Middle East

Hillary Clinton told the AIPAC conference this past Monday that, after fifteen months of his presidency, President Obama was about to launch, with our allies, "sanctions with bite." I commented on this earlier in the week. But a top front-page dispatch in this morning's Wall Street Journal tells us just how little pain Iran would incur when the political psychodrama finally unfolds at the Security Council.

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Ban Ki-moon is the secretary general of the United Nations. The world is in pretty good shape. This is why he can spend so much of his time relieving the pain of the Arabs of Palestine, who are (if you don’t know already) the only people who suffer from their neighbors. The other Arabs probably suffer from their local overlords. But most of this is kept hush-hush, maybe because Barack Obama wants to have nice relations with them. Mr. Ban certainly wants to have good ties with them.

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Frankly, it’s a little bit embarrassing to be citing the Commentary crowd so often. But the fact is that the other powerful venues which seem to understand that the Palestinians do not really want peace--or act as if they don’t--are few and far between. Yes, there is the Washington Post, where Jackson Diehl, Charles Krauthammer, and Chuck Lane analyze what everyone can (but most refuse to) see or describe. Then, of course, there are the editorials, the collective voice of the Post, which strike an independent voice free of Arabisant cant and America bashing.

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Housing Bust

You do not need insider information to know that Hillary Clinton threw a hissy fit at Bibi Netanyahu last Friday morning. And you don’t need that kind of information to know that she was sent out to do this little job by her boss.

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Juan Cole's Mania

One of the odd things about people with very left-wing views on the Middle East is that they're obsessed with the political influence of American Jews yet almost completely unfamiliar with the actual beliefs of the subject of their obsession.

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The Crisis

JERUSALEM—Suddenly, my city feels again like a war zone. Since the suicide bombings ended in 2005, life in Jerusalem has been for the most part relatively calm. The worst disruptions have been the traffic jams resulting from construction of a light rail, just like in a normal city.

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I’ve written myself about the Obama administration’s more-than-flatfooted policies on Syria (here, here, and here) and Iran (here, here, and here). So I am particularly gratified when I find myself in alignment with Barry Rubin, a truly brainy scholar with a slight polemical touch. His latest analysis is below. Syria is a galling instance of the president’s obsessions ... and for several reasons. A weak country, both economically and militarily, its only possible political sway is to exacerbate the hatreds of its neighbors towards Israel.

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Meyer Schapiro Abroad: Letters to Lillian and Travel Notebooks Edited by Daniel Esterman (Getty Research Institute, 243 pp., $39.95)   I. Meyer Schapiro Abroad is an astonishing book. It consists of seemingly commonplace materials--the love letters that a graduate student wrote while traveling to work on his dissertation, plus a selection of sheets from his research notebooks. Yet taken together these pages present something extraordinary and nearly unique: an intensely evocative account of the process and the experience of historical discovery.

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Andrew Sullivan has a lengthy reply to my post, which categorically stated that he’s not an anti-Semite, but which also took sharp issue with his views on the Middle East. I truly regret that my colleague impugned Andrew’s motives. I like Andrew a great deal, and like him I believe in debating politics –sharply, at times – without impinging on friendships. My basic take is that Andrew was a simplistic supporter of Israel and has become a simplistic critic. In response, he argues that world events have changed his mind.

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Iran Contrarians

Say what you want about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but “he knows how to work a room.” So claims Flynt Leverett, the contrarian Iran analyst who, with his wife Hillary Mann Leverett, paid a visit to the Iranian president in New York City last fall. During the sit-down at Manhattan’s InterContinental Barclay hotel with a group of invited academics, foreign policy professionals, and other Iranophiles, the Leveretts marveled at Ahmadinejad’s attention to detail as the Iranian took copious notes and strove to pronounce their unfamiliar names correctly. “He addresses every person by name.

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