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Notes and Comments

The UN Theater

THE UN THEATER: David Rivkin, FDD senior advisor and co-chairman of FDD’s Center for Law and Counterterrorism writes that

putting the U.N.—and particularly the General Assembly—in the business of state recognition is inconsistent with international law and the U.N. Charter …

The U.N.—General Assembly or Security Council—has no power to create states or to grant all-important formal “recognition” to state aspirants. The right to recognize statehood is a fundamental attribute of sovereignty and the United Nations is not a sovereign. Those who cite as precedent the General Assembly’s 1947 resolution providing for the partition of Palestine misread that instrument and its legal significance. …

The PA does not …qualify for recognition as a state and, concomitantly, it does not qualify for U.N. membership, which is open only to states. All of this is surely understood by the PA and its backers, and is also why the administration has correctly labeled this effort as a distraction—”stunt” being a less diplomatic but even more accurate term in these circumstances. …

The stakes in this battle are high. The PA’s effort to achieve recognition by the U.N., even if legally meaningless, is not without serious consequences. ….

[T]he U.N. Charter also forbids members to act in a “manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” First among those purposes is maintaining international peace and security, and efforts prematurely to force recognition of a Palestinian state clearly undercut this goal. This is, in fact, a rare instance in which a measure is bad policy, bad law, and has the real potential to damage the interests of its opponents and its supporters.

More here.  
 
Fouad Ajami adds:

“We need to have full membership at the U.N. We need a state, a seat at the United Nations,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared last week in Ramallah as he launched this bid, in defiance of American wishes. Thus state-building would be bypassed, and the Palestinians, in a familiar pattern of their history, would place their faith in deliverance through the indulgence of others. …

There can be no avoiding the toil and the exertions of direct negotiations. The deliberations at the U.N. are only theater, just another illusion.

More here.  
 
In The New Republic, Marty Peretz observes:

The whole notion of a country’s UN membership being a certificate of legitimacy is morally corrupt. UN membership is an admission ticket to the expensive blandishments of New York. …

The fact that Obama so thoroughly misunderstands the Middle East, so thoroughly also misunderstands militant Islam, has blotted out for both the Arabs and the Israelis the bona fides of the official American intermediaries. It is not simply that some of them are biased, a bit to Israel, a much larger cohort to the victim mentality of the Palestinians and to the oil deposits of other Arabs. It is that this administration has been stupid about the whole region and entranced with the Palestinian narrative which is, to be utterly brash but candid, nearly wholly false.

More here.  
 
FDD’s Emanuele Ottolenghi notes:

PA president Mahmoud Abbas explains his decision to turn to the UN by saying that “we have been negotiating with the state of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realizing a state of our own”.

Yet, the main cause of failure was Palestinian refusal to compromise. Three times in a decade Palestinian leaders were offered a deal - at Camp David in July 2000; under the Clinton Parameters in December 2000; and then by former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in 2008. Each time, Palestinian leaders (Arafat twice in 2000, Abbas in 2008) said no.

Since Israel’s Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has come to power, the Palestinians have refused to recommence negotiations.

More here.  
 
The Wall Street Journal opines:

[W]hat Palestinians seek out of a U.N. vote isn’t an affirmation of their right to a state, but rather another tool in their perpetual campaign to harass, delegitimize and ultimately destroy Israel. “We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years,” Mr. Abbas said the other day. That’s another way of saying that the “occupation,” in Mr. Abbas’s view, began with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and not with Israel’s takeover of the West Bank and Gaza after a war that threatened Israel’s existence in 1967. …

More here.  
 
John Bolton adds:

The PA’s ill-advised U.N. stratagem will not improve the chances for Middle East peace, it will not truly enhance the PA’s status, and it will not improve living conditions for average Palestinians. This entire episode is fantasy, and should be so regarded …

More here.  
 
Ambassador Michael Oren concludes:

The Palestinians came to the U.N. to get a state, but without giving Israel peace in return. …Mr. Abbas did not come to New York to shake Mr. Netanyahu’s hand but to grab a state which, he wrote earlier this year, “will pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict” and “pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations.” …

While the circumstances have changed since 1947 and even 2008, the formula for peace remains unaltered. By accepting the Jewish State, the Palestinians can have their own.

More here.
 
THE ECONOMIC WAR: FDD chairman Jim Woolsey and FDD senior advisor Bud McFarlane point out that there is a

well from which our enemies draw their political strength and financial power: the strategic importance of oil, which provides the wherewithal for a generational war against us, as we mutter diplomatic niceties.

Oil’s strategic importance stems from its virtual monopoly as a transportation fuel. Today, 97 percent of all air, sea and land transportation systems in the United States have only one option: petroleum-based products. For more than 35 years we have engaged in self-delusion, saying either that we have reserves here at home large enough to meet our needs, or that the OPEC cartel will keep prices affordable out of self-interest. Neither assumption has proved valid. …

There is, however, a way out of this crisis. …

The time has come to strip oil of its strategic status. We owe it to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in its aftermath, and to those whose fate still hangs in the balance.

More here.  
 
THE SYRIAN FRONT: In testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, FDD’s Tony Badran argues:

We have reached a potentially dangerous moment in the Syrian revolution. At the same time, there is now a rare opportunity to change the political landscape in the entire region. If we take this opportunity, and if we succeed, Syria can be rid of a murderous ruling family, which has both Syrian and American blood on its hands. More importantly, Iran’s influence not only in Syria but throughout the region would be severely curtailed. …

[T]he strategic prism through which the situation in Syria must be viewed is that of an opportunity to break the Iranian alliance system. The end of the Assad regime will enhance the standing and interests of the US and its allies in the region.

More here.  
 
In my column this week, I note that Syria’s al-Kibar nuclear facility did, in fact, turn out to be intended to manufacture nuclear weapons:

No one was so naïve as to believe that al-Kibar was being built to power homes, farms, and baby-formula factories. Rather, the dispute among [advisors to President Bush] was over “what to do about the most brazen nuclear proliferation case in history. . . . Here was the world’s worst proliferator providing nuclear assistance to one of the world’s worst state sponsors of terrorism — which also happened to be facilitating attacks on American troops in Iraq. It is hard to imagine a more egregious challenge to the Bush Doctrine and America’s war against terrorism.” …

In the end, after Bush decided not to act and diplomacy went nowhere, the Israelis took it upon themselves to destroy the reactor. The former [White House] advisers write: “Syria then spent months trying to sanitize the site and stonewall the IAEA — confirmation of its non-peaceful intentions. The Israeli attack in September 2007 was flawless, Syria and North Korea did not lash out, and a dire proliferation threat was eliminated for good. America and the world are safer for it.”

More here.  
 
THE IRANIAN FRONT: The Sunday Times (UK) reports:

Iran may be just six months away from developing a nuclear bomb despite international attempts to thwart the programme through sanctions and cyberattacks. …

“We believe if Iran broke out now they could have a bomb in six months,” said David Albright, a former weapons inspector who runs the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. “They’ve done this right in front of our faces.” …

Nicholas Burns, America’s former chief negotiator on Iran …believes military intervention should be on the table. “The latest report makes clear Iran is one of the top two or three challenges facing the Obama administration,” he said.

More (behind a paywall) here.  
 
Eli Lake of The Daily Beast/Newsweek reports that the U.S. has sold Bunker Busters to Israel.
More here.  
 
The Telegraph’s (UK) Con Coughlin reports:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have stolen dozens of sophisticated Russian-made surface-to-air missiles from Libya and smuggled them across the border to neighbouring Sudan, according to Western intelligence reports.

More http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/8782103/Iran-steals-surface-to-air-missiles-from-Libya.html" target="_blank">here.  
 
FDD’s John Hannah writes:

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appearance at the U.N. this week is yet another painful reminder of the West’s unwillingness to confront an evil that is determined to destroy us.

For the better part of six years, the man has used his office to incite genocide against Israel, a U.N. member state and, more importantly, one of America’s closest allies. His government’s elite terrorist arm — the IRGC’s Qods Force — as well as its proxy, Lebanese Hezbollah, have been helping kill American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq for nearly ten years. Iran has maintained a longstanding alliance with al-Qaeda against the United States, including facilitating the transit of several 9/11 hijackers and providing an ongoing base of operations for many of the group’s senior leaders. If all that weren’t enough, Iran stands in flagrant violation of multiple Security Council resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program, while moving ever closer to acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons. …

That the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism is capable of abducting innocent U.S. citizens with seeming impunity marks a dangerous turn, indeed. That it can do so and still have its president — a raving anti-Semite who openly yearns for America’s destruction — welcomed on U.S. soil, treated like a legitimate world leader, and granted a global audience is nothing less than a travesty.

The hour is late, but there remains much that America and its allies can do to address the Iranian threat. Tightening sanctions wherever possible to squeeze its oil revenues. Maintaining a robust U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Doing everything possible to help Syrian protesters bring down the Assad regime. Launching a crash program to assist freedom-loving Iranians the same way we supported Solidarity in Poland. And openly preparing to exercise all options necessary to eliminate the key nodes of Iran’s nuclear program should non-military means ultimately fail.

More here.  
 
CNN reports:

Delegations from the United States and several European nations walked out of the U.N. General Assembly Thursday during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech, in which he repeatedly condemned the United States and said some countries use the Holocaust as an “excuse to pay ransom... to Zionists.”

Delegates from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom were among those who walked out. Delegations from Canada and Israel were not present from the beginning.

In his remarks, Ahmadinejad called the September 11, 2001, attacks “mysterious” and said they were a pretext for a U.S.-led war against Afghanistan and Iraq.

He said the United States killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden instead of assigning a fact-finding team to investigate “hidden elements involved in September 11.” …

Wednesday evening, Ahmadinejad met with a group of U.S. university students, and then gave an interview to Iranian satellite television. …

About 100 undergraduate and graduate students, along with some professors, attended the invitation-only dinner and question-and-answer session in New York, moderated by an Iranian U.N. official. Ahmadinejad did not eat with the guests.

Students who spoke with CNN afterward expressed excitement about the event. At the end, the guests were given hand-painted plates from Iran and books about theology.

The mood was jovial and positive, people who were there said. While some questions were asked about nuclear issues, the economy, and Israel, the tone remained positive. Ahmadinejad joked and laughed at times.

Participants included students and staff from Princeton, Fordham, Hofstra, Columbia, New York University, and other schools.

More here.  
 
FDD’s Mark Dubowitz points out that Ahmadinejad

is not under U.S., European or international sanctions, despite his role in presiding over a six-year reign of terror, featuring widespread human rights abuses, the acceleration of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and the killing of U.S. and allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- not to mention hundreds or perhaps even thousands of civilians. …

More than 30 years after Iran declared war on the United States -- and only days after the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks -- Washington must recognize the centrality of the Iranian threat, and move more aggressively to counter it.

Sanctioning Ahmadinejad and keeping him and his henchmen out of New York would be a start.

More here.  
 
THE LONG WAR: Christopher Hitchens writes:

A continuous and repetitive thread in the commentary on the decade since 9/11—one might almost call it an endless and open-ended theme—was the plaintive observation that the struggle against al-Qaida and its surrogates is somehow a “war without end.” (This is variously rendered as “perpetual war“ or “endless war,” just as anti-war articles about the commitment to Iraq used to relentlessly stress the idea that there was “no end in sight.”)

I find it rather hard to see the force of this objection, or indeed this description. Was there ever a time when we involved ourselves in combat, or found ourselves involved, with any certain advance knowledge about the timeline and duration of hostilities? Are there two kinds of war, one of them term-limited? A bit like that other tempting but misleading separation of categories—between “wars of choice” and “wars of necessity”—this proves upon closer scrutiny to be a distinction without much difference. …

Human history seems to register many more years of conflict than of tranquility. In one sense, then, it is fatuous to whine that war is endless. We do have certain permanent enemies—the totalitarian state; the nihilist/terrorist cell—with which “peace” is neither possible nor desirable. Acknowledging this, and preparing for it, might give us some advantages in a war that seems destined to last as long as civilization is willing to defend itself.

More here.  
 
HAMAS, AL-QAEDA AND IRAN: Together again for the first time. FDD’s Tom Joscelyn notes in FDD’s Long War Journal that

the US State Department added Muhammad Hisham Muhammad Isma’il Abu Ghazala, a Hamas operative who is linked to Iran and al Qaeda and fought with Ansar al Islam in Iraq, to the list of specially designated global terrorists. The designation allows the US to freeze his assets, prevent him from using financial institutions, and prosecute him for terrorist activities.

Abu Ghazala “plays an integral role in Hamas,” the State Department said. “He has links to Iran, the world’s leading State Sponsor of Terrorism, and al Qaeda.”

In addition to his connections with Iran and al Qaeda, Abu Ghazala has aided terrorist networks in northern Iraq in conducting roadside bombings and rocket attacks. …

Iran allows its soil to be used by various branches of the al Qaeda hydra operating in Iraq and elsewhere.

More here.  
 
SEEN ANY RED ROBINS YET? Victor Davis Hanson is not optimistic:

The so-called Arab Spring was supposed to usher in Arab self-introspection about why intolerant strongmen keep sprouting up in the Middle East. Post-revolutionary critics could freely examine self-inflicted Arab wounds, such as tribalism, religious intolerance, authoritarianism, endemic corruption, closed economies, and gender apartheid.

But so far, “revolutionaries” sound a lot more like reactionaries. They are more often retreating to the tired conspiracies that the Israelis and Americans pushed onto innocent Arab publics homegrown, corrupt madmen such as Bashar Assad, Moammar Qaddafi, and Hosni Mubarak. …

Meanwhile, the West is nearly bankrupt. The European Union is on the brink of dissolving, its population shrinking amid growing numbers of Islamic immigrants.

America is $16 trillion in debt. We are tired of three wars. The Obama administration initially thought putting a little light between Israel and the United States might coax Arab countries into negotiating a peace. That new American triangulation certainly has given a far more confident Muslim world more hope — but it is hope that just maybe the United States cannot or will not come to Israel’s aid if Muslim states ratchet up the tension.

It is trendy to blame Israeli intransigence for all these bleak developments. But to do so is simply to forget history. …

More here.  
 
THE EUROPEAN FRONT: Wall Street Journal columnist (and FDD advisor) Bret Stephens predicts:

When the history of the rise and fall of postwar Western Europe is someday written, it will come in three volumes. Title them “Hard Facts,” “Convenient Fictions” and—the volume still being written—”Fraud.” …

[For example, there was] the whopping fiction that Europe had its own “model,” distinct and superior to the American one, that immunized it from broader international currents: globalization, Islamism, demography. Europeans love their holidays and thought they were entitled to a long holiday from history as well. …

What comes next is the explosion of the European project. Given what European leaders have made of that project over the past 30-odd years, it’s not an altogether bad thing. But it will come at a massive cost.

More here.  
 
THE PALESTINIAN FRONT: Scholar Efraim Karsh of the Middle East Forum notes that the two leaders most responsible for creating a Palestinian national identity, Hajj Amin Husseini and Yasser Arafat,

were far more interested in destroying the Jewish national cause than leading their own people. As far back as 1978, Arafat told his close friend and collaborator, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, that the Palestinians lacked the traditions, unity, and discipline to have a successful state. Once given control of parts of the West Bank and Gaza, this prognosis became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as his regime quickly became oppressive and corrupt. …

The Oslo Accords charged the PA to dismantle all armed groups in the West Bank and Gaza, but Arafat never complied; David Ben-Gurion, by contrast, dissolved all Jewish underground movements within a fortnight from Israel’s independence, incorporating them into the newly established Israeli Defense Forces. Following statehood, even if Abbas were to make a genuine commitment to reform, Hamas would continue to defy his tenuous authority; not only does the group rule the Gaza Strip, which it has transformed into an Islamist micro-state, but it also wields considerable power in the West Bank.

Small wonder that recent surveys show that more Palestinians in east Jerusalem, who are entitled to Israeli social benefits and are free to travel across Israel’s pre-1967 borders, would rather become citizens of the Jewish state than citizens of a new Palestinian one.

More here.  
 
THE TURKISH FRONT: Dore Gold reports that

one of the IHH operatives on the Mavi Marmara, Erdinc Tekir, participated in a 1996 terrorist attack on a Russian ferry in the Black Sea, whose purpose was to obtain the release of Chechen terrorists from a Russian prison.

Indeed the founders of the IHH served as volunteers in the Mujahideen Brigade that fought the Russians’ Serbian allies during the Bosnian War.

More here.  
 
SPENDING UNWISELY: FDD’s Rebeccah Heinrichs on how not to allocate defense funding in hard times:

Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee fully funded the Obama administration’s $407 million request to develop what some are sarcastically calling “Might Eventually Almost Do Something” (MEADS), a program the Department of Defense has no intention of buying. The other three defense committees--the House Armed Services, Defense Appropriations and the Senate Armed Services-- already eliminated funding for it, or shrunk its budget. On Wednesday Senator McCain addressed the full Senate, rebuking the Appropriations Committee for once again funding programs it explicitly did not authorize—like the MEADS program, whose real name is the Medium Extended Air Defense System. …

The Super Committee Congress created this month is under the gun to find $1.5 trillion in cuts in the federal budget by November 23. If the members don’t reach an agreement by the deadline, they will trigger deep cuts across the entire federal budget, half of which will come from defense. This would be in addition to the $350 billion in cuts the Pentagon is already planning. If this occurs, we’re talking about $1 trillion in defense cuts. According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, this “would have devastating effects on our national defense.” …

The Appropriations Committee’s decision to fund MEADS does not inspire confidence in the Congress’ ability to sort out waste and come to a consensus.

More here.  
 
THE PAKISTAN FRONT: The Wall Street Journal editorializes:

America’s most impossible foreign relationship just got worse. The U.S. on Thursday publicly accused Pakistan’s intelligence service of aiding the terrorist Haqqani network in northern Pakistan. This remarkable public accusation came after last week’s attack by the Haqqani clan on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. …

The U.S. cannot be seen before the world, or more especially by the American people, turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s complicity in the murder of U.S. citizens serving in Afghanistan.

The U.S. now has a range of options available, from designating the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization (as a prelude to hitting its finances); withholding $1 billion in military aid to Pakistan in the absence of antiterrorist cooperation; or hitting the Haqqanis ourselves. Pakistan’s leadership, among its myriad delusions, believes its status as a nuclear power somehow frees it to reduce its relationship with the U.S. to the same crude and cynical status as its relations with the homicidal Haqqanis.

That’s false, and the Obama Administration deserves credit for publicly putting Pakistan’s impossible-to-tolerate behavior on the table.

More here.  
 
FDD’s Tom Joscelyn also reports that Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has now made clear the role of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency

in sponsoring the Haqqani Network - including attacks on American forces in Afghanistan.

“The fact remains that the Quetta Shura [Taliban] and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity,” Mullen said in his written testimony. “Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers.”

Mullen continued: “For example, we believe the Haqqani Network--which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency--is responsible for the September 13th attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.”

“There is ample evidence confirming that the Haqqanis were behind the June 28th attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and the September 10th truck bomb attack that killed five Afghans and injured another 96 individuals, 77 of whom were US soldiers,” Mullen continued. …

Afghan officials previously released audio of intercepted conversations between the terrorists responsible for the June 28 attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel and their Haqqani handlers in Pakistan. In an intercepted phone call, Badruddin Haqqani, a top leader of the terror network, is heard directing one of the fighters and laughing during the attack that killed 11 civilians and two Afghan policemen, as well as nine members of the attack team. [See LWJ report, Haqqani Network directed Kabul assault by phone from Pakistan.]

More here.  
 
HOMEFRONT: Jurors convicted 10 pro-Palestinian protesters from the University of California Irvine Friday on charges stemming from an orchestrated series of interruptions during a February 2010 speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. They face up to six months in jail for the misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and disrupting a public meeting.
 
More here.  
 
--Cliff May