Last week President Obama addressed Holocaust denial at the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp stating “This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.” This week Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu echoed Obama’s calls for truth, stating that in order to bring an end to the conflict in the Middle East we must be firmly connected to reality as we honestly and forthrightly address the root of the conflict.

It is ironic that as we address historic lies surrounding the Holocaust, dangerous modern day misconceptions and faulty assumptions about the conflict in the Middle East prevail.  The real danger: These misconceptions often go undetected, are viewed as harmless and are being employed as foundational truths for brokering a Middle East peace agreement. 

One of the most prevalent modern day misconceptions that Netanyahu addressed in his resent speech is the assumption that the Arab-Israeli conflict is being sustained by Israel’s refusal to withdrawal from the West Bank which, in tern, is interpreted as an Israeli resistance to a Palestinian State.  This assumption is based on many myths that need to be addressed in pursuit of sustainable peace in the Middle East. First, we must acknowledge that in 1948 the State of Israel was founded upon a Jewish acceptance of the UN approved two-state solution.  A solution employed by the international community to address the longstanding Arab-Jewish struggle occurring in the British Mandate territory of Palestine. Post World War II Great Britain was eager to free herself of the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations approved UN Resolution 181 to partition the territory of Palestine into two distinct homelands–one for Jews and one for the Arabs of Palestine. UN Resolution 181 essential partitioned the British Mandate territory of Palestine into two states and included Britain’s plans to evacuate this region by August 1, 1948.  The Jewish portion of the partitioned land had a Jewish majority. Jewish leaders accepted the UN Resolution even though their portion comprised only 13 percent of the original Mandate.  Arab leaders rejected this resolution and choose instead to declare war to seize the whole area. 

Second, as Netanyahu adds his voice in support of a two state solution, it should be noted that support for a Palestinian state has been the official policy of Israel’s recent governments. These governments have not just voiced their support, but they have also demonstrated their commitment to a Palestinian state by withdrawing from parts of the West Bank and fully withdrawing from Gaza in 2005.  Unfortunately, Israel learned (and the world has witnessed) that territorial concessions do not equal peace.  Instead of furthering the case for a peaceful two state solution, Gaza has become a breeding ground for terrorism – a strategic location used to launch attacks against Israel.  Despite the dangerous lessons learned from Gaza, the majority of Israelis still continue to support a full withdrawal from the West bank in hopes of a peaceful resolution that includes their support for the creation of a Palestinian state.

An examination of history reveals that contrary to historic myths, it was the Arab leadership (not the Jewish leadership) that rejected the creation of an Arab/ Palestinian homeland along side of a Jewish homeland. Unfortunately these foundational objections continue to be voiced by many radicals and prominent Palestinian leaders who regularly deny Israel’s right to exist, adhere to founding charters calling for her destruction, refuse to accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel, and continue to sabotage the peace process. In his recent speech Netanyahu stated that “even as we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.” 

We are living sobering day where we would do well to remember that lies have dangerous consequences.  Obama is to be commended for charging us to confront historic lies as he stood at Buchenwald.  Netanyahu rightly assessed that true efforts at peace will be sorely misdirected if they are built on historic inaccuracies.  As the new administrations of Obama and Netanyahu meet to embark on a two-state solution in the Middle East, perhaps these two governments can unite on this one point: Their common commitment to truth–Obama with his charge to confront historic lies; and Netanyahu with his desire to honestly and forthrightly address the root of the conflict. While there are many challenges to peace in the Middle East, a common commitment to truth may be the golden thread that unites our efforts.

Posted by: rightinthemiddle | April 18, 2009

Ideology Underlying Global Terrorism Must be Acknowledged.

I am writing in response to a recent article appearing in the Democrat and Chronicle that blamed violence and terrorism on inequality, discrimination and poor socioeconomic justice.  My objective in responding to Muhammad Shafiq’s article is to challenge a common and dangerous argument that justifies violence and erroneously places the blame and responsibility of terrorism on poverty and oppression from outside regimes. 

 

First, let’s examine the Palestinian issue that Shafiq mentioned.  Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the international community has donated approximately $5 billion to the Palestinian Authority (1)Through UNWRA Relief, the United States has contributed more than 60% of this. The World Bank noted that donor disbursement to the Palestinians amount to approximately $1 billion per year or $320 per person per year–one of the highest per capita rates in the history of foreign assistance (2).  So where is all the money?  In 2004, Arafat was listed in Forbes with a wealth of at least $300 Million. (3)  Israel and U.S. Officials estimated his personal holdings to be between $1-$3 billion. (4) Independent Funding for Peace Coalition found overwhelming evidence that European aid has not reached the Palestinian people and that it has been diverted toward terrorism and unscrupulous behavior by Palestinian leadership. (5)   So the question becomes, oppression and poverty at whose hands?

 

Secondly, if terrorism is the inevitable result of poverty, oppression and injustice, as the author states, then where are the Haitians, Tibetan, Greek Cypriot, Dashmiri Pandit and Sindhi terrorists? 

 

Arguments such as Shafiq’s ignore the core issue and distract us from acknowledging a dangerous ideology underlying the growing threat of global terrorism.  Any serious examination of modern terrorism would be remiss to dismiss the religious and political agenda at the center of global terrorism.  Can we ignore statements by Radical Islamists who justify terrorist violence against “infidel” powers such as the United States with reference to a fixed Qur’anic worldview that incorporates all efforts to create an ideal Islamic State? Islamist terrorists have articulated their rage in a declared context of “total war.” In so doing, they attempt to elevate the debased nature of their struggle by identifying them with a sacred cause. In nearly all cases, the jihadi terrorists ascribe to a patently self-evident ambition: to establish a world dominated by Islamic law, the Shari’a. (6)

 

Westerners and Muslims alike often fail to hear these ideological statements and threats.  Canadian author Irshad Manji observes that Islamic organizations pretend that “Islam is an innocent bystander in today’s terrorism.” (7) Political analyst; Daniel Pipes said it best when he said, “What the terrorists want is abundantly clear. It requires monumental denial not to acknowledge it, but we Westerners have risen to the challenge.” (8)

 

It is my hope that as we continue to dialogue on this topic, that our conversations acknowledge the threat and ideology underlying terrorism.  I believe that honesty and truth will prevail over prejudices and injustice. I also believe that our very survival as a free nation hinges on our ability to acknowledge the ideological war that is now being waged.

 

 

(1)

The Wall Street Journal , Oct 2002 “Paying for Terrorism”:

http://www.public-integrity.org/articles/publications24.htm.

 

(2) 

World Bank Paper Urges Major Easing Of Israeli Closure Measures And Stepped-Up Palestinian Reform Efforts News Release No:2004/451/MNA:

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/MENAEXT/WESTBANKGAZAEXTN/0,,contentMDK:20217834~menuPK:294370~pagePK:141137~piPK:141127~theSitePK:294365,00.html

 

Report No: 27094-62, Section  2.2   INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE IN THE 1990s AND TO THE INTIFADA:

http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/IW3P/IB/2004/10/22/000160016_20041022100557/Rendered/INDEX/270940GZ.txt 

* note in this report the a higher per capita rate is also given “Between 1994 and 2000, annual donor disbursements averaged some US$ 420 million, or US$150 per capita. Since the outbreak o f the intifada, far from being deterred, donor tenacity has increased: disbursements effectively doubled in 2001 and 2002, averaging just under US $l billion each year, or US$320 per person. This is thought to be the highest sustained rate o f per capita disbursement to any aid recipient anywhere since the Second World War.”
 
American Center for Democracy, New York City: “Where does the Money Go? A Study of the Palestinian” Authority by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld: 

http://www.public-integrity.org/articles/money.doc

 

 

(3)

Forbes: Kings Queens and Deposits Yasir Arafat:

http://www.forbes.com/2003/02/24/cz_royalslide_6.html

 

 

(4)

CBS News: Arafat’s Billions: One Man’s Quest to Track Down Unaccounted-For Public Funds, Nov. 9. 2003:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/11/07/60minutes/main582487.shtml

 

Arab New: Arafat Aides Resume Talks with Israel, Fight over His Fortune:

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4&section=0&article=53769&d=1&m=11&y=2004

 

 

(5)

PR Web: New Report Analyses European Aid to Palestinian- Finds Evidence of Foul Play:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/8/prweb151832.htm

 

Funding for Peace Coalition Report: “Managing European Taxpayers’ Money: Supporting The Palestinian Arabs – A Study In Transparency”:

http://eufunding.org/FPC2004Report.pdf 

 

EU Funding.org The Palestinian Leadership’s Hidden Budget:

http://www.eufunding.org/accountability/Nielson11.html

 

Palestinian Authority funds go to militants:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3243071.stm

 

 

(6)

In Paragraph 4 I mention the religious and political agenda at the center of global terrorism: There are many sources that can be given to back up this claim but here are a few:

 

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY — NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER: Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology: Congressional Research Service Report for Congress

http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/al-queda%20evolve.htm

 

MERIA: Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, Volume 5, No. 4 – December 2001: the islamic fundamentalist view of life as a perennial battle by David Zeidan.

http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2001/issue4/jv5n4a2.htm

 

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (Third public hearing)

Statement of Steven Emerson to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
July 9, 2003 Overview: The Rampant Allure of Jihad in the Muslim World:

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/hearings/hearing3/witness_emerson.htm

National Committee on American Foreign Policy: The Middle East: Islamic Law and Peace.  Summary of the January 10, 2002, Roundtable on Militant Islamic Fundamentalism in the 21st Century, April 30, 2002: http://www.ncafp.org/projects/MiddleEast/rd02islam.htm

The Institute of World Politics: “Islam: A threat or a challenge to the Christian West” November 1, 2004, By Alberto M. Piedra: http://www.iwp.edu/news/newsID.142/news_detail.asp

 

 

(7)

Time Magazine Sunday, July 17, 2005 “When Denial Can Kill” by Irshad Manji

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1083918,00.html

 

 

(8)

New York Sun July 26, 2005 “What Do the Terrorists Want? [A Caliphate]”  by Daniel Pipes http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2798

 

Posted by: rightinthemiddle | January 4, 2009

Obama’s True Test: Clarity in a Culture of Moral Equivalence

As the world responds to the situation in Gaza the evidence of a generation immersed in moral equivalency is disturbing. The doctrine of equivalence denies that a moral hierarchy can be assessed of two sides in a conflict, or in the actions or tactics of the two sides.  In the recent coverage of Gaza, such a doctrine has served to undermine the significant historical context of events, and to remove the moral distinction between the ongoing violence initiated by Gaza terrorists and the military operation being employed by Israel–a sovereign democratic state with a responsibility to defend her citizens.   

 

In a recent editorial appearing in the Democrat and Chronicle entitled  “Obama faces a Mideast test”, the author accused Israel of “a retaliation that was disproportionate to the damage done” and stated that “Israel should be warn that U.S. support is not unconditional, that attacks that kill innocents in the name of security are unacceptable”.(1)  Statements such as these fail to appreciate the complex struggle that Israel faces against radical Islamic terror, specifically the type now being initiated by Hamas and supported by the rogue regimes in Syria and Iran. Statements like this also assume that Israel’s military operation is primarily a retaliatory act rather than a necessary stance for self preservation.

 

If there is an informed discussion to be had about “appropriate use of force” and “innocent victims”, consideration must be given to the following facts: Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Palestinians living in Gaza have launched more than 6,400 rockets and mortars into Israel (Since April 16, 2001 there have been over 8,000 rocket and mortar attacks) (2). These attacks have killed 13 civilians, wounded more than 800 and traumatized thousands of others (3).   During 2008, Iran-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have increased its attacks firing more than 3,000 rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians in the southern Negev region(4).  Recently Hamas and other militants in Gaza have stepped up their weapons production in both quantity and quality.  Previous militants used homemade rockets that could travel 12 miles to terrorize Israeli border communities.  Currently militants are now utilizing weapons manufactured in China and Iran. These new brand of Grad rockets have now extended the reach of Hamas terror further in to Israel placing over 700,000 Israeli citizens (10% of Israel’s population) within firing range. (5) In addition, Israel’s internal security service, the Israel General Security Services, estimates that since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, more than 130 tons of explosives have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip with 80 tons of these explosives being smuggled into the Gaza Strip this year alone (6).

 

With attention fixed on Gaza, Hamas continues to win international sympathy while fueling and justifying militant anger and support around the world.  Media coverage often fails to mentions that while the Israel Defense Force distributes flyers to the Palestinian populations in Gaza warning civilians to vacate the vicinity of targeted terror cells, Hamas operatives have been hiding in hospitals and mosques, using civilians as human shields (7). In the midst of escalating violence, Israel continues to be committed to providing humanitarian support to Gaza, allowing over 4,000 tons of food and medical supplies to enter the Gaza Strip.  Israel has also authorized several chronically ill and wounded Gazans to enter Israel for treatment. (8)

 

Unfortunately the moral equivalency that plagues Western thought only aids the Hamas in galvanizing international sympathy, etching them closer to the realization of their stated goal – “the creation of an Islamic republic in Palestine that would replace Israel” (as stated in The 1988 Hamas Covenant)  (9). The immediate means to which they aim to achieve this goal (outlined in their covenant) is the escalation of the armed struggle, and ultimately jihad with the participation not only of Palestinian Muslims but of the entire Islamic world. (9)

 

The events in Gaza do indeed present Obama with a defining test: Will this administration maintain the moral clarity and resolve necessary to strengthen our ties to democratic allies while challenging terrorist regimes hostile to our interests?  Or will the pervasive culture of moral equivalence plague the Obama administration, eroding the fabric of our national identity and rendering us impotent in the face of such challenges. As the eyes of the world watch with anticipation, I pray that Obama does not squander this opportunity to preserve America’s unique role as an international leader that promotes the cause of political and economic freedom abroad.  May Obama remain more committed to standing for justice and less concerned about being perceived as being “even-handed”. And may every American citizen continue to pledge their aligned to a nation that remains united under God with liberty and justice for all.

 

 

 

 

(2) Conference call with Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff  (the Deputy Chief of Mission to Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C., Jan. 2, 2009.

 

(3)http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=689705&ct=6476363#graph

 

(4) Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; “Hamas fires at Israel, threatening hopes of renewed ceasefire,” The Telegraph (UK), Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/3933368/Hamas-fires-at-Israel-threatening-hopes-of-renewed-ceasefire.html; “Rocket barrage from Gaza as Hamas ends six-month calm,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site, Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA

 

(5) H.E. Sallai Meridor Israel’s Ambassador to the United States

Confronting Hamas in Gaza: Israel’s Search for Peace. Tuesday, December 30, 2008

National Press Club, Washington, D.C http://www.theisraelproject.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=hsJPK0PIJpH&b=3587015&content_id={3E349D18-F671-48ED-A0F1-E84921C929DF}&notoc=1

 

(6) Summary of Palestinian Terrorist Activities for 2007 – Statistics and Trends of Palestinian Terror (Hebrew), accessed Jan. 16, 2008, http://www.shabak.gov.il/publications/Pages/sikum2007.aspx

 

(7) Exposed: Hamas used human shields International community blasted Jewish state for ‘aggression’ against civilians, by Aaron Klein  http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=58118

 

(8) Gaza Assault Continues as Israel Rejects Cease-fire with Hamas

      By Amanda Ruggeri – Fri Jan 2, 2:37 http://news.yahoo.com/s/usnews/20090102/ts_usnews/gazaassaultcontinuesasisraelrejectsceasefirewithhamas

 

(9)“Hamas Covenant 1988- The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement”

18 August 1988 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

 

(1) “Obama faces a Mideast test: Transition should be no barrier to response to situation in Gaza” The Democrat and Chronicle: Rochester, NY December 30, 2008

Posted by: rightinthemiddle | July 1, 2008

Iran and the Future Course of Our Nation- The Decison is Yours

In less than five months Americans will elect a President that will begin his term at one of the most defining hours of history.  At a time when both domestic and international issues are vying for voter’s attention and candidate’s positions are being scrutinized, there is one thing that is certain – Addressing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran will be a presidential priority.

 

As we near the November elections, there is little doubt that our next president will make decisions about Iran that will affect our approach to terrorism, international security, the global economy and the Middle East.  In such critical matters of national and international security, it is important to understand the core issues surrounding the Iranian threat and to recognize that the beliefs, attitudes and approach of our next our president will largely shape our future course of action.  In this article I intend to summarize the nuclear crisis in Iran and then present each presidential candidate’s position on this issue. 

 

The Iranian Threat:

In discussing the eminent threat that Iran poses, consider the following:  First, Iran continues to make significant progress in its ability to enrich uranium in direct defiance of three U.N. Security Council resolutions.  On May 26, 20008 a report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency 1 heightened international concern about the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear program.  This report examined the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement2 and provisions of the U.N. Security Council resolutions in Iran.  This report concluded that, contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and has continued the operation of PFEP (Pilot Fuel enrichment Plant) and FEP (Fuel Enrichment Plant).  In addition, they have continued the installation of both new cascades and a new generation centrifuges for test purposes and continued the construction of IR-40 (Iran Nuclear Research Reactor).1 Iran continues to advance its enrichment efforts while denying international inspectors access to key nuclear facilities and failing to address concern regarding its nuclear pursuit. The report, for example, accused Iran of a willful lack of cooperation in answering questions about military activities related to its illicit nuclear program. 1

 

 According to Gregory Schultz, the chief U.S. delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the recent IAEA report reveals a strong defiance by Tehran toward the international community’s efforts to get answers about troubling parts of the Iranian nuclear program. Schultz told the Associated Press that parts of the report were a “direct rebuttal” of Iranian claims that all nuclear questions had been answered. The report also alleges that Iran is learning to make faster, more powerful, and more efficient centrifuges which means that Iran may be producing enriched uranium faster than expected.  According to David Albright, a former weapons inspector who now runs the Institute for Science and International security, “The Iranians are certainly being confronted with some pretty strong evidence of a nuclear weapons program, and they are being petulant and defensive.  The report lays out what the agency knows, and it is very damning.” 3

 

Since December 2006, the UN has imposed three rounds of tough sanctions on Iran for its ongoing uranium enrichment programs.  Iranian officials insist that they are developing a civilian nuclear program for peaceful means, but the international community continues to uncover evidence that points to the development of nuclear weapons.  The international community affirms Iran’s right to have a civilian nuclear program. They have even offered Iran assistance in their development of civilian nuclear energy in exchange for cooperation in revealing information about the current nature of their nuclear development.  On Saturday, June 14th  European Union diplomat Javier Solana presented Iran with a modified package of economic, technological and political incentives on behalf of the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China.  Iran immediately rejected the deal because of its requirements to suspend uranium enrichment. 4 In response to this news, President Bush and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France addressed Iran’s defiance.  President Sarkozy said, “Anyone is entitled—including Iran— access to civilian nuclear energy.  We will help them to do so if they act in good faith.  If the Iranian authorities are in good faith then they should let inspectors run their course.  If they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to hide…The door is wide open to access civilian nuclear technology….but as far as  military nuclear access is concerned, this is ‘no’ on the part of the international community.” 5 President Bush said, “Now they (Iran) say, well, we want civilian nuclear power. And as I explained to Nicholas today, I agree, they should have the right to have civilian nuclear power. As a matter of fact, Vladimir Putin delivered that very message to the Iranian regime.  He also delivered this message: that because you have been untrustworthy, because you haven’t fully disclosed your programs to the IAEA in the past, that we can’t trust you to

 enrich.”5

 

The international community has repeatedly given Iran the message that they not only have the right to pursue civilian nuclear power, but that the international community would even support Iran in acquiring fuel for civilian purposes.  In December of 2007, Russia, with the approval of the U.N., began delivering nuclear fuel to a reactor that it is helping Iran build at Bushehr. 6 The enriched uranium that Russia is shipping to Iran can be used as fuel in nuclear power stations. When it is more highly enriched, it can be used to make nuclear weapons.  The message that the international community is sending to Iran is that Iran does not need to enrich for peaceful purposes because Russia and the international community have agreed to support Iran in acquiring civilian nuclear energy. 

 

The second thing that is critical to understand in assessing the nuclear threat that Iran poses is the ideology directing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. By all accounts Iran appears determined to develop nuclear weapons.  U.S intelligence agencies believe that Iran could be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon between 2010 and 2015.  The issue of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons has been a heightened concern in recent years. The threat is centered on several issues; one of the most disturbing is the fact that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is an apocalyptic Shiite Muslim who belongs to the radical sect know as Hojjatieh Shiism. His adherence to these radical beliefs coupled with his repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and the United States 7 pose a serious threat to all of Western civilization.

 

The Hojjatieh movement is considered to be so radical that it was banned in 1983 by the Ayatollah Khomeini and is still opposed by the majority of the Iranian clerics. 9 As part of this group, Ahmadinezhad believes in the imminent return of the 12th or Hidden Imam (also called the Mahdi), which is their Messiah.  The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently published a well documented study on the interplay of radical religious ideology with Iranian politics in a paper entitled “Apocalyptic Politics on the Rationality of Iranian Policy”. 8 The radical group to which Ahmadinezhad belongs believes that it is their prophetic mission to change Iranian society in preparation for the coming of the Mahdi. The Mahdi is the Muslim savior who will appear before the end of time to establish a just world government.  The Shiites believe that Mahdi was born in 868AD as the 12th Iman, but has been in a state of occultation since that time. They believe that in the last days God will make Mahdi appear.  One of the signs of Mahdi’s return is deviation from Islam and according to the Quran, this deviation was accomplished through Christianity and Judaism. This group of Apocalyptic Shiite Muslims believe that after centuries of Judeo- Christian hegemony, Islam is corrupt and the Mahdi has to return in order to bring back authentic Islam. According to their tradition, when Mahdi returns he will introduce “True Islam”.

 

One of the most disturbing elements of Ahmadinezhad’s ideology is the belief that chaos and bloodshed must precede the return of the 12th Imam, and the emphasis on human ability to direct these events.  By creating apocalyptic chaos, the Hojjatiehs believe they are able to hasten Mahdi’s reappearance, the institution of Islamic government worldwide, and the destruction of all competing faiths. Ahmadinezhad’s adherence to this ideology has dictated his presidency and he has repeatedly made public statements demonstrating his belief in a personal call to the mission of preparing the way for Mahdi.  Consider the following statements made by Ahmadinezhad after he won the presidential election:

·        “Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi. We should define our economic, cultural and political policies on the policy of the Imam Mahdi’s return.” 10

·        “We did not carry out the Islamist revolution in order to introduce democracy. Our revolution seeks to achieve worldwide power. The new Islamic revolution will cut out the roots of injustice throughout the world. The era of the godless regime, tyranny and injustice has come to an end. The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world.” 10

According to an article in Frontline Magazine, Ahmadinezhad’s adherence to Hojjatieh fuels his political ambitions.  As Mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinezhad advocated for widening the roads to accommodate the Mahdi’s triumphal entry into the city, and one of his first acts of office as President was to dedicate approximately $20 million to the restoration and improvement of the mosque at Jamkaran, where the Mahdi is claimed to dwell. 9

 

As we weigh the Iran’s nuclear ambition, it would be gross negligence to dismiss the apocalyptic element of Ahmadinezhad’s faith or the serious nature of his threat to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”.  Ahmadinejad believes that a great cataclysm of bloodshed anticipates the return of the 12th Iman, (in particular the destruction of Jews and Christians) that will usher in a new day of Islamic world dominance.  

 

Any analyses that fail to take into account the religious ideology that drives Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions tend to classify Ahmadinejad’s threats as the mere saber-rattling of a political leader.  They quickly point to the grave consequences Iran would suffer at the hands of Israel and the U.S. for a nuclear attack. Assessments that do not take into account the ideological paradigm that structures Ahmadinjad’s thinking are dangerous.  The traditional Western strategy of deterrence by threats of retaliation with dire consequences, does not work when addressing an apocalyptic Shiite culture that predicts and even rewards martyrdom at the hands of infidels.  Consider the following statement made by Ahmadinejad in February 2006:

“We are all obliged to keep alive the culture of martyrdom-seeking in the society.  Culture of martyrdom-seeking is our most effective weapon and best guarantee for out national security.  Ruthless enemies who have a chronic enmity against our country and our nation have not succeeded in achieving their objectives so far, thanks to the existence of this culture of martyrdom-seeking among our nation.  He who is ready for martyrdom is always victorious.  Martyrdom is the peak of mankind’s perfection and the martyrs enjoy the highest status of humanity in this world and the Hereafter. People spend tough years of strenuous work in a bid to achieve the peaks of grandeur and pride, while our dear martyrs achieve those high peaks in shortest possible time.” 9 

 

Former Iranian President, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, made this revealing statement in December 2001, “If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce minor damages in the Muslim world.” 13.  Rafsanjani was saying that a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel would eliminate Israel (due to their smaller population) and leave Iran still functioning. Clearly the Iranian administration has thought about this scenario.

 

In light of Iran’s nuclear ambition and Ahmadinejad’s threats to both the United States and Israel, we would be wise to pay attention. In the minds of most Americans, a nuclear armed Iran is not an option. Yet we live in an era of globalization where domestic and international issues are becoming more entwined and complex, and the partisan politics of an election year continue to complicate the issues. Regardless of the challenges that we face, we must bear in mind that time is on Iran’s side.  We cannot be distracted from this issue even though there is not a “neat and easy” solution.  The cost to confronting Iran will be high, but the cost to appeasing Iran until they have a nuclear weapon is not an option.  

 

So far I have discussed the immanent threat that Iran poses and presented the evidence that demonstrates that international diplomacy efforts and U.N. sanctions have not deferred Iran from progressing with their development of nuclear weapons.  As the international community grapples with “next steps”, a military strike on Iran’s’ nuclear facilities is certainly on the table.  If the United States initiates or participates in a military strike, the U.S. and the rest of the international community are certain to incur a high cost.  Most people recognize that living with a nuclear armed Iran is not a viable option, but as time is running out and the American public is growing weary of U.S. involvement abroad, much of the conversation surrounding a military strike is focused on an Israel led attack and talk in Israel has shifted from “if” to “when”. With troops still committed in Iraq, it seems that there is not a broad base of support at home for a U.S. led strike, but key advisors to both presidential candidates were among recent participants on a panel on U.S.–Israel relations that was convened by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  Both representatives spoke on the need and importance of U.S.–Israel cooperation and partnership in dealings with Iran.  Even if a military strike occurs at the end of this administration’s term, our next president will lead our nation forward in facing the unique international threats that are eminent.

 

Most experts believe that a military strike is unlikely to occur before the election, but chances are very good that Israel will launch an attack before the January  inauguration and will need the support of the U.S. to succeed in their mission   An Israeli attack on Iran will almost certainly need the go ahead from the U.S because of airspace over eastern Turkey and Iraq that is controlled by the U.S. and because a successful campaign to wipe out Iran’s nuclear capacities would require several waves of air attacks that would necessitate U.S assistance.  Michael Rubin (a colleague of John Bolton- former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) stated, “The thing that makes an Israeli strike more likely is when any U.S. politician gets up and says that Iran can be contained” 11 Israel can not and will not live with a nuclear armed Iran.  They understand the threat they face and recognize that the situation in Iran has progressed past sanctions, diplomacy and incentives. Israel is preparing to take action and will need U.S. support to insure the success of their mission.

 

As we weigh the options of a military strike we must consider the price that we are likely to pay for such an operation. First, Iran would likely close the Strait of Hormuz through which 40% of the world’s oil is exported. This would cause the already inflated oil prices to increase. 13 Second, Iranian proxies around the world (and particularly in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel) would be activated contributing to increased international violence and terrorism. Third, there would be an increase of anti-American sentiment around the world (particularly from the Muslim world), and forth, even if Iran’s nuclear facilities are totally destroyed, Iran already possess the technical skill and expertise to eventually rebuild their arsenal which means that the international community would have to play an active and ongoing role in ensuring that any attempts of a dangerous nuclear build up in Iran is thwarted. 

 

There is no denying the high cost associated with a pre-emptive strike, yet equally undeniable is the cost of doing nothing.  If Iran is not stopped, they will become the hegemonic power in the Middle East.  In an article that appeared in The Washington Post, entitled “The Tehran Calculus”, Charles Krauthammer says, “There is the larger danger of permitting nuclear weapons to be acquired by religious fanatics seized with an eschatological belief in the imminent apocalypse and in their own divine duty to hasten the End of Days.  The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age. Every city in the civilized world will live under the specter of instant annihilation delivered either by missile or by terrorist.  This from a country that has an official Death to American Day and has declared since Ayatollah Khomeninis ascension that Israel must be wiped off the map.” 13 Krauthammer concludes by posing this provocative question: “Against millenarian fanaticism glorying in a cult of death, deterrence is a mere wish. Is the west prepared to wager it’s cities with their millions of inhabitants on the feeble gamble?” 13 The question that Krauthammer poses is something we need to ask ourselves as we prepare to elect our next president.  Aside from the obvious, a nuclear armed Iran would pose a direct threat to U.S national security by altering the strategic balance of the Middle East. The actual acquisition of a nuclear weapon by Iran would embolden the fundamentalist regime in Tehran to carry out its radical apocalyptic foreign policy agenda by offering backing to its terrorist allies, and a nuclear armed Iran is also sure to set off a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East which would heighten the odds of a nuclear attack by some regime or radical in the near future.

 

The Presidential Candidate’s Position on Iran:

As we near the November Presidential Election, we must select a president knowing that our position toward Iran will have far reaching consequences.  How do our presidential candidates fare when it comes to Iran? Both candidates acknowledge that Iran needs to be a priority, both have said that all options (including a military operation) must remain on the table, but there are some divergence approaches that become apparent when examining McCain and Obama’s response to Iran that reflect their general disposition when it comes to international issues.  

 

Obama’s Position on Iran:

On June 16th McCain and Obama campaign representatives discussed each candidate’s strategies for reducing nuclear dangers at an Arms Control Association event aimed at addressing the current and future challenges facing the global nuclear nonproliferation system.  The speeches given that day were very revealing.  John Holum (representing Senator Obama) specifically addressed the nuclear threat of Iran by criticizing the Bush Administration for its policy of not having diplomatic relations with Iran (diplomatic relations with Iran ceased 28 years ago when the Ayatollah of Khomeini, came to power in Iran).  Holum said that “Not talking (to Ahmadinejad) is the diplomatic equivalent of holding your breath until you pass out, employed against someone who prefers you unconscious” 14 Holum went on to stress the need for diplomacy stating that the absence of diplomacy has not worked. Holums address highlighted Obama’s main philosophy and approach to Iran and other international threats— that of diplomacy.  Obama repeatedly continues to criticize the present administration for not having diplomatic relations with Ahmadinejad and last year, Senator Obama stated that he would be willing to meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions.  During the Arms Control Association event, Stephen Biegun (representing Senator McCain) said, “Senator McCain is not at all critical of diplomacy.  In fact, he firmly supports it as the first and best opportunity for the United States to resolve issues of all matters around the world, including nuclear proliferation. But the statement by a presidential hopeful that within the first year of their presidency, with no conditions, at the highest level of government, they would meet with a leader, with a tyrant as important as President Ahmedinejad without preconditions not only provides a level of prestige and recognition to a leader like Ahmedinejad, but it also has the consequence of actually doing harm to the existing diplomacy that is underway right now.  All President Ahmedinejad has to hold out for now is the hopeful victory of President Obama.  Why should he, during the interim, have any serious negotiations with the European allies who are working so hard to bring an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions?” 14

 

The problem with Obama’s approach to Iran (and other serious international issues) is that it is naively based on esoteric ideologies that frame international problems in a paradigm of moral neutrality that refuses to view the current crises through the historical, political, religious and ideological principles that accurately help to inform international policy decisions and aid us in understanding the actions of leaders like Ahmedinejad.  Consider this statement made by Obama in a recent interview when he was asked if he would be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of his administration, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.  Obama replied by reasserting his position and saying, “I would. And the reason is this: the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them–which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous. ..I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.” 15  Obama has actually criticized the U.S. diplomacy stating that “Our diplomacy has been compromised by a refusal to talk to people we don’t like.” 20

 

I find it very disturbing that a presidential hopeful views a lack of formal diplomatic relations as a “disgraceful form of punishment” inflicted by the U.S upon a hostile nation.  To say that Obama lacks insight and understanding about U.S. diplomacy, would be an understatement. The fact that the United States no longer has formal diplomatic relations with Iran is not a “punishment” tactic, nor the result of mere “dislike”.  Our current foreign relations with Iran evolved out of the 1979 Islamic Revolution when Iran made it very clear that Western influence was not welcome or desired in that nation. Perhaps someone should remind Obama that the United States had formal diplomatic relations with Iran until 1979 when Iranians revolted, and Ayatollah Khomeini became Iran’s new leader.  Khomeini then began speaking out against the U.S, calling our nation the “Great Satan” and the Islamic Republic positioned itself as a global revolutionary leader under the slogan “neither East nor West” (referring to the Soviet and American/West European models), calling for the overthrow of capitalism, American influence, and social injustice in the Middle East and the rest of the world. In its region, the Iranian Islamic revolutionaries called specifically for the overthrow of monarchies and their replacement with Islamic republics.  Then on November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students (in support of Iran’s revolution and anti-American position) took over the American embassy holding 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days.

 

To assert that a lack of formal diplomatic relations with hostile nations, such as Iran, is a punishment tactic is clearly an uninformed position.  Secretary Rice has said repeatedly “The question is not why the U.S won’t meet with Iran. The question is why Iran won’t meet with the U.S.” 15 Since 1979, every previous U.S. attempt at engagement with Iran (Carter, Reagan and Clinton all tried) –was spurned and taken as a sign of weakness.  McCain pointed out the error in Obama’s accusations against the U.S. when he stated:  “In reality, a series of administrations have tried to talk to Iran, and none tried harder than the Clinton administration. In 1998, the secretary of state made a public overture to the Iranians, laid out a roadmap to normal relations, and for two years tried to engage,” he said. “The Clinton administration even lifted some sanctions, and Secretary Albright apologized for American actions going back to the 1950s. But even under President Khatami — a man by all accounts less radical than the current president — Iran rejected these overtures.” 15 Our future president should have a basic understanding that Iran’s current foreign policy position has two primary guiding principles: eliminating outside influences in the region and pursuing extensive diplomatic contacts with developing and non-aligned countries. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei  has even said that “cutting ties with America is among our basic policies,” and “any relations would provide the possibility to the Americans to infiltrate Iran and would pave the way for their intelligence and spy agents,” 17  Khamenei’s only desire for future relations with the U.S. is based on furthering the Iranian agenda.  Khamenei stated, “We have never said that the relations will remain severed forever. Undoubtedly, the day the relations with America prove beneficial for the Iranian nation I will be the first one to approve of that.” 17  In  speeches Khamenei consistently dwells on the familiar themes of the 1979 revolution: the importance of justice, independence, self-sufficiency, and Islam; the need for resolute opposition to Israel and United States. 17

 

Furthermore, any assertion that diplomacy is the winning approach to dealing with the nuclear threat of Iran, reveals a serious lack of understanding about the multifaceted diplomatic approaches that have already been employed toward Iran by the international community. Is Obama aware that the United States has joined diplomatic efforts with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in offering incentives for Iran to halt their uranium enrichment? Is Obama aware of the three rounds of U.N. sanctions that have been implemented due to Iran’s non-compliance with the international community? Is Obama aware that Iran’s form of “diplomacy” with the U.S. was revealed in the eighteen page letter that Ahmadinezhad sent to President Bush in 2006 inviting him to convert to the Muslim faith, or suffer the consequences for not doing so?  Obama, revealed his glaring ignorance in understanding Iran during a recent interview when he claimed that the Iranian threat is ‘tiny’ compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union. 15

 

Like Obama, we all wish for a world without war, nuclear weapons, conflict, and terrorism. A world where serious issues can be addressed by simply “talking it out” and respecting each others views.  Yes, Obama can be admired, and votes will certainly be won for his idealistic view of international issues.  In fact, his idealistic approach seems to resonate with the rising Anti-American sediment that views U.S. international policy as increasingly aggressive. For some,  I imagine that this perspective brings a certain level of comfort because it puts the onus of responsibility on the U.S. and gives us the hope that our international problems can be alleviated by a president like Obama, who simply vows to bring “change” by “making friends with our enemies” through diplomacy.  For others Obama’s rhetoric of the U.S. “distasteful” foreign relations with the likes of Iran, are a disturbing reflection of a simplistic, misinformed idealism that is coupled with a view of the U.S. as an international aggressor. A view that, in my opinion, is a little to close to comfort to the “Great Satan” portrayal of our nation that seems to be winning converts.

 

In his closing remarks at the Arms Control Association event, John Holm (representing Obama) said, “Finally, a few words on supporting Obama because of who he is.  It will take at least a generation…to repair the damage to U.S. international interest inflicted by George W. Bush and ideologues whose pet theories became his lodestars…we have a long struggle ahead just to rebuild alliances and coalitions fractured by the swaggering, go-it-alone mentality and forge new collective measures effectively to address challenges as diverse as climate change, radical Islam, and WMD proliferation.” 14 In these closing remarks, Holm again reveals what I believe is a dangerous paradigm of the Obama camp—that of justifying international aggression toward the “International Bully” (the U.S.) and vowing to “repair” relationships.  His strategy: meeting with regimes that have been and are hostile to the U.S. without preconditions.  Although Obama says that all options should be kept on the table when dealing with Iran, he has criticized the current administrations warning about the imminent threat of Iran and has demonstrated a hesitance to employ “all” options in the face of such a threat.  Last September, in a Iowa speech, Obama said “we hear eerie echoes of the run-up to the war in Iraq in the way that the President and Vice President talk about Iran. … They issue veiled threats. They suggest that the time for diplomacy and pressure is running out when we haven’t even tried direct diplomacy. Well George Bush and Dick Cheney must hear — loud and clear — from the American people and the Congress: you don’t have our support, and you don’t have our authorization for another war.” 19

 

McCain’s Position on Iran:

Stephen Biegun, replied to Holm’s statement (about the damaged U.S. International interest) by saying, “Senator McCain doesn’t need to reconnect the United States to the world; Senator McCain, as a leader of the United States, is well connected to the world.  Countries like Mexico and Canada, countries like Colombia, European allies to whom he has never pejoratively referred as having had U.S. diplomacy outsourced to them as if their efforts are feeble. There is no need for Senator McCain to reconnect to anyone.  In the course of his campaign, in the course of his 40 years of public service, he has shown at every turn a willingness to listen to allies, a close cooperation with them. He’s traveled extensively.  He’s been to the places that challenge the United States and I encourage you to reflect long and hard upon the importance of that experience, that credibility, and that reputation with friend and foe alike.” 14 Biegun, in his closing remarks accurately asserted the United State’s connection to the world. The United States has one of the largest diplomatic presences of any nation. Almost every country in the world has both a U.S. embassy and an embassy of its own in Washington, D.C. Furthermore in nations where no U.S. diplomatic post exists, American relations are usually conducted indirectly through a third-party.  In the case of Iran, since the 1979 siege of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the ambassador of Switzerland has acted as intermediary between Tehran and Washington D.C.

 

Senator McCain’s experience certainly goes a long way when it comes to dealing with nations like Iran. McCain has accurately described Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, acknowledging Iran’s support of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah. McCain has also acknowledged the Iranian regimes training, financing and equipping of the extremists in Iraq who have killed American soldiers. McCain understands the role that Iran plays as the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism that threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East.  In an interview appearing in Haaretz in October 2007, McCain demonstrated his awareness of the serious threat that Iran poses when asked if he would go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.  McCain responded by saying,If the situation is that it requires immediate action to ensure the security of the United States of America, that’s what you take your oath to do. If it’s a long series of build-ups, where the threat becomes greater and greater, of course you want to go to Congress. So it obviously depends on the scenario. And I believe that this is a possibility that is, maybe, closer to reality than we are discussing tonight.” 21

 

McCain not only understands the dynamics of the Iranian threat, but he has also boldly demonstrated his commitment to take the Iranian threat seriously. In dealing with Iran, McCain has already proposed a range of practical actions including the use of sanctions against Iran as well as the launching of a worldwide divestment campaign similar to the one used to successfully wipe out apartheid in South Africa.  McCain has long said that the military option should not be taken off the table but has emphasized that a military option should only be used as a last resort. 23   McCain has repeatedly demonstrated his understanding of the Iranian issue and has challenged Obama on his miscalculations of this threat.  Last month when Obama stated: “Iran, Cuba, Venezuela – these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, ‘We’re going to wipe you off the planet.'”20 McCain accurately responded by saying, “Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess,” 22 McCain added, “The threat the government of Iran poses is anything but tiny,” 22

In American politics, domestic issues have historically commanded more attention during presidential elections.  But today we find ourselves in the midst a global economy and heighten international threats that we cannot ignore.   When it comes to Iran, both McCain and Obama have similar stated positions.  Both say that Iran is a priority and that all options are on the table. But beneath the rhetoric, there is a vast divide in attitude and position.  In his approach to complex international issues, Obama is set on changing American foreign policy abroad. As president, Obama will no doubt keep his promise to meet with America’s enemies and challenge America’s friends. 24.   And for those who, like Obama, view American foreign policy as aggressive and “disgraceful” Obama will be a welcomed leader.  Obama’s foreign policy is based on change, diplomacy and his multicultural background. In discussing Obama’s approach to foreign relations, a recent article appearing in U.S. News and World Report noted: “When it comes to changing foreign views of the United States, Obama’s aids play up two themes. First, he makes a very clear break from Bush in both substance and style.  Then they emphasize his biography. Not only would he be the first African-American president; he was born to a Kenyan father and lived in Indonesia as a child. ‘Barack Obama is this singular American story in terms of the different strands of his background…the fact that he has roots in Africa and Asia- that in itself is a very powerful image.” 25

McCain on the other hand has many years of foreign policy experience including serving as the national security adviser and Navy secretary under President Regan. 25 Understanding international issues and U.S. foreign policy are McCain’s strength. This strength becomes evident when McCain addresses foreign policy issues and discusses the Iranian threat. Unfortunately many Americans are growing weary of ongoing international commitment and have a limited understanding of the perilous world we live in. To those who are weighed down with domestic concerns and are weary of our increasing involvement in international conflict, McCain’s assessment of the international scene and promise to confront threats as necessary is not generally welcomed news.  This puts McCain in a precarious position as he attempts to win the November election, while proposing to honestly confronting the challenges ahead. Obama, on the other hand, with his rhetoric of change and his simplistic solutions to complex issues somehow provides hope—a hope that we can escape the perilous world and return to simpler days–days when the cost of neutrality and failed diplomacy were not so high.

 

As we approach the November elections, it is my hope that Americans will become educated on international issues that are certain to greatly effect the future course of our nation.  Whether we like it or not, the United States faces complex challenges that require a leader that is equipped to deal with these sobering realities.  As we head to the polls let’s not forget that a democracy is only as good as those who lead it, and a democracy created to be “of the people and for the people” will certainly elect a president that reflects the citizen’s thoughts and attitudes about the future role of our nation. As we approach the November elections, one thing is certain: The president that we elect will face unprecedented challenges in carving out the future direction of our nation, and the president that we elect will reflect our understanding of world events.

 

 

1.     International Atomic Energy Agency  (IAEA) Report:   Implication of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007) and 1803 in the Islamic Republic of Iran. <au 26. 200  http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2008/gov2008-15.pdf

2.     Special Non-Proliferation Agreement Safeguards Agreements http://www.nti.org/c_press/treaties_8.pdf

3.“Harsh report on Iranian nuclear program raises alarm” by Elaine Sciolino, May 27, 2008 International Herald Tribune. www.iht.com/bin

4.     “Bush criticizes Iran decision on nuclear program” by Deb Riechmann (Associated Press Writer)  June 14, 2008

5.     Text of Bush-Sarkozy News Conference”  by The Associated Press, June 14, 2008 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080614/ap_on_re_us/bush_sarkozy_text_1&printer=1;_ylt=Ahi2w7Rzu.hDJhugy3gYQwtH2ocA

6.      Russia ships nuclear fuel to Iran-BBC News, December 17, 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7147463.stm

7.     “ Words of Hate Iran’s Escalating Threats” AIPAC Memo, Oct. 25, 2006 http://www.aipac.org/Publications/AIPACAnalysesMemos/AIPAC_Memo_-_WordsOfHate.pdf

8.     “Apocalyptic Politics on the Rationality of Iran Policy” by Mehdi Khalaji, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy 2008

9.     . “Ahmadinejad’s Apocalyptic Faith” http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=32B294D4-A21C-4095-8D59-1B49230E3F5D  

10.                          Iran, Israel & the 12th Imam; by Tony Pearce http://www.articleandsuch.com/news-events/article839.htm

11.                        “If Israel Attaks Iran, What would the U.S. Do?” by Ron Kampeas (JTA) ; The Jewish Ledger, June 26, 208.

12.                         The Unthinkable Consequences of an Iran-Israel Nuclear exchange, by Daniel Pipes, November 21, 2007. 

13.                        The Tehran Calculus, the Washington Post, by Charales Krauthammer, September 15, 2006

14.                        “The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at Forty: Addressing Current and Future Challenges” : ACA Event- June 16, 2008. http://www.armscontrol.org/events/20080321_membership_mtg_reg.asp

15.                        Obama’s Evolving Position on Talking to Iran; ABC News, June 4, 2008 http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/06/obamas-evolving.html

16.                        McCain calls for Iran divestment effort by by Jill Zuckman; The Swamp- June 2, 2008http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2008/06/mccain_calls_for_iran_divestme.html

17.                        Reading Khamenei: Iran’s Most Powerful Leader.  http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/sadjadpour_iran_final2.pd

18.                        McCain, Obama trade jabs over Iran policy – CNN May 19, 2008 http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/05/19/mccain.free.trade/index.html?eref=rss_mostpopular

19.                         Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Turning the Page in Iraq Clinton, IA http://www.barackobama.com/2007/09/12/remarks_of_senator_barack_obam_23.php September 12, 2007

20.                        How Will the Next President reduce Nuclear Dangers? McCain and Obama Campaign Representatives Discuss Candidates Strategies: Feberal News Service Washington D.C. June 16, 2008

21.                        How McCain’s position on Iran fared better than Giuliani’s” Haaretz October 16, 2007  http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=913439

22.                        “McCain attacks Obama over Iran comments” by Libby Quaid : MyWay http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080519/D90OS7100.html

23.                        McCain on Iran: Military Option Is ‘Last Option'; NPR : January 23, 2006  by Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5167770

24.                        Obama’s Sword- August 03, 2007, by Mona Charen http://www.theconservativevoice.com/article/27048.html

25.                        Taking on a Perilous World, by Kevin Whitelaw, U.S. News and World Report, June 23-30, 2008.

Posted by: rightinthemiddle | May 15, 2008

The Lessons of Lebanon

Recently conflict intensified in Lebanon after the Lebanese government moved to shut down Hezbollah’s telecommunications network and remove the chief of security at Beirut’s airport for sympathizing with Syrian and Iranian backed Hezbollah. Lebanon has been locked in political stalemate between the ruling coalition and Hezbollah-led opposition for the past sixteen months and has not had a president since November, when Emile Lahoud stepped down.

 

As violence escalates an Arab League delegation was welcomed into Lebanon today with the stated purpose of mediation.  As we grapple to understand the interplay of political forces including Syrian and Iranian influence in the Middle East, it is important to examine the plight of Lebanon and consider its ramifications in our day.

Prior to the 1975 civil war, Lebanon was the most developed Arab state—a major center for trade, finance and tourism; a thriving democracy that valued and practiced freedom of speech, religion and political diversity. Lebanon was termed the “Switzerland of the East” and offered an example of freedom and democracy in the region.  In 1926 the constitution of the first Lebanese  Republic (inspired by the Third French Republic) was created and in 1943, Lebanon gained their independence from the French mandate, becoming a democratic sovereign nation.

Soon after independence, Lebanon’s multicultural society found itself in the midst of the East-West conflict.  This tension was exacerbated in 1948 when Israel declared statehood and large numbers of Palestianians fled Israel and settled in southern Lebanon. When the PLO wore out its welcome in Jordan in the early 1970s, Yasser Arafat moved his military infrastructure and the PLO headquarters to Southern Lebanon.  He then began carrying out raids on Israel from inside of Lebanon. The Christian-dominated Lebanese government tried to curb the actions of the PLO and as the internal conflict between Lebanese Christians and Muslims grew, the PLO joined forces with Lebanonese Muslims.  By 1975 this internal conflict sparked a civil war.

In 1976, the Arab League endorsed the Syrian invasion of Lebanon under the guise of an Arab Deterrence Force.  The Force was sent into Lebanon with the stated purpose of halting the war between the Palestinian organizations and the militant Muslim factions on one hand, and the Lebanese army and allied grassroots organizations on the other. The Arab Deterrence Force was comprised of troops from various Arab states with the majority being from Syria. Almost immediately upon entry, Syria began carrying out massacres, political assassinations, shelling residential areas, bombing embassies, and imposing censorship on the media.  The non-Syrian members of the Arab Deterrence Force departed Lebanon shortly after its “peace keeping mission”, thus strengthening Syria’s control of Lebanon. 

With Syrian influence and PLO opperations, Lebanon quickly became a breeding ground for international terrorist groups and gave birth to one of the most notorious terrorist organizations still active today—The Hezbollah.  The Hezbollah, comprised of young Lebanese Shiites was largly formed with the aid of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s followers in the 1980’s in an effort to bolster Shiite strength and spread the Islamic Revolution which was emerging in Iran.

The Hezbollah declared its existence in 1985.  In their founding document “An open Letter: The Hizbollah Program” they identified themselves as the “sons of the umma” (Muslim community) – the “party of God”(Hizb Allah) and the “vanguard of which was made victorious by God in Iran”—where the vanguard “succeeded to lay down the bases of a Muslim state which was to play a central role in the world.” 

With Syrian backing and Iranian support, the Hezbollah launched a guerrilla war against Israel in Southern Lebanon. After the continued shelling of northern Israel by these forces, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978 and again in 1982.  In their 1982 invasion Israel threw Arafat out and then stuck around to fight Iran’s Shiite proxy force, the Hezbollah. Israel remained in Lebanon fighting alongside the Southern Lebanon Army (SLA) until  May 22, 2000 when, at the orders of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the IDF began to withdraw. 

When the IDF withdrew, the members of the SLA and their families were forced to flee to Israel; the Hezbollah forces chased them over the boarder with threats of torture or death. The withdrawal was so sudden that there were hundreds of abandoned cars on parts of the northern border.  Cars wereleft behind as traffic jams slowed the traffic, forcing members of the SLA to leave their cars and flee to Israel on foot.  During a trip to Israel in April of 2001 I visited the Northern boarder village of Ghajar and one of the Lebanese refuge camps.  As I talked with the Lebanese refugees, many expressed a longing to return home yet feared the worst upon their return.

In the mind of the Arab world, the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon in 2000 is herald as the first Arab victory against the “Jewish State”; a victory that served to embolden their already growing resolve to “obliterate” the Zionist entity (Israel) and fight US influence in the Middle East.

The Israeli withdrawal was due to both international and domestic pressure.  The expectation was that such a withdrawal would be part of an agreement with Syria and Lebanon, but negotiations with Syria broke down and Syrian President Assad’s refused to continue talks with Israel.  According to UN Resolution 425, the Government of Lebanon was to bear the responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks against Israel from within its borders. In addition, UN Resolution 426 called for the creation of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Through this international force, the UN would fill the vacuum that was created following the withdrawal of the IDF. The UN agreed to deploy appropriate armed forces to restore effective authority in this region.

After the withdrawal of the IDF and the SLA, the Hezbollah, with the aid of Syria and Iran, strengthened their grip of Lebanon and prepared for additional attacks against Israel by initiating a massive arms build up.  The increased strength of the Hezbollah became evident in July 2006 as they killed eight Israeli soldiers, knapped two more and began lauching attacks further into Israel. By 2006, the Hezbollah and other extremist factions had infiltrated  so much of Lebanese society that even the international community seemed to forget that the Hezbollah was a terriorist group, not a government entity to be negoiated with. As Israel retailiated for the Hezbollah attacks, the international community increasingly called for a cease-fire between the two parties. U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities”, accused Israel of purposely targeting civilians and criticized Israel for what the U.N. termed the “disproportionate use of force”.  During this conflict, the international community seemed to forget that this attack against Israel was an unprovoked act of aggression by a terrorist organization who had defied all resolutions to disarm. Instead of disarming, the Hezbollah continued to work with Syria and Iran to strengthen their resolve and weapons. One telling report came on August 21st , 2006 when Turkish authorities released a statement saying that they had intercepted five cargo aircraft and one Syrian aircraft carrying missiles to Hezbollah.

Since the Hezbollah openly defied resolutions calling for their disarmament, the “disproportionate use of force” (that the international community accused Israel of), was rather a necessary strategy by Israel to do what Lebanon and the international community seemed powerless or unwilling to do–to destroy the infrastructure and weapons of the Hezbollah..  If Israel did not uses this opportunity to dismantle the infrastructure and military might of the Hezbollah, they would have to live with the continued and growing security threat along their Northern boarder.

Yet with increasing international pressure, Israel agreed to a cease-fire after 33 days of active conflict and the UN passing of resolution 1701.  This resolution called for a full cessation of hostilities; called on Israel to withdraw all of its forces from Lebanon as Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers were deployed throughout Southern Lebanon; stated that no paramilitary forces, including Hezbollah would be allowed south of the Litani River in Lebanon; and once again, UN resolution 1701 called for the full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Tair Accords and of resolution 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) that required the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon so that there would be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State. 

Soon after the passage of 1701 and the ceasefire, both the UN and UNIFIL contributing nations disclaimed responsibility for disarming the Hezbollah.  They stated that it was not a direct mandate of the UN and was instead the responsibility of the Lebanese government. A senior advisor to the Lebanese Prime Minister, Siniora, also said that the Hezbollah would not be forced to leave the south stating that the“Hezbollah individuals are people who live in the south and they will not leave their homes and villages”. 

Currently Iran and Syria continue to replenish Hezbollah’s arms supply. Hezbollah leader, Sheik Nasrallah, has said that the Hezbollah has the ability to launch between, “1,000 and 3,000 rockets against Israeli daily” and Hezbollah reportedly continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from Iran every year.

In retrospect, we see what that what began as an internal struggle escalated into a civil war and quickly became the battle ground where state-sponsored terrorism cloaked as a “stabilizing force” systematically and decidedly destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanese society, terriorized Lebaneses citizens, created a market for a massive drug operation, and essentially swallowed up a free democratic society.

Today it is easy to forget that Lebanon was once a thriving sovereign democratic nation. Syria has accomplished a remarkable feat in its ability to market itself to the international community as a “stabilizing force” while destroying any semblance of a “thriving democratic Lebanon”. However, most disturbing is the roll that the international community continues to play in aiding and supporting terrorist regimes by legitimizing them rather than holding them accountable for terrorist activity.

As a delegation from the Arab League prepares to enter Lebanon to mediate, let us remember that the demise of a free Lebanon and the current political instability in that nation have far-reaching implications.  Lebanon now serves as a frightening reminder of the destabilizing forces that are gaining power daily in the Middle East. Forces that seek the  “Lebanonization” of all nations in the MiddleEast were Western influence made its mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: rightinthemiddle | April 18, 2008

Awakening to the Great Revolution

Last week as I watched the testimony of General Petraeus and the subsequent media coverage of the Senate Committee Hearings, I recalled the last sermon given by Martin Luther King before his assassination 40 years ago.  The sermon was entitled “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution”.  In this sermon, King talked about Rip Van Winkle:

 

“The most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution.  While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountain a revolution was taking place that at points would change the course of history- and Rip knew noting about it.  He was asleep. Yes, he slept through a revolution.  And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands.  They end up sleeping though a revolution.” 1       

 

The story of Rip Van Winkle has great relevance in our day; there are lessons to be learned from his story.  Like Mr. Van Winkle, America and most of Western civilization had peacefully slept while what has been called “the last great Revolution of the Modern Era” 2 (the Islamic Revolution) was unfolding and gaining strength. Like Rip, we were able to sleep nearly 20 years before the alarm went off on the morning of September 11, 2001, a generation after the Islamic Revolution introduced its new political ideology to the world’s modern political spectrum.   However, unlike Rip, our peaceful sleep was interrupted by the continuing revolution that had now touched “our safe mountain” and the frightening reality to which we awoke seemed more like a nightmare.  On that day in history and during the weeks that followed, a sobering hush fell over our land; there was a tangible sense of “knowing” in the atmosphere of our nation. No one needed to say it; we were all keenly aware that a new day was upon us and that we were now engaged in a battle for the soul of our nation.  For that moment, differences were cast aside.  With all the confusion and unanswered questions, there was one thing that we were certain of–we were certain that throughout the diverse fabric of our nation our allegiance to freedom and democracy was our unifying thread.  So with a determined spirit we grabbed hold of that thread with one hand and grabbed hold of each other with the other.  And then we stood.  We stood with a resolution and unity that seemed unshakable. 

 

Today, a little more than six years after that fateful day, we need to ask “where are we?”  We have awakened to an Islamic Revolution that is far past its infancy, a revolution that is having a ripple effect throughout modern civilization.  Yet somehow this reality continues to elude us.  We have managed to cling to a Western mindset with a tenacious hold that keeps old paradigms in place. Mindsets, attitudes and mental responses that afforded us the comforts of sleep in the last generation, are now dangerously inadequate to deal with our current situation.

It is certain that we would be wiser and fare better if we, like Mr. Van Winkle, were able to comprehend these “strange events” before we “take our seats at the Inn” and assume the position of the “reverenced patriarch”.  As Americans who enjoy the liberties self-government, let us not forget the accompanying responsibility.  During difficult and confusing times it is much easier to revert back to the security of familiarity, doing what we know best, facing problems in ways that worked in the past.  Yet we do this to only find that the problems are not going away. In fact, they seem to be getting more complicated and difficult.  If we continue to cling to past paradigms, we soon find ourselves frustrated and resorting to infighting and blame shifting.  I am not suggesting that this is intentional or mean spirited.  I am suggesting that this is the result of a population who has not developed a new paradigm to deal with the global reality and have simplified problems in a way that gives us an illusion of control.  

As I observed the reactions to the testimony of General Petraeus, I realized that the increasing partisan divide has reached detrimental levels in our nation.  While partisan politics are a necessary and healthy dynamic in democratic governments, I believe that the heightened partisan tension that we are currently witnessing has served to erode some of societies stabilizing institutions and has left us searching for truth amidst the fog of partisan politics.  These consequences are particularly disturbing in an hour where stability on the home front is critical. 

 

Under the increased partisan divide, we engage in an internal battle where we begin to see every issue as an opportunity for political gain, an opportunity to criticize and accuse the opposing party as being either ignorant or self-serving.  Under this fog, American citizens suffer as information is tainted, media misconceptions are the norm and unbiased truth is hard to ascertain. Under the fog of partisan politics, we have unconsciously learned to approach information through a lens of suspicion—no longer able to see the testimony of our officials as honest or credible.  Instead, we discount the assessment of authorities like General Petreus and Ambassador Crocker as ignorant, misinformed or an exercise in political manipulation. Critical events such as the war in Iraq, and the War on Terror now become “partisan causes” where each side seems more determined to justify “their side” of action or inaction, rather than explore the reality of the current situation. The effects of the partisan divide?  We focus our attention, energy and resources on factional infighting, while a divided America is anesthetized to the real external threat that we are now ill-equipped to deal with.

 

 In his article, “The War We Deserve” Alasdair Roberts addresses the phenomena of partisan politics by describing what he calls a “disturbing narrative”:

 

“There is an uncomplicated tale many Americans like to tell themselves about recent U.S. foreign policy.  As the story has it , the nation was led astray by a powerful clique of political appointees and their fellow travelers in Washington thing thanks , who were determined even before the 9/11 attacks to effect a radical shift in America’s role in the world. The members of this cabal are known as neoconservatives.  They believed the world was a dangerous place, that American power should be applied firmly to protect American interests, and that, for too ling, U.S. policy had consisted of diplomatic excess and mincing half measures.  After 9/11, this group gave us the ill-conceived Global War on Terror and its bloody centerpiece, the war in Iraq” 3  

 

In this article, Roberts called this mindset an “unrealistic, even deadly, way to fight a global war” saying that it is “easy to blame the violence in Iraq and pitfalls of the war on terror on a small cabal of neocons, a bumbling president, and an overstretched military.  But real fault lies with the American people as well.  Americans now ask more of their government but sacrifice less than every before.” 3 Robert’s is addressing the partisan politics and blame shifting that is symptomatic of a society who has not developed the mindsets needed to adapt to today’s global threat.

 

The unifying thread of allegiance to freedom and democracy woven throughout the diverse fabric of our nation is our heritage. It is what came to the surface and sustained us in the days following September 11th. That thread still unites us, yet at times like this the unifying thread is difficult to see.  However, examined more closely, we will see that the partisan tension is not the result of a people who are disinterested in the destiny of our nation. Rather, it is evidences of a passionate population that is desperately trying to do what is best to preserve our nation amidst the challenges of our day. After all, none of us (Democrat or Republican) like conflict, violence, war, death, destruction, discomfort or injustice. 

 

The core problem, as I see it, is that we are in the midst of a radical global shift and as a nation we are struggling to adapt an appropriate paradigm that will enable us to accurately process the ‘strange events” of our day.  The sobering events of 9/11 thrust us into a day that we were completely unprepared to deal with. To the credit of America, we put our best foot forward and stood together in an unprecedented way. As the emotions of our nation healed, we moved forward with one of our greatest challenges–quickly adapting to the revolution that had matured for over a generation.  Normally paradigms evolve over time, so a national paradigm shift is a difficult feat.  It requires us to let go of ideas, attitudes and thought processes that we have become quite comfortable with and have grown accustom to.  As Americans, we are inherently idealistic and the grave threats that we face today are not easy to look at. We also look at problems with a Western mindset and insist that world events operate according to these constructs.  We believe that inherently people are motivated by the same things that motivate us…freedom, liberty, prosperity, etc. When we look at the global situation we tend to do so with Western thinking that continues to causes the threat of Islamism to elude us.

 

What are some of the key paradigm shifts that I believe we must make in this hour? First, we must recognize that our old paradigms are no longer adequate to deal with the current situation that we find ourselves in. We must recognize that we are in the midst of Global Islamic Revolution that emerged on the world seen in the 1970’s and seeks to influence every corner of the earth.  The radical ideology of Islamism is anti-Israel, anti-U.S. and anti-Western civilization. This revolution has many international fronts (I will explore this is future articles). While most informed people recognize the growing threat of Radical Islam, many people in the West do not understand the nature and tenacity of this ideology that has allowed it to infiltrate society, largely unchecked (and at times aided)by the international community.  If we are going to effectively understand the global threat of Islamism, we must begin to develop mindsets that understand its ideology, history, and its intent.

 

Second, we must recognize that we are in a war that threatens Western civilization. If we do not understand that radical Islam is both an ideology and a political force that has declared war on Western civilization, we tend to isolate current assessments of Iraq apart from its global context. We may even buy into the esoteric illusion of peace that ignores the practical realities necessary to secure and sustain it.  If we are going to survive as a nation and adequately respond to this threat, we must begin to adapt a mindset for war.  Not just a physical war, but also an ideological war. We must recognize that this is not a war that we contrived after 9/11, but one which American’s were thrust into on that date. The war on terror is not Bush’s war, but all of ours who value the life and the liberties that democracy has afforded us. 9/11 was the wake up call given to our nation by a network of terrorist who had reached global maturation and had succeeded in setting up networks on our own soil.  It is beyond the scope of this article to address the modern thrust of the Islamism (this will be addressed this in future articles).  However, one must understand that that Islamism is a religious oriented nationalism that emerged in the Third World in the 1970’s.  Adherents to this ideology have declared war on the West and their words have not proved to be idle or vain.  Whether we like it or not, or believe in it our not, we as Americans are engaged in a very real over-arching war with Islamism. If we are going to face this war, we must begin to accept the reality of this war.

 

Today, like Mr. Van Winkle, we have awakened to an unfamiliar world, a world in the midst of a global revolution. We have been charged with a daunting feat that requires our nation to adjust our mindsets, attitudes and mental reactions. As our nation is undergoing a radical paradigm shift, we would be wise to be devoted students of truth as we acclimate ourselves to the global realities to which we have awaken. “Right in the Middle” was created to inform readers about the critical global realities occurring in the Middle East that affect every one of us. In future articles we will explore the threat of Islamism–Its origin, history and global aspirations. Like Mr. Van Winkle, we must acclimate to current realities.

 

I began this article by talking about General Petraeus’ assessment of Iraq.  Next week, I will discuss the process “Lebanonization” that General Petraeus mentioned.  I believe that it is important for us to hear what is being said. Is Iran making vain threats, or do they have the ability and intent to make good on these threats? We will examine Lebanon’s fall from a thriving democracy to a breeding ground for terrorism.

 

1. “Remaining Awake through a Great revolution” http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/sermons/680331.000_Remaining_Awake.html

2. The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran, by Robin Wright 2000 Random House, NY

3. Foreign Policy, Washington, DC: “The War We Deserve” by Alasdair Roberts (November/ December 2007 ) www.foreignPolicy.com  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: rightinthemiddle | April 7, 2008

Welcome to Right in the Middle

Right in the Middle was created to keep readers accurately informed about critical issues affecting Israel and the Middle East.

 

Ironically this site was created on April 6, 2008 – Nisan 1 on the Hebrew calendar.  According to the book of Exodus, “God spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt” instructing them regarding the setting of the Jewish calendar and said that “this month shall be for you the head of months, the first of the months of the year.”  Nisan (also called Abib or Aviv) marks the New Year on the Hebrew calendar because its beginning was the beginning of Israel’s new life as a people.

 

“Right in the Middle” was created because today, as in the day of the beginning of Israel’s new life as a people (1313BCE), Israel finds herself again at the center stage of world events.  Whether we recognize it or not, the events now occurring in the Middle East affect every one of us. 

 

Long before Israel was called out of the bondage of Egypt, we see that there has been a persevering force that has always sought to annihilate this people group. Today, as in the days of Moses, there are many forces that seek to blot out the nation of Israel.  Over and over again, in the pages of ancient and recent history, we see this drama being repeated. 

 

What many of us fail to recognize is that the destiny of Israel is not just about the State of Israel. Today the State of Israel, born out of the ashes of death and destruction shines as a global beacon of hope and restoration for the entire world to see. The State of Israel surrounded by 22 Islamic nations, stands for freedom, life and democracy.  The State of Israel, although distant from our shores, is intricately connected to every individual who values life, freedom and democracy.

 

It is the intent of “Right in the Middle” to keep readers informed about the critical issues affecting Israel.  Because whether we recognize it or not, Israel finds herself on the front lines of a battle that affects every one of us.

 

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