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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, October 11.
1) Whistling past the sanctions 

Strict New Procedures for Iran Currency Trading After Protest - Headline from the New York Times October 8, 2012
Iran Cites I.M.F. Data to Prove Sanctions Aren’t Working - Headline from the New York Times, October 9, 2012

(Key paragraph from the later article)

A monetary fund spokeswoman, Wafa Amr, said it had calculated the Iran data before the Iranian currency plunged in value this month. 
2) Border clashes

From Israel Launches Airstrikes After Attacks From Gaza:
The latest flare-up began with a missile strike on Sunday against two men who Israel said were members of jihadist groups involved in terrorist activity against Israel. Some Palestinian news outlets identified them as radical Salafi militants. Gaza medical officials said that the two, who were struck while riding on a motorcycle, were critically wounded, and that one later died. They said that at least eight passers-by were also wounded in the strike.
The article has gratuitous mentions about Hamas observing a ceasefire, which is dubious, since it allowed other terrorist groups to operate without hindrance and fire into Israel.  Calling the incident the latest "flare up" minimizes the fact that threats from Gaza towards Israel have been ongoing.

The IDF actually had more information about the men who were targeted:
In a joint IDF- ISA operation, IAF targeted Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi (b. 1989), a Global Jihad operative from Rafah, and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai (b. 1988), a member of the Ashora Council of the Martyrs of Jerusalem, a Gaza-based Global Jihad affiliate. For many years Tala’at was involved in extensive terrorist activity, targeting Israeli civilian and security forces, including rocket firing, weapon manufacturing, and other terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip. He was a senior operative involved in the planning and execution of an attack along the security fence on 18.6.12, during which an Israeli civilian was killed. He had also been planning an complex attack intended to take place along the Sinai border. 
From Turkey, Seeking Weapons, Forces Syrian Jet to Land:
News reports on Wednesday described intensified fighting close to Azamarin, a Syrian border settlement, with mortar and machine-gun fire clearly audible from the Turkish side. Wounded civilians, some in makeshift boats filled with women and children, could be seen crossing the narrow Orontes River, which demarcates part of the Syrian border with Hatay Province in Turkey.
Maybe I'm nitpicking but when the attacks come from Syria into Turkey the report is attributed to "news reports," but when attacks are against Israel the news is based on "Israel said." (Even though in this case Israel's claim was confirmed by Palestinians sources.) Nor was there any mention of last week's drone infiltration.

3) More on Romney's speech

A New York Times editorial, In search of answers from Mr. Romney starts with:
Mitt Romney mounted a big foreign policy display on a flag-draped stage at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday, serving up a lot of tough-sounding sound bites and hawkish bumper stickers, some of them even bumping up somewhere close to the truth, to give the appearance that he would be stronger and more forceful on international affairs than President Obama.
It isn't a serious look at Romney's speech, Here's part of the rest of the editorial:
But it is not, as Mr. Romney seems to think, one big monolithic struggle against those who are seeking to wage “perpetual war on the West.” There are different strains of Islam and many kinds of Muslims with different political agendas. To create smart policy, American presidents have to see the nuances, not just the slogans, and be willing to work with many different kinds of leaders.
Mr. Romney seized again on the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the murders of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others, to make cheap political points. He said the attack “was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland” on Sept. 11, 2001, an exaggeration that he can be making only for political effect.
The administration initially characterized last month’s attack as a spontaneous demonstration gone awry, but, within two days, described it as an organized terrorist act by extremists with possible links to Al Qaeda. But that organization has changed so much, and splintered so much, since 2001 that to suggest a link to the attacks in New York and Washington seems untenable. In any event, in times of crisis, as Mr. Romney must know, it is not unusual to modify an analysis when new intelligence is obtained.
The administration has been all over the place regarding the attack in Libya. (Here's a search on the word "Libya" in Instapundit.) To attribute a single coherent and correct response to the administration is misleading. There's also the incoherence of attacking Romney for suggesting that Al Qaeda attacked the consulate and then acknowledging that it was indeed Al Qaeda but that Al Qaeda "has changed so much!"

Much more reasonable was the Washington Post's Romney talks tough, without specifics, on the Mideast:
AFTER REPEATEDLY FUMBLING on foreign policy during his campaign, Mitt Romney delivered Monday a coherent and forceful critique of President Obama’s handling of the upheavals in the Middle East. Arguing that a fateful struggle is playing out across the region, he said the United States is “missing an historic opportunity” because of Mr. Obama’s failure to more aggressively support liberal forces against dictators and Islamic extremists. “It is the responsibility of our president to use America’s great power to shape history — not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events,” Mr. Romney said.
That analysis of Mr. Obama’s policies is one we largely agree with. As we have argued frequently, the president has been too cautious and slow in supporting secular liberals in Egypt against Islamists and the military. He left Iraq open to destabilization by failing to agree with its government on a continued U.S. military presence. He led the Middle East peace process into a blind alley through his wrongheaded quarreling with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a point Mr. Romney harped on.
Later on the Post's editors take Romney to task:
So how would Mr. Romney remedy these errors? That’s where the weakness of his speech lay: It was hard to detect what tangible new steps the challenger would take.
The specifics may differ, but the critique isn't that different from Barry Rubin's. Nor was it much different from the Wall Street Journal's editorial, Romney's World.
Mr. Romney's words were bolder than his proposals. He scored President Obama for abandoning the Syrians in their bloody 20-month struggle against Bashar al-Assad, who wasn't abandoned by his friends in Tehran and Moscow. The Turks and Saudis, who want to topple Assad, won't act without American buy-in.
Yet Mr. Romney promised only to work "through our international partners" to arm the Syrian opposition, which is not much more than the Obama Administration is doing. Mr. Romney might have called for direct American arms supplies or a possible no-fly zone or humanitarian corridors. He wants to avoid any suggestion of overseas adventures, but here was an opportunity to strike a substantive contrast with Mr. Obama.
It's illustrative to see how far the New York Times has declined that one cannot read it for any sort of reasoned analysis of the main challenger to the President. The Washington Post despite its preference for President Obama still gave Governor Romney a fair hearing. The editors of the New York Times should pay attention if they wish to restore any semblance of credibility to their publication.

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