Monday, April 22, 2013

Hagel Bites

by Annika Lichtenbaum,
April 21st 2013 9:08 PM

Asked who America's number one foreign enemy is, which country would you answer? If you follow the news, you'd probably say either North Korea or Iran – the former due to their recent propaganda proposing to bomb major American cities, and the latter due to the hostile, anti-American sentiment that has been prevalent in Iranian political discourse since the Islamic Revolution. But it's not just about bluster; these states are considered threats because of their respective nuclear programs, seen as a danger to the US and to its allies in South Korea and Israel. Iran and North Korea have been very much in the news lately due to their potential nuclear agendas. And yet, though North Korea is the one actually suspected of having achieved nuclear capability (Iran is allegedly at least a year away from this goal), it is Iran whose threat is being taken more seriously. This preoccupation, largely influenced by America's relationship with Israel, has made Iran's nuclear program the focus of international news since the past few months' failed non-proliferation negotiations. But though there are ostensibly three broad foreign policy courses available to the United States in its dealings with Iran, the various problems posed by each option indicate that the only ultimately viable solution (diplomacy) is not yet under serious consideration.

The first option, which has long been a controversial element of US policy towards 'hostile nations,' is to increase the severity of the economic sanctions on Iran. These sanctions, which according to newly-confirmed US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are 'among the toughest, most effective ever applied', are intended to inhibit the development of the Iranian economic sectors directly related to its nuclear activities. The goal of this strategy is to pressure Iran's leaders to submit to the will of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, who have banded together to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran) and – fingers crossed – discontinue their nuclear program.

Now, I'm no Greta Lichtenbaum (my mother is far more an expert on the ramifications of Iranian sanctions than I will ever be), but the way I see it, this policy will not affect the behavior of Iranian leaders, but will succeed only in further impoverishing their populace. This is not a new outlook on these sanctions; analysts have for years decried them as ineffectual instruments of policy when it comes to Iran. But in the past, the reason for this view was that the sanctions, which restricted only the American companies under US jurisdiction, weren't harsh or broad enough to force the regime to change its policies. In recent years, however, the reach of the sanctions has expanded. Foreign companies and banks now face certain penalties in their commerce with the US if they do business in Iran, the UN has imposed sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear program, and to top it all off, new policies out of the EU and Canada have targeted Iran's energy sector – the driver of its entire economy. But, as a recent report citing senior US policy experts attests, while there may be 'plenty of evidence that the sanctions are hurting Iran,' there is 'none that they are changing the course of the country's nuclear program.' The fact is, Iran's nuclear capabilities represent ideological, even more than economic, significance to the current regime. And while increased sanctions may be causing the country's economy (and therefore its populace) to suffer more than in the past, they are unlikely to sway Iranian politicians on the issue of their nuclear program.

Even Bibi Netanyahu believes sanctions are not the most effective route to take with Iran: which brings us to our second policy option – direct military engagement. The main reason Iran has been so much in the news lately is because Israeli politicians have been making noise about carrying out a lone military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Frustrated with the ineffectiveness of the sanctions, they have emphasized Israel's capability to act without the help of the United States or the international community. But in the midst of Israel's bluster, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution last Tuesday stating the following: "If the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self defense against Iran's nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence." So we've essentially pledged to attack Iran if Israel does, which is scary enough. However, the resolution requires Congressional approval of the legitimacy of Israel's hypothetical motives in the event of such a strike. And given what I consider the vast unlikelihood that a) Israel's blustering over the development of the nuclear program will evolve into a concrete military attack on Iran that garners US congressional support (Senator Lindsey Graham's opinions don't count) or b) Iran will amass the necessary capabilities and move forward to attack Israel (thus meriting a military response), the proposal to support Israel militarily against Iran holds little weight as a method of dealing with the latter's nuclear program.

And now for the third option, which is currently being executed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and of which I heartily disapprove (hence this post's rather immature title). Hagel, at this moment in the middle of a weeklong Middle East tour, is expected to finalize negotiations for a $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This trade would supply these American allies with the military equipment believed necessary to defend themselves against the Iranian threat. The problem with this option, aimed to continue the long-standing US policy of maintaining Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME) is that the purpose of the aid (i.e. the nature of the 'defense' it proposes to facilitate) is unclear. Though not intended as a US endorsement of an Israeli military strike against Iran, the arms deal provides Israel with equipment that could (and even seems designed to) be used in such an operation. According to a recent NY Times article, Israel will come away from this deal with, among other things, 'a new generation of KC-135 refueling tanker planes' that 'would let Israel's warplanes stay in the air longer, an ability essential for any long-range mission — like a strike on Iran.' That sounds ominous. However, as the article continues on to say, 'the tankers would also be useful for air patrols protecting Israeli borders.' In other words, the extent to which the US supports a pre-emptive Israeli strike against Iran is uncertain. By keeping with the QME policy through such an aggressive arms deal, the US Defense Department makes unclear its position vis-à-vis Israel's potential belligerence towards Iran, thereby stagnating the possibility for constructive diplomatic engagement with Iran in the future.

So if none of the above concrete policies (all already, to some extent, in effect) will do – then what?

The answer lies in a policy prescription that, while vague in its current form, has the potential to become a concrete and effective proposal: diplomacy. While simply advocating an improvement in relations with Iran would be too ambiguous, not to mention naive, diplomacy as delineated by the aforementioned policy report would be an effective means of dealing with Iran going forward. The report, released last Wednesday by the Iran Project (a non-profit dedicated to Iran-US dialogue), advises steps that would demonstrate the Obama administration's readiness to form ties and cooperate with the current regime. These include 'a formal bilateral channel,' as well as 'establishing a hot line for clarification of unclear or antagonistic events and statements, and public acknowledgement by Obama of Khamenei's fatwa against nuclear weapons.' These baby steps, which may seem insignificant in the short run compared to the limelit economic sanctions and military proposals, will contribute towards the essential long-term goal of improving diplomatic relations with Iran. If my experience with London's weather this semester (which I have countered by repeatedly buying, breaking and losing crappy umbrellas) has taught me anything, it is that a temporary fix never actually solves anything. Given the various problems with each of the current policies being considered towards Iran, it is my hope that the wisdom of the long-term solution occurs soon to Hagel and the rest of the Defense Department.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

ADL Survey In Ten European Countries Finds Anti-Semitism At Disturbingly High Levels | Apr 14th 2013 Anti-Semitism is a symptom of something very flawed in those who propagate it.

New York, NY, March 20, 2012 � Anti-Semitic attitudes in ten European countries remain at "disturbingly high levels," according to a new poll from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released today, with large swaths of the population subscribing to classical anti-Semitic notions such as Jews having too much power in business, being more loyal to Israel than their own country, or "talking too much" about what happened during the Holocaust.

Attitudes Toward Jews in Ten European Countries (.pdf), an ADL opinion survey of 5,000 adults � 500 in each of ten European countries � revealed that pernicious anti-Semitic beliefs continue to be held by nearly one-third of those surveyed.

The poll was conducted between Jan. 2-31, 2012 in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. The survey has a margin of error of between +/- 4.43 and +/- 4.85, depending on the specific country.

"The survey is disturbing by the fact that anti-Semitism remains at high levels across the continent and infects many Europeans at a much higher level than we see here in the United States," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "In Hungary, Spain and Poland the numbers for anti-Semitic attitudes are literally off-the-charts and demand a serious response from political, civic and religious leaders."

In France, where a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse yesterday claimed the lives of three small children and a teacher, the overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, an increase from 20 percent in a previous ADL poll conducted in 2009. In France, 45 percent of respondents attributed the violence against European Jews to anti-Jewish feelings, an increase from 39 percent in 2009.

Other findings for France include: 45 percent of the population responded "probably true" to the statement "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country; 35 percent agreed that "Jews have too much power in the business world; and 35 percent believe that "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.

When asked for their opinion about anti-Semitic violence directed against Jews, and whether that violence is the result of anti-Jewish feelings as opposed to anti-Israel sentiment, overall, 39 percent of Europeans responded that it was the result of anti-Jewish sentiments. "In France, you have a volatile mix," Mr. Foxman said. "France has seen an increase in the level of anti-Semitism. At the same time, more people today believe that violence directed against European Jews is fueled by anti-Jewish attitudes as opposed to anti-Israel sentiment. "Those increases are all the more disturbing in light of the shooting attack at the Jewish school in Toulouse."

In comparison with a similar ADL poll conducted in 2009, several of the countries showed dangerously high levels in the overall level of anti-Semitism, while other countries experienced more modest increases.

The overall findings among the countries for which comparison data is available:

Austria experienced a slight decrease, to 28 percent from 30 percent in 2009.

France: The overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, up from to 20 percent in 2009.

Germany: Anti-Semitism increased by one percentage point, to 21 percent of the population.

Hungary: The level rose to 63 percent of the population, compared with 47 percent in 2009;

Poland: The number remained unchanged, with 48 percent of the population showing deep-seated anti-Semitic attitudes.

Spain: Fifty-three percent (53%) percent of the population, compared to 48 percent in 2009.

United Kingdom: Anti-Semitic attitudes jumped to 17 percent of the population, compared to 10 percent in 2009.

Country-by-Country Findings on Anti-Semitic Attitudes

In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews are more loyal to Israel" than their own country, the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 47%, unchanged from 2009

France � 45%, up from 38% in 2009

Germany � 52%, down from 53% in 2009

Hungary � 55%, up from 40% in 2009

Italy � 61% in 2012

Netherlands � 47% in 2012

Norway � 58% in 2012

Poland � 61%, down from 63% in 2009

Spain � 72%, up from 64% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 48%, up from 37% in 2009

In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews have too much power in the business world," the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 30%, down from 36% in 2009

France � 35%, up from 33% in 2009

Germany � 22%, up from 21% in 2009

Hungary � 73%, up from 67% in 2009

Italy � 39% in 2012

The Netherlands � 10% in 2012

Norway � 21% in 2012

Poland � 54%, down from 55% in 2009

Spain � 60%, up from 56% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 20%, up from 15% in 2009

In responding "probably true" to the statement "Jews have too much power in international financial markets," the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 38%, up from 37% in 2009

France � 29%, up from 27% in 2009

Germany � 24%, up from 22% in 2009

Hungary � 75%, up from 59% in 2009

Italy � 43% in 2012

The Netherlands � 17% in 2012

Norway -- 23% in 2012

Poland � 54%, unchanged from 2009

Spain � 67%, down from 74% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 22%, up from 15% in 2009

In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust," the 2012 survey found:

Austria � 45%, down from 55% in 2009

France � 35%, up from 33% in 2009

Germany � 43%, down from 45% in 2009

Hungary � 63%, up from 56% in 2009

Italy � 48% in 2012

The Netherlands � 31% in 2012

Norway � 25% in 2012

Poland � 53%, down from 55% in 2009

Spain � 47%, up from 42% in 2009

The United Kingdom � 24%, up from 20% in 2009

ADL commissioned First International Resources to conduct the survey. Fielded in Europe by Ipsos-Reid Public Affairs, it was conducted in the national language of each country. The margin of error is +/- 4.43 to +/- 4.85, depending on the specific country, at 95% level of confidence.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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