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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

David Ignatius, "The lesson from Yemen": Obama Turns the Middle East Into a Shambles

In his latest Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The lesson from Yemen," David Ignatius writes:

"President Obama touted Yemen just last September as a country where the United States 'successfully' was 'taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines.' Some administration officials feared Obama’s boast would haunt him, and sure enough, just over a week later, Shiite rebels from the Houthi movement seized the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

Last week, after four months of relentless pressure from the Houthis and the collapse of his military, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi resigned. Yemen became another shard of the splintering Middle East. The two most powerful forces, the Iran-backed Houthis and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), are both strongly anti-American."

Excuse me, David, but do you really think that Yemen is the only problem?

As observed two weeks ago in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Months of Airstrikes Fail to Slow Islamic State in Syria" by Dion Nissenbaum:

"More than three months of U.S. airstrikes in Syria have failed to prevent Islamic State militants from expanding their control in that country, according to U.S. and independent assessments, raising new concerns about President Barack Obama’s military strategy in the Middle East."

Further afield, in "friendly" Turkey, following the atrocities in France earlier this month, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu responded by declaring:

"We do not allow any insult to the prophet in this country."

How much more damage can Obama do in the Middle East? Plenty, if he is allowed to sign an agreement with Iran effectively giving them atomic weapons.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Richard Cohen, "Netanyahu’s contempt for President Obama": Suppose the Year Was 1938 and Ben Gurion Was Invited to Address Parliament

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Netanyahu’s contempt for President Obama," Richard Cohen vehemently condemns Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for accepting US Speaker of the House Boehner's invitation to address Congress in March concerning the Iranian nuclear threat. Cohen writes:

"I stand with the president on this sanctions matter. Additional sanctions may drive the Iranians from the table. The Europeans may go with them. Let’s give the talks some more time."

But Cohen is mistaken: Additional sanctions will go into effect only if a deal is not reached. If the threat of additional sanctions in the event of failure to reach an agreement will drive the Iranians and Europeans from the negotiating table, neither the Iranians nor the Europeans are serious about a deal. (In fact, they're not.)

Cohen continues:

"I stand with Netanyahu in worrying about a president who has been awfully twitchy in his foreign policy. His faux threat to take Syria to task if it used chemical weapons in its civil war — the famous 'red line' — turned out to be a red-faced embarrassment. It has cost Obama much more than it cost Bashar al-Assad."

"Awfully twitchy"? Everyone, including Tehran, knows that there has never been any substance to Obama's threats, including his declaration regarding the Iranian nuclear program that "I will take no options off the table." Obama is hell-bent to sign an agreement with Iran, no matter what the consequences to Israel. As acknowledged by deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, such a deal in Obama's second term is the equivalent of health care for the president.

Cohen's conclusion:

"Netanyahu will come and speak to Congress and make his case — the one he has made time and time again — for additional sanctions on Iran. But if, in the end, action needs to be taken against Iran, Israel will need the support of all Americans. He has, with his impetuousness and contempt, made that harder to get."

But what if the year was 1938, and David Ben Gurion was invited to address Britain's parliament and state his opposition to the signing of the Munich Agreement by Neville Chamberlain with Nazi Germany. Sure, this might have offended Chamberlain and many members of his Conservative Party, but what does this matter in the face of an existential threat?

Sorry, Richard, I don't buy it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Times of Israel, "Israel’s former US envoy: PM should cancel Congress speech": I Disagree

Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren is a friend with whom I have served in the Israeli army and for whom I have the highest respect. As I write this blog entry, Mike's marvelous book, "Six Days of War," sits on a shelf opposite me. However, we disagree regarding the stance he has taken with respect to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress on March 3.

As reported by The Times of Israel in an article entitled "Israel’s former US envoy: PM should cancel Congress speech":

"Oren, who is running for Knesset on the Kulanu list led by popular former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, told Channel 2 Saturday that it was 'advisable to cancel the speech to Congress so as not to cause a rift with the American government. Much responsibility and reasoned political behavior are needed to guard interests in the White House."

Iran is an existential threat to Israel, as most recently evidenced by the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali-Allah Dadi on the Syrian border with Israel. One week ago, an Israeli army helicopter killed General Dadi together with six top Hezbollah commanders, while they were mapping out future missile strikes against Israel to be launched from the Syrian Golan Heights.

Meanwhile, Obama is willy-nilly determined to reach an agreement with Iran concerning its nuclear weapons development program. As was noted last January by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes regarding a nuclear deal with Iran:

"This is probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy. This is healthcare for us, just to put it in context."

However, as stated by former White House advisor Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh in a Politico article entitled "Time to Take It to Iran":

"During the course of the nuclear negotiations over the past year, Iran has been the beneficiary of a generous catalogue of concessions from the West. The 5-plus-1 has conceded to Iranian enrichment, agreed that Tehran need not scale back the number of its centrifuges significantly or dismantle any facilities and could have an industrial-size program after passage of a period of time. The Iranians have, during the course of the ten years of negotiations, grown accustomed to having their interlocutors return to the table with concessions meant to meet their mandates while offering only limited compromises of their own.

. . . .

Hence it is time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens what the Islamic Republic values the most—its influence in the Middle East and its standing at home. And the pattern of concessions at the negotiating table must stop if there is to be an acceptable agreement. Iranian officials must come to understand that there will be no further concessions to reach an accord and that time is running out for negotiations."

Mike Oren claims that Israel needs to guard its interests in the White House. My belief, however, is that Obama is obsessively determined to reach agreement with Iran no matter what the consequences for Israel, and that Israel can expect nothing but hostility from Obama during the next two years.

As such, Netanyahu has an obligation to present Congress with evidence of the full extent of the Iranian threat, including ongoing development of nuclear weapons at Iran's Parchin facility, to which Tehran is denying access to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fabius, Hammond, Steinmeier and Mogherini, "Why we extended negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue": Obama's Propaganda War

As was noted last January by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes regarding a possible nuclear deal with Iran:

"This is probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy. This is healthcare for us, just to put it in context."

Well, a deal with Iran continues to be high on Obama's agenda, and the president is obviously concerned that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, will be addressing a joint session of Congress concerning the Iranian nuclear threat. This is not sitting well with Obama, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest was quick to denounce Boehner's invitation as a "departure from protocol."

Now, "just by coincidence," Laurent Fabius, France’s minister of foreign affairs and international development, Philip Hammond, Britain’s foreign secretary, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s federal minister for foreign affairs, and Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, have written a guest Washington Post op-ed entitled "Why we extended negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue." These four horsemen of the apocalypse distinguished diplomats write:

"Whereas previous inspections only occurred once every few weeks, the International Atomic Energy Agency is now able to conduct daily inspections of the Natanz and Fordow facilities, and the Arak reactor is now subject to monthly inspections."

Of course there is no mention by Fabius, Hammond, Steinmeier and Mogherini of Iran's refusal to permit IAEA access to the Parchin weapons development facility. Or stated otherwise, the IAEA is being given access to the sites where there is no nuclear weapons development, but access continues to be denied where such development is almost surely continuing unabated.

How gratifying . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thomas Friedman, "Say It Like It Is": Obama Refuses to Link Radical Islam to Recent Atrocities

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Say It Like It Is," Thomas Friedman remarkably notes the failure of the Obama administration to acknowledge the link between radical Islam and recent atrocities that have captured headlines across the globe:

"When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq. We’ve entered the theater of the absurd."

Friedman, however, is also careful in ascribing the blame:

"I am all for restraint on the issue, and would never hold every Muslim accountable for the acts of a few. But it is not good for us or the Muslim world to pretend that this spreading jihadist violence isn’t coming out of their faith community. It is coming mostly, but not exclusively, from angry young men and preachers on the fringe of the Sunni Arab and Pakistani communities in the Middle East and Europe."

Radical Islam is supported only by a few rotten apples? Yeah, right! Recent polls have revealed significant support for ISIS among Muslims in France, the UK, and the West Bank and Gaza.

Sorry, Tom, but these statistics tell us that support for ISIS within Islam is anything but marginal. As you yourself observed in your prior Times op-ed, "a million-person march against the jihadists across the Arab-Muslim world, organized by Arabs and Muslims for Arabs and Muslims" would cause the world to feel that "the jihadist threat was finally being seriously confronted."

Such a march is not materializing.

David Brooks, "Support Our Students": What's Another $60 Billion If You're Going Bankrupt Anyway?

In an important New York Times op-ed entitled "Support Our Students" concerning President Obama's decision to make community college free, David Brooks writes:

"The problem is that getting students to enroll is neither hard nor important. The important task is to help students graduate. Community college drop out rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.

Spending $60 billion over 10 years to make community college free will do little to reduce that."

So, is the creation of educational opportunities a "good thing," even in the face of evidentiary failure? Maybe.

Will the community college program expand employment opportunities for professors, guidance counselors, college administrators, etc.? Absolutely.

Might the program reduce America's workforce if it results in the full-time enrollment of students, thereby bringing unemployment down by a small notch? Perhaps.

Can the United States, whose national debt now exceeds $18 trillion, afford this program? I suppose if you're going bankrupt anyway, it doesn't make a difference.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Paul Krugman, "Hating Good Government": Once Again, the Wonders of Obamacare!

“In an Obama administration, we’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.


. . . .


We won’t do all this twenty years from now, or ten years from now. We’ll do it by the end of my first term as President of the United States.”


- Barack Obama, June 2008


In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Hating Good Government," Paul Krugman writes:

"Meanwhile, the news on health reform keeps coming in, and it keeps being more favorable than even the supporters expected."

Now compare Krugman's  sanguine declaration with a November 14, 2014 New York Times article entitled "Cost of Coverage Under Affordable Care Act to Increase in 2015" by Robert Pear, Reed Abelson and Agustin Armendariz, which begins:

"The Obama administration on Friday unveiled data showing that many Americans with health insurance bought under the Affordable Care Act could face substantial price increases next year — in some cases as much as 20 percent — unless they switch plans."

Also have a look at an October 23, 2014 Forbes article entitled "Now There Can Be No Doubt: Obamacare Has Increased Non-Group Premiums In Nearly All States" by Chris Conover, which informs us:

"However, a new study from the well-respected and non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research (and published by Brookings Institution), overcomes the limitations of these prior studies by examining what happened to premiums in the entire non-group market. The bottom line? In 2014, premiums in the non-group market grew by 24.4% compared to what they would have been without Obamacare. Of equal importance, this careful state-by-state assessment showed that premiums rose in all but 6 states (including Washington DC)."

The news on health reform is more favorable than even its supporters expected? Yeah, right!

And with free community college studies on their way - Who is going to end up paying for this? - good government just gets better and better.