Vladimir Putin resists Western pressure to back stronger measures against Syria, arguing that Kofi Annan’s peace plan is still the best solution.
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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu moved from the far right to just the Right on Tuesday by bringing into his government the center-right Kadima Party, led by Shaul Mofaz.
Mofaz has been sharply critical of reported plans by Netanyahu and his defense minister Ehud Barak, to launch a go-it-alone military attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Mofaz is not opposed to military action against Iran in and of itself, but wants it coordinated with the United States. He last week aligned himself with the views of former Israel domestic intelligence head Yuval Diskin, who strongly opposed a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran and who attacked Netanyahu as erratic. Mofaz said, “Let President Obama handle Iran. We can trust him…”
Having Mofaz in the cabinet makes Netanyahu less dependent on extreme hawks, and makes it highly unlikely that Israel will act on its own against Iran. I say this despite some attempts of right wing Israeli and pro-Israeli outfits like the so-called ‘Washington Institute for Near East Policy’ (which should be ‘Tel Aviv Institute for Near East Policy) to spin the news by saying that the new government is not necessarily less hawkish on Iran. Of course it is! Since the saber rattling by Netanyahu was part of a psychological war with Iran, Jewish nationalist hawks can’t afford to have this simple reality stated.
Mofaz’s joining the government comes at a time of changing leadership in Europe. Francois Hollande, the new French president, is less hawkish on Iran than was Nicolas Sarkozy. And, Vladimir Putin is now president of Russia again, and has been far more outspoken in wanting to prevent a Western attack on Iran than was Dmitri Medvedev, who seemed to vacillate with regard to Tehran.
Netanyahu can now remain prime minister until scheduled elections in October of 2013. He had just the day before called for new elections, in part because his Haredim (Jewish fundamentalist) allies would not accept a new bill providing for Haredim to serve in the Israeli military, nor would they accept Netanyahu’s plans to demolish illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
Netanyahu therefore likely brought Kadima on board so as to be less beholden to Shas and other parties that strongly back the Haredim. Moreover, the extreme right in Netanyahu’s cabinet had blocked any serious negotiations with the Palestinians, putting Netanyahu in difficulties with the US & Europe, whereas Mofaz has a plan for moving forward on the Palestinian front, which he presented to Netanyahu on joining his government. (It is patronizing and unrealistic, but no one else in the government has even talked about the need to formulate a plan).
The coalition was made possible because Shaul Mofaz, who was born in Iran, had recently replaced Tzipi Livni as head of Kadima. Livni had refused to join a Netanyahu-led government. Mofaz is less rigid on the issue. Likewise Kadima was facing the loss of several seats if elections had been held. They would likely have been picked up by the Labor Party, which could have more than doubled its strength. Labor and the center-left Meretz Party were furious about the back room deal, which deprived them of a chance to grow the number of seats they hold.
Putin sworn in as Russia's president amid protests
May 7, 2012: Vladimir Putin speaks with his hand on the Constitution during his inauguration ceremony as new Russia's president.AP MOSCOW – Vladimir Putin took the oath of office for a third term as Russia's president on Monday, saying he considers …
Putin sworn in as Russia's president for 6 yearsThe Associated Press
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The Administration’s reasoning: ‘Distract the Syrians long enough & you’ll reduce Tehran’s options for retaliation!’
Despite the announced agreement on North Korea, the debate over Iran continues to monopolize attention. It will reach its climax in speeches by President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to the AIPAC conference. As we anticipated last week, Obama’s rhetoric is hardening. However, the underlying US policy remains that time is working against Tehran. As sanctions exact an increasing toll on the Iranian economy and the pro-Iranian regime in Damascus continues to crumble, US officials believe that the Iranian leadership will see that its interests lie in negotiation. The open question is whether the US political climate will allow the Administration to follow this course. Based on our conversations with senior officials, our sense is that Obama feels that he can adhere to his course and take immediate action. As always, the Israeli dimension is the wild card. Top US officials from Obama down have made their views clear to their Israeli counterparts that military action is premature. They have little confidence, however, that their advice will be followed. This issue has been a staple of the Washington debate for at least three years, but the expectation that it is coming to a head has never been more palpable. Related to Iran, Administration strategists calculate that if the West and its regional partners can maintain pressure on Syria, then this will change regional dynamics by reducing Tehran’s options to retaliate against an attack. Behind the scenes, however, the assessment is that the Syrian regime will last longer than seemed likely a few weeks ago. With Vladimir Putin’s likely return to the Russian presidency in the March 4th election, the White House is bracing for even stronger Russian support for Syria. US officials tells us that they will try to reach out to Putin – assuming he is elected – but are deeply concerned that relations with Moscow are headed for, in the words of an NSC Russia analyst, “a new ice age.” Elsewhere, the continuing anti-coalition violence in Afghanistan is roiling the policy debate.Defense Secretary Panetta is promising that the policy of gradually turning over responsibility to the Afghans remains intact. More quietly, however, the implications on the safety for coalition trainers are prompting a far-ranging rethink. ‘
Lisa Goldman writes in +972 that Israelis should mind their own business and stop panicking about the Muslim Brotherhood dominating Egyptian politics :
My colleague Larry Derfner writes that if he had known what the results of this first post-Mubarak election would be, he would not have supported the revolutionaries. He describes Islamist parties’ victory as a “demoralizing defeat” for “we liberals” and concludes that the Middle East has taken a “giant leap backward.”
Well. “We liberals” are citizens of the democratic state of Israel, which freely elected, as the largest faction in its governing coalition after the Likud, the quasi-fascist Yisrael Beitenu party. The head of that party, Avigdor Lieberman, is now the foreign minister. He cozies up to Vladimir Putin and once said that Israel should bomb the Aswan Dam. In our Knesset, we also have Kahanists and a large contingent from Shas, which is quite similar to the Nour party. So I don’t think we have all that much credibility when it comes to commenting on the election results of our neighbours.
There’s another reason our estranged cousins the Israelis might mind their own business about Egypt and other post-uprising countries: they won’t be doing much business with them at all for some time to come.
Turki al Faisal & Ehud Barak: "Assad’s regime is a killing machine … It’s going to disappear in a few weeks!"
Assad’s government “has become a killing machine,” says Turki bin Faisal of Saudi Arabia, “Change in Syria is now inevitable.”…Speaking a day after Turki at the Vienna meeting, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak echoed the prince’s prediction about the Assad regime: “It is doomed. .?.?. It is going to disappear, in a few weeks.”
“Iran is a paper tiger, but it has steel claws,” Turki added. The Saudi prince was referring not only to Syria but also to the heavily armed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and the Palestinian movement Hamas…
They as well as Damascus are now the targets of a Sunni counterrevolution that has reached critical mass as Iran continues to be accused of working on a nuclear weapon and as U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq, a Shiite-majority nation that will increasingly be subject to Iranian influence and ambition.
Russia, too, appears to invest larger meaning in the Syrian conflict. “Vladimir Putin scores the Libya result as a win for the West and thus a defeat for Russia,” says a European ambassador who monitors intelligence reporting on the Kremlin. “He is determined that Syria will not make this a trend, and Russia will oppose collective action against Assad wherever it can.”
Putin’s return to a zero-sum calculus reminiscent of the Cold War has cast a heavy shadow over secret, informal talks among the United States, Britain and France and those with the leading Sunni countries on hastening Assad’s downfall. So out of deference to Russian sensitivities, these talks have steered clear of any discussion of the kind of coordinated NATO intervention that occurred in Libya. But diplomatic sources report that there is an active exchange of intelligence and tentative discussion of some form of joint operations, as well as an intensifying common effort to help Syria’s emerging opposition forces become more organized and effective…
I doubt that Assad pays much attention to this gathering consensus. Certainly his father, Hafez, whom I interviewed three times, would have dismissed it…”
Vladimir Putin with the Russian power of veto continues to stave off a UN condemnation of Syria.
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“… Domestic policy isn’t our beat (except when it gets in the way of foreign policy) but we know that in Washington nothing succeeds like success and a vote like this will define the prevailing media narrative on the Obama administration: come Monday they will be seen as either brilliant or bungling. This narrative is going to extend beyond healthcare to other major issues, including foreign policy.
So here’s a quick guide to what the state of the world will be, depending on whether or not the bill goes through.
If health care passes:
Iran: The Islamic Republic is on its last legs, challenged at every turn by the ever-expanding Green movement, which the Obama administration wisely avoided undermining with explicit public support. Instead of a confrontational approach, the U.S. has taken its time to build international consensus, put tough but highly-targeted sanctions in place, and given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just enough rope to hang himself.
Af-Pak: The offensive in Marjah was a rousing success, al Qaeda leaders are being taken out or arrested left and right, the tide is turning against the insurgency, Pakistan is finally cooperating, Gen. Stanley McChrystal is the greatest U.S. military commander since Douglas MacArthur.
Iraq: The withdrawal of U.S. troops continues on schedule, violence is way down, Iraq’s sectarian are working out their in Parliament rather than in the streets, David Petraeus is the greatest U.S. miltary commander since George Washington.
Israel-Palestine: Finally, a U.S. administration showed some backbone dealing with Israel, condemning the expansion of settlements and working to strong-arm both sides to the table. Netanyahu’s settlement freeze was a step in the right direction. Obama has proven that the White House can be a strong ally to Israel without being a pushover.
Russia: U.S.-Russia relations are better than they’ve been since the 1990s. Thanks to the Obama administration’s less confrontational approach and compromise on missile defense, a successor to the START treaty is near and Moscow is finally starting to cooperate on Iran.
Gitmo/detainees: The Obama administration has restored constitutional norms and proven that the war on terror on terror can be won and valuable intelligence gained without torture or illegal detentions. Dozens of Gitmo detainees have been relocated and the civilian trials for al Qaeda leaders will be a success.
Global warming: Thanks to Obama’s last minute intervention, the climate change summit saved face in Copenhagen. After healthcare, with momentum on its side, the administration will take on energy and finally make cap and trade a reality.
Rahm Emanuel: A fucking genius.
If health care fails:
Iran: With his shameful silence, Obama hung the Green Movement out to dry. Iran is closer than ever to building a nuke, (if Israel doesn’t bomb it first) the Chinese are never going to cooperate on sanctions, and the administration’s engagement strategy has been proven a failure.
Af-Pak: U.S. troops are sinking into a unwinnable quagmire, Marjah was a meaningless backwater, Afghanistan’s corrupt government and incompetent military will never be able to function without U.S. support, Pakistan is placating the U.S. while still not taking the Taliban seriously. Obama should have listened to Joe Biden when he had the chance.
Iraq: The election was marred by fraud, none of the major political disputes have been resolved, the insurgency is biding its time, the U.S. military faces a choice between remaining in Iraq for decades or watching a sectarian bloodbath erupt as it pulls out.
Israel-Palestine: The setttlements continue to expand, Obama is hopelessly unpopular in Israel and unable to influence Netanyahu, the Palestinian Authority is a corrupt joke and Hamas will never renounce violence. George Mitchell should quit while he still retains a shred of credibility.
Russia: While Hillary Clinton has tea with Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin is eating Obama’s lunch. Russia is building nuclear reactors in Iran, delaying START again and again, meddling in Ukraine, tightening its grip on Georgia’s breakaway regions and repressing its own people. The reset was nothing more than appeasement, and the U.S. hasn’t even gotten anything out of it.
Gitmo/detainees: Obama hasn’t even been able to close Gitmo, but in any event, he’s putting Americans at risk of another terror attack by not letting interrogators do their job. The civilian trials, if they happen at all, will be a publicity circus that makes a mockery of the fight against terror. The justice department is infested with al Qaeda sleeper agents.
Global warming: Was invented by Al Gore to sell DVDs.
Rahm Emanuel: [Unprintable.]