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Blah blah blah Egypt blah democracy blah Israel blah blah.
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In the 19th c. — from an interesting blog on things Ottoman.
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My cab driver in Damascus went to pray at a local mosque. He emerged to discover that his shoes were stolen. I thought: another reason why not to pray.
I saw an Iranian professor from the University of Tehran speak on RT news. He prefaced his remarks by saying: I am not particularly a fan of Ahmadinajad. I thought to myself: with all the noise that hypocritical Western governments make about the lack of democracy in Iran (and Iran is not a democracy for sure and its regime is repressive indeed): if a professor at any Arab university outside of Lebanon made that remark about the leader of that country, he would lose his job instantly and would be punished for sure. This is what people in the West don’t understand: people in the Middle East don’t measure the Iranian political system by the standards of Swedish democracy but by the standards of governments in the Middle East.
Some people are now wondering whether Bashshar Al-Asad–politically speaking only–is even more shrewd and more intelligent than his own father. Which reminds me: i saw a sign over a Syrian military post outside of Damascus. It reads: Hafidh Al-Asad: our Leader forever. I remarked: Woe to the Syrian army if its leader is a dead man.
David Broder has raised
some eyebrows with his bizarre Washington
Post column arguing "with strong
Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear
power, [Obama] can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with
the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will
be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war,
the economy will improve." It should only be surprising to those who
haven’t been paying attention, though. Leaving aside the truly odd ideas about
the economy, Broder is actually offering a warmed over, mainstream version of
the argument coined in August by
former Bush Middle East adviser Elliott Abrams that "the Obama who had
struck Iran and destroyed its nuclear program would be a far stronger
candidate, and perhaps an unbeatable one." Since then, each time the
argument pops up I’ve tagged it on Twitter with "this idea was stupid
enough when Elliott Abrams wrote it in August."
Broder’s column is an interesting study in how really dumb ideas bounce
around Washington D.C. Fortunately, it’s not an idea that seems to have any
support at all in the Obama White House. Unlike Abrams (who it’s fair to assume
does not wish Obama well in November 2012) and Broder (who… well, it’s anyone’s
guess), the Obama team can see perfectly clearly that the American people have
no appetite for a third major war in the Middle East and that launching a war
with massive strategic consequences for short-term political gain would be
epically irresponsible. They find this argument ridiculous. Even if they were
primarily interested in their electoral fortunes in designing Iran policy, they
would quickly see that such an Abrams-approved stratagem would wipe out their
support on the left and gain absolutely zero votes on the right.
Now, I’m very
worried that Obama’s Iran strategy will lock the U.S. into ever more
hawkish rhetoric which ties their hands and paves the way to future military
confrontations. I think that serious people disagree about the likely
effectiveness of sanctions or of diplomacy, and that all are struggling to find
off-ramps in the glide towards ever more stringent and militarized regional
containment. I worry about a lot on Iran policy. But this isn’t one of the things
that I worry about. I don’t think that anyone in the Obama White House takes
remotely seriously the epically bad Abrams-Broder advice to pursue military
showdown with Iran for political advantage. This may offer an intriguing window
into how Abrams thought about foreign policy in the Bush White House, and a
depressing case study in the circulation of ideas in Washington, but it tells
us nothing at all about how the Obama administration is thinking about Iran.
AP – Israel’s prime minister said Sunday he will head to the U.S. next week to discuss Mideast peace talks with Vice President Joe Biden, in a possible sign of movement for the troubled diplomatic process.