Department of Journalism, College of Communication, Boston University





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Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: London's position undermines the "regime-change" option in Washington

Iran: Is Britain Putting U.S. Hawks on the Spot?
Having brought the Iran nuclear issue to the UN Security Council, the U.S. is struggling to find a consensus that would escalate pressure on Tehran, as China and Russia balk at ultimatums and seek to have the matter returned to the jurisdiction of the IAEA as quickly as possible. For those in the Bush administration seeking regime-change in Tehran, the diplomatic deadlock may simply underscore the case for tougher action. But while the U.S. has been able to count on strong support from London, Paris and Berlin in seeking a tough enforcement of non-proliferation rules via the Security Council, none of those countries can be counted on to back a regime-change initiative. Indeed, a careful reading of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's recent keynote address on Iran at the International Institute for Strategic Studies makes clear that Britain favors engagement, and ultimately normalization of relations both with the Iranian people and with their government to deescalate tension and provide a climate for coexistence and the expansion of liberty in Iran. That position contrasts sharply with the regime-change agenda being promoted by Washington hawks.

Now, the British may be seeking to ensure that the crisis over Iran's nuclear program does not become a platform for regime change: The Times reports that the foreign office has proposed to resolve the deadlock at the Security Council via a proposal that, on the one hand, offers a guarantee of stronger UN action by adopting a Chapter VII Security Council resolution, which could pave the way for sanctions or even military action if Iran fails to comply with demands that it desist from enriching uranium -- but, and here lies the rub, that resolution would be adopted only late in the summer, and before that the British envisage a new round of negotiations with Tehran in which the Iranians would be offered new incentives for cooperation. So far, the U.S. has rejected the idea of further incentives for Tehran, which would probably include things that could be construed as security guarantees. The British position appears to be a skillful attempt to split the difference by offering the U.S. the prospect of an enforceable Security Council ultimatum, but only after the U.S. signs on to offering more incentives to Tehran -- if London was simply trying to set the stage for tougher action on the basis of the the current deadlock, there's little reason to expect the Chinese and Russians would sign on. As in the case of the six-party process on North Korea, absent the U.S. being prepared to offer the Tehran regime some form of security guarantees and even direct talks, Washington may yet find itself unable to secure a diplomatic consensus for further pressure. (The Times, March 22, 2006)

  • Jessica Matthews warns that the U.S. goals of regime-change and non-proliferation are incompatible in the current diplomatic reality, and the Bush administration faces a choice between the two. Opting for regime change, she says, will almost certainly result in Iran going nuclear. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 24, 2006)
  • Tony Karon notes that Russia and China not only have different priorities to the U.S. regarding Iran; Washington's positions on their own national security concerns may make them less accommodating of the U.S. agenda. (TIME, March 20, 2006)
  • Kaveh L Afrasiabi argues that the Iran crisis highlights the strains facing the Non Proliferation Treaty itself. "Any false first steps at the Security Council can have disastrous results down the road, which explains why some permanent members are disinclined to appease the Iran-bashing US envoy, John Bolton, who has declared: 'I'm not in the carrot business'," writes Afrasiabi. "Maybe Bolton is in the wrong business, since the UN business is the business of crisis prevention and not escalation." (Asia Times, March 25, 2006)
  • Offering an Arab perspective on the Iran showdown, Galal Nassar argues that the objective restraints and consequences will prevent the U.S. and Israel from taking direct military action against Iran. Instead, he suggests, the U.S. will pursue a strategy of proxy war via a Shiite-Sunni clash in Iraq that evolves into a civil war, drawing in Iran and draining its resources. (Al Ahram, 23-29 March, 2006)
  • Marc Perelman explains why the enthusiasm of the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress for sanctions against Iran has the Bush administration worried: Legislation currently before the House would slap sanctions on any countries and companies investing in Iran's petroleum industry -- a move that would target China and probably preclude it from cooperating with the U.S. on Iran and a range of other crisis issues. (Forward, March 26, 2006)
  • Dilip Hiro notes that a major problem facing the West over Iran's nuclear program is that its defiant stand carries widespread popular support at home. (The Telegraph, March 23, 2006)
  • Background Material on Iran
  • The Center for Defense Information has posted extracts from the IAEA report on Iran which is to be discussed by the Security Council. (CDI, March 6, 2006)
  • The International Crisis Group sees two possible diplomatic solutions to prevent a breakdown from which Iran would quite likely emerge nuclear-armed. The first is that Iran would agree to refrain entirely from enriching uranium on its own soil, but for that to happen, warns the ICG, the U.S. would have to offer a far greater political incentive than is currently on the table. If the U.S. is unlikely in the near term to offer full recognition and rehabilitation of the regime in Tehran, the only other plausible outcome is for the West to back down on the principle of Iranian enrichment but in exchange for Iran agreeing to delay its onset by a number of years and submit to a far more intrusive inspection regime. As imperfect as this solution would be to all sides, the alternative is worse, the ICG argues. (International Crisis Group, February 28, 2006)
  • George Perkovich warns that proposals allowing limited enrichment in Iran simply defer a confrontation and make it more difficult to rein in what will then be a fait accompli in Iran. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 7, 2006)
  • In an interview with TIME's Scott MacLeod, Iran's top nuclear negotiator suggests his regime remains open to a deal, even direct talks with the U.S.. But they would not be willing to be "harangued" by President Bush, and they insist that their right to uranium enrichment be recognized. (TIME, March 1, 2006)
  • As in the case of North Korea, China's position may prove to be the critical influence on how the Iran standoff plays out. Dingli Shen suggests Beijing is caught in the dilemma of balancing its emerging status as a global diplomatic power, maintaing stqability and the nuclear status quo, and protecting Iran's sovereign right to civilian nuclear program and China's bilateral energy relationship with Tehran. Beijing's view is that Iran must account for its nuclear past under NPT commitment before it can demand full cycle rights under the treaty. Of course if it withdrew from the treaty, it could legally puruse both energy and weapons. Beijing's own concerns militate against support for a strategy of confrontation by either side. (Washington Quarterly, Spring 2006) 2006)
  • Stephen Sestanovich assesses the Russian posture on Iran, parsing its likely course against the backdrop of the current geopolitical posture of President Putin. (Council on Foreign Relations, March 3, 2006)
  • Previously on Iran:
    -- 03.08.06: Regime Change or Normalization?

    -- 03.01.06: Nuclear Standoff Escalates
    -- 02.21.06: Dangers of a Military Option
    -- 02.28.06: Tehran Raises the Stakes
  • Iraq: A Generational American War?
    President Bush has finally admitted what had become obvious from his actions on the ground in Iraq over the past three years: The U.S. military won't be leaving Iraq for the foreseeable future. Sure, troop levels will be reduced and forces brought home, and the pattern of deployment of those left behind will change substantially as Iraqi forces are cultivated to take on basic policing functions. The objective may well be to reduce the profile of U.S. forces, keeping them confined to base as much as possible, as U.S. air power and rapid response units back up Iraqi forces that encounter heavy resistance. And the U.S. may need tens of thousands fewer troops to carry out such a mission. But there's no question of a complete withdrawal for the simple reason that no Iraqi military capable of defending the country's sovereignty has yet been created, or is even in the process of being created. That may be the context for President Bush's answer last week when asked whether there will come a time when there are no U.S. forces in Iraq: That will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

    State power typically involves a monopoly of force within a defined territory, but in Iraq force appears to be divided with the lion's share in the hands of the U.S. military (which also happens to command the new Iraqi forces) and the remainder being shared out among the men under arms loyal to rival ethnic and sectarian political centers. Even as the elected leadership continues to struggle to form a new government, the U.S. has moved to begin negotiating over the distribution of power in Iraq not only among the political parties, but also with two ostensibly hostile power centers -- the nationalist leadership of the Sunni insurgency (even U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has taken to calling them "the resistance") and the government of Iran, which remains a patron to the largest party of the Shiite religious coalition that dominates the legislature, as well as to its associated militia. While both Washington and Tehran insist they are simply going to read the other the riot act, clearly the fact of those talks suggests a mutual recognition of each other's interests in achieving stability in Iraq. And perhaps, also, a move towards seeking a regional compact to create stability, or at least contain the fallout of a civil war. Either way, the U.S. and Iran are likely to be neighbors in a very volatile region for years to come, making the establishment of channels of communication a matter of urgency. And, of course, the talks with both the neo-Baathists and the Iranians confirms the extent to which the Iraq invasion has reinforced, rather than undermined, the regional status quo that Washington had found so problematic.(Knight Ridder, March 21, 2006)

  • It may be in Iraq for the foreseeable, but the U.S. military is coming under fire from a range of Iraqis for its conduct in a number of incidents in which Iraqi civilians have been killed. Shiite politicians are up in arms over a confrontation at a mosque in Baghdad after they claim to have been fired on by militiamen loyal to Moqtada Sadr. And the Times reports that a number of eyewitness accounts suggest that a number of civilians were killed by Marines on a rampage at Abu Sifa, which appears to echo accounts of enraged U.S. troops killing civilians at Haditha after one of their number was killed by a roadside bomb. (BBC, March 26, 2006 and the Sunday Times, March 25, 2006)
  • Marina Ottaway suggests that the state has essentially collapsed in Iraq, making it difficult to envision a new political order achieving stability or legitimacy. "At this point in Iraq, you do not have a central government -- so you don't have a legitimate authority running the country," she tells Der Spiegel. "You don't have a government with the power to establish or maintain order. What you have is a nominal government that can only stay in power because the Americans are there. The government is supposed to have derived legitimacy from the constitution and the elections. But I think the government we end up with, won't have much legitimacy either." (Der Spiegel, March 23, 2006)
  • Syrian analyst Sami Moubayed contends that the victors after three years of the U.S. in Iraq are Iran, the Shiite Islamists and the authoritarian Arab regimes whose death knell the invasion was meant to sound. He suggests that the only way stability may be achieved in Iraq would be to mimic those regimes by finding a new Iraqi strongman. (Asia Times, March 23, 2006)
  • Amir Taheri signals Sunni Arab hostility in the region to the U.S. talking to Iran about Iraq . They see such talks as a disastrously shortsighted option that will expand Iran’s influence at the expense of US (and Arab) interests (Asharq al-Awsat, March 24, 2006)
  • Iason Athanasiadis suggests that Turkey's primary strategic concern in Iraq, now, is no longer a Kurdish breakaway, but the transformation of Southern Iraq into an Iranian sphere of influence, substantially expanding Tehran's power and upsetting the region’s strategic balance. As a result, they are less concerned with simply cultivating ethnic allies than with cultivating ties with Iraqi Shiites. (Daily Star, March 24, 2006)
  • Nicholas Blanford notes a rise in regional tension as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which has challenged prevailing geopolitical and sectarian balances. (Christian Science Monitor, March 21, 2006)
  • Judith Yaphe parses the consequences for U.S. regional interests of Iraq breaking apart in a civil war. These include the destabilization of weaker regimes dependent on U.S. military presence for their own security, a depletion of confidence among U.S. ally in Washington's commitment to safeguarding their interests, an expansion of Iranian influence and an enhanced ability for al-Qaeda to intimidate weaker regional regimes. (Bitterlemons, March 23, 2006)
  • Charles Recknagel says that the key challenge facing a new government in Iraq is disbanding militias, which by their very existence undermine the authority of a central state. (International Security Watch, March 23, 2006)
  • Background on Iraq:
  • The Project on Defense Alternatives compiles an exhaustive bibliography of online reports and studies on the Iraq insurgency. (Project on Defense Alternatives, March 2006)
  • So what was Saddam thinking in the run-up to the war? Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray share the findings of their book-length intelligence study for the U.S. military. (Foreign Affairs, May-June, 2006)
  • Previously on Iraq:
    -- What's Left of Iraq?

    -- Civil War and the Region
    -- Is Sadr the Key to Avoiding Civil War?
    -- Mounting Anger at Coalition Forces in Iraq

    Israel Hopes to Negotiate Borders With U.S.
    As Israel goes to the polls on Tuesday, its electorate looks set to produce yet another inconclusive mandate, giving Ariel Sharon's Kadima Party (now headed by Ehud Olmert) a plurality of votes but not enough to enable it to govern without entering a coalition with right-wing parties. But even if he did achieve a mandate to pursue his peace plans, Olmert -- like Sharon before him -- appears to have little interest in discussing them with the Palestinians, regardless of who their leaders are. Instead, Olmert plans to continue Sharon's Gaza legacy by ordering further unilateral pullouts from parts of the West Bank, in order to cement "final" borders that leave Israel in control of far more Palestinian land than the Palestinians would ever agree to. (The fact of Hamas being in charge on the Palestinian side, if anything, helps the Israeli leader make the case in the West that Israel "has no Palestinian partner.") But Olmert did indicate on Sunday that he plans to enter into negotiations on the "final" borders he plans to create -- not with the Palestinians, but with the Bush administration. Having stood back from enforcing any international requirements of Israel, the U.S. may soon find itself invited to define the Jewish State's boundaries on terms that no Arab constituency is likely to accept. Conventional wisdom has long held that the U.S. standing in the Arab world depends first and foremost on its ability to deliver a fair peace between Israel and the Palestinians; if, instead, it finds itself enabling a unilateral solution imposed on the Palestinians at their expense, the ability of the U.S. to operate as a mediator in that conflict, much less to influence events elsewhere in the region, will be further diminished. (Al Jazeera, March 23, 2003)

  • Amira Hass sets the Israeli election in context by examining the implications of Israel's choice for the residents of Gaza. The Israeli government still makes the decisions that determine the minute details of every Gaza Palestinian's life, she writes, and as punishment for electing Hamas, Israel is essentially strangling the Gaza economy. Food supplies are running low, she notes, but the policy of putting 1.5 million Palestinians under siege is untenable, and will provoke a regional reaction against Israel. (Haaretz, March 23, 2006)
  • Uzi Benziman, however, notes that the fate of the Palestinians -- and other national security concerns -- are marginal concerns in this election. Perhaps as an indication of the extent to which the current deadlock with the Palestinians has become a permanent reality, Israeli voters are more concerned with domestic policy issues. (Haaretz, March 23, 2006)
  • Chris McGreal reports on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. (The Guardian, March 22, 2006)
  • Graham Usher suggests that the biggest threat to Olmert is not Labor or Likud, but voter apathy creating a low turnout. Unlike previous elections, he says, this one is not being fought over big ideas or fundamental choices. (Al Ahram, March 22-29, 2006)
  • He failed to convince Palestinian voters, now Mahmoud Abbas hopes to convince Israel and the U.S. that he's able to conclude a final peace agreement with Israel after covert negotiations. The Israelis weren't interested in final-status talks with Abbas before Hamas was elected to power; having committed themselves to a unilateral redrawing of borders, it's hard to imagine the Israelis would see any point in talking to him now. (Haaretz, March 22, 2006)
  • More interesting are the conflicting signals coming from Hamas. On the one hand, its interior minister designate maintains that a Hamas government won't act against Palestinians who commit acts of violence against Israel. On the other hand, Hamas prime minister designate Ismail Haniya tells the Palestinian legislature that his government seeks a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders, and wants talks with the international Quartet over resolving the conlict. (Yediot Ahronot, March 27, 2006)
  • Matthew Leavitt argues that Hamas is unlikely to moderate its positions in power . (Council on Foreign Relations, March 20, 2006)
  • Previously on Israel and Palestine:
    --Jericho Raid Humiliates Abbas

    --Hamas and Israel: An Unspoken Peace?
    --Rice Fails to Secure Hamas Blockade
    -- Is the U.S. Trying to Reverse the Palestinian Election?
  • Long March for Belarus Opposition
    Although the Belarus opposition has attracted the support of most of Europe and the U.S. for its efforts to challenge the electoral farce that returned Alexander Yukashenko to power after 12 years of increasingly authoritarian rule, they're not in a position to mount an equivalent of Ukraine's Orange Revolution. That much was acknowledged in an interview Monday by opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich, after police violently cracked down on demonstrators on Saturday and arrested fellow opposition candidate Alexander Kozulin. The regime still commands substantial popular support, and it enjoys backing from Moscow, which sees the wave of democracy movements in former Soviet territories as part of a Western strategy to encroach on Moscow's traditional sphere of influence. For the opposition, says Milinkevich, the only option is a political strategy of siege, working to build popular support and strip the regime of its legitimacy, while Western sanctions take effect. But the regime will be looking to make opposition leaders pay by pursuing them through the legal system. (AP via Houston Chronicle, March 27, 2003)

  • Although the opposition will be forced to retreat temporarily, David Marples believes the Lukashenko has won a pyrrhic victory. The repression following the poll, he suggests, has opened up cracks in the regime that will see it gradually collapse. (International Security Network, March 24, 2006)
  • Ironically, perhaps, just as Moscow was backing one ally's efforts to steal an election in Belarus, in the former Soviet territory of Ukraine it was the most democratic election in the country's history that put the pro-Russia candidate at the top of the pile. Disillusioned by the failure of the President Viktor Yuschenko to deliver on the promise of the Orange Revolution, voters gave about a third of the ballot to Moscow's man, Viktor Yunukovych, and a further 20 percent to arch nationalist former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. Timoshenko and Yuschenko may yet join forces to keep out Moscow's man, but the election clearly stunned the reformist president and may hobble his agenda. The result also underscored the complexity of political life in the former Soviet territories, where Moscow's clients often enjoy substantial political support. (Washington Post, March 27, 2006)
  • Celeste Wallander explains the stakes in the Ukraine election, both from the perspective of the Kremlin and the various Ukrainian parties. She warns that the plurality won by the party of Yanukovich may function to block Ukraine's movement towards integration with Europe. (CSIS, March 27, 2006)

  • ______________________________
    New From CWPNM:
    Bibliography of analysis
    and criticism of international coverage in U.S. media

    Abdul Rahman states his faith, posing a problem for both Karzai and Bush

    Kabul Christian Convert Puts Afghanistan's Karzai in a Bind
    Under pressure from his patron, the U.S. government, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai intervened personally to secure the release of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old convert to Christianity who faced a potential death sentence under Sharia law for apostasy. And, predictably, thousands took to the streets to protest and demand that he be put to death. The case highlights not only a contradiction in Afghanistan's constitution between its endorsement of international human rights conventions guaranteeing freedom of worship, and its codifying of Sharia law, but also a political tension that exposes the limits of Karzai's own authority -- and a domestic problem for his U.S. backers.

    Karzai's power remains limited, and entirely dependent on a combination of U.S. and NATO forces, and the consent of various warlords -- some of them radical Islamists -- who have been drawn into government. For the Bush administration, the persecution by a U.S.-backed regime of a Christian for having chosen the same faith as the President of the United States is untenable: Washington was pressed to demand Abdul Rahman's release by a clamor of protest from the Evangelical activist base of the Republican Party. But for Karzai, caving in to the U.S. on a matter of faith and identity is a risk option. And the case has inflamed the passions of religious activists on both sides, and the Taliban is using it as a rallying point to build a coalition against Karzai. Nor is it over, for Abdul Rahman's release was engineered on the grounds of evidentiary technicalities and insinuations about his sanity, rather than any question over the legitimacy of the law that makes it possible to charge him for converting from Islam to another faith. The fact that Abdul Rahman has reportedly applied for asylum in a third country underscores the problem. The Bush administration likes to point to Afghanistan as a poster child for its promotion of democracy abroad; the Abdul Rahman case will have alerted Americans at home to the limits of the freedom that is being defended in Afghanistan.
    (TIME, March 26, 2006)

    A bloodied camera lies on a carpet at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel after it was struck by U.S. fire

    Green Zone Journalism
    To mark the third anniversary of the Iraq war, Orville Schell went to Baghdad to chronicle the state of media coverage of the conflict, and the lives of the journalists tasked with getting the story in the face of mounting obstacles. Extracts:
    As Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times explained, "Squeezing off a few rounds of automatic weapons fire here in Baghdad is the equivalent of honking your horn in America." So unless an explosion is quite close, people hardly break step. At most, if there is a particularly loud report, a journalist might go up onto his bureau's rooftop to see where the smoke is coming from.

    There is undeniably a Blade Runner-like feel to this city. The violence is so pervasive and unfathomable that you wonder what people think they are dying for. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the everyday violence is horrendous, it does not take too many days before the deadly noises and the devastation everywhere seem to become just part of the ordinary landscape. Soon, quite to your surprise, you find yourself paying hardly more attention to the sounds of gunshots than a New Yorker does to the car alarms that go off every night... until, that is, someone you know, a neighbor, or just someone you have heard about, gets blown up, shot on patrol, or kidnapped by insurgents….

    Visiting any of the news bureaus gives an immediate sense of how embattled foreign journalists now are and how difficult it has become for them to do their jobs. Everyone I spoke to complained that the deteriorating security situation has increasingly made them prisoners of their bureaus.

    "We could go almost anywhere in Iraq in a regular car, unprotected," wrote the Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi this February, in a wistful front-page story for her paper about the situation she found when she first arrived in 2003. "I wore Western clothes -- pants and T-shirts, skirts, sandals -- walked freely around Baghdad chatting with shopkeepers and having lunch or dinner with people I met." By the spring of 2004, she writes, "the insurgency had been spreading and gaining strength faster than we had imagined possible. For the first time, I hired armed guards and began traveling in a fully armored car. Outings were measured and limited and road trips were few and far between... As security deteriorated around the country, the areas in which we could safely operate shrank."….

    Foreign news bureaus are either in or near the few operating hotels such as the Al Hamra, the Rashid, or the Palestine. Like battleships that have been badly damaged but are still at sea, these hotels have survived repeated bomb attacks and yet have managed to stay open. A few hotels like the Rashid, where once there was a mosaic depicting George Bush Sr. on the floor of the lobby, are sheltered within the Green Zone. A few other bureaus have their own houses, usually somewhat shabby villas that have the advantage of being included inside some collective defense perimeter that makes the resulting neighborhood feel like a walled medieval town….

    I had arrived here in Baghdad naively expecting that as an antidote to their isolation from Iraqi society, journalists might have kept up something of a fraternity among themselves. What I discovered was that even the most basic social interactions have become difficult. It is true that some of the larger and better-appointed news bureaus (with kitchens and cooks) have tried to organize informal evening dinners with colleagues. But while guests were able to get to an early dinner, there was the problem of getting back again to their compounds or hotels by dark, when the odds of being attacked vastly increase. The only alternative was to stay the night, which posed many difficulties for everyone, especially Iraqi drivers and guards.

    The result is that reporters find themselves living in a strangely retro mode where their days end before sunset, and they are pulled back to their bureaus for dinner like an American family of the 1950s. Not a few have sought solace in cooking….

    Few reporters I talked to, whether Western or Iraqi, have any direct contact with the insurgents or with the sectarian militias: it is too difficult and dangerous, they say, to talk with Iraqis who do the fighting and set off the explosives. And thus, the various attacks, suicide bombings, and the pervasive anti-Western sentiment, as well as the sectarian hatred that has erupted during the occupation, continue to be largely unexplored and unexplained from the viewpoint of the Iraqis, whether they are Sunni insurgents, members of the Shia militias, or from the American-supplied Iraqi forces that are attacking them.
    (New York Review of Books via TomDispatch, March 13, 2006)

    President Bush addresses AIPAC

    America's Israel Lobby
    If social security has long been the "third rail" of U.S. domestic politics, then its equivalent in the sphere of foreign policy has been the U.S. alliance with Israe. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kennedy school tackle the taboo head on, in a provocative research study that assesses the impact of the Israel lobby on decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East. And it asserts that the Israel lobby's influence on U.S. policy has been bad both for the U.S. and even for Israel:

    " The Lobby’s influence causes trouble on several fronts. It increases the terrorist danger that all states face – including America’s European allies. It has made it impossible to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a situation that gives extremists a powerful recruiting tool, increases the pool of potential terrorists and sympathisers, and contributes to Islamic radicalism in Europe and Asia.

    "Equally worrying, the Lobby’s campaign for regime change in Iran and Syria could lead the US to attack those countries, with potentially disastrous effects. We don’t need another Iraq. At a minimum, the Lobby’s hostility towards Syria and Iran makes it almost impossible for Washington to enlist them in the struggle against al-Qaida and the Iraqi insurgency, where their help is badly needed.

    "There is a moral dimension here as well. Thanks to the Lobby, the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the Occupied Territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians. This situation undercuts Washington’s efforts to promote democracy abroad and makes it look hypocritical when it presses other states to respect human rights. US efforts to limit nuclear proliferation appear equally hypocritical given its willingness to accept Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which only encourages Iran and others to seek a similar capability.

    "Besides, the Lobby’s campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy. Silencing sceptics by organising blacklists and boycotts – or by suggesting that critics are anti-semites – violates the principle of open debate on which democracy depends. The inability of Congress to conduct a genuine debate on these important issues paralyses the entire process of democratic deliberation. Israel’s backers should be free to make their case and to challenge those who disagree with them, but efforts to stifle debate by intimidation must be roundly condemned.

    "Finally, the Lobby’s influence has been bad for Israel. Its ability to persuade Washington to support an expansionist agenda has discouraged Israel from seizing opportunities – including a peace treaty with Syria and a prompt and full implementation of the Oslo Accords – that would have saved Israeli lives and shrunk the ranks of Palestinian extremists. Denying the Palestinians their legitimate political rights certainly has not made Israel more secure, and the long campaign to kill or marginalise a generation of Palestinian leaders has empowered extremist groups like Hamas, and reduced the number of Palestinian leaders who would be willing to accept a fair settlement and able to make it work. Israel itself would probably be better off if the Lobby were less powerful and US policy more even-handed... "What is needed is a candid discussion of the Lobby’s influence and a more open debate about US interests in this vital region. Israel’s well-being is one of those interests, but its continued occupation of the West Bank and its broader regional agenda are not. Open debate will expose the limits of the strategic and moral case for one-sided US support and could move the US to a position more consistent with its own national interest, with the interests of the other states in the region, and with Israel’s long-term interests as well. (London Review of Books, March10, 2006)

    U.S. Central Command's website and Newsletter
    Updating Info on Iraq, Afghanistan. the Middle East and the Horn of Africa