Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A nuclear armed Iran could be the price of the Libya campaign

From The Commentator, 7 June 2011, by Emanuele Ottolenghi*:

Iran is emerging as the great beneficiary of a bombing campaign over Libya with little strategic benefit to the West...

Say what you will about the wisdom of NATO’s Libya bombing campaign but nearly three months since it started, its unintended consequences have seriously damaged American-led efforts to stymie Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

It has done so in three ways:
  • the Libya operation has distracted Western diplomacy from the Iran file, despite the fact that Iran’s nuclear program continues to advance unimpeded by external pressure or internal threats to regime survival;
  • it has driven up Iranian oil sales and revenues; and, crucially,
  • it has driven down incentives for Iran to negotiate.
...Regardless of its outcome, Libya’s regional impact will be negligible for Arab democratisation. But Western intervention has already doomed Western policy vis-à-vis Iran to failure.

At the simplest level, the diplomatic energy and political attention devoted to Libya by NATO, the EU and the United States mean there is less time available to discuss and think about Iran.

Yet, Iran’s nuclear program has not stalled because of mass protests in Cairo or F-16’s over Tripoli. As the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report shows, Iran has now accumulated over four tonnes of Low Enriched Uranium (enough for four small nuclear devices), it has successfully tested military components of nuclear weapons, and it continues to reduce the ability of IAEA inspectors to monitor its nuclear activities.

Recently enacted sanctions were meant to slow down Iran’s nuclear clock because of the strain they would put on Iran’s economy and the added impediments to the country’s procurement efforts.

Though the impediments remain, the Libya crisis has eased up economic pressure by making oil prices soar due to the removal of Libyan oil from the market and the attendant supply uncertainty.

For Iran, this is a blessing – Iran’s budget is pegged to an $81.50 a barrel price tag. Anything above that benchmark is a bonus for Iran and a setback in the U.S. sanctions architecture since, quite simply, Tehran is able to dilute the financial damage caused by sanctions thanks to increased oil revenues. (At the time of writing Brent Crude was hovering around $114 a barrel.)

The disruption of supply from Libya has had another unintended consequence: increased European oil dependence on Iranian crude and stronger Iranian-Turkish bilateral relations at a time when Turkey’s government is already hesitant to comply with the international sanctions’ regime.

Several European consumers of Libyan oil are now buying more Iranian crude in order to offset sudden shortages caused by the Libya operation. So is Turkey – whose national oil company was hugely invested in Libya’s energy sector. More sales and higher prices, then, mean more revenue for Tehran, less political leverage for Iran’s customers and less bite for sanctions.

Beyond disruption to the oil markets, the Libya crisis has had another unwanted effect on the current nuclear standoff with Iran. Until March 17, 2011, when NATO strikes began, Libya offered conclusive evidence that even an erratic dictator like Gaddafi, who in 2004 was on the brink of nuclear weapons’ capability, could perform a sound cost-benefit analysis on his predicament and renounce nuclear weapons in exchange for international rehabilitation.

For those unwilling to recognise that the ouster of Saddam Hussein played a significant part in Gaddafi’s calculus to renounce his sponsorship of terrorism and turn over his nuclear program to the West in exchange for political and economic rehabilitation, Libya was proof of the greatest non-proliferation coup that diplomacy could envision.

Moreover, the Libya precedent vindicated policy on Iran. If Gaddafi, who appeared even more erratic and irrational than Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, or his puppet president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could do cost-benefit analysis, so could Iranian leaders.

Now, Libya can only serve as a precedent to bury that notion since Gaddafi’s calculus rested on the assumption that renouncing his nukes would save his regime. By turning on Gaddafi as soon as Gaddafi turned against his people, the West is now giving Iran an incentive to keep its nuclear programme, and not to trade it in for unreliable guarantees.

By looking at Gaddafi’s fate they will surely conclude that keeping the programme alive might offer a better shield than the kind of nuclear quid-pro-quo that, as in Gaddafi’s case, might ultimately be undone.

Why would Iran think its own fate would be different?

None of this means that Gaddafi should stay. But it does mean that the West now has no option but to go after Iran’s rulers.

As with Libya, Western policy towards Iran’s ruthless dictators has been a futile quest for compromise.

This is not to say that NATO should immediately initiate a bombing campaign over Iranian skies too. But, in President Obama’s words, that “cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right”.

Simply expecting the Iranian regime to change its behaviour is doomed to fail. Western leaders should now be looking to change the regime itself.

*Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of Iran: The Looming Crisis (Profile Books, 2010)

Hitler’s First Anti-Semitic Writing

From NYT, 3 June 2011:

FRANKFURT — In 1919, a soldier in Munich discovered that he could galvanize small groups of fellow trench warfare veterans with virulently anti-Semitic oratory. A superior officer, impressed with the soldier’s oral skills, asked him to commit his ideas to paper.

Thus came into existence the first written record of Adolf Hitler’s obsessive hostility toward Jews, an embryonic form of the worldview that would later lead to the Holocaust and millions of deaths.

Now, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles has acquired what it believes may be the original version of the document, known as the Gemlich letter. In July, the center plans to put it on public view for the first time, at its Museum of Tolerance, making the letter the centerpiece of its Holocaust exhibit.

The text of the letter is well known to scholars. It is considered significant because it demonstrates just how early in his career Hitler was formulating his anti-Semitic views.

“It is his first written statement about the Jews,” said the historian Saul Friedlander, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his study of the Holocaust. “It shows that this was the very core of his political passion.”

The version of the letter best known to scholars is in an archive in Munich, and news that another copy had made its way to Los Angeles met with some skepticism among historians. The market for Hitler memorabilia is notorious for forgeries.

... Othmar Plöckinger, an expert on early Hitler documents, says it appears that the document acquired by the Wiesenthal Center is the original letter written by Hitler and that the one in Munich is a copy made about the same time...

...Hitler’s ability to hold the interest of his listeners drew him to the attention of a superior officer, Capt. Karl Mayr. When a soldier named Adolf Gemlich, who was doing similar propaganda work for the army in Ulm, wrote asking for a clarification of “the Jewish Question,” Captain Mayr gave Hitler the assignment.

Hitler wrote to Mr. Gemlich that occasional pogroms against the Jews were not enough — the Jewish “race” must be “removed” from Germany as a matter of national policy.

...The document in the state archives in Munich is not the original and is not signed by Hitler, said Johann Pörnbacher, a representative of the archives. He says the archives has no record of where the original is.

Mr. Plöckinger, the historian who examined both versions, said that the copy in the Munich archive corrected some typographical and punctuation errors in the Wiesenthal Center document ... “...structural aspects speak in favor of the authenticity” of the document acquired by the Wiesenthal Center.        The implication is that the signed version in Los Angeles was the letter originally sent to Adolf Gemlich...

Monday, June 06, 2011

How many Palestinian refugees?

From a letter to the editor of JPost, 5 June 2011, by Trevor Davis:

Sir, ... the number “4.7 million” Palestinian patently absurd and is a result of UNWRA having unilaterally defined the descendants of the original refugees as being refugees, too, and in perpetuity.

While there are many definitions of who is a refugee (the UN and various other organizations have as yet to come up with one final definition), only the Palestinians have enjoyed this unsanctioned and legally unrecognized privilege. The census taken in August 1948 by Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator (and no friend of Israel), reported 330,000 Palestinian refugees who left for various reasons too numerous to mention here.

Through various manipulations and exaggerations, this number was raised to more than 700,000 by 1950. Since more than 60 years have passed since Bernadotte’s census, it is fair to say that at least half that number are now dead of old age. This means that those Palestinians who may be considered “refugees” by normal definitions cannot exceed 350,000 today (and that’s pushing it).

A “right of return” for these refugees has the same spurious value as that for the millions of Germans expelled from the Sudetenland and East Prussia after World War II, or the native Americans shoveled onto reservations in the 1800s, or the Armenians death-marched by the Turks almost 100 years ago.

While Germany and many other nations absorbed refugees of all nationalities, only the Palestinians have been forced into stateless squalor by other Arab nations. (Need we ask why?) So I respectfully request that when we write about Palestinian residents in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, etc., etc., we stop referring to them as refugees, especially when combined with that ridiculous figure of “4.7 million.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself doesn’t give a fig about any of them; if he did he would gripe to the UN about their treatment at the hands of his “brother” Arabs. It’s certainly not our problem, and we should stress that fact to anyone willing to listen.

Palestinianian self-determination, or bigotry?

From The Toronto Sun, 4 June 2011, by , QMI Agency:

Recently Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, took to the pages of The New York Times with a plea for “The Long Overdue Palestinian State.”

Abbas’ Times column is instructive for what is not mentioned even more than what is stated.
He recalls the “nakba” (or catastrophe) of Palestinian loss in 1948. This is the preferred Arab narrative in which Palestinians are victims of western powers and Zionist Jews through the agency of the UN.

Palestinians cannot, and will not, acknowledge that what occurred in 1947-48 came about as a result of the catastrophic miscalculation on the part of their leadership and Arab states.

For 30 years prior to the November 1947 UN vote, Palestinians and other Arabs refused to accept the idea of making allowance for Jews in their midst as set forth in Britain’s Balfour Declaration.

This long standing refusal found expression in their rejection of the UN partition plan, and within a few hours of Israel’s independence in May 1948, Arab armies invaded the Jewish state.

Those who plan war and initiate it must know there are consequences both in victory and in defeat.

There is no mistaking what Palestinian and Arab rejectionism of the UN plan meant.

An Arab victory in 1948 would have meant the liquidation of Jewish presence in Palestine.

The same held true in the repeated efforts of Arab states and Palestinian armed conflict against Israel after the 1949 armistice, and the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973.

It is this record that the Arab/Palestinian narrative dismisses, and against this record insists that for justice to be done in favour of Palestinians, the clock of history must be set back minimally to the status quo before the war of June 1967.

Hence, the plan Abbas sets forth is the request to be made in September for the General Assembly’s recognition of the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders and its admission to the UN.

This plan will likely materialize given the politics of the General Assembly backed by the numbers of the Arab and Islamic states.

What it cannot do, despite the propaganda effect for Palestinians, is deliver the state without seriously engaging Israel in a negotiated settlement.

But what no one asks is why Palestinian rejection of the UN’s 1947 plan and Arab aggression against Israel merit reward of the same more than six decades later?

Or why juxtapose another Palestinian state next to Jordan, which is already overwhelmingly Palestinian, in addition to 21 other Arab states?

Or, why 355 million Arabs need 22 states when there is only one China and one India with their respective population of more than a billion people in each state?

The reason Palestinians will receive the General Assembly’s undeserving support is due to the real, though unstated, institutionalized bigotry inside the world body that once voted Zionism as a form of racism.

How to Block the Palestine Statehood Ploy

From WSJ, 3 June 2011, by JOHN BOLTON*:

Congress can take a cue from Jim Baker in 1989 and threaten to cut U.S. money for the U.N.

Now that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his recent sparring partner Barack Obama are back in their corners, the next Arab-Israeli political flash point could be this fall at the U.N. General Assembly. The Palestinian Authority is lobbying Assembly members to legitimize its claim to international status as a "state."

Recognizing "statehood" does not mean U.N. membership, but it would nonetheless be a major Palestinian success. A resolution recognizing a Palestinian "state" could also declare its boundary to be the 1967 borders (in actuality, merely the 1949 armistice lines), with or without President Obama's caveat about "agreed upon swaps" of land.

The obvious Palestinian objective is to remove the issues of statehood and boundaries from the realm of bilateral negotiations with Israel, making them fait accompli. Last fall, the Palestinians focused on obtaining a Security Council resolution for this purpose. They believed, for whatever reason, that Mr. Obama would not order an American veto, as his predecessors would have done without hesitation. Many thought the administration might even vote "yes" rather than abstain.

When it became clear that U.S. opposition in the Security Council was likely, on statehood or on U.N. membership, Palestinian attention shifted to the General Assembly, where there is no veto. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, and that body has no authority to recognize states, although its actions can be politically powerful, as the 1975 "Zionism is racism" resolution demonstrated.

This is déjà vu all over again. In late 1988, Palestinians issued a "declaration of statehood," changing their U.N. observer delegation's name from "Palestine Liberation Organization" to "Palestine" to sound more like a state, which scores of countries recognized. The Palestinians then campaigned to join U.N. bodies like the World Health Organization, reasoning that since U.N. agency charters allow only states as members, the admission of "Palestine" would prove that it, too, was a state.

Ridiculous in the real world but not in the U.N., the PLO effort gained overwhelming support there. George H.W. Bush's new administration and Israel protested that "Palestine" manifestly did not meet customary international law definitions of statehood, such as having a clearly defined territory and exercising a government's legitimate domestic and international responsibilities. Third World countries rallied almost unanimously to the PLO, and Europe's response was weak. European diplomats believed Washington's opposition was merely pro forma due to the "Jewish lobby."

Faced with the near certainty of defeat, Secretary of State James Baker warned publicly: "I will recommend to the President that the United States make no further contributions, voluntary or assessed, to any international organization which makes any changes in the PLO's status as an observer organization."

No politician of Mr. Baker's skill would publicize his proposals unless he knew that the president would accept them, and this reality was rapidly understood internationally. Although defeating the PLO campaign required further maneuvering, Mr. Baker's statement was the death knell of the "statehood" push.

The lesson for today is plain. If President Obama wants to block a General Assembly Palestinian statehood resolution, he should act essentially as Messrs. Bush and Baker did. Yet Mr. Obama is highly unlikely to do anything so decisive, which is why many in America and Israel remain gravely concerned about this latest Palestinian diplomatic ploy.

Accordingly, we should turn to Congress, which has a rich history of dealing with U.N. actions it doesn't appreciate. Rather than wait for a Baker-like threat, Congress should legislate broadly that any U.N. action that purports to acknowledge or authorize Palestinian statehood will result in a cutoff of all U.S. contributions to the offending agency.

If the General Assembly ignored this warning, all funds would be cut off to the bloated Secretariat in New York, but not to separate agencies like the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and others with their own governing bodies and funding mechanisms.

The logic is the same today as it was in 1989. Moreover, our current federal budget deficits provide another attractive reason to reduce U.N. contributions. If political realities make it impossible to cut off funding completely, perhaps a partial reduction, say 50%, might be a suitable compromise.

Although the General Assembly will not convene again until September, there is no time to waste.

Fatah's coalition with Hamas already provides statutory grounds (since the U.S. lists Hamas as a terrorist organization) to eliminate funding for the Palestinian Authority. Reducing U.S. funding to the U.N. is the next available, highly visible, target of opportunity. It presents the U.N. membership with a fascinating question: Would they rather recognize Palestinian statehood, or keep America's money?

*Mr. Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.