Friday, September 26, 2014

GOP Take-over of Senate?

The latest RealClearPolitics average of polls on Senate races has the Republicans picking up a net of 7 seats beyond their current base of 46. That would mean Republicans would have a 53-47 majority. Some of the races are polling very close, but Republicans in polling are already up one seat to 47. Georgia, Arkansas, and Alaska--all red states--seem trending Republican, which would yield a 50-50 split.

To push over into a majority, Republicans only have to hold Kansas, where Sen. Pat Roberts is in deep trouble.  But efforts to paint Independent Greg Orman for what he is--a closet Democrat--are just getting underway in this thoroughly Republican state. Or Republicans can pick up a seat in either Iowa or Colorado, where the GOP candidates currently hold paper-thin leads. All three going Republican means 53-47.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Iran’s Khamenei is no Mao

It takes two to tango. Iran has rejected for now any partnership with the U.S. to fight (what we now call) Islamic State. In an article that details U.S. backtracking in the face of a major loss of face (Iran doesn’t want us!), Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a very public and seemingly definitive rejection of private U.S. overtures to the militant Shiite state.

According to an LA Times report, Khamenei said that when the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad requested a meeting with his Iranian counterpart to discuss “coordination” between the two nations to confront the Islamic State threat,
I opposed [the U.S. request] and told them we will not cooperate with the Americans on the issue because their intent and hands are not clean. How is it possible for us to cooperate with the Americans under such circumstances?
Khamenei added that Iran also rebuffed a request from Secretary of State John Kerry for “cooperation” conveyed “personally” from Kerry to the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Supreme Leader proclaimed that:
Iran has voiced its opposition to being a party to that coalition from the very beginning. The Americans’ coalition is nonsense.
Comment: The article verifies speculation the U.S. tried more than once to reach Iran. The atmosphere today, please understand, is different from that which Henry Kissinger exploited with his 1971 opening to China. In Kissinger’s time, China already had the bomb, both the U.S. and China could see that the U.S.S.R. was benefiting from having relations with both the U.S. and China at our mutual expense, and Russians had killed Chinese in 1969 clashes along the Soviet-Chinese border. Both sides looked for improved relations with each other at Moscow’s expense.

Iran feels no similar pressure to advance relations with Israel’s major supporter and the main force blocking Iran’s possession of the bomb. Still, Khamenei’s use of the phrase, “under such circumstances” seems to tell the U.S. that if it gives Iran a path to the bomb, things could change. Iranians know that improved relations with the U.S. would in and of itself undermine U.S.-Israeli ties, as suggested in our previous post.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Note to Obama: All "Islamists" are Against Us

Dennis Ross
In an important New York Times column titled, “Islamists Are Not Our Friends,” Dennis Ross, former Middle East advisor to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, argues that the powers we identify as “Islamic extremists” should simply be called “Islamists.” Sunni or Shia, Islamists believe in the Umma, the larger Muslim community that should cross and obliterate state lines. Their opponents are non-Islamists, and, Ross says, we must back the opposition.

Ross, I believe, is surfacing a battle going on behind the scenes in Washington pitting defenders of Israel against those closest to Obama, especially Valerie Jarrett and including foreign policy guru Les Gelb, Peter Beinart and others, who want Iran’s help in defeating the terrorist “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). Jarrett, Gelb, and company don’t mind that partnering with Iran alarms Israel.

Ross is careful to hide Israel’s importance to this inside-the-Beltway struggle, mentioning Israel only once in passing. Ross doesn’t want to come across as just another pro-Israel American Middle East expert (Ross is Jewish). Also, the non-Islamist states Ross defends, nations to which Israel now looks for common cause, need protection from Islamists all too ready to brand Arabs willing to side with Israel as lackeys of the Jewish state.

Here are Ross’ major points:
  • non-Islamists want to know that the United States supports them. For America, that means not partnering with Iran against ISIS [emphasis added]. . . It means recognizing that Egypt is an essential part of the anti-Islamist coalition.
  • America should also coordinate with Egypt and the U.A.E.[, which] will make their military operations more effective, as well as provide America with greater ability to influence their actions. 
  • [While t]he Obama administration worries about the consequences of excluding all Islamists [and] appearing to give a blank check to authoritarian regimes. . . likely to prove unstable over time. . . America’s traditional partners are ready to act without us, convinced that the administration does not see all Islamists as a threat — and that America sees its interests as different from theirs. That is a problem. 
  • do not reach out to Islamists; their creed is not compatible with pluralism or democracy.  
Comment: Ross has given us a clear look at the real battle going on within Washington’s foreign policy establishment. It’s the battle we have been talking about over the past month.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It’s 9.11, it’s Obama’s war, with “help” (Iran) on the way.

Persian Army Attacking Alexander's Forces, 333 B.C.
In his 9.11-eve primetime address to the nation, Barack Obama took America into Syria, and back into Iraq. Our recent blog entries have focused on Obama’s emerging effort to build a coalition against the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS). Now the effort is out in the open. And look who’s standing in the wings, as predicted here earlier. Iran!

According to the BBC:
Iran's Supreme Leader has approved co-operation with the US as part of the fight against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, sources have told BBC Persian. Ayatollah Khamenei has authorised his top commander to co-ordinate military operations with the US, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, sources in Tehran say. . . CNN's Christiane Amanpour. . . tweeted that Iraqi President Fuad Masum had told her as much on Thursday. . . However, Iran's foreign ministry . . . spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham told Iran's Press TV the report was not correct.
A “BBC Persian” analysis added:
Iran's change of heart will no doubt be welcomed in Washington and London, where a joint strategy is taking shape towards creating a broad alliance of international and regional players to deal with the IS threat.
One of the things we learn in life is not to let the immediate crowd out the important. The ISIS threat is “the immediate”. The Iran threat is “the important”.

Obama is lining up the traditional Sunni authoritarians--Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates--against the radical Sunni threat ISIS. In the next wave, he is after Shia already pre-disposed to go after Sunni, including Iran, Iraq's Shia, and Hezbollah, as well as Iran Sunni allies Turkey, Qatar, and Hamas.

Are we really partnering with Iran? And what about Syria’s Basher Assad? So far, we say Assad remains an enemy.

Iran coming aboard our ship is the important threat.  Here from former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, in the Wall Street Journal:
You want to think [Obama] is playing a cool. . . watching new alliances form—wasn't that the Kurds the other day fighting alongside the Iranians? Obama's supporters frankly hope that there's a method to the madness, that he is quietly, behind the scenes and with great subtlety pulling together a coalition that will move. But this is more hope than knowledge. [emphasis added]
We will see at the UN September 24, when Obama chairs the Security Council, who shows up and exactly how importantly Iran treats the event.

Of course, ISIS is a real enemy. But so is Iran, a nation whose supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calls Israel “the wolfish and child killer regime,” the only solution for which “is its destruction.” The “final solution”? From our “partner” Iran?

Do our leaders see clearly the threat we face? Not if you listen to Hillary Clinton, in her review of Henry Kissinger’s book on World Order:
International problems and solutions are increasingly centered, in ways both good and bad, on nongovernmental organizations, businesses and individual citizens. As a result, foreign policy is now as much about people as it is about states. Kissinger rightly notes that these shifts require a broader and deeper order than sufficed in the past.
Clinton and Kissinger are right that world power has moved beyond the nation state leaders both so readily access. But Clinton’s list completely overlooks religion and the power it holds, Islamic extremism in particular, whether Sunni or Shia.

A colossal oversight and a dangerous one.