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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, November 3.
1) Crying Wolf I

It's been reported that PM Netanyahu has been seeking cabinet approval to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post follows up the report with Will Israel really attack Iran? After weighing a number of issues involved with such a strike Diehl concludes:
The new burst of speculation, like those before it, does serve a couple of purposes for Israel, however. It refocuses attention on the Iranian threat, and takes it away from the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations; it raises the pressure on the United States and its allies to increase sanctions and other nonmilitary pressure on Tehran. All the smoke also helps to obscure Israel’s real intentions. After so many cries of “Wolf!,” it seems fairly probable that when Israel really does prepare to attack, no one will believe the press leaks. That includes now.
If a strike were imminent, I don't suppose that Israel would be tipping its hand. but as Diehl notes the seemingly regular speculation about an Israeli attack has clouded the issue. Five months ago former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, made headlines, as the New York Times reported A Former Spy Chief Questions the Judgment of Israeli Leaders
On Thursday he got more specific, naming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but this time through a leaked statement to journalists. The statement had to do with his belief that his retirement and the retirement of other top security chiefs had taken away a necessary alternative voice in decision making. In recent months, the military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and the director of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Yuval Diskin, have also stepped down. Mr. Dagan was quoted in several newspapers as saying that the three of them had served as a counterweight to Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak. “I decided to speak out because when I was in office, Diskin, Ashkenazi and I could block any dangerous adventure,” he was quoted as saying. “Now I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and Barak,” he added, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.
The focus of Dagan's concerns was a potential strike against Iran. For one thing Dagan's highly unusual criticism would seem to confirm the likelihood that Netanyahu and Barak are seeking approval to attack Iran.

2) Crying Wolf II

Marwan Muashar a former Foreign Minister of Jordan wrote The Overblown Islamist Threat for the New York Times.
The West wants to pretend that Islamist parties don’t really exist. This won’t work. Political Islam will not go away because the West ignores it; Islamist parties will, however, become more moderate if they are included in government. ...
Moderate Arab countries like Jordan have included Islamists in governments in the past. When Islamists were brought into the Jordanian government in 1990, they tried to introduce segregation between fathers and their daughters at school events. This backfired and citizens simply refused to go along with it. Jordan’s Islamists quickly backed down and dropped the demand. Political inclusion, it turned out, had a moderating effect on Islamists.
I don't know what he means that the West ignores Islamist parties. It doesn't. But many in policy making positions believe that Islamists are, like Mr. Muasher states, just another party. But the failure of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood to impose its will political will, may have less to do with its aspiration than with its opposition. For now, as Barry Rubin points out, Jordan's military is a counterweight. Counterexamples to Muasher's assurances is the increased Islamization of Turkey or the continued radicalization of Hamas even after achieving power in Gaza.

3) 2nd time lucky

One of the remarkable features of the current government of Binyamin Netanyahu has been its political stability. During his first term, from 1996 to 1999, Netanyahu seemingly went from crisis to crisis. There really haven't been any serious challenges to his authority since his election 2009, despite his rocky relationship with President Obama. For one thing that suggests that despite the Cassandras decrying the most right wing Israeli government in history (or similar hyperbole) Netanyahu is pretty much at the center of Israel's political spectrum. Elliott Jager's Ladies in Waiting profiles two of Netanyahu's rivals, Tzippi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich, and their diverging political fortunes. Jager observes:
As for the struggling politician, being Tzipi Livni, chair of the Kadima Party and leader of the opposition, can't be easy. She knows that if elections were held now, instead of on their technically scheduled date in 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party would once again emerge in a position to lead a right-of-center coalition with a comfortable majority. This is quite a comedown for a woman whose party garnered one more seat than Netanyahu's in the 2009 elections and who fully anticipated that, with a little help from the Obama administration, the Netanyahu government would collapse by 2010.

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At 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dagin did say that as far as he knew (and wouldn't he?) there were no actual operational Israeli plans to attack Iran. We have been hearing these reports, often associated with left-wing anti-Zionists, for a decade. It isn't impossible that Bibi will actually decide one day to go for Iran's nukes and get together cabinet approval to do it but the anonymously sourced press reports have long ceased to have predictive value...


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