Friday, August 17, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 8/17/2012: Will It Matter To Israel If Romney Wins?

From DG
1) What Israel needs from American and why it might not get it

Ron Ben Yishai writes in Israel demands from Obama (via memeorandum) :
So what, according to the official, must the US do to prevent Israeli warplanes from taking off en route to Iran? First of all, Obama must repeat, publicly (at the UN General Assembly for instance), that the US will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and that Israel has a right to defend itself, independently. Jerusalem would view such a statement as a virtual commitment by the US to act, militarily if needed, and would likely cause Israel to reconsider the unilateral military option.

Israel is also demanding that Washington inform Iran that if significant progress in the negotiations with the P5+1 group (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) is not made within the next two weeks, the talks will be suspended. The reason: As long as the negotiations persist, the Iranians will remain certain that they are immune to an attack or additional drastic economic measures and will continue to buy time in order to enrich uranium to a level of 20%. Israel has also suggested that the US present Iran with an ultimatum: Suspend the efforts to refine uranium to 20% during the negotiations, or we will quit the talks. We won’t negotiate while you advance towards nuclear "breakout" capability. 
Israel is also urging the US and the European Union to increase the direct economic pressure on Iran. Government officials in Jerusalem have admitted that the sanctions are very effective, but they claim that the Iranian military nuclear program is advancing faster than the sanctions' "hourglass." Therefore, they assert, Washington must impose a complete boycott on countries and institutions that conduct business with Iran's central bank (such as India, Turkey and China) and cancel the exemptions given to countries such as South Korea and Japan, which are permitted to purchase oil from Tehran.
Lee Smith explains why Israel and the United States currently don't see eye to eye on Iran, or on other security issues in the Middle East, in the Israeli-American Divide:
Over the last six decades, the U.S.-Israel relationship has had less to do with the personal inclinations of American and Israeli leaders than with the particular events that have cemented the alliance. From the Cold War and the need to protect the vast energy resources flowing through the Persian Gulf, culminating with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the strategic realities of the Middle East have kept Israel and the United States tied at the hip. That’s changing. 
For Israel, everything looks like a runaway trailer truck in the rear-view mirror. From the loss of Turkey as an ally, to the prospect of chemical weapons getting loose in the middle of Syria’s civil war, to say nothing of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, Israel sees nothing but one potential crisis after another.
That’s not so for the United States. From the point of view of the Obama Administration, the Middle East is much calmer than it has been in at least a decade. American troops are out of Iraq and on their way out of Afghanistan. What has Jerusalem on edge is, from Washington’s perspective, perfectly manageable. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is destined to be ousted without any U.S. investment; Turkey, though difficult to manage, is still a NATO ally; and it is going to be easier to deter and contain the Iranians than it was the Soviet Union. The current situation in Egypt is only the most striking illustration of the growing Israeli-American divide.
If Smith's analysis holds up, it would suggest that this divide would persist somewhat even if Romney wins the election in November.

2) Unbalanced analysis

The New York Times has an editorial President Morsi's rebalancing act:
Much is obscure about Egyptian politics, but the new president seems to be shrewdly, and carefully, exploiting a militant attack on the Sinai Peninsula two weeks ago to assert civilian control. For months, the anatagonisms between the Army and Mr. Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, seemed likely to keep the country roiled. The question now is whether Mr. Morsi’s adroit maneuverings will lead to a credible power-sharing deal acceptable to the Army, elected leaders and ordinary Egyptians that allows the country’s democratic transition to move forward. 
Sixteen Egyptian soldiers were killed in the Sinai incident, which fueled criticism of the Army and gave Mr. Morsi an opening for change. He fired the leader of military intelligence and several other security chiefs. Then, on Sunday, he replaced Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who ran the post-Mubarak ruling military council, and his chief of staff. All signs point to a back-room deal with a younger generation of officers who appear to have tired of Field Marshal Tantawi and had also come to believe that the Army should focus on defending the country instead of competing with popularly elected leaders.
Despite a later reference to "heavy-handed tactics to restrict the media,"the editorial, on the whole, supports Morsi's efforts to consolidate power in his own hands.

Eric Trager, who actually knows something about Egypt, is less optimistic in Egypt's New President Moves against Democracy:
Based on the evidence to date, Egypt's president will use his expanded power to advance the Muslim Brotherhood's radically intolerant domestic agenda.
Consider the editors he appointed to lead Egypt's two largest state-run newspapers. The new editor of Al-Ahram is an old Mubarak regime hack who called last year's uprising "foreign funded" and lost his column in 2010 for writing anti-Christian articles. The new editor of Gomhoriya shut down a conference on religious freedoms in 2008 and called for the murder of a well-known Bahai activist in 2009. The new editor of Al-Akhbar recently censored an article that criticized the Brotherhood. 
Meanwhile, Mr. Morsi's newly appointed defense minister, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, admitted that the military had subjected female activists to "virginity tests" in its brutal crackdown on Tahrir Square protests in March 2011. In its first major move against dissenters, the Morsi regime this month began prosecuting the editor of Al-Dustour, a private daily, for "harming the president through phrases and wording punishable by law."
Trager also predicts that this will adversely affect Egypt's relations towards the United States.

3)  Scratch that

In his Israel's Iran Itch, the alliterative Roger Cohen urges Prime Minister Netanyahu not to attack Iran unilaterally.

Netanyahu will accede to Cohen's request because:
  1. Cohen is a well known intelligence expert who has concluded that Iran is nowhere near to developing a nuclear weapon
  2. Cohen is a well known political expert who has concluded that political damage from such an attack would outweigh any possible benefits
  3. Cohen is a well known military expert who has concluded that military damage from such an attack would outweigh any possible benefits
  4. Cohen is known as a harsh critic of the Iranian regime and believes that such an attack would be counterproductive to the end of ousting that regime
  5. Cohen is known as a staunch friend of Israel, who never criticizes Israel gratuitously
  6. Cohen is a very good friend of Netanyahu and has the Prime Minister's ear on many important topics
  7. Cohen is a top notch columnist for the New York Times with many knowledgeable sources, who is in possession of more relevant strategic information about Iran's nuclear capability than Netanyahu is
  8. None of the above
  9. Israeli newspapers are full of reports that home-front preparedness is inadequate. Only 53 percent of Israelis, they say, have gas masks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just appointed Avi Dichter, a former head of Shin Bet — the Israeli equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — as the new home-front minister to address these concerns. Dichter, by the way, has joined a host of former security and intelligence chiefs in saying that for Israel to lead an offensive against Iran would be a “total mistake.”
    Is it possible that Dichter has changed his mind and that's why he's joined the government. In any case, some of the former security and intelligence chiefs who have disagreed with the idea of striking at Iran, all also have axes to grind with Netanyahu. Of course the reason Israel may be strengthening the home front is because of the increased volatility on its borders, including the fact that Syria's Assad, who possesses chemical weapons is being challenged and that the Sinai is increasingly becoming a hostile front against Israel. In addition since their wars with Israel in 2006 and 2009 respectively, Hezbollah and Hamas have greatly increased their ability to strike at Israel. In other words Israel is faced with plenty of threats on the home front even if it doesn't strike at Iran. But for Cohen Israel must sit tight and rely on America. 
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