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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Petraeus' fodder for anti-Semites?

On Sunday, I blogged a Foreign Policy blog post in which former Arafat aide Mark Perry claimed that US Centcom commander David Petraeus had sent a team to brief US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen that "there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) "too old, too slow...and too late.""

I'd like to revisit that story from two angles. First, General Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday morning. I have some of that testimony for you. And second, I'd like to look at the question of whether what Petraeus said provided fodder for anti-Semites.

Laura Rozen has details on General Petraeus' testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, Petraeus said that he supports Mitchell's efforts in the Middle East, belying the claim that Petraeus said that Mitchell himself is "too old, too slow...and too late." On the other hand, Petraeus confirmed the importance to the Arab countries of resolving the Israeli - Arab conflict, thereby giving credence to the Arab countries' line that the road to resolving all problems in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem. But neither Rozen's post nor Petraeus' prepared testimony (56-page pdf link) says anything close to the words that Perry put into Petraeus' mouth about "a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region." Petraeus also denied having asked that Israel (including Gaza, Judea and Samaria) be transferred from EUCOM to CENTCOM.

Here's some what Rozen posted:
“Isn’t the issue not the issue of settlements as much as it is the existence of the state of Israel,” McCain said in the long run up to his question. “Its neighbors with some exceptions have dedicated themselves to the extermination of Israel …. So maybe you could put it all into the larger context of what needs to be done to reduce tensions on the U.S.’s closest ally and friend in many respects. And what needs to be done to defuse” tensions.

McCain then threw in a softball question, by asking Petraeus, and isn’t it true that you greatly support Sen. Mitchell’s efforts.

“Absolutely true,” Petraeus said emphatically.

In his prepared testimony, Petraeus listed the Israeli-Arab conflict as the first “cross cutting challenge to security and stability” in the Centcom area of responsibility [AOR]. “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR,” he wrote. “The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.”

“Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support,” his testimony continued. “The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.”

In the section on Iran, Petraeus also wrote that: “A credible U.S. effort on Arab-Israeli issues that provides regional governments and populations a way to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the disputes would undercut Iran’s policy of militant ‘resistance,’ which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit.”

“Additionally, progress on the Israel-Syria peace track could disrupt Iran’s lines of support to Hamas and Hizballah,” he wrote.
Perry's article in Foreign Policy also included the following statement:
The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus's instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. "Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling," a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. "America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding."
Perry claimed that briefing was the basis for Biden's accusation that Israel was endangering US troops. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman called that accusation 'dangerous,' implied that it is anti-Semitic, and stressed the importance of combating it.
“This is probably one of the most serious charges that we have ever heard,” Foxman said.

“Israel is a country that has never asked American soldiers, even in its darkest moment, to risk its lives to defend it. From time to time there have been suggestions of security pacts, where the US would have to come to Israel’s aid, and all the leaders of Israel have said that the last thing they would want is for US soldiers to risk their lives to defend Israelis,” he said.

The charge that supporting Israel endangers US soldiers, Foxman said, comes from the “linkage fantasy,” a point of view that “if you just resolve this conflict, everything else will fall into place: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, America’s war with fundamentalist Islam.”

[Bar Ilan University Political Science Professor Eytan] Gilboa, meanwhile, said that if not combated aggressively, this argument – if it gains traction among the American public – could undermine the widespread support in the US for Israel.

“All Americans support their troops,” he said, adding that this particular argument was “very dangerous.”
Read the whole thing. Perry is probably an anti-Semite. He took whatever Petraeus said (and probably what Biden said as well) and blew it out of proportion. Still, the fact that the US commander of CENTCOM is willing to accept Arab excuses for not cooperating with the United States is a sad reflection on the failure of American efforts to forge alliances with Arab countries. Perhaps the US needs to reconsider some of those alliances.


Barry Rubin has more on Petraeus' testimony here.


At 10:24 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Dear Carl "Perry is probably an anti-semite".

Is the Pope a catholic?If he was an aide to Yasser Arafat, I think you can be pretty certain!

Arafat was the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem's nephew, plaything and successor, as no doubt you know.

Perry seems to be just one of many who are deliberatly creating a massive crisis between the US in Israel in order to completely alienate them and cut Israel loose.

When Obama talked about CHANGE, I didnt realise he meant HE was going to CHANGE into Hitler.


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