Faster, Please!

Faster, Please!

Who Is IS?

June 6th, 2015 - 2:01 pm

Who are they anyway?  IS, the Islamic State, that is.

There are two big components:  religious fanatics and totalitarian leaders. The secret of IS’ success lies in combining the two ideologies and methods of enlisting and controlling millions of people.  Sometimes the two merge in fanatical leaders, as took place in the latter years of Saddam’s Iraq (the dictator himself had a personal imam, even).  Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seems a case in point.  This appears to be rare, however;  for the most part the Islamic Staters are one or the other, with fanatics populating the rank-and-file and politburo-style regime builders dominating the elite.  We hear a lot about the faithful, but not so much about the nomenklatura.  Here’s a look-see at what we might call the caliphate’s political class.

IS recruits and operate globally, but their leaders are mostly Iraqi, drawn from Saddam’s Baathist armed forces and intelligence services.  The same Saddam who was in constant cahoots with the Soviet Union, whose Baathist rule copied much of Soviet practice, and whose top military officers and spooks were often trained by the Soviets themselves.

The Baathist makeup of IS’ leadership is well known.  Listen to the Weekly Standard:

the last two heads of ISIS’s military council were officers under Saddam, as was the current head of ISIS’s military operations, Adnan al-Sweidawi, also known as Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, who worked as a colonel in Saddam’s air defense intelligence unit. Other former Saddam loyalists have fought alongside ISIS. They include Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshbandiyah (JRTN), a well-trained group of former Iraqi intelligence and army officers, led by Ibrahim Izzat al-Douri, a former high-level Baath party official. Douri was the king of clubs in the U.S.-led coalition’s deck of playing cards of most-wanted Iraqi officials,

Or listen to the Washington Post: “It was under the watch of the current Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that the recruitment of former Baathist officers became a deliberate strategy, according to analysts and former officers.”

If those are the guys running IS, maybe there’s a Russian connection?

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FOOTNOTE:  In the years following our invasion of Iraq in 2003, as I became aware of the massive Iranian campaign to kill Americans there, I once commented to a senior Pentagon official: “You know, I’ll bet the Russians are involved in this.”  He gave me a very quick, intense look, and said, “Absolutely.  Big time!” Keep in mind that Iraq and Syria constitute a single battlefield.

Recent documentary evidence supports this hypothesis.  The German magazine Der Spiegel recently published a lengthy analysis, based on a set of IS documents dating to the creation (2013) of the organization’s current structure in Syria.  The “architect” of the Islamic State, known mostly as Haji Bakr, laid out his blueprint in considerable detail.  As Spiegel puts it,

What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover. It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an “Islamic Intelligence State” — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.

Bakr accompanied the blueprint with a set of rules for recruiting the leaders, and it indeed reads like a manual for a Stalinist state.

The group recruited followers under the pretense of opening a Dawah office, an Islamic missionary center. Of those who came to listen to lectures and attend courses on Islamic life, one or two men were selected and instructed to spy on their village and obtain a wide range of information. To that end, Haji Bakr compiled lists such as the following:

List the powerful families.

  • Name the powerful individuals in these families.
  • Find out their sources of income.
  • Name names and the sizes of (rebel) brigades in the village.
  • Find out the names of their leaders, who controls the brigades and their political orientation.
  • Find out their illegal activities (according to Sharia law), which could be used to blackmail them if necessary.

The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. “We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks,” Bakr had noted. “We will train them for a while and then dispatch them.” As a postscript, he had added that several “brothers” would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to “ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge.”

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(Not) Defeating ISIS and Iran

May 28th, 2015 - 5:11 pm

Policy-making by committee rarely works well, as the five-man team at the Washington Institute demonstrates to near perfection.  The quintet of (truly) distinguished policy-makers has produced something  termed a Strategy to Defeat ISIS and Iran, but it does neither.  I’ve been through it several times and can’t find a single proposal that would “defeat” either one.  In fact, at one point Messrs Hadley, Ross, Jeffrey, Berger and Satloff state quite categorically that while we might prevail militarily against ISIS,

…military action is only one dimension; ISIL cannot be defeated unless it is also discredited. Only Muslims can undermine ISIL’s fanatical ideology, and they must take the lead in doing so.

Whenever I read such language—which is not rare—I have to suppress a scream, because a lot of the history of 20th century totalitarianism shows that fanatical ideologies (fascism, Nazism and communism, for example) were fatally undermined by military defeat.  Both IS and the Iranian regime claim their imperialism is blessed by Allah.  Their military success is attributed to the support of the Almighty.  If they are defeated, especially by infidel American, or American-led fighters, what does that do to the ideology?  Did Allah go over to the other side?

I don’t think we, or anyone else, is going to “defeat” IS or Iran by “discrediting” their crazed ideology.  To be sure, I do think we would do well to endorse Egyptian President al Sisi’s call for a radical transformation of Islamist doctrines.  The Islamists are nuts, they’ve wrecked two big countries in the Middle East so far (Egypt under the Brotherhood, and Iran under the mullahs), and we should say so.  Most Iranians and Egyptians know it, we won’t shock them.

Oddly, given all this attention to the centrality of ideology, when it comes to Iran the quintet retreats into pure, almost pidgin geopolitics:

The most powerful elements in Iran today still see the United States as their enemy. This is not simply because of a conspiratorial mind-set about American determination to subvert the Islamic Republic, but also because they see America as the main impediment to their domination of the region.

This verges on disrespect for the doctrines of the Islamic Republic.  Never mind “death to America!” chanted by people who look at us as the Great Satan.  It’s all about regional hegemony.  Why, then, bother with “discrediting” the doctrines?

There’s still the need for defeating IS and Iran, to demonstrate their doctrinal failures.  But you won’t find any such strategy in the five-handed concerto.  Instead, the language is very diplomatic, as you’d expect from former diplomats and policy makers.  They say we need a new Syria policy, which we certainly do, but instead of “defeating” IS in Syria, they talk about creating a (Sunni) coalition to “marginalize” it.

And what is this strategy? 

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US Hostage on Trial in Tehran

May 26th, 2015 - 6:47 am

To its credit, the Washington Post continues to denounce the Iranian regime’s detention of its Tehran correspondent, Jason Rezaian, and we now learn that the Rezaian family is taking legal action in Iranian courts to gain his freedom.  That’s not likely to help Rezaian;  after all,  it’s the Iranian judiciary that has locked him in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison and will today put him on trial in front of a judge best known for issuing death sentences.

Hostages are valuable negotiating chips, and you can be sure that the three known Americans—including an Evangelical priest and a retired Marine officer, both of dual citizenship—are elements in the US-Iran talks formally about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  Indeed, when President Obama talked by phone with Iranian President Rouhani a while back, he explicitly raised the hostage question.

Sad to say, taking hostages works for the Islamic Republic, as it does for other terrorists.  Just think for a moment about the various rescue operations by our special forces, and think of the swap of jailed Taliban (?)terrorists for one American soldier of dubious character and loyalty.

I’m often asked why are these poor souls suffering in captivity in Tehran?  The short answer  is, “that’s what they do.”  They stockpile Western hostages, and then make them part of broader negotiations.  At the moment there are several Iranians and Iranian/Americans in US prisons, convicted for the most part of involvement in operations to obtain high tech for the nuclear weapons program.  I’m told that Tehran wants them back home, and that they dangle the American hostages as swaps.  They know, despite all the pious rhetoric to the contrary, that we and most everyone else will negotiate for the release of our hostages.

And they love to kill Americans, don’t forget that, even though dead hostages aren’t worth as much as living ones.  On the other hand, knowing this, they conceal hostages’ deaths, as, I sadly believe, they have in the case of Robert Levinson, the former FBI agent who has disappeared in Iran.

In the case of Rezaian, there may be a more specific motive.  The WaPo editorialists have been very tough on Iran, tougher than those of other leading US newspapers.  Only the Post has said, clearly, that you can’t expect an end to the Iranian nuke program without regime change in Tehran.  The mullahs read our papers quite carefully (they read PJM carefully, too, as reflected in their repeated attacks on me and other critics of the regime), and the Rejaian arrest may well be a simple reprisal.

They arrest their own journalists, too.  And lock them away for years.  And then exile them to remote corners of the country, as demonstrated in the recent case of Ahmad Zeidabadi.  That might well be the template for Rejaian, pending satisfactory ransom.

Or regime change.

Obama, the Jews, the Muslims, and Us

May 24th, 2015 - 2:18 pm

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I don’t believe that any other American president has spent so much time talking to and about Jews as Obama. It all began in the very first months of his presidency — in August, 2009 — when he called 1000 rabbis, lobbying for support for Obamacare. It was a full month before the High Holy Days, when Jews pray for a year of life and good health, and the president remarked that “we are God’s partners in matters of life and death.”

That was a considerable misstatement, for in these matters, Jews are supplicants, not partners. Two months earlier, Obama had similarly distorted the nature of Zionism. In his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, he maintained that Israel’s right to exist derived from the oppression of Jews for many centuries. But Zionist leaders always insisted that modern Israel’s legitimacy rests on millennia of history: it is the restoration of a Jewish state that was promised by the Almighty to Abraham, entrusted to Moses, conquered by Joshua, and ruled by David, Solomon, and their successors.

So the president isn’t very well informed about Judaism or Zionism, yet he is forever lecturing Jews and Israelis about what is really best for them, as if he had some special insight. It is no accident that Obama is the only American president to write an introduction to the official military Jewish prayer book, prepared by U.S. chaplains. All previous presidents had left such matters up to the rabbinate.

He is forever presenting himself as a great friend of the Jews and a fervent supporter of Israel, Zionism and Judaism. But the “Zionism” he praises is a left-wing version of the original movement, and he chose to give a speech about it at a decidedly leftist synagogue in Washington, whose rabbi — a recently self-proclaimed gay whose wife swiftly divorced him — conveniently blessed Obamazionism: “While he doesn’t speak as a Jew, his progressive values flow directly out of the core messages of Torah, and so he is deeply in touch with the heart and spirit of the Jewish people.”

Obama’s supporters swallow it with hardly a demurral. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic has called him “the first Jewish president,” and seems to think that Obama’s “Zionism” is heartfelt. Yet when Obama speaks of the Israel that inspires him, it’s clear that his parameters are not religious at all, but either purely political (as when he praises the kibbutzim, a failed agrarian socialist experiment that produced many of the early Israeli leaders), very controversial (Moshe Dayan, who was not religious, who referred to himself as a “Mesopotamian,” and was a celebrated thief of artifacts from the Israel Museum), or totally misunderstood by the president, as Eli Lake has pointed out in the case of Golda Meir.

He isn’t very good on Islam and Muslims either, and he’s positively weird on anti-Semitism. His June, 2009 speech to the “Muslim world” in Cairo praised Islam’s tradition of tolerance, a tradition that doesn’t exist. He does not seem to know about the doctrine of dhimmitude, which at best relegates non-Muslims to second-class status, and levies special taxes on them. His complaints about Israeli security measures that annoy the Palestinians aren’t matched by complaints about Palestinians murdering Jews. His Orwellian instructions to avoid saying things like “radical Islam” and his frequent reference to the “Holy Koran” (with no corresponding adjective for the Christian Bible or the Torah) suggest intellectual ignorance and political/religious bias.

Antisemitism is either ignored or “explained away.” When Jews were gunned down in a kosher market in Paris by outspoken Jew-haters, the president’s gut reaction was to call it “random.” And his disquisition about Iranian anti-Semitism defies deconstruction.

Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations. You know, if you look at the history of anti-Semitism, Jeff, there were a whole lot of European leaders — and there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country –

How to parse all that? The whole point of Jew-hatred is that its believers are convinced that the Jews are a threat to their survival. Antisemitism has often overwhelmed “all other considerations.” He badly needs some remedial reading in this area, as the last sentence demonstrates. He trots out the old nonsense about moral equivalency, equating Khamenei with “a whole lot of European leaders” and (never to let the Americans off hook) “deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country.”

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The Real Fatwa

May 2nd, 2015 - 6:12 pm

Iran pundits know that serious undertakings by the regime require specific authorization from the supreme leader, Obama’s pen pal Ali Khamenei.  An excellent Iranian source, with an excellent track record on such matters, informs me that the supreme leader issued a fatwa on April 14th to two of Iran’s most powerful killers, Generals Mohammad — Ali Jafari (head of the Revolutionary Guards), and Qassem Suleimani (head of the Quds Force), authorizing them to take any and all actions to destroy the Saudi royal family and its regime.

It’s a big deal.  According to this account, Khamenei authorized Jafari and Suleimani to work with non-Shi’a forces in the kingdom (most Iranian subversion to date has focused on the oil-rich eastern provinces, which are heavily Shi’a), and, as in the case of supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, there are no restrictions on budget or tactics.  Khamenei has been quite outspoken of late on the Saudis, and you can hear echoes of the fatwa in a recent speech (barely a week afterwards).

I think you can also see its effect in the recent Iranian moves against ships in the Persian Gulf, which is a direct threat to the kingdom’s lifeline to its customers in the West.

Khamenei’s move against the royal family is quite audacious,  and could bespeak several very different convictions.  He might believe that the strategic tide is running in his favor, and hence the moment favors a dramatic push against the Sunni king.  Contrariwise, Khamenei might be concerned that things are going badly, and thus that  he needs some spectacular victory to rally his own people and the turbulent jihadis in the region.

The biggest sign that things are going swimmingly comes from Washington, where the Obama willingness to favor, or at least tolerate, most any Iranian advance or demand has long since transcended shame and transmogrified into parody.  When Pentagon lawyers coughed up the outrageous view that our defense pact with the Marshall Islands doesn’t require us to do a thing for their captured ship and hostage sailors (except maybe pay off the mullahs, I suppose), it removed all doubt that we were the pulling guard for Iran’s end-run around law and order when and where they wish.

Having confirmed that Washington is still on his side, Khamenei dispatched Foreign Minister Zarif to New York, where he unburdened himself of a series of insults and peremptory barks at the United States.  As Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon rightly stresses, most leading American commentators were enchanted by Zarif’s outrage, but we’re not.  It’s a very bad sign, illustrating Tehran’s recognition that the regime has won the battle for Washington, and our feckless elite’s rushing to the winning side.

They shouldn’t be so confident.  Certainly Khamenei has plenty of bad news.  I discuss the domestic disaster here, and that’s only the beginning of the dark cloud over the supreme leader’s downtown palace.  The seemingly relentless march of the Iranian hegemon across the Middle East and big chunks of Africa is stalled, blocked, or actually losing.  Unexpectedly, some would say.  All of a sudden we hear that “Assad may fall,” and the attendant rumors that Iran is considering alternatives in Syria (disinformation, as I see it, since Khamenei has long since told Jafari and Suleimani to go all in for Assad, whatever the cost in Iranian treasure [much of it Khamenei’s own money] and flesh). Hezbollah was sent on to the Syrian battlefield, and it hasn’t been fun.  Indeed, things are so bad that the regime has been trying to conceal the body count:

Thus far there are no official numbers for Hezbollah fatalities in Syria. In the progression from the secret burial of fighters who died carrying out their jihadist duties, to the announcement of fighting alongside the Syrian regime and open declaration of fatalities, and finally to the holding of public funerals for them, Hezbollah has kept the number of its losses secret. There has been no clear and honest explanation for the silence on these numbers. Logic leads us to two possible explanations: the party either does not want to reveal the magnitude of the losses it has incurred defending the Syrian regime, or it does not want to reveal the enormity of the figures compared to the number of fighters killed in the open conflict with the Israeli enemy. Perhaps both explanations are true.

Whatever explanation you favor, it’s obvious that the regime doesn’t want the Iranian people to look at the story, right?  Otherwise they wouldn’t spike it.  Nor would they order Iranian family relatives to hold burials in the middle of the night, nor tell Lebanese religious authorities to conceal the casualty figures, both of which are in effect.

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I’m sick and tired of hearing about the Iranians’ brilliance, about what fabulous negotiators they are, about what great game players they are (some say, falsely I believe, that the Persians invented chess, even) and so on and so forth.  Frankly, I think Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Rouhani, and the rest of the mob are dolts.

Why?  Because they’ve taken a country that’s got everything going for it, and wrecked it.  They’ve got abundant resources, an educated population, a real middle class, all manner of commercial skills, and favorable location astride some of the world’s most important land and sea shipping routes.  Yet the country is beset with poverty, a crashing birth rate, runaway drug abuse and prostitution, and widespread protests, even in the oil fields where the Ahwazis live.

You may think that all this misery is the result of Western sanctions, but the crashing misery index was evident before any sanction bit the Iranian people, and the wreckage of the country’s water system doesn’t have anything to do with sanctions.  The sanctions certainly hurt them, but the mullahs didn’t need the West to ruin the country.  They’ve done that all by themselves,  and the place would still be a mess if all the sanctions were lifted tomorrow morning.

Is that smart, or doltish?

The latest round of praise for the mullahs’ alleged brilliance regards the nuclear negotiations, where it is said they are getting their way.  But it’s an odd definition of diplomatic brilliance, since they’re dealing with an American president who so passionately wants détente with Iran that he doesn’t appear to care about the conditions.  Any self-respecting American government official would have walked out when Zarif shrieked at Kerry, but our secretary of state sits and takes the punishment.  I’d be more inclined to call this “intimidation.”  And it’s more the result of our fecklessness than their elegant brilliance.

Moreover, what are we to make of the various “fact sheets” about the “understanding” with the Iranians, and Khamenei’s apparent gainsaying of at least some of its elements?  Khamenei has three basic requirements: an immediate and complete end to sanctions, the continuation of the nuclear program, and acquiescence to his imperial projects, from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to Yemen, Nigeria and Latin America.  Unable to get explicit approval for any of these, he simply reasserts his position.  Yes, it buys time, but that’s the result of the American refusal to take “no” for an answer, not the product of brilliant maneuvering.

Khamenei et. al. are very worried about the hostility of their own people, as well they ought to be.  The clearest evidence of their fear is the massive repression under way.  If they thought they had sufficient popular support, they wouldn’t have to resort to systematic terror.

Their attempt to portray the latest “understanding” is based on a big lie, namely that the sanctions are about to end.  But the Iranian people don’t seem to be fooled.  They’re telling jokes along the lines of “oh good, now the Iraqis and Syrians will get some good drinks.”

The Khamenei regime is despised by most Iranians, and the regime has certainly earned it.  The next time somebody tells you how clever the Iranians are, tell them the ayatollahs have yet to produce a world-class game player.  In fact, the last avid Iranian bridge player was probably the shah, and I don’t see anyone in a turban challenging Gary Kasparov to a high-stakes chess match.

Iran: Now What?

April 6th, 2015 - 5:27 pm
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Red Queen shouts, “Everybody has won and all must have prizes!”

The bottom line on Lausanne, pace all those diligent analysts who thought they could uncrew the inscrutable “framework,” was best expressed by the Red Queen:  “Everybody has won and all must have prizes.”

But there’s really only one winner, and the Red Queen will announce his name.  When the time comes.  Which is not before the end of June, and probably afterwards.  If at all.

Got that?  I hope so, because that’s all there is.  The single most surprising outcome of the very long diplogame was revealed by Amir Taheri: 

First, we have a joint statement in English in 291 words by Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif and the European Union foreign policy point-woman Federica Mogherini, who led the so-called P5+1 group of nations including the US in the negotiations.

Next we have the official Iranian text, in Persian, which runs into 512 words. The text put out by the French comes with 231 words. The prize for “spinner-in-chief” goes to US Secretary of State John Kerry who has put out a text in 1,318 words and acts as if we have a done deal.

As a general rule, these statements are crafted in English and then translated into other languages, and the translations invariably run longer than the original.  All the translations of my books are longer than the originals, sometimes significantly.  Yet in this case, the English version of the “framework” runs some seven times the length of the French, the Farsi text is nearly three times as long, and the American English version is four to five times the length of the EU-Iranian English version.

That surely means that there was no agreed-upon agreement, on whose basis the various versions were written or translated.  Everybody won, so everybody produced his preferred language.  So ignore the texts.  Just listen to what Zarif said to the Iranian people, namely that nobody signed anything, that whatever may have been agreed has no legal standing, and that the only thing that matters is yet to come, which may well be very different from whatever was agreed in the agreement.

So now what?  The short answer is “same old, same old.”  They all keep talking.  Perhaps some day there will be a real agreement.

What else?  Now we get to the real issues, and they are three, which correspond to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s conditions for the grand bargain Obama is trying desperately to forge between the United States and Iran:

● First, all sanctions must end.  All sanctions, all together.  That is why Zarif keeps saying that the lifting of all sanctions was agreed;

● Second, Iran is not going to stop its nuclear program.  Never mind the details.  The march toward nuclear Iran will continue, both in Iran and, apparently, in North Korea and perhaps also Syria;

● Third, Iran must be recognized as the dominant power wherever it chooses to advance, whether that be the Middle East, Africa, or South America.  Today.  And, no doubt, elsewhere tomorrow.  The Iranian messiah, aka the Twelfth Imam, isn’t just a local hegemon, he will lead a global jihad.

Those are the real issues.  There’s now a substantial cottage industry micromanaging every little detail of the nuclear “agreement,” but it’s an industry without a product, aside from yards of ink and hours of talk.  It’s interesting sometimes, but it really can’t be sustained.  Sooner or later Khamenei’s three damands will have to be addressed.  This hapless administration would no doubt like to just say yes.  But, judging from the domestic and international fireworks all across the political horizon, it doesn’t seem likely to be approved.

Which is a good thing.  Maybe it will occur to the next president that the only acceptable response to the three demands is one of our own:  regime change in Tehran.

Obama of Arabia

April 1st, 2015 - 8:57 pm

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Just last night, a friend referred to Obama’s desperate pursuit of an alliance with Iran as “Lawrentian” (as in Lawrence of Arabia), which I like. It helps us focus on the current embarrassment, with Kerry tenaciously talking day after day to Jarif (the “charming” one who had to be asked to stop shrieking at the secretary of State), obviously desperate for something that could be called an agreement.

Sure, Kerry wants a Nobel Peace Prize, and no doubt believes an Iran deal would win it for him, but there’s more to it than that. There’s the president’s long-standing passion to embrace the Islamic Republic. Much like Lawrence’s passion for the Arabs, it’s not just a geopolitical conviction, as you can see from this WaPo piece by Greg Jaffe, which is one of the best I’ve read that tries to explain Obama’s passion in terms of a serious world-view:

The Iran negotiations also reflect Obama’s abiding belief that the best way to change the behavior of hostile governments with spotty human rights records isn’t through isolation or the threat of military force, but persistent engagement. In recent years, Obama has pushed to open up trade and diplomatic relations with countries such as Cuba and Burma.

“He believes the more people interact with open societies, the more they will want to be part of an open society,” said Ivo Daalder, Obama’s former NATO ambassador and head of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

As if the Iranian people needed to “interact” with us to want to be part of an open society! They know that already, as demonstrated by the regime’s increasingly violent repression. But Obama doesn’t talk about Iranians’ desire for freedom, as he would if that were a central element in his Persian passion. Instead, as Jaffe tells us in useful detail, this is an intensely personal matter:

As the negotiations have progressed, Obama has become more personally involved in the talks, said current and former aides. He can describe in minute detail the number and type of centrifuges that Iran would be allowed to retain under a deal…

The negotiations are…personal for the president. Obama was dismissed as dangerously naive in 2007 by then-candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton for suggesting that he would engage in “aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran…

“There’s a determination to prove the Republicans wrong,” said Smith, “and to prove the world wrong.”

Of course it’s personal, it’s very laurentian. It’s not just the leftist myth that all that’s wrong with the Force is America’s fault, and thus, carrying the illogic to its wild conclusion, the way to make things right is to castrate America and turn from old allies to the enemies we’ve wronged in the past. If that were the driving principle, Obama (as he promised, lest we forget) would be working much harder to embrace Vladimir Putin.

But no, his heart is with Khamenei and Rouhani.

I wish I knew why…but then, perhaps there is no “why.” In affairs of the heart, explanations really don’t apply, do they?

Yes, that Jeffrey Goldberg, the one who told us, a couple of years ago, that Israel was getting ready to bomb Iran.  Which may yet happen, but as forecasts go, that one was way off target.  Now he’s scrubbed the crystal ball and is asking whether the European Jews should pack their bags and get out of Europe (the answer is yes).

In order to reach his unhappy conclusion, Goldberg gives us a long disquisition in the Atlantic on French antisemitism, and a few little pastiches of the state of affairs elsewhere in the Old World:  Belgium, Germany, Holland, England, Sweden and Denmark.  Like most Americans who claim insight into “Europe,” Goldberg doesn’t give the Mediterranean countries much coverage (there’s one passing reference to some graffiti in Italy, nothing on Spain, nothing on Greece).

The focus on France, and to a lesser extent on Great Britain, is certainly legitimate, since they are the two largest Jewish communities on the other side of the Atlantic.  If there were massive Jewish emigration from those two countries, it would be an important phenomenon.  As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has famously and melodramatically said, the departure of a hundred thousand Jews would be a major event, an historic failure of the French Republic.  Both French and British Jews tell pollsters they are frightened of the antisemites, and are thinking about leaving.  Moreover, greater numbers of French Jews actually are leaving, although the absolute numbers–seven thousand went to Israel last year, and some of those still work in France — do not bespeak a mass movement.  Nor is there reason to believe the British Jews are leaving en masse.

Goldberg thinks they should go, because of the growing strength of the “new antisemitism,” which he attributes to a blend of old-fashioned “fascist antisemitism” and the Islamist Jew-hatred that has certainly grown dramatically in recent years:

But what makes this new era of anti-Semitic violence in Europe different from previous ones is that traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought have now merged with a potent strain of Muslim Judeophobia.

True enough, but something funny happened to “traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought” in Goldberg’s account.  Its left side magically disappeared.  In Goldberg’s telling–and it’s quite a long telling, so he wasn’t under severe length restrictions–there are no leftist antisemites, only right-wing “fascists.”  Indeed, he argues that Muslim antisemitism wouldn’t be nearly as big a threat without the active involvement of the rightists:

…the new anti-Semitism flourishing in corners of the European Muslim community would be impoverished without the incorporation of European fascist tropes.

This remarkable claim flies in the face of a considerable literature about the abundant Jew haters on the left, and is even at odds with some of the material in Goldberg’s own article.  When he discusses the shameful Dutch pretense that the Anne Frank museum is not treated as a specific symbol of antisemitism (an official there tells Goldberg ““We want people to be interested in this issue, people from all walks of life. So we talk about the universal components of Anne Frank’s story as well. Our work is about tolerance and understanding”), and that it has never had a Jewish director, it’s obviously the result of political correctness, one of the left’s prime cultural weapons, or, to use Goldberg’s language, it’s a primary leftist trope.

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There’s a profound disgruntlement in the Force over the impending Iran deal, ranging from the Israelis to the Saudis, and from the French to the Gulfies.  It isn’t just words, apparently — there are rumors suggesting that some of the disgruntled Arabs are arranging to get their own nukes, just as Netanyahu foresaw (or perhaps even knew), and as Kissinger warned (and perhaps knew).

The powers-that-be have bought into the false option of either making a deal or going to a war footing. It was once known as the Sarkozy Option:  Iran with the bomb, or bomb Iran.

It need not be, and everybody knows it.  Deep in the subtexts, and every now and then in public, we hear about the White House’s not-so-secret dream that the Iranian regime will either moderate or fall.  It’s worth recalling that Gorbachev managed both.  First he reformed, via glasnost and perestroika, and then he fell.  There was never a fatal choice between a deal and war.

Indeed, regime change is a constant leitmotif of the world today, having reshaped Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, threatened Syria and Venezuela, aimed at Jordan, and raged across Africa.  Just this past weekend the Wall Street Journal ran a long analysis proclaiming the impending fall of the Chinese Communist state.

Regime change doesn’t just happen, even if we are invariably surprised when a regime falls.  We — including the gurus in the intelligence community — imagine that regimes are stable, despite Machiavelli’s categorical statement that tyranny is the most unstable form of government.  Nor has regime change been driven primarily by economic misery.  The most distressed oppressed societies, such as Cuba or North Korea, aren’t threatened by masses of desperate citizens.  The Soviet Union failed nonstop from Lenin to Gorbachev, but only imploded when the United States actively supported the internal opposition.

At the time of Gorbachev’s defeat, most policy makers believed a version of the Sarkozy option;  hardly anyone took seriously the possibility that such a tyrannical regime could be brought down without massive violence.  Only leaders like Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher could imagine the collapse of the Soviet Empire.  No bombs, no marching armies, just the end of the regime.

In all likelihood, a similar implosion was pending for Iran after the phony presidential elections in the summer of 2009.  But there was a decisive difference:  whereas Reagan and his allies supported the tyrant’s enemies, Obama, dreaming of a grand bargain even before entering the White House, supported the tyrant.  Khamenei’s opponents did not believe they could defeat both the regime and the United States, and the Islamic Republic survived.  On the other hand, in countries where the Obama administration supported regime change — think Tunisia and Egypt — it succeeded.

This suggests that external support, and above all American support, greatly empowers internal opponents and can be decisive if the regime is ready to go.  It turned out that the Soviet Empire was hollow, and thudded onto history’s rubbish heap with very few fireworks.

Is Iran also a hollow regime?  There’s no way to quantify this, and social scientists aren’t much help in answering it.  One needs a good nose to sniff it out.  But one key indicator is counter-intuitive:  vicious crackdowns on the people are a sign of weakness, not strength.  As David Shambaugh, writing about the recently intensified political repression in China, noted:  “A more secure and confident government would not institute such a severe crackdown. It is a symptom of the party leadership’s deep anxiety and insecurity.”  One might say the same about President Rouhani, under whose guidance the tempo of executions, torture and incarceration has dramatically increased.

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