2011-05-22

Mead: "Obama Throws Palestine Under the Bus"

Walter Russell Mead has the most interesting - and I'd venture to say the best - analysis of Obama's Mideast speech that I've seen so far. I won't even try to excerpt it; just go read it. And yes, you read that title correctly: "Obama throws Palestine under the bus."

Obama's Speedy Re-Think on 1967

JTA:

President Obama has elaborated upon his call for the 1967 lines to serve as the basis for a Palestinian state's border in an interview with the BBC.

"The basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides," Obama told the BBC Thursday in an interview following his Middle East policy speech.

“Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank, and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis,” Obama added. “They will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory, particularly given what they’ve seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah.”

"Elaborated upon" is one way to put it. Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post has more. So does Carl at Israel Matzav.

2011-05-20

Obama's Middle East Speech

Jonathan Tobin was among the first to notice tones of neoconservatism in President Obama's speech yesterday:

The president says the United States opposes the use of violence and repression by dictators, supports universal rights including free speech and assembly, freedom of religion, equality of men and women, rule of law and right to choose our own leaders as well as political and economic reform. This is good policy. But wasn’t this the neoconservative policy of George W. Bush that the Democrats used to mock?

Tobin's Commentary colleague Peter Wehner put it more succinctly: "When Obama Became Bush (On Iraq)".

In just a few years, then, Iraq has, for Barack Obama, gone from a strategic disaster to something of a model for the region. His words sound very much like those of President Bush, who told the United Nations in 2003, “Iraq as a dictatorship has great power to destabilize the Middle East. Iraq as a democracy will have great power to inspire the Middle East.”

The fact that Barack Obama is now (belatedly) embracing the views of his predecessor is something to be grateful for. To have a liberal, Democratic president declare that Iraq shows “the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy” and is “poised to play a key role in the region” is a very good thing for our country and the wider Middle East. And it will help to heal the divisions caused by the war.

The ending of the speech was equally noteworthy - for very different reasons. Obama's call for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders brought an immediate "no" from Netanyahu:

Responding to President Barack Obama's major Mideast policy speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel will not be withdrawing to the 1967 borders as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

MK Danny Danon declared that Obama "adopted the phased plan of Yasser Arafat", meaning the destruction of Israel piece by piece. An associate of Netanyahu said Obama "does not understand the reality in the Middle East".

According to Debka,

By rejecting US President Barack Obama's proposal for Israel and its troops to pull back from the West Bank to behind the indefensible 1967 lines, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lands in the company of eleven Middle East and North African rulers who spurned Washington's Middle East policy in the six months of the unfolding Arab uprising. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was the only one to keep faith with Obama and he was pushed out for his pains.


Meanwhile, Marc Tracy at Tablet cites Ha'Aretz in favor of the 1967 solution - and gets pounded in the comments.

Enduring America has a wrapup.

2011-05-19

Morning Report: 2011-05-19

Syria: Bashar Assad under US sanctions. MSNBC: 'The United States slapped sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses over their brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, for the first time personally penalizing the Syrian leader for actions of his security forces. The White House announced the sanctions Wednesday, a day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the uprisings throughout the Arab world with prominent mentions of Syria. ...' The article adds that 'The sanctions will freeze any assets Assad and the six Syrian government officials have in U.S. jurisdiction and make it illegal for Americans to do business with them. The U.S. had imposed similar sanctions on two of Assad's relatives and another top Syrian official last month but had thus far refrained from going after Assad himself.' Via Ynet, Reuters calls it a "dramatic escalation" of US pressure.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon. BBC:

Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled their homes and are now seeking sanctuary in northern Lebanon.

They say life in the Syrian town of Tal Kalakh has become intolerable because of the violence of the Syrian army and its armed supporters.

"It was raining bullets so we fled immediately," said one middle-aged woman who - like all the refugees - did not want to give her name.

She described how one of her relatives, having started the journey across the border, turned back in order to get her cow.

"She was shot in the head and she was killed." ...

For Syrian troops, Michael Totten has some advice: Don't even think about it.

Three Syrian soldiers tried to defect to Lebanon after shielding fleeing refugees from Bashar al-Assad’s violent Shahiba miltia, but they were promptly arrested by Lebanese army officers and will most likely be sent back to Damascus. “Defecting” from Syria to Lebanon in 2011 is as useless as fleeing Moscow to East Berlin during the Soviet era. Anyone who tries is all but guaranteed to be arrested, will most likely be tortured, and faces the real possibility of being executed.

It’s sad, really. Lebanon, when left to its own devices, is a fairly open place and has acted as a refuge of sorts for writers and dissidents who can’t survive in the Arab world’s closed societies and despotic political systems. ...

Except, of course, that Lebanon is not left to its own devices - as Michael explains in his book The Road to Fatima Gate. Read the rest of Michael's article at Commentary.

Brain-dead UN inspectors leave sensitive equipment unattended in Iran, are surprised at signs that IRI regime thugs may have tried to hack their gear. Geeez, it's almost as if you couldn't trust those guys. Fox:

The U.N. nuclear agency is investigating fears from its experts that their cell phones and lap tops have been hacked into by Iranian officials looking for confidential information.

Diplomats tell The Associated press that the hardware apparently was tampered with while left unattended during inspection tours in the Islamic Republic. ...

Go to the link; in the comments, mindbender2go has a more charitable interpretation of the incident.

Danish film director Lars von Trier: I'm a Nazi. But some of my best friends are Jewish. Fox has the story.

Commentary. SWJ on Al-Qaeda after bin Laden:

Saif al Adel has been named the interim emir of al Qaeda in the wake of Osama bin Laden's demise, according to multiple press reports. Al Adel is a longtime member of al Qaeda's military council and has been wanted by US authorities since the late 1990s, when he was implicated in al Qaeda's attack on two American embassies in Africa. Another lesser known al Qaeda leader, Mustafa al Yemeni, will reportedly direct the group's operations.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal caution that it is not entirely clear how the post-bin Laden al Qaeda will be structured. They did not confirm or dispute press reports pointing to al Adel's and al Yemeni's new roles.

Al Adel's relationship with Iran will undoubtedly garner more attention now that he has reportedly assumed, at least temporarily, one of al Qaeda's top roles. ...