Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 9/20/2012: New York Times Clueless On Muslim Riots

From DG:

1) Cohen's trifecta

Never wrong for long is a tour de force for Roger Cohen. It is a column that is both so spectacularly uninformed, illogical and vitriolic, I don't know how he can hope to match it.
And here we are after a week of engineered tumult. The right thinks its case is proved: “You see, we told you so, the Arab Spring was a false dawn. Muslims are incapable of democracy. They are all anti-Western fanatics. Obama was wrong to support the democratic transformation that has brought Islamic parties to power.”
The White House is on the defensive; it even requested at one point that Google, the parent of YouTube, consider removing the movie — an ill-considered request wisely resisted. Free speech is meaningless if it does not extend even to views that are loathsome. 
In fact the violence does not change the critical evolution underway in the Arab world, one that needed more support from Obama, not less. Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president, was slow to react to violence. But it is far better to have his Muslim Brotherhood grappling with Islamic extremists than an isolated U.S.-backed dictator; and the debate now raging from Cairo to Tunis — a debate that would have been impossible before the Arab Spring — is a necessary part of the slow evolution of societies from terrorist-breeding passivity to citizen-breeding agency.
In reviewing the riots that have been sweeping the Muslim world, Barry Rubin explains what happened in Egypt:
What happened in Egypt was very simple. The Egyptian government knew that a demonstration would be held by radical anti-American forces, including the local branch of al-Qaeda, outside the U.S. embassy. Through an understanding of the ideology, analysis of public statements and past experience, and probably intelligence penetration, it knew they intended to storm the embassy. 
The highest levels of the Egyptian government decided not to protect the embassy, in breach of their international obligations. And they knew — or rightly expected — that the Obama administration would not punish them for behaving that way. 
What’s the difference between Iran in 1978 and Egypt in 2012? In the first case, the Iranian Islamist government let its supporters take over the embassy completely and seized everyone inside as hostages. This led to a confrontation. The more cautious Egyptian regime simply let the mob trash the part of the embassy outside of the buildings. After all, there are billions of dollars in U.S. funds and arms to be obtained by a little restraint.
Morsi's did no "grappling" with the rioters. He was in league with them. As Rubin notes later, Egypt is "now in the enemy category." Cohen is deluded if he thinks that the current Egyptian government somehow helped control the situation.

Next Cohen goes after PM Netanyahu:
This change is generational. The folly of this September may be viewed one day as part of the evolution of the Brotherhood toward the conservative pragmatism that has served Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development well in Turkey. 
That, I know, is an optimistic scenario. Memes have their own destructive energy. Listen to Benjamin Netanyahu on CNN eliding the truth for maximum panic: “All the things that you see now in these mobs storming the American embassies is what you will see with a regime that would have atomic bombs. You can’t have such people have atomic bombs.” 
Who are “such people”? No matter that these were Arabs, not Iranians. No matter that they were far from Tehran. No matter that Persians despise Arabs and vice-versa. Netanyahu understands marketing: keep it simple in a hyperconnected age because you won’t be wrong for long — and the dead can’t issue a correction.
Netanyahu's complete statement was:
You know, this is not an electoral issue. It is not based on any electoral consideration. I think that there's a common interest of all Americans over all political persuasions to stop Iran.
This is a regime that is giving vent to the worst impulses that you see right now in the Middle East. They deny the rights of women, deny democracy, brutalize their own people, don't give freedom of religion. 
All the things that you see now in these mobs storming the American embassies is what you will see with a regime that would have atomic bombs. You can't have such people have atomic bombs. And I believe that's as important for Republicans as it is for Democrats, important for Democrats as it is for Republicans. It's as important for President Obama as it is for Mitt Romney. It's important for the future of our world.
I realize that Netanyahu left something out, but it's pretty clear that this he was referring to the attack on the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. "These people," may have been a poor choice of words, but what Netanyahu was saying was when you have an Islamist government that doesn't respect the rights of its own citizen and doesn't respect international norms, you don't want that government to possess nuclear weapons.

So great is Cohen's dislike of Netanyahu that he compared the Muslim Brotherhood to the Turkey's (non-Arab) AKP Party in order to dismiss Netanyahu's comparison of Islamists in Egypt to those in Iran. Logic, it appears, isn't a prerequisite to write a regular column for the New York Times.

3) Another pro-Israel New York Times reporter

Hillel Halkin reviews Patrick Tyler's Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country—And Why They Can't Make Peace in the Wall Street Journal. (h/t Sam Schulman)
Have you ever wondered why Iran, after halting (according to Western intelligence reports) its nuclear weapons program in 2003, resumed it (according to more such reports) by 2005? Patrick Tyler, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, thinks he knows. It wasn't because the initial shock of the American invasion of Iraq had worn off. The Iranian nuclear program was probably restarted, Mr. Tyler believes, in reaction to a "clandestine war" waged by Israel against Iran—a war launched, he states in his new book "Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country—And Why They Can't Make Peace," by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu that came to power following the 2009 Israeli elections. 
Come again? Is Mr. Tyler joking when he claims that post-2009 events influenced a decision made by 2005? Not as far as I can tell after several re-readings of his new book's prologue. Among the Mossad's many accomplishments, it would seem, is also time travel.
Those are just the first two paragraphs. The rest is just as brutal. 

3) Romney's Middle East peace "gaffe"

In all the discussion of Gov. Romney's "47%" comment or his criticism of the American embassy for its plea to the demonstrators, I missed that Romney made another "gaffe." Barry Rubin writes in Romney Tells the Key Truth Needed to Comprehend the Israel-Palestinian Conflict:
Romney said that one of the two ways he considered looking at the issue — a major qualification — is:
That the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.
He then continued doing the most basic, responsible thing a statesman can do. Romney posited that a Palestinian state existed and then discussed how this might create terrible security dangers for Israel, including direct attack and the opening of Palestine’s territory to radical regimes’ armies. For the meantime, the only choice might be the status quo. 
This is the kind of thing Israeli analysts, and many Americans, have been saying for decades and detailing. It is the basic framework of how any country must plan its survival, strategy, and national security.
Elder of ZiyonIsrael Matzav and JoshuaPundit also made observations about Romney's remarks.

Someone else wrote something similar, though the specific target of the observations was Mahmoud Abbas.
The 76-year-old president has been digging himself into a political hole since early last year, when he announced a new strategy of seeking recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations and a reconciliation deal with the rival Hamas movement. The recognition bid flopped last fall in the U.N. Security Council, where the Palestinians failed to obtain even the eight votes needed for a simple majority. Meanwhile, talks with Hamas stalled, and long-overdue elections, promised for last May, were once again put off. 
During this time Mr. Abbas has mostly refused negotiations with Israel, citing as a pretext the continued construction in Israel’s West Bank settlements. Israel has offered the Palestinian Authority a number of concessions in exchange for renewing the peace process, including prisoner releases and a potentially lucrative natural gas concession. But Mr. Abbas has not agreed.
Who wrote that? Was it someone in thrall to Sheldon Adelson? Hardly, it was from an editorial in the Washington Post, Mahmoud Abbas's UN Gambit.

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