Linkage Just Won’t Go Away

As discussed by Ali on Wednesday, attempts to deny a linkage between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and broader U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East seem to be an ongoing theme of right-wing Israeli politicians and their supporters. But the “2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll” released by the Brookings Institution and Zogby International on Thursday indicates that linkage is a very important concept in understanding Arab public opinion about the U.S.. The poll’s results would seem to remove any doubt that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important factors determining Arab public opinion about the U.S.. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the poll found a direct link between Arab support for an Iranian nuclear program and the Obama administration’s failure to make progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jim Lobe wrote the poll up yesterday. He said:

Much of the disillusionment with Obama appears related to his failure to make progress in achieving a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Telhami, who has conducted eight previous surveys of Arab opinion since 2000.

Asked what policies pursued by the Obama administration they were most disappointed with, 61 percent of respondents in the new poll identified the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That was more than twice the percentage of the next-most-cited example, Washington’s Iraq policy (27 percent).

“This is the prism through which Arabs view the Untied States,” Telhami said, referring to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Iran appears to have benefited, at least indirectly, from Arab disillusionment with Obama, the poll results suggested.

While a majority of respondents (55 percent) said they believe Tehran’s nuclear programme is aimed at developing weapons – a charge denied by Iran – nearly four out of five respondents (77 percent) said the country has the right to pursue the programme – a whopping increase of 24 percent since last year.

Of course none of this should come as any great surprise, and linkage has become an increasingly accepted way to view U.S.-policy in the Middle East after Gen. David Petraeus’s Senate testimony in March in which he stated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “…foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” and, “[t]he conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.”

Numerous pundits, academics and politicians have tried to deny that this linkage exists but, try as they might, facts on the ground make it very difficult to close the box which Petraeus, very publicly, opened this spring.

Eighty-six-percent of the poll’s respondents were “prepared for peace if Israel is willing to return all 1967 territories including East Jerusalem,” 39 percent held the belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved through negotiations, and only 16 percent believed it will end through war.

One has to wonder how U.S. interests are served by continuing to ratchet up tensions with Iran via “Sanctions Plus,” “Economic Warfare,” or chest-pounding threats of military strikes. As U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate and Iran, via its allies, exacerbates tensions between Israel and its neighbors, Arab public opinion will, if the trends in the poll have any predictive power, swing in Iran’s favor and make the Obama administration even less popular in the region. That isn’t good for Israel which, if Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren’s dire warnings are to be believed, might find itself in another war before the end of the summer, and it isn’t good for a U.S. administration which is trying to figure out a way to extract the country from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course all of this requires that you believe that there is a linkage between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East. If you suspend your belief in that linkage, then anything goes.

Rally for Bradley Manning, Sunday, Quantico, Va.

UPDATE: CNN covered the rally.

Bradley Manning is being held in Quantico Brig, facing 52 years in prison, for exposing war crimes.

What: Rally in Support of Whistleblower Bradley Manning
When: Sunday, August 8, noon
Where: Quantico Marine Corps Base where Manning is being held in pre-trial confinement; we will meet at the Amtrak station in Quantico (see interactive map below)

Private First Class Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq, stands accused of disclosing a classified video depicting American troops in Iraq shooting civilians from an Apache helicopter in 2007. Eleven people were killed, including two Reuters employees, and two children were critically injured. No charges have been filed against the soldiers who did the killing.

News sources have also speculated about Manning’s involvement in the leak of over 90,000 secret documents (collectively known as the Afghanistan “war logs”) made public by WikiLeaks on July 25.

“No top-level officials in the Bush and Obama administrations have been held accountable for their roles in dragging us into the Iraq war on the basis of lies or for potential war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But whistleblower Bradley Manning sits in jail in Quantico, facing up to 52 years in prison,” says Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK: Women for Peace. “It’s totally unjust and that’s why we’re going to Quantico to call for Bradley’s release.”

The whistleblower behind the Vietnam era’s Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has called Mr. Manning a hero. ”I admire the courage of Bradley Manning for sacrificing himself to make the public aware of the futility of the war in Afghanistan,” says Ellsberg.

“Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime,” says former Marine Corporal Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist, a group teaming up with the Bradley Manning Support Network to raise funds for Manning’s defense.

This information is courtesy of The Bradley Manning Support Network.

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Friday’s Iran Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for August 5th, 2010:

Washington Post: Robert Kagan attended the White House briefing on Iran sanctions and writes that a large number of journalists in the room simply got the story wrong by concluding that the sanctions might result in a new diplomatic initiative with Tehran. Kagan reports that President Obama, “repeatedly acknowledged that the regime may be so ‘ideologically’ committed to getting a bomb that no amount of pain would make a difference,” and that the real message from White House officials was, “that the administration wanted everyone to know how tough it was being on Iran.”

ABC News: Christiane Amanpour also attended the White House briefing on sanctions and reports that Obama, “believes the costs of the sanctions are going to be higher than Iran could have anticipated, but he is not sure yet whether that cost-benefit analysis will override ‘what may be an ideological or nationalistic commitment to nuclear weapons.’” Amanpour reports that Obama commented that diplomacy and engagement could bring, “a thaw in what has been 30 years of antagonism between our two countries,” and told reporters, “I consider Iran a country of enormous potential.”

Washington Post: Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren continues the narrative that Iran is behind Hamas missile attacks, missiles launched from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula into Jordan and Israel, and the skirmish earlier this week between the IDF and the Lebanese Armed Forces, which Oren characterizes as “nominally independent,” implying that the presence of a Hezbollah television crew somehow connected them to the incident. The squeeze imposed by sanctions, suggests Oren, is being felt in Tehran and, “[m]any observers feel that, when confronted by the sanctions’ implacability, the Iranian regime will opt to negotiate or, according to an alternative scenario, trigger a Middle East war.”

Hiroshima & Nagasaki: The inside story — again

At 8:16 on the morning of August 6, 1945, the world got a glimpse of its own mortality. At that moment, the city of Hiroshima was obliterated by a fireball that sent waves of searing heat, then a deafening concussion, across the landscape. Three days later, a second bomb hit Nagasaki. … [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower said in 1963 "It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing."

… Besides the Manhattan Project’s internal momentum was an external motive. Its leaders had to justify the $2 billion ($26 billion in today’s dollars) expense to Congress and the public… Byrnes…warned Roosevelt that political scandal would follow if it [the atomic bomb] was not used. … "How would you get Congress to appropriate money for atomic energy research [after the war] if you do not show results for the money which has been spent already?" …the U.S. had produced two types of bombs–one using uranium, the other plutonium. Whenever anyone suggested that the moment the bomb was dropped the war would be over, [bureaucrat] Groves countered, "Not until we drop two bombs on Japan." As [historian] Goldberg explains… "One bomb justified Oak Ridge, the second justified Hanford." Hiroshima was hit with the uranium bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy"; the plutonium bomb, "Fat Man," was used against Nagasaki.

From Why We Dropped The Bomb By William Lanouette, CIVILIZATION, The Magazine of the Library of Congress, January/February 1995

It’s hard for Americans who identify with the U.S. Government to accept the idea that that organization could have engaged in such horrendous acts – twice in three days – without pristine motives.

Here’s what Vietnam era U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara – who was part of Gen. Curtis LeMay’s command when the bombs were dropped – thought about it:

McNamara: "He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals."

It seems things haven’t changed much, doesn’t it?

Thursday’s Iran Daily Talking Points

from LobeLog: News and Views Relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for August 5th, 2010:

Washington Post: Columnist David Ignatius sat in on a journalists’ session with President Barack Obama. Obama related that he was ready to resume negotiations with Iran over the nuclear issues as well as the situation in Afghanistan, albeit on different diplomatic tracks. Background briefers from the administration who followed Obama’s chat with reporters said the renewed U.S. enthusiasm for talks is due to an intelligence perception that, as Ignatius put it, sanctions are “beginning to bite” and that Iran may be having technical troubles with it’s nuclear program, therefore buying time for diplomacy. Obama restated his policy that he is not opposed to a peaceful Iranian nuclear program so long as there are “confidence-building measures” that show there are no moves towards weaponization.

The Atlantic: Marc Ambinder was in the same session with Ignatius, and posted a lengthy account to his blog. Obama said that if “national pride” doesn’t allow Iran to give up an alleged nuclear weapons program, then there will be a “cost.” The use of “all options available to us to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region and to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran,” Ambinder reports Obama as saying, pointing out that this is a euphemism for military strikes. Obama also spoke frankly about his difficulties getting Russia and China on board for sanctions, but said that the Iranians were “surprised by how successful” the U.S. push for international sanctions has been. Ambinder quoted an unnamed senior official who acknowledged that Obama intends to pursue a dual track in dealings with Iran: “Given the technical problems they’re running into, I think we have time to play out the diplomatic strategy that the president laid out, both engagement and pressure.”

The Atlantic: Jeffery Goldberg was also in on the surprise presidential briefing (Obama’s presence was not announced in advance). Goldberg interprets the session as a “victory lap” for the U.S.’s effectiveness in passing sanctions, but remains personally skeptical that they will work to dissuade Iran from its nuclear program. In his interpretation of Obama’s mention of “all options” remaining available, Goldberg writes, “There is no chance Obama will take the military option off the table; there is a small chance, in my opinion, that he would one day resort to the use of military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities.” Goldberg also notes that, despite Obama’s upbeat presentation, negotiations might not work both because, “one of the pillars of Islamic Republic theology is anti-Americanism,” and because the Iranian leadership has effectively suppressed the opposition Green Movement, removing a threat from within that might have caused the regime there to bend to economic pressure.

Commentary: On the Contentions blog, Max Boot picks up on Goldberg’s skepticism (quoting him at length) and lambastes the notion of a “victory lap.” Boot blames Obama for the intransigence of the Iranian leadership in negotiations thus far, proclaiming that they won’t deal “especially because Obama continues to talk of his burning desire to strike a deal with the mullahs, which only encourages their sense of invulnerability.” Boot suggests that negotiations should be abandoned because three decades of dealing with Iran have demonstrated that “that the mullahs aren’t misunderstood moderates who are committed to “peaceful co-existence.”

Washington Post: The Washington Post published an unsigned editorial which appears to echo the recent White House talking points which were also mentioned by Geoffrey Goldberg, Marc Ambinder and Max Boot. Obama is eager to show that the multilateral sanctions for which he finally gained Chinese and Russian support in June are bearing fruit. But the Post’s editorial was quick to mention that “all options” are still on the table. “Yet, as Mr. Obama acknowledged, Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons,” and “changing their calculations is very difficult. . . . It may be that their ideological commitment to nuclear weapons is such that they are not making a cost-benefit analysis,” the president said. That, he added, is why the administration continues to say that “all options” for stopping an Iranian bomb are on the table,” the editorial reported.

National Review Online: Cliff May, at NRO, reviews a new report from the hawkish neocon-associated American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC). A task force there, which includes two staffers from May’s own Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, among other neoconservatives, recently came out with a report that calls for “An Economic Warfare Strategy Against Iran” (PDF). May calls the program “sanctions plus.” While the report was being drafted, May says task force participants briefed members of Congress, resulting in some of the report’s recommendations already being codified in the latest round of U.S. sanctions signed into law last month. May concludes that the Iranian leadership is “no more eager to attend diplomatic soirees than Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri,” and therefore the report’s path of “economic warfare” is “the only chance we have to avoid more ‘kinetic’ and lethal forms of conflict later.” (Ed.’s note: Expect more from LobeLog on the AFPC report in the coming days.)

Weekly Standard: Gabriel Schoenfeld gets all his facts wrong. He blames Hamas for a late July rocket strike on Askhelon in southern Israel, then blames Hezbollah for the latest clash at the Lebanese border between the IDF and Lebanese Army troops. “Hamas and Hezbollah are Iranian proxies. […] Are the ayatollahs preparing preemptive action of their own, taking the battle to the borders of the Zionist enemy?” he asks tendentiously.

Associated Press (via WaPo): George Jahn of the AP, writing from Vienna, gets an exclusive look at two letters that Iran sent out to diplomats. Iran’s head nuclear negotiator wrote the EU foreign policy chief, saying that the imposition of a fourth round of UN sanctions during diplomatic talks on Iran’s nuclear program was “astonishing,” U.S. and EU sanctions “even more astonishing,” and the whole situation “absolutely unacceptable.” Iran’s International Atomic Energy Agency representative wrote a second letter to the IAEA demanding, among other things, that Israel’s covert nuclear arsenal be publicly discussed.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Patrick Clawson reports on claims that both Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff have publicly mentioned plans to pursue 100-percent enrichment — the level required for a nuclear weapon. According to Clawson, the lack of a western response to these remarks has reinforced the Iranian leadership’s belief that they are changing “world management.” Clawson then goes on to report on unsubstantiated reports that Ahmadinejad intends to usurp the Supreme Leader with his hardliner movement. Clawson suggests that now is the time for the U.S. to encourage Green Movement leaders to debate Ahmadinejad and show that his hardline policies have only brought greater isolation for the Islamic Republic. While the WINEP scholar makes a good point that Iran’s domestic politics are more complex than many westerners understand, he fails to consider that Ahmadinejad’s boastful remarks may have exaggerated Iranian enrichment capabilities in order to mobilize domestic political support. On a day when reports are suggesting that Iran — partly due to technical difficulties with their nuclear program — is interested in restarting negotiations with the U.S., it’s unclear how Clawson’s claim that Iran can enrich to 100-percent can be explained.

Nixon’s Vietnam Scapegoat Finally Gets Justice

One wonders how long it will really take to get to the truth about Abu Ghraib.

If a story in today’s Washington Post offers any indication, it will be about 40 years before we find out who authorized the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the early days of the Iraq War. And then maybe the Washington jackals will cease taking pot-shots at retired Col. Janis Karpinski, who took the biggest hit for the scandal. Then maybe she’ll finally get her long-awaited vindication, and her star and rank back, too

For now she’ll have to wait because it’s Air Force Gen. John D. Lavelle’s turn. He is about to get his stars back after he was demoted and his name and reputation were  “dragged through the mud” during summer of 1972.  He had been accused of illegally ordering the secret bombing of North Vietnam radar sites during the war and then covering it up. He maintained until his death 31 years ago that he was just following orders. Turns out he was right. The government cannot take credit for his posthumous redemption, though, it was the work of two biographers who stumbled on audio tapes with the evidence.

Great for the Lavelle family, which includes a widow and seven children who have had to live with this blemish all their lives. Bad for Richard Nixon’s family, which has to face yet another embarrassing revelation about the late president. Turns out he gave the bombing orders himself, and purposefully let Lavalle take the blame. Nixon comes off as pretty toady in the tapes. In fact, it’s pretty pathetic and frankly puts a lot about his authority throughout the war into question:

Not only did Nixon give the secret orders, but transcripts of his recorded Oval Office conversations show that he stood by, albeit uncomfortably, as Lavelle suffered a scapegoat’s fate.

“I just don’t want him to be made a goat, goddamnit,” Nixon told his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, on June 14, 1972, a few days after it was disclosed that Lavelle had been demoted for the allegedly unauthorized attacks. “You, you destroy a man’s career. . . . Can we do anything now to stop this damn thing?”

On June 26, Nixon’s conscience intervened in another conversation with Kissinger. “Frankly, Henry, I don’t feel right about our pushing him into this thing and then, and then giving him a bad rap,” the president said. “I don’t want to hurt an innocent man.”

But Nixon was unwilling to stand up publicly for the general. With many lawmakers and voters already uneasy about the war, he wasn’t about to admit that he had secretly given permission to escalate bombing in North Vietnam. At a June 29 news conference, he was asked about Lavelle’s case and the airstrikes.

“It wasn’t authorized,” Nixon told the reporters. “It was proper for him to be relieved and retired.”

After an “exhaustive examination” of the evidence, the current president was able to relieve Nixon’s nagging conscience and ask congress to restore Lavalle’s missing stars. Not so long ago we had a President and Vice President who treated subordinates just as appallingly (Karpinski’s just one of them). Bet their scapegoats hope to see similar justice before say, 2045.

Cross posted at The American Conservative