Friday, September 14, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 9/14/2012: Media Sees Romney and Netanyahu As The Threats

From DG:

1) It's OK if the Mullahs get a nuclear weapon, it's Mitt and Bibi who are the real threats 

Bill Keller, the recently retired executive editor of the New York Times now shares his opinions with the world. The other day he explained how he stopped worrying and learned to love the Iranian bomb.

Now he identifies the real threats to the world as we know it: Mitt and Bibi: Diplomacy as Demolition Derby:
It turns out Bibi Netanyahu and Mitt Romney have more in common than a background in management consulting and an unswerving devotion to the security of Israel. When it comes to international diplomacy, we are reminded this week, both have the subtle grace of cattle on loco weed.
Subtlety is not Keller's forte. And if you read the whole article, it is apparent that neither logic nor honesty is either. Keller's foremost quality is his devotion to President Obama, right or wrong.
Obama issued a statement calling the attack “outrageous.” “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” he said, “we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.” 
The White House response contained two strong messages: expressing indignation at the killing of our officials, and disavowing the insulting video. The second message was arguably more urgent than the first, because if the notion spreads that the U.S. somehow endorsed a blatant insult to Islam’s founding prophet, the rage could metastasize, costing lives.
As Barry Rubin pointed out, that the two diplomatic installations were attacked on September 11was no coincidence. For Keller to argue that "disavowing the insulting video" was somehow more important than the outrage of the killing of American officials, is to miss this point. The willful ignorance of someone in the news business for so long is astounding. Then in his next paragraph, Keller writes:
The Romney response was either a complete misreading of a dangerous situation, or a classic act of cynicism. “It’s disgraceful,” said the campaign’s statement, “that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” 
Keller acknowledges that Romney's statement was directed to the statement of the American embassy that was later rejected by the Obama administration. Still it seems that Keller is in agreement with Romney. Keller believes that the disavowal of the video was more important than the outrage over the deaths of diplomats and Romney expressed that he believes that this is a case of misplaced priorities. Keller doesn't disagree with Romney's reading of the situation; he disagrees with his criticism.

Remember for eight years Keller was the editorial boss of the New York Times and presumably much of the reporting reflected his sensibilities.

2) Bibi and Mitt: the threat - Part II

In a post entitled Israeli Fallout, (in the New York Times) Eric Lewis writes:
The threat to international security posed by the Iranian nuclear program should not be underestimated and the Obama administration takes the threat seriously. It continues to keep all options on the table, but believes that there is additional time for sanctions to work. Romney is apparently prepared to delegate to Netanyahu the decision to start a conflict that the United States military believes is, at best, premature, that is unlikely to be fully effective, that will send oil prices skyrocketing, that will further destabilize Lebanon and Syria (and possibly the shaky governments in Libya and Egypt), and that will be likely to consolidate domestic support for a deeply unpopular Iranian regime. But the question in the presidential campaign is not whether attacking Iran now or later is a good idea, but whether a decision with enormous geo-strategic consequences should be made by the American president or by the leader of an ally dependent upon American power.
How much of this is verifiable? Would striking at Iran really destabilize Syria and Lebanon? It probably would have little effect on Syria and actually help out Lebanon. Would it really "consolidate support" for the current Iranian regime? These are all talking points, not well considered consequences, that are, of course, punctuated by characterizing Romney as Netanyahu's stooge.

Fareed Zakaria isn't nearly as bad in 'Red Line' Folly:
The Obama administration has brought together a global coalition, put into place the toughest sanctions ever, worked with Israel on a series of covert programs and given Israel military hardware it has long wanted. In addition, the Obama administration has strongly implied that it would be willing to use force as a final resort. But to go further and define a red line in advance would commit the United States to waging a war; no country would make such a commitment. 
Notice that while Netanyahu assails Obama for refusing to draw a clear line, he himself has not drawn such a line. Israel has not specified an activity or enrichment level it would consider a casus belli.The reason is obvious: Doing so would restrict Israel’s options and signal its actions and timetable to Iran. If it doesn’t make sense for Israel to do this, why would it make sense for the United States?
Noah Pollak provides an answer in Obama vs. Netanyahu: What's behind the latest U.S.-Israel tension:
In order for the Israelis to place their security - indeed, what could be their very existence - in Obama's hands, they want red lines: guarantees from Obama that military action will be triggered should Iran cross specific thresholds in uranium enrichment and weapons development. 
Yet the Obama administration refuses to give them. And so the conflict escalated dramatically this week, as Israeli frustration with Obama went public. Netanyahu said on Sunday that "the sooner we establish [red lines], the greater the chances that there won't be a need for other types of action," i.e. military action.
The United States is asking something of Israel: not to attack Iran. As such America is the guarantor of Israel's security. So Netanyahu needs to make sure he can rely on America's guarantee. Since America's "red line" is later than Israel's, those are the limits that are necessary.

As far as sanctions and hardware, Charles Krauthammer writes in The Abondonment:
What is incoherent is President Obama’s position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable — “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” — yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization. 
A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, “the same conditions that helped trigger World War II — years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real.” 
This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president’s rebuff of the Israeli prime minister’s request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.
As long as Iran believes it has no upper limit to what it can develop, it won't stop. That's why "red lines" are needed.

Seth Mandel explains the hyperventilating about Netanyahu:
At the heart of this controversy is the ignorant assumption, produced by a suspicious liberal establishment that seems willing to believe just about anything about Netanyahu, that the prime minister’s statements and actions are designed not to protect his own people from nuclear annihilation but from a desire to meddle in the American election. They worry he’s trying to influence the election and may be contemplating going to war with Iran to achieve that end.
But the truth is, as usual, much more mundane. Netanyahu simply understands the value of having a credible threat of force to back up sanctions and diplomacy. Rather than encourage military conflict, Netanyahu has been working to convince the West to enact tough sanctions for the last decade and a half, in order to prevent the necessity of war. 
This is in keeping with Netanyahu’s general demeanor. The caricature of him in the American press as a right-wing ideologue could not be farther from the truth. In Israel, he is perceived as just the opposite—a cautious pragmatist who prioritizes stability over everything else. This is not always meant as a compliment in Israel; indeed, many Israelis wish they could say Bibi was “on their side.”
3) A blind eye to the blind Sheikh

Two reported aspects about the assault on the American diplomatic missions this week is that they were spontaneous expressions of outrage and that the Muslim Brotherhood opposed the rioting in Egypt. (The New York Times has even gone so far as to publish an "apology" from one of the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders.) However, Thomas Joscelyn writes:
The investigation into the exact circumstances that brought us the twin attacks on U.S. diplomats in Egypt and Libya remains ongoing. Much remains uncertain. But a few new press accounts provide clues that are worth noting. And those clues point to a possible motive for the anti-American rallies and violence that has little to do with an offensive anti-Islam film. 
It seems that bad actors in both Egypt and Libya decided to agitate for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, aka the “Blind Sheikh.” This is a longstanding cause for al Qaeda and other militants – even though it is inconceivable that Rahman will be released and terrorism on his behalf is itself, in many ways, a pretext. 
Rahman is a widely revered character in jihadist circles, having issued fatwas that repeatedly led to terrorism. Osama bin Laden credited Rahman, a long-time friend and ally of al Qaeda’s deceased master, with issuing the fatwa that condoned the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Rahman is serving a life sentence in an American prison for his role in 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which prefigured 9/11, and a follow-on plot against New York City landmarks. Rahman’s spiritual guidance directed those terrorists.
The focus on Rahman would mean that the Egyptians and Libyans weren't simply reacting to an affront, but rather sought to attack the United States.

Then there's the role of the Muslim Brotherhood. Michael Rubin quotes from an article from Al Ahram:
This reconciliatory tweet, however, was posted while the Brotherhood’s Arabic-language Twitter account and its official website were both praising the protests — staged against a US-made film judged defamatory towards Islam — and calling for a million man march on Friday. 
One Arabic language article on the Brotherhood’s site sported the headline ‘Egyptians rise to defend the Prophet’. Noting the contradiction, the US Embassy in Cairo tweeted a tart response from its own account: “Thanks. By the way, have you checked out your own Arabic feeds? I hope you know we read those too.”
This would seem to contradict efforts by many in the media to disassociate the Egypt's ruling party and President from the rioting. (Glad to the American embassy asserting itself.) The effort to portray the rioting as a response to anti-Islamic extremists also seems to be an effort not to look too carefully at what's really going on.

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