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Friday, February 08, 2013

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Friday, February 8.
1)Not much political about them

Once upon a time, President Obama's counter-terrorism chief and current CIA nominee, John Brennan advocated engaging with Hezbollah. In 2009, Barry Rubin quoted from a paper written by Brennan:

“It would not be foolhardy, however, for the United States to tolerate, and even to encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon's political system, a process that is subject to Iranian influence. Hezbollah is already represented in the Lebanese parliament and its members have previously served in the Lebanese cabinet, reflections of Hezbollah's interest in shaping Lebanon's political future from within government institutions. This political involvement is a far cry from Hezbollah's genesis as solely a terrorist organization dedicated to murder, kidnapping, and violence. Not coincidentally, the evolution of Hezballah into a fully vested player in the Lebanese political system has been accompanied by a marked reduction in terrorist attacks carried out by the organization. The best hope for maintaining this trend and for reducing the influence of violent extremists within the organization—as well as the influence of extremist Iranian officials who view Hezbollah primarily as a pawn of Tehran—is to increase Hezbollah’s stake in Lebanon’s struggling democratic processes” This kind of thinking would do far more than bury Lebanon. It would bury U.S. interests and influence in the Middle East. And so it is only appropriate to quote William Shakespeare’s lines for another funeral oration: “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now!” Yes, it would be foolhardy for the United States to encourage growing influence and power for a radical Islamist terrorist group that is a client of Syria and reasonably close to being an agent of Iran. Brennan seems to give no evidence of any serious knowledge about the Middle East. 
The recent Bulgarian investigation, implicating Hezbollah in last year's terror attack in Burgas, apparently has Brennan rethinking his position. Lee Smith writes in Blaming terrorists for terrorism:
The Obama administration and other U.S. officials greeted the Sofia report with enthusiasm. The White House’s counterterrorism adviser John Brennan commended “its friend and NATO ally.” Obama’s nominee for CIA director has in the past indicated he’s somewhat confused about Hezbollah, recommending for instance that Washington should seek to empower the terror group’s so-called “moderates.” But regarding the Burgas bombing, Brennan was clear-eyed. “Bulgaria’s investigation exposes Hizballah for what it is,” Brennan said in a released statement, “a terrorist group that is willing to recklessly attack innocent men, women, and children, and that poses a real and growing threat not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world.” New Secretary of State John Kerry also weighed in, urging “other governments around the world – and particularly our partners in Europe – to take immediate action to crack down on Hizballah. We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity.” Kerry is referring to the ongoing debate within the European Union whether or not to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. France and Germany are against listing Lebanon’s Islamic resistance, and led an aggressive campaign to convince the Bulgarians not to name Hezbollah as the culprit. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has been pushing for designation and has blacklisted Hezbollah separately from any EU actions. The UK meanwhile has designated Hezbollah’s “military wing,” an action taken largely because of Hezbollah fighters that squared off against UK troops in Iraq, and intended to distinguish it from the outfit’s “political wing,” a distinction that the Bulgarian report made implicitly.
However as Smith and others have pointed out, Hezbollah's number two official, Naim Qassem said in a 2009 interview with the LA Times:
Neither Qassem nor Washington distinguish between the Shiite militant group's political wing, which has members serving in the Lebanese Cabinet and parliament, and its military wing, preparing for the next round of battle against Israel. "Hezbollah has a single leadership," said the 57-year-old cleric in a rare interview with an American reporter recently.
"All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership," he said. "The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions in the struggle against Israel." 
Bulgaria's actions contrast favorably with those of Argentina, which recently chose to cooperate with Iran in attempting to learn the truth about the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aries. Lee Smith writes in Iran to investigate JCC bombing:
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon likened the formation of the truth committee to “inviting the murderer to participate in the murder investigation.” It’s a fair assessment. From the outset, the Iranian regime was believed to have been responsible for the AMIA Jewish community center attack, as well as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 and injured 242. But it wasn’t until October 2006, when Argentinian special prosecutors officially charged that it had been carried out by a team of Hezbollah operatives, including the late head of the terrorist group’s external operations unit, Imad Mughniyeh, under the direction of the highest authorities in Tehran. An Argentinian court issued arrest warrants for Mughniyeh as well as six senior Iranian figures, among them former President Ali Rafsanjani and current Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi. According to the report that the special prosecutors presented the judge in the case, a group called the Special Affairs Committee, which includes Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Rafsanjani, convened in the Iranian city of Mashad on Aug. 14, 1993, to approve the attack. Iran, of course, has long denied any involvement in the AMIA attack, and its intense diplomatic efforts to shirk responsibility seem to have finally paid off. Mutual commercial interests and shared ideological sympathies have brought Argentina and Iran closer than ever before—and this so-called truth committee is only the latest evidence of the increasingly close alliance. 
In an interesting irony, a reporter, Borzou Daragahi, tweeted the other day that Israel had paid off Bulgaria to implicate Hezbollah. After the tweet was exposed and publicized, Daragahi backed off his charge. 
Daraghi was also the reporter who interviewed Qassem in 2009.
2) Not even pretending

I guess as a way to balance out Shmuel Rosner's essays in Latitudes, the New York Times has engaged Raja Shehadeh to write about all the outrages Israel visits upon the Palestinians.
A few months ago he claimed that Israel was preventing Palestinians from getting needed medical treatment. The numbers tell a much different story. 
Now in More than a land grab he raises the specter of "settlers."
Meanwhile, last Thursday a fact-finding mission of the U.N. Human Rights Council issued a scathing report about the settlers’ tactics, perhaps the boldest report ever issued by a U.N. body. It noted that “the identities of settlers who are responsible for violence and intimidation are known to the Israeli authorities, yet these acts continue with impunity.” It continued: “The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local population away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand.”
Depending on the UN Human Rights Council for an objective view of Israel is ridiculous. A recent New York Times editorial (illogically) criticized Israel for not submitting to a human rights review by that organization even as it acknowledged that the council singled out Israel for disparate treatment. 
NGO Monitor explains that the fact finding practiced by the UNHRC didn't follow proper protocols. The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council weighs in with specific criticisms of the UNHRC report. (h/t Bennett Ruda)

Of course balance would be the goal if Shehadeh were honest. But Shehadeh isn't simply trying to make people understand the Palestinian perspective. He is using inaccuracies, distortions and generalizations to demonize Israel. He can even give his arguments some "substance" because there are institutions like the UN and Ha'aretz that are always eager to portray Israel as beyond redemption. In engaging Shehadeh, the New York Times once again demonstrates its disdain for Israel, as well as for the truth.

3) That 3 AM phone call

The editors of the Washington Post ask Why did Mr. Obama overrule his advisers on Syria?
WE NOW know that President Obama’s national security team overwhelmingly supported providing arms to the rebels in Syria. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Senate committee that he and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, backed a plan that would have vetted, trained and armed selected opposition groups, which have been pleading for such U.S. support for more than a year. According to the New York Times, the strategy was developed by former CIA director David H. Petraeus and supported by former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. As we have frequently argued, the rationale for such action is compelling. Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 60,000 people, grows steadily worse and more dangerous for the United States and its allies. An opposition that once was a peaceful pro-democracy movement has been all but overtaken by jihadist organizations, including an al-Qaeda affiliate, that receive ample funding and weapons supplies from abroad.
This is incredible. During the Bush administration stories that suggested that President Bush ignored intelligence that his approach to Iraq was wrong regularly were treated as above-the-fold-front-page-news. Now we have news that the current president refused the unanimous recommendation of every single senior member of his foreign policy team. While the Washington Post is disturbed by this, there's been little else written about President Obama's failure to heed this advice. There was a time when American intervention may have helped steer the Syrian rebellion. That time has long ago passed. (Barry Rubin noted the administration's failure to aid the rebels and gain some influence among them, last May.) That the President persisted despite the recommendation of his advisers should be a major scandal.

Maybe President Obama answered the proverbial 3AM phone call, but then he did nothing to show that he appreciated its significance.

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