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May 28, 2013

Is Israel Prepared to Go Too Far to Prevent Palestinian Non-Member Status at the UN?

November 15, 2012 by

President Obama with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Martin H Simon/EPA

The latest news coming out of Israel has revealed that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has proposed “toppling” President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority should Palestine’s bid for UN non-member observer status be approved when it is put to the General Assembly on November 29th.

Palestine is seeking non-member status with the United Nations as a step towards creating an independent Palestinian state, adhering to the pre-1967 Six Day War boundaries. This proposed area would include the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem—which would also serve as its capital.

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US Politics and the Middle East

October 19, 2012 by

President Barack Obama in Florida. Photo by Bill Ingalls

US elections are manifestly linked to the Middle East, at least rhetorically. In practical terms, however, US foreign policies in the region are compelled by the Middle East’s own dynamics and the US’ own political climate, economic woes, or ambitions. There is little historic evidence that US foreign policy in the Arab world has been guided by moral compulsion.  When it comes to the Middle East – and much of the world - it is mostly about style.

The country’s two leading political parties have proven equally to be interventionists. In the last two decades Democrats seemed to lean more towards unilateralism in foreign policy as in war, while Republicans, as highlighted by the administration of George W. Bush, are much less worried about the mere definitions of their conducts.

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Can a Nuclear Armed Iran Be Contained?

October 9, 2012 by

This is the sixth post in a TMP series titled “The Great Debate,” a round-up of opinions from experts, officials, professors and students on a pressing question in international affairs.

During his address at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a diagram of a bomb to urge international action against Iran’s nuclear program. He emphasized that soon Iran will have enough enriched uranium to become a threat to the existence of Israel, and said the world has until next summer at the latest to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

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Amidst Confusion, Canada Severs ties with Iran

September 17, 2012 by

Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Jason Ransom

Over a week after Canada suspended formal diplomatic relations with Iran, reaction in Canada remains mixed. While supporters of the Harper government and defenders of Israel have declared it bold and principled, a number of foreign policy analysts have raised questions about the timing, and cause of the sudden rupture.

On Friday September 7th a senior diplomat from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade arrived unannounced at the Iranian embassy in Ottawa carrying two letters. The first informed Iran’s diplomats that they were now considered personae non gratae, and had five days to pack up the embassy and leave the country. The second stated that Canada had already removed its diplomats from Tehran and was closing its embassy, effective immediately.

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Mohamed Morsi’s Evolving Relationship with Egypt’s Military

August 24, 2012 by

Ever since early April when he became an official candidate in the first post-revolution presidential election, Dr. Mohamed Morsi has been generally dismissed by most political observers as a weak and unimpressive politician. In fact, he was an accidental contender since he was the stand-in candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) first choice, senior leader Khairat Al-Shater. The MB fielded Morsi as its back-up candidate on the last day of filing because it predicted correctly that its original candidate would be disqualified by the pro-SCAF Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

As Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took the reigns of power in February 2011, many observers believed that a tacit understanding existed between the powerful Egyptian military and the MB, the most organized political and social group in Egypt. For the next eighteen months, this complicated and largely behind the scenes contentious relationship between these two powerful entities had its ups and downs.

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Israel and the Iran Nuclear Weapons MacGuffin

August 15, 2012 by

President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office Monday, May 18, 2009. Pete Souza/White House

I think there is some misunderstanding about Israel’s concern over Iran’s nuclear program.  To use Alfred Hitchcock’s term, the Iranian bomb is simply “the MacGuffin”, the psychologically potent but practically insignificant pretext for action, reaction, and drama.  To my mind, the main object of Israel’s foreign policy as practiced by Benjamin Netanyahu, is to preclude US and European rapprochement with Iran.

If peace breaks out in the Middle East, in other words, Iran, its markets, and its oil would quickly become remarkably popular with Western governments and investors.

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Iran: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

August 14, 2012 by

I don’t know if you guys have heard, but apparently Israel is about to go to war with Iran. Not only that, but it doesn’t actually matter what is happening in Israel or the rest of the world, because any event or environment can be interpreted to mean that an Israeli strike is just around the corner.  In fact, an imminent Israeli attack can be predicted based on two diametrically opposed sets of facts.

For instance, in May it was reported that the decision to attack was imminent because Israeli officials were being uncharacteristically silent, and this speculation meant that an attack was about to come.  As one unnamed Israeli official said, ”Nobody is saying anything publicly. That in itself tells you a lot about where things stand.”

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Self-Immolations Speak of Israel’s Economic Pains

July 28, 2012 by

Israeli housing protest in Tel Aviv. Gerrit De Vynck/Flickr

In the past weeks, the streets of Tel Aviv have been witness to desperate people setting themselves on fire in protest against the growing social and economic inequalities and the rising cost of living in Israel.

Almost one year after 400,000 Israelis filled Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard in protest at the increasing economic difficulties, a wave of civil unrest and upsurges is again encompassing the country. The latest victim of the protests was 57-year-old Moshe Silman, a disabled war veteran who sustained severe injuries after setting himself ablaze at a bus stop near Tel Aviv on July 14.

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Iran Sanctions: War by Other Means

July 14, 2012 by

Now that the talks with Iran on its nuclear program appear to be on the ropes, are we on the road to war? The Israelis threaten it almost weekly, and the Obama administration has reportedly drawn up an attack plan. But in a sense, we are already at war with Iran.  Carl von Clausewitz, the great theoretician of modern warfare, defined war as the continuation of politics by other means. In the case of Iran, international politics has become a de-facto state of war.

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Obama and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

June 12, 2012 by

President Obama with Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Pete Souza/White House

Obama displayed an exceptional ability to inspire confidence in his promises during the 2008 campaign. One such promise was his pledge to actively pursue a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians—an issue he did not shy away from on the campaign trail.  Although Obama implemented an assertive and logical plan to resolve the conflict early in his presidency (something his predecessors avoided), the administration’s policies and diplomatic efforts have proven strikingly unsuccessful.

What happened over the past three and a half years, and why did a well-intentioned and forthright policy go wrong?

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The Arab Spring and the Image of Islam

June 12, 2012 by

Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Vince Millett

The multi-season Arab Spring is the third anti-imperialist Arab revolt in less than a century: against the Ottoman empire, against the Western Italian–French–English empire, and now the US-Israel empire. The empires hit back. The Ottomans were weak, but England–France–Israel even invaded Egypt in 29 October 1956––in the shadow of the Hungarian revolt against the Soviet empire that crumbled nearly a quarter century later. And now it is the turn of USA–Israel to try to maintain an illegitimate structure.

So much for the background. In the foreground is class, pitting the powerless at the bottom against the powerful at the top. Wealth flows upward, accelerated by corruption; military, police and secret police forces protect the top against revolts; decision-making is by dictatorships; all of this that used to be justified by the fight against communism is now hitched on to fight against Islamism.

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An Unlikely Peace: Iran’s Quest for Nuclear Weapons is Likely to Lead to War

April 21, 2012 by

Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressing the Security Council. Rick Bajornas/UN

“It is not in our hands to prevent the murder of workers…and families…but it is in our hands to fix a high price for our blood, so high that the Arab community and the Arab military forces will not be willing to pay it.”

– Moshe Dayan as quoted in “Warrior: the autobiography of Ariel Sharon”

As Israel has faced the threat of Arab armies and Islamic terrorism throughout its history, it has struggled to maintain a strong deterrence in the Middle East, one that will prevent other countries in the region from continuing to attack and to kill Israeli citizens.

One of today’s most important issues in foreign affairs is Iran’s quest to obtain nuclear weapons and how their journey towards nuclear dominance in the Middle East might bring America and Israel into the conflict.

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Profiting from Patience: Why Israel Should Not Act Unilaterally Against Iran

April 16, 2012 by

Israeli Defense Forces military exercises. Image via Israeli Defense Forces

“As Prime Minister, I will never gamble with the security of the State of Israel.”

– Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech to AIPAC, March 5, 2012

Even before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the stage at the 2012 AIPAC conference, the crowd of more than 13,000 participants knew what the topic of his speech would be: Iran. Speaking with passion unmatched by any of the other notable speakers, including US President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres, PM Netanyahu used biblical quotes, touching personal stories, and unbridled rhetoric to ensure that those in attendance understood that Israel would no longer stand by as Iran developed a nuclear weapons program.

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Why Iran will Compromise this Time

April 12, 2012 by

Sec. Clinton talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pete Souza/White House

As we inch closer to the crucial nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers, the so-called P5+1, the primordial question is whether this time will be different:  Is Tehran willing to make necessary compromises – from greater nuclear transparency to more stringent restrictions on its enrichment activities - to reverse the economic siege that is bringing the country close to the edge? Is she going to use the talks as a delaying tactic or will she finally strike a mutually-acceptable deal with the West?

From the perspective of the Iranian leadership, with sanctions beginning to squeeze the Iranian economy - atop intensifying threats of military invasion and growing Western naval presence in the Persian Gulf - the nuclear impasse is worryingly morphing into a question of regime survival.

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Netanyahu’s and Obama’s Unsavory Choices on Iran

March 8, 2012 by

Whether Iran’s goal is ultimately to produce a nuclear weapon is unknown, but as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said last weekend during his meetings in Washington, if is looks, walks and talks like a duck, it is usually a duck. He also asked a simple question – Would Iran be producing its missile program simply to place medical isotopes on top of their missiles? At least one world leader is asking the right questions and looking this issue squarely in the face.

The others, including President Obama, seem to believe that if the West is patient enough, Iran will buckle under the weight of sanctions, and the breakthrough (if that is what it really is) recently achieved with North Korea will prove to be achievable with Iran.

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