Follow by Email

Monday, November 30, 2009

Afghanistan: What is Winning?

We await President Obama's speech on Tuesday, which will delineate future plans for expanded American involvement in Afghanistan. In this regard, I recently read Mr. Max Boot's article, "How We Can Win in Afghanistan", in the November 2009 issue of Commentary (, and came out on the other side of the COIN (short for "counterinsurgency" - excuse the dreadful pun).

As noted by Mr. Boot:

"In recent polling, only 4 percent of Afghans express a desire to see the Taliban return to power. Sixty-two percent have a positive impression of the United States, and 82 percent have a favorable view of our chief on-the-ground ally—the Afghan National Army."

If so, given the goal of expanding the Afghan "army from 92,000 to 240,000, and the national police from 84,000 to 160,000", why have American commanders "said it could be years before Afghan units can take the lead in the fighting in the most hotly-contested areas like Helmand"? Motivation is obviously lacking among America's Afghan allies.

Mr. Boot writes:

"NATO’s war effort [in Afghanistan] has in fact been under-resourced for years, 'operating in a culture of poverty,' as McChrystal puts it. That has made it impossible to carry out classic counterinsurgency operations, because those typically require a ratio of roughly 1 counterinsurgent per 50 civilians. Given Afghanistan’s population of 30 million, 600,000 counterinsurgents would be necessary. At the moment, the total is roughly 270,000 (170,000 Afghans, 64,000 Americans, 35,000 from other nations). Actual force planning, however, is too intricate to be reduced to such back-of-the-envelope calculations. Unique local characteristics have to be taken into account, such as the fact that the insurgency is largely confined to the Pashtun, an ethnic group that comprises 42 percent of the population."

Query: What is the minimum amount these troop numbers are going to cost? Stated otherwise, what is the point of temporarily attempting to win over Afghani hearts and minds, if this is going to impoverish or even bankrupt American democracy?

Mr. Boot writes:

"What we have tried is the other strategy, the counterterrorism strategy, and it has been found wanting. This should not come as a surprise, because it is hard to point to any place where pure CT has defeated a determined terrorist or guerrilla group. This is the strategy that Israel has used against Hamas and Hezbollah. The result is that Hamas controls Gaza, and Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon."

My response: Israel is never going to win over the hearts and minds of Lebanon's Shiites or Gaza's Palestinians. Viewed differently, Israel is engaged in a 60-year-old war of independence, and although it has won several battles, the war is still being fought. The final outcome of this conflict will only be determined by my continued willingness and that of my children to don our uniforms and make the ultimate sacrifice.

Wars are no longer won and lost as in the past, and the Taliban is not going to sign surrender documents aboard the Battleship Missouri. The U.S. needs to weigh its objectives and pick its fights in accordance with tactical strength and strategic necessity. Notwithstanding Mr. Boot's scholarly piece, I remain a headhunter at heart. No need to bring McDonald's to Kabul. Instead, let's chase bin Laden to the ends of the earth and put some lead beween his eyebrows.

[Although I disagree with his conclusions in this particular article in Commentary, I strongly recommend Mr. Boot's book, "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today".]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hedva Wirtheim, of Blessed Memory

My mother-in-law died on Saturday morning after a prolonged illness. I will never forget this brave woman, who never once cried or uttered a complaint.

She came to Palestine from Austria at the time of the Anschluss. Her mother and sister were unable to escape Europe and died in Nazi concentration camps.

Hedva helped found Kibbutz Neot Mordechai in the north of Israel, where she contracted malaria while draining the swamps. I remember a picture of her from this period: a slim young woman, hauling a concrete building block.

During World War II, she married Zeev, who was given a two-hour leave from the British army for their wedding ceremony. She waited more than two years until his return from the fighting in Europe.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Neot Mordechai was under constant shell fire from Syrian positions in the Golan Heights. The shell fire continued until the Six Day War put an end to this horror; however, the subsequent War of Atonement saw Syrian tanks come within a few miles of the kibbutz, which was never evacuated.

Hedva taught mathematics to the children who grew up on the surrounding agricultural communities. Although she had three children of her own, every Friday she took the time to bake a cake for a young man who suffered from cerebral palsy and to clean his room.

In later life, Hedva worked as a volunteer at a botanical garden and as a volunteer teacher to the blind.

I remember when traveling with her on a train how she shared the food she had brought for the journey with total strangers.

If only the "me-first" world of today could learn from this remarkable woman's modesty, altruism, courage and generosity.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Michaele Salahi and Obama: Impostor Meets Impostor

The photograph is now famous: Michaele Salahi in a red sari shaking hands with Obama in the Blue Room, as her husband, Tareq, in a tux, watches from the side. Michaele's fingernails are impeccably manicured. Smiles are plastered on the faces of all three persons.

I am revolted by this picture, but what has me troubled? No, it is not the failure of the Secret Service; they will learn from their mistake.

Rather, I am disturbed by the hypocrisy, the insincerity and the deception: Reality TV hopefuls greeting a president who lacks the experience and leadership qualities needed to guide the U.S. and the world through troubled times. Reality TV? Obama? All part and parcel of an era which grows more alien to me with every passing day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Roger Cohen's Op-Ed "Iranians in Exile": Comment Censored by The New York Times

In his New York Times op-ed of today's date, Roger Cohen takes the position that President Obama has been too weak on human rights abuses in Iran. Peculiar that Cohen dares take this position, after writing about Iran throughout 2009 and only once mentioning persecution of Iran's Baha'is.

Be this as it may, I again tested the waters and submitted an online comment that was censored by The Times. On-topic and not abusive? Too critical of Obama? Judge for yourselves:

Cohen writes: "President Barack Obama has been too weak on human rights abuses in Iran."

And in China.

And in Darfur.

In simpler terms: "President Barack Obama has been too weak," and this is known to all. I find myself asking whether Obama's decision to expand the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan is based upon narcissistic image repair or sound policy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama Wants 10,000 More Troops From Allies for Afghan War

According to the lead New York Times online story today:

"The United States is scrambling to coax NATO allies to send 10,000 additional troops to Afghanistan as part of President Obama’s strategy for the region. . . .

NATO members and other foreign allies have expressed reluctance to send more soldiers because of the Afghan war’s growing unpopularity in their countries and increasing concerns over corruption in President Hamid Karzai’s government.

The Obama administration views a substantial contribution from its allies as a way to keep the American troop increase lower and blunt domestic political criticism of the Afghan war."

Worth observing:

1. Obama is unable to act regarding Afghanistan or Iran without "allies".

2. 10,000 additional allied troops probably translate into 1,000 additional field soldiers, who, in a country the size of Afghanistan, make little tactical or strategic difference.

3. What we're really seeing is an attempt to cajole U.S. allies to partake in the tomfoolery of expanding the American footprint in Afghanistan. In another year or two, Obama will explain to the U.S. electorate:

"I wasn't the only dim-wit. The entire class failed the exam."

Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison: Abdullah Is a "Visionary Leader"

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, the only Muslim in the U.S. House of Representatives, is famous for labeling the whipmaster, King Abullah of Saudi Arabia, a "visionary leader". Surely Ellison is aware of the 2009 story of a young woman who was gang-raped and consequently awarded one year in prison plus 100 lashes:

"A 23-year-old unmarried woman was awarded one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery and trying to abort the resultant fetus.

The District Court in Jeddah pronounced the verdict on Saturday after the girl confessed that she had a forced sexual intercourse with a man who had offered her a ride. The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

The girl claimed that she became pregnant soon after and went to King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces in an attempt to carry out an abortion. She was eight weeks’ pregnant then, the hospital confirmed."

If that's not "visionary" enough to make you agree with Ellison, have a look at this more recent news item:

"Saudi has convicted several people in the kingdom over the past few years for practicing witchcraft or sorcery. On November 9, Ali Sabat was sentenced to death by a Medina court for witchcraft. The sentence was based on advice and predictions that Sibat gave on Lebanese television. The Saudi religious police arrested at least two other people on counts of witchcraft in the past month, according to local media reports.

. . . .

Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist working in Saudi Arabia, was executed in November 2007 for sorcery in Riyadh. He was found guilty for trying to separate a married couple 'through sorcery,' the Ministry of Interior said.

. . . .

Saudi citizen Fawza Falih was sentenced to death for witchcraft in 2006 after a 'discretionary' conviction."

Let's keep those evil witches and wizards in check! To hell with Harry Potter! Keith Ellison, you're the man!

[Keith Ellison on the 9/11 attacks: "It's almost like, you know, the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. . . . After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.”]

Iran: The New York Times Wakes Up to Reality

After blithely fostering the views of Roger Cohen ("Iran is not totalitarian") and Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett (the U.S. must seek "rapprochement" with Iran) on its op-ed page for many months, The New York Times editorial board appears to have experienced an epiphany. In an editorial today entitled "Iran Punishes Its People", the editorial board writes:

"Iran’s fraudulently elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will clearly stop at nothing to stifle legitimate dissent and hold on to his illegitimate power. The most recent horror is the sharp rise in executions since the June presidential elections.

. . . .

Washington has condemned this assault on all traces of reform-minded opposition and free expression. It has sensibly done so in measured tones, not wanting to give Mr. Ahmadinejad another excuse to claim that his opponents are agents of the West, and specifically the United States. Predictably, he has done so anyway.

. . . .

We believe that the Obama administration was right to reach out to Iran in an effort to curb its nuclear ambitions. But we also believe that there have to be limits to that forthcomingness, and time is running out.

After initially agreeing to send much of its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad for conversion into nuclear reactor fuel, Tehran is now backing away. As long as the centrifuges are spinning, Iran can be expected to drag this on. Mr. Obama has set a deadline of the end of this year for diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue. He should keep to that."

The failure of The New York Times to provide coverage of the Holocaust is well known. This delay in acknowledging the severity of human rights outrages in Iran while concurrently providing an unchallenged forum for the views of Roger Cohen and the Leveretts is horrifying. Note that The New York Times does not once mention in this editorial oppression of Iran's Baha'is.

The New York Times would have us believe that Washington "sensibly" has "condemned this assault on all traces of reform-minded opposition and free expression" in "measured tones". Horsefeathers! Obama has personally ignored the brutal oppression of Iran's dissidents, as best evidenced by the dissidents' chants on Tehran's streets: "Obama, either with them or with us!"

The New York Times is again careful to condone Obama: "the Obama administration was right to reach out to Iran". Note the similarity between this sentence and the words appearing in a recent editorial concerning Obama's failed Far East trip:

"President Obama was elected in part because he promised a more cooperative and pragmatic leadership in world affairs. We support that."

The excuses for Obama's failures by The New York Times, long in lockstep with the current administration, have become predictable and tiresome.

The New York Times observes that Obama "set a deadline of the end of this year for diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue" and "should keep to that." The Times "forgets" that Obama has already drawn several such lines in the sand, but has consistently shied away from any action, observing the need to consult with American partners. Obama's timidity plainly has The Times editorial board worried.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obama: Losing Sight of the Mission in Afghanistan

Go to the Internet and do a search for counterterror "experts". You'll discover hundreds of them and thousands of op-eds and articles in newspapers and journals written by them.

Query: How many of these experts have ever fired an M16? How many have ever gone out on patrol in the cold of night or waited for hours in silent ambush? How many have ever looked a terrorist in the eyes or witnessed the bloody aftermath of a terror incident? You can probably count these "more experienced" experts on your fingers and toes, provided you're not missing any digits as the result of a terror attack.

Let's call the counterterror experts, whose knowledge is academic and whose resumes are at best adorned with a visit or two to Afghanistan or Iraq, "theoretical experts". I wonder how many theoretical experts are advising Obama and whether these are the persons behind Obama's decision to expand the American footprint in Afghanistan.

As reported yesterday in The New York Times:

"President Obama said Tuesday that he was determined to 'finish the job' in Afghanistan, and his aides signaled to allies that he would send as many as 25,000 to 30,000 additional American troops there even as they cautioned that the final number remained in flux.

. . . .

At a news conference in the East Room . . . Mr. Obama suggested that . . . the goals would be to keep Al Qaeda from using the region to launch more attacks against the United States and to bring more stability to Afghanistan.

. . . .

One administration official involved in Afghanistan policy said the president and his top advisers were thinking in terms of 'exit strategies' and not necessarily 'exit timetables.' . . . .

As Afghan security forces are trained and deployed, the official said, American officials and commanders would watch closely to determine when operational control of a given area could be turned over to them."

Remind you of U.S. strategy in Vietnam? It should: The U.S. is going to turn the job over the locals and declare victory. Good luck.

You can only turn the struggle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban over to the Afghans if you change the way that Afghans live and think, and this is not going to happen. The tribal and Sunni/Shiite conflicts which have persisted for centuries, will continue for many years to come. The U.S. mission cannot and should not be to "pacify" Afghanistan or to enlighten Afghanis as to the merits of democracy.

Moreover, a "surge" type operation is not destined to succeed for any meaningful duration of time. Al Qaeda can go dormant as long as it takes and move to more hospitable climes until a better time for them arises. This is the slippery nature of terror organizations, which makes them so difficult to locate and combat.

What then need be the objective? Simple: Kill Osama bin Laden. No need for a costly footprint that will bleed America dry. You do require ongoing intelligence and the readiness to strike lightning blows when opportunities arise.

Also, continue to go after bin Laden's financing; there can be no terrorist infrastructure or operations without funds.

Finally, the moment you mention "exit strategies", you're finished. You're advertising to friends and enemies your lack of commitment. The bottom line must always be: We're going to put a bullet between Osama bin Laden's eyebrows no matter how long it takes.

Roger Cohen Wrong Again: Does He Read The New York Times?

In his op-ed entitled "Obama in His Labyrinth", which appears today online in The New York Times, Roger Cohen asserts:

"The president’s groundbreaking outreach to Iran, which I applaud, has unsettled a regime that does not know how to respond."

Horsefeathers! Iran knows exactly how to respond. Ahmadinejad has figuratively spat in the face of a president, viewed as feeble and wavering following his refusal to back Iran's dissidents, and ignored each of Obama's successive warnings of "potential steps" (whatever that means) pertaining to Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons, undeterred by Obama.

If Cohen were to read today's New York Times, he would learn how Iran's government is further responding to Obama's overtures:

"It is implanting 6,000 Basij militia centers in elementary schools across Iran to promote the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, and it has created a new police unit to sweep the Internet for dissident voices. A company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards acquired a majority share in the nation’s telecommunications monopoly this year, giving the Guards de facto control of Iran’s land lines, Internet providers and two cellphone companies. And in the spring, the Revolutionary Guards plan to open a news agency with print, photo and television elements."

Congratulations to both Obama and Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Open Letter to Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Who Prides Herself on Her "Common Sense"

Betty McCollum from Minnesota's Fourth District was one of 36 members of Congress, all but three Democrats, who recently voted against the House resolution condemning the Goldstone report. According to her website, "Congresswoman McCollum brings a common sense, Minnesota perspective to her work".

On January 9 of this year, when Operation Cast Lead was underway, McCollum, in a speech before the House of Representatives, stated:

"Despite the fact too many Israeli citizens are under great stress from Hamas rockets, these weapons do not represent an existential threat to Israel. Rather than a serious military challenge, these rockets are like a drug gang that uses drive by shootings as a tactic to terrify a neighborhood. When is the solution to this type of terror for authorities to lay waste to the neighborhood?"

McCollum claimed in her speech that "after 13 days of warfare it is reported by officials in Gaza that more than 750 people are dead, of which 40 percent are women and children." The Israeli Defense Forces at the end of the operation stated that of 1,166 Gazans who died in the operation, 709 were Palestinian combatants, 295 were male non-combatants, 49 were women and 89 were children.

My open letter to McCollum, who is shown in her website snuggling with Obama after Obama was awarded his "richly deserved" Nobel Peace Prize, appears below:


When voting against the House resolution condemning the Goldstone report, you declared: "American-made white phosphorus shells were used by Israel in civilian areas causing horrible burns to Palestinian children, yet this resolution refuses to seek the truth?"

You want the truth? I also want the truth? Where were you when more than 10,000 mortar shells, rockets and missiles were fired from "civilian areas" in Gaza at civilians in southern Israel from 2001-2009? Did you ever visit the Israeli children who lost limbs from these attacks? Would you and your family be willing to live almost a decade under such fire? Think about it: Israeli children wet their beds rather than venture out of their safe rooms, because they had only 30 seconds from the sound of an alarm to return to safety.

Did you bother to read the entirety of the Goldstone Report? You obviously did not. Apparently it doesn't bother you that the members of this commission had already declared their enmity to Israel before the "investigation" had begun.

Does it bother you that the allegations of Hamas were accepted by the Goldstone commission without validation or verification? It was also alleged by Hamas that Israel is distributing aphrodisiac chewing gum in Gaza to subvert the morality of Gaza's youth. Shall we also seek the truth of this allegation?

Does it bother you that the charter of Hamas calls for the indiscriminate murder of all Jews?

Does it bother you that members of the rival movement of Hamas, Fatah, were murdered by Hamas before and during Operation Cast Lead? Some were thrown to their deaths from the tops of buildings.

Did you ever examine the casualty reports validated by Israel, or perhaps you don't believe the figures provided by American allies? Yes, civilians died - war is a terrible thing - but they were a fraction of the number of civilians who died in Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia, owing to the measures taken by Israel to safeguard human lives.

Have you ever witnessed the aftermath of an "honor killing" in Gaza? Recently a Gaza man bludgeoned his daughter with an iron chain, because his daughter - a 27-year-old divorced mother of five - owned a cell phone and spoke to a man outside the family. Such murders go vitually unpunished by the authorities in Gaza, i.e. Hamas. These are the same authorities in whom Goldstone placed his trust.

You pride yourself on your "common sense"? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Response to Robert Wright's NYT Op-Ed, "Who Created Major Hasan"

Below is an e-mail that I sent to Mr. Robert Wright in response to his op-ed entitled "Who Created Major Hasan", which appears in today's New York Times:

Dear Mr. Wright,

I was the CEO of a company that specialized, inter alia, in anti-terrorist strategies. Today, I am the CEO of a boutique business advisory firm.

I read your op-ed, "Who Created Major Hasan", in today's New York Times and would like to share my thoughts.

I opposed the Iraq War. Although I questioned the existence of weapons of mass destruction, I was more concerned by the creation of imbalance between the aggressive torchbearers of Sunni (Iraq) and Shiite (Iran) Islam.

There can be no understanding of the Middle East without taking into consideration this ongoing Sunni/Shiite struggle. The latest battleground is in Yemen along the Saudi border: the armies of Saudi Arabia and Yemen are fighting Yemenite Shiites backed by Iran. Although this struggle has resulted in almost 200,000 refugees, the war itself is largely being ignored by the Western news media.

Hezbollah and Hamas, both proxies of Iran, need also be regarded from this perspective, i.e. an Iranian effort to achieve regional hegemony. Iran's war is not with Israel, although Iran benefits on the Arab street from this perception, and it is no wonder that Israel received tacit backing from both Saudi Arabia and Egypt during Operation Cast Lead and the 2006 war with Hezbollah. Note Egypt's arrest of Hezbollah operatives monitoring Suez Canal traffic several months ago.

I also oppose continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, because I believe it is ineffective and a waste of resources. As you observe in your op-ed, headquarters for terrorist activity can be shifted from country to country, but within limitations dictated by Sunni/Shiite enmity and shifting alliances. For example, Iran has supported the Sudanese government's war with the country's black Africans, i.e. the War in Darfur, and it is dubious whether Sudan would now be hospitable to Al Qaeda.

What does any of the above have to do with Major Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre?

If I understand your argument correctly, you are saying that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars may not have reduced the number of anti-American terrorists abroad, but have certainly inspired homegrown terrorism, which could tear the U.S. apart along religious and ethnic lines. We agree and disagree.

First, as you yourself acknowledge, your conclusions are premised upon only two incidents: 1. Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre; and 2. the murder, six months earlier, of a soldier in Little Rock. On the basis of two isolated incidents in the eight years following the September 11 attacks, I think it is a mistake to engage in far-flung extrapolation.

Rather, I think you should be asking why there have been only two such terrorist attacks. Is it possible that given the economic and educational opportunities that present themselves in the U.S., American Muslims lack motivation to engage in terrorism? Is it possible that Muslim immigrants came to the U.S. seeking economic opportunity and for the most part would do nothing that might jeopardize this freedom and potential?

In the same vein, why is terrorism rarely perpetrated by Israeli Arabs? Is it because that notwithstanding the prejudice they sometimes face in their daily lives, they also enjoy political rights and economic opportunities unavailable in the Arab world? Note that birth rates of Israeli Arabs are significantly lower than those in Arab nations. Is it possible that they have adapted to and seen advantages inherent in Western culture?

You argue that the more Americans denigrate Islam and view Muslims with suspicion, the more likely we will see "homegrown terror". I have a different perception of Americans: a people of benevolence and understanding, and although Americans might be temporarily outraged by a terrorist attack, their "homegrown tolerance" ultimately prevails and enables them to see that "one bad apple" does not spoil the barrel.

In addition, I do not view terrorism as conduct that "infects people with low resistance" per se. Rather, I view terrorism as conduct that prevails among young persons without the means to support themselves. In Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of young Muslim men have engaged in suicide bombings, not only because they have been saturated with anti-Western hatred, but also because their families have been promised housing and other material benefits following their "heroic" deaths.

You write: "Sept. 11, 2001, though a success for Osama bin Laden, was in the scheme of things only a small tactical triumph". There was nothing "small" about 9/11: Osama bin Laden temporarily paralyzed America's financial and transportation systems, and permanently affected the way Americans live, as anyone standing on line at a U.S. airport can attest.

All that having been said, how do we fight terror more effectively and also eliminate much of the violent imagery over the Internet, which you believe inflames Muslims and has the potential to tear the U.S. apart along religious and ethnic lines?

First, the prerequisites for terrorism must be acknowledged. Although it is easy enough for an individual would-be terrorist to purchase a rifle and open fire wherever he chooses, Al Qaeda is a sophisticated organization built upon recruitment, training, armament, logistics and funding. The September 11 attacks were not the product of an "apartment-based conspiracy".

Now suppose more effective measures are taken to curtail terrorist funding: recruitment, training, armament and logistics are all constricted and constrained. Moreover, measures taken against terrorist funding are generally non-lethal and consequently do not contribute to inflammatory imagery.

Continue the war against bid Laden? Absolutely. He should not be granted a moment's respite. However, the U.S. battle against terrorism must be grounded upon American technological strength and pinpoint strikes, which do not deprive the U.S. of its will to oppose terror and tyranny.

Yours sincerely,


Saturday, November 21, 2009

New York Times to Obama: You're a Wimp!

Seeing is believing, and today's New York Times editorial, entitled "Assessing the China Trip", had me roaring with laughter. The editorial begins:

"President Obama has faced a fair amount of criticism for his China trip. He was too deferential; he didn’t speak out enough on human rights; he failed to press Beijing firmly on revaluing its currency; he achieved no concrete results. The trip wasn’t all that we had hoped it would be".

"The trip wasn't all you hoped it would be"? What, if anything, did he do right? The editorial's conclusion:

"President Obama was elected in part because he promised a more cooperative and pragmatic leadership in world affairs. We support that. The measure of the success (or failure) of his approach won’t be known for months, and we hope it bears fruit. But the American president must always be willing to stand up to Beijing in defense of core American interests and values."

"The measure of his success (or failure) won't be known for months"? Sorry, but 2009 is over, and Obama's foreign policy rates an F.

"The American president must always be willing to stand up in defense of core American interests and values"? Sorry, but this American president is too busy bowing, literally and figuratively, to tyrants.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Iran: Obama Bares His Dentures

Speaking from Seoul after Iran rejected his offer to turn Iran’s enriched uranium into fuel rods in another country, Obama stated that the U.S. has consequentially "begun discussion with our international partners" and would consider “potential steps we can take that will indicated [sic] our seriousness.”

Yesterday we learned, following a meeting in Brussels, just how "serious" Obama and his international partners (the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany) are:

"'We are disappointed by the lack of follow-up on the three understandings reached (in the proposed deal),' the powers said in a joint statement, which said Iran had not agreed to a meeting before the end of October to discuss the nuclear issue.

. . . .

The six powers met after U.S. President Barack Obama warned there could be a package of sanctions against Iran within weeks. A senior EU official said sanctions were discussed at the meeting in general, not specific terms. 'These things are about timing and this was not the right time,' he said.

The statement said the six agreed to stay in contact on the nuclear issue and expected to hold another meeting soon. 'We are talking about weeks, not months. It's a question of whether we meet before or after Christmas,' an official said."

"We're disappointed by Iran"? This is something I might have told my children when they were toddlers and had not eaten their brocolli.

"Not the right time"? When is the right time? After the world goes up in flames?

It's a question of whether they meet before or after Christmas? A true sign of urgency. You know how much is accomplished in this world in the days before and after Christmas.

Thanks, Obama. Tell us when a "decision is near" on Iran, as you recently informed us regarding Afghanistan.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Doublespeak from The New York Times: First Blame Bush

In a verbose November 19 editorial entitled "Mr. Obama’s Task", The New York Times descends to a level of puerile petulance seldom witnessed on the pages of this venerable, financially distressed newspaper. The editorial begins:

"There is no doubt that the prospects for success in Afghanistan are so bleak right now because former President George W. Bush failed for seven long years to invest the necessary troops, resources or attention to the war. But it is now President Obama’s war, and the American people are waiting for him to explain his goals and his strategy.

Mr. Obama was right to conduct a sober, systematic review of his options. We all know what happens when a president sends tens of thousands of Americans to war based on flawed information, gut reactions and gauzy notions of success. But the political reality is that the longer Mr. Obama waits, the more indecisive he seems and the more constrained his options appear.

It has been more than eight months since Mr. Obama first announced his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, warning Americans that, for them, the border between the two — where Taliban and Qaeda forces have found safe haven — is 'the most dangerous place in the world.' And it has been more than a month since his top general in Afghanistan asked for 40,000 more troops, warning that 'failure to gain the initiative' over the next year could make it impossible to defeat the Taliban."

Let's translate this doublespeak a paragraph at a time.

Paragraph 1:

The blame belongs to Bush. If that buffoon had sunk billions more dollars and sent thousands more U.S. troops to their graves in this "graveyard of empires" as did the Soviets, all would be well. Now it's time for Obama to show us the light, but whatever happens, it's still Bush's fault.

Paragraph 2:

Obama was perspicacious and pure while cogitating, contemplating and otherwise considering the mysterious, muddled mien of this morass; however, if he doesn't act fast, he could be proven a false messiah.

Paragraph 3:

We raced to support Obama when The Washington Post derided his foreign policy and were rewarded with an op-ed written by or for the president. Our editorials are in lockstep with the administration's policy or lack thereof, Obama has put everyone on notice that the stakes in Afghanistan are high, and if Obama delays any longer, he's a lame duck and we're a cooked goose.

Moral of the story: There's no correlation between intelligence and leadership, ethical, journalistic or political.

U.S. State Department to Persons Traveling to Saudi Arabia: No Magic Tricks

No, the U.S. State Department did not actually issue this advisory, but the following report from the Saudi Gazette is true:

"The District Court in Jeddah has sentenced a Saudi man to two years in prison and 500 lashes of the whip for 'swindling and preparing talismans to break spells'. The man, who was arrested by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at an unstated time, was reportedly discovered attempting to break a spell for another Saudi man and turned over to the Commission for Investigation and Prosecution.

The defendant told investigators that he practiced 'Shariah ruqya' – religious recitations and supplications – but the prosecution noted that a 'book on magic' had been found at his home which he had confessed to bringing into the country from a neighboring country.

The prosecutor is seeking a stiffer sentence for 'practicing magic', while the defendant is to appeal the ruling under which he was convicted for 'trickery and deception to swindle money' out of clients."

Who ever said that Saudi Arabia lacks innovation? They're forever whipping up something new . . .

[Abdullah just called. Seriously. Told me the prosecutor didn't like my blog entry, and I should stay away from Jeddah for the foreseeable future. It seems the penalty for lame jokes often leaves the joker lame in the desert kingdom.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obama to Iran: Yet Another Line in the Sand

Speaking in Seoul after Iran rejected his offer to turn Iran’s enriched uranium into fuel rods in another country, President Obama stated:

“We’ve seen indications that for internal political reasons or perhaps because they are stuck in some of their own rhetoric, they are unable to get to ‘yes.’ As a consequence, we have begun discussion with our international partners”.

Obviously without a teleprompter, Obama added that in the coming weeks the U.S. would consider:

“potential steps we can take that will indicated [sic] our seriousness.”

Obama has now "begun discussion with our international partners"? Excuse me, but what has he been doing all these months? How reassuring that the U.S. will again turn to its partners, who might help the president reach a decision.

"Potential steps to indicate our seriousness"? How sad that Iran until now has not taken seriously anything that Obama has said or done. Maybe this is because he was so busy throughout 2009 making overtures to this oppressive regime.

While in China prior to arriving in Korea, Obama is said to have achieved nothing of tangible value, and the Chinese are unwilling to pressure Iran. Affixing a "smiley" on this failure, Obama adviser and "spinmaster" David Axelrod said:

"This is not an immediate gratification business."

How gratifying to know.

Change You Can Believe in: Also in Asia

Now in China, President Obama appeared at what The New York Times labeled a "stage-managed and restricted access" town hall meeting in Shanghai. According to The New York Times, Obama offered:

"a nuanced, oblique critique of China’s rigid controls and restrictions of the Internet and free speech without mentioning, let alone condemning, China’s government."

That's telling it like it is.

Meanwhile, we are informed:

- President Obama is "nearing a decision" concerning Afghanistan.
- Guantánamo won’t be closed by January, as promised by Obama.
- Iran won't send its enriched uranium abroad pursuant to a deal negotiated with the Obama administration.
- One million laid-off workers will lose their unemployment benefits in January.
- U.S. home building unexpectedly dipped in October

And the good news . . . ?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran": What About Human Rights?

Following the execution by hanging this past week of Ehsan Fattahian, a 26-year-old Iranian Kurd, have a look at the website of "Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran" ("CNAPI"): More specifically, note that there is not a single mention of Iranian human rights abuses on their home page.

Now go to their "Campaign Mission Statement":

Supporters of the Campaign for New American Policy on Iran (CNAPI) believe new U.S. diplomatic leadership is urgently required to resolve tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

A military confrontation with Iran would have enormous human and financial costs and would plunge the Middle East into further chaos. Just the threat of military conflict elevates oil prices and fosters global insecurity.

While serious concerns regarding the Government of Iran's statements and behavior persist, we believe America must pursue new, far-sighted and responsible policies towards Iran aimed at stabilizing the region and bolstering America’s safety, economic security and international standing.

CNAPI supporters believe sanctions cannot replace diplomacy as a means of resolving differences between nations. They also decry hostile official rhetoric which exacerbates tensions and reinforces misunderstandings and false animus between people in the United States and Iran.

Effective U.S. diplomacy with Iran, coupled with more open engagement between Iranian and American societies, could yield progress on all outstanding issues and foster mutually beneficial cooperation in efforts to stabilize Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other conflict zones.

Supporters of CNAPI call upon the governments of both the U.S. and Iran to honor international human rights obligations and abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They believe mutual respect for human rights and civil liberties should be intrinsic to any negotiations between the U.S. and Iran.

Supporters of CNAPI believe sustained, direct, bilateral, and comprehensive talks without preconditions between the governments of the United States and Iran represent a realistic way to resolve long-standing conflicts that destabilize the Middle East and by extension, threaten the global economy.

We invite you to join us in our efforts.

This "Campaign Mission Statement" acknowledges that "serious concerns regarding the Government of Iran's statements and behavior persist", but is this all CNAPI has to say on the issue of human rights? Ehsan Fattahian was just one of hundreds of Kurds, Baha'is, homosexuals, "adulterers", and political dissidents who have been executed over the past year in Iran.

According to the "Campaign Mission Statement", "CNAPI supporters . . . decry hostile official rhetoric which exacerbates tensions and reinforces misunderstandings and false animus between people in the United States and Iran." Should the U.S. avoid explicitly censuring human rights outrages? There is every reason for the U.S. to express its abhorrence, and there is nothing false about this animus.

The "Campaign Mission Statement" also calls "upon the governments of both the U.S. and Iran to honor international human rights obligations and abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Is it even conceivable to draw parallels between the U.S. and Iran regarding respect for human rights, as seemingly implied by the CNAPI mission statement?

CNAPI lists among its "experts" "who endorse the goals of the Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran and provide the Campaign with invaluable analysis and advice":

- Flynt Leverett, who, together with Hillary Mann Leverett, wrote two op-eds for The New York Times in 2009, calling for rapprochement with Iran.

- Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, the United Nations, India and Russia.

- William H. Luers, former U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela.

- Dr. James Walsh, described by the website as "a Research Associate in the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he is leading two series of dialogues on nuclear issues, including one with leading figures in Iran."

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett's May 24, 2009 New York Times op-ed, "Have We Already Lost Iran" (, and September 28, 2009 op-ed, "How to Press the Advantage with Iran" (, do not discuss Iranian human rights violations.

Luers, Pickering and Walsh authored a March 20, 2008 article in The New York Review of Books entitled, "A Solution for the US–Iran Nuclear Standoff", which begins by stating:

"The recent National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Tehran stopped its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003, together with the significant drop in Iranian activity in Iraq, has created favorable conditions for the US to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program."

"Tehran stopped its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003"? "Favorable conditions to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program"? Sorry, but you don't have an inkling of what's happening here or why.

This article concludes by asking that the U.S. leadership:

"take the initiative and encourage Iran, a powerful nation of proud people and ancient culture, to become integrated into the world community."

I would argue that there can be no "integration of Iran into the world community" while it perpetuates a "culture" of persecution and the vilest imaginable forms of human rights abuse.

Ehsan Fattahian Executed in Iran

Do you remember how New York Times op-ed writer Roger Cohen insisted throughout 2009 that Iran is "not totalitarian"?

Do you recall the persistent demands of Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett for rapprochement with Iran, which found their way into two additional NYT op-eds?

On Wednesday morning, November 11, 2009, Ehsan Fattahian, a 26-year-old Kurdish activist, was executed by hanging in Iran. He had been originally charged with "working with armed opposition groups" and sentenced by an Iranian Revolutionary Court in 2008 to 10 years in prison. Ehsan and his family vehemently denied the charges, but when he appealed the verdict, he was sentenced to death on the charge of "moharebeh", i.e. enemy of God.

Appeals for clemency by the family and human rights advocates were ignored by Iran. Before his death, it was reported that Ehsan had been tortured, and he was not allowed to see his family prior to execution. Only after burial was his family informed of the location of his remains.

Twelve other Kurds remain on death row in Iran.

And then there is also the matter of Iran's brutal persecution of its Baha'is.

In a recent conversation with the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Hillary Mann Leverett, who is all of 41-years-old, stated:

seven or eight years ago, relations with Iran were "in the category of 'nice to have' for U.S. foreign policy. Today, rapprochement with Iran is in the 'must-have' category: The United States cannot achieve any of its high-profile objectives in the Middle East without a more productive relationship with the Islamic Republic, as it is constituted rather than as some wish it to be."

By the same logic, perhaps some 65 years ago the U.S. should have sought rapprochement with Nazi Germany. A "more productive relationship with the Islamic Republic as it is presently constituted"? Sorry, I don't buy it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Atomic Device Set to Explode in Manhattan: Do You Read the Suspects Their Miranda Rights?

I recall some 30 years ago being presented in law school with the following hypothetical:

An atomic device, planted in Manhattan, is timed to explode in one hour. You catch a suspect who has called for the violent overthrow of the government and whose clothes are emitting traces of radioactive material. Do you read him his Miranda Rights? And when he asks for coffee, donuts and a court-appointed defense lawyer, how do you respond? Think fast: we're already down to fifty-eight minutes before all goes up in a mushroom cloud.

Thirty years ago we could afford to shrug off this constitutional rights question as beyond the realm of possibility. Today this is no longer the case. International terror is forcing us to contend with issues for which their are no readily available answers, tools, formulas or experience.

Or am I mistaken? In a November 14 editorial entitled "A Return to American Justice" (, the editorial board of The New York Times seems to know just how to handle mass murderers. Their editorial with my commentary in italics:

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took a bold and principled step on Friday toward repairing the damage wrought by former President George W. Bush with his decision to discard the nation’s well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations. [A "well established system" for dealing with mass murderers? Excuse me, but apart from Pearl Harbor, I don't recall anything resembling 9/11, and given the many different nationalities of the 9/11 victims, perhaps a Nuremberg-type trial would indeed be in order.]

From that entirely unnecessary policy (the United States had the tools to detain, charge and bring terrorists to justice) flowed a terrible legacy of torture and open-ended incarceration. It left President Obama with yet another mess to clean up on an urgent basis. [Fortunately Obama also didn't have to clean up another 9/11.]

On Friday, Attorney General Holder announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four others accused in the plot will be tried in a fashion that will not further erode American justice or shame Americans. It promises to finally provide justice for the victims of 9/11. [Ask the families of the victims how they feel about this upcoming show trial.]

Mr. Holder said those prisoners would be prosecuted in federal court in Manhattan. It was an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush’s disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases. If he and Vice President Dick Cheney had shown more faith in the laws and the Constitution, the alleged mass murderers would have faced justice much earlier. ["High profile" justice or a media circus leading to retribution against U.S. civilians and army personnel overseas?]

Republican lawmakers and the self-promoting independent senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman [argumentum ad personam], pounced on the chance to appear on television. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they said military tribunals are a more secure and appropriate venue for trying terrorism suspects. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a former judge who should have more regard for the law, offered the absurd claim that Mr. Obama was treating the 9/11 conspirators as “common criminals.” [Senator Cornyn "should have more regard for the law"? Maybe The New York Times editorial staff should begin by stating which law applies. If you ask the defendants, they'll tell you that they abide by Sharia law and are immune to prosecution.]

There is nothing common about them — or Mr. Holder’s decision. Putting the five defendants on public trial a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center is entirely fitting. Experience shows that federal courts are capable of handling high-profile terrorism trials without comprising legitimate secrets, national security or the rule of law. Mr. Bush’s tribunals failed to hold a single trial. [Examples, please, of federal courts trying cases involving something on the order of 9/11.]

The fact that defense lawyers are likely to press to have evidence of abuse aired in court — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was tortured by waterboarding 183 times — is unlikely to derail the prosecutions, especially given Mr. Holder’s claim to have evidence that has not been released yet. [Evidence that has not been released yet? Forgive my cynicism, but if we want to be "fair" and abide by the rules of "due process", mustn't the defendants be informed of the evidence?]

Regrettably, the decision fell short of a clean break. Five other Guantánamo detainees are to be tried before a military commission for the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of planning the attack. [By all means: Let's give them a "high-profile" trial, too, and see what that costs taxpayers.]

The rules for the commissions were recently revised to bring them closer to military standards. And Mr. Holder cites the fact that the Cole bombing was an attack on a military target to justify a military trial. But that does not cure the problem of relying on a new system outside the regular military justice system. Nor does it erase the appearance that the government is forum-shopping to win convictions. Most broadly, it fails to establish a clear framework for assigning cases to regular courts or military commissions going forward. [The government is forum-shopping to win convictions against "alleged" mass murderers? How dare the nasty government seek convictions against these "alleged" mass murderers!]

Still, this much is clear: the Obama administration has yet to completely figure out how to rectify the disgraceful Bush detention policies, but it is getting there. [Disgraceful detention policies? We've already seen where some of these "detainees" have reappeared following their release.]

I don't pretend to have the answers. But how many members of the NYT's editorial board have ever held an M-16, gone out on patrol in the cold of night, confronted an armed terrorist, or witnessed the aftermath of a Daniel Pearl style execution? Something horrible is brewing out there that mere words, from The New York Times or from any other news organization, cannot begin to describe.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Iran: Russia Holds the Key

U.S. President Obama met Russian President Medvedev in Singapore on Sunday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to discuss Iranian nuclear weapons development. Obama stated, "We are now running out of time." Medvedev said he hopes Iran will send its enriched uranium to Russia to be further processed into fuel, but if not, "other options remain on the table."

Meanwhile, Iran is protesting the delay in receiving the Russian S-300 system, capable of destroying both aircraft and missiles. According to an article entitled "West fears Iran may reverse-engineer S-300 system" in today's Tehran Times:

"MP Mohammad Karami-Rad has stated that the West is afraid that Iran may reverse-engineer the S-300 missile system. . . . Karami-Rad, who is also a member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that certain Western countries are trying to scupper contracts signed by Tehran and Moscow, which should have been implemented six months ago.

. . . .

The Iranian chairman of the Iran-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Group stated that a delay in delivering the S-300 missiles would tarnish Russia’s image in Iran. . . . He stated that other countries will no longer trust Russia if it does not fulfill its commitments in regard to the contract for the S-300 system. Iran should not put all its eggs in one basket in its foreign policy by relying too much on Russia because Russia is not dependable, Sanaei added. Moscow should heed public opinion in Iran.

Political analyst and university professor Mahdi Motahharnia has said that Russia should not be indifferent to public opinion in Iran. . . . Motahharnia stated that public opinion in Iran has become sensitive to Russia’s policies on Iran, and more and more Iranians are beginning to believe that Russia is not honest in its dealings with Iran."

Synopsis of this doublespeak:

1. Sell it to us or we'll manufacture it ourselves.
2. If you don't sell it to us, Iranians won't like you.
3. If you don't sell it to us, no one in the region will trust you any longer.

Analysis of this doublespeak:

1. Iran will reverse engineer the S-300? Maybe in another decade or two.
2. Iranians will start to hate Russia? There are already chants of "Death to Russia" at Friday prayers in Tehran.
3. No one in the Middle East will trust Russia in the future? No one in the Middle East trusts anyone.

In short, without the S-300 umbrella to protect their nuclear weapons development facilities, Iran is worried sick.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Obama Bows to Abdullah; Shows Netanyahu Out Through a Side Door

Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said in Tel Aviv:

"In word and deed, the president stands by Israel as its closest friend and will continue to do so."

Last week, Obama demonstrated this friendship by reluctantly agreeing to a last minute meeting with Netanyahu at the White House. Netanyahu arrived in an unmarked car, photographers were forbidden, and Netanyahu was showed out via a side door. No word concerning the matters discussed, and the White House belatedly released a single photograph of the two leaders' meeting.

This effusion of warmth and affection need be contrasted with Obama's obsequious bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Obama bowed to Abdullah at about the same time that a Saudi woman who was gang-raped was sent to prison for her "crime":

"A 23-year-old unmarried woman was awarded one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery and trying to abort the resultant fetus.

The District Court in Jeddah pronounced the verdict on Saturday after the girl confessed that she had a forced sexual intercourse with a man who had offered her a ride. The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

The girl claimed that she became pregnant soon after and went to King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces in an attempt to carry out an abortion. She was eight weeks’ pregnant then, the hospital confirmed.

According to the ruling, the woman will be sent to a jail outside Jeddah to spend her time and will be lashed after delivery of her baby who will take the mother’s last name."

Good to know the meaning of Saudi mercy: the woman will be whipped after her baby is born.

Even better to know the meaning of "friendship" as practiced by the Obama administration.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Afghanistan: Obama Wishes He Could Vote "Present"

In a NYT article entitled, "Gates Says Afghan Plan Will Mix Various Proposals", U.S. Defense Secretary Gates is reported to have said that Obama is seeking to combine the best elements from several proposals for fighting the war in Afghanistan:

"Mr. Gates said a central focus in Mr. Obama’s deliberations was 'how do we signal resolve, and at the same time signal to the Afghans, as well as the American people, that this is not an open-ended commitment?'

. . . .

A central focus of Mr. Obama’s questions, officials said, was how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw.

. . . .

One of the biggest obstacles in reaching a decision, an official said, is uncertainty surrounding the credibility of the Afghan government."

Query: How do you fight to win, while at the same time signaling to the enemy and your own troops your lack of resolve?

I agree with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, retired lieutenant general Eikenberry, that the deployment of additional troops is a mistake. But whatever decision is taken must be decisive. In to win, or out to cut your losses. There can be no middle ground. This is the meaning of leadership.

Meanwhile the months drift by as the president cautiously weighs his options and pines for the days when he could vote "present" in the Illinois senate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Middle East War in Yemen Goes Unnoticed

Although 175,000 people in Yemen's northwest Saada province are said to be refugees as a result of the fighting between Shiite rebels and the Yemeni and Saudi armies, the world shrugs off the news. The conflict is, however, receiving daily attention in the Arab and Persian press. In an article today entitled "Grand ayatollah says OIC must break silence over Shia massacre in Yemen", the Tehran Times states:

"Grand Ayatollah Ali Safi Golpaygani has announced that the silence of the Organization of the Islamic Conference toward a brutal suppression of Yemeni Shias by the country’s army is unacceptable.

'We ask the Organization of the Islamic conference why is it silent toward war and fratricide in Yemen and does not take an action?' the ayatollah asked in a statement which was released by his office on Wednesday.

. . . .

The ayatollah added, 'With great sorrow certain neighboring countries [Saudi Arabia] are cooperating with them (Yemeni armed forces) in these coldblooded crimes'.

He also denounced the silence of the so-called international human rights organizations in the face of the ongoing brutalities in Yemen and asked the OIC to break its silence and strongly protest the behavior of Yemeni rulers against their country’s Shias and condemn their acts."

A massacre of Shiites in Yemen by the Yemeni and Saudi armies that is being ignored by international human rights organizations? Civilian casualties? Tens of thousands of refugees? A Saudi naval blockade? Indeed, where are the human rights organizations and where is the news media?

While writing this blog entry, I searched the web homepages of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and CNN, but found no mention of the war. The Washington Post website provides a link to the following report near the bottom of its homepage:

"The Yemeni government on Wednesday lashed out against what it described as Iranian 'interference' in its affairs, escalating tensions in a civil conflict pitting Yemen's army against Shiite rebels that has drawn in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, and raised fears of a regional proxy war.

. . . .

The comments came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki publicly warned that countries in the region should not intervene in Yemen's internal affairs. 'Those who pour oil on the fire must know that they will not be spared from the smoke that billows,' Mottaki declared in what many viewed as a veiled threat by the Shiite theocracy to Saudi Arabia's Sunni rulers."

Roger Cohen informed us less than two months ago in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Miracle of Dullness":

"The demon of instability, German-prodded, moved to the Middle East, where another modern nation state, Israel, in turn upended the order of things."

Cohen has again been proven wrong. Much of the chaos in the Middle East continues to spring from the Sunni/Shiite conflict, originating in 632 A.D. from Mohammed's death without a heir or proclaimed successor. The current tensions between Israel and Iran's proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, are also part and parcel of Iran's effort to establish regional Muslim leadership.

Should the U.S. government ignore the problem in much the same way as the world's media and human rights organizations? Answer: Saudi Arabia's oil fields are only some 600 miles distant from the Yemeni border.

Yemen: Where are Goldstone and Human Rights Watch?

According to the Tehran Times:

"Since the beginning of November, Saudi forces have attacked residential areas and border villages in Yemen, killing and injuring many people.

The Saudi Army has deployed one of its main brigades, which consists of at least 13,000 troops, to northern Yemen.

. . . .

Terrorism and extremism are the most serious problems in Yemen, and certain people are trying to turn Yemen into a center for terrorist activities, [Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki] added."

However, the Saudi Gazette provides us with a different account concerning the battle with Shiite rebels on the Saudi border with Yemen:

"The Saudi forces will continue their airstrikes against the infiltrators until they move back from the Saudi frontier, Assistant Minister of Defense for Security Affairs Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz said Tuesday. 'We are not going to stop the bombing until the infiltrators retreat tens of kilometers inside their border,' Prince Khaled said on a visit to Saudi troops in southwestern Jizan province."

There's a Middle East conflict that doesn't involve Israel? Why aren't the NGOs protesting this slaughter, or might this somehow affect their fund raising activities in Saudi Arabia?

Many civilians have died? Where are Goldstone and the Human Rights Council, or doesn't brewing enmity between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia matter? Could it be that if Israel can't somehow be blamed, the world yawns and goes about its business?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Obama Sure Showed Iran a Thing or Two

Speaking at the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly on Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stated:

"A year ago, Iran was united in its nuclear ambitions and the world was divided in its response. Today, thanks to the work of the president, there is strong and international consensus against a nuclear-armed Iran."

"Strong and international consensus"? Recall what Obama said this past July:

"President Obama said Friday that Iran faces a September deadline to show good-faith efforts to halt its nuclear weapons program, and said the statement issued by the world's leading industrial nations meeting here this week means the international community is ready to act."

September came and went, and Obama sure showed Ahmadinejad and Iran's dissidents (who now chant, "Obama, either with them or us") a thing or two. "The international community is ready to act"? It's ready to act in much the same way Obama is ready to lead.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a half a world away, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel must prepare for an upcoming "rocket onslaught" from Iran's proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

As such, it was "reassuring" to learn yesterday from Rahm Emanuel, during his talk with the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly :

"As this administration has sought to engage the region, there are some who suggest this implies a diminished level of support for Israel. That is not the intent and that is not the case and never will be.

. . . .

The US will remain actively engaged and stand by Israel as one true friend as it takes steps toward peace."

Now let's wait to hear this also from Chuck Hagel, one of four Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel in 2000, just appointed by Obama to co-chair his Intelligence Advisory Board. I can promise you we won't hear this anytime soon.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New York Times: "Future of Palestinian Authority Is in Question"; P.T. Barnum: "There's a Sucker Born Every Minute"

A November 9 article by Ethan Bronner, entitled "Future of Palestinian Authority Is in Question", was given top online billing yesterday by The New York Times. The article, with a "less than spontaneous" picture of Abbas supporters raising his picture (how was this photographed from under a circle of supporters raising his picture?), states:

"The collapse of the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s negotiating partner, was raised as a possibility on Monday, as several aides to its president, Mahmoud Abbas, said that he intended to resign and forecast that others would follow."

This news item is as credible as the accompanying picture. Funny how the announcement was made when Obama was about to meet Netanyahu.

Abbas & Co. are going to relinquish their power and perquisites, turn the West Bank over to Hamas, and watch as their families are thrown off twelve-story buildings? Ain't gonna happen anytime soon. Just another instance of Middle East Speak coupled with NYT nescience.

Compugen: The Advent of Predictive Discovery

Compugen announced today the discovery of a genetic biomarker, CGEN-40001 for predisposition to type 2 diabetes, using its GeneVa® platform, which consists of an in silico database of approximately 350,000 predicted genetic variations in the human genome, with each predicted variation consisting of multiple consecutive nucleotides. Their press release states:

"According to the two studies performed by Compugen, approximately 15% of the Caucasian population has at least one copy of this insertion. Furthermore, the studies showed that the presence of this insertion increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 50-80%."

This is a noteworthy announcement, particularly given, as observed by the press release, that an estimated 8% of the U.S. population suffers from diabetes, 90% of whom are affected by type 2 diabetes, and that worldwide, more than 150 million people are estimated to have this disorder. Following diagnosis, high-risk patients may benefit from more aggressive management either through lifestyle modification or drug treatment.

I could devote a blog entry to large scale genetic variation, but of greater significance, in my opinion, are the number and nature of Compugen's announcements thus far this year, pertaining to therapeutics and diagnostics for a broad gamut of diseases:

Compugen Announces Discovery of Genetic Biomarker for Predisposition to Type 2 Diabetes, Nov. 9, 2009

Compugen Announces Preeclampsia Biomarker Collaboration, Nov. 5, 2009

Compugen and Bayer Schering Pharma to Collaborate on Compugen Discovered Oncology Target and Splice Variants, Oct. 13, 2009

Compugen Announces Positive Therapeutic Effects of Novel Peptide in Animal Model of Retinopathy, July 21, 2009

Compugen Announces Positive Therapeutic Effects of Novel Peptide in Animal Model of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, June 23, 2009

Compugen Announces In Vivo Confirmation of Cardiovascular Therapeutic Potential for Two Novel Peptides, May 14, 2009

Compugen Announces Inhibition of Angiogenesis by Novel Peptide, Apr. 1, 2009

Teva to Utilize Compugen-Discovered Biomarkers for Pre-Clinical Detection of Drug-induced Kidney Toxicity, March 24, 2009

Compugen Announces Positive Therapeutic Effects of Relaxin Receptor Peptide Ligand in Pulmonary Fibrosis Animal Model, March 17, 2009

Compugen Announces Discovery of Biomarker Candidate for Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer and Signing of Collaboration Agreement, Feb. 3, 2009

Although there can be no assurances that any of these candidates will ultimately result in marketable products, Compugen's "discovery on demand", based upon understanding biological phenomena on the molecular level, is obviously yielding results and providing hope for millions suffering from diseases heretofore thought incurable.

I can only hope that Big Pharma will learn from Compugen's struggle down this lonely path, and that instead of mergers aimed at reducing costs and consolidating shrinking pipelines, Big Pharma will redouble their R&D efforts, based upon Compugen's new science.

[As noted in a prior blog entry, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of Compugen.]

Call White House, Ask for Barack: The Line Is Disconnected

In a November 8, 2009 New York Times op-ed entitled, "Call White House, Ask for Barack", Thomas Friedman writes:

"The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a bad play.

. . . .

Indeed, it’s time for us to dust off James Baker’s line: 'When you’re serious, give us a call: 202-456-1414. Ask for Barack. Otherwise, stay out of our lives. We have our own country to fix.'

. . . .

Today, the Arabs, Israel and the Palestinians are clearly not feeling enough pain to do anything hard for peace with each other — a mood best summed up by a phrase making the rounds at the State Department: The Palestinian leadership 'wants a deal with Israel without any negotiations' and Israel’s leadership 'wants negotiations with the Palestinians without any deal.'”

This op-ed didn't seek readers' comments, and even if it had, I've been blacklisted by The New York Times, and my comment would not have been posted. Of course, I could send an e-mail to Friedman and tell him what I think about his op-ed, but notwithstanding the fact that we met in Lebanon many years ago, he has never thought fit to answer my messages. So let me sum up here, in a single undiplomatic word, what I have to say about Friedman's op-ed: Bull!

Has Friedman's adulation of Obama blinded him to a foreign policy characterized by appeasement of tyrannical regimes (Iran, Venezuela, Sudan) and the enfeeblement of friends (Israel, Honduras, South Korea, Japan, Poland, Czech Republic).

When Obama stepped into the White House, among his first diplomatic initiatives was a demand to freeze Israeli "settlements". No attempt was made to distinguish between isolated Jewish pockets in the West Bank and the land adjacent to the western entrance into Jerusalem from which snipers could isolate the city. (It was only a few years ago that sniper fire paralyzed the Jerusalem community of Gilo.) No consideration was given to the problems involving the areas surrounding Ben Gurion Airport from which a shoulder-held missile could bring down a 747. And no concomitant demand was made upon Fatah to recognize Israel's right to exist.

A two-state solution? Absolutely. A return to the 1967 borders? No way. Some territory will need to be traded with the Palestinians to allow both sides to feel secure and whole. In fact, this is what both Prime Minister Barak and Prime Minister Olmert proposed to the Palestinians, but each in turn was spurned by Arafat and Abbas. Will this now be the starting point for negotiations involving the Netanyahu government? No, because in the Middle East, negotiations involve bargaining. (Try buying a carpet in Istanbul: you will need to threaten to walk out of the store at least twice before reaching an amenable price.)

So what did Obama accomplish by immediately announcing that Israel must halt all settlements without asking for an immediate concomitant recognition by Fatah of Israel's right to exist? Is it any wonder that this diplomatic naiveté (or something worse having its roots in leftist ideology) emboldened the Palestinians to demand a halt to all "settlements" without any acknowledgement of Israel's right to exist?

Moreover, the next confrontation is not going to be a Palestinian/Israeli affair. Rather, Israel is bracing for a two-front battle with Iran's proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, and Tel Aviv is now within missile range from both north and south. Tom Friedman would have Obama also ignore this threat? The repercussions involving U.S. abandonment of Israel in the face of Tehran's drive for Middle East hegemony would affect U.S. relations with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, all queasy over Obama's overtures to Ahmadinejad.

Is it time, as Friedman would have us believe, "to dust off James Baker’s line: “When you’re serious, give us a call"? It would appear that another of Baker's lines has already been dusted off and polished by certain members of the Obama administration: "F%ck the Jews!"

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Obama and Fort Hood: The Man Behind the Mask

President Obama is taking much flak for his peculiar, belated response to the tragic events at Fort Hood. After news broke of the shooting, the U.S. media was informed that the president would speak about the incident, and at a Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the Bureau of Indian affairs, a convivial Obama thanked various Department of the Interior staffers and offered a "shout-out" to "Dr. Joe Medicine Crow -- that Congressional Medal of Honor winner." Only two and a half minutes into his speech did the president address the shooting, which had so shocked the nation.

The media is abuzz with criticism of Obama's response: "Cold fish", "Weird", "Who is advising him?", "Were there problems with the teleprompter?" More interesting, the criticism is not coming only from the right: A Boston Globe editorial, entitled "Obama's delayed empathy", stated:

"IN TIMES of national tragedy, Americans expect their president to capture the mood and moment with the right blend of emotion, empathy, and urgency. It’s a delicate act of timing and tone. And President Obama, despite his eloquence and dignity, has yet to master it, as illustrated by his awkward response to the deadly shootings at the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas.

. . . .

It takes more than scripted eloquence for presidents to connect with their fellow Americans. It requires a visceral ability to grasp the scope of tragedy, calculate its impact on the national psyche, and react swiftly to it. Ronald Reagan did it after the Challenger explosion took the lives of seven crew members on Jan. 28, 1986. So did Bill Clinton, after the Oklahoma City bombings of April 19, 1995, left 168 dead and more than 600 injured.

When a gunman fired those shots at Fort Hood, the country immediately felt the pain. Obama missed the first moment to show he understood just how much it hurt."

There is indeed an "emotional disconnect" here, an ability to say but not feel the "right" things, but from where does this stem? Has it anything to do with the father who separated from his mother when Obama was only two-years-old, returned to Kenya, and saw Obama only once more before dying in a car crash in 1982? Has it anything to do with Obama's separation from a mother, who left a teenaged Obama with his grandparents in order to pursue a career as an anthropological field worker in Indonesia?

Perhaps it is because of the pain that he experienced as a child that Obama can "intellectualize" events and problems, but remains emotionally detached as part of a preordained defense mechanism.

Possibly, Obama lacks the visceral ability to grasp tragedy and react swiftly to it. And if we take this one step further, does this inability to react stand behind Obama's vacillations regarding Iran and Afghanistan?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Obama Is Israel's "Closest Friend"?

U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said in Tel Aviv on Wednesday:

"According to the polls, there is doubt [about Obama's friendship]. Now it's true that we have some differences to resolve, as even the closest of friends among nations always have. [But] in word and deed, the president stands by Israel as its closest friend and will continue to do so."

Israel's "closest friend"? If Obama is such a close friend, why has he yet to visit Israel, notwithstanding trips to Egypt and Turkey?

The recent appointment by Obama of Chuck Hagel, no friend of Israel, as National Security Advisor raises additional questions.

General James Jones attendance as the keynote speaker at J Street's first conference, which even Israeli Ambassador Mike Oren refused to attend, creates further doubt.

Let's see what Obama does with the Goldstone report in the UN Security Council. In addition, when Israel's two-front war with Iran's proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, draws near, let's examine the price demanded for this amity.

After watching Iran's dissidents being left in the lurch and the sellout of democracy in Honduras by the Obama administration, forgive my skepticism.

Does anyone really know what lies behind the mask of moderation fashioned by Axelrod?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Iranian Protestors: "Obama, Either with Them or Us!"

Thousands of Iranian dissidents appeared again on the streets of Tehran today to counter-protest the mass rallies organized by the Persian government to mark the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian students during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The protestors, frustrated by the restraint of the current U.S. administration, chanted for the first time:

"Obama, either with them or us!"

Obama, however, is still reaching out to Ahmadinejad, as evidenced by his statement yesterday:

"Thirty years ago today, the American Embassy in Tehran was seized. . . . This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation. I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs."

Both in Iran and Afghanistan, Obama is showing himself to be a chief executive who cannot make hard decisions, but why should anyone expect otherwise from someone who voted 130 times "present" in the Illinois state senate? The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

In a nutshell, Obama is no John F. Kennedy, and the dissidents in Iran will need to go it alone to effect the "change" that they are seeking.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Israel Braces for Two-Front War

Hamas is smuggling Iranian missiles into Gaza, which are capable of hitting Tel Aviv. Appearing before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset (Israeli parliament), Major General Amos Yadlin, Head of Israeli Military Intelligence, stated that there had been at least one recent test firing by Hamas of a rocket with a 60-kilometer range into the Mediterranean Sea, placing Tel Aviv within range of Hamas.

It is not clear whether Hamas has acquired Iranian Fajr 3 rockets, which have a maximum range of some 50 kilometers, or Fajr 5 rockets, which can hit targets 70 kilometers away.

Meanwhile in the north, Hezbollah has accumulated 40,000 missiles from Syria and Iran, many hidden in southern Lebanese villages, all aimed at Israel.

When does Iran instruct its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, to ignite the next war? It's coming, and many civilians on both sides will inevitably die.

Where are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN and Goldstone? All bitterly complaining about the Israeli blockade of Gaza, as the missiles pass under the sands from Egypt into Gaza and across the Turkish and Syrian borders into Lebanon.

J Street Version of Doublespeak

The US House of Representatives, by a vote of 334 to 36, passed a non-binding resolution on Tuesday condemning the Goldstone Report and calling for the Obama administration to to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the report. In a peculiarly phrased opinion, J Street expressed its opposition to the House resolution:

"J Street is unable to support House Resolution 867 regarding the Goldstone Commission report on Operation Cast Lead.

J Street would be able to support a resolution that:

Recognizes the history of bias against Israel at the United Nations, the flaws in the original mandate to the Goldstone Commission, and the dangers in pursuing resolutions in multilateral fora with a track record of anti-Israel bias;

Condemns the series of one-sided resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council;

Expresses support for the people of southern Israel who were traumatized by years of constant rocket and mortar fire as well as for the people of Gaza who are suffering greatly from the effects of both the military operation and the ongoing blockade of Gaza;

Correctly acknowledges that the Commission’s original mandate was adjusted by Judge Goldstone himself and accepted by the Human Rights Council to include a focus on the conduct of both sides, and that the report included the first-ever exposure by a UN body of war crimes and human rights violations by Hamas;

Calls on both the Palestinians and Israelis to launch independent investigations into their conduct during Operation Cast Lead;

Calls on the US government to attempt to defeat in the General Assembly any resolution which unfairly focuses only on Israel and

Calls on the US government to state unequivocally that it will veto in the Security Council any resolution which refers charges against Israel and Israelis to the International Criminal Court.

We urge members of the House to consider changes in the Resolution in line with the positions above".

Now have a look at the House resolution:

Excuse me, but doesn't the House resolution say almost exactly all of these things? Is J Street splitting philosophical hairs or traversing a slippery slope, hoping to please unnamed donors while pretending it is "pro-Israel"?

General James Jones, Obama's national security advisor, who was the keynote speaker at J Street's first conference, pledged, “You can be sure this administration will be represented at all future conferences.”

My question for General Jones: Which passes into oblivion first, J Street or the Obama administration?

Monday, November 2, 2009

No More Saudi Human Rights Violations

Read the Saudi Gazette and you will learn that my friend King Abdullah has launched a campaign to ensure that there will be no further human rights violations in the desert kingdom, long known for its oppression, intolerance and savagery. If you don't believe it, take the time and read the article yourself:

King approves promotion of human rights culture

Saudi Gazette staff

Riyadh – In a move to make human rights most secure in the Kingdom, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah has approved the launch of a nationwide campaign to promote human rights culture, said Bandar Al-Obyan, chairman of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, Saturday, in a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The royal approval would allow the commission to outline the broad policies of the campaign, offering an ideal opportunity to further link human rights to the overall work of the government.

The Commission said it will launch the campaign with the help of educational and media organizations across the Kingdom, vowing the release of the detailed plan of the campaign after deliberating with human rights activists and agencies in the Kingdom.

The commission will hold training sessions for all Saudi authorities concerned with human rights, Al-Obyan said.

The projected national human rights campaign has vowed to spread the message of tolerance and respect of the World Charter of Human Rights, and above all that one message of human rights that Islam has guaranteed humanity, he added.

The human rights culture is not novel to Saudi culture, rather it is deeply-rooted in Islamic heritage, and it needs to be prompted and enforced, Al-Obyan said.

The campaign will educate the public on the Kingdom’s legal procedures and instructions that protect their rights, he said, warning against any violation of human rights in the Kingdom.

One of the goals of the campaign is to check all government employees’ behavior with the public against the principles of human rights, Al-Obyan said.

The dissemination of the human rights culture in the Kingdom is, in fact, clear evidence of the King’s vision for promoting peace, security and integrity for all people living in the Kingdom, he added.


Bravo, Abdullah! I am certain that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are proud of you and can continue to solicit funds in Saudi Arabia.

What's the matter? You don't trust Abdullah? In the space of this short article, I counted the words "human rights" 14 times, and if that's the case, surely the Saudis mean exactly what they say. Eye gougings, lashings, beheadings, the severance of limbs, religious fanaticism and abuse of women will all continue, but at least there will be "human rights".

Welcome to the world of Middle East doublespeak.