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Friday, February 27, 2009

JINSA Report #864 The President's Chosen Advisors

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JINSA Report #864
February 27, 2009
The President's Chosen Advisors

Charles "Chas" Freeman is an appalling choice for Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). As President of the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council, Mr. Freeman functions as lobbyist, making his analysis suspect. And his analysis is, in any event, appalling. Gabriel Schoenfeld, in The Wall Street Journal's "Opinion Journal," reveals a once private 2006 Freeman Internet post that Schoenfeld says, "was provided to me by a former member" of a private site. Freeman is said to have written of the 1989 Chinese massacre in Tiananmen Square:

The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud... I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be.

What he has written about Israel, and reprinted from Walt and Mearsheimer, is suspect because of his financial ties to the Saudis and appalling in its inability to differentiate between a Western democratic ally under siege from a combination of terrorists and the states that harbor and support them, and those very states and terrorist organizations.   This is a problem he shares with Samantha Power at the National Security Council.

Which is why this is not exactly about Chas Freeman - who is entitled to make a living, even as a functional Saudi lobbyist, and who is entitled to be an appalling analyst.  

This is about the President who has chosen Freeman to be chairman of the body that is "a center of strategic thinking within the U.S. Government," according to the NIC website. It produces, among other documents, National Intelligence Estimates - like the one that so thoroughly bungled the 2007 evaluation of Iran's nuclear program that our European allies took a walk on us.  

It is a crucial appointment and one that, like those of Power and Robert Malley at the NSC and "informal advisor" Zbigniew Brzezinski, is not subject to Senate confirmation, making the calls to "action" by some Jewish and other organizations meaningless.  Who is expected to take such action? Do they expect the President to say, "Oh, they're right, I shouldn't have these people around"? These people represent the President's thinking on foreign policy.  

Coupled with Secretary of State Clinton's decision not to mention human rights in China; President Obama's offer to find areas in which the United States and Iran could cooperate; Vice President Biden's desire to "reset" relations with Russia, while the Russians upset the supply of natural gas across Europe in the middle of winter; offering $900 million for Gaza without requiring any changes from Hamas or UNRWA; and overtures to Syria just as the UN tribunal is convening on the Hariri murder, there is an appalling pattern here of affinity for "stable" dictators at the expense of sometimes messy, democratic friends.

We are appalled that a Democratic administration has wandered so far away from, or deliberately scorned, Senator "Scoop" Jackson's legacy of a strong American defense capability, close relations with our democratic allies and a serious commitment to human rights.

If the President wants Freeman, et al., he will have Freeman, et al., but a price will be paid by America in places where people looked to us for hope.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

JINSA Report #863 Billion Dollar Bailout

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JINSA Report #863
February 25, 2009
Billion Dollar Bailout

Not mortgages, auto manufacturers, banks or Wall Street. Rather $900 million U.S. taxpayer dollars (in addition to $85 million pledged in December) to bail out Hamas in Gaza.  

Secretary of State Clinton didn't say it that way, of course, but announced the U.S. contribution as emergency humanitarian aid for Gaza. "None of the money will go to Hamas, it will be funneled through NGOs and UN groups," said an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.  

Which agency? UNRWA, for one. This would be the same UNRWA that has been closely associated with Hamas, and even slipped a letter from Hamas to President Obama into a packet of "promotional material" provided to Sen. Kerry without telling him he was serving as the messenger. The same UNRWA that announced that Israel had shelled a school, killing 41 people; then said the school wasn't hit, but 41 "innocent people" were killed outside the school - then Israel discovered that 12 people, including 5 known Hamas members and 4 other men, were actually killed outside the school. That UNRWA.

"None of the money will go to Hamas," we repeat the anonymous official. "Some of the $900 million... will go to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank," said another official quoted in The New York Times. That would mean Abu Mazen's Fatah government - America's theoretical "peace" partner - would be responsible for spending our bailout money. This would be the same Fatah that Palestinian voters rejected in favor of Hamas; the same Fatah that then lost a civil war to Hamas in Gaza; the same Fatah that is currently building a "security force" in the West Bank under the direction of an American Army general in order to protect itself from Hamas (if it is building an army to protect itself from Israel, we're in real trouble); and the same Fatah that is engaged in "unity" talks with Hamas in Cairo, where Hamas is "demanding" open border crossings to receive the international largesse.  

This is Wonderland.  

The Palestinian people knew full well that the agenda included terror against Israel when they elected Hamas. Israel's operation in Gaza was inevitable and as careful as it could be under the circumstance of Hamas hiding its fighters among its own women and children. Trying to put money into Gaza while Hamas still occupies center stage in "unity" talks in Cairo ensures that Hamas's political and financial position can only be strengthened.  Abu Mazen shouldn't be looking for "unity," he should be denouncing Hamas as a rogue organization, worse for the Palestinians than for Israel.

No one is starving in Gaza; no one ever did because Israel won't let it happen. But "reconstruction" with American money should wait until the people of Gaza are clear about the cost of their support of Hamas, and Hamas - and its agent UNRWA - are written out of reconstruction plans.

Bailing out mortgages is one thing - bailing out terrorist organizations is something else.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

JINSA Report #862 Jimmy Carter Obama

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JINSA Report #862
February 24, 2009
Jimmy Carter Obama

The precipitating factor in Anwar Sadat's historic trip to Jerusalem was his understanding and fear that President Carter wanted to reprise the 1973 U.S.-Soviet sponsored Geneva Peace Conference. Sadat had thrown the Soviets out of Egypt after the Yom Kippur War and aligned himself with the West. He calculated that it was better to fly to Israel and speak before the Knesset than to have to do business with the Russians again.

Afghans, no doubt, understand.

Having at great, wrenching and bloody cost ousted the Soviets from Afghanistan, Afghans must be looking on with horror as the United States invites the Russians to be part of the coalition to determine Afghanistan's future.

While the Obama Administration is hoping to "reset" relations with Russia, Russia is laying out its priorities. First, of course, is to have the United States rescind plans to put Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) radars in Poland and the Czech Republic, but second and rising in importance, is the reassertion of Russian influence in Central Asia. Laying $2 billion on the table, Russia induced Kyrgyzstan to cancel the United States lease on the Manas Air Base that is central to resupplying coalition forces in Afghanistan. Russia has offered the United States alternative routes - through Russia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was quoted in The Chicago Sun-Times saying, "Let's hope the new U.S. administration will be more successful than the previous one in dealing with the Afghan settlement. We are ready to work on the most acute issues, such as ... deliveries of non-military cargo."

In other words, Russia wants to hold a key place in the supply line to the Afghan war that President Obama has called the central front. Medvedev called deliveries of "non-military cargo" an "acute issue." What about military cargo? Can we ship that? Do we need Russia's permission? What if we get it today and lose it tomorrow because of the BMD radars or support for Georgia and Ukraine? Or something we haven't even thought of yet?

In the 1980s, wise Americans warned Western European countries against building a natural gas pipeline from the Soviet Union and hinging Europe's energy future on Moscow's good will. When the Europeans declined the wise advice, the United States denied them access to pipeline technology and the deal collapsed, leading to increased exploitation of Norwegian and British North Sea oil and gas. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Europeans built the pipeline. It is very, very cold in Europe this winter as Russia continues periodically to withhold gas to Ukraine, disrupting supplies across the continent.

There is a moral problem inherent in restoring the Russians to the Afghan mix; there is a practical problem hinging our ability to resupply our soldiers on Russian good will.
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Invitation to Emerging Security Issues for the Obama Administration - March 26, 2009

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Friday, February 20, 2009

JINSA Report #861 Negotiations That Aren't

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JINSA Report #861
February 20, 2009
Negotiations That Aren't

The Israeli government and military did what increasingly appears to be an extraordinary job of degrading the Hamas arsenal and leadership, reasserting deterrence not only against Gaza but against Hezbollah and Iran, and limiting civilian casualties. [It now appears that 12, not 41 people were killed outside the UNRWA school that Israel DID NOT HIT - nine adult males (some known Hamas members) and three civilians.]  

But the Israeli government is giving Hamas leadership an opportunity to whine, moan, cry and make demands in Cairo - and be listened to.

At some point in the Gaza War, JINSA suggested that Israel simply announce that it had completed the current phase of response to aggression and that it was ceasing fire until the time it was necessary to fire again. And then behave accordingly. (JINSA Report #843)

Ultimately, Israel did announce a sort of unilateral cease fire, but it was directly coupled with an Egyptian-negotiated unilateral Hamas cease fire. Then began the negotiation that wasn't. Israel on one side, Hamas on the other and Egypt in the increasingly uncomfortable middle, non-negotiating the opening of border crossings, non-negotiating the release of Hamas terrorists and non-negotiating the release of Gilad Shalit.

All of these non-negotiations have the effect of giving Hamas a role where it deserves none and undermining Israel's right to self-defense and right to have its illegally-held prisoner returned. And they have, not surprisingly, driven a wedge between Egypt and Israel - particularly after the Israeli government added the requirement that Shalit's return is the key to opening the border, but engaging in a concurrent non-negotiation about the number of terrorists it would pay Hamas for the release.  

Whoever doesn't understand that Israel is negotiating with Hamas, please leave the room.  Senator Kerry did a better job of avoiding Hamas while he was in Gaza than Israel has done using Egypt as a go-between.

One result is that international agencies, most of which are totally corrupted by their close financial and political relations with Hamas, have no incentive to be more cooperative with Israel and less with Hamas. Not to let them off the hook for their corruption or anti-Israel policies, it still has to be recognized that Hamas is the clear controlling government power in Gaza. President Obama dipped into an emergency fund for $20 million this week for extra aid to Gaza through international organizations including UNRWA. To whom will UNRWA answer?  

Another result is pressure for a Hamas-Fatah "unity government." For those who believe Fatah is an appropriate negotiating partner for Israel or a better steward of international largesse, the resurrection and legitimization of Hamas by Israel in Cairo makes it much harder to think Fatah will have the upper hand in any such government. The idea that Fatah, not Hamas, will control reconstruction funds flies in the face of Hamas control on the ground, and any "unity government" will have to take account of the Hamas demands that Israel is currently entertaining.

A third result is rising tension between Egypt and Israel. Egypt, for its own very good reasons, detests Hamas and was supportive of the Israeli action. Being forced into the role of arbiter, Egypt finds itself having to take a more pro-Hamas position in order to remain acceptable to Hamas in order to remain the arbiter, which it must in order to avoid being accused of being too pro-Israel. Not to let Egypt off the hook for its lax control of the Gaza border, it still has to be recognized that the Egyptian position would be stronger if it didn't have to sit with Hamas and relay Israeli instructions.

None of the above - international aid organizations, Fatah or Egypt - are what we consider really good partners. All are less bad than Hamas; all are Israel's interlocutors in various areas. The incoming Israeli government should consider reasserting a unilateral Israeli position on security, borders and international aid that requires interested parties to deal with it, cuts out Hamas, and stops undermining the neighbors.
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JINSA Report #860 We Are Now Officially Worried

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JINSA Report #860
February 20, 2009
We Are Now Officially Worried

The headline read, "Clinton Says U.S. Seeks Unity With Muslim World."  If she did, it was the lesser of the two sins she committed. Worse, Secretary of State Clinton went abroad and did that which American officials - as officials - should never, ever, ever do - she used her own religion to discuss American policy. "I am a Christian," she said, according to the Washington Post. "Through the centuries we have had many people who have done terrible things in the name of Christianity. They have perverted the religion."

Irrelevant. The Government of the United States, which she represents, is an institution separated from her Church and every other by our founding charter. There had better be no Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist foreign policy emanating from Foggy Bottom.  

There are all sorts of countries all over the world with which the United States can have varying levels of positive interaction. It may well be the job of the Secretary of State to find more countries and more levels, but with due recognition that we already have excellent relations with some countries in the "Muslim world," and others - if they want to have relations with us - need to change what they do. And the idea that there is a Muslim foreign policy - or even a "Muslim world" - with which the United States should want to be "united" is seriously offensive.

There are Muslims who regard themselves politically as European, Asian or North American. Even where Muslims predominate, governments and priorities differ.  Indonesia, where Mrs. Clinton was speaking, is different in outlook, form and policy from Afghanistan, which is different from Uzbekistan, Bosnia, Turkey and Dubai. What foreign policy priorities do Burkina Faso and Turkmenistan share? India has the second largest Muslim population. Bahrain and Iran have foreign policy priorities that are often diametrically opposite, and one of them has priorities directly opposite to many of ours. Egypt and Saudi Arabia certainly have different views on foreign policy than Syria.  

So where is their "unity" supposed to come from?  

Which leads to the final problem of Mrs. Clinton's pronouncements. She said a foreign policy priority for the United States and, "one of the central security challenges we face - (is) to how to better communicate in a way that gets through the rhetoric and through the demagogy and is heard by people who can make judgments about what we stand for and who we truly are."

The first two things she should communicate are: 1) The United States separates religion from government at home and abroad, and does not appeal to people's religious views as determinants of foreign policy; and 2) acceptance of diversity, not some enforced or mythical unity, is the hallmark of American success. The real test of democracy is not the fact that a majority rules, but how it hears its minorities - religious, ethnic and political. Protection of individual liberties under the rule of law is "what we stand for and who we truly are." Our unity comes from accepting our diversity - E Pluribus Unum.

Which raises a final point. We believe there are people, Muslims and others, who are not in need of a better explanation. They understand America perfectly well. Precisely what we treasure about our diverse and tolerant system is what they abhor, and they don't want us spreading our ideas in their countries. It is those people, particularly when coupled with arms and a suicidal ideology - not our lack of public relations - that "constitutes the central security challenge we face."
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

JINSA Report #859 Reset Relationships, Part II

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JINSA Report #859
February 17, 2009
Reset Relationships, Part II

The Obama Administration wants to improve relations with Russia, Iran and Syria. What, or who, will they trade? What do Russia, Syria and Iran want?

Russia: The administration wants cooperation against the proliferation of WMD and missile technology, particularly with respect to Iran. The Russians want recognition of a sphere of influence in the countries on their perimeter - Central Europe and Central Asia. They want NATO to drop bids from Georgia and Ukraine, and to rescind the decision to put missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.  

Iran: The administration demands an end to Iran's quest for nuclear capability and/or weapons; a quiet Iran-Iraq border; an end to calls for the destruction of Israel; and a halt to the funding of international terror groups. If a deal was to be had - which we doubt for reasons having to do with 30 years of Iranian pursuit of nuclear capability and a theological belief in the expansion of radical Islam - the price would be recognition and legitimization of the regime.  

Syria: The administration is seeking Syrian separation from Iran and an end to its support of terrorism. Syria needs money and demands the Golan Heights as well as recognition of its "special relationship" with Lebanon - meaning legitimization of its role in the military and political structure of Lebanon.   

In each case, the deal might bring the United States a measure of success on worthy, if very limited goals - assuming others live up to their commitments. In the aggregate, they comprise realpolitik - 1970s-style great power deals with dictators for stability on the backs of their people. The fact that Henry Kissinger was in Moscow in December for the Obama Administration is telling. The effect is to allow the United States to disengage on a broad foreign policy front. Realpolitik is another name for isolationism.
Those left behind comprise a long list of countries and peoples including Georgians, Ukrainians, Czechs, Poles and those who rely on Russian natural gas in winter; the millions who threw off the yoke of Soviet oppression - not just Europeans, but Russians as well; Central Asians who hope for increased not decreased American attention to help stem the radicalism that has become a feature of their lives; Iranians condemned to a permanent Mullocracy, and those across the Muslim world who believe in the modern democratic world and fear the spread of 11th Century Islamic radicalism, and; independent Lebanese.  

The United States cannot fix the world, but neither should we forget that to many people, America stands for something more. The Obama Administration must add to its negotiating objectives with Russia, Iran and Syria respect for human rights, civil liberties and rule of law - including the rights of women and minorities; respect for international contracts, including the delivery of natural gas to Europe when and at the price contracted; tolerance for the political choices made by the countries of the former Warsaw Pact and the independent countries of the former Soviet empire; and respect for the sovereignty Lebanon and Israel.

Anything less would be a step backward for America in a turbulent world.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

JINSA Report #858 Reset Relationships, Part I

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JINSA Report #858
February 13, 2009
Reset Relationships, Part I

The Obama Administration wants to "push the reset button," to quote Vice President Joe Biden, hoping to invigorate relationships with countries that have been in our proverbial doghouse. In the case of Russia and Iran, both Mr. Biden and President Obama took pains to announce continuing disapproval of various policies of dictatorial regimes, but a willingness to look for separate areas of possible cooperation. Syria received private and congressional emissaries, plus parts for repairing two aging Boeing 747s.  

Reset with Russia is probably a good thing at some level; Russia is not the Soviet Union and not an enemy of the United States. Russia's increasingly authoritarian and threatening behavior at home and abroad, however, begs the question, "Who will reset what?" The invasion of Georgia, cutting natural gas supplies to Europe at the height of a very cold winter and a sudden, massive "denial of service" that shut down more than 80 percent of Kyrgyzstan's Internet bandwidth are aggressive acts against countries that look to the United States for political reassurance and leadership. [The Kyrgyzstan Internet attack was almost totally unremarked upon in the West, but resembled Russia's attack on Georgia's capabilities during last summer's war. The proximate result was that the Kyrgyz government announced the United States could no longer use local facilities to ship vital supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan.]

One of Russia's goals is to have the Obama Administration reverse the decision to locate Ballistic Missile Defense radars in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin knows there is no threat to Russia, but he does not want American soldiers to accompany the radars into former Warsaw Pact countries. Mr. Biden did say plans for installation continue, but also said the administration would only deploy ballistic missile defenses that are proven and cost effective. Since one hopes they will never be used, proving that they work to the satisfaction of people who don't believe in the principle, and proving they would be more cost effective than rebuilding countries after a missile attack are both unrealistic.

So the outline of a deal is clear - the United States gives up the radars and Russia, well Russia does what?

Selling parts for old planes to Syria certainly poses no security threat to Israel or Lebanon, but it sends a disconcerting message to two of America's regional allies. The sale required suspending congressionally mandated trade sanctions imposed in 2004 along with the naming of Syria as a state sponsor of terror. Syria is no less a state sponsor of terrorism today - hosting Hamas's Khalid Meshaal and giving him open access in the Syrian media to call for terrorism against Israel. Syria remains obstructionist regarding the UN Tribunal investigating the car bomb murder of anti-Syrian Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri and the Syrians were involved in al Qaeda-related insurgent fighting in Palestinian refugee camps in northern Lebanon.

So the outline of the deal is clear - the United States suspends trade sanctions and Syria, well Syria does what?

President Obama said he "is looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly engage with [Iran]. And my expectation is, in the coming months, we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table, face to face; of diplomatic overtures that noted will allow us to move our policy in a new direction." The mullahs might have been disappointed when the President mentioned Iranian "financing of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, the bellicose language that they've used towards Israel, their development of a nuclear weapon or their pursuit of a nuclear weapon...contrary to the interests of international peace."

So the outline of the deal is clear - the United States concentrates on areas where we have no problem with Iranian behavior and Iran, well Iran does what?

The first problem is that the administration appears unclear on what it should/will be able to extract from recalcitrant countries in exchange for American gifts to their problematic governments. The second problem is the bus under which the administration risks throwing smaller and more vulnerable allies.
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