Resources

Review Category : Articles

Three-Dimensional Chess, Middle East Style

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri recently shocked the international community by announcing his resignation. Hariri, a Sunni political leader, made this announcement from Saudi Arabia, where some speculate that he is being held under house arrest, while others believe he is there on his own accord because he fears for his very life. These fears are not unfounded. In 2005, his father, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was assassinated by a car bomb that is believed to have been planted by Hezbollah.

The Middle East is a mysterious region where suspicion hangs heavily in the air—under normal conditions. But the entire region, as of late, is mired in extraordinary circumstances. Since the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015, Iran has been vastly emboldened, empowered and enriched. The Iranians have been on the march throughout the region, sowing acts of aggression in Sana’a, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. They are attempting to establish a Shi’a crescent stretching from Tehran throughout the Middle East.

Lebanon has become a puppet state of Iran, and the Lebanese Armed Forces has now become dominated by Hezbollah. An important fact that many people do not know is that we still have a line item in the U.S. Defense Appropriations budget for $100 million towards Lebanon’s military.

There is no doubt that under today’s circumstances, that earmark falls, whether directly or indirectly, into the hands of Hezbollah. Unless and until Lebanon could rid itself of the presence of Hezbollah, American taxpayers’ dollars will be going into the hands of an organization that has been listed by our own State Department as a terrorist group.

Saad Harari knows how to read the tea leaves. The same week of his surprise announcement, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a missile that had been aimed to land at King Khalid National Airport near the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The missile was intercepted by Saudi-owned U.S. Patriot batteries.

Nov. 4, meanwhile, marked the most aggressive Saudi shakedown in recent memory. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, 32, purged the government of 11 members of the Saudi royal family and other business elites—in what he described as a “corruption crackdown,” but which may well be a rouse to consolidate his power and quash his political rivals, many of whom are in his own family. As Reuters reported, the Riyadh Ritz Carlton has been turned into a temporary—albeit luxurious—prison.

Adding to the intrigue, a day after the crown prince announced his palace purge, a helicopter carrying Prince Mansour bin Muqrin mysteriously crashed, killing a potential rival to the crown prince’s power.

The aggressive and ambitious young Saudi prince is not taking Iranian aggression in the region lightly. Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to leave Lebanon. This sends a somewhat ominous message. In fact, on Nov. 6, Saudi Arabia’s minister of Gulf affairs wrote that Lebanon “has declared war on Riyadh.”

Some feel that this might be an indicator of a new war emerging between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims—the latest chapter in a 14-century-old dispute as to who will carry the mantle of Islam. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are experts at fighting proxy wars on someone else’s soil. As a joke that is making its rounds around Beirut goes, “The Saudis are willing to fight the Iranians, down to the very last Lebanese.”

In the meantime, there are at least 100,000 missiles staring down Israel from the Jewish state’s north. On Nov. 11, the Israeli Air Force intercepted a drone that fell on the demilitarized zone just north of the Golan Heights. A day earlier, the BBC reported that Iran has established a new  military base just south of Damascus.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated unequivocally last Saturday, “We will not allow the establishment of a Shi’ite axis in Syria as an operating base.”

Watch this space. In the Middle East, one cannot play checkers or chess. The game is three-dimensional chess, where the loss of a pawn on one board affects the positioning of the knights, queens and kings on two other boards.

Originally published at JNS.org.

Photo credit: State Department

Read More →

State Dept. Undermining Kurds, Our Long Time Allies

“The United States is deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including in areas outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in September.

The United States State Department says what the State Department says, but what they say is usually wrong.

Read More →

The Enemies of Kurdistan are the Enemies of the US

“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains,” goes a traditional Kurdish saying. No friends but the mountains and Israel would be more accurate.

Israel stood alone when its political leadership embraced the Kurdish quest for self-determination. A “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” is how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Kurds. The deep affinity is mutual. Israeli flags were raised during pro-independence rallies in the Kurdistan region, the US and across Europe.

Read More →

Has America Helped to Arm the Iranian Beast?

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed HR 1698, the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, a bill authored by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, that will sanction Iranian and foreign companies, banks and individuals that support Iran’s illicit ballistic missiles program. The bill, which was passed by an overwhelming vote of 423-2, also prohibits entry to the United States of those who have supported Iran’s ballistic missiles program.

Read More →

The End of the Perilous Fictions Surrounding the Nuclear Deal with Iran

A week and a half ago, President Donald Trump took the first, crucial step towards ending a significant portion of the foreign policy legacy that had been bequeathed to the nation by his predecessor President Barack Obama: the nuclear deal with Iran. What has been largely forgotten by the public is that this particular foreign policy mire was built upon a fiction. The fiction upon which the deal was based was clearly outlined in a seminal article by David Samuels in the May 15 2016  issue of The New York Times Magazine entitled, The Aspiring Novelist who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru.

The expose by Samuels focused on Ben Rhodes, the previous administration’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, and how he created a narrative to support the nuclear deal. While reading the article, it became increasingly clear that the nuclear deal with Iran had very little to do with Iran’s behavior or its commitments, but everything to do with a particular foreign policy objective that Obama wanted to achieve upon assuming office. It was all about the narrative—and had very little or nothing to do with reality.

Early in the article, Rhodes was described as trying to suppress the story of the Iranians taking ten sailors on two United States Navy riverine boats in the Persian Gulf. The seizure of the sailor took place days before the parties to the nuclear deal were to begin implementing the deal. But there was an even more immediate concern: later that day Obama was set to deliver the final State of the Union speech of his presidency, which was supposed to be “an optimistic, forward-looking” speech. Samuels described how Rhodes and the administration viewed their priorities: “A challenge to that narrative arises: Iran has seized two small boats containing 10 American sailors. Rhodes found out about the Iranian action earlier that morning but was trying to keep it out of the news until after the president’s speech.”

Samuels in the article further outlined how the “innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal” was “largely manufactured for the purpose of selling the deal.”

He elaborated:

The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency.

In the real world we are living in today—not the ideal world in which we are all the same, and in which no evil  exists—this sort of fiction writing serves as a paltry substitute for informed, realistically-based foreign policy and is irresponsible, reckless, and ultimately, immoral.

Foreign policy is not a town hall meeting. It is one thing when running for a local government office in American politics to exaggerate one’s opponents’ flaws, or mishaps. It is quite another in the dangerous world of foreign policy to whitewash a sworn enemy of the United States, whose leaders believe in a fundamentalist version of Shiite Islam, who want to create a Shia caliphate and to obliterate the Kafir –  the infidel -through a military buildup of both conventional and unconventional forces, including nuclear weapons.

All so that a former President can put a checkmark after one of his objectives.

This deception of the American people and the international community is patently immoral, particularly when it had been clear for over a decade that Iran has been intent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

We are not talking about the acquisition of small arms, but of allowing a rogue state to create an industrial scale nuclear infrastructure. Lives depend upon responsible foreign policy.

The profound immorality of the Obama administration was on display in June of 2009 throughout Iran, when, after the sham elections, millions of young, democracy-loving Iranians took to the streets in protest of the brutal rule of the Mullahs.  Beautiful Iranians had their skulls crushed in, and were carted off to the notorious Evin prison, sometimes never to be seen from or heard again. Many were holding up the sign” Obama. Where are you?” Finally, after more than a week of this brutality, Obama said something that can only be described as tepid, and measured, at best. Apparently, even then, Obama had wanted to cozy up to the Mullahs, and felt that the lives of these young beautiful dissidents were simply a price he had to pay for his foreign policy objective.

“He feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran,” columnist Eli Lake later observed.

It was not only the tone deafness ear to the human suffering and cries of the Iranian dissident population, nor the grave policy consequences of the Iranian nuclear deal that was so callous, cold-hearted and calculating. The method by which it was sold was also troubling. This deal had been presented to the American people and our policymakers in a way that evaded the Constitution of the United States and compromised our national sovereignty.

By making deal between six nations (the P5 plus 1: the U.S., Russia, China, France, Great Britain plus Germany) and Iran, as opposed to a treaty, the Obama administration bypassed Congress, making it nearly impossible for the legislature to exercise their responsibility of oversight and review. This was done to prevent the United States from acting unilaterally in case Iran would be been in violation of the deal.

This was further complicated by Obama making an end-run around Congress and going directly to the UN Security Council to enshrine it by a vote.

Although the U.S. was the essential driver of the deal, it is now increasingly difficult to get out of it because America is just one of 6 parties to the deal. This was Obama’s calculation all along.

The framers of the Constitution had situations like this in mind when they asserted that a treaty had to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate. It is also why members of the U.S. Congress felt that they needed to reassert their constitutionally mandated role of oversight and review in the form of the Iranian Nuclear Review Act of 2015, known in shorthand as Corker-Cardin.

Contrary to popular belief, President Trump did not de-certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA) or withdraw from the nuclear agreement on October 13. He simply did what he had been legally mandated to do under Corker-Cardin: to certify whether or not the lifting of Iranian sanctions is in the national security interest of the United States.

But the most deadly omission in this entire charade is that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not actually been doing the job of verifying Iran’s compliance with Section T of the nuclear deal, which addresses activities such as computer simulations of nuclear explosions or designing multi-point explosive detonation systems, activities which are necessary to the development of a nuclear weapon. The IAEA also has never visited any military site since the implementation of the deal nearly two years ago. These are sites where the suspected nuclear activity has been ongoing, but where the Iranians claim are off-limit to nuclear inspectors because they have deemed them “military sites”.

According to a report by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, of September 21, 2017, “as of the last quarterly report in August 2017, the IAEA had not visited any military site in Iran since Implementation Day, risking the de facto creation of no-go zones in Iran, a development that would render verification of the JCPOA moot. There is concern that this reflects Iranian bullying on the issue, where the Iranian regime takes a position that it will not allow inspectors access to military sites and the IAEA does not want to create a conflict the entire deal by asking to go.”

Why is the IAEA and most of the world cowering to the Iranian bully? Why have the spineless European leaders isolated President Trump for telling the truth about Iran? Is it just that a new market has opened up for business? Or is it that they are just buying time?

Everyone knows that Iran’s nuclear clock has been ticking for two years now, and that in just another 6 to 8 years, this deal gives Iran a legally sanctioned path to nuclear weapons.

The Iranian nuclear deal was a Munich Pact built on the quicksand of selling a “narrative” to a public that does not know how to recognize evil when it stares us in the face. And does not recognize the distinction between truth and fiction.

If Trump follows through on his October 13 speech and strengthens the terms of deal, it will go a long way towards rolling back Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear threats to the world.

Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, a pro-American and pro-Israel think tank and policy shop in Washington, DC.

Originally published at: http://www.thetower.org/5560-the-end-of-the-perilous-fictions-surrounding-the-nuclear-deal-with-iran/

Read More →

Foreign Policy Realists Shouldn’t Be Hostile to Israel

“Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me).”

— The Obama Doctrine, The Atlantic, April 2016

“Buying the long-standing realist notion that Israeli-Palestinian conflict drives much regional turmoil, Obama pressured Israel for a settlement freeze as a necessary concession for peace and downplayed Palestinian terror, anti-Israel incitement and the terror group Hamas’ role in Palestinian government as impediments to it.”

— A Dangerous Middle East Policy, US News & World Report, May 6, 2015

The recently departed administration of Barack Obama was characterized by the president’s open admiration of the “realism” of the foreign policy of the Presidency of George H. W. Bush, and Obama’s continuous and strong antagonism towards the State of Israel. The two ideas often go together, because the conventional wisdom has long asserted that an American leader who practices the doctrine of “realism” should attempt to reverse the (generally) strong U.S. friendship and support for Israel. This is because such “realists” have long believed that American backing for Israel is a net negative for the U.S., because it antagonizes the Arab and/or Muslim World, and other nations.

As a correlation, these realists frequently argue that if the U.S. were to reverse that support — or appear more “even-handed” — the U.S. would automatically garner more popularity with the world.

But is this conventional wisdom correct? Would a true realist automatically attempt to distance the U.S. from Israel? And would such a change be a successful strategy for the U.S.?

Realism

Realism is defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Realists consider the principal actors in the international arena to be states, which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their own national interests, and struggle for power… The classical realists do not reject the possibility of moral judgment in international politics. Rather, they are critical of moralism — abstract moral discourse that does not take into account political realities.

Per this definition, a “classical realist” would be focused on the nation’s development of policies that most effectively maximize its “national interest(s),” which could include “moral judgment(s).” Note that, contrary to conventional wisdom, morality does play a role in classical realism.

However, for those who continue to insist otherwise, those that seek to divorce moral judgments from foreign policy making may be referred to as “moral-free realists.”

National Interests (Excluding Moral Judgments)

The following are some U.S. national interests frequently cited by public officials and national security experts, especially when discussing Israel. Obviously, some of these interests are overlapping. 1) The U.S. has an interest in assuring its own physical security and its citizenry from foreign attack. [1] 2) The U.S. has an interest in protecting its own economic well-being. This entails keeping the oil and natural gas lanes in the Middle East flowing to the U.S. and the world. It also requires the U.S. to maintain its own national economic well-being by acting in a fiscally prudent manner. 3) The U.S. has an interest in bolstering the interests and security of its allies — i.e., positive reinforcement — and alternatively, in undermining or punishing its opponents — i.e., positive punishment — so as to incentivize pro-U.S. policies. 4) The U.S. has an interest in balancing power in every region, so as to deter future wars and help stabilize the world. 5) The U.S. has an interest in maximizing its popularity with other nations.

In reference to the first national interest, Israel has long been a strong ally of the U.S. Israel backs the U.S. around 90 percent of the time at the U.N. It is a bitter enemy of, and has fought against, many of the same terrorists and rogue states that the U.S. has found itself in conflict with, including Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas, ISIS, etc. In 1970, at the behest of President Nixon, Israel mobilized its troops to intimidate Syrian troops invading Jordan, prompting the Syrians to retreat. In 1981, Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, which allowed the U.S. to avoid a nuclear confrontation with Iraq in 1991, and later earned it the thanks of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. In 1991, at the behest of the U.S., Israel did not respond to Iraqi Scud Missile attacks so as not to endanger the international coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2007, it destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria, which may have prevented a nuclear incident from occurring during the Syrian civil war.

Israel provides crucial intelligence to the U.S. In the early 90’s, Gen. George J. Keegan Jr., former head of U.S. Air Force intelligence, statedthat America’s military defense capability “owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any single source of intelligence,” the worth of which input exceeds “five CIAs.” He stated that between 1974 and 1990, Israel received $18.3 billion in U.S. military grants, while providing the U.S. with $50-$80 billion in intelligence, research and development savings, and Soviet weapons systems captured and transferred to the U.S. Today, Israel is still providing unmatched national security intelligence — for example, regarding Syria and chemical weapons, and also in the U.S. campaign against ISIS. For example, Israeli intelligence information may have shown the truth about Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

As for the second national interest, there is no question that Israel has provided great economic benefits to the U.S. The Washington Institute has reported that “Israel has facilitated U.S. efforts to deal with emerging soft security challenges related to economic competitiveness, the information technology revolution, resource sustainability, and public health.” These include the development of cyber systems, robotics, rocket/missile defenses, battlefield ISR, advanced munitions, passive and active defenses for armored vehicles, and mini-satellites, IT, water conservation and management, high-tech agriculture, medical R&D, cleantech/renewable energy, and societal resilience, all of which have been shared with the U.S.

Contrary to popular belief, the (now) $3.8 billion in annual foreign aid the U.S. has given to Israel has been a military and an economic boost for the U.S. as well. It has yielded one of the highest rates of return on U.S. investments overseas. U.S. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce has himself said: “For those who ask about our foreign aid support to Israel, you should ask them, where do you think these ideas come from and where are they trained on the battlefield, and how much would it cost to replace Israel if it was not in the Middle East as the bulwark against what is developing as a result of the chaos throughout the region.” Israel now spends 100 percent of its military aid in buying U.S. goods, making the aid an indirect American subsidy to U.S. arms manufacturers, and creating at least 70,000 jobs in America.

In many ways, the assistance Israel provides to the U.S. military industry is unique. Israel’s air force developed a method of identifying, repairing and preempting cracks in old combat planes, such as the F-16 that it shared with the U.S., which reduces the time planes are grounded from six months to two weeks. Likewise, Israel has bought explosive-neutralizing robots from a Northrup Grumman, Tennessee plant, both putting the seal of Israeli approval on these robots and thereby boosting foreign sales, and providing, through a weekly telephone conference call, constant improvements to these products.

The flip side to this — the economic danger to the U.S. for supporting Israel — is mostly non-existent, regardless of the “Arab lobby.” Except for the 1970’s, the Arab/Muslim world has proven to be largely uninterested in utilizing their energy tool against Israel. Perhaps it is because the oil producing Gulf States recognize that Israel has actually been helpful to them in the past and do not really consider Israel to be a danger to their own existence? Or, it could just be that they recognize that the U.S. has less of a need for Arab and/or Muslim energy resources, because it has developed its ownalternate sources of oil and natural gas. In 2012, Forbes magazine wrote: “within eight short years, the U.S. will surpass Saudi Arabia in terms of oil production, the International Energy Agency said.” That is now three years away.

The U.S. also may benefit from Israel’s development of its own energy sources. Israel has been “transformed with the 2010 discovery of a natural gas field off its Mediterranean coast. Dubbed the Leviathan gas field, it is the largest exploratory find in the world in the past decade and, based on increased estimates released a week ago, contains nearly 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.” There is also the Israeli natural gasfield’s of Tamar and Dalit, which began producing in 2013, and are expected to produce 3 million tons of natural gas by 2017. These fields also have oil reserves.

Then, there are the critics of U.S. foreign aid to Israel (and other nations). During a time of huge debts and deficits, they often claim it is fiscally irresponsible to provide the $3.8 billion annual military aid. These critics may also point to the overall total of more than $115 billion given by the U.S. to Israel, since 1949.

Of course, eliminating Israeli aid just saves the U.S. $3.8 billion a year in military assistance. While $3.8 billion is a lot to an individual, it is almost nothing to the federal government. The U.S. government is almost $20 trillion in debt, and the U.S. deficit in 2016 was almost $552 billion.

In addition, it is a rather misleading to make the argument that the yearly $3.8 billion U.S. military foreign aid to Israel is somehow uniquely expensive to the U.S. The official foreign aid budget misses quite a bit of actual U.S. foreign aid. The U.S. State Department’s foreign aid budget does not take into account the foreign assistance money spent by the Defense Department, the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID), and over a dozen more U.S. agencies. In 2015, the State Department’s total planned foreign aid budget was $32.6 billion, while the Defense Department’s total foreign aid budget was officially listed as $10 billion, USAID adding another $33.7 billion, and Treasury adding another $2.4 billion. Then there are the U.S. troop deployments, which are also not officially foreign aid. The U.S. stations 150,500 troops in 70 allied nations all over the world, such as in Germany, Korea, and Japan, which costs the American taxpayer an annual $85-100 billion. This is really foreign aid, and, unlike the aid to Israel, this assistance also puts the U.S. military in harm’s way. [2] Once these costs are added to the office State Department foreign aid budget, the largest aid recipients are Japan, where 48,828 U.S. military personnel are stationed, costing over $27 billion, and Germany, with 37,704 U.S. troops on its soil, costing over $21 billion.

The third national interest requires that the U.S. provide positive reinforcement for allies, and positive punishment for enemies. For the U.S. to distance itself from Israel (as President Obama did) would seemingly indicate to most objective observers that the U.S. does not necessarily reward its allies for their good behavior. This thereby incentivizes anti-U.S. policies.

Certainly, the Palestinian Arabs are not U.S. allies. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and the more extreme Muslim fundamentalist Hamas terror group in Gaza continue to incite their people against the U.S. and against Christians (the vast majority of the U.S. population) in general. They payterrorists salaries for actions that have killed and harmed American citizens. The Palestinian leadership has routinely supported the enemies of the U.S. – Nazi Germany, the U.S.S.R.Iran (Hamas), Iraq (during the invasion of Kuwait), and others. They have even praised (and here) Osama Bin Laden, and condemned his killing by the U.S. They have a history of destabilizing the Middle East, and other nations that are our allies; including Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. In polls, the Palestinian people show high levels of hatred or dislike towards the U.S. and Americans. On September 11, 2001, some Palestinians celebrated in the streets at the fall of the Twin Towers.

During the past eight years, under President Obama, the U.S. worked hard to curry Palestinian favor. The U.S. boosted its annual bilateral financial aid to the PA dramatically. The Obama administration also significantly increased the U.S. aid to the UN agency UNRWA, whose sole job is to administer welfare to the Palestinian refugees. Obama worked hard to implement policies to establish daylight with Israel and show unprecedented support for the Palestinians, among others by stridently criticizing Israeli settlements and pre-emptively endorsing the Palestinian claim to statehood for the PA (which is supposed to be decided under Oslo by bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks).

Yet, during all that time, the U.S. received few benefits from this appeasement. The PA viewed “the Obama administration’s quenchless demand for Israeli concessions,” as inadequate and not worthy of real gratitude or reward. Unlike during the Bush or Clinton administrations, the PA refused to engage in bilateral talks with the Israelis. Palestinian — and other Arab peoples — support for Americans “reached an all-time nadir.” The PA implemented a coalition government with Hamas, an anti-American terror group. The PA also continued to pay over $130 million a year, almost 10 percent of its budget, for terrorists and their families in reward for their terror attacks, which have led to the murder of over a hundred Americans, and the injury of many more.

The fourth of these interests cited is essentially based on the balance of power doctrine to minimize conflict. Considering the Arab world’s huge numerical and monetary advantage over Israel, the U.S. is more likely to balance the sides by aiding Israel. Further, the idea that the U.S. should favor the anti-Israel Arab side, including the Palestinian Arab side, to balance the parties and thus dis-incentivize either party from instigating a war seems counterintuitive. If the U.S. wants to maximize peace for all parties in the region, empowering the more warlike, sometimes genocidal, groups such as the Islamist-led Saudi Kingdom, any Syrian groups, Fatah, Hamas, and Hezbollah would probably be far less likely to lead to peace than supporting democratic and human rights respecting Israel. Even the more moderate Arab nations, such as Egypt and Jordan, have been violent and aggressive in the past, and have populations and elites that make declarations of anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and express desires for acts of violence directed against Israel and the U.S.

The fifth national interest — to boost the U.S.’s popularity with the world — is also a frequent argument made by those who oppose Israel. Once again, this argument has surface appeal, but falls apart upon closer examination.

Most Arab and/or Muslim hatred or opposition towards the U.S. has little to do with the Palestinians. As the noted scholar Barry Rubin has written, “Arab and Muslim hatred of the United States is not just, or even mainly, a response to actual U.S. policies — policies that, if anything, have been remarkably pro-Arab and pro-Muslim over the years. Rather, such animus is largely the product of self-interested manipulation by various groups within Arab society…”[3]

A study on this question, by the distinguished historian Efraim Karsh, found that “this argument is not only completely unfounded, but the inverse of the truth. For even though the ‘Palestine question’ has long formed the main common denominator of pan-Arab solidarity and its most effective rallying cry, neither the Arab states nor Palestinian leaders have truly wanted the ‘liberation of Palestine.’” Further, he wrote, “any notion claiming a link between finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and attaining regional peace and stability is both false and misleading.” Even the anti-Semitic view of the Arab masses has nothing to do with the Palestinian cause. “Not once has the proverbial ‘Arab street’ driven the Arab regimes to war with Israel; it was rather the Arab masses, indoctrinated for decades with vile anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hatred, who have been repeatedly goaded into violence by their unelected rulers so as to divert attention from their own marginalization and repression.”

Dennis Ross — who has served as a diplomat in the last four presidential administrations — has written that recent events in the region has also proven the idea that “you can’t transform the region, or America’s position in the region, unless you solve the Palestinian issue” to be false. In fact, “(t)oday most of the Arab Sunni states see Israel as a bulwark against both the Iranians and Islamic State and groups claiming loyalty to it. While they may keep their cooperation largely private — given public sensitivities about the Palestinian issue — the scope of what Israel is now doing with a number of Arab states on security is unprecedented.”

Then, there is the historical record. Several times, the U.S. has actually adopted anti-Israel policies. Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, [George H.W.] Bush and Obama all did. Every single one of these administrations were disappointed by the results of these anti-Israel policies; rather than gaining from the outreach, they typically produced more Arab demands.

In the 1950’s, the Eisenhower Administration sought to separate itself from Israel to improve the U.S. position in the Middle East. As scholar Mitchell Bard has written, it didn’t work: “Despite President Eisenhower’s initial pursuit of policies toward Israel that were unhelpful at best, such as keeping the Jewish state out of military alliances and opposing arms and aid requests and, later, during the Suez crisis, threatening to take a variety of punitive actions if Israel did not withdraw from the Sinai, relations with much of the Arab world worsened. The Soviets gained a foothold in the region using Egypt as a proxy to weaken U.S. allies in the late 1950s.” Michael Doran’s book on Eisenhower’s, called “Ike’s Gamble,” has explored these policies in greater detail, and found that Eisenhower came to realize far too late that he had made a major mistake in believing this pearl of American conventional wisdom.

In the 2009-2017 period, we saw much of the same thing. During the years under President Obama, the U.S. has distanced itself from its allies, including Israel, and has increasingly made benevolent gestures towards its bitter enemies, like Hamas. As a result, the world, and the Middle East, has become a much more violent and dangerous place for Americans and U.S. interests, as other nations have become incentivized to oppose America.

However, even with the Obama Administration showing a marked bias against Israel, the U.S. was still not particularly popular in much of the Arab and/or Muslim world. The Egyptians were disgruntled with the U.S. mainly because of U.S. action regarding the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which brutalized their own people, driving millions of them into the streets. The radical Iranian leadership still hates the U.S. because they are radical Muslims and we are infidels, or the “Great Satan,” in their words. The same thinking applies to the transnational fundamentalist Muslim groups of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia was angry at America as a result of the U.S.’s policies in Syria, Egypt, and Iran. All these Arab and/or Muslim countries love to mouth words of support for their Palestinian brothers, but in reality, many of them either hate or ignore the Palestinians. They rarely put their money where their mouths are by giving the Palestinians tangible humanitarian support.

None of these five interests has been conclusively disproven, but all seem to rather weak arguments that do not provide a truly compelling argument to reverse U.S. support for Israel.

National Moral Judgments

Now, for the classical realist alone, let us examine the U.S.’s oft-stated moral interests regarding foreign policy. 1) U.S. leaders have historically expressed their desire to maximize human rights and democratic rights throughout the world. 2) The U.S. habitually cites its desire for a peaceful world. 3) Specific to Israel itself, many religious Christians and Jews support Israel based on biblical verses that claim that God favors Israel and those people that support it. 4) In general, the American people have a predisposition to aid the victims of aggression, and fight the aggressors.

Regarding the first moral interest; since Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East that even attempts to protect its religious, ethnic, gender and sexual minorities, it is hard to argue that the U.S. should not support it in its struggles if the U.S. truly wanted to maximize human and democratic rights in the region.

Certainly, the state that would replace it — either completely, or in just in Judea and Samaria — doesn’t seem to care much about human rights. In the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority holds sway, elections arerare and suspect, women are discriminated against, Christians are persecuted, people are imprisoned without trial and tortured, the press is not free, and terrorists who kill innocents — including American travelers to Israel — are paid and celebrated. In Gaza, where the terror group Hamas rules, in addition to all the above problems, Christians are not just persecuted, they are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, and sometimes tortured and murdered for “spreading Christianity.” And the human rights records of the PA and Hamas have only gotten worse.

For that matter, few of the Arab and/or Muslim states are known for protecting the human rights or democratic rights of their people. According to Freedom House, “The Middle East and North Africa registered the worst civil liberties scores of any region.” Except for Israel, of course. In most of the Arab and/or Muslim world, women are treatedrather poorly. Many Arab and/or Muslim societies have high rates of honor killings. In Saudi Arabia, women can’t vote, must be veiled, are forbidden from leaving their home without a male counterpart, and are even disallowed from driving automobiles. In Iran, many of the above rules are also followed, and law further decrees that girls are held criminally responsible at the ages of 8-9 years old, while criminal responsibility for boys begins at 15. As a result, in Iran, child executions continue to be high. In “most of the Middle East, homosexuality is a taboo and can result in harsh punishments if someone is found guilty.” In Saudi Arabia, a gay man was recently sentenced to three years and 450 lashes. In Iran, men are hung, often from cranes, for homosexuality.

However, despite these facts, there are still some Israel critics who complain about Israel’s democracy and human rights record, usually tossing around such language as “apartheid, genocide, security walls, Nazi-like behavior,” and other catch phrases. Quite frankly, such critics are rarely making a serious argument. There is no genocide and noapartheid in Israel or the West Bank. (Gaza is now ruled by Hamas.) All restrictions on Arabs within Israel and the disputed territories are onlythere to enhance Israeli security. In fact, there were very few walls and checkpoints prior to the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. Arab Muslims who are Israeli citizens have full rights in their nation, including the right to vote for the Parliament. Most other Middle Eastern states do not give their citizens the right to vote in frequent and fair elections, including Hamas in Gaza and Jordan, both of which are majority Palestinian Arab states/entities. The Israeli Defense Forces has been praised for its respect for human rights, “during Operation Protective Edge [in 2014] … Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

In regard to the second moral principle, maximizing peace, Israel is the only democratic state in the region, and like most democratic states, its people tend to favor peace. In poll after poll, its people have consistently expressed their desires for peace with the Palestinians and their neighbors. Every single war that the Jewish state has been involved in has been defensive in nature.

Meanwhile, throughout the rest of the region, few other nations push for peace, especially since the “Arab Spring.” Dictators rule through violence, and polls of the general population show significant levels of hostility towards non-Muslims, and express sizable support for the death penalty for apostates and adulterers, honor killings, suicide bombings, and Sharia law. As a result of the violence from the Arab and/or Muslim majorities, nearly the entire Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel was forced to flee, mainly to Israel. Today, much of the Christian population in the Middle East is in physical danger and is fleeing to the West. Warfare is rampant in the region. And the idea that another Arab state in the West Bank will be peaceful is ludicrous.

In regard to the third moral principle — religion — obviously, religious Christian and Jewish Americans who believe in the truth of their religion have a “moral” reason to favor Israel. Although many secularists might object to these arguments, the segment of American society that believes them is substantial, even in the halls of Congress.

Finally, in regards to the fourth moral principle, the Israelis are, once again, rarely the initiators of the violence directed against them. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the Arabs are the aggressors in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

An evaluation of these moral concerns of the U.S. seem to argue for continuing firm American support for the Jewish state.

The U.S. as the Weak Horse

Even if it were possible to curry favor with the Arab and/or Muslim world by suddenly opposing Israel, few anti-Israel realists address the fact that a reversal in U.S. attitudes cannot automatically expunge sixty-plus years of the narrative of the (perhaps supposed) strong U.S. friendship and support for Israel.

In fact, it might do just the opposite. It is often said that in the Middle East “(p)ower is respected; weakness is not.” This concept has also been popularized by Osama Bin Laden, who memorably was quoted as saying that people favor the “strong horse” over the “weak horse.” He meant that most Muslims respect and support a strong nation, even if that nation is not always friendly towards them, rather than a weak nation that keeps trying to endear itself to them.[4]

So, if the U.S. started expressing hostility and opposing Israel now — after 60-plus years of warm friendship — this might actually be considered another example of the U.S. showing weakness. And if the U.S. shows weakness, based on the “strong horse” theory, Arabs and/or Muslims would be culturally predisposed to oppose the U.S.

Then again, perhaps this is exactly what has happened during the last seven years?

Conclusion

Contrary to conventional wisdom, realists do not have to be hostile to the Jewish state. Both of the two types of realists examined here — “classical” and “moral-free” — should be focused on developing state policy(ies) that most effectively maximize “our national interest(s).” In both cases, those policies should include support for the state of Israel.


[1] The oft-mentioned national interest “Combating the War on Terror,” which is in reality a “Combating the War on Al-Qaeda and similar jihadist groups and nations,” is really just a subset of this principle.

[2] Note that I am not in any way arguing against the U.S. providing these troops and aid. I am just acknowledging their costs.

[3] Note that Barry Rubin is making the argument that U.S. policies are “remarkably pro-Arab and pro-Muslim,” contrary to the conventional wisdom, which asserts that the U.S. has pursued pro-Israel policies. My argument focuses on the conventional wisdom, and does not actually attempt to determine if, in truth, over the years, on average, the U.S. policies have generally been pro-Israel or not.

[4] This rule may not just apply to the Arab and/or Muslim world.

This article was originally published at Newsmax: http://www.newsmax.com/AdamTurner/israel-palestinian-authority-obama-terrorism/2017/09/06/id/812036/

Photo credit: Sally Morrow

Read More →

My Experience in Israel: It Is Not What You See On TV

I recently traveled to Israel as part of a study abroad program through the American University in Washington, DC. As a master’s student concentrating on peace and conflict resolution and as a Kurd from northern Iraq, I was curious about the intense hostility toward Jews in the Middle East, the negative bias in the mainstream media and the continuous antisemitic lectures and activities on college campuses, including my own university.

My trip to Israel was unique. I was able to travel there through the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Having departed from the Sulaymaniyah International Airport in the KRI, I was sent off with a smile among my fellow Kurds without any shame, despite the fact that a trip to Israel is taboo among Middle Easterners.

Upon arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, I was briefly held back by security due to concerns about a first-time traveler to Israel coming from an Arab state with no diplomatic relations (Iraq). This was understandable and expected, I too expect heavy screening towards foreigners entering the KRI due to the hostility of the region. I successfully and peacefully passed through airport security with a visa that would allow me to stay beyond my permitted time.

My first interaction with an Israeli was with a taxi driver driving me to my hotel. His conversations were animated, his politics realistic. He said he doesn’t care what religion one believes in, he just wants to live in peace. I tested the waters and told him I was Kurdish and he was very excited.

His eyes lit up and he immediately called for establishing a Kurdistan without my prodding. “That was easy,” I said to myself.

My time in Tel Aviv was brief, a little over a week. But what the city offered was unprecedented to me, especially in the Middle East. It is modern, filled will young Israelis enjoying life at the beaches, nightlife spots, restaurants. It is also historical and diverse. I witnessed Muslims and Jews intermingling, mosques calling for prayer, Arab families enjoying their time together on the beaches after breaking their fast. No one bothered others; everyone minded their own business. I tried hard to discover instances of negative interactions between the two peoples, but they even smoked hookah together at the local café.

I thought that maybe Tel Aviv is in its own little bubble, distant from the reality we witness every day in the media, so together with my class, we took a bus ride to Jerusalem.

I was excited, having heard so much about the ancient city – from the time when the Kurdish sultan Saladin Ayubi conquered the Old City from the Crusaders to the current Arab-Israeli conflict.

After a short ride, we checked into our dorms and got a tour of Hebrew University, where we would be studying for the rest of the trip. Hebrew University has a beautiful campus situated on a hill overlooking the Old City. Without having any knowledge of the school, I assumed there would be only Israelis studying there, but again I was wrong. Young college students included Jews, Muslims, women with and without headscarves all together at this institution. I was still struggling to find the picture that the Arab world and the mainstream media have painted.

Throughout my time in Jerusalem I had the opportunity to speak with locals and elected officials, Arabs and Israelis at cafés, restaurants, bars, in the Muslim quarter, the Knesset, the shuk (outdoor bazaar) and so on. My interactions with Palestinians took place in the Muslim quarter, at the local restaurants and tea houses – all men, as talking with the women was looked down upon.

I entered the Old City through the Damascus Gate, although I was warned to not enter there because the site had been the scene of stabbings and attacks. I thought to myself, “I’ll be fine – I’m from Kirkuk, a far more dangerous city.”

Wanting to experience the real Jerusalem, I stayed away from popular tourist sites such as the shopping centers and famous high-end restaurants and explored the Old City and the surrounding area for the next few weeks. I made a few Palestinian friends over hookah and Arabic coffee. They tried to not discuss politics but were also keen on labeling me Iraqi. I accepted their opinions, but they were more excited about America and the dream of one day moving there.

I also visited the walls built around the Palestinian territories.

My feelings were mixed, but having personally experienced war and refugee camps from Arab governments, Syrian President Bashar Assad and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, a Palestinian ally, I thought although it is not the ideal solution for either side – safety and security are better than terrorism.

One conversation that would stick with me was with a uniformed IDF soldier in his early 20s. I approached him while he was sitting alone having lunch, and began to slowly move past small talk. He was proud to serve his nation and was ready to defend it both literally and verbally.

He wasn’t a “tough guy,” he simply loved his nation.

He mentioned although it is mandatory for him to serve in the IDF, he would have done it regardless. He was also curious where I was from. When I replied Kurdistan, he shook his head in sadness, acknowledging that we are without a state and thanked me for our people fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

We had the privilege of visiting the Knesset. Thanks to my professor, who attempted to keep the meetings with guest MKs balanced, we were given views from the far Left, Right and everything in between. The most surprising comments were made by MK Taleb Abu Arar of the United Arab List, who openly declared Israel an undemocratic terrorist country while supporting Hamas and staunchly backing Turkish President Erdogan. He ignored my questions about double standards on Kurds in Turkey. I thought to myself, “You are calling Israel undemocratic? But you have a seat in their Knesset, you’re openly supporting Hamas and calling the government terrorist? Interesting.”

Unfortunately, the night before the end of the program, when I was having coffee inside Damascus Gate, a terrorist attack occurred. An IDF soldier by the name of Hadas Malka, only 23, was stabbed and lost her life after being rushed to the hospital. The gates were shut down, the city was on alert and Palestinians flocked to the streets to protest. Tel Aviv may be in its own bubble, but Jerusalem is fragile. People do want peace on both sides. We just have to move beyond those who incite terrorism. Israel is not the horror movie we witness on TV or by academics – it is a country simply striving to survive in a hostile region.

Photo credit: Israel Bardugo
Read More →

When the Enemy is Within the Gate

Throughout history, nations have gone to war against enemies. In the 1700s, the United States fought against England to exist. In World War II, the allies defeated the Nazis. And after World War II, the U.S. fought, either literally or rhetorically, against Communist forces during the Cold War. War is typically fought against enemies who attack one’s homeland or that of an ally: the enemy at the gate. But what if that enemy is not at the gate but within it? How can one fight an enemy that lives among the citizens of that nation? And how does one do it when the international community is looking over one’s shoulder, condemning one’s every move?

Read More →

Crossing the Rubicon

On Wednesday, at a U.S. State Department press briefing, the Rubicon was finally crossed. Responding to a question regarding Israeli-Palestinian ‎peace, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “We want to work toward a peace that both sides can agree to and both sides find ‎sustainable. … We believe that both parties should be able to find a workable solution that works for ‎both of them. We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. … It’s been many, many decades, ‎as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and ‎sustainable solution to this. So we leave it up to them to be able to work through that.”‎

Read More →