..CENTER FOR WAR, PEACE, AND THE NEWS MEDIA, March 29 - April 5, 2006
Department of Journalism, College of Communication, Boston University





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Condi Rice and Jack Straw meet British school children last week

Bush Iran Policy Hits a Wall
The United Nations Security Council last week finally adopted a Presidential Statement on Iran, but one that fell far short of what Washington had wanted. Resistance from China and Russia proved intractable, and rather than threaten action or frame the issue as a threat to global security, it simply urged Iran to comply with IAEA demands within 30 days or else the Council would discuss the matter further. Then, on Wednesday in Berlin, Secretary of State Condi Rice talked of sanctions as a consequence, and again her Russian counterpart rebuked her and insisted that Moscow was opposed to sanctions. More importantly, European diplomats at the talks revealed that their own strategy involved escalating both the pressure and the incentives for Iran to comply. Innocuous as that may sound, it's a direct challenge to a U.S. administration that has pursued non-proliferation diplomacy at the same time as maintaining a "regime-change" agenda in relation to Tehran: The incentives of which the Europeans are talking include security guarantees, i.e. guaranteeing the safety of the regime from outside threats in order to remove a key argument that might tip it in the direction of acquiring a nuclear deterrent. Security guarantees are incompatible with pursuing regime-change from without, and Washington will in the coming months be forced to choose between those goals -- the international consensus against Iran acquiring nukes would likely be almost as firmly against a policy of regime-change. And Washington does not control the diplomacy in relation to Iran; it outsourced that role to the Europeans precisely because of its unresolved internal debate on regime-change. (A similar dynamic in the six-party process over North Korea has resulted in the U.S. having no choice but to begin finding a way of offering Pyongyang some form of direct talks and security guarantees, which most of the other parties to the process see as reasonable demands.)

In an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman, former Bush National Security Council official Flynt Leverett has authored its own problem by failing to adopt a serious policy on Iran. “We got into this dilemma because we essentially don’t have a strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue," he explains. "By 'we' I mean the United States and the Bush administration. The Bush administration has deliberately ruled out direct negotiations with Iran either over the nuclear issue or over the broad range of strategic issues that you would need to talk to Iran about if you were going to get a real diplomatic settlement on the nuclear issue.

"The administration has, literally for years, ruled out that kind of strategic dialogue withIran. In the absence of that sort of approach, that sort of channel, the administration is left with two options, one of which is to try and get something done in the Security Council. It has been foreseeable literally for months, if not for longer, that Russia and China at a minimum were not going to be prepared to support serious multilateral sanctions or other serious multilateral punitive measures on Iran. This is not a surprise. As I said, it’s been foreseeable literally for months, but the administration, without a strategy, is going down this feckless road anyway. The other option that the administration would have is unilateral military action. Right now the administration is not in a position to undertake that. The international outcry would, I think, be enormous. We would literally have no one on our side at this point supporting that kind of action. The administration certainly has many other challenges on its plate that it’s having to cope with right now. And frankly I don’t think a unilateral military strike would solve the problem any more than trying to deal with it through the Security Council. Because of the administration’s deliberate decision to rule out serious strategically grounded diplomacy with Iran on this issue, these are the only two options they’ve got, and neither is going to work." (Council on Foreign Relations March 30, 2006)

  • Kaveh L. Afrasiabi argues that resolving the crisis now requires substantial new initiatives from the West that would allow Tehran to save face while backing down from its intractable position on uranium enrichment. The two key elements of such an initiative, he says, are security guarantees and a credible, politically neutral mechanism for guaranteeing Iran a secure and steady flow of reactor fuel from abroad. (Asia Times, April 1, 2006)
  • Charles Kupchan and Ray Tayekh argue that the U.S. attempt to browbeat Iran into nuclear compliance is bound to fail, because it misreads Iranian history and political attitudes. In Iran, the nuclear issue is framed as a matter of national pride that spans all political persuasions, and from the point of view of Iranian patriotism, the U.S. and Britain have not exactly distinguished themselves as agents of democracy and fairness over the past century. The only hope of changing Iran's course, they argue, would be to profoundly change the manner in which Tehran is being addressed, offering a full, open-ended dialogue aimed at normalizing relations. (International Herald Tribune, March 29, 2006)
  • Pepe Escobar finds that on the nuclear issue, Tehran's liberal middle class and intelligentsia are firmly behind a government they detest. (Asia Times, April 1, 2006)
  • Despite Foreign Secretary Jack Straw repeatedly ruling out military action against Iran, The Telegraph reports that British military planners have begun discussing possible involvement in a U.S.-led air strike, believing that it is an inevitability if diplomacy fails -- if not this year, then next year. "There will be no invasion of Iran but the nuclear sites will be destroyed," the paper writes. "This is not something that will happen imminently, maybe this year, maybe next year. Jack Straw is making exactly the same noises that the Government did in March 2003 when it spoke about the likelihood of a war in Iraq." The report then goes on to offer a detailed account of how such a strike would be staged -- so detailed, in fact, that the reader would be forgiven for thinking the "leak" in this instance may have been calculated to intimidate Tehran. (The Telegraph, April 2, 2006)
  • Joseph Cirincione notes that the rhetorical strategy of the Bush administration on Iran mirrors that of prewar Iraq, raising his concern that many in the administration may have already decided to attack Iran. The situation calls for rational, informed discussion, he insists. "We cannot let the political or ideological agenda of a small group determine a national security decision that could create havoc in a critical area of the globe. Not again." (Foreign Policy, March 27, 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)
  • The Oxford Research Group assesses the effectiveness of military options against Iran, and concludes they are unlikely to restrain Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but will promote chaos and instability. (Oxford Research Group, February, 2006)
  • Ray Tayekh explains the factional disputes at the heart of the Tehran regime, suggesting that the path of confrontation is preferred by a new generation of conservatives hardened during the Iran-Iraq war, and that the current atmosphere of crisis strengthens their hand domestically. (The National Interest, Spring, 2006)
  • Henry Sokolski suggests that the current debate over how to stop Iran going nuclear is fruitless. Instead, he offers a long-term strategy for managing Western rivalry with a nuclear-armed Iran. (Transatlantic Institute, March 16, 2006)
  • Previously on Iran:
    -- 03.22.06: Has Britain Put U.S. on the Spot?

    -- 03.15.06: 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: The Magnitude of Failure
    With spring in the air, Secretaries Rice and Straw took a trip to Baghdad to urge the Iraqis to get on with forming the government for which they voted last winter. Among those with whom they met was Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, with Secretary Rice reportedly appearing "stiff" before the encounter -- hardly surprising, really, given the fact that Washington has told the Shiite alliance that it will not accept Jaafari's nomination for a new term as Prime Minister. That message now appears to have been echoed, even, by members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the biggest party in the alliance. That suggests that Jaafari's vow to fight to the end may be fruitless if the Shiite alliance splits, although such an outcome will very likely provoke a strong reaction against the U.S. from Jaafari's key ally, Moqtada Sadr, whose militiamen may make their displeasure felt on the streets. Nonetheless, even if the U.S. manages to work the opposition to Jaafari from diverse rivals into a successful blocking maneuver, the prospects for a strong central government in Iraq right now look bleak. The U.S. may manage to block the ascension of those politicians it most detests in Iraq, but it remains unable to put its own allies such as Iyad Allawi into power, or to influence political events in Iraq towards a satisfactory outcome.

    As Shibley Telhami notes, what is most palpable in Iraq is the failure of the world's only superpower to impose its will despite an unprecedented investment in its attempt to do so. "Consider the stunning magnitude of the failure," Telhami writes. "Iraq has been the top priority for the world's only superpower for the past three years, and a central one for many regional and international powers. The United States, intent on keeping Iraq together, has spent more resources in that country than any state ever has spent on another in the history of the world.

    "All of Iraq's neighbors, for their own reasons, sought to avoid a divided Iraq. All of the major factions in Iraq have an interest in preventing civil war - the Shiites, preferring to have the majority voice in a unified Iraq; the Sunnis, fearing being left with a resource-poor region; and the Kurds, who didn't want to risk Turkish intervention.

    "Arab states feared the breakup of Iraq, and Arab public opinion identified division as the biggest concern. All major international organizations, from the United Nations to the Arab League, sought the preservation of a unified Iraq.

    "Yet the prospect of civil war and a divided Iraq are now greater than they had been at any time." (Brookings Institution, March 27, 2006)

  • Patrick Cockburn offers a vivid account of the multiple fissures plaguing Iraqi politics and propelling it towards civil war. While Sunni parties oppose Jaafari because they see him as complicit with rampaging Shiite militias that threaten their physical survival in mixed cities, the Kurds -- whose opposition has proved decisive, since they originally governed in coalition with Jaafari -- see him as a threat to their quasi-separatist ambitions in the north, particularly their aim of folding Kirkuk into what would then be an oil-rich Kurdish entity. But, of course, some of the Shiites opposed to Jaafari are also those with the most notorious sectarian militias, while the Sunnis actually share Jaafari's position on Kirkuk. Whatever the outcome of the specific political dispute, the same basic fissures look likely to keep the country in a downward spiral. (London Review of Books, April 6, 2006)
  • The New York Times reports that thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled mixed neighborhoods to take refuge in areas dominated by their own sect or group, often under militia protection. It is at this neighborhood level, rather than on the political stage, that the civil war is taking shape. (New York Times, April 2, 2006)
  • In a similar vein, Megan K. Stack reports that Sunni civilians with no previous connection with the insurgency have begun stockpiling weapons and preparing neighbhorhood militias to repel attacks by Shiite militias on their neighborhoods and mosques. (Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2006)
  • Michael O'Hanlon argues that repeatedly ruling out military action against Iran, The Telegraph reports that the U.S. strategy of pushing Iraqi forces to the forefront of efforts to avoid a civil war is dangerously misguided. The make-up of those forces is such that they will not stand above and outside ethnic and sectarian conflict, and the country will break apart unless U.S. forces are deployed as an active deterrent to civil strife.(Washington Post, March 22, 2006)
  • The shifting pattern of U.S. deployments seems evident in figures cited by the Washington Post that show U.S. troop casualties at their lowest in two years even as the overall level of violence in Iraq is near an all-time high." (Washington Post, April 1, 2006)
  • Abbas Khadim reports that Iraq's Shiites see in U.S. political interventions an attempt to deprive them of the victory they won at the polls, and he predicts a sharp deterioration in relations between the U.S. and the Shiite community. (Al Ahram, March 29-April 4, 2005)
  • Kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll sets the record straight in a statement following her release, in which she explains that a video made shortly before her release and an interview conducted in the offices of a Sunni political party shortly after don't reflect her views -- she remains deeply angry at the men who held her for two months. (Christian Science Monitory, April 1, 2006)
  • Previously on Iraq:
    -- A Generational American War?

    -- 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
  • Hamas Inherits a Policing Dilemma
    The Middle East is never short on ironies, but nobody in Hamas or outside of it could have expected to see the movement having to grapple with the same headache the movement itself once caused for Yasser Arafat. Despite the diplomatic pressure and massive financial crisis facing the new Palestinian Authority government from abroad, the major challenge right now is domestic security -- restoring order, restraining militants from mounting terror attacks that will bring ruinous Israeli retaliation, and getting militias off the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. And in what might seem like a role reversal, it's not only the militant factions that are defying the stability initiatives of Hamas, but also Fatah. Last week, the Fatah-linked al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade killed three Israelis in a suicide attack on a northern West Bank settlement, while Samir Masharawi, a senior fatah official in Gaza, bluntly rejected the demand of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya's to stop the brandishing of weapons in public. So Hamas must now craft a strategy of persuasion and coercion to enforce calm and security, while Fatah -- the preferred party of the Bush administration -- looks to restore its street credibility through violence. And as Amos Harel writes, the idea that Hamas would somehow be able to enforce discipline and calm on the streets of Gaza by virtue of its own internal discipline now looks fanciful. (Haaretz, April 2, 2006)

  • Ibrahim Nafie offers a thoughtful commentary on the dilemmas thrown up by the Arab League position on Hamas. He commends their decision to respect the democratic choice of the Palestinian electorate, and to continue economic assistance – but slams their failure to implement that policy, noting that only the Saudis have delivered the economic assistance they offered. He also notes that the Khartoum summit reaffirmed the Beirut declaration (that Israel be recognized within its 1967 borders as the basis of a peace agreement) and rejected unilateral Israeli moves to determine final borders. “The rejection is based on a clear understanding that such unilateral moves will not bring peace: rather, they are designed to consolidate Israeli control over the Palestinians, via its control of roads, ports and crossings and, by extension, the income on which Palestinians depend to survive,” writes Nafie. “But the Arab position also acknowledges the necessity of there being a party ready to negotiate with Israel. That, finally, depends on the position adopted by Hamas.” (Al Ahram, March 29-April 4, 2006)
  • In a scathing op ed, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya asks why the West has no hesitation in making demands of Hamas, but won't ask a thing of Israeli leaders even when their positions contravene international law and peace processes advocated by the West. He warns that Ehud Olmert's plans for unilateral redrawing of boundaries on the basis of Israel's own terms will lead to conflict and confrontation. "Our land will still be occupied and our people enslaved and oppressed by the occupying power," Haniya writes. "So we will remain committed to our struggle to get back our lands and our freedom. Peaceful means will do if the world is willing to engage in a constructive and fair process in which we and the Israelis are treated as equals. We are sick and tired of the west's racist approach to the conflict, in which the Palestinians are regarded as inferior. Though we are the victims, we offer our hands in peace, but only a peace that is based on justice." (Haaretz, April 2, 2006)
  • Whatever Hamas's leaders in parliament are saying, Marie Colvin finds the movement's violent wing still very much alive. She visits a training camp where new recruits are being trained among the ruins of the vacated Israeli settlement of Morag in Gaza. (The Sunday Times, April 2, 2006)
  • Graham Usher suggests that economic and social issues, rather than the "separation" plan, determined the outcome of Israel's election. (Al Ahram, March 29-April 4, 2006)
  • Robert Satloff makes the case that Hamas will not moderate in power, and that U.S. interests are best served by setting out to "abort" Hamas's rule. (Washington Institute for Near East Studies, March 27, 2006)
  • Previously on Israel and Palestine:
    --Israel Hopes to Negotiate its Borders with U.S.

    --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?

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

    Hamas's cabinet is sworn in

    Should the West Engage With Radical Islamists?
    Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke are former Western intelligence officials who have, along with a number of their colleagues, been holding talks with officials from Hamas, Hezbollah and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. These officials, who worked at the highest levels of British and U.S. intelligence, have recognized that the political momentum in the Arab world is with the Islamists, but in the course of their discussions they have recognized a profoundly important distinction between the interests and agendas of nationally-based groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and the transnational jihadists of al-Qaeda. (Indeed, the same distinction was clearly on view recently when Hamas firmly rejected Al Qaeda's demand that it fight on and reject compromise -- the premise of the brusque rebuff by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was that the Palestinians don't need Al-Qaeda's advice. Crooke and Perry believe that the West is making a tragic mistake if it continues to conflate these two groups, rather than recognizing the considerable basis for dialogue and even common interests (particularly in democracy) with some of the nationally-based Islamist groups. They sought to brief the U.S. government on their discussions but were rebuffed, on the grounds that such a briefing would be seen to be legitimizing talks with terrorists. They write:

    "The question of legitimacy is important because for democracies, legitimacy is not conferred, but earned at the ballot box. Hamas and Hezbollah would welcome a dialogue with the West not because it would confer 'legitimacy' - they already have that - but because such a dialogue would acknowledge the differences between Islamist movements that represent actual constituencies from those (such as al-Qaeda and its allied movements) that represent no one....

    "There is no question that two of the groups with whom we spoke - Hamas and Hezbollah - have adopted violent tactics to forward their political goals. They are not alone: Fatah (whose candidates for election the US supported with US$2 million in campaign funds) continues to use violence (and kidnap Westerners), so do the Tamil Tigers, so did the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the African National Congress. So too does the United States. America's insistence that Hamas and Hezbollah 'renounce violence' and 'disarm' is dismissed by these groups as not only an invitation to surrender but, in light of the continuing and increasingly indefensible use of alarmingly disproportionate US and British firepower in Iraq, the rankest hypocrisy.

    "The West's seeming abhorrence of violence is derived from its deeply rooted belief that political change is possible without it. But defending this proposition requires an extraordinary exercise in historical amnesia....

    "The leaders of major Islamist organizations view the issue of violence in the same way Americans do - as a legitimate option that is applied to establish deterrence and stability and to defend and promote their interests. For Hamas and Hezbollah, 'armed resistance' is a way of balancing the asymmetry of force available to Israel. Both groups place their use of violence in a political context.

    " 'Armed resistance is not simply a tool that we use to respond to Israeli aggression,' a Hamas leader averred. 'It gives our people confidence that they are being defended, that they have an identity, that someone is trying to balance the scales.

    "Hezbollah puts this idea in the same political context: 'It may be that some day we will have to sit down across from our enemies and talk to them about a political settlement. That could happen,' reflected Nawaf Mousawi, the chief of the Hezbollah's foreign relations department. 'But no political agreement will be possible until they respect us. I want them to know that when they're sitting there across from us that if they decide to get up and walk away, they'll have to pay a price.'

    "The West's insistence that opening a political dialogue be preceded by and conditioned on disarmament is simply unrealistic: it suggests that we believe that 'our' violence is benevolent while 'theirs' is unreasoning and random - that a 19-year-old rifle-toting American in Fallujah is somehow less dangerous than a 19-year-old Shi'ite in southern Lebanon.

    "In fact, political agreements have rarely been preceded by disarmament. United Nations demands for the disarmament of the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) in 1978 unraveled a conflict-ending political agreement (a situation put right when the rebels were allowed to keep their weapons), and Northern Ireland's 'Good Friday Agreement' allowed the IRA to keep its weapons until a political process (leading to 'decommissioning') reflecting their concerns was put in place.

    "The West often views Islamic violence as random and unreasoning, but Hamas and Hezbollah believe that violence can shift practical political considerations to create a psychology in which armed groups can use the tool of de-escalation as a way of forwarding a political process. That is to say, absent a political agreement, Hamas and Hezbollah will not voluntarily abandon what they view as their only defense against the overwhelming weight of Israeli military power.

    "Disarmament (or 'demilitarization') is possible: it worked in Northern Ireland and South Africa. When coupled with substantive political talks, the unification of armed elements into a single security or military force - demilitarization - provides the best hope for increased stability and security in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza."
    (Asia Times, March 30, 2006)

    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)

    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)

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