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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Clemons’

Big Day for ‘drinkers’ today, especially those on the Liberal Left …

October 12th, 2011 Comments off

Just look at what ‘realist liberal’ blogger Steve Clemons had to say about this gumbo:

“… This alleged assassination plot simultaneously may indicate both the intensity of anti-Saudi passion among Iran’s senior leaders and a greater aggressiveness by Iran against the U.S.
This is a serious situation — and if Iran was indeed willing to attack a Saudi Ambassador and close confidante of the Saudi King on U.S. soil and countenance the death of 100-150 Americans, then the U.S. has reached a point where it must take action…” 



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Don’t exaggerate Arab support for Libya No Fly Zone

March 15th, 2011 Comments off

The approval by the Arab League of a No-Fly Zone for Libya, combined with increasingly urgent appeals from the Libyan opposition and some Arab voices, has helped build support for an international and American move in that direction. I am just leaving the Al-Jazeera Forum in Doha, where I had the opportunity to discuss this question in depth with a wide range of Arab opinion leaders and political activists as well as several leading Libyan opposition representatives (see this excellent post by Steve Clemons from the same conference). There is both more and less to this Arab support than meets the eye. Arabs are indeed deeply concerned about the bloody stalemate in Libya, and want international action. But if that action takes military form, including the kind of bombing would actually be required to implement a No-Fly Zone, I suspect that the narrative would rapidly shift against the United States.

While Arab public opinion should not be the sole consideration in shaping American decisions on this difficult question, Americans also should not fool themselves into thinking that an American military intervention will command long-term popular Arab support. Every Arab opinion leader and Libyan representative I spoke with at the conference told me that "American military intervention is absolutely unacceptable." Their support for a No Fly Zone rapidly evaporates when discussion turns to American bombing campaigns. This tracks with what I see in the Arab media and the public conversation. As urgently as they want the international community to come to the aid of the Libyan people, The U.S. would be better served focusing on rapid moves toward non-military means of supporting the Libyan opposition.

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The deep concern for Libya is real, intense, and passionate. Arab activists and opinion leaders repeatedly warned that if Qaddafi survives it could mean the death of the Arab revolutionary moment. This is part of the wider identification across the unified Arab political space which has palpably emerged among young activists and mass publics. This includes Bahrain, by the way, where the intervention by GCC security forces against the protestors has had a comparable chilling effect even if it has received less coverage on al-Jazeera than has Libya. There is no question that most Arabs desperately want something to be done to save Libya from Qaddafi, and that this is seen as having broad and deep regional implications.

When it comes to military intervention, however, this deep identification with the Libyan protestors intersects uncomfortably with the enduring legacy of Iraq. The prospect of an American military intervention, no matter how just the cause, triggers deep suspicion. There is a vanishingly small number of Arab takers for the bizarre American conceit that the invasion of Iraq has somehow been vindicated. The invasion and occupation of Iraq remains a gaping wound in the Arab political consciousness which has barely scabbed over. Any direct American military presence in Libya would be politically catastrophic, even if requested by the Libyan opposition and given Arab League cover.

A No-Fly Zone with Arab and UN cover would be more palatable, if controversial, but any serious analysis must take into account the likelihood that it would not work and would only pave the way to more direct military action. While I supported it early on, I have learned much from the debate which has ensued. I understand and sympathize with the moral urgency to do something for Libya.  But that should not blind us to the costs and risks of a no-fly zone and the limited prospects that it would tip the balance.  It isn’t a costless, easy alternative to war… it is more likely the preface to deeper military involvement.  I am frankly baffled that anyone would take seriously the clamoring of inveterate hawks to ignore the reservations of the military and jump into another ill-considered military adventure in the Middle East. Listening to assurances that military action will be smooth and cheap, with no complications and with great Arab support brings back all the bad memories of 2002. Discussing a No-Fly Zone means discussing the possibility of military invasion. Anything else is irresponsible.

That doesn’t mean the U.S. should do nothing. The administration should move quickly and aggressively to recognize the provisional Libyan government, release the frozen Libyan assets to that provisional government, and allow the flow of weapons to them. It should push for ever tighter targeted sanctions against Qaddafi, and continue to mobilize international consensus against his regime to make sure that he remains an absolute pariah without access to international institutions, revenues, or support. It could jam Qaddafi’s communications and provide intelligence, and more. The debate should move away from an exclusive focus on military action. That is a dead end where we have been before, and should not be going again.

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Never say no to Panda

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

A few days ago a friend showed me one of these ads for Panda cheese, which have been a hit in the Arab world. They’re very funny, and as Steve Clemons points out, full of geopolitical significance: a menacing Chinese Panda forcing consumption, a metaphor for the way the US likes to force things down Arab throats, etc. But I mostly like that this simple yet extremely funny ad, with instantly recognizable depictions of everyday situations in Egypt, may be the first Arabic TV ad to go viral globally. It’s one of the best ad series I’ve seen since the UK’s jingoistic Tango ads of the 1990s.
Credit to the boutique firm that came up with the ad, Elephant Cairo. Here’s an interview with their creative director who won a Silver Lion for the Panda ads.



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"the point of no return"

August 11th, 2010 Comments off

Jeff Goldberg in the Atlantic:

“… When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel—regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program—they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations….”

Steve Clemons sums it up rather well:

“…I think based on the interviews he has shared with all parties that more rational heads will prevail in finding a way to contain or redirect Iran’s course.  Otherwise, as in a simple game theory exercise, both Israel and the US may end up in the box of very worst outcomes with none of their basic strategic objectives achieved.” (similar to Lebanon August 06′)

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What’s The Deal?

May 17th, 2010 Comments off

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Ben Katcher at the RFI/ here

“… The deal was reached after Turkey Prime Minister Erdogan – who said on Friday that he would not attend the talks in Iran this weekend due to insufficient progress in the negotiations – canceled a trip to Azerbaijan and joined his Brazilian and Iranian counterparts in Tehran today.

This is big news and geopolitical drama at its highest – but questions remain: “What precisely is the agreement – and is it something the United States will support?”

If the Obama administration considers the agreement merely what Steve Clemons has called a “political backdoor” that allows Iran to halt the momentum toward further sanctions without making meaningful concessions on its nuclear program, then there will be a very interesting divide between the Western P5+1 powers and the emerging power centers in Ankara and Brasilia.

Given the close coordination between Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I would be surprised if Davutoglu reached a deal with Tehran that the United States cannot accept. On the other hand, Clinton’s prediction on Friday that he Brazilian effort would fail perhaps suggests otherwise.”

In the GUARDIAN: “….Some in Washington may view this deal as a way to give Iran a face-saving escape from its looming confrontation with the US and European Union. It may have been, but Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, saw it from the opposite perspective. He said last week that Iran was seeking a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey “to give western countries an opportunity to save face and find a way out of the current situation”.

Either way, skilful negotiating by two world leaders undermined the view, widely accepted in Washington, that Iran could only be made to compromise if it was threatened with sanctions and repeated warnings that the US would consider “all options” to block further progress in its nuclear programme.

Turkey and Brazil, though half a world apart geographically, have much in common. Both are large countries that spent long years under military dominance, but have broken with that history and made decisive steps towards full democracy. Both are led by dynamic and ambitious leaders who have presided over remarkable economic booms. Both have already emerged as regional powers, but have grander ambitions to become world powers on the level of Russia, India and perhaps even China. Neither could fulfil those ambitions alone. Together, however, they form a partnership that holds tantalising possibilities…..

Turkey and Brazil were once near-automatic supporters of Washington, but they have struck out on their own path. Distressed by what they saw as blundering American unilateralism that destabilised entire regions of the world, they have sought to defuse international confrontations and promote peaceful compromises instead. By felicitous coincidence, both are now nonpermanent members of the security council. This gave them special leverage over Iran. They have used it deftly.

During the cold war, the non-aligned movement tried to become a “third force” in world politics, but failed because it was too large and unwieldy. Turkey and Brazil are now emerging as the global force for compromise and dialogue that the non-aligned movement never was.”

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Netanyahu Commits to Colonizing East Jerusalem; First Palestinian Expelled under new Policy

April 23rd, 2010 Comments off

The new Israeli policy of deporting Palestinians from the West Bank on arbitrary grounds has kicked in with Ahmad Sabah, who has just been deported to Gaza and separated from his family in the West Bank. The measure contravenes the Geneva Convention of 1949 on the treatment of occupied populations, and it also goes contrary to the undertakings Israel made toward the Palestine Authority in the course of the Oslo peace negotiations.

The episode underlines the ways in which their forced statelessness leaves Palestinians (almost uniquely among major world nationalities) completely vulnerable to loss of the most basic human rights. That he was forcibly moved to Gaza by the Israelis suggests that many of those singled out for potential deportation from the West Bank may be moved to the small slum along the Mediterranean, which the Israelis have cut off from its traditional markets and which they keep under a blockade of the civilian population (a war crime). The Israeli establishment has decided not to try to colonize Gaza, and its isolation and hopelessness make it an attractive place for them to begin exiling West Bank residents, thus making more room for Israeli colonists.

The new policy, which is illegal six ways to Sunday in international law, is the brainchild of the government of far rightwing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, an Israeli hawk and expansionist, slapped President Barack Obama in the face again Thursday when he confirmed that he refused to halt construction of new homes in Palestinian East Jerusalem, which is militarily occupied by Israel.

Netanyahu’s announcement is probably the nail in the coffin of any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (in which the Israelis have thrown most Palestinians now living beyond the Green Line off their land and deprived them of citizenship in a state and all the rights that go with such citizenship). Palestinians are so despairing that only 57 percent even believe in having an independent Palestinian state any more. The rest are resigned to becoming Israelis in the distant future, when demographic realities and perhaps world-wide boycotts of Israel for its Apartheid-style policies toward the occupied Palestinian will force Israel to accept them.

At the same time, Netanyahu tried to throw sand in peoples’ eyes by talking about recognizing an ‘interim’ Palestinian state with “temporary” borders.

Palestinian leaders reject this formulation, which is intended to allow the Israelis to continue aggressively to colonize Palestinian territory while pretending that they are engaged in a ‘peace process.’ The Palestine Authority, established in the 1990s, was already a sort of interim state then, and Palestine’s borders were then ‘temporary.’ So temporary that Israel has made deep inroads into them through massive colonies and building a wall on the Palestinian side of the border, cutting residents off from their own farms and sequestering entire towns and cities.

Netanyahu’s various moves this week, from illegally expelling a Palestinian from the West Bank to Gaza– to blowing off the president of the United States and hitching his wagon to massive increased colonization of Palestinian land– all of these steps are guaranteed to mire Israel in violent disputes for years and perhaps decades. And the US, which has already suffered tremendously in Iraq and elsewhere from its knee-jerk support of illegal and inhumane Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, will suffer further.

Meanwhile, in the wake of a vicious attack on Barack Obama by New York senator Chuck Schumer, Steve Clemons of the Washington Note frankly wonders whether Schumer understands he is in the US Senate or whether he is under the impression he is serving in the Israeli Knesset.

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Punishing the Jordanians for their anti Iran posturing?

February 2nd, 2010 Comments off

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Steve Clemons in TWN/ here

As Iraq tilts towards March 7th elections, there are disconcerting trends unfolding inside the Maliki-run government that portend serious problems and potentially civil war in the not distant future. Iraq expert and military affairs specialist Tom Ricks recently commented on Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room on CNN that he believed that there was a 50-50 chance Iraq would erupt in civil war, and a 10-15% chance that the growing tensions in and around Iraq could become a regional war involving several of the other major states around Iraq.

Part of the growing trouble inside Iraq stems from the growing sense that politically empowered Shiites in the Iraq Government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are still carrying on campaigns against Sunni political interests.

Recently, more than 500 Sunnis were blacklisted from participating in the coming elections — many of them former Baathists who have renounced their allegiance to the Ba’ath party and who have declared their loyalty to the Iraq Constitution.

In addition, The Palestine Note has reported and intelligence sources have confirmed to this writer that the Department of Defense is cutting off all supply convoys via the western corridor into Iraq to supply US forces in Iraq. Reportedly, the Iraqi government has stopped providing needed security from its forces along the convoy routes that the suppliers use. Sources with whom I have spoken state that this cutoff of the supply route is designed to punish Sunni Iraqis in Western Iraq and in Jordan, and to punish the Jordanian government for its efforts to check Iran’s influence in the region.

The Department of Defense has not at the time of writing responded to calls about this closure of the Jordan-based supply routes.

The suppliers to US forces from Jordan are primarily Sunni-dominant business interests that Prime Minister Maliki and his political and business allies, including Iranian interests, want to squeeze off.

There are approximately 700,000 Iraqi refugees, overwhelmingly Sunni, now residing in Jordan because of violence, targeted kidnappings, and the previous ethnic cleansing and retribution campaigns inside Iraq.

From the Palestine Note:

According to sources inside Jordan, these vital convoys bringing food, fuel, and other supplies from the Hashemite Kingdom to the U.S. forces deployed in Iraq are being terminated effective immediately.

Jordan was the essential route for the lion’s share of goods into Iraq which provided goods to the Iraqi people. These goods also gave a commercial and economic injection into the Jordanian economy.

“Is it just a bureaucratic decision by the Pentagon as the war winds down? or Is this decision being driven and influenced by Iraqi PM Maliki and Ahmad Chalabi,” said one source who asked to remain anonymous…..

The Department of Defense’s action, whether animated or not by Maliki as has been asserted, contribute to a sense that the onramps to Sunni political and economic integration into what Iraq is becoming are being eroded or cut off.

The Kurds seem to be watching with interest — happy to be supportive if the Iraq political enterprise works and happy to pull back if the Sunnis and Shia ultimately find themselves unable to co-exist….

Those positives aside, some members of the delegation view with great concern the growing tensions between Sunni and Shia parties, the ongoing intervention inside Iraq by countries in the region, and the barring of otherwise legitimate Sunni political leaders who should not be kept out of the process given the criteria all had agreed to.

The Iraq pot seems to be getting back to a boil…”

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Has Obama Done “Everything in His Power”?

January 9th, 2010 Comments off

In the FT via the RFI/ here

The Financial Times published an analysis piece yesterday that provides a thorough summary of why the United States appears poised to embark on a course of further sanctions against Iran – and why those sanctions are very unlikely to change Iran’s strategic calculations with regard to its nuclear program.

As the article explains, sanctions are likely to fail for two interrelated reasons. China and Russia will be reluctant to agree to sanctions that threaten either Iran’s gasoline imports (which come in part from China) or arms sales (which come almost exclusively from Russia). Furthermore, even if sanctions could be implemented successfully (a highly doubtful proposition), they would be more likely to boost popular support for the regime than to force the Islamic Republic to capitulate to Western demands. International sanctions on Iran have never worked before and there is no reason to think this time will be any different.

As New America Foundation/American Strategy Program Director and The Washington Note Publisher Steve Clemons notes in the article, “The sanctions path has more to do with providing a focus for American frustration and emotion than achieving a successful course of correction by Iran.”

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BREAKING: "Khaled Mashal Will Go To Cairo"

October 17th, 2009 Comments off

Steve Clemons from Amman/ here

” I have just learned through credible sources that the Cairo-brokered reconciliation deal between the Palestinian political parties Fatah and Hamas, while officially delayed at the moment, will get a course correction tomorrow. Although Hamas called today for a “delay” in the Cairo meeting and deal signing ceremony, I have learned through a credible source that Hamas leader Khaled Mashal will inform the Egyptians tomorrow that he is ready to go to Cairo.

There have been rumors for weeks that a deal was close — even though sources also reported the Americans were trying to undermine the process of moving the parties toward a reconciled unity government.

This is huge news — and has important ramifications for the Israel/Palestine negotiations process that President Obama has been trying to but thus far has failed to kickstart.”

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‘Rumors’ of settlement freeze just that

August 20th, 2009 Comments off

Steve Clemons blogged this morning that,

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be using his skills as a crafty political executive to sidestep some of his more bureaucratic and recalcitrant allies in cooking up a deal with George Mitchell and Barack Obama on settlements.

Not so fast, Steve.

Richard Silverstein has an excellent commentary on the latest spate of rumors about some kind of a Mitchell-Netanyahu deal on settlements.

He quotes an Israeli friend as noting that the word used in Hebrew to describe what the Israeli government is contemplating is hamtana, meaning “waiting”– or, as Richard comments, maybe more like “the pause that refreshes.”

Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) is reported as saying “There is no freeze”– but there is some hamtana.

For its part, the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department has said that,

    the terms so far made public fail to comply with Israel’s obligation to implement a comprehensive and immediate freeze on all settlement activities as stipulated in the 2001 Mitchell Report and the 2003 Road Map.

The PLO-NAD also points to a report in the Israeli business press as saying that,

    the Israeli department of government properties is expected to invite tenders for a bid to build 450 residential units in Pisgat Ze’ev, a neighborhood on the Palestinian side of the 1967 borders in internationally recognized East Jerusalem.

    The magazine’s Wednesday edition said the department was relaxing some of its earlier requirements for bid so the project can get going in the next six months.

So altogether, it looks as though the settlement freeze is (a) not going into operation in any meaningful way, but is (b) being “played with” by Netanyahu in his interactions with the Americans, just as Efraim Inbar predicted would happen…

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