For over a quarter of a century Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised, boldly and unequivocally, both in writing and in speech, that he would never make any concessions to terrorists. Now, in one fell swoop, with the negotiated release of Gilad Shalit, all that is gone. The Prime Minister himself cast it as a momentous choice, an instance of decisive and historic leadership. But the reason Netanyahu that gave for his decision, namely that "circumstances had changed", betrays considerably more anxiety.
Our Brave Ambassador to Damascus Puts Congress to Shame
August 31, 2011
While much of Washington was spending this past summer loudly conspiring to lower the country’s credit rating, one American official, in a far-off city, was offering a profoundly contrasting example of quiet professionalism. Robert Ford, America’s ambassador to Syria, has shown bravery, tact, and creativity in finding ways to bear witness to the protests and massacres occurring in that country over the course of this year.
Five Things Obama Can (and Should) Do to Topple Assad
August 20, 2011
On Thursday, President Obama issued a long overdue statement calling for regime change in Syria, declaring that the “time has come for President Bashar Assad to step aside.” But will that call to action amount to anything in practice? The gestures that Obama has made, including ending the U.S. import of Syrian petroleum products—totaling some 6,000 barrels per day—are little more than symbolic changes of policy.
Tel Aviv Journal: Notes on a Roiling Region
April 29, 2011
I. “The standard left-wing person never seems more comfortable than when attacking Israel.” This is the novelist Martin Amis talking to Ha’aretz when he was in Israel this past fall.“Everyone else is protected,” Amis continued, “by having dark skin or colonial history or something. But you can attack Israel.” Freely! Of course, it’s not only the standard left-wing person who is so empowered, but also those who belong to mainstream Protestant churches associated with the National Council of Churches on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.
April 09, 2011
During the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Syria’s Assad regime was helping insurgents to cross the border and kill Americans. In response to the Syrian provocation, the Bush administration considered a broad range of policy options. But one family of options always remained off the table: regime change or any combination of pressures that might destabilize Damascus. The prevailing interagency concern was that Syria without Assad could prove even more militant than under his terrorist-supporting regime. At the Department of Defense—where I worked—we held a dissenting view.
February 21, 2011
The powers that be in Israel clamped a deafening silence on themselves when the Egyptian people rose up against Hosni Mubarak. There was precious little that Israel could do to sway events in one direction or the other, since this revolution did not have its origins in issues related to the foreign, strategic, or defense policies of Cairo.
Dictators in Turmoil
February 17, 2011
Dictatorships fear nothing quite like they fear a mob in the streets. In Tunis and Cairo, however, it was not mobs that gathered but crowds. Non-violent crowds, thoughtful crowds. Alas, there were some 300 dead among the protestors. So this was not exactly a costless revolution in terms of human life. Still, the dynamics that unfolded in Tahrir Square were rooted in peaceful communications. In many ways this was a re-enactment of the Committees of Correspondence. These were initiated in 1773 by Dabney Carr, an intimate of Thos.
“Le Figaro” Reports That Assad Rebuilt Hezbollah’s Hi-Grade Missile Capacity To 40,000. So Whatever Happened To Obama’s “Reset Button” With Damascus? It Never Was Reset.
October 28, 2010
The Obama presidency has been obsessed with remaking the Damascus-Washington relationship. Some of his experts told him it was both imperative and just beneath the surface. All you had to do was try. For some comic relief, I suppose, the State Department also sent two oh-so-brilliant men from the “wired” life-style: Alec Ross and Jared Cohen—yes, of course, Jewish—to Damascus to entice the Arabs into the future.
The Saudis Cede Lebanon to The Syrians
August 06, 2010
It hasn't been much noticed in the American press--nor, for that matter, in the British press--that Bashar Assad has re-established his condominium over Lebanon. But the Middle Eastern papers have duly noted the development virtually without commenting on its importance. Still, the meaning of the arrival in Beirut of the Syrian president and the monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, on one plane, Abdullah's jet, cannot be lost. The Custodian of the Holy Places, as he is almost universally called in the region, has placed his hands on the tyrant of Damascus.
Thoughts From Tehran
July 29, 2010
We were all dreamers then. When we overthrew the Shah, we thought a bright new age had dawned. Tyranny had been defeated and soon we would vanquish all the secularists, Westernizers, imperialists, and Zionists. Our glorious revolution would be the model for millions, not only in the Middle East but among Muslims everywhere. Islam would be restored to its rightful place at the center of people’s lives, and piety would replace politics. Some of us even imagined that all the prophecies of the Koran were about to come true. Such dreams.