Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.
Iran, the Capital of Terror Central
For a considerable period after 9/11 it was customary for foreign policy analysts to argue that the war against terror, renamed more accurately as the war against radical Islam, hadn't any national destination. Alas, it was a war against a shadowy foe that didn't wave any flag or reside in one country.
Recent evidence contradicts that conclusion. The enemy is Iran, the center of terror central and the nation with unequivocal imperial aspirations in the region. What was once obscure is now entirely transparent.
In the recent battle in Basra an Iranian Guard general was found giving orders to al Sadr militias. Both arms and men routinely cross the border from Iran into Iraq. Confrontations in Southern Iraq suggest Iran is also willing to support AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) despite the fact this terrorist organization is Sunni and Iran is led by a Shia majority -- so much for religious differences when the U.S. and Israel are the common foe.
Second, Hamas in Gaza is now a functioning surrogate of Iran. The money and arms in this area have been provided by Iran and the rockets landing in Sderot generally have Iranian markings.
Third, Hezbollah in Lebanon has regrouped since the war against Israel last year and has, according to recent accounts, stockpiled more than 30,000 rockets north of the Litani River and another 10,000 close to the border of Israel. This remarkable buildup occurred with Iranian assistance, support and training.
Fourth, Syria is yet another geographic pawn now controlled by the mullahs in Iran. President Asad is obliged to coordinate all foreign policy decisions with Ahmadinejad. In fact, he admitted as much when he said recently that he would discuss controlling the actions of Hamas and Hezbollah through his handlers in Iran if he were absolved of the murder of former Lebanon leader Hariri, a matter being investigated by the United Nations.
Fifth, Syria at the behest of Iran has held up presidential elections in Lebanon in an effort to install a candidate agreeable to Iranian leaders. In most respects, Lebanon is to Iran what the Sudetenland was to Germany in the 1930s; it is a client state unable to operate without the consent of Syria and Iran.
Last, Iran, for reasons of its own ambition, actively promotes the enrichment of uranium that can be used for the development of nuclear weapons. Recently, Ahmadinejad announced the deployment of another 6000 centrifuges in Natanz to accelerate the enrichment process. It has also been discovered through satellite surveillance that Iran has deployed North Korean missiles with a range of 4000 kilometers, sufficient range to reach every European capital.
Clearly these potential weapons united with a missile present a growing threat in the region and beyond. But even if that weren't the case, the mere existence of these weapons has generated diplomatic missions from Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking some kind of alliance with Iran. Moreover, a nuclear-armed Iran offers cover for the malevolent actions of Hamas and Hezbollah. It will be increasingly difficult for Israel to respond to attacks from these surrogates knowing that an Iran with nuclear weapons stands behind them.
It is distressing that despite all we know about Iran, a policy against this nation in unambiguous language has not been developed. As a consequence, Iran is becoming the Middle East hegemon, notwithstanding the fact Arabs distrust Persians and Sunnis have a different theological perspective from Shia. Power invariably trumps principle, particularly in the Middle East.
Based on recent events, we can no longer sustain the illusion that al Qaeda is an elusive force set loose on the world stage. It needs sustenance, safe homes and national support to survive. For its own national reasons Iran provides these conditions, even if at some point it will have to face down al Qaeda. At the moment, it is a useful ally. And at the moment as well, the U.S. cannot delude itself into thinking the Iranian threat will evanesce.
Each day that passes with Iran unchallenged is another day in which its power is enhanced and America's Middle East position is diminished.
Carter's Misguided Peace Gambit
Could there possibly be a more naive person on the globe than former president Jimmy Carter? Or is Carter simply seeking the Neville Chamberlain award to put beside his Nobel Prize?
After meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, Carter claimed the terrorist group accepts the Jewish state and is ready for peace. Either Carter misunderstood what was said at this meeting or chose to misunderstand, because the statements emanating from the Hamas camp stand in stark contrast with Carter's public remarks.
Hamas leaders state categorically that they will not recognize Israel, but will offer the Jewish state a ten-year truce if it evacuates the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, including Temple Mount. Moreover, and most significantly, the terror group will not annul its stated goal of annihilating Israel.
It was also noted that Israel must allow the "right of return" for millions of refugees, a formula most sensible people recognize for the destruction of the Jewish state. So let me get this right: In return for a temporary truce, Israel is obliged to commit suicide. This is what Carter calls peace in our time.
One Hamas spokesman made his claim transparently clear:
For any truce to take effect, Israel would need to evacuate every centimeter of the West Bank and every centimeter of east Jerusalem.
It is instructive that not one peace plan put forward by Fatah or even Israel's leftist parties calls for so extreme a plan.
Speaking in Israel, Carter offered his Trojan horse of a peace plan by claiming Hamas has agreed to "accept" Israel. "There's no doubt that both the Arab world and the Palestinians, including Hamas, will accept Israel's right to live in peace within the 1967 borders," he added. Before Carter could finish his misguided claims, Fawdi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman, said, "We stand by our line, which means no recognition of Israel."
Is Carter deaf or just a dupe? Even the so-called ten year truce is described as a "hudna," a Koranic term used to describe a respite from war so that troops can be assembled for the final assault. It is also the case as half a century of negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors attest, that deceit is part of the Arab strategy -- a point, among many, Carter chooses to ignore.
In addition to his conversation with Khaled Meshaal, Carter met with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Here too President Carter asserts that Syria is ready to "make peace" with Israel. "All" Israel has to do is give up the Golan Heights. In fact, Carter was "impressed" with Assad's eagerness to consummate a deal. Rather than broach this anticipated deal with President Olmert, Carter met with Yossi Beilin, leader of the extreme left Meretz party, and prevailed on him to be the catalyst for such an accord.
While President Carter claims he is a private citizen representing only the Carter Center in these diplomatic discussions, he also claims the U.S. government would support "any" peace agreement reached among the principal parties. Not only is this claim fatuous, but as the contradictory arguments of Hamas leaders suggest patently false. "Any agreement" means the elimination of the state of Israel either now or later. How could any sensible leader in the United States or Israel agree to these terms?
To suggest that Carter can negotiate an accord where others have failed is to underestimate past deliberations or overestimate what is now being discussed. In Carter's case there is evidence of an ego without limit, a rube without guidance, and a naive diplomat without an appreciation of history or facts on the ground.
Chavez and His American Friends: An Unholy Alliance
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez is feeling his oats. With oil approaching $110 a barrel, he has transformed himself into South America's banker, paying off the debt in Argentina, being the supplier of weapons for FARC and other radical groups and stirring up well-funded political activity whenever the opportunity arises.
He has also adopted the mantle of America's leading critic. In 2006 he called President George Bush "the Devil" at the United Nations General Assembly. He invariably invokes Noam Chomsky, a radical critic of U.S. foreign policy, as a "truthteller." He has expressed great confidence in Iran's Ahmadinejad; has supported Hezbollah and calls Fidel Castro his mentor. And he inveighs against U.S. capitalism as "savagery" and free markets as an effort to foster income disparity.
Yet remarkably Chavez has many admirers in the United States. Cindy Sheehan, the soi disant poster woman for the anti-Iraq war sympathizers, calls him a friend, and said with great enthusiasm that Chavez would undermine "the U.S. empire."
Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemisphere Affairs in Washington, argues that "Venezuela has become a major source of interest for social visionaries in the United States."
Representative Dennis Kucinich wrote that the U.S. administration should look at Venezuela as a "model democracy," a point of view embraced by Jesse Jackson, Ed Asner, and leftist writers Howard Zinn and Naomi Klein.
In the face of a Chavez-provoked crackdown on press organizations and dissenters, Representative Brad Sherman of California said Venezuela had "a strong free press and respect for important freedom."
As one might expect, Hollywood is solidly in the Chavez camp. Harry Belafonte said "millions of American people . . . support your [Chavez] revolution." Sean Penn delivered similar encomiums when he met with the Venezuelan president. And Danny Glover has received tens of millions from Chavez for the production of three new films.
Perhaps the most interesting of Chavez's program agents is former Representative Joseph Kennedy. Kennedy, representing Citizens Energy Corporation, has been a television spokesman for Citgo, the Venezuelan oil outlet in the United States. Kennedy maintains on camera that Citgo is donating millions of gallons to needy Americans "because no one should be left out in the cold." The fact that many Venezuelans are left out of the nation's political process is not mentioned by Mr. Kennedy.
There is little doubt that the Kennedy gambit is designed to elicit good will for Chavez and, in a nation naive about foreign affairs, it appears to be working. Some spokesmen have even urged their listeners to buy Citgo gas. After all, some of these dupes contend, Chavez is using oil revenue to alleviate poverty.
Chavez is conducting a public diplomacy campaign on several fronts. He has bought ads lauding Venezuelan accomplishments in the Economist, New Yorker, and Roll Call among others. And he has hired public relations firms to burnish the image of his government.
While Chavez frequently refers to himself as a modern Jesus and goes off on rants not unlike his hero Fidel Castro, he isn't a fool. He has carefully cultivated hardcore left-wing opinion in the United States and has used his plentiful oil revenue to buy friends.
However, his agenda is quite transparent. He wants to undermine American interests on the continent and he expressly desires a Marxist-style revolution wherever possible. If this agenda means embracing Ahmadinejad or any other enemy of the United States, so be it.
Since the left in the U.S. detests George Bush, Chavez is a useful vehicle for its interests. Anti-Americanism is the gravaman that unites Chavez, his U.S. admirers, and global terrorists. Oil lubricates this alliance and fuels the network. We would be wise to examine his aims carefully and do what we can to thwart these objectives.
The Kurds of the Middle East
There are ghosts walking the globe, forty million of them to be precise: People who are officially non-persons; some cannot marry, cannot register as citizens, and are, for all practical purposes, invisible
Twice in the last year Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was in a position to resolve the plight of Kurds in Syria who struggle to survive without citizenship. But he did not act.
As a consequence, Kurds in Syria face obstacles owning property, having passports, voting, or being publicly employed. They are not eligible for food subsidies or admission to public hospitals. In fact, there are now approximately 300,000 stateless Kurds in Syria (about ten percent of the Kurdish population in this nation) without legal ties to the nation and effectively stateless under international law.
While the Kurdish condition in Syria is egregious, the Kurds in Iraq, Iran and Turkey also face varying degrees of hostility. They are minorities in each of these nations, yet are by far the largest ethnic group on the globe without a nation of its own.
As a minority in Muslim societies, the Kurds often tell their children that Islam was forced on them by Arab conquerors. In recent years many have returned to the original religion of Zoroastrianism, a condition that suggests a greater ethnic rather than religious identification.
From the standpoint of American foreign policy the Kurds have the potential to liberate or, at least, disrupt the dictatorial regimes in Iran and Syria, a point made most effectively by Jack Wheeler in a September 2006 article.
Clearly, a united Kurdistan is a chimera since Turkey would never permit it, and the Kurds of Turkey are plagued by a Marxist terrorist organization called the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), generally repudiated by most Kurds in the region. But the Kurds of Iran, Iraq, and Syria are a potentially liberating force, an engine of democracy, waiting on the sidelines for the fall of the mullahs.
The question that remains unanswered is why our State Department doesn't actively recruit and work with the Kurdish minority in Iran. Ten million Kurds in Iran could be a formidable force for the much-discussed scenario of regime change. In general, they detest the mullahs and are outspoken advocates of democratic reform.
Similarly, the three million Kurds in Syria are avowed opponents of Assad. After decades of abuse by the Alawite minority they are prepared to resist a seemingly implacable regime.
But where is America's strategic vision? What kind of assistance can we provide? In fact, are the Kurds even on the radar screen at Foggy Bottom?
If the alternatives in Iran policy are the military option or regime change, it would seem that some reliance on Kurdish assistance might be contemplated. That, however, does not appear to be the case, a matter that is most perplexing.
It may well be that State Department officials know something I do not. But vague responses to queries about the Kurds are not a hopeful sign. One would think that at this juncture we would seek to exploit every potential asset in the region in our quest to prevent Iran from possession of nuclear weapons.
That the Kurds are seemingly left out of the Iran policy equation is an omission that could have dire consequences for the region and perhaps for American interests across the globe.
Sarkozy as an European Echo
In a recent Le Figaro report Nicolas Sarkozy said:
At the end of the French presidency, my aim is that [Europe] will have moved towards a common immigration policy, a common defense policy, a common energy policy, and a common environment policy.
The citizens of all of Europe demand protection; they want Europe to protect them, not make them vulnerable. They want it to allow them to act, not oblige them to suffer.
President Sarkozy goes on to contend that this "protective Europe" is incompatible with "the excesses of financial capitalism." He maintains that France under his guidance will take initiatives "to moralize capitalism." As part of his vision Europe is to be seen for "community preference" and to make matters perfectly clear President Sarkozy has called on the government backed Caisse des Depots et Consignations bank to take the lead in protecting France from the "power of extremely aggressive sovereign funds."
How does one parse the ambiguous phrases? Is European immigration policy, to cite one example, going down a path taken by France in which more than a quarter of Marseille residents are Muslim and unrest now characterizes urban life in this once peaceful city? What does Sarkozy mean by a common environmental policy? Are European nations about to embrace a common carbon footprint? And if so, will such regulation be enforced by bureaucrats in Brussels?
Perhaps the most interesting and often heard expression used by Sarkozy is "moralizing capitalism." For years European leaders have been decrying "the inhuman dimensions of Anglo Saxon capitalism" -- code words for the free market. Sarkozy is merely following the rhetorical lead of his predecessors.
However, in his desire to place strict control on sovereign investment he may be inhibiting cash-starved industries and corporations and, in the process, restricting innovation Europe needs to be competitive. If moralizing capitalism means protective regulation that keeps union control over the labor market, stagnation is the inevitable result. It has been demonstrated in France and elsewhere in Western Europe that if you cannot fire, you cannot hire, a condition that has led Europeans to envy the relatively low unemployment rate in the United States.
Clearly Europe has benefited from Arab capital that has gravitated north in search of investment opportunity. This condition aimed in part as punishment for American Middle East policy, has bolstered the euro against the dollar and, to a modest degree, has had a salutary influence on European economies.
But in actuality Europe's industries are largely moribund. They cannot compete against Asian markets and often demand protection against the economic onslaught. The unfunded liability due to cradle to grave security -- even with recent modifications in outlook -- is daunting.
As a consequence, the Sarkozy proposal to moralize capitalism -- which has the ring of human decency to it -- is catastrophic for a Europe that suffers from economic sclerosis. If anything, France and Western Europe desperately require a shot of adrenalin in the form of free market initiatives.
Clearly Europeans have a preference for security, long vacations, short workweeks and reduced competition. However, Europeans are not alone in the world. The intrusion of other markets is a reality and the interest of competitiveness will have to be assuaged.
While Sarkozy's pro-American foreign policy stance is justifiably applauded, his European economic position is hopelessly predictable and doomed to fail. Perhaps as a member of the EU in good standing, he, as the leader of France, is obliged to repeat standard European slogans. But these are empty slogans that, if enacted into policies, will further weaken Europe economically and make it less likely the continent will assume the defense responsibility to which it so often gives lip-service.
Sarkozy has enjoyed a honeymoon period with American leaders, but his platitudinous economic position should offer a moment of reflection. Are we merely hearing much of the bankrupt moralizing of the recent past, an echo of Chirac? I'd hope that isn't the case, but, in my opinion, that is the most likely conclusion to be reached from his remarks. *
"The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men." --Samuel Adams