Monday, April 16, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 4/16/2012: Israel Reveals Details Of Iran Attack?

From DG:
1) Attack?

Over the weekend PM Netanyahu said in a talk with Sen. Joe Lieberman:
"My initial impression is that Iran has been given a 'freebie'," Netanyahu said during talks with visiting US Senator Joe Lieberman, the premier's office reported. 
"It has got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition. I think Iran should take immediate steps to stop all enrichment, take out all enrichment material and dismantle the nuclear facility in Qom," he said. 
"I believe that the world's greatest practitioner of terrorism must not have the opportunity to develop atomic bombs," he said.
This drew a retort from President Obama:

Obama said he refused to let the talks turn into a “stalling process,” but believed there was still time for diplomacy. 
His assessment, delivered at the close of a Latin American summit in Colombia, came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday had said the U.S. and world powers gave Tehran a “freebie” by agreeing to hold more talks next month. 
Obama shot back: “The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks.”
Last week Michael Singh outlined concrete actions for the 5 + 1 group to demand of Iran:
Rather than maintaining a narrow focus on closure of the Fordo plant and suspension of Iran’s program of highly enriched uranium, the United States should insist that Iran suspend all of its uranium enrichment activities, take steps to address International Atomic Energy Agency concerns about its nuclear work, including coming clean about its weaponization research, and submit to intrusive monitoring and verification. Far from extreme, these points are what are required by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 and preceding resolutions, to which Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany (the P5+1) have previously agreed. The Obama administration should also insist that Iran roll back the work it has done since those resolutions passed — such as by transporting its enriched uranium stockpiles out of the country, dismantling the Fordo facility and stopping work on advanced centrifuges. 
Only if Iran takes these steps can the United States and its allies be sure that it will not use negotiations to buy time or perfect its nuclear weapons capabilities. Washington must keep up the pressure until Iran does so. Doing any less would waste precious leverage that has taken years to build and would validate the Iranian regime’s strategy of defiance, provocation and delay.
Now on Memeorandum is an incredible story that Channel 10 in Israel has broadcast details of the preparations to attack Iran. From the Times of Israel:
The report, screened on the main evening news of Channel 10, was remarkable both in terms of the access granted to the reporter, who said he had spent weeks with the pilots and other personnel he interviewed, and in the fact that his assessments on a strike were cleared by the military censor.
No order to strike is likely to be given before the P5+1 talks with Iran resume in May, the reporter, Alon Ben-David, said. “But the coming summer will not only be hot but tense.” 
In the event that negotiations fail and the order is given for Israel to carry out an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, “dozens if not more planes” will take part in the mission: attack and escort jets, tankers for mid-air refueling, electronic warfare planes and rescue helicopters, the report said.
(Also linked by Challah Hu Akbar.)

If Israel was about to attack, why would it publicize operational details of the attack? Is it as Israel Matzav surmises an attempt to prepare the Israeli public for an upcoming war? Is it a bluff to ensure that negotiators are tough with Iran or, perhaps, to rattle or misdirect Iran?

Furthermore it's odd that neither the Washington Post nor New York Times appear to have picked up this story. Channel 10 recently made the news in the United States over its financial difficulties and conflicts with the government. Would the same government that had an adversarial relationship with Channel 10 just a few months ago reward it with a major scoop?

2) The further adventures of Turnip Truck Tom

At the end of March, there was a briefing presented on the ten year old "Arab Peace Initiative." The briefing was sponsored by the Arab American Institute, J-Street and the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. (h/t Mark Finkelstein)

Unfortunately there is no transcript, but I was curious what Thomas Friedman had to say. If this is the way he usually talks, I have no idea why people listen to him. His delivery was poor and his ego shone through, with a pretty high ratio of name dropping to content. The main point was to provide some background for his An intriguing proposal from a Crown Prince and to reiterate that he thought it was still viable.

This is, of course, garbage. Before Abdullah presented the proposal to the Arab Summit that year, he got support from Syria:
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s “ideas” about Arab-Israeli peace, which are to be the focus of next week’s Arab summit in Beirut, are “entirely consistent” with the principles which Damascus has long upheld as the guidelines for a future regional settlement, Syrian Information Minister Adnan Omran says. 
But he takes issue with the use of the term “normalization” to refer to the peaceful relations that the Saudi initiative proposes that all the Arab states offer Israel, in exchange for its withdrawal from the Palestinian, Syrian and remaining Lebanese territory that it occupied during the 1967 war.  
But two years earlier Israel had withdrawn from Lebanon and its withdrawal had been certified by the UN. Now any claim that Israel hadn't fully withdrawn from Lebanon was a subterfuge. Syria's claim was based on the Israeli presence in Shebaa farms which had been Syrian territory in 1967. This scheme was a way of changing the terms of the supposed "normalization" promised by Abdullah. Once it was established that the Arabs could change the terms at will, when would their demands end. While a subsequent column, Say that Again?questioned Abdullah's sincerity, it didn't point to this concrete example of his duplicity.

Nor did Friedman observe that the Saudis held telethons to support Palestinian martyrs (including suicide bombers,) without a word of protest from the Crown Prince.

And in the initial article when Abdullah said:
"But I tell you," the crown prince added, "if I were to pick up the phone now and ask someone to read you the speech, you will find it virtually identical to what you are talking about. I wanted to find a way to make clear to the Israeli people that the Arabs don't reject or despise them. 
But the Arab people do reject what their leadership is now doing to the Palestinians, which is inhumane and oppressive. And I thought of this as a possible signal to the Israeli people." 
Friedman didn't have the guts to challenge him that the war Israel was fighting was not one that Israel wanted, but one that was force on it by Arafat's betrayal of the peace process.

This - creating a phony news story - was one of the highlights of Friedman's career,  so I don't expect him to back away. When he said in the video that he just published the column and things progressed from there, he isn't entirely accurate. The Times followed with at least three news stories on the initiative plus a number of op-eds and an editorial capitalizing on and promoting Friedman's column in the next few weeks. He didn't need to follow up immediately because the paper was doing that.

Still there is no reason to believe the Arab Peace Initiative is any more sincere now than it was ten years ago. One decade has not diminished Friedman's cynicism.

3) Dear Bibi

It sounds like Mahmoud Abbas is writing a Dear John letter to Binyamin Netanyahu.
In a letter to be delivered to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in several days, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is demanding that Israel accept the establishment of a Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders” with possible minor adjustments, halt all building over the Green Line, and release all prisoners. 
If Israel fails to do this, Abbas vows, the Palestinians will “seek the full and complete implementation of international law” to deal with Israel’s presence “as occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory.” The situation as it stands, he states, “cannot continue.”
Of course talk of this letter goes back to that "Palestinian are ignored" article. But what is the raison d'etre of the Palestinian Authority? For Abbas to build his personal fortune? For Abbas to consolidate his power by locking up critics? It certainly wasn't to enhance the lives of Palestinians.
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