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Monday, January 30, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Sunday, January 29.
1)To strike or not to strike
One of the most discussed articles is today's New York Times Magazine cover story, Will Israel Attack Iran? by Ronen Bergman.

Jeffrey Goldberg (via memeorandum) makes an interesting observation:
I write this, of course, as someone who thought, based on interviewing many of the same people Bergman interviewed, that there was a very good chance that Israel would have struck Iran by last summer. The success of the Stuxnet virus, which operated against Iranian centrifuges, altered the calculus in that case. And so I wouldn't be at all surprised if Bergman's analysis is premature. I certainly hope it is premature -- I think an attack on Iran would be disastrous for Israel, in part because condition number two (above) does not yet obtain.
Of course we could go back to 2007 when Daniel Pipes wrote Israeli Jets vs. Iranian nukes:
Barring a "catastrophic development," Middle East Newsline reports, George Bush has decided not to attack Iran. An administration source explains that Washington deems Iran's cooperation "needed for a withdrawal [of U.S. forces] from Iraq."
If correct, this implies the Jewish state stands alone against a regime that threatens to "wipe Israel off the map" and is building the nuclear weapons to do so. Israeli leaders are hinting that their patience is running out; Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz just warned that "diplomatic efforts should bear results by the end of 2007."
Pipes was writing about a study that dealt with the technical (not political) feasibility of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Minister Mofaz's warning sounds not different from what we're hearing now. Is Israel's leadership consistently wrong about the imminence of a nuclear Iran or is there something else in play?
Barry Rubin argues:
I think the answer is simple: Israeli leaders are not announcing that they are about to attack Iran. They are sending a message that the United States and Europe should act more decisively so that Israel does not feel the need to attack Iran in the future.
The problem with the Israeli approach is that its leaders then get pegged as out of control war mongers. (The problem may be less with what Israel's leaders say than the way their statements are interpreted.)

Elder of Ziyon and Israel Matzav have also blogged about it.

2) No Hedges

Last week I cited a post by David Bernstein regarding Neil Lewis's defense of the New York Times' coverage of Israel. Bernstein wrote that Chris Hedges was Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times at the time Deborah Sontag was reporting from Israel. Lewis has sent a correction to Bernstein:
the facts: chris hedges, heartily disliked by fervent supporters of israel, was not debbie sontag’s superior or supervisor. ever. he was, for a time, the correspondent based in cairo (and i am not sure their times much overlapped if at all).
There's more to the correction and Bernstein's analysis of what it shows about Lewis's premises.

Bernstein observes:
...while I can understand why Lewis was annoyed by my misstatement of fact, it’s a long way from such a misstatement to being “ignoran[t]” and having a “conspiracy spinning mind” incapable of “intelligent discussion.”
It reminds me of this exchange between Sherlock Holmes and Count Silvius:
"It's all here, Count. The real facts as to the death of old Mrs. Harold, who left you the Blymer estate, which you so rapidly gambled away."
"You are dreaming!"
"And the complete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender."
"Tut! You will make nothing of that!"
"Plenty more here, Count. Here is the robbery in the train de-luxe to the Riviera on February 13, 1892. Here is the forged check in the same year on the Credit Lyonnais."
"No, you're wrong there."
"Then I am right on the others! Now, Count, you are a card-player. When the other fellow has all the trumps, it saves time to throw down your hand."
Sometimes pointing out a critic's mistake, is a way of acknowledging the accuracy of other charges.

3) I'll take motives for $300, Alex

Recently Barry Rubin wrote:
Leaving that aside, it is true that much of the analysis of Islam, Islamism, and Middle East politics on the right is too crude. Yet in part this is a reaction to the failure of the mass media, experts, the government, and the policy establishment to offer a reasonable picture. By portraying Islam as a perfect “religion of peace” and revolutionary Islamism as moderate, these institutions have created a suspicious opposition ready to go to another extreme.
Keep that in mind when reading this recent headline:
Motive of shooter who targeted military sites is unclear
If you read the article you learn:
Before police foiled the plan in June, the vandalism was to be Melaku’s sixth attack, months after he went on a mysterious shooting spree that targeted the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and two other military buildings in Northern Virginia. A video found after Melaku’s arrest showed him wearing a black mask and shooting a 9mm handgun out of his Acura’s passenger window as he drove along Interstate 95, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
Maybe I'm naive, but I'd assume that there's a religious component to Melaku's actions.

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