Sunday, September 27, 2009

Avoiding the Unthinkable: Missile Defense is Israel's "Secret" Weapon Against Iran's Nuclear Weapons

By Barry Rubin*

Remember the name Uzi Rubin because he might emerge as the most important individual in the issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons drive. Rubin is the former head of Israel’s missile defense program and now a defense consultant. He has developed the best alternative (or supplement) to blocking the dangers of a radical Islamist, genocidal-oriented, terrorist supporting, antisemitic regime having nuclear-tipped missiles pointed at Israel.

Briefly, Rubin and his colleagues have been developing a multi-layered defense system consisting of long-range Arrow missiles (developed in cooperation with the United States), medium-range David’s Sling interceptor missiles, and the short-range Iron Dome system aimed against the kind of rockets being fired by Hizballah and Hamas. By the time Iran gets nuclear weapons, and in some cases well before, these systems will all be operational.

None of these systems are perfect. For example, Iron Dome will not protect small areas of Israel closest to the Gaza border but will shield more populated places deeper inside Israel.

For those actually facing attack by rockets or missiles, what is most important is that the number of incoming warheads—and hence both casualties and damage--be reduced to the minimum possible number.

This would undermine the strategy used by Hizballah against Israel in 2006 and Hamas from the Gaza Strip more recently of mass rocket attacks as a means of sowing terror among civilians, disrupting life in Israel, and gaining strategic leverage. In addition, if Israel ever does attack Iran’s nuclear installation, these systems will reduce the effectiveness of retaliation by Iran’s client groups.

In addition, missile defense is part of a triad of ways to counter Iran, along with diplomatic efforts plus sanctions (sadly lagging) and a direct attack on Iran’s facilities. Since even an effective attack would only slow down and not completely stop Tehran’s efforts, missile defense may emerge as the most important of these three factors.

Obviously, of course, there is a problem with nuclear threats that doesn’t exist with rockets: even if one or two get through the results would be catastrophic. Uzi Rubin has a detailed answer that goes something like this:

For Iran to attack Israel with nuclear missiles, any even marginally rational commanders know they need to knock out Israel’s air force bases lest an Israeli second strike devastate Iran. To feel at all secure, Iran needs to launch a minimum of three missiles simultaneously against each airfield. Missile defenses, however, keep pushing up that number to the point where an Israeli second strike becomes unavoidable. Thus, any attack on Israel is clearly suicidal. This makes such an attack less likely.

But, you can say, it is a mistake to regard the Iranian regime as purely rational. This is far truer of the regime today than it was a year ago. And even then it is far truer of elements in the regime, including those who will have actual possession of the nuclear weapons.

How often do you see the point made in the Western media that the missiles and atomic bombs will be controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the part of the regime closest to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the institution that is gaining growing power over Iran, and the one with the closest ties to terrorists abroad?

True as this is, missile defense becomes all the more important by providing protection against an “irrational” attack. Combined with direct air strikes on Iranian launchers, this becomes an impressive defensive system. The maximum possible deterrent gives the maximum possible protection and the greatest possible discouragement for Iran from starting a war.

Remember, too, that the number of atomic bombs Iran can build is going to be relatively limited in number, while the number which can be launched simultaneously (especially very fast) is even fewer.

Finally, there is more than one way to "use" nuclear weapons which involves flourishing rather than firing them. Much of the Iranian regime bluster about attacking Israel is designed to give Tehran greater leverage in the region. Israel can defend itself; Iran's Arab neighbors cannot and must depend on the United States--not the greatest assurance nowadays--to counter Iran's influence and power. Given their weakness and vulnerability to internal subversion, Arabic-speaking states are more likely to be the main target where Tehran regime's threats can achieve results.

In short, missile defense in combination with other efforts cannot necessarily provide perfect defense but it can provide the best possible defense. It is far more likely to be effective than the sadly weak diplomatic-sanction defense offered by divided and timid Western countries. Indeed, it might not be long before some of these are buying Israeli made systems, which the U.S. military is reportedly already planning to deploy.

*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova (About Rosh Hashanah)

Reprinted from the Congregation For Humanistic Judaism

You should be written and inscribed speedily for a life of peaceful

goodness in the book of absolute tzadikim, righteous ones.

ROSH Hashanah literally means "head of the year", which we translate today as "New Year." But the words "Rosh HaShannah" are not mentioned in the Torah nor did the day mark the year’s beginning in biblical times. How then did it come to pass that Rosh Hashanah became such an important day?

At the time of Solomon’s Temple (900 BCE), Judaism was a priestly religion. The three major festivals were Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. All were agricultural in nature and used supplications to a benevolent Yahweh to assure rain and bountiful harvests. The first month, which would later be called Nissan, was in the Spring. It was the time for planting, the celebration of Passover, and the Spring equinox. An ideal time to begin the new year.

When the Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled to Babylon (586 BCE), new forms of Judaism were developed. Without a priesthood, ritual observances became the duty of the individual. Sages and scribes, who someday would be called rabbis, collected and wrote down the ancient stories and codified what would become the Torah. Some scholars believe that a sentence was added in Leviticus: 23v24, which says: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, there shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation." In practice the holiday was elevated to New Year to conform to the secular celebrations of the Jews' Babylonian neighbors, who had such a pagan celebration in the Fall.

After the Persian Liberation, Jews returned to their homeland and the second Temple was built. Once more, Judaism became a priestly religion. It was the practice of the Jewish shepherds and farmers who lived outside of the city to come to Jerusalem to observe the "Great Day" (Yom Kippur) and to combine the two events into a ten-day holiday. After the destruction of the 2nd Temple (70 CE) Jews were scattered to the four corners of the world. At that time, Rabbi’s came to the fore, the Scriptures were revised to reflect their thinking and synagogues were build as meeting places. The "Days of Awe" became the most religious observance of the Jews of the Diaspora and Rosh Hashanah was born.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hamas Seeks New Doctrine after Gaza War Failures

Hamas has undertaken a major process of examination and investigation into its deeply flawed performance in the course of Operation Cast Lead, sources say. The review process is aimed at developing a new doctrine for Hamas to enable it to achieve its ambition of rivaling Hizbullah in its abilities. It remains to be seen if the reforms will deliver an improved result in renewed future hostilities with Israel or whether, as with Operation Cast Lead, Israel will once again display an ability to frustrate and set Hamas back on the tactical level.

Hamas carried out the first review of its performance immediately following the conclusion of hostilities. This was followed by a second major investigation in the spring, amid harsh criticism of the group's performance from its Iranian and Syrian sponsors. Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades leader Ahmed al-Ja'abari, and northern brigade commander Ahmed al-Ghandour were particularly singled out for criticism.

The cull of senior Hamas operatives in the course of Operation Cast Lead was heavy. Politburo members Nizar Rayyan and Said Siyam were killed. Senior commanders of the Executive Force, like Salah Abu Shareh (who headed the EF's security apparatus) and Mahmoud Watfah (head of its military wing), also lost their lives. Around 50 explosives experts are reported to have died. Operatives at this level are not easily replaced. But more fundamentally, the defensive doctrines developed by Hamas prior to Cast Lead comprehensively failed the test.

All of its strategically important attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers in the course of the fighting were unsuccessful (at least three close calls were reported). Its failure to score any success against the IDF's heavy armor was particularly noted. This was in stark contrast to the Second Lebanon War in 2006, in which Hizbullah's relative success in damaging a large number of tanks formed an important part of its claim of "divine victory."

The Hamas investigation, according to sources, was particularly focused on probing the failure to repel the IDF's push into Tel al-Hawa - Israel's deepest incursion into Gaza City. The investigation discovered widespread desertion by members of the Kassam Brigades in the face of the IDF advance. It found that many fighters, who had received instructions to withdraw if they feared being overrun, took a liberal interpretation of this, disappearing well in advance of the IDF's arrival. A Gaza rumor has it that 100 gunmen from the Zeitoun area were stripped of their membership in the organization following Cast Lead.

The extent of the Hamas failure can be summed up if one considers the official figures given by the organization on the ordnance fired in the course of Operation Cast Lead. According to Kassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeideh, Hamas fired 558 rockets, of which 345 were Kassams and 213 were Grads, and 422 mortar shells; 53 sniper attacks were carried out and 79 bombs were detonated. Nineteen pitched battles with IDF forces took place.

The result was the death of six IDF soldiers. If one compares this with the statistics of Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 - in which 23 IDF soldiers were killed in a single battle in the Jenin refugee camp - the extent of the failure becomes apparent.

Hamas managed throughout the course of the Gaza war to maintain constant rocket fire on Israel. This was a significant symbolic achievement, but not a great deal more. It constitutes the sole military success of any kind for which Hamas is able to take credit.

Clearly, something went awry for the rulers of Gaza in the fighting. Their patrons in Teheran and Damascus were angry and concerned. The image of success, of having finally found a way to deny the IDF victory and cause Israel setbacks, is an important element in the psychological warfare of the Iran-led regional bloc. This image has taken a series of blows so far this year. The Gaza events rank high among them.

Hamas has therefore engaged in extensive internal discussions intended to lead to the formulation of a new doctrine. According to sources, two distinct orientations emerged from this, corresponding broadly with the growing political divide in Hamas between the veteran leadership of the movement and elements committed to a more extreme al-Qaida style approach. The latter favored the acceptance of a much higher casualty rate of Hamas fighters, through the resumption of direct attacks on Israeli forces, and the reinstatement of attacks on Israel and in the West Bank. This adventurous and probably suicidal approach, however, has not been accepted.

Rather Hamas has adopted a more modest series of reforms. These center on overhauling the movement's tactical doctrine, adopting a new and intensified, externally-supported training program for Kassam Brigades fighters, increased smuggling and upgrading of arms, the building of a new, underground tunnel structure and an attempt to tighten internal security.

Regarding the first issue, Hamas over the summer has been carrying out intensified military training at its various training camps and military academy in the Nuseirat refugee camp. The academy, ironically, is named after the Palestinian ideological godfather of al-Qaida, Dr. Abdallah Azzam. In contrast to the pre-2009 period, when Hamas took great pride in parading its military capabilities, the nature of this training has not been publicized.

The new approach is thought to be more offensive, and is intended to hit at the rear bases of an incoming IDF force. Hizbullah is thought to be deeply involved in the new training program. (This is not a new development. Elements who had trained with Hizbullah in the Bekaa Valley were also involved in the fighting earlier this year.)

On the issue of smuggling, Egyptian efforts at cracking down on weapons smuggling into Rafah have increased in recent months. In addition, as reported in the media, there have been the attacks on arms convoys in Sudan which were on their way to Gaza, and the revelation of a Hizbullah-led arms smuggling network in the spring; 49 operatives, led by Hizbullah member Sami Shihab (Muhammad Yousef Mansour) are now on trial in Egypt for organizing this network.

The Egyptians, however, are making no efforts to curb commercial smuggling into Gaza, which now forms a major source of income for the Hamas regime. As a result, Hamas is mixing the bringing in of arms with the import of commercial goods. Part of the levy placed on commercial owners of tunnels is thought to include requiring them at short notice to be ready to bring in arms for Hamas. Extensive redigging of tunnels destroyed in the bombing of the Philadelphi corridor began already in January.

In addition to the extensive tunnel network, seaborne smuggling is also continuing. Hamas claims as a result of these efforts to now have a more extensive array of weaponry than before the war.

Hamas lost a very large amount of weaponry in the course of Operation Cast Lead. Key storage facilities under mosques and public buildings were discovered. The movement blames the presence of Fatah "informers" for its failures in this regard. Hamas believes that Fatah members at street level provided real-time information to IDF forces. The movement settled accounts with a series of executions of Fatah men after Cast Lead. Improving internal security is now a major task facing the rulers of Gaza.

The picture of Hamas in Gaza that emerges in the post-Cast Lead period is a complex one. On the one hand, its rule survived the operation intact. No concerted Israeli effort to bring Hamas down was undertaken, and Hamas swiftly reasserted its authority after emerging from the rubble, despite the heavy blows it had taken.

On the other hand, the many failures in the movement's performance have tarnished its reputation and accentuated internal divisions. The most important of these splits is between the movement's traditional leadership which wants to continue its current path, and the growing number of Salafi militants concentrated in the Kassam Brigades, who would like to see greater Islamic observance in society and a return to a collision course with Israel.

Operation Cast Lead represented a significant tactical defeat for Hamas and hence, an important though far from decisive setback for the regional alliance which it is part of. The movement has picked up the pieces and engaged in a rethink of the methods that failed it. Of course, Israel too will have sought to learn its lessons from the experience of the Gaza War. As to who drew the better conclusions - this will be answered only in the next round of fighting between these two seemingly irreconcilable foes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guide To A Big Mistake: U.S. Decision to Talk with Iran

By Barry Rubin*

September 13, 2009

Forgive me for a bit of repetition but what has just happened is so important that it deserves the closest attention and clearest analysis. A more comprehensive explanation is here. This article presents these themes in a brief, straightforward manner.

1. President Barack Obama produced the theme of U.S. engagement with Iran and proposed a world free of all nuclear weapons as a goal.

2. The United States had tried to engage with Iran but that country refused. Nominally this can be attributed to being busy with stealing an election and repressing the opposition but it would have happened any way.

3. Iran is now governed by its most radical government since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini twenty years ago. Extremist and adventurist, anti-American and antisemitic, this is a government bent on getting nuclear weapons (at least as leverage, not necessarily to use), destroying U.S. influence in the region, and wiping Israel off the map.

4. Seeing that engagement wasn’t working, the U.S. government made a plan to bring together key countries and raise the level of sanctions in late September, just two weeks from the time the Iranian letter was received. The key G20 meeting was set for September 24-25.

5. Seeking to stall such measures in order to consolidate the regime, which is relatively weak given domestic opposition, the Tehran regime at the last minute sent an insulting note to the United States trying to change the subject. Rather than focus on the nuclear weapons’ drive, they called for changing the UN to empower non-Western states (an old regime theme) and rid the world of all nuclear weapons. In other words: Iran will be the champion of the Third World in getting rid of great power vetoes at the UN and keep on developing nuclear weapons until the United States gets rid of all those it has.

Remarkably, Obama accepted the Iranian offer.

7. Since the U.S. proposal was for unconditional negotiations this means that it cannot ask Iran to do anything—reduce sponsorship of terrorism, decrease internal repression, slow its nuclear program—as long as the talks are going on.

8. Apparently, the United States is not going to pursue the plan for increasing sanctions while the talks go on.

9. The U.S. government is also not setting a deadline for progress. Talks are scheduled to begin October 1.

10. This means: By sending a five-page insulting letter the Iranian government has derailed the sanctions’ project and will gain in prestige without any cost.

11. In addition, the Iranian regime suffers no cost for stealing the election, repressing the opposition, and appointing a wanted terrorist as defense minister. One might expect international outrage and isolation of Iran on those points alone. Here, too, the regime has won a total victory.

12. The cover story is: The U.S. government offered to engage so it must keep its word. Supposedly, various factors will be impressed by this effort and be more willing to support sanctions after talks fail.

13. Yet it is never explained who these parties are? France, Germany, Britain, and other European states are ready to support sanctions increases now. Russia and China oppose raising sanctions now and will continue to do so. Even American domestic opinion doesn’t need this: if Obama, who is wildly popular on the left and seems to own much of the media, wants to raise sanctions what significant forces would oppose it?

14. In short, engagement has no positive function in terms of gathering support for sanctions.

Even the New York Times questions this decision, albeit only indirectly:

"Unfortunately, there is no sign that Iran is serious about doing much more than buying more time....In the seven years since its covert nuclear fuel program was revealed, Iran has managed to split the world powers and deflect any real punishment by promising to talk. It continues to defy a United Nations Security Council order to stop producing nuclear fuel and has largely shrugged off three sets of watered-down sanctions that either failed to target Iran’s economic vulnerabilities or were listlessly enforced — especially by Russia and China."

15. What is really going on?

--The Administration simply wants an excuse for doing nothing.

--It really believes talks with Iran might lead somewhere, though some high officials, notably Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, say they won’t work.

--Seeing that the sanctions effort cannot get unanimous support, it does not want a messy fight with Russia and China or the appearance of failure.

--It is possible the U.S. policy will be to hold talks with Iran for a few weeks and then return to the sanctions' route. If that happens, the decision to talk will be less damaging but will certainly do no good.

16. The policy can also be defended by saying that talking doesn’t hurt.

17. But of course it does. Not only has Iran reversed the direction of events, sabotaged the sanctions, and escape any censure over the regime’s policies, it gains time to build nuclear weapons. Presumably, talks will eat up at least six months after which additional time would be needed to increase sanctions. By then, too, the Chinese project to double Iran’s capability to produce its own refined oil products—one of the main things sanctions would deny the country—will be completed.

18. If the United States had turned down the Iranian offer, the West Europeans would have done so also.

19. It is impossible to see how this decision does the United States any good and it does America, Europe, and the Middle East a great deal of harm.

20. Will the Obama Administration itself derive political benefits at home? Short-term, perhaps but not significant. But what about when crises take place or its policies are perceived as failures as Iran not only gets nuclear weapons but uses them to extend its influence; intimidate Western and regional opponents; and subvert neighbors?

Conclusion: This is the most important foreign policy decision made so far by the Obama Administration. It is a very bad one. Even in the context of its overall policy, it would have done far better to continue with the raised sanctions.

--By letting its own strategy be derailed it looks ineffective.

--By accepting an insulting proposal obviously meant to change the agenda it will be perceived as being humiliated.

--By ignoring the recent behavior of the Iranian regime it will invite more of the same.

--By letting Russia and China veto a U.S. policy it seems to have abandoned American leadership in the world, or at least of the West.

--By allowing the Iranian regime to stall for time it has apparently moved a long way toward acceding to Iran’s having nuclear weapons, and not just the weapons but weapons in the hands of the country’s most extreme faction.

A big price will be paid in future for this mistake.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

U.S Government Jumps Voluntarily into Iran's Trap, Pulls in Europeans, Too

U.S Government Jumps Voluntarily into Iran's Trap, Pulls in Europeans, Too

By Barry Rubin*

September 13, 2009

The great French diplomatist Talleyrand put it best: "That's worse than a crime, it's a mistake."

By accepting the Iranian proposal for negotiations, the Obama Administration has just made the most important foreign policy decision of its term so far. And it is a very bad mistake, a very bad one indeed.

True, the idea of engagement was a U.S. idea. The Iranian regime ignored it for months. And then at the very last moment, the Tehran government sent a five-page letter calling for talks. The letter didn’t even mention the nuclear program as a topic. Shouldn’t that be enough to reject it as insufficient?

Everyone should understand the timing of this letter. On one hand, it came after the most extreme government in two decades took over that country; after a stolen election; after the repression of peaceful demonstrations; after the show trials of reform-minded oppositionists, and after the appointment of a wanted terrorist as minister of defense.

Never have prospects for negotiations resolving U.S.-Iran differences, including the nuclear program, seemed poorer.

At the same time, the United States was finally on the verge of raising sanctions against Iran. True, the increase was insufficient and neither Russia nor China was on board. Yet this was going to be a major step.

Never have prospects for the Obama Administration making some real effort to confront Iran and press for ending the nuclear program seemed better.

Now this whole U.S. strategy has been swept away by no one other than the U.S. government itself.

Few people in the U.S. government think that the talks will lead anywhere. They will eat up months and months, as the Tehran regime consolidates control and surges forward in its nuclear program. The timing of sanctions will presumably be put off until “after” the talks are finished, meaning the Iranian regime will be able to string along America for as long as it wants.

Not to mention the fact that this is a repressive, extremist, anti-American, antisemitic, terrorist-sponsoring government which is going to remain so in every respect no matter how many sessions are held with U.S. delegates.

But it gets worse. After all, what does the Iranian offer, entitled “Cooperation, Peace and Justice,” say? Well, it calls for a reform of the UN to abolish the veto powers, a Middle East peace settlement without Israel’s existence, and universal nuclear disarmament, the last being another idea with which Obama saddled U.S. policy.

It isn’t hard to imagine what will be said in the talks: When the United States gives up all its nuclear arms than Iran will do so also. But if America has such weapons, Iran is perfectly entitled to them also. Tehran will play to the “non-aligned,” Third World, Muslim-majority states in the bleachers. U.S. policy is letting Iran play the role of Third World leader and champion against the hegemonist West.

The mind reels.

And since, still another Obama idea taken up by the Iranians, the talks are unconditional, Iran will just go on sponsoring terrorism (including attacks on U.S. military personnel in Iraq and some evidence indicates Afghanistan), sabotaging any hope of regional peace, and Lebanon’s independence.

In its inimitable way, the New York Times explains:

“The decision is bound to raise protests from conservatives who contend that unconditional talks are naïve, and from human rights groups that say the United States should not legitimize an Iranian government that appears to have manipulated its presidential election in June and crushed protests after the vote.”

So only evil conservatives or well-intentioned but naive human rights' activists will be against this? How about protests from liberals, centrists, and experts, people who just care about U.S. national interests? What about the reaction of regional states, both Arab and Israeli, who are friends of the United States that are menaced by Iran?

What I never get is this: Who are these people and powers who oppose a tough U.S. stand now but will be convinced that sanctions should go up after they watch a few months of failed talks? Certainly not the Russian and Chinese governments, that's for sure. Can anyone supporting administration policy answer that question? Will anyone in the mass media even ask that question?

In its engaging way of publishing opinion as fact, the Times explains it all to us:

“During [President George Bush's] first term, talks with unfriendly countries like North Korea and Iran were usually rejected out of hand in the hope of speeding their collapse. That loosened in Mr. Bush’s second term, but even then agreements to talk were usually under highly restricted conditions.

“The result was a stalemate — one that Mr. Obama argued during last year’s presidential campaign was a huge mistake, in part because Iran was producing nuclear material while the standoff dragged on.”

Aha! But there are things worse than stalemate: defeat, losing ground, being paralyzed, facilitating your enemy's progress. And of course there is a third option, one which the Obama Administration seemed to be planning, called raising sanctions higher.

No! One doesn't have to ask for that much. How about this basic concept: First, raise the sanctions and only then start the talks. Make it clear that the sanctions will continue as long as Iran doesn't change its behavior but that the United States is happy to negotiate from a position of strength rather than from one of weakness.

Even if you want to be soft-line and conciliatory there is a right way and a wrong way to do that. The Obama Administration has chosen the wrong way.

In fact, does the Administration plan to play it smart by talking and raising sanctions at the same time? Maybe, but it seems the answer is “no.” There won’t be a tougher policy while talks are going on.
You don’t need a diplomacy scientist to understand this means a free ride for the Iranian regime.

In a sense, the Obama Administration seems to be practicing anti-diplomacy and anti-strategy. Consider this statement from U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice: The administration, she explained, would not impose “artificial deadlines” on Iran.

What does that mean? It means: Take as long as you want.

She added that if not much has happened so far that was because Iran’s “elections and their aftermath have added a layer of complexity to assessing the overtures and offers of diplomatic engagement.”
A “layer of complexity”? One can only gasp. All aspects of that layer have been clear indications that diplomatic engagement wouldn’t work.

And one final point. At first, the leaks were that both the United States and the Europeans rejected the letter. Yet within two days this was all reversed and they accepted it. Why would such a thing happen?
Unless they received some secret Iranian assurances—which is possible—it means that the State Department mid-level officials scoffed at the letter but as it went up the chain of command, to Obama itself, he chose to accept it. There’s no doubt that this decision was made at the very top and there are also indications that wiser heads who understand the situation better were against it.

For those waiting for the Administration to make some dreadful mistake, they now apparently have their case.

One close Washington observer of Iran policy stated in bewilderment, “This makes no sense.”

But it can be made sense of in several ways. One is that the Administration leadership has no idea of what it’s dealing with. Another is that it has fallen prey to wishful thinking. Both are true but the real answer might also involve something else: a government desperately seeking to avoid even a lower-level confrontation and passionately desiring to do nothing about the most dangerous issue it and the world faces.

Let’s put it this way: President Barack Obama is tall, handsome, a riveting speaker (at least with a teleprompter), and educated at Harvard University. He was elected in a fair and democratic election.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is short, clown-like, a demagogue, and without impressive educational credentials. He seized power after fixing an election, repressed peaceful demonstrations, and has put his peaceful opponents on show trials.

Guess who’s winning their competition? In fact, guess who’s the only one who even knows that a battle between their countries is going on?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bush Says Obama doing a Great Job


Laura Bush praised the performance of her husband's successor Monday

From Zain Verjee
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- Former first lady Laura Bush praised the performance of her husband's successor Monday, breaking with many Republicans in telling CNN that she thinks President Obama is doing a good job under tough circumstances.

Former first lady Laura Bush defended President Obama's decision to address the nation's schoolchildren.

Former first lady Laura Bush defended President Obama's decision to address the nation's schoolchildren.

She also criticized Washington's sharp political divide during an interview covering a range of topics including her thoughts on first lady Michelle Obama, former Vice President Dick Cheney, the situation in Afghanistan and Myanmar, and life after eight tumultuous years in the White House.

Bush sat down with CNN on Monday during a United Nations meeting in Paris, France, where she was promoting global literacy, a cause she trumpeted during her husband's administration.

The typically reserved former first lady defended Obama's decision to deliver a back-to-school speech to students, putting her at odds with many conservatives afraid that the president will use the opportunity to advance his political agenda.

"I think he is [doing a good job]," Bush said when asked to assess Obama's job performance. "I think he has got a lot on his plate, and he has tackled a lot to start with, and that has probably made it more difficult."

Michelle Obama is also "doing great," she said, in part : Read More:

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