President Obama has elaborated upon his call for the 1967 lines to serve as the basis for a Palestinian state's border in an interview with the BBC.
"The basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides," Obama told the BBC Thursday in an interview following his Middle East policy speech.
“Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank, and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis,” Obama added. “They will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory, particularly given what they’ve seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah.”
The president says the United States opposes the use of violence and repression by dictators, supports universal rights including free speech and assembly, freedom of religion, equality of men and women, rule of law and right to choose our own leaders as well as political and economic reform. This is good policy. But wasn’t this the neoconservative policy of George W. Bush that the Democrats used to mock?
In just a few years, then, Iraq has, for Barack Obama, gone from a strategic disaster to something of a model for the region. His words sound very much like those of President Bush, who told the United Nations in 2003, “Iraq as a dictatorship has great power to destabilize the Middle East. Iraq as a democracy will have great power to inspire the Middle East.”
The fact that Barack Obama is now (belatedly) embracing the views of his predecessor is something to be grateful for. To have a liberal, Democratic president declare that Iraq shows “the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy” and is “poised to play a key role in the region” is a very good thing for our country and the wider Middle East. And it will help to heal the divisions caused by the war.
The ending of the speech was equally noteworthy - for very different reasons. Obama's call for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders brought an immediate "no" from Netanyahu:
Responding to President Barack Obama's major Mideast policy speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel will not be withdrawing to the 1967 borders as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
By rejecting US President Barack Obama's proposal for Israel and its troops to pull back from the West Bank to behind the indefensible 1967 lines, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lands in the company of eleven Middle East and North African rulers who spurned Washington's Middle East policy in the six months of the unfolding Arab uprising. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was the only one to keep faith with Obama and he was pushed out for his pains.
Meanwhile, Marc Tracy at Tablet cites Ha'Aretz in favor of the 1967 solution - and gets pounded in the comments.
Syria: Bashar Assad under US sanctions.MSNBC: 'The United States slapped sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses over their brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, for the first time personally penalizing the Syrian leader for actions of his security forces. The White House announced the sanctions Wednesday, a day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the uprisings throughout the Arab world with prominent mentions of Syria. ...' The article adds that 'The sanctions will freeze any assets Assad and the six Syrian government officials have in U.S. jurisdiction and make it illegal for Americans to do business with them. The U.S. had imposed similar sanctions on two of Assad's relatives and another top Syrian official last month but had thus far refrained from going after Assad himself.' Via Ynet, Reuters calls it a "dramatic escalation" of US pressure.
Three Syrian soldiers tried to defect to Lebanon after shielding fleeing refugees from Bashar al-Assad’s violent Shahiba miltia, but they were promptly arrested by Lebanese army officers and will most likely be sent back to Damascus. “Defecting” from Syria to Lebanon in 2011 is as useless as fleeing Moscow to East Berlin during the Soviet era. Anyone who tries is all but guaranteed to be arrested, will most likely be tortured, and faces the real possibility of being executed.
It’s sad, really. Lebanon, when left to its own devices, is a fairly open place and has acted as a refuge of sorts for writers and dissidents who can’t survive in the Arab world’s closed societies and despotic political systems. ...
Except, of course, that Lebanon is not left to its own devices - as Michael explains in his book The Road to Fatima Gate. Read the rest of Michael's article at Commentary.
Brain-dead UN inspectors leave sensitive equipment unattended in Iran, are surprised at signs that IRI regime thugs may have tried to hack their gear. Geeez, it's almost as if you couldn't trust those guys. Fox:
The U.N. nuclear agency is investigating fears from its experts that their cell phones and lap tops have been hacked into by Iranian officials looking for confidential information.
Diplomats tell The Associated press that the hardware apparently was tampered with while left unattended during inspection tours in the Islamic Republic. ...
Go to the link; in the comments, mindbender2go has a more charitable interpretation of the incident.
Danish film director Lars von Trier: I'm a Nazi. But some of my best friends are Jewish.Fox has the story.
Saif al Adel has been named the interim emir of al Qaeda in the wake of Osama bin Laden's demise, according to multiple press reports. Al Adel is a longtime member of al Qaeda's military council and has been wanted by US authorities since the late 1990s, when he was implicated in al Qaeda's attack on two American embassies in Africa. Another lesser known al Qaeda leader, Mustafa al Yemeni, will reportedly direct the group's operations.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal caution that it is not entirely clear how the post-bin Laden al Qaeda will be structured. They did not confirm or dispute press reports pointing to al Adel's and al Yemeni's new roles.
Al Adel's relationship with Iran will undoubtedly garner more attention now that he has reportedly assumed, at least temporarily, one of al Qaeda's top roles. ...
The plan to bomb the Hassan Bek Mosque in Jaffa and the car of its sheikh was thwarted just hours before it was set to occur, when a police raid on a home in Jaffa last month uncovered the powerful bomb that was set to be planted in the building, Ynet reported.
Another plan included targeting a new Scientology center in Jaffa.
The would-be bombers had planned to spray paint the words "price tag" in the neighborhood to make the attack look like the work of rightists.
Farsi-language websites reported over the weekend the death Friday of Siamak Pourzand, an 80-year-old journalist and essayist who was one of his country’s leading political and cultural writers before the 1979 revolution that later brought a theocratic regime to power.
After the revolution, Mr. Pourzand became one of the main writers affiliated with Iran’s domestic secular opposition in the 1990s.
According to his children, Mr. Pourzand jumped from the sixth-floor balcony of his apartment in Tehran, where he has been under house arrest for the last five years.
Siamak Pourzand (Persian: سيامک پورزند) (b.1930 - d.2011 ), was an Iranian journalist and film critic. He is the manager of the Majmue-ye Farrhangi-ye Honari-ye Tehran, a cultural center for writers, artists, and intellectuals and an Honorary Member of PEN American Center. In recent years, Pourzand was also a cultural commentator for several reformist newspapers that have since been shut down. He is well known for his articles critical of the Islamic regime in Iran, and is said to have been working with foreign-based Persian language media prior to his detention.
Iranian political prisoner Siamak Pourzand committed suicide by jumping from his balcony on the sixth floor last Friday. The elderly former journalist decided to take his own life after years of house arrest in Tehran. On her blog his daughter in the Netherlands wrote, “You have the right to seek freedom.” ...
Siamak Pourzand, a veteran journalist and former prisoner of conscience, has committed suicide in Tehran at the age of 80.
Frail, infirm and unable to bear further indignity, without even the solace of his family around him, he let himself fall from a sixth story balcony. In truth, he was killed by the repeated human rights violations he endured, which lead to chronic ill health, at the hands of a judicial system in which human dignity had been lost. ...
Freedom-loving people weep with you, Banafsheh jaan. This is Iran's loss and the world's.
To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you,
To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you,
I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you,
In a room with a window in the corner I found truth.
In the shadowplay, acting out your own death, knowing no more,
As the assassins all grouped in four lines, dancing on the floor,
And with cold streel, odour on their bodies mad a move to connect,
But I could only stare in disbelief as the crowds all left.
I did everything, everything I wanted to,
I let them use you for their own ends,
To the centre of the city in the night, waiting for you.
To the centre of the city in the night, waiting for you.
He’s cut down and millions of his devotees weep. Zealots and apprentices who would lay down their lives in his defence are now looking for a new leader.
In those moments at night when he lay sleepless, the moonlight playing on his ceiling and one of his wives snoring next to him while his scalp sweated and itched under his obligatory headwear, he must have known his enemies were closing in. He must have known he was on borrowed time. He must have felt the breath of Obama on his back. Sooner or later America would strike with all the injurious curios a Great Satan carries in the trunk of its Cadillac. Sooner or later the CIA would emerge from the miasma of its own paranoia, give up on making tourists remove their boots to board the Circle Line Ferry for a moment, and zero in and do what it does best.
And now some snitch, some stool-pigeon from the back streets of Abbotabad in Pakistan, has taken the CIA’s forty pieces of silver. ...
Go read the rest at the link; it's really quite eloquent.