolic on several levels.
The world is constantly held up by terrorists and nowadays it tends to give in, if not to the specific operations to the narrative being imposed on it. We do see rescue operations sometimes – as in the Algerian army’s disastrous “rescue” in which all the technicians being held hostage at a gas field were killed – and sometimes we don’t, as in Benghazi while the U.S. government stood by as men it had sent into a dangerous situation were murdered.
Yet what happens is that even if the terrorists don’t always win in their military operations they succeed in intimidating the West to hand over its intellectual property – by suppressing its own debate – and sometimes to pay tribute money as well.
As a reward for failing to fulfill its commitments and cheering on terrorist attacks, the UN’s General Assembly assigned non-member state status to the Palestinian Authority. Billions of dollars of U.S. aid go to Pakistan, which helps the Taliban and shields al-Qaida. Arms are handed over to Syrian Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish government backs a terrorist group to create a violent confrontation with Israel (the IHH in the Gaza flotilla) and President Obama declares that regime to be his soul mate. Even after an official report that Hizbullah carried out a terrorist attack in Bulgaria, the European Union won’t put it on the terrorism list.
There is a long list of such items. Terrorism mugs the West and gets paid off as long as it doesn’t overreach too much. Not attacking the World Trade Center is enough to make some group America’s “friend.”
One reason the West tends to yield is that it is unarmed. Not literally, of course, But unarmed in terms of its ideas, analysis, and understanding.
As for a good case study, take Lebanon, a few miles from where the two Finns were mugged and where the much larger UNIFIL force has received the same treatment. In 2006 the UN and the U.S. government promised Israel, as a condition for ending its war with Hizbullah, that a much-enlarged UN force would keep Hizbullah in southern Lebanon and help stop arms’ smuggling from Syria to Lebanese terrorists.
Hizbullah has walked all over the UN (UN Resolution 1701) and the U.S. commitments without any cost to itself. UN observers have been regularly intimidated by Hizbullah, which has moved back into southern Lebanon and built new fortifications. The UN and the White House have not only done nothing but they haven’t even criticized Hizbullah for this behavior.
General Alberto Asarta, the Spanish general who commands UNFIL forces in southern Lebanon, cannot praise Hizbullah highly enough. The area, he explains, is “the best and most stable in the whole of the Middle East” thanks to Hizbullah’s cooperation. It is “the most successful model when compared to the experiences of other UN peacekeeping missions around the world.” And Hizbullah has actually helped combat terrorist groups that sought to attack UNIFIL. Indeed, the cooperation with Hizbullah is called – I kid you not--”The Partnership against Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
Memo to police forces: This could be a model for The Partnership against Crime to be formed in alliance with the Mafia. I can assure you that the Mafia is willing to help you from time to time against its competitors.
Did I mention that having won the last Lebanese elections – with a little help from violent intimidation and assassination of opponents – Hizbullah now runs Lebanon? And did I mention that the new CIA director, John Brennan, is an apologist for Hizbullah and has advocated normalizing relations between the United States and that terrorist group?
And, of course, unless hit with an Israeli air attack, Syria and Iran smuggle any weapons into Lebanon they wish without U.S. or UN objection or blockage. The effect of this smuggling is not only to set the stage for future Hizbullah terrorism against Israel and a possible war, but helps to guarantee that Lebanon will continue to be in the hands of a terrorist group that is closely aligned with Tehran and advocates genocide against Jews.
Oh, and Israel is supposed to be the bad guy because it defends itself against muggers.
It’s bad enough to be mugged repeatedly but it’s even worse to provide the weapons and money for the assailants while also praising them. But that’s precisely the moral of the story as far as Obama Administration policy is concerned: Except for a few exceptions who won’t play politely (i.e., al-Qaida and part of the Taliban) if you’re nice to the terrorists and they’ll be nice to you.
“LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT NYC, EXCEPT THE NEW YORK TIMES”
Times ‘dead’ line: death notice includes hate for Gray Lady
New York Post
February 27, 2013
An Israeli-born Upper West Sider revealed his lifelong hatred for The New York Times – in a paid death notice that ran in The New York Times.
Retired stockbroker Amos Shuchman, 84, “loved his family, his birth and adopted countries, finance, skiing, opera, ballet and biking in Central Park,” read his Feb. 2 death notice in the Times.
But there was just one thing he didn’t like.
“Loved everything about NYC, except The New York Times,” his death notice read.
The dead man’s son, Daniel Shuchman, yesterday told The Post that Amos was “deeply committed to principles of individual freedom and to the security of the United States and Israel.”
Amos Shuchman, who was born in Tel Aviv, “fought bravely” in the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization. He didn’t like the Times’ coverage of Israel.
“To put it diplomatically, he did not believe that the Times provided honest and objective reporting on these and other important matters,” the son said.
The Times has been criticized by both sides for its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Still, there was a classic New York paper that Amos Shuchman did love – The Post.
“We think he is in heaven now with a New York Post and a falafel sandwich, having a good chuckle over this notoriety,” his son said.
Daniel Shuchman acknowledged that his father might not have liked his death notice because he would “not have wanted to generate revenue for the Times.”
But “he would have laughed heartily at the irony and the posthumous attention the obituary is getting,’’ the son said.
Daniel Shuchman said his father had canceled his subscription to the Times years ago.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the death notice was paid content and is not subject to editorial oversight.
“I thought it was sort of amusing,” she added.