Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Goldberg’

Iranian leader worse than Hitler, absolute monarchy is cool – Saudi crown prince

April 4, 2018

Russia Today (RT)

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© Charles Platiau / Reuters

Seemingly discontent with just being the darling of the British establishment, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is on a charm offensive to win over the American public as well.

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The crown prince must have figured the surefire way to impress the US political establishment was by glorifying Israel and demonizing Iran, judging by his wide-ranging puff interview with The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, on Monday.

Channelling former President George W. Bush’s speechwriter, David Frum, MbS described his kingdom’s enemies as the “triangle of evil,” talking about Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni terror groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good,” bin Salman told Goldberg, without any trace of irony ‒ or evidence. “Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.”

It was when speaking about Israel, however, that MbS brought out the big guns (though not the ones he bought from the US) in his charm offensive. According to Goldberg, MbS “did not have a bad word to say” about Israel.

To Goldberg’s question whether the Jewish people had the right to a nation-state in at least a part of present-day Israel, the crown prince replied: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

Though the interview took place before the recent killing of 18 Palestinians by Israeli authorities, Goldberg speculated that the incident would not have changed the crown prince’s mind.

“My meeting with Prince Mohammed took place before the recent fatal violence on the Gaza-Israel border, but I do not believe that the crown prince would have moderated his views in light of these events,” Goldberg wrote. “The Saudis, like many Arab leaders, have tired of the Palestinians.”

Mind you, that is the assessment of the Atlantic editor, who is known as an outspoken Zionist and served in the Israeli military, rather than the Saudi crown prince. Filtering the subject through his personal prism is not a bug, but a feature of Goldberg interviews – such as the one with former President Barack Obama, published in March 2016.

“If Prince Mohammed actually achieves what he says he wants to achieve, the Middle East will be a changed place,” Goldberg tells the readers, describing how the crown prince was “jovial to the point of ebullience” when they met at a Saudi-owned compound outside Washington.

The crown prince’s handlers “frowned with concern when it seemed as if the prince was veering toward bluntness,” such as when the conversations turned to Saudi Arabia’s laws restricting the behavior of women.

“Before 1979 there were societal guardianship customs, but no guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia,” MbS said. “It doesn’t go back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. In the 1960s women didn’t travel with male guardians. But it happens now, and we want to move on it and figure out a way to treat this that doesn’t harm families and doesn’t harm the culture.”

In Goldberg’s interpretation, 1979 was a “hinge year in Saudi history,” when the Iranian revolution and the Sunni extremists’ siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca “caused a conservative backlash in the kingdom.” So you see, it’s the “triangle of evil” that’s really to blame for the position of Saudi women, not the progressive MbS!

Asked if he intends to do something about it, however, the crown prince replied: “There are a lot of conservative families in Saudi Arabia. There are a lot of families divided inside.”

What about the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen that’s been going on since March 2015, at the cost of thousands of civilian lives?

“Saudi Arabia is trying to help the people of Yemen,” bin Salman said.

Freedom of speech? There are three lines one must not cross in Saudi Arabia. “You cannot defame Islam,” MbS said. The second is, one may criticize an institution but not the person, as a matter of Saudi culture. Thirdly, “anything that touches the national security, we cannot risk.”

“But other than that, people have the freedom to do whatever they want to do,” he added.

Goldberg explained that he won’t be asking the crown prince about corruption, “in part because it is a difficult-to-define concept in a country named for its ruling family, the expropriation of national wealth being a defining feature of absolute monarchies.”

For all of his professed admiration of modernity and globalization, bin Salman is a big fan of autocracy.

“If it were not for absolute monarchy, you wouldn’t have the United States,” he explained, pointing out the support for the American founders from the French King Louis XVI.

https://www.rt.com/news/423010-saudi-salman-iran-hitler/

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How Barack Obama turned his back on Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies

March 13, 2016

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Barack Obama speaks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, left, as they arrive for the official family photo during the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, last year AFP, Getty

World View: A striking feature of the President’s foreign policy is that he learns from failures and mistakes

By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent

Commentators have missed the significance of President Barack Obama’s acerbic criticism of Saudi Arabia and Sunni states long allied to the US for fomenting sectarian hatred and seeking to lure the US into fighting regional wars on their behalf. In a series of lengthy interviews with Jeffrey Goldberg published in The Atlantic magazine, Mr Obama explains why it is not in the US’s interests to continue the tradition of the US foreign policy establishment, whose views he privately disdains, by giving automatic support to the Saudis and their allies.

Mr Obama’s arguments are important because they are not off-the-cuff remarks, but are detailed, wide ranging, carefully considered and leading to new departures in US policy. The crucial turning point came on 30 August 2013 when Mr Obama refused to launch air strikes in Syria. This would, in effect, have started military action by the US to force regime change in Damascus, a course of action proposed by much of Mr Obama’s cabinet as well by US foreign policy specialists.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf monarchies were briefly convinced that they would get their wish and the US was striking feature of Mr Obama’s foreign policy is that he learns from failures and mistakes. This is in sharp contrast to Britains going to do their work for them by overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad. They claimed this would be easy to do, though this would have happened only if there had been a full-scale American intervention and it would have produced a power vacuum that would have been filled by fundamentalist Islamic movements as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Mr Goldberg says that by refusing to bomb Syria, Mr Obama “broke with what he calls, derisively, ‘the Washington Playbook’. This was his liberation day”.

The US has been notoriously averse since 9/11 to put any blame on Saudi Arabia for creating salafi-jihadism, at the core of which is Sunni sectarian hatred for the Shia and other variants of Islam in addition to repressive social mores, including the reduction of women to servile status.

Mr Obama is highly informed about the origins of al-Qa’ida and Isis, describing how Islam in Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood, had become more intolerant and exclusive. Asked why this had occurred, Mr Obama is quoted as replying: “The Saudis and other Gulf Arabs have funnelled money, and large numbers of imams and teachers, into the country. In the 1990s, the Saudis heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam favoured by the Saudi ruling family.” The same shift towards the “Wahhabisation” of mainstream Sunni Islam is affecting the great majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world who are Sunnis.

Arab oil states spread their power by many means in addition to religious proselytism, including the simple purchase of people and institutions which they see as influential. Academic institutions of previously high reputation in Washington have shown themselves to be as shamelessly greedy for subsidies from the Gulf and elsewhere as are predatory warlords and corrupt party leaders in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and beyond.

Mr Goldberg, who has had extraordinary access to Mr Obama and his staff over an extended period, reports: “A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as ‘Arab-occupied territory’.” Television and newspapers happily quote supposed experts from such think tanks as if they were non-partisan academics of unblemished objectivity.

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It will be important to know after the US election if the new US president will continue to rebalance US foreign policy away from reliance on Sunni powers seeking to use American military and political “muscle” in their own interests. Past US leaders have closed their eyes to this with disastrous consequences in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Mr Goldberg says that Mr Obama “questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally”.

What is truly strange about the new departures in US foreign policy is that they have taken so long to occur. Within days of 9/11, it was known that 15 out 19 of the hijackers were Saudi, as was Osama bin Laden and the donors who financed the operation. Moreover, the US went on treating Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan and the Gulf monarchies as if they were great powers, when all the evidence was that their real strength and loyalty to the West were limited.

Though it was obvious that the US would be unable to defeat the Taliban so long as it was supported and given sanctuary by Pakistan, the Americans never confronted Pakistan on the issue. According to Mr Goldberg, Mr Obama “privately questions why Pakistan, which he believes is a disastrously dysfunctional country, should be considered an ally of the US at all”. As regards Turkey, the US President had hopes of its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but has since come to see him as an authoritarian ruler whose policies have failed.

A striking feature of Mr Obama’s foreign policy is that he learns from failures and mistakes. This is in sharp contrast to Britain where David Cameron still claims he did the right thing by supporting the armed opposition that replaced Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, while George Osborne laments Parliament’s refusal to vote for the bombing of Syria in 2013.

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Syrian children living in Greece take part in a demonstration against President Bashar al-Assad in Athens in 2012, to mark the first anniversary of the anti-regime revolt (AFP/Getty)

Not surprisingly, Mr Obama sounds almost contemptuous of Mr Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president who played a leading role in demanding the Nato air campaign in Libya. The US went along with Mr Sarkozy’s bragging as the price of French support, though Mr Obama says that “we [the US] had wiped out all the air defences and essentially set up the entire infrastructure” for the intervention. Despite all the US efforts not to make the same mistakes it made in Iraq in 2003, Mr Obama concedes that “Libya is a mess” and privately calls it a “s*** show”, something that he blames on the passivity of US allies and Libyan tribal divisions.

Three years later, the collapse of Libya into anarchy and warlord rule served as warning to Mr Obama against military intervention in Syria where he rightly calculated that the Libya disaster would be repeated. The calamitous Libyan precedent has had no such impact on Mr Cameron or the Foreign Secretary, Phil Hammond, who continue to advocate armed action using arguments which Mr Obama has abandoned as discredited by events and as well as being a self-serving attempt by others to piggy-back on American power.

It will become clearer after the US presidential election how far Mr Obama’s realistic take on Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan and other US allies and scepticism about the US foreign policy establishment will be shared by the next administration. The omens are not very good since Hillary Clinton supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, intervention in Libya in 2011 and bombing Syria in 2013. If she wins the White House, then the Saudis and US foreign policy establishment will breathe more easily.

Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East (OR Books) by Patrick Cockburn is published this month

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/barack-obama-saudi-arabia-us-foreign-policy-syria-jihadism-isis-a6927646.html

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 (Jeffrey Goldberg’s analysis published in The Atlantic magazine)

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‘Biden told US Jews that Israel – not America – guaranteed their security’

March 31, 2015

US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during an appearance in Boston. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The surprising remarks were reported by Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in a recent article about the future of European Jewry.

Vice President Joe Biden told a gathering of prominent American Jewish officials last fall that they should look to Israel – and not the United States – as the ultimate guarantor of their community’s long-term safety.

The surprising remarks, which were made during a Rosh Hashana celebration attended by government officials and members of Congress, were reported by Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in a recent article about the future of European Jewry.

“I had the great pleasure of knowing every prime minister since Golda Meir, when I was a young man in the Senate, and I’ll never forget talking to her in her office with her assistant – a guy named Rabin – about the Six-Day War,” he said. “The end of the meeting, we get up and walk out, the doors are open, and … the press is taking photos … She looked straight ahead and said, ‘Senator, don’t look so sad … Don’t worry. We Jews have a secret weapon.’ ”

Then Biden recalled asking Meir what the secret weapon was.

“I thought she was going to tell me something about a nuclear program,” Biden said. “She looked straight ahead and she said, ‘We have no place else to go. We have no place else to go.’ ”

“Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel. And so I just want to assure you, for all the talk, and I know sometimes [President Barack Obama] gets beat up a little bit, but I guarantee you: he shares the exact same commitment to the security of Israel.”

The comments are rather striking given that they were uttered by a sitting vice president who seemed to suggest that Jews in the US were vulnerable to hatred that could one day escalate to the point that they should consider relocating to Israel.

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Biden-told-US-Jews-that-Israel-not-America-guaranteed-their-security-395686

Israel reconsiders military action against Iran

November 22, 2014

The Jerusalem Post

Israeli official cites “sunset clause” in proposed comprehensive deal, which guarantees Iran a path into the nuclear club and may corner Israel into war.

Israel Air Force planes fly over Tel Aviv. . (photo credit:IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

WASHINGTON – Historic negotiations with Iran will reach an inflection point on Monday, as world powers seek to clinch a comprehensive deal that will, to their satisfaction, end concerns over the nature of its vast, decade-old nuclear program.

But sharing details of the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.

The deal on the table

World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month period.

Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran’s current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program’s entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.

Israel’s leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.

But “our intelligence agencies are not perfect,” an Israeli official said. “We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren’t in the case in North Korea, and it isn’t the case now – Iran’s been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities.”

“What’s going to happen with that?” the official continued. “Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there’s a deal?”

On Saturday afternoon, reports from Vienna suggested the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.

Speaking to the Post, a senior US official rejected concern over limited surveillance capabilities, during or after a deal.

“If we can conclude a comprehensive agreement, we will have significantly more ability to detect covert facilities – even after its duration is over – than we do today,” the senior US official said. “After the duration of the agreement, the most intrusive inspections will continue: the Additional Protocol – which encompasses very intrusive transparency, and which Iran has already said it will implement – will continue.”

But compounding Israel’s fears, the proposal Jerusalem has seen shows that mass dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure – including the destruction, and not the mere warehousing, of its parts – is no longer on the table in Vienna.

“Iran’s not being asked to dismantle the nuclear infrastructure,” the Israeli official said, having seen the proposal before the weekend. “Right now what they’re talking about is something very different. They’re talking about Ayatollah Khamenei allowing the P5+1 to save face.”

Officials in the Netanyahu government are satisfied that their ideas and concerns have been given a fair hearing by their American counterparts. They praise the US for granting Israel unprecedented visibility into the process.

But while those discussions may have affected the talks at the margins, large gaps – on whether to grant Iran the right to enrich uranium, or allow it to keep much of its infrastructure – have remained largely unaddressed.

“It’s like the chemical weapons deal in Syria,” the official said. “They didn’t just say: Here, let’s get rid of the stockpile and the weapons, but we will leave all the plants and assembly lines.”

‘Sunset clause’

Yet, more than any single enforcement standard or cap included in the deal, Israel believes the Achilles’ heel of the proposed agreement is its definitive end date – the sunset clause.

“You’ve not dismantled the infrastructure, you’ve basically tried to put limits that you think are going to be monitored by inspectors and intelligence,” said the official, “and then after this period of time, Iran is basically free to do whatever it wants.”

The Obama administration also rejects this claim. By e-mail, the senior US administration official said that, “‘following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its duration, the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT – with an emphasis on non-nuclear weapon.”

“That has in no way changed,” the American official continued, quoting the interim Joint Plan of Action reached last year.

But the treatment of Iran as any other signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty –189 countries are members, including Iran – would allow Tehran to ultimately acquire “an industrial-sized capability,” the Israelis say. “The breakout times [to a nuclear weapon] will be effectively zero.”

Israel and world powers seek to maximize the amount of time they would have to identify non-compliance from a nuclear deal, should Iran choose to defy its tenets and build a bomb.

But in the deal under discussion in Vienna, Iran would be able to comply with international standards for a decade and, from Israel’s perspective, then walk, not sneak, into the nuclear club.

“You’ve not only created a deal that leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear power today, because they have the capability to break out quickly if they wanted to,” the Israeli official contended. “But you’ve also legitimized Iran as a military nuclear power in the future.”

From the moment this deal is clinched, Israel fears it will guarantee Iran as a military nuclear power. There will be no off ramp, because Iran’s reentry into the international community will be fixed, a fait accompli, by the very powers trying to contain it.

“The statement that says we’ve prevented them from having a nuclear weapon is not a true statement,” the Israeli official continued. “What you’ve said is, you’re going to put restrictions on Iran for a given number of years, after which there will be no restrictions and no sanctions. That’s the deal that’s on the table.”

Revisiting the use of force

Without an exit ramp, Israel insists its hands will not be tied by an agreement reached this week, this month or next, should it contain a clause that ultimately normalizes Iran’s home-grown enrichment program.

On the surface, its leadership dismisses fears that Israel will be punished or delegitimized if it disrupts an historic, international deal on the nuclear program with unilateral military action against its infrastructure.

By framing the deal as fundamentally flawed, regardless of its enforcement, Israel is telling the world that it will not wait to see whether inspectors do their jobs as ordered.

“Ten, fifteen years in the life of a politician is a long time,” the Israeli said, in a vague swipe against the political directors now scrambling in Vienna. “In the life of a nation, it’s nothing.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened the use of force against Iran several times since 2009, even seeking authorization from his cabinet in 2011. Iran’s program has since grown in size and scope.

According to his aides, the prime minister’s preference is not war, but the continuation of a tight sanctions regime on Iran’s economy coupled with a credible threat of military force. Netanyahu believes more time under duress would have led to an acceptable deal. But that opportunity, in his mind, may now be lost.

Whether Israel still has the ability to strike Iran, without American assistance, is an open question. Quoted last month in the Atlantic magazine, US officials suggested that window for Netanyahu closed over two years ago.

But responding to claims by that same official, quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, over Netanyahu’s courage and will, the Israeli official responded sternly: “The prime minister is a very serious man who knows the serious responsibility that rests on his shoulders. He wouldn’t say the statements that he made if he didn’t mean them.”

“People have underestimated Israel many, many times in the past,” he continued, “and they underestimate it now.”

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In Iran Talks, U.S. Seeks to Prevent a Covert Weapon

The New York Times

VIENNA — Behind the efforts to close a nuclear deal with Iran this weekend lies a sensitive question that has been little discussed in public: how to design an agreement to maximize the chances that Western intelligence agencies would catch any effort to develop an atomic bomb at a covert site.

Concern over the possibility of a future Iranian covert program — and the difficulty of writing a document that deals with the unknown — is rooted in a long history of distrust. But it has been rarely mentioned publicly by negotiators here as Secretary of State John Kerry and his European allies press a last-minute effort to resolve more immediate differences. The biggest disagreements center on how much capacity Iran could retain to make nuclear fuel, and how quickly economic sanctions would be suspended in return.

The efforts focus on the fate of Iran’s three major “declared” nuclear facilities, and on lengthening the “breakout” time for Iran to produce enough fuel for a single bomb. But those declared facilities are crawling with inspectors and cameras.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/world/middleeast/in-iran-talks-us-seeks-to-prevent-a-covert-weapon.html?ref=world

Israeli leader responds to harsh US criticism

October 29, 2014

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister says personal attacks on him from the United States are merely because he is “defending Israel.”

Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks to parliament on Wednesday were followed a report in The Atlantic this week in which unidentified U.S. officials lambasted the Israeli premier for his settlement policies.

Netanyahu says those who attack him don’t have Israel’s best interests in mind and do so “only because I defend Israel.”

He vowed to carry on with his policies despite the pressure.

There are concerns of a new crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations after U.S. officials said the Obama administration last week refused Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s requests to meet several top national security aides. The rejection followed negative comments Yaalon made about Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Senior Obama Administration Official Calls Israel’s Netanyahu “Chickenshit”

October 29, 2014

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Quotes from senior Obama administration figures damn Israeli prime minister over stance on settlements and Palestinian peace

By
The Guardian

Binyamin Netanyahu is condemned by Obama administration officials in an interview for the Atlantic.

Binyamin Netanyahu is condemned by Obama administration officials in an interview for the Atlantic. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

US relations with Israel have plunged to new depths of bitterness and hostility as senior officials in the Obama administration decried Binyamin Netanyahu as a “chickenshit prime minister”, “coward” and a man more interested in his own political survival than peace.

The furious assessment delivered in anonymous but no-holds barred comments in an interview with the American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic underline a state of anger with Netanyahu that is characterised as “red hot”.

The remarks are particularly telling in having been made to Goldberg, a Washington insider who has interviewed both Obama and Netanyahu, and who warned US-Israeli relations were in a “full-blown crisis” that could only get worse after the midterm elections.

Speaking to the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – a few hours after the comments were revealed, Netanyahu angrily insisted he was “under attack simply for defending Israel”, adding that he “cherished” Israel’s relationship with the US.

“When there are pressures on Israel to concede its security, the easiest thing to do is to concede,” he said. “You get a round of applause, ceremonies on grassy knolls, and then come the missiles and the tunnels.”

The Obama officials’ comments underline the dismal state of relations between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu after a series of damaging announcements by Israel – including again this week – regarding its determination to push ahead with settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The temperature of relations plunged again last week when Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, was pointedly snubbed by senior administration officials during a visit last week to Washington, which itself followed a public warning from the White House that Israel risked alienating its “closest allies”.

Despite the deepening frustration in Washington, Netanyahu continued to hit back over the latest settlement announcement, saying US criticism was “detached from reality”, even on the eve of the publication of the latest remarks.

“The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” said one official quoted in the Atlantic. “The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars. The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states.

“The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”

In a more diplomatic and public statement on the recent settlement announcements, the US National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey insisted the US would continue to criticise Israel.

“There are times when we disagree with actions of the Israeli government and we must raise our concerns, such as our concerns about Israel’s settlement policy,” he said. “We raise these concerns as a partner who is deeply concerned about Israel’s future and wants to see Israel living side by side in peace and security with its neighbours.”

In comments designed to further sting Netanyahu, who has expended huge diplomatic effort on attempting to derail any deal with Iran over its nuclear programme, another official suggested the White House no longer believed Netanyahu would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran to prevent it obtaining nuclear weapons.

“It’s too late for him to do anything,” the official said. “Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”

The comments are the latest in a series of high-profile spats between Washington and Netanyahu’s government. Relations began their sharp decline when defence minister Yaalon accused the US secretary of state, John Kerry, of being “obsessive and messianic” in his pursuit of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Later, in off-the-record remarks, Kerry warned that Israeli risked becoming “an apartheid state”.

On Friday Netanyahu told the Knesset: “I am not prepared to make concessions that will endanger our state. Understand, our national interests, topped by security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not what top the interests of those anonymous forces attacking us, and me personally. I am under attack simply because I am defending the State of Israel. If I didn’t stand firm on our national interests, I would not be under attack.

“I respect and cherish the deep connection with the United States. Since the establishment of the state, we’ve had our arguments and then some. We have seen time after time, year and year, support rising among the American public. The strategic alliance between the stances is continuing and will continue.”

Responding to the remarks in the Atlantic late on Tuesday night, Israel’s far-right economics minister, Naftali Bennett, used his Facebook page to call for Washington to renounce the comments: “If what was written [in The Atlantic] is true, then it appears the current administration plans to throw Israel under the bus.

“The prime minister is not a private person but the leader of the Jewish state and the whole Jewish world. Such severe insults towards the prime minister of Israel are hurtful to millions of Israeli citizens and Jews all over the world.

“Instead of attacking Israel and forcing it to accept suicidal terms, it should be strengthened. I call on the US administration to renounce these coarse comments and to reject them outright.”

Hillary Clinton: ‘Failure’ to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS

August 11, 2014

The former secretary of state, and probable candidate for president, outlines her foreign-policy doctrine. She says this about President Obama’s: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

By Jeffrey Goldberg
Aug 10 2014

 

President Obama has long ridiculed the idea that the U.S., early in the Syrian civil war, could have shaped the forces fighting the Assad regime, thereby stopping al Qaeda-inspired groups—like the one rampaging across Syria and Iraq today—from seizing control of the rebellion. In an interview in February, the president told me that “when you have a professional army … fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict—the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

Well, his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, isn’t buying it. In an interview with me earlier this week, she used her sharpest language yet to describe the “failure” that resulted from the decision to keep the U.S. on the sidelines during the first phase of the Syrian uprising.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

As she writes in her memoir of her State Department years, Hard Choices, she was an inside-the-administration advocate of doing more to help the Syrian rebellion. Now, her supporters argue, her position has been vindicated by recent events.

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Hillary Clinton: Chinese System Is Doomed, Leaders on a ‘Fool’s Errand’

Professional Clinton-watchers (and there are battalions of them) have told me that it is only a matter of time before she makes a more forceful attempt to highlight her differences with the (unpopular) president she ran against, and then went on to serve. On a number of occasions during my interview with her, I got the sense that this effort is already underway. (And for what it’s worth, I also think she may have told me that she’s running for president—see below for her not-entirely-ambiguous nod in that direction.)

Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good. At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).

This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

She softened the blow by noting that Obama was “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy,” but she repeatedly suggested that the U.S. sometimes appears to be withdrawing from the world stage.

During a discussion about the dangers of jihadism (a topic that has her “hepped-up,” she told me moments after she greeted me at her office in New York) and of the sort of resurgent nationalism seen in Russia today, I noted that Americans are quite wary right now of international commitment-making. She responded by arguing that there is a happy medium between bellicose posturing (of the sort she associated with the George W. Bush administration) and its opposite, a focus on withdrawal.

“You know, when you’re down on yourself, and when you are hunkering down and pulling back, you’re not going to make any better decisions than when you were aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward,” she said. “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”

I responded by saying that I thought that “defeating fascism and communism is a pretty big deal.” In other words, that the U.S., on balance, has done a good job of advancing the cause of freedom.

Clinton responded to this idea with great enthusiasm: “That’s how I feel! Maybe this is old-fashioned.” And then she seemed to signal that, yes, indeed, she’s planning to run for president. “Okay, I feel that this might be an old-fashioned idea, but I’m about to find out, in more ways than one.”

She said that the resilience, and expansion, of Islamist terrorism means that the U.S. must develop an “overarching” strategy to confront it, and she equated this struggle to the one the U.S. waged against Soviet-led communism.

Clinton-watchers say it’s a matter of time before she highlights her differences with Obama. I got the sense that this effort is well underway.

“One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,” she said. “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”

She went on, “You know, we did a good job in containing the Soviet Union but we made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, but we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.” (This was one of those moments, by the way, when I was absolutely sure I wasn’t listening to President Obama, who is loath to discuss the threat of Islamist terrorism in such a sweeping manner.)

Much of my conversation with Clinton focused on the Gaza war. She offered a vociferous defense of Israel, and of its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as well. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration’s behalf over Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself.

“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” she told me. “Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

I asked her if she believed that Israel had done enough to prevent the deaths of children and other innocent people.

“[J]ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians,” mistakes are made, she said. “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”

 

Hillary Clinton meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Six more parts:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/08/hillary-clinton-failure-to-help-syrian-rebels-led-to-the-rise-of-isis/375832/

Senators say John Kerry admitted U.S. failure in Syria — U.S. president remains inert — Terrorists trained in Syria planning attacks against the United States

February 4, 2014

Photo: John McCain (R-Ariz.) (left) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) outside the White House in September 2013.

By Fred Hiatt
The Washington Post

It is no secret that the Obama administration’s Syria policy, to the extent that one exists, is failing.

Now the man with the unenviable task of implementing that policy, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, has acknowledged as much, according to two U.S. senators who spoke with him Sunday, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

Kerry said that the Geneva negotiating process hasn’t delivered, they said, and that new approaches are needed.

“He acknowledged that the chemical weapons [removal] is being slow-rolled, the Russians continue to supply arms, [and] we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy,” Graham said.

The secretary spoke favorably about arming and training the rebels, Graham added.

Both senators are longtime critics of the administration’s Syria policy. Presented with a summary of Kerry’s reported statements to them and about a dozen other members of Congress, Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, called it a “mischaracterization.”

“No one in this administration thinks we’re doing enough until the humanitarian crisis has been solved and the civil war ended,” she said. “That is no different from the message Secretary Kerry conveyed during the private meeting.”

Psaki, who attended the meeting, said Kerry did not raise the prospect of lethal assistance for the rebels. “This is a case of members projecting what they want to hear and not stating the accurate facts of what was discussed,” she said.

In fact, more than a year ago Kerry openly advocated changing the dynamics in Syria so that dictator Bashar al-Assad would have an incentive to negotiate. But the White House vetoed any serious training or arming of the rebels. That left Kerry beseeching Russia to persuade Assad to make concessions even as the dictator was gaining on the battlefield. Not surprisingly, that hasn’t worked.

“We haven’t achieved anything,” U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi reported over the weekend to the Munich security conference, which Kerry and the members of Congress also attended. “In Homs [where civilians have been cut off from any aid] we haven’t been able to do anything. And about prisoners, disappeared people, kidnapped people, again we haven’t achieved anything.”

The result: Syria has become “the worst humanitarian crisis at least since the Rwanda genocide,” António Guterres, chief of the U.N. refu­gee agency, told the conference.

More than 100,000 people have been killed. Nine million Syrians — more than a third of the country — have been forced from their homes. Assad is blocking aid and deliberately starving hundreds of thousands of his countrymen.

It is “a strategy of war crimes,” said Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, “to make life as miserable as possible for civilians in opposition- ­controlled areas.” He showed video footage of Assad forces bombing bakeries and people waiting in line for bread.

Recently a trove of photographs showed 11,000 corpses — prisoners starved and tortured to death by the regime.

President Obama pronounced 2½ years ago that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Since then, as the humanitarian disaster has escalated, the U.S. president has been inert.

Now, though, a new factor has emerged. Last week, in Senate testimony that got less attention than it deserved, Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said Syria “is becoming a center of radical extremism and a potential threat to the homeland.”

Havens in Syria, in other words, could play the same role that Afghan refuges offered al-Qaeda before 9/11. As the West cold-shouldered moderate and secular forces, extremist ranks have swelled in Syria to as many as 26,000, including 7,000 foreigners, Clapper said.

It was that testimony that prompted McCain and Graham to talk to me and two other journalists, Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View and Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast, about Kerry’s remarks, as we flew back from Munich. The senators hope that the assessment of a growing direct threat, along with stark evidence of organized torture, could impel a shift in direction.

“Our director of national intelligence said that these people in Syria are planning attacks against the United States,” McCain said. “Kerry confirmed that. . . . Maybe those two disturbing facts about the results of the war in Syria could maybe help them think they ought to change their policy.”

The two senators don’t agree on what that change should be. Neither favors sending U.S. troops. Graham wants to see U.S. drones attacking al-Qaeda havens. McCain would rather help establish a safe zone in which to train the Free Syrian Army and care for refugees, protected by Patriot missiles based in Turkey.

A third route would be for the administration to put U.S. muscle behind a U.N. demand that Assad at least permit food and blankets to reach starving, freezing families.

Can Kerry bring his boss around to a more activist policy? Obama has doubted that the United States could intervene in such a messy conflict without making things worse. He reportedly worries that even a limited commitment would inexorably suck the nation into something deeper. There certainly is no public clamor to intervene.

On the other hand, even as he has pulled back from Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has proclaimed the war against al-Qaeda a national security imperative.

“So to me,”  Graham said, “it’s a choice of, do we hit them after they hit us, or do we hit them before they hit us?”

Read more from Fred Hiatt’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Related:

US Secretary of State John Kerry (right)  held a rare meeting with his Iranian counterpart Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif  Sunday to discuss the next steps in resolving Western fears over Iran’s contested nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — after Iran agreed to its nuclear deal

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has criticised Western leaders for supporting the opposition in Ukraine

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Difference of opinion: Sergei Lavrov, right, and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich — now the two seem to be going in opposite directions. Photo: REUTERS

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