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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Jules Crittenden

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Jules Crittenden

Last Build Date: Wed, 06 Sep 2006 23:59:49 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

March Into Fall: Our Weakness is Iran's Strength

Wed, 06 Sep 2006 23:59:49 -0600

What a marvelous position Iran has found itself in, to be able to openly call for destroying western nations, to demand their submission, to ignore the leading world body's demands on the nuclear issue, and to be rewarded with entreaties to accept greater gifts.

Does anyone imagine bribing Iran will end its nuclear ambitions?

The United Nations and some European powers -- when not actively pursuing short-term mercenary self-interest -- tend to focus on maintainance of status quo, failing to recognize that is never an option. Therefore, it must be made clear to them that there is no short-term benefit to be had, no acceptable status quo to be maintained.

The United States, President Bush and America's key allies must demonstrate clearly in coming weeks the threat that Iran poses throughout the region, in Lebanon, in Iraq, and more broadly, as a terrorist-supporting nation eager to acquire nuclear weapons.

On the nuclear front, the president and his allies must make it very clear that Iran faces severe consequences, to include a credible threat of military action -- a prospect that generally spurs Europe into action, for better or for worse -- and he must make it clear to European powers that they also will face consequences in their relations with the United States if they weaken.

In Lebanon, our Italian allies have done a remarkable job of shaming the French back into line on a French-sponsored peace plan. Ehud Olmert, criticized heavily at home and abroad for accepting that plan, is insisting that Iranian proxy Hezbollah hold up its end. Again, pressure must be placed on Europe, the United Nations and Iran directly, to ensure that the newly bolstered U.N. force in southern Lebanon does not remain a farce, and to force Hezbollah out of its position of dominance in Lebanon.

In Iraq, hardline Sunni leaders finally alarmed by what they have wrought are becoming interested in talking peace, and al-Qaeda is suffering heavy losses among its leadership and its ranks. Iran's puppets there, the Shia militias, are a growing threat that must be brought into line, as violently and mercilessly as necessary. Again, pressure must be brought to convince Teheran of the error of its ways. Iraq's democratic forces, growing stronger every day, must be given every opportunity to prevail if we want our efforts there to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

(A political footnote: President Bush will find, as he clearly defines the threats we face and takes demonstrable action to confront them, that his concerns about Congress in the November elections will begin to evaporate. In the midst of a long war, more than anything, the American people want decisive leadership, a view of the path ahead and forward movement on that path.)

A trumped up but wiley buffoon, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmainejad, has been allowed to call the shots throughout the Middle East. He is bending Europe and the United Nations to his will in Lebanon and the nuclear dispute, while acting with impunity to influence events in Iraq. Iran's role as the common denominator in each of these conflict zones cannot be ignored, and Iran cannot be allowed to derive strength from the weakness of those so loosely allied against it. As we march into fall, Iran's bluff must be called.

The Lebanon-Iraq Nexus

Wed, 02 Aug 2006 06:49:37 -0600

He warned that "if an immediate ceasefire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region."

Al-Sistani, who has played a role in preventing the escalation of violence in Iraq in the past, is a voice to listen to. However, he and others who call for a ceasefire in Lebanon and decry the U.S. role in supporting Israel ignore some demonstrated realities.

Let us set aside his misplaced declaration of responsibility when he says "Israel's aggression" and move on to "dire consequences."

Beyond the periodic, highly orchaestrated flag-and-effigy-burning demonstrations and limited covert support, the Muslim street and Muslim nations have shown little interest in rising up in support of occupied Iraqis. The Arab street doesn't give a damn about the Palestinians, nor has it much demonstrable interest in the plight of Lebanese Arabs, beyond half-hearted words and passive support anyone who cares to go die there. The Palestinians have been a convenient stick to beat the West with, amid all the domestic frustrations of the Arab world and the perceived injuries it suffers at the hands of the West. The Arab street and Muslim nations ultimately know who will win, and while the Arab street may cheer on a loser, the Arab street and Muslim nations, with a couple of notable exceptions, will not commit more than lip service in that loser's support.

American support for Israel did not stop cheering Iraqis from greeting them as liberators in April 2003. American support for Israel did not stop millions of Iraqis from risking death repeatedly to vote in American-sponsored elections. American support for Israel as a root cause of al-Qaeda's terrorism has always be a false dodge, an excuse. American support for Israel has not been a hindrance in its relations with the more rational governments of the Middle East since the oil embargoes of the 1970s. Since then, the momentum of Arab international relations has been toward accommodation with Israel. Arab nations in fact had no objection to Israel's operations against Hezbollah, and it is only the embarrassment of civilian deaths caused by Hezbollah's use of human shields that is now making those governments uncomfortable.

But a ceasefire in Lebanon, if enough pressure is brought to bear on Israel, is a grave threat to efforts to solidify democracy and bring stability to Iraq. A ceasefire in Lebanon, short of the destruction of Hezbollah, is a Hezbollah victory, which is a victory for its patron, the would-be Islamic superpower Iran. Iran is already meddling in Iraq, with its support for Shiite militias and an interest in establishing a Shiite-dominated Islamic state there.

A ceasefire in Lebanon will represent a defeat for Israel and the United States, with dire consequences throughout the region. Expect an emboldened Iran to step up its efforts in Iraq and dig in its heels in the ongoing nuclear dispute. Expect a gleefuly emboldened Iran to see what else it can get away with. Expect more American soldiers and Iraqi civilians to die in Iraq.

Al-Sistani is right when he says the war in Lebanon poses a threat to the region, and more particularlhy to efforts to bring stability to Iraq. But it is the defeat in Lebanon of Hezbollah and its patron Iran, not their appeasement, that will help stabilize the region.

The Israeli Army as Peace Broker

Tue, 18 Jul 2006 00:36:39 -0600

"The extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict. The extremists must immediately halt their attacks." They called on Israel to show "utmost restraint." The French, not surprisingly, agreed to this statement with their fingers crossed. French Pres. Jacques Chirac announced the statement was a call for an Israeli ceasefire. Chirac several days earlier was denouncing Israel for responding disproportionately ... a patently absurd statement from a nation that responded to Greenpeace's threat of protest some years ago by sinking the Rainbow Warrior. U.S. State Department Undersecretary Nicholas Burns countered, "There was no push by any country for a ceasefire." It's just another example of France being sorely out of touch with the forward movement of history. That is evidenced by the support for Israel's response to Hezbollah voiced by the Arab world, something even more surprising that the G-8 statement. Saudi Arabia called Hezbollah's attack on Israel, "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts," a position the Associated Press reports is shared by Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The Arab world has signalled that it is ready for an accommodation with Israel, that it is tired of Palestinian terrorism, or perhaps more to the point, it is tired of the Palestinian cause being hijacked by violent extremists for their own ends. Particularly by Iran, which Israel accuses of supplying the sophisticated missiles and military expertise Hezbollah has been using against Israeli cities and an Israeli warship. Largely Sunni Muslim Arab nations are alarmed by non-Arab, Shiite Iran's increasingly aggressive efforts to dominate the Middle East. The Palestinian cause is no longer an acceptable fig leaf for power grabs and indiscriminate violence as it has been used by Iran, Syria, Palestinian extremists, and not least al-Qaeda. When an Israeli military response is proclaimed as justified and gets results, we are experiencing something else quite remarkable. The Israeli Defense Forces as a Mideast peace broker. Iran, the puppeteer calling the shots in Lebanon, seems to be getting the message. Iran issued a remarkable statement of its own yesterday. Under pressure to end its nuclear weapons program, Iran had been openly and derisively defiant to Europe, the United States and the United Nations, and had said it will get around to answering an offer of incentives in its own good time ... maybe sometime in August. Yesterday, Iran executed a sudden about-face, announcing mildly that the incentives package is an "acceptable basis for talks." In no way should this be seen as Iranian capitulation on that issue. Instead, it should be viewed in exactly the same light as Adolf Hitler's 1938 agreement in Munich to stop invading his neighbors. Not worth the breath on which it was uttered, a stalling manuever. Teheran may realize it has overplayed its hand in Lebanon and on the nuclear stage, and wants to avoid providing Israel, or the United States, an excuse for immediate and devastating military action against Iran. What we are seeing may be Iran scurrying for cover now that the lights have been turned on. The Israeli ground offensive to eliminate Hezbollah is now underway, as Israeli troops crossed the border after several days of softening up Hezbollah positions and cutting off its escape routes. Yesterday, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that the Iranian foreign minister had arrived in Syria for talks on the crisis. Iran may well now be positioning itself to act -- with a straight face and no little irony -- as a peacemaker. Don't be fooled into thinking for a moment that Iran is reconsidering its desire to become a nuclear-armed Islamic superpower. But as the world begins to signal it is no longer willing to look the other way, one of the brightest moments in recent Middle East history is[...]

Dawn Over Tokyo

Wed, 12 Jul 2006 08:31:09 -0600

Japan was content to allow the United States to handle its defense for six decades, while Japan prospered and assumed the appearance of a leading nation in the world. Japan was in fact a nation-sized factory and merchandizing operation. With the exception of some aid programs, Japan's primary contribution to world stability has been to act as a convenient naval port and airfield for American forces off the coasts of North Korea and China.

That has been shifting slightly. There has been talk for the last couple of decades of Japan assuming more responsibility for its own defense and Japan has shown increasing interest in the plight of poorer nations. Then, to howls of domestic protest, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took the audacious step in 2003 of dispatching military engineers -- strictly non-combatant and defended in no subtle irony by Australian troops -- to give the people of Iraq clean water.

But North Korean despot Kim Jong Il has at longlast provided the impetus for what could be a sea change in modern Japan's role in the world. In 1998, North Korea fired a missile through Japanese airspace. Last week, the Taepodong II -- purportedly an intercontinental ballistic missile -- was test-fired and crashed into the Sea of Japan, along with half a dozen Scuds. These incidents followed several decades of the unimagineable national insult and injury of North Korean agents abducting Japanese youths from Japanese beaches, to be used in spy programs against Japan.

The July 4th launches were seen as a message to the United States, another effort to boost Kim Jong Il's international prestige and angle for attention and aid. But the chances that North Korea will credibly threaten the United States in the foreseeable future are remote. Japan is demonstrably already in range, and Japan's government is in no mood to play games with Kim.

Japanese officials said Monday they believe negotiations may not be the answer to the Korean problem. Dawn over Tokyo.

"If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack ... there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.

"It's irresponsible to do nothing when we know North Korea could riddle us with missiles," said Tsutomu Takebe, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. To legally allow such an attack, he said, "We should consider measures, including legal changes."

Japan's military currently remains on a defensive footing, and would at best be strained by the execution of such a plan. A Japanese ramp-up to offensive capability probably could be achieved in relatively short order, once legal issues are resolved. Japan may then also have to tackle the issue of whether to go nuclear, as an added defensive measure in a bad neighborhood that includes two aggressive nuclear players -- China and North Korea. These are not only reasonable steps for a mature democracy to consider in that kind of environment, they are vital to stabilizing a region where the United States has not only had to provide security but is regularly blamed for creating tensions it is there to defend against.

As Japan mulls its right to projecting military power in its own self-defense, expect an uproar from homegrown peace advocates who believe that pacifism is the highest international virtue, and fail to recognize that mature, responsible democracies must be prepared to act aggressively in defense of themselves and others.