Walter Russell Mead admires the way the Mainstream Media looks carefully away as the Obama Administration’s “Smart Diplomacy” puts Middle Eastern countries, provinces, and WMDs into the hands of murderous fanatics. The days of the New York Times micromanaging US Foreign Policy are clearly over.
If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didnâ€™t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama didâ€”or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if heâ€™d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.
Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didnâ€™t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq? When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, youâ€™d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasnâ€™t this President paying attention during the last ten years?
Some of the criticism would be exaggerated and unfair; the Monday morning quarterbacks never really understand just how complicated and tragic this poor world really is, not to mention how hard it is to make life and death decisions in real time in the center of the non-stop political firestorm that is Washington today. And the MSM attracts more than its share of deeply inexperienced but entitled, self-regarding blowhards who love to pontificate about how stupid all those poor fools who have actual jobs and responsibilities actually are.
But luckily for Team Obama, the mainstream press would rather die than subject liberal Democrats to the critiques it reserves for the GOP. So instead, as Libya writhes in agony, reputations and careers move on. The news is so bad, and the Presidentâ€™s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages. â€œSmart diplomacyâ€ has become a punch line, and the dream Team Obama had of making Democrats the go-to national security party is as dead as the passenger pigeon. But what the press can do for the White House it still, with some honorable exceptions, labors to accomplish: it will, when it must, report the dots. But it will try not to connect them, and it will do what it can to let all the people involved in the Libya debacle move on to the next and higher stage of their careers.
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The Onion has figured out the answer of how to achieve an enduring Middle East peace.
NEW YORKâ€”Marking the latest and most ambitious attempt to bring stability to the region, the United Nations announced Wednesday that every single person in the Middle East will receive his or her own sovereign nation as part of a historic 317,000,000-state solution.
The broad and extensive compromise, which affects more than 3,000,000 square miles formerly occupied by the territories of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan, will reportedly draw over 750,000,000 new borders in what experts claim will help drastically curb sectarian violence.
â€œGiven the incredibly complex and volatile sociopolitical landscape throughout the Middle East, a 317,000,000-state solution is the only realistic means of achieving lasting peace,â€ said U.N. Security Council president EugÃ¨ne-Richard Gasana, noting that the treaty was reached after lengthy negotiations, which brought together each of the more than 300,000,000 independent factions. …
â€œWe are confident that with every man, woman, and child possessing his or her own autonomous area of sovereignty to run as he or she sees fit, we will avoid many of the conflicts that have plagued this part of the world for centuries and left countless dead,â€ Gasana added. â€œThis is a bright new future for the Middle East.â€
According to U.N. officials, the newly demarcated Middle East now consists of 8,000,000 independent Jewish states, 4,000,000 independent Palestinian states, 112,000,000 Shiâ€™ite Islamic republics, 156,000,000 Sunni Islamic republics, and 19,000,000 Kurdish nations, as well as approximately 18,000,000 territories that include various Christian, BahÃ¡’Ã, Druze, Zoroastrian, and secular countries.
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Walter Russell Mead delivers, what Andrew Sullivan calls, “a majestically sweeping indictment of everything [P]resident Obama has achieved in foreign policy over the last six years.”
One wishes we had a Republican President right now if only because when a Republican is in the White House, the media and the chattering classes believe they have a solemn moral duty to categorize and analyze the failures of American strategy and policy. Today that is far from the case; few in the mainstream press seem interested in tracing the full and ugly course of the six years of continual failure that dog the footsteps of the hapless Obama team in a region the White House claimed to understand. Nothing important has gone right for the small and tightly knit team that runs American Middle East policy. Most administrations have one failure in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking; this administration has two, both distinctly more ignominious and damaging than average. The opening to the Middle East, once heralded by this administration as transformative, has long vanished; no one even talks about the Presidentâ€™s speeches in Cairo and Istanbul anymore, unless regional cynics are looking for punch lines for bitter jokes. The support for the â€œtransition to democracyâ€ in Egypt ended on as humiliating a note as the â€œred lineâ€ kerfuffle in Syria. The spectacular example of advancing human rights by leading from behind in Libya led to an unmitigated disaster from which not only Libya but much of north and west Africa still suffers today.
Rarely has an administration so trumpeted its superior wisdom and strategic smarts; rarely has any American administration experienced so much ignominious failure, or had its ignorance and miscalculation so brutally exposed. No one, ever, will call this administrationâ€™s Middle East policies to date either competent or wiseâ€”though the usual press acolytes will continue to do what they can to spread a forgiving haze over the strategic collapse of everything this White House has attempted, as they talk about George W. Bush at every chance they get.
Now, from the ruins of the Obama Administrationâ€™s Middle East strategy, the most powerful and dangerous group of religious fanatics in modern history has emerged in the heart of the Middle East. The rise of ISIS is a strategic defeat of the first magnitude for the United States and its allies (as well as countries like Russia and even China). It is a perfect storm of bad policy intersecting with troubled times to create the gravest threat to U.S. and world stability since the end of the Cold War.
The mainstream press and the professional chatterboxes of the news shows need to set aside their squeamishness at poring over the details of a major strategic failure by a liberal Democrat. The rise of ISIS/ISIL is a disaster that must be examined and understood. How could the U.S. government have been caught napping by the rise of a new and hostile power in a region of vital concern? What warning signs were missed, what opportunities were lostâ€”and why? What role did the administrationâ€™s trademark dithering and hairsplitting over aid to ISISâ€™s rivals in the Syrian opposition play in the rise of the radicals?
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The Jerusalem Post is passing along a Lebanese news report with a strange element of dÃ©jÃ vu.
Lebanese daily says 20 trucks crossed into Iraq last week, bearing equipment and material used for manufacturing chemical weapons.
Syria has moved 20 trucks worth of equipment and material used for the manufacturing of chemical weapons into neighboring Iraq, the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal reported on Sunday.
The government in Baghdad has denied allegations that it is helping the Syrian government conceal chemical stockpiles.
The report came just a day after the United States and Russia struck a deal stipulating that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime would destroy its chemical arsenal to avert an American military assault.
Wikipedia describes Saddam Hussein’s pre-US Invasion evacuation of WMDs to Syria as a “conjecture.”
John Loftus, director of The Intelligence Summit, said in the November 16, 2007 issue of FrontPage Magazine that many documents from Iraq point to WMD being transferred to other countries such as Syria: “As stated in more detail in my full report, the British, Ukrainian and American secret services all believed that the Russians had organized a last minute evacuation of CW and BW stockpiles from Baghdad to Syria.” His researchers allegedly found a document ordering the concealment of nuclear weapons equipment in storage facilities under the Euphrates River a few weeks before the invasion.
Former Iraqi general Georges Sada claimed that in late 2002, Saddam had ordered all of his stockpiles to be moved to Syria. He appeared on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes in January 2006 to discuss his book, Saddam’s Secrets: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein. Anticipating the arrival of weapon inspectors on November 1, Sada said Saddam took advantage of the June 4 Zeyzoun Dam disaster in Syria by forming an “air bridge”, loading them onto cargo aircraft and flying them out of the country.
They were moved by air and by ground, 56 sorties by jumbo, 747, and 27 were moved, after they were converted to cargo aircraft, they were moved to Syria.
In January 2004, Nizar Nayuf, a Syrian journalist who moved to Western Europe, said in a letter to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he knows the three sites where Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are kept inside Syria. According to Nayuf’s witness, described as a senior source inside Syrian military intelligence he had known for two years, Iraq’s WMD are in tunnels dug under the town of al-Baida near the city of Hama in northern Syria, in the village of Tal Snan, north of the town of Salamija, where there is a big Syrian air force camp, and in the city of Sjinsjar on the Syrian border with the Lebanon, south of Homs city. Nayouf also wrote that the transfer of Iraqi WMD to Syria was organized by the commanders of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard, including General Shalish, with the help of Assef Shawkat, Bashar Assad’s cousin. Shoakat is the CEO of Bhaha, an import/export company owned by the Assad family. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded to this accusation by saying “I don’t think we are at the point that we can make a judgment on this issue. There hasn’t been any hard evidence that such a thing happened. But obviously we’re going to follow up every lead, and it would be a serious problem if that, in fact, did happen.”
A similar claim was made by Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israeli officer who served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces from July 2002 to June 2005. In April 2004, he was quoted as saying that “perhaps they transferred them to another country, such as Syria.” General Ya’alon told the New York Sun more firmly in December 2005 that “He [Saddam] transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria.” The Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly also reported Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as having said in a December, 2002 appearance on Israel’s Channel 2, “…chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria.”
In February 2006, Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti, a former Iraqi general who defected shortly before the Gulf War in 1991, gave an interview to Ryan Mauro, author of Death to America: The Unreported Battle of Iraq and founder of WorldThreats. In the interview, al-Tikriti, who was once known as the “Butcher of Basra”, told Mauro:
I know Saddam’s weapons are in Syria due to certain military deals that were made going as far back as the late 1980s that dealt with the event that either capitals were threatened with being overrun by an enemy nation. Not to mention I have discussed this in-depth with various contacts of mine who have confirmed what I already knew. At this point Saddam knew that the United States were eventually going to come for his weapons and the United States wasn’t going to just let this go like they did in the original Gulf War. He knew that he had lied for this many years and wanted to maintain legitimacy with the pan Arab nationalists. He also has wanted since he took power to embarrass the West and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. After Saddam denied he had such weapons why would he use them or leave them readily available to be found? That would only legitimize President Bush, whom he has a personal grudge against. What we are witnessing now is many who opposed the war to begin with are rallying around Saddam saying we overthrew a sovereign leader based on a lie about WMD. This is exactly what Saddam wanted and predicted.
Al-Tikriti’s interview was featured prominently on conservative web sites such as FrontPageMag and WorldNetDaily, but did not receive main stream press attention. Salon magazine editor Alex Koppelman doubts both Sada’s and al-Tikriti’s story, arguing that Syria’s decision to side with the coalition against Iraq in 1990 would have nullified any previous military deals.
The Iraq Survey Group was told that Saddam Hussein periodically removed guards from the Syrian border and replaced them with his intelligence agents who then supervised the movement of banned materials between Syria and Iraq, according to two unnamed defense sources that spoke with The Washington Times. They reported heavy traffic in large trucks on the border before the United States invasion. Earlier, in a telephone interview with The Daily Telegraph, the former head of the Iraqi Survey Group, David Kay, said: “[W]e know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam’s WMD program. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.” Satellite imagery also picked up activity on the Iraq-Syria border before and during the invasion. James R. Clapper, who headed the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in 2003, has said U.S. intelligence tracked a large number of vehicles, mostly civilian trucks, moving from Iraq into Syria. Clapper suggested the trucks may have contained materiel related to Iraq’s WMD programs.
ISG formed a special working group to investigate and consider these claims. Charles Duelfer, head of inspectorate at time of publication, summarized the group’s conclusion: “Based on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials.”