Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

July 29, 2010

“Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty”

One week ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced a resolution that would give Israel the green-light to go ahead and attack Iran militarily if it were to acquire nuclear weapons. So far, H.Res.1553, which asserts “Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty”, has been signed by 46 Congressmen or one-third of House Republicans. The resolution, spearheaded by Congressmen Gohmert of Texas, expresses:

Support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel.

The bill goes on to lay down its argument.  First, it describes the plight of the Jewish people, the Holocaust, and their right to return to their homeland.  The “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel is stressed, as is the fact that the U.S. was the first country noble enough to accept Israel as a state.  After this historical background, which is being used as an emotional appeal, the bill proceeds to attack Iran.

The bill adopts an ethical stance, implying that the U.S. is right in acting as a police force.  It describes Iran’s history of noncompliance in regards to  sanctions against its nuclear program and also quotes some of the deplorable things President Ahmadinejad has said, such as the infamous: “Israel should be wiped off the map.”  The use of this kind of rhetoric of existential fear is meant to instill fear in the public, which would justify the use of military action against Iran.

But the one most important thing this bill is lacking, perhaps, is logic.  There is no denying Iran’s words and actions.  But how credible is Iran? If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, is it feasible to think they would use them? Even Iran is smart enough to recognize the consequences of using nuclear weapons.  It is well-known that the purpose of nuclear weapons is not actual use, but rather deterrence and international power and leverage.  Israel’s claim of self-defense is futile in this regard.  Israel probably fears Iran acquiring nuclear weapons more because it would challenge the nuclear hegemony of Israel in the region, limiting its leverage and ability to act without accountability, as well as shifting the regional balance of power in Iran’s favor.

The House Republicans who signed this bill need to think about the outcomes of what would happen if Iran was attacked militarily.  Most likely, a dangerous, regional war would erupt that would also involve the U.S.  The legitimacy of Iran’s threats need to be re-examined, as preemptive attacks on Iran could have devastating effects.  The difference between mere rhetoric and credible threats need to established.

And the U.S. needs to tone down its own use of rhetoric as well, as is evident in this resolution .  Americans need to become more aware of the attempts made by the government to make them think they are in danger, as it allows the U.S. to take any actions it deems fit in the name of security. As Abraham Lincoln once said:  “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

June 8, 2010

UN preparing to vote on sanctions against Iran

As early as this Wednesday, the UN could vote upon a new set of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to punish it for continuing its nuclear program. As the vote approaches, US officials are confident that at least twelve states should vote for this new round of sanctions, although Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon are expected to vote against them.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk among the international community warning against sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin commented that the UN should be wary of passing a resolution that is too tough on Iran arguing that “This resolution should not be excessive, should not put Iran’s leadership, the Iranian people in a tricky situation that creates barriers on the way of development of Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy.” This being the case, it is still projected that Russia will vote in favor of sanctions. (more…)

March 18, 2010

Awaking a Sleeping Giant?

Filed under: Arab attitudes,International politics,Iran,Washington's diplomacy — colbyconnelly @ 9:12 pm

In the West, relatively little is heard about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Middle Eastern politics. Until a Saudi judge hands down a sentence for an offense of Kingdom law which attracts attention from international human rights groups, most American media pay little attention to how the Kingdom operates. On the rare occasion when coverage is given, it is presented from a viewpoint which is perhaps best described as neo-Orientalist, and no attempt at understanding (a word some seem to think has the same connotation as “agreeing”, which is perhaps why it is avoided in so many instances) why the Saudis behave as such is made whatsoever.

It is becoming more apparent that the global balance of power is shifting eastward, with the diplomatic voices of Russia and China bearing ever more authority on the international stage, especially when one gives consideration to the two nations’ influence in the ongoing talks with regard to the Iranian nuclear situation. But what has the House of Saud made of the Iranian predicament? After all, it is but a small body of water whose name no one can agree upon that separates the Kingdom from the Islamic Republic. Thus it should be no surprise that recently, the more and more outspoken Prince Saud al-Faisal has made no shortage of statements regarding the proliferation and presence of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. (more…)

March 3, 2010

Sec. Clinton, Senate: More of the same on the Middle East

Last week I attended the Senate hearing to discuss 2011 Foreign Policy Priorities, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the State Department budget and priorities and was questioned by each of the Senators on the committee. Nothing groundbreaking occurred. The emphasis was on the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, with sprinklings of other Middle Eastern issues thrown in.

The first priority on the agenda was Iran. The Secretary brought up the dual approach to Iran’s nuclear development in the first few minutes of her opening remarks. This approach is basically shaking hands if Iran unclenches its fist, while tightening the noose if they refuse to cooperate. Most of the senators also brought up the issue and emphasized the need to deal with the threat and the Secretary agreed with their remarks, continuing to emphasize the dual policy approach. The absence of internet freedom was also briefly brought up. (more…)

February 11, 2010

Martyr Iconography

Filed under: Arab attitudes,Gaza,Hamas,Iran,Lebanon,Palestinian politics,West Bank — Kimberly Doyle @ 12:52 pm

“Faces on the walls – martyrs freshly emerging from life and the printing presses, a death which is a remake of itself. One martyr replacing the face of another, taking his place on the wall, until displaced by yet another or by rain.” Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, accurately captured the culture of martyrdom and the phenomenon of martyr iconography in his book Memory for Forgetfulness. He understood how these images can create a vicious cycle of violence.

Martyrs exist throughout the world, but their images are increasingly used in places of crisis, and especially in the Middle East, to reflect social changes, shape society, and prolong violence. In the West Bank, Gaza, and the refugee camps in Lebanon the walls and streets are plastered with the faces of martyrs killed in the struggle against Israel. Posters, billboards, signs, and hand-painted murals with the images or names of martyrs are constant visual reminders of the struggle. On television, videos of martyrs pronouncing their last words fill the airspace. And in houses, pictures of heroic martyrs line the walls and children collect cards with the stats of martyrs, like baseball cards. Martyr iconography in these areas symbolizes the resistance struggle and the opposition to the current situation.

In Iran martyrs are national icons, symbolizing the struggles of the Islamic Revolution. On a wall near Tehran University there is a painting of a twelve-year-old boy, Hussein Fahmideh, who blew himself up in front of an Iraqi tank during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. And this image, according to a former professor of mine, was plastered on billboards and inscribed into history books throughout the nation. Fahmideh became a symbol of the new Islamic Republic and was immortalized as a hero. His struggle was emblematic of the greater struggle of the new Iranian government and his death was a sacrifice for this cause. In Iran martyrs are not symbolic of resistance or opposition, but of the hardships faced by the Islamic Republic. (more…)

December 24, 2009

NYT gives space to dangerous hawk Kuperman

Filed under: Discourse in America,Iran,Washington's diplomacy — Helena Cobban @ 8:56 am

In today’s Christmas Eve edition, the New York Times‘s editors have given nearly half a page to nuclear hawk Alan J. Kuperman to make a lengthy (and extremely misleading) argument that the U.S. should bomb nuclear facilities in Iran.

Is this our Happy Christmas gift from the NYT?

Kuperman writes,

We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.

Kuperman takes for granted that Iran is pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons, though this claim has never been made by the responsible authorities at the International Atomic Energy Agency. But that is not the only way in which his article is misleading, inaccurate, and/or grossly irresponsible.

(more…)

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