Daniel Larison

When You Are Provoking a War with Iran, First Blame the Russians for Starting It!

So what is Russia up to? Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst, suggests that Russia’s oil and gas oligarchs wouldn’t shed any tears over a war in the Middle East, especially if it’s a war that ensnares the U.S. and keeps oil prices high.

Even so, it may not be too late to avert a new war in the Middle East. A quiet but firm U.S. threat to boycott the G-8 summit in July in St. Petersburg might inspire Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to freeze the missile transfer. And a promise to facilitate Russian entry into the World Trade Organization might even get Russia’s oil and gas oligarchs on board. Freezing the missile sale would buy crucial time to find a diplomatic solution to the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration appears to be asleep at the wheel, too distracted by Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices and plummeting approval ratings to devote any attention to Russia’s potentially catastrophic mischief.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. ~Rosa Brooks, The Los Angeles Times

Via Kevin Drum

The Russians are taking advantage of our needless hostility towards Iran and Iran’s increasingly understandable fear of being bombed. Near as I can tell, this makes them just about the most rational actor among the nations involved in this standoff. Typical that an American pundit, for whom Russophobia is the last excusable prejudice, can get away with somehow pinning the escalation of the situation on the Russian sale of a missile defense system to Iran when it is Washington that has been declaring that “no options are off the table” and there is speculation, all together too plausible with this crowd, that “tactical” nukes could be used to strike at deeply buried Iranian nuclear facilities. If there is a war between now and September involving Israel and Iran, it will probably be because Washington has worsened the situation and may have launched strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

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I Volunteer Sullivan and Liddle for the Attack on Iran

Natanz seems an agreeable little town, perched nearly 5,000ft up in the majestic mountains of central Iran, full of dusty relics of Alexander the Great and black-clad peasants scurrying hither and thither. It is a shame, then, that we may soon be obliged to bomb it to smithereens. An even bigger shame, though, if we don’t. ~Rod Liddle, The Times Online

Via Andrew Sullivan

For his part, Sullivan had this rather zany question:

Iran, after all, is the ultimate exemplar of fundamentalist religious right government. Its regime is brutal toward women and gays and Jews. If you distrust American Christian fundamentalists, who do not condone violence or terrorism, and who are restrained by something called the Constititution, how can you not be horrified by Tehran?

There are a few problems with Rod Liddle’s article, and more than a few with Sullivan’s post. The latter speak for themselves. Sullivan doesn’t surprise, but Liddle has at least expressed fairly sensible and contrarian views about Islam in Europe and the problems of multiculturalism, which I suppose led me to mistake him for someone not normally committed to unthinking conventional wisdom. So much for that.

First there is this “we” business: “we” may have to bomb Iran, “we may soon be obliged to bomb it to smithereens,” etc. Who is he talking about? Who is this “we”? As Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s semi-autobiographical character in Black Banners said to the American, “Say ‘I’, not ‘We’.” Those who want to speak in terms of what “we” will do to Iran can pick up the slack for their desire to identify with the state–the rest of “us” would very much like to be left out of their obsessions. So will Liddle and his mates be flying the mission to bomb Natanz and the other facilities (not that he mentions the other facilities)? Certainly not. This sort of talk, into which I realise I often fall all too often, is nationalist claptrap that has poisoned our understanding of who “we” are and who or what the government is.
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Turkey Launches Attack in Northern Iraq

The Turkish armed forces have launched their first military operation along the Iraqi border where Turkish troops have concentrated for days.

The Northern Iraqi cities of Amedi and Zaho, sheltering Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, were hit with mortar attacks in “Operation Crescent.” ~Zaman

Via Antiwar

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Berlusconi Gives Up

Nineteen days, one high court decision and thousands of chest-pounding words later, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi more or less admitted today that he had lost Italy’s close national elections.

There was no phone call to his apparent successor, Romano Prodi, nor words like “concede” or “defeat.”

Asked by reporters when he would step down now that a new parliament he does not control is in session, he said simply, “The Cabinet meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday.” ~Chron.com

I was expecting Berlusconi to put on more of an outrageous, entertaining show than this. Oh, he’s made some bold declarations, but so far as I know he’s said nothing as crazy as some of the things he was saying during the campaign (“I am the Jesus Christ of Italian politics” has to take the cake for equal parts blasphemy and stupidity). But give Berlusconi credit–he made corrupt, self-serving technocratic government as colourful and memorable as anyone could.

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Rove May Be Indicted on Perjury Charges

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case, is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks whether to bring perjury charges against Karl Rove, the powerful adviser to President Bush, lawyers involved in the case said Thursday.

Documents and articles related to the case looking into the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer.With the completion of Mr. Rove’s fifth appearance before the grand jury on Wednesday, Mr. Fitzgerald is now believed to have assembled all of the facts necessary to determine whether to seek an indictment of Mr. Rove or drop the case. ~The New York Times

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Cabals, Cabals Everywhere!

But this would appear to be only the latest example of the unseemly symbiosis between elements of the press corps and a cabal of partisan bureaucrats at the CIA and elsewhere in the “intelligence community” who have been trying to undermine the Bush Presidency. ~The Wall Street Journal

Just so we’re clear, partisans at the CIA and “elements” of the press corps are part of a “cabal” (and an “intelligence insurgency”!) aimed at undermining the President, and Cal Thomas and Tony Blankley assure us the generals are in a “cabal” with Democratic politicos to organise a mutinous conspiracy, and these accusations are all supposed to be very rational and based in reality, but when we think of a coherent group of influential, ideological policymakers who successfully push a particular aggressive line in foreign policy debates (some of whom refer to themselves as “the Cabal”) then we can be fairly sure that there is no “cabal,” and anyone who thinks there is such a thing is anti-Semitic, unpatriotic and no good. Glad we sorted that out.

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Borchgrave on the Lobby

Over the years, AIPAC has maneuvered to make Israel the third rail of American foreign policy. The handful of members of Congress who have been critical of Israel over the last 40 years have been publicly chastised with a figurative dunce cap, or, worse, lost their seats to AIPAC-backed opponents. Israel is an integral part of America’s body politic.

Yet the recent publication of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” an 83-page paper published on Harvard’s Web site by two prominent academics, ran into a firestorm of vilification from government, academia and the media for documenting what is already well established. ~Arnaud de Borchgrave

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Good for Solzhenitsyn!

Alexander Solzhenitsyn has accused the United States of launching a military campaign to encircle Russia and turn it into a NATO chattel.

The Nobel laureate also delivered his strongest endorsement yet of President Vladimir Putin, surprising Kremlin critics who argue that the country is growing more authoritarian.

Replying in writing to questions from the weekly Moscow News, the 87-year-old former Soviet dissident said military action by the United States in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan underlined the menace to Russian sovereignty.

“Though it is clear that present-day Russia poses no threat to it whatsoever, NATO is methodically and persistently expanding its military apparatus in the east of Europe and is implementing an encirclement of Russia from the south,” he wrote.

He also attacked Western support for recent revolutions that toppled Moscow-backed regimes in Ukraine and Georgia.

“All this leaves no doubt that they are preparing a complete encirclement of Russia, which will be followed by the deprivation of her sovereignty,” he said.

Russia, he suggested, was all that stood between NATO and the “downfall of Christian civilization.” ~The Washington Times

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Dobleve Takes a Bold Stand

President Bush yesterday said “The Star-Spangled Banner” should be sung in English, not Spanish, and condemned plans by some immigrant groups to stage a work protest on Monday to sway the debate over the nation’s immigration laws.

With passions running high over the release of “Nuestro Himno,” a Spanish-language version of the national anthem, Bush told reporters that people who want to be citizens of the United States should learn English and “ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.” ~The Washington Post

I don’t know–what would Tony Snow say about that? Sounds a bit like “fearful fringe nativism” to me. I mean, who are we Americans to say what the language of our nation should be or what language immigrants should learn to speak? We only live here.

Dobleve cannot have it both ways. He can sell the country down the river with his immigration scheme, or he can insist that there are certain sine qua non obligations for everyone who wants to become an American citizen. Among those would have to be respect for the laws of this country. That, along with learning English, has to be a vital part of any real assimilation. If Nuestro Himno might help shake his faith in the open borders lobby, so much the better. But until he makes a commitment to American sovereignty and identity a bit more compelling than this he will have no credibility on immigration with tens of millions of his own supporters. Which is to say, he will never have that credibility.

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Shultz, the “Insurrection” and 1983

“I always had a good experience dealing with the career people in government,” Mr. Shultz said. “But I have to say it’s almost as if there is an insurrection taking place. Particularly what is going on in the military is astonishing and fundamentally intolerable. There has to be a sense of discipline. This is something new, and for everybody’s good it has to be dealt with.”

I asked about the place of dissent in government. “Look,” the former secretary said, “in our system some people get elected and what you get out of that is the right to call the shots, and the full-time career people are entitled to have their views listened to. But it is very important to see that what is going on now is a problem that goes beyond whether someone likes Don Rumsfeld or not.” ~Daniel Henninger, OpinionJournal.com

So Mr. Shultz believes that retired generals exercising their rights is “astonishing and fundamentally intolerable”? What is it that is going in the military that is “astonishing and fundamentally intolerable”? The article doesn’t explain in any greater detail. Loose talk of “revolt” and now “insurrection” and Tony Blankley‘s fever dreams of mutinous conspiracy are the real problems here. This charged language gives the impression that anything short of lockstep, mute obedience and agreement for life has the makings of a coup about it. In the age of the chickenhawk, this attitude does not seem to go down very well with military men, who are now being told to remain silent forever, apparently including after retirement, even after their expertise and experience have been cast aside to more or less disastrous results.
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