Reaction to Wikileaks in Israel: Relief and vindication
Some of you may have noticed that I'm not getting all worked up about Wikileaks even though I am running a lot of posts about it. Here's why.
The morning after the first disclosures of WikiLeaks' trove of diplomatic cables, buzz in Israel was somewhere between relief and vindication, and officials were being thankful by keeping quiet. Relations between Israel and the U.S. are based on a tight weave of shared interests, not local incidents, said deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon.
Gradually, more official voices were heard. The revelations show what some of us knew, said President Shimon Peres -- that the Arab countries know they have an enemy, "and it's not Israel."
A headline in Haaretz was more direct: "Everybody hates Iran."
If WikiLeaks didn't exist, Israel would have had to invent it, wrote Sever Plocker, noting the big leak backed Israel's foreign and defense policy and revealed "the shame" that many agree with Israel but "won't admit it openly."
"Sorry we were right," wrote columnist Dan Margalit.
Israel wasn't embarrassed "one bit" by the fiasco, writes Aluf Benn. OK, so the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he found Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "elegant and charming" but felt Netanyahu never kept his promises. And defense official Amos Gilad thinks Mubarak lives in the past more than the present. Worse things have been said in public.
It's a tempest in a teapot for Israel, for now, according to finance minister Yuval Steinitz.
In a radio interview Monday, former national security adviser Giora Eiland, said Israel can be satisfied that so far no security secrets, operational plans or intelligence capabilities were revealed. Many agree the main victim is diplomacy, which may not have been exposed entirely naked but is stripped down to its flowered boxer shorts, as one radio reporter put it Monday morning.
Diplomatic cables, even classified, aren't where "the real action" happens, says analyst Amir Oren. Even secure phone lines in embassies aren't trusted for important stuff, as a former Israeli diplomat explains here. Netanyahu, who said Israel wasn't damaged by the leaks, confirmed that important things were discussed in small forums, in person or by encrypted phone calls.
Still, the documents relating to Israel contained some very interesting stuff.
I would say that's about as fair a description as I've seen anywhere of the attitude here.
Earlier this evening, I mentioned that I had been out of the house for about six hours. I had gone downtown to do some shopping, and to act as a teaching assistant for a course I took a few months ago. On the way home, nearly two hours ago, I noticed a massive car accident on Route 9 headed toward Ramot, where the road forks between the tunnel road to Motza on one side, and Route 443 and Begin Boulevard on the other side, before ending at the Ramot intersection heading toward either Ramot or the city (a T-intersection). The accident seemed to include several cars, police cars, a fire truck and one or two ambulances. The road on that side was backed up to Ramat Shlomo.
I am supposed to go to an engagement party tonight (vort), and on the way out, I checked the synagogue bulletin board to verify where the party is. When I walked into the synagogue and read the bulletin board, someone saw me and said "don't go - the road is backed up from an accident all the way to French Hill." I asked him what happened. I assumed that someone had gone down the wrong road, tried to back up and gotten into an accident. I was sure it would have been cleared by now. But he told a different story, which is as yet unconfirmed.
My friend told me that oil had been spilled all over the road and a number of cars and a bus had spun out of control. It's suspected that Arab terrorists covered the road with oil.
It's now nearly 11:00 here. I saw this accident at 9:00. It has not been reported on the news at 9:00 or at 10:00 and it's not being reported on Israel Radio's traffic center (*955), which usually would report this kind of accident even though it's within the city of Jerusalem.
Here's an interview with former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton about the Wikileaks disclosures.
Let's go to the videotape.
The problem is that you get the sense that John Bolton is a lot more upset about this than Barack Obama who - as far as I have seen (and admittedly, I have just been away from the computer for five hours) has said nothing.
So should we be concerned about Wikileaks? If it's a one-time event, it means that the US will have to rebuild the trust of other countries, some of whom - mostly in the Arab world - have got to be embarrassed about what came out in their names. That will be no small task but it should be a possible task. For other countries - like Israel - it should be possible to brush off this episode.
However, if this becomes a regular occurrence, it would seriously impact the United States' ability to conduct foreign policy.
Michelle Malkin is upset by the fact that the United States was specifically targeted (there's little doubt about that).
For those of you catching up after the holidays, Allahpundit at Hot Air has the most thorough coverage and analysis of the developing story here. Key passage on the anti-American agenda driving the leaks, the transnationalist left’s use of the “hypocrisy” card, and the cowardly, selective publication of our diplomatic communications versus other nations:
The aim, transparently, is to embarrass the target, but since that’s too petty a reason to justify so vicious a tactic, the exposure is unfailingly dressed up as some sort of high-minded attempt to make the target “live by his principles.” If you take this argument seriously, any confidential communication between government officials should be fair game for leaking so long as it somehow contradicts or questions, however glancingly, state policy. (Hypocrisy!) But of course, they’re not limiting publication to only those documents that undermine official State Department positions; as noted above in the context of Turkey’s foreign minister, a lot of this stuff will simply be bits of intelligence about various international actors and speculation about their motives. Nothing “hypocritical” about it — but mighty embarrassing. In fact, there’s nothing “hypocritical” about arguably the biggest revelation thus far, the report of North Korea shipping missiles to Iran. That sort of cooperation goes straight back to Bush’s “axis of evil” speech; theories about collaboration between the two are a staple of proliferation analyses. There’s no U.S. government “lie” that needs to be exposed there, in other words. It’s simply a case of Wikileaks trying to weaken America’s hand by revealing some of the cards that it’s holding. (emphasis added)
Two other points. One: Note that they don’t say they wouldn’t have published the documents if the crucial hypocrisy component was missing. On the contrary, in their sonorous meditation about George Washington, [the Guardian editors] suggest that they would have done so anyway even though the damage to U.S. interests would have been greatly diminished. That’s further evidence that it’s confidentiality itself that they object to, not hypocrisy, and it follows Simon Jenkins’s lead in ignoring the usual balancing act when weighing the merits of a leak between the sensitivity of the information and the public’s interest in knowing about it. Wikileaks would have you believe that confidential government communications are so inherently anti-democratic that exposing them is virtually always in the public interest, no matter what collateral damage might result. No country in the world has ever followed that standard and no country ever will. (emphasis added) Two: To the extent that they do take the hypocrisy standard seriously, does that mean that less democratic nations aren’t fair game for leaks because, hey, at least they’re living by their principles? Wikileaks’s lack of interest to date in revealing state secrets of, say, China is mighty conspicuous given that cracking Beijing’s culture of secrecy would be a far greater intel coup than publishing U.S. diplomatic cables and might even have major political repercussions for the Chinese regime. But then, China isn’t “hypocritical,” you see. And of course China also isn’t likely to tolerate damaging leaks like this the way liberal western nations are…
Many Foggy Bottom officials have proven feckless under both GOP and Democrat administrations. Hillary Clinton’s “smart power” deserved mockery, for sure. But whatever microscopic kernel of constructive criticism may have motivated the Wikileakers and their abettors is galactically outweighed by the destructive sabotage of secure diplomatic communications.
I don't know whom the leakers thought they were helping, but I live in one of the very few countries that might actually have gained from the massive document release. And that benefit is short-term.
Swiss national broadcaster SF1 said 52.9 percent of voters backed the initiative in Sunday's referendum, a plan proposed by the nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP).
A counter-proposal put forth by the Swiss government, which would make expulsion dependent on the length of a prison term rather on an arbitrary list of offenses, appears to have been rejected by most voters, according to preliminary results. Currently, decisions to expel foreigners convicted of serious crimes are made on a case-by-case basis.
The initiative, which would apply to foreigners convicted of crimes like murder, rape or trafficking in drugs or people, has been criticized by human rights groups and legal experts, who said it could disregard international anti-discrimination treaties and the free movement of peoples under European Union law.
Switzerland, while not an EU member, does allow EU citizens to take residence without special permission.
Foreigners make up more than a fifth of Switzerland's population of 7.7 million, and according to official figures are disproportionately charged with crimes.
The Swiss are not willing to allow themselves to be overrun by Muslims. Would that England and France and other countries in Europe had the same desire to decide to live in a western society before it's too late to decide.
In an earlier post, I posted the CBC news report about the network's own documentary about the murder of then-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Now, I have the full documentary. It's being broadcast on Israel's Channel 1 television.
It's in two parts. Here's Part 1. Let's go to the videotape.
A bill has been introduced in the Knesset by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) to require Knesset approval for any freeze of any length.
While that sounds like an attractive proposition, I doubt it will help much. Knesset members are beholden to parties and not to people, and if the ruling party decides it wants a freeze, it will call the vote a no confidence vote, thereby forcing coalition members to abstain or absent themselves from the vote if they do not want to vote in favor.
Requiring a 61-member vote in favor (a Knesset majority) would be more effective, but it's unlikely that the current government would allow such a rule to pass.
US diplomatic cables released by online whistle-blower Wikileaks include remarks from a source in 2009 saying that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has terminal cancer, French daily Le Monde reported.
The source, a non-Iranian businessman based in Central Asia and travelling often to Tehran, "has learned from one of his contacts that (former president Ali Akbar) Rafsanjani told him Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has terminal stage leukemia and could die in a few months", according to an August 2009 cable. The document says that Rafsanjani, a critic of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has expressed sympathies with Iran's reformist movement, decided on learning of Khamenei's illness to start preparing himself to be a successor.
Here in Israel we're looking forward to the establishment of a new holiday. Heh.
I was surprised that the only picture I could find online of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hezbullah politburo chief Hassan Nasrallah was the collage at the top of this post. Apparently, they have never met. But just as apparently, Erdogan has never found a terrorist he can't learn to love.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that "no one can imagine that Hezbollah is linked to the assassination of Rafik Hariri," Lebanese daily al- Safir reported Monday.
In a conversation with reporters during his trip back to Turkey, Erdogan stated that "Hezbollah says it is Lebanon's spirit of resistance, and even uses the term 'al-Shahid al-Hariri.' No one can imagine it is linked to this thing. The organization even supports a Syrian-Saudi initiative to reduce tensions," he said.
No one can imagine except people who have been exposed to the truth. Erdogan, meanwhile, continues to expose himself as a small, provincial, jingoistic ruler of what is rapidly becoming an Islamic caliphate.
John FN Kerry is up for re-election in 2012 and you can bet that he'll claim that he's 'pro-Israel.' But thanks to Wikileaks' disclosure of a cabled report on Kerry's meetings in Qatar earlier this year, this time we know for sure that he's lying.
The emir told Kerry to focus on Syria as the path toward resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Kerry agreed with the emir that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a man who wants change but pointed out that his arming of Hezbollah and interference in Lebanese politics were unhelpful. Kerry said that Assad "needs to make a bolder move and take risks" for peace, and that he should be "more statesman-like." Kerry also agreed with the emir that the Golan Heights should be given back to Syria at some point.
"The Chairman added that Netanyahu also needs to compromise and work the return of the Golan Heights into a formula for peace," the diplomatic cable reported.
As for the peace process, Kerry defended the Obama administration's drive to use indirect proximity talks (which were only being discussed at that time) as a stepping stone to direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He said the two sides should first agree on the amount of land to be swapped and then work on borders, followed by settlements.
Kerry also said that final agreement would have to include a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.
In a separate meeting the day before with the prime minister, Kerry resisted the Qatari leader's assertion that Hamas was ready to accept the existence of the State of Israel, but he agreed that urgent action was needed to rebuild Gaza.
According to the leaked diplomatic cable, the prime minister told Kerry, "We need to broker a quick reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and move forward quickly on rebuilding Gaza… Senator Kerry asserted that HBJ [Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani] was preaching to the converted and told the PM he was ‘shocked by what I saw in Gaza.'"
What Wikileaks shows: The unreal world of Barack Obama
I could be wrong but I know of only two countries in the World where there have been strong, negative reactions to the Wikileaks disclosures: Iran and the United States. In the Arab world, there is embarrassment about the exposure of the extent to which the Arabs are worried about Iran. In Europe, there is bemusement. And in Israel, there is satisfaction topped with a bit of smugness. But thw two countries who are downright angry about Wikileaks are Iran and the US.
In Iran they're angry because it exposes for their people just how isolated Iran is in the World. In the US, the general public feels angry because they feel violated. And the Obama administration feels violated because the Wikileaks show the full extent to which the President of the United States is living on his own planet detached from reality.
American career diplomats have been telling their masters in the Obama administration that every theater of American policy is in full-blown rout, forwarding to Washington the growing alarm of foreign leaders. In April 2008, for example, Saudi Arabia's envoy to the US Adel al-Jubeir told General David Petraeus that King Abdullah wanted the US "to cut off the head of the [Iranian] snake" and "recalled the king's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program".
Afghani President Hamid Karzai warned the US that Pakistan was forcing Taliban militants to keep fighting rather than accept his peace offers. Pakistani government officials, other cables warn, might sell nuclear material to terrorists.
The initial reports suggest that the US State Department has massive evidence that Obama's approach - "engaging" Iran and coddling Pakistan - has failed catastrophically. The crisis in diplomatic relations heralded by the press headlines is not so much a diplomatic problem - America's friends and allies in Western and Central Asia have been shouting themselves hoarse for two years - but a crisis of American credibility.
Not one Muslim government official so much as mentioned the issues that have occupied the bulk of Washington's attention during the past year, for example, Israeli settlements. The Saudis, to be sure, would prefer the elimination of all Israeli settlements; for that matter, they would prefer the eventual elimination of the state of Israel. In one conversation with a senior White House official, Saudi King Abdullah stated categorically that Iran, not Palestine, was his main concern; while a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would be a great achievement, Iran would find other ways to cause trouble.
"Iran's goal is to cause problems," Abdullah added. "There is no doubt something unstable about them." There never has been a shred of evidence that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would help America contain Iran's nuclear threat. The deafening silence over this issue in the diplomatic cables is the strongest refutation of this premise to date.
How do we explain the gaping chasm between Obama's public stance and the facts reported by the diplomatic corps? The cables do not betray American secrets so much as American obliviousness. The simplest and most probable explanation is that the president is a man obsessed by his own vision of a multipolar world, in which America will shrink its standing to that of one power among many, and thus remove the provocation on which Obama blames the misbehavior of the Iranians, Pakistanis, the pro-terrorist wing of the Saudi royal family, and other enemies of the United States.
In fairness to Obama, he simply carried forward the George W Bush administration's benign neglect of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Bush confirms in his just-published memoirs what was evident at the time: he followed the advice Defense Secretary Robert Gates and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to avoid open conflict with Iran. If provoked, Iran was capable of producing a large number of American casualties in Iraq in the advent of the 2008 elections.
The difference between early 2008 and early 2010, to be sure, is that Iran has had two years to enrich uranium, consolidate its grip on Syria, insert itself into Afghanistan, stockpile missiles with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and build up its terror capabilities around the world. The window is closing in which Iran may be contained. Covert operations and cyber-sabotage might have bought some time, but benign neglect of Iran has reach its best-used-by-date.
The cables, in sum, reveal an American administration that refuses to look at the facts on the ground, even when friendly governments rub the noses of American diplomats into them. Obama is beyond reality; he has become the lunatic who thinks that he is Barack Obama.
If the Wikileaks documents serve as a wake-up call to the United States, we may all some day thank Julian Assange for publishing them. But given the obstinacy of the man in the White House, I wouldn't place a lot of bets on that.
Israeli media reports that WikiLeak documents reveal that Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) told U.S. officials that the she has no faith in PA Chief Abu Mazen and that the PA is not capable of reaching a peace deal with Israel. The remarks are in contradiction of official Kadima policy.
Livni said in response to the reports that the comments were made in 2007 and came after a break in talks between the two sides.
And now, after they turned down Olmert's offer at the end of 2008 she thinks that they are capable of reaching peace with Israel? Maybe she is as dumb as she looks.
I love Wikileaks. They tell us what our politicians are really thinking when our politicians won't.
Politico's Ben Smith argues that Sheldon Adelson's Yisrael HaYom has become Israel's Fox News.
Adelson's paper is an assault on the media status quo in the model of Fox News in a country where newspapers still litigate the political conversation. The echoes aren't subtle: One of the five principles printed on the tabloid's dense second page translates as "fair and balanced."
And like Fox, the paper has positioned itself against a mainstream media its editors cast as elitist and out of touch. Another of the five principles is "to remember that we are Israelis."
The paper's foreign editor, Boaz Bismuth, a former Israeli ambassador to Mauritania and longtime Paris correspondent for Yediot Aharonot — the new paper's main target and rival — embraces the comparison.
"Fox is proud to be American, but what is nice about America is that ABC and CBS and NBC are no less proud to be American," he said in an interview at the paper's quiet, humming Tel Aviv newsroom, leaving unstated the suggestion that Israel Hayom's rivals are not so proud.
"It doesn't mean that if sometimes Israel is right that I work for the government," said Bismuth, who offered an example of the new paper's posture: "If there are rumors about the bad conduct of a soldier, it won't immediately be our main headline."
Israel Hayom takes as its premise that out-of-touch mainstream media are the country's real power.
"They try to portray my newspaper as the real ruler of Israel, not Netanyahu," said Nahum Barnea, the top columnist at Yediot Aharonot, labeling the charge "ridiculous."
I don't have sales statistics, but my sense is that the number of newspapers sold in hard copy in this country has declined precipitously over the last 20 years. We get the JPost delivered, and I can tell you from experience that the last time we tried to cancel it, they cut the price again to persuade us to stay (that's two or three cuts in the last few years). In fact, the reason there are newspaper sales here at all here is that Orthodox and traditional Jewish Israelis won't turn on the computer or the television or radio on the Sabbath, and therefore they buy the Friday paper, which is like the Sunday paper elsewhere in the World. So far, the local newspapers have resisted giving any reasonable price for a "Friday only" subscription.
Fox also has considerable influence outside the US. Yisrael HaYom has none about which to speak. JPost and Haaretz carry Israel's message - or what they see as Israel's message - to the outside world. That message is not always presented the way that I (and I'm sure Adelson) would like to see it presented. While Adelson has conquered the market for Hebrew print media, his newspaper sorely lacks a real English language web site that is updated in real time (a must these days for having influence outside of Israel).
This is a small country that lives on exports. Our news media is no exception.
I guess this is the week for disclosures even outside the framework of Wikileaks. No, this one did not come from Wikileaks.
Former Israeli ambassador to the US Itamar Rabinovich (pictured with Bill Clinton and Ariel Sharon) told Army Radio on Monday that the United States tapped the phone lines at the Israeli embassy in Washington for many years.
Rabinovich did not say exactly when the code was broken and when Israel found out about it, but it was understood from his remarks that the tap started after his 1993-1996 tenure in the U.S. capital and was discovered only years later.
The former envoy said that every staffer at the Israeli Embassy in Washington is warned about possible leaks of conversations held in the building and on ordinary phone lines, but also on the secure phone line.
After the Americans broke the code, Israel's deepest policy secrets were apparently exposed.
"Every 'juicy' telegram was in danger of being leaked," Rabinovich told Army Radio's Razi Barkai. "We sent very few of them. Sometimes I came to Israel to deliver reports orally. The Americans were certainly tapping the regular phone lines, and it became clear that in later years they were also listening to the secure line."
As far as is known, American spies have not been caught by Israel's intelligence services, although there have been instances when U.S. intelligence operatives contacted Israeli citizens and explored the possibility of recruiting them.
The Americans have also used their military attaches to gather information.
Israel believes that over the years, U.S. intelligence services have been listening - or at least attempting to listen - to conversations between key people in Israel and staff at its missions around the world.
For that reason, diplomats going abroad are instructed by the Shin Bet security service to treat every conversation as if it is being tapped and to make sure not to reveal secret information.
However, the assumption was still that the secure phone line could not being tapped.
Robin Shepherd, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person this past summer at the World Jewish Congress, takes the BBC to task for ignoring three recent stories that shed light on who is responsible for the Middle East impasse: The survey that showed that 60% of 'Palestinians' view a 'Palestinian state' as a stepping stone to replacing Israel, the 'Palestinian study' that denied the Jewish connection to the Western Wall (let alone the Temple Mount), and the three no's of Ramallah. None of these stories was reported by the BBC, and Shepherd thinks he knows why.
Now think about that for a moment. Here you have the building blocks of an immensely convincing argument that the core problem in this conflict is with the Palestinians and not with the Israelis. As the whole world is pressing the two sides towards peace talks, we have clear evidence that one of those sides is putting up insurmountable obstacles to a successful outcome. In other words, it’s obviously news worthy. If anything along such lines had been reported from the Israeli side there is no question whatsoever that it would have received saturation coverage, and rightly so.
But since the evidence casts the Palestinians in a less than flattering light, it is totally ignored. The British public, and the BBC’s tens of millions of viewers, readers and listeners around the world, are just not getting the information they need on this conflict to form a rounded judgement. It is deliberate censorship.
I know I have said all this before. But it consistently bears repeating since the role of the media, and particularly the ubiquitous BBC, in public perceptions about Israel and Palestinians is clearly vital. When it comes to this conflict the prejudices against one party, namely Israel, are so deeply entrenched that what emerges is much less like traditional journalism than the agitprop of political activism.
The BBC needs to be made aware that this is against their own charter and also makes a mockery of a once great institution’s claim to be taken seriously. In the meantime just pass stories like this around to as many people as you can. If an appeal to basic journalistic standards won’t make them mend their ways, perhaps an appeal to their sense of shame will. It’s always worth a try.
I wonder if it's possible to do more than that. Maybe some British readers can comment on the feasibility. As I understand it, the BBC is supported by a tax on television ownership, just like Israel's state-owned media (another unfortunate legacy we have from the British Mandate). What if there were an organized campaign not to pay the tax? Here, the tax is a separate item (because people who don't own TV's don't have to pay it). Is that true in Britain? Can the British government be hit with another protest against taxation without representation? Just asking. Check the comments to see if it would work.
Israel sought to block military sales to Saudi Arabia
We were told that Israel would not seek to block that $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia because there was no point to trying. Now, thanks to Wikileaks, we know that we were told wrong (Hat Tip: Martin Kramer). This cable that summarizes a meeting that took place on November 17, 2009 at which Israel did try to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It was something called the Executive Session of the 40th Joint Political Military Group (JPMG) and the discussion was about maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge (QME).
4. (S) The GOI continued to express concern over the F-15 sale to Saudi Arabia. U.S. participants noted that the USG is unable to provide more detailed information about the sale until Saudi Arabia officially sends a Letter of Request (LOR). The GOI expressed additional concerns about stationing these new aircraft at Tabuk airfield in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia -- close to the Israeli border. U.S. participants stated the USG understanding that this should not be an issue, as the Saudis are considering stationing new Typhoon aircraft at Tabuk. The GOI also raised AMRAAM sales to Jordan; U.S. participants explained that the new C-7 AMRAAM is an export version with capabilities similar to the C-5 version -- and therefore provides little to no increase in capabilities.
The documents in the article included nicknames for a number of world leaders. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was referred to as "Hitler," French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a "naked emperor," the German Chancellor was called Angela "Teflon" Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai as "driven by paranoia." Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an "Alpha Male," while President Dmitry Medvedev is "afraid, hesitant."
There was a candidate for the German parliament last year who did much better on Merkel.
The documents also say that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il suffers from epilepsy, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi's full-time nurse is a "hot blond," and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi loves "wild parties."
I didn't need cables to tell me about Berlusconi. This has been widely publicized.
The article also quotes the State Department as saying that US President Barack Obama "prefers to look East rather than West," and "has no feelings for Europe."
Well, the Brits certainly knew that. I wonder where that Churchill bust is these days.
This is a rather lengthy summary of US cables to the State Department regarding Israeli attitudes on Iran's nuclear program. For the most part, I have to say that I've covered it here before, and none of it is really new. But for those who want a quick summary, read the whole thing.
This assessment from the US, however, is new and reassuring.
Public speculation about possible strikes focused on the differences from the Israeli attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. "In private," the US embassy reported, "government officials have acknowledged that several factors would make any attack against Iran a much more difficult mission."
It added: "It may not be possible to detect preparations for any military strike. Air defence operations would pose nearly perfect cover for civil defence and air force activities preceding any attack. Due to both the extreme sensitivity of the issue and the government of Israel's near inability to prevent leaks, any attack order would be closely held."
We have civil defense exercises all the time (there's one in Jerusalem from 10:00 - 4:00 on Tuesday that is practicing war scenarios). Most people don't even notice, although today there will be air raid sirens that might clue people in. Perfect cover. Heh.
Russia wanted drone technology in exchange for cancelling S-300 sale to Iran
Russia tried to trade the cancellation of the sale to Iran of the S-300 anti-missile defense system for access to Israeli technology on unmanned aerial vehicles.
A billion dollars and the cancelation of a missile deal with Iran – these were the things Russia promised Israel in return for advanced technology on drones, according to a secret cable leaked by WikiLeaks.
Under-Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher, whose name is signed on the cable, got the information from Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Policy and Political-Military Affairs, in 2009. The cable was sent a year before the Kremlin announced the deal would be annulled.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emissaries also learn of a special "Iran observer" in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku who reports on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali Jafari allegedly got into a heated argument with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.
Surprise: US spied on the 'Palestinian Authority' and Hamas
Given that they're both just so reliable, this could not come as a surprise to anyone.
A separate cable, provided to The Guardian by the whistleblower group WikiLeaks, lays out a "national human intelligence collection directive" asking US personnel to obtain "Details of travel plans such as routes and vehicles used by Palestinian Authority leaders and HAMAS members."
The cable demands "[b]iographical, financial and biometric information on key PA and HAMAS leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank and outside."
The document, related from the State Department in Washington to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, shows that the US sought extensive, detailed information on all aspects of governance, security, policies, attitudes and capabilities of both the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas government in Gaza.
A representative passage of the lengthy cable directs personnel to gather information on: "Plans, intentions, key focus and rivalries of senior PA security force officials, including the General Intelligence Organization (Mukhabarat), the Preventive Security Organization (PSO), Military Intelligence (Istikhbarat), the National Security Force (NSF), and the Civil Police, as well as HAMAS's Security Support Force in the Gaza strip."
I'd be worried if the US didn't seek to gather all that information.
Every time Israel searches - or even worse attacks - seemingly innocent things like ambulances, the media comes after us for all kinds of terrible things (chief among them, violating the oft-violated Geneva Convention). Well, the Wikileaks cables show that there's someone besides us who recognize what the Arabs and Muslims do with medical equipment.
This is a cable from Dubai with all the names removed. Apparently it involved a meeting with someone with intimate knowledge of how Iran uses Red Crescent equipment. And surprise, they violate the Geneva Convention.
(C) During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, [NAME REMOVED] stated Iran's military used ICR cover to enter Iraq and inspect Iranian prisoners of war held in Iraq. Subsequently, in the Balkan war, the IRC provided cover to intelligence agents, [DETAILS REMOVED]
5. (S) [DETAILS REMOVED] With the war underway, [NAME REMOVED] says the number of Qods officers seeking IRC cover increased and was between ten and 30. [DETAILS REMOVED] The only actual IRC officers in Iraq were the [DETAILS REMOVED].
6. (S) [DETAILS REMOVED] knew none of the purported IRC members, and concluded that they were not legitimate IRC relief workers and alleged that someone else must have been signing their professional certificates. [NAME REMOVED] recalled being told that IRC identification cards had become more important after US forces had detained Iranian officers carrying IRGC identification cards.
S) The IRC again facilitated the entry of Qods force officers to Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah war in summer 2006. Although [NAME REMOVED] did not travel to Lebanon during the conflict, he reiterated that the only true IRC officers dispatched to Lebanon were [DETAILS REMOVED] all others were IRGC and MOIS officials. [NAME REMOVED] further said that the IRC shipments of medical supplies served also to facilitate weapons shipments. He said that IRC [DETAILS REMOVED] had seen missiles in the planes destined for Lebanon when delivering medical supplies to the plane. The plane was allegedly "half full" prior to the arrival of any medical supplies.
16. (S) [NAME REMOVED] also allowed the transfer of an IRC hospital in southern Lebanon to Hezbollah. [NAME REMOVED] said that Hassan Nasrallah had asked Supreme Leader Khamenei to allow Hezbollah to run the hospital during Dr. Noorbala's tenure as IRC president. Although Khamenei acquiesced, Dr. Noorbala prevented the transfer until his own departure. The hospitaL [DETAILS REMOVED] is under Hezbollah control. [NAME REMOVED] is allegedly close to Nasrallah and is also trying to create a network of medical clinics in Lebanon.
The next time you see a 'civilian' truck blown up during a war, you will know why.
Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,” the cable said.
There may be good reasons for the U.S. to use force to delay Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but to do so because the chief financiers of al-Qaeda asked us seems like a pretty lousy one to me. So the next time you hear some pundit or politician moan about American power or leadership in the Middle East, or how our "allies" are doubting our resolve, this is what it's about: having American men and women die on behalf of decadent monarchs and presidents-for-life who are unwilling to fight their own battles.
There are a lot of good reasons for the US not to support the Saudis other than the Saudis' support for terror. There's the fact that Saudi Arabia has no shared values with the US, has a monarchy that lives in the 8th century, finances strict Islamist education around the World, and has goals and aspirations that are anathema to most Americans. And that's only the start!
Despite all that, the US has been supporting the Saudis for many years, even though it causes many Americans to hold their noses in contempt. The reason is simple: Oil. Would the US be better off with Saudi Arabia's massive oil supply under Iran's control? If the answer to that question is no, the US ought to be thinking about a military strike against Iran, because that's where things are headed.
It also goes without saying that the US has a lot of other interests in the region that would dictate that it ought to be stopping the Iranian nuclear program. Those interests ought not to suffer because of the Saudis.
A cable from February 24 of this year includes an American assessment that Iran bought 19 missiles from North Korea that are capable of reaching western Europe. The missiles have a much greater range than any other missile in Iran's arsenal, and are nuclear capable, although Iran does not yet have the capability of creating a nuclear warhead that can be loaded on the missiles.
The cable is a detailed, highly classified account of a meeting between top Russian officials and an American delegation led by Vann H. Van Diepen, an official with the State Department’s nonproliferation division who, as a national intelligence officer several years ago, played a crucial role in the 2007 assessment of Iran’s nuclear capacity.
The missiles could for the first time give Iran the capacity to strike at capitals in Western Europe or easily reach Moscow, and American officials warned that their advanced propulsion could speed Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
There has been scattered but persistent speculation on the topic since 2006, when fragmentary reports surfaced that North Korea might have sold Iran missiles based on a Russian design called the R-27, once used aboard Soviet submarines to carry nuclear warheads. In the unclassified world, many arms control experts concluded that isolated components made their way to Iran, but there has been little support for the idea that complete missiles, with their huge thrusters, had been secretly shipped.
The Feb. 24 cable, which is among those obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of news organizations, makes it clear that American intelligence agencies believe that the complete shipment indeed took place, and that Iran is taking pains to master the technology in an attempt to build a new generation of missiles. The missile intelligence also suggests far deeper military — and perhaps nuclear — cooperation between North Korea and Iran than was previously known. At the request of the Obama administration, The New York Times has agreed not to publish the text of the cable.
The missile we're talking about has a range of up to 2,000 miles (they had less of a range as a submarine-based missile).
In a January 2009 meeting at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh among Netherlands Ambassador Ron Strikker, Russian Ambassador Victor Gibinvish, US Embassy Riyadh Pol/Mil Counselor Scott McGehee and Dr. Prince Turki Al-Kabeer, Saudi Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs, the Saudis expressed concern that the United States would abandon them to a nuclear Iran (Hat Tip: Martin Kramer). This meeting took place four days after President Obama was inaugurated.
Prince Turki warned that if Iran tried to produce nuclear weapons, other countries in the Gulf region would be compelled to do the same, or to permit the stationing of nuclear weapons in the Gulf to serve as a deterrent to the Iranians. Turki then pointedly demanded that the US keep Saudi officials informed about US plans for Iran.
2. (C) Dr. Prince Turki is not a decision-maker, but he is a reliable transmitter of official Saudi thinking. Most of what he said is not new, although this is the most explicit mention we have heard of Saudi willingness to see nuclear weapons deployed in the GCC as a deterrent to Iran. His concern that the United States will negotiate a "grand bargain" with Iran without consulting Saudi Arabia is a concern we have heard often in recent weeks. End summary & comment.
3. (C) After hearing a brief verbal demarche from Ambassador Strikker on the upcoming June Plenary of the GICNT, Dr. Turki turned to [Russian] Ambassador Gibinvish, saying, "On this issue, what concerns us most is how to get our neighbor to change its policy on enrichment." Iran needs to be convinced to enter a dialogue on this matter, he continued, noting that Saudi Arabia is also concerned about the Russian-built reactor at Bushehr. A leakage from a plant at that location could bring an environmental catastrophe to Saudi Arabia, pointing out that it is located less than 300 kilometers away from Saudi shores, across open water.
4. (C) Ambassador Gibinvish was able to say only "Sure, I agree!" before Prince continued, "The location is so dangerous! Not just to us, but to the world economy!" He urged that Russia use its influence to have the reactor moved north, suggesting that a location on the shore of the Caspian Sea would be much better, where there is water available for reactor cooling, and where mountains rise behind to contain any possible leakage from moving south. Perhaps more troubling, he said, is Iran's pursuit of nuclear enrichment. He explained that if Iran tries to produce nuclear weapons, other countries in the Gulf region would be compelled to do the same, or to permit the stationing of nuclear weapons in the Gulf to serve as a deterrent to the Iranians.
5. (C) Amb. Gibinvish responded that Iran's desire to enrich uranium reflected its fears that it will someday be attacked by Israel or the United States and also a sign of Iran's desire to establish its "supremacy" in the region. Prince Turki interjected: "And we cannot accept Iranian supremacy in the region. We are okay with nuclear electrical power and desalination, but not with enrichment." He said that the prospect of Iranian enrichment raises troubling questions about their motivations for doing so: "they do not need it!"
More proof that it's not Israel that is pushing the US the hardest to deal with Iran. In fact, given what we know now about how hard the Saudis have been pushing, I'm more surprised the US has not done anything.
If the rumors are true, Israel has had nuclear weapons since the 1960's. If it were going to carry out an unprovoked attack on Iran, it would have done so a long time ago.
One of the amazing things that's come out of the Wikileaks treasure trove of documents is that the issue of who is pushing for a strike against Iran is finally settled. For months now, the Left has dismissed as 'neocon speculation' the idea that the Arab countries are even more concerned by the prospect of a nuclear Iran than Israel is. But the Left is totally wrong about that. In fact, the Arab countries have been pushing the US - at least since 2005 - to take military action against Iran.
(S) Turning to Iran, MbZ voiced certainty that the EU-3 efforts with Iran would break down and that Iran would resume its nuclear activities ) if it had not already done so. Repeating concerns first voiced to us in February (reftel), MbZ appeared convinced that it was only a matter of time before Israel or the U.S. would strike Iranian nuclear facility targets. U.S. installations in the Gulf could be targeted by Iran in the aftermath of such an action, he warned. MbZ agreed with the USG,s tough line with Tehran and the Europeans. A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Gulf region and possibly allow terrorist access to WMD. MbZ asked Lt. Gen. Dunn whether it would be possible for &anyone8 to "take out" all locations of concern in Iran via air power; Lt. Gen. Dunn voiced doubt that this would be possible given the dispersed locations. "Then it will take ground forces!" MbZ exclaimed. Ambassador noted that the UAE's Director of Military Intelligence, BG Essa al Mazrouei, would pay counterpart visits this week to CENTCOM, J-2, DIA, and CIA for discussions on Iran and Iraq-related matters. MbZ said he looked forward to sharing "contingency planning" scenarios in future conversations.
According to the leaked document, part of the conversation between King Abdullah and the US officials touched on Saudi attitudes towards Iran, its influence in Iraq and the need to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.
The cable quotes former Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir recalling, "the King's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. 'He told you to cut off the head of the snake,' he recalled to the Charge, adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government."
The document says that the Saudi foreign minister called for "severe US and international sanctions on Iran, including a travel ban and further restrictions on bank lending." It added that, "the foreign minister also stated that the use of military pressure against Iran should not be ruled out."
In its assessment, the US Embassy cable concluded that the Saudis, "are eager to work with the US to resist and reverse Iranian encroachment in Iraq."
That document is here. It's from April 2008 (before Obama took office) and it turns out that David Petraeus was at that meeting.
'Palestinian Authority' and Egypt refused to take over Gaza after Operation Cast Lead
On May 25, 2009, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told two Congressional delegations, one from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Senator Casey, the other from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs led by Congressman Ackerman, that before it went to war in Gaza, Israel asked the 'Palestinian Authority' and Egypt to assume control of Gaza after Operation Cast Lead. Both of them refused.
Barak made clear in these meetings that he feels the Palestinian Authority is weak and lacks self-confidence, and that Gen. Dayton's training helps bolster confidence. He explained that the GOI had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas. Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both. He stressed the importance of continued consultations with both Egypt and Fatah -- as well as the NGO community -- regarding Gaza reconstruction, and to avoid publicly linking any resolution in Gaza to the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
And then there's this prophetic statement from Barak's meeting with the Senate delegation.
Barak asked rhetorically how a lack of firm response to North Korea would be interpreted by Iran's leadership, speculating the USG would be viewed as a "paper tiger."
That's a fair assessment now, isn't it? And then there's this:
Barak estimated a window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable. After that, he said, any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage. He also expressed concern that should Iran develop nuclear capabilities, other rogue states and/or terrorist groups would not be far behind.
We are almost exactly 18 months to the day from that statement. And Barak is right about collateral damage because the Bushehr plant is supposedly ready to go on line. But Barak left the Stuxnet worm out of the equation. Stuxnet has probably bought us at least another year, and with a bit of luck it will take us to the end of Obama's term, and hopefully to regime change in Washington.
The Washington Post published a letter from State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh to Wikileaks and its lawyer urging them not to release the thousands of 'secret' diplomatic cables that were released on Sunday. The letter is a metaphor for the Obama administration: It's pathetic.
In your letter, you say you want – consistent with your goal of “maximum disclosure” – information regarding individuals who may be “at significant risk of harm” because of your actions.
Despite your stated desire to protect those lives, you have done the opposite and endangered the lives of countless individuals. You have undermined your stated objective by disseminating this material widely, without redaction, and without regard to the security and sanctity of the lives your actions endanger. We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials. If you are genuinely interested in seeking to stop the damage from your actions, you should: 1) ensure WikiLeaks ceases publishing any and all such materials; 2) ensure WikiLeaks returns any and all classified U.S. Government material in its possession; and 3) remove and destroy all records of this material from WikiLeaks’ databases.
I'm sure Julian Assange is just quaking in his boots from that threat.
Anyone else here old enough to remember Daniel Ellsberg? Ellsberg stole documents from the Penmtagon and gave them to several US newspapers to publish in 1971. While the government was unable to prevent their publication, they did take all the newspapers to court and the resulting legal expenses (it went to the Supreme Court) were enough to make the newspapers think twice about doing that sort of thing again. Until now. They also drove Ellsberg into psychiatric care.
What's missing from Koh's letter is something every lawyer puts into a letter like that: A threat. What are we going to do if you don't listen to us? We'll sue you. We'll go to court and try to freeze any assets you have in the United States.
Please don't get me wrong. As an Israeli, I'm thrilled that these documents were published because they have vindicated everything we have been saying for the last two years. If the documents had said something different, I would not have been so thrilled. But yes, I'm happy they were published.
However, a government cannot carry out its foreign policies if it cannot maintain confidentiality. What's in these documents would normally have come out in someone's memoirs 30 or 40 or 50 years from now. Instead it's come out in 'real time.' In a way that's a metaphor for our society today. Just like the Obama administration's weak efforts to stop it are a metaphor for American weakness.
The only obstacle to peace, argues Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, is the 'Palestinian' effort to revise history to vitiate the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.
THIS HISTORIC denial has political ramifications. In 2000, talks between former prime minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat at Camp David in the presence of former US president Bill Clinton broke down over similar historical revisionism. After Barak had made an overly generous offer about splitting sovereignty of the Temple Mount, Arafat claimed that he could not concede an inch of this “Islamic territory” because the Jewish Temple never existed. This “Temple denial” wasn’t just distorting Jewish history and tradition but also Christian. Arafat was attacking the belief of more than a billion Christians worldwide.
As we approach Christmas, another form of historical revisionism emerges.
The myth that Jesus was a Palestinian is told to anyone who arrives on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem or other Christian holy sites under the Palestinian Authority.
However, the facts once again don’t add up. The Jewish province of Judea was destroyed by Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 C.E. when the Romans quashed the Bar Khochba-led Jewish revolt. To sever the Jewish connection with the Land of Israel, the Roman emperor changed its name to Syria Palaestina, eventually becoming known in English as Palestine.
According to Christian scholars, Jesus was crucified somewhere between 26 and 36, a full hundred years before the term Palestine had even been coined.
The world at that time did not have a single mosque and Islam and the Arab conquest of this land was still six centuries away.
It is perhaps understandable that those who came late to a region would need to supplant a history by appropriating and denying that of its earlier inhabitants. While the Palestinians claim to be the original residents of our land, history and fact stand in their way.
While the majority of the Jewish people had to endure a two millennia exile from our land, the stones of our Temple, the burial sites of our forefathers, our ritual baths, ancient cisterns and synagogues remained. Palestinians will attempt to destroy historical memory just as surely as they destroyed actual Jewish holy and historical sites like Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
However, 2,000 years of foreign occupation and attempted negation of Jewish history could not prevent the return of the aboriginal people to our land.
When I first saw this article, I thought yeah, he's on to something. But on re-reading it, I have to tell you that it bothers me that he gives the 'Palestinian' narrative equal validity with the Jewish one. While there has been an Arab and Muslim presence here off and on since the 8th century, no one recognized the existence of a 'Palestinian people' until the 1960's, and even now, that 'people' is not ethnically distinct from the Arabs. If you want to pretend that there's a 'Palestinian people' because you want to make peace (as if that were possible) that's one thing, but to stretch that into making the 'Palestinian' claim to the land as equally as valid as the Jewish claim is just a lie. That's why you will always find the term 'Palestinian' in scare quotes on this blog.
'Human rughts Council' investigator speaks to anti-Israel gathering
An investigator who is one of the members of the panel investigating the Mavi Marmara incident on behalf of the United Nations 'Human Rights Council' spoke at an anti-Israel event in Bangkok on Thursday. The occasion was an observance of the UN's day of solidarity with the 'Palestinian people' which falls on November 29 - today (Hat Tip: Elder of Ziyon).
Ms Dairiam's presentation was directly relevant to Thailand. She was one of a three-member panel appointed by Thai Ambassador Singhasak Phuangketkeow after he assumed chairmanship of the UN Human Rights Council in June to investigate the May 21 attack by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish aid ship seeking to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Ms Dairiam said that launching the investigation, as mandated by an earlier resolution of the council, had been one of Mr Singhasak's first actions, and praised his efforts to establish the facts.
Ms Dairiam said the panel had concluded that it had been the Israeli in tention all along to cause as much physical injury as possible. She said the Israelis were apparently embarrassed by the many maritime efforts to break the blockade and the adverse publicity it was generating. ''They were going to stop it once and for all. They were intending to kill,'' she said.
This violence was totally unnecessary, she said. The captain of the ship told the investigators that if the Israelis had simply intended to stop the ship from sailing onwards, all they had to do was blast the propeller, which would have rendered the vessel inoperable.
She said the panel interviewed 112 passengers comprising 20 nationalities. The resulting conclusions painted a grim picture of how heavily-armed Israelis boarded the ship in international waters several nautical miles outside the blockade zone and opened fire on activists defending themselves with broomsticks, mop handles, kitchen knives and broken-off pieces of the ship's railings.
Those trying to film or photograph the attack were primary targets, apparently because the Israelis wanted to ensure there was no evidence. One activist was shot in cold blood between the eyes. Another's brain was blown away by a weapon known as a beanbag which sprays pellets and is usually used for crowd control. A third suffered permanent injuries to the colon.
The entire attack took only 45 minutes, after which the ship was towed to the Israeli Port of Ashdod. During those eight hours, she said, there was ''more wanton violence, torture, breaking of bones, stamping on people, twisting the arm until the fingers were dislocated''. In Ashdod itself, there were ''more indignities, stripping, and body-cavity searches''.
She said several Americans and Europeans were on the ship, including Germans, Swiss, Belgians and Britons. None of them were harmed. Even when they reached Israel, they were provided with consular service. All other nationals, including Arabs and Turks, were brutalised with ''willful killing, torture, and inhuman treatment, serious injury to body and health, and violations of human rights'', said Ms Dairiam.
''There is clear evidence to support the prosecution of individuals in the [Israeli] army of crimes under the Geneva Convention,'' she said.
Ms Dairiam also discussed how the Western diplomatic community swung into action to shield the Israelis. She said a number of American diplomats met with the investigative panel and sought to delay issuance of the report on the grounds that it may prejudice the ''peace process''. The Europeans issued verbal condemnations of the attack, but when the time came to vote on the report, all of them abstained.
The diplomatic divide was obvious, she said; the Arab, African, Asian, non-aligned movement and Latin American countries on one side, and the Europeans and Americans on the other.
Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon first issued a condemnation of the attack and then set up a parallel commission headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Duncan Palmer with a different mandate.
We've all seen the movies. Ms. Dairiam, the witnesses or both are obviously lying.
The Turks are sounding more and more like the Iranians all the time.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a group of reporters in Istanbul, which included some Israelis, that he sees Israel disappearing into a binational state which would come under Turkish influence along with the rest of the Middle East.
Israel will not be able to remain over time an independent country, and a bi-national state will be established on all of the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in which Jews and Palestinians will live,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a number of meetings that he held with journalists and academics, including a number of Israeli academics. Davutoglu’s vision, which he revisited a number of times, is for Turkey to become a dominant force in the Middle East and further, that it will be the protector state of the above-cited bi-national state within a number of years.
The central idea that was put forward by Davutoglu, which he has been trying to promote by means of a number of journalists and Turkish government officials, is that Israel as an independent state is illegitimate in the region and, as such, is destined to disappear. That assessment is rooted in a deeper ideology that aspires to restore to Turkey the historic influence it wielded during the era of the Ottoman empire, which ruled the Middle East for close to 400 years. Davutoglu said on a number of occasions that he believed that peace would be restored to the Middle East only in the wake of deep and substantial Turkish intervention.
In other words, Davutoglu and Erdogan aspire to set a new regional order — Erdogan by means of populist rhetoric and closer ties with Turkey’s neighbors, Syria and Iran; Davutoglu by means of promulgating the ideological basis. This new order, as noted, has no room for Israel as an independent state. Both Erdogan and Davutoglu have been advancing a policy that promotes closer ties with Syria and Iran, and moves away from the West. Davutoglu added in his meetings with the journalists and academics that the historic powers, (Britain and France) which conquered the Middle East from the Ottomans, are the ones that are responsible for the difficult situation that currently reigns in the Middle East, since they drew the borders in a way that suited their own political and military interests, without taking into account the demographic affiliation of the region’s residents.
I don't agree with the first sentence of that last paragraph. Davutoglu and Erdogan are apparently interested in restoring the Ottoman Empire, but in that context, Iran would be a rival and not a partner. I believe that Turkey's outreach to Syria is sincere, but it's outreach to Iran is nothing but tactical. That would explain this from a cable of a meeting between US Undersecretary of State William Burns and Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sinirlioglu.
Sinirlioglu contended Turkey's diplomatic efforts are beginning to pull Syria out of Iran's orbit. He said a shared hatred for Saddam had been the original impetus for their unlikely alliance. "Now, their interests are diverging." Once again pitching Israel-Syria proximity talks, Sinirlioglu contended Israel's acceptance of Turkey as a mediator could break Syria free of Tehran's influence and further isolate Iran.
Turkey hates Iran as much as everyone else does. But they want to use Syria to extend their influence throughout the region and to reinstate the Ottoman Empire.
Wikileaks cables: Saudis reject linkage of Iran with 'peace process'
Everyone who writes a political blog will undoubtedly have their favorite Wikileaks cable out of the thousands that were leaked to the public on Sunday. So far, at least, this one is mine.
The argument that the Obama administration has used on Israel to try to push it into making a bad deal with the 'Palestinians' is the argument that if only Israel would make peace with the 'Palestinians,' the US would be able to assemble a coalition to oppose Iran's nuclear weapons. This argument is known as 'linkage' and it has been used to tie 'peace' with the 'Palestinians' to just about everything the West wants the Arab world to do from democracy to granting equal rights to women to bombing Iran to allowing freedom of religion. That argument was rejected in March 2009 - at least with respect to forming a coalition to deprive Iran of a nuclear capability - by Saudi King Abdullah in a meeting with Obama's anti-terror adviser, John 'al-Quds' Brennan (Hat Tip: Martin Kramer via Twitter).
8. (S) A "HEATED EXCHANGE": The King noted that Iranian FM Mottaki had been "sitting in that same seat (as Brennan) a few moments ago." The King described his conversation with FM Mottaki as "a heated exchange, frankly discussing Iran's interference in Arab affairs." When challenged by the King on Iranian meddling in Hamas affairs, Mottaki apparently protested that "these are Muslims." "No, Arabs" countered the King, "You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters." The King said the Iranians wanted to improve relations and that he responded by giving Mottaki an ultimatum. "I will give you one year" (to improve ties), "after that, it will be the end." [Lest anyone think that the Arabs and the Persians have forgotten their rivalry. CiJ]
9. (S) "SPARE US YOUR EVIL": The King expressed hope the U.S. would review its Iran policy and "come to the right conclusion." Brennan responded that President Obama was personally reviewing U.S. Iran policy and wanted to hear the King's thoughts. Abdullah asserted that Iran is trying to set up Hizballah-like organizations in African countries, observing that the Iranians don't think they are doing anything wrong and don't recognize their mistakes. "I said (to Mottaki) that's your problem," recounted the King. Abdullah said he would favor Rafsanjani in an Iranian election, were he to run. He described Iran not as "a neighbor one wants to see," but as "a neighbor one wants to avoid." He said the Iranians "launch missiles with the hope of putting fear in people and the world." A solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would be a great achievement, the King said, but Iran would find other ways to cause trouble. "Iran's goal is to cause problems," he continued, "There is no doubt something unstable about them." He described Iran as "adventurous in the negative sense," and declared "May God prevent us from falling victim to their evil." Mottaki had tendered an invitation to visit Iran, but Abdullah said he replied "All I want is for you to spare us your evil." Summarizing his history with Iran, Abdullah concluded: "We have had correct relations over the years, but the bottom line is that they cannot be trusted."
11. (S) A DANGEROUS NEIGHBORHOOD: Brennan responded that the Saudis lived in a dangerous neighborhood with Iran across the Gulf, with Saudi Arabia sharing a long border with Yemen, and with a number of other troublesome countries nearby. Brennan noted that we have a lot of work to do in the Middle East together. The King responded that the world,s attention was focused on the region. He further stated that he believed that the U.S. could help in this sensitive region, but that we should not take matters lightly. Brennan noted that President Obama is fully aware of the dangers in the region, that the U.S. knew that it had to remain involved in constructing a solution, and that we would seek the King,s counsel in dealing with the many issues in the Middle East. The King asked if that included Iran. Brennan responded that it did. Brennan said that we had our eyes wide open to Iranian ambitions, that we were not nave to the dangers Iran posed to Saudi Arabia, and that Iran could not be allowed to succeed in its destabilizing activites. Brennan observed that the President had ordered a complete review of U.S. Iran policy and made reference to a passage in the President,s letter that we needed to test Iran,s intentions to cease its destabilizing behavior and live up to its international obligations. Brennan further observed that the U.S.-Saudi partnership had to remain strong and that together, and with others, we needed to thwart Iran,s nuclear ambitions. "That is important," responded the King. Finally, Brennan said the President wanted the King to know he had a good friend in the White House who would be willing to assist in any way that he could. The King thanked Mr. Brennan, said he appreciated the sentiments, said that he had great respect for President Obama, and reflected that we had been great friends for many years and would remain friends as our disagreements were minor.
Here's another curious point from the same cable. American diplomats in this region are constantly saying that no meeting with an Arab leader is complete without a half-hour dressdown over US policy on Israel. Well, look what this cable labels as "THAT WITHOUT WHICH NO SAUDI MEETING IS COMPLETE:"
Abdullah said "as a friend" that "it was a mistake" to limit access of Saudi citizens to the U.S., since "this damages bilateral relations and the image of the U.S. in Saudi Arabia." The King noted there were 60,000 Saudi students abroad, about one third of whom were in the U.S., and "others would have gone" but for the difficulties in gaining access to the U.S. The King noted that for many years very senior Saudi officials, including Prince Saud al-Faisal, had studied in the U.S. He then noted that Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Adel al Jubeir (who was interpreting for the King) had studied in the U.S. and was "half American" as a result. He also said he was aware of, and appreciated, Ambassador Fraker's efforts to improve the visa situation "even though there were people in Washington who fought him." Finally, he observed that anyone from Saudi Arabia who studies in the U.S. inevitably becomes a friend and advocate of the United States and that we only hurt ourselves by cutting off this flow of students.
So why does the Obama administration keep insisting that they would have a much easier time assembling a coalition against Iran if we were to retreat to the 1949 armistice lines (which former Israeli ambassador to the UN Abba Eban famously termed 'Auschwitz borders') and let the 'Palestinians' have their reichlet? I believe that there are two reasons. One is that Obama really believes that there is a 'fierce moral urgency' to cut Israel back and establish a 'Palestinian state.' The other is that he just doesn't like us.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-five years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 12 to 33 years and eight grandchildren. Three of our children are married and a fourth is engaged! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com