Moyen-Orient : Seul un Sunnistan peut nous débarrasser de l’Etat islamique (What if Bush had been right ?)

30 novembre, 2015
kurdsL’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region. Obama
Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec une gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille filnale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour. C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris presque neuf ans. Et aujourd’hui nous nous souvenons de tout ce que vous avez fait pour le rendre possible. (…) Dur travail et sacrifice. Ces mots décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée. Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles. Près de 4.500 Américains ont perdu la vie, dont 202 héros tombés au champ d’honneur venus d’ici, Fort Bragg. (…) Les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak. Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir. Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays, car malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires. Obama (14.12.11)
Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia. Don Rumsfeld (2005)
They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world. Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’, we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words. General Abizaid (2005)
The word getting the workout from the nation’s top guns these days is « caliphate » – the term for the seventh-century Islamic empire that spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain, then ended with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The term can also refer to other caliphates, including the one declared by the Ottoman Turks that ended in 1924. (…) A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. In the view of John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University, there is a difference between the ability of small bands of terrorists to commit attacks across the world and achieving global conquest. « It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically, » said Mr. Esposito, the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown. « Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver. » Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, said Al Qaeda was not leading a movement that threatened to mobilize the vast majority of Muslims. A recent poll Mr. Telhami conducted with Zogby International of 3,900 people in six countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon – found that only 6 percent sympathized with Al Qaeda’s goal of seeking an Islamic state. The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. « There’s no chance in the world that they’ll succeed, » he said. « It’s a silly threat. » (On the other hand, more than 30 percent in Mr. Telhami’s poll said they sympathized with Al Qaeda, because the group stood up to America.) The term « caliphate » has been used internally by policy hawks in the Pentagon since the planning stages for the war in Iraq, but the administration’s public use of the word has increased this summer and fall, around the time that American forces obtained a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 leader in Al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, called for the establishment of a militant Islamic caliphate across Iraq before Al Qaeda’s moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and then a battle against Israel. In recent weeks, the administration’s use of « caliphate » has only intensified, as Mr. Bush has begun a campaign of speeches to try to regain support for the war. He himself has never publicly used the term, although he has repeatedly described the caliphate, as he did in a speech last week when he said that the terrorists want to try to establish « a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. » Six days earlier, Mr. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, made it clear. « Iraq’s future will either embolden terrorists and expand their reach and ability to re-establish a caliphate, or it will deal them a crippling blow, » he said. « For us, failure in Iraq is just not an option. » NYT (2005)
They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all Westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and government; the establishment of effectively Taleban states and Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one caliphate of all Muslim nations. Tony Blair (2005)
I remember having a conversation with one of the colonels out in the field, and although he did not believe that a rapid unilateral withdrawal would actually be helpful, there was no doubt that the US occupation in Iraq was becoming an increasing source of irritation. And that one of the things that we’re going to need to do – and to do sooner rather than later – is to transition our troops out of the day-to-day operations in Iraq and to have a much lower profile and a smaller footprint in the country over the coming year. On the other hand, I did also ask some people who were not particularly sympathetic to the initial war, but were now trying to make things work in Iraq – what they thought would be the result of a total withdrawal and I think the general view was that we were in such a delicate situation right now and that there was so little institutional capacity on the part of the Iraqi government, that a full military withdrawal at this point would probably result in significant civil war and potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths. This by the way was a message that was delivered also by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who I’ve been meeting with while here in Amman, Jordan. The sense, I think, throughout the entire region among those who opposed the US invasion, that now that we’re there it’s important that we don’t act equally precipitously in our approach to withdrawal, but that we actually stabilize the situation and allow time for the new Iraqi government to develop some sort of capacity. Barack Obama (January 9, 2006)
Having visited Iraq, I’m also acutely aware that a precipitous withdrawal of our troops, driven by Congressional edict rather than the realities on the ground, will not undo the mistakes made by this Administration. It could compound them. It could compound them by plunging Iraq into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis. We must exit Iraq, but not in a way that leaves behind a security vacuum filled with terrorism, chaos, ethnic cleansing and genocide that could engulf large swaths of the Middle East and endanger America. We have both moral and national security reasons to manage our exit in a responsible way. Barack Obama (June 21, 2006)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
Most Arabs are too in awe of American might to believe that the United States is deliberately adopting a minimalist approach.The reason is that the Americans aren’t doing the job people expect them to do. Mosul was lost and the Americans did nothing. Syria was lost and the Americans did nothing. Paris is attacked and the Americans aren’t doing much. So people believe this is a deliberate policy. They can’t believe the American leadership fails to understand the developments in the region, and so the only other explanation is that this is part of a conspiracy. Mustafa Alani (Gulf Research Center, Dubai)
Bush announced that the war in Afghanistan was going to be fought on behalf of women’s rights. Everybody deeply laughed at that and for reasons I can understand because in the United States Bush has not been a promoter of women’s rights. Still, the result of the war was in fact that women’s rights in Afghanistan have made a forward leap larger than anywhere in the world in history. From a certain point of view this has been the first feminist war in all of history. (…) His initial instinct was to oppose this sort of thing. He was against nation-building. Events have driven him to engage in nation-building, but he’s done it in a halfhearted way. Although he’s done some of these things which are admirable, he has not been able to enlist the world’s sympathy or support. (…) One of the scandals is that we’ve had millions of people marching through the streets calling for no war in Iraq, but we haven’t had millions of people marching in the streets calling for freedom in Iraq. Nobody’s marching in the streets on behalf of Kurdish liberties. The interests of the liberal dissidents of Iraq and the Kurdish democrats are in fact also our interests. The more those people prosper, the safer we are. This is a moment in which what should be our ideals — the ideals of liberal democracy and social solidarity — are also materially in our interest. Bush has failed to articulate this, and a large part of the left has failed to see this entirely. (…) The problem of weapons of mass destruction is certainly a real problem, although as our experience with box-cutters shows, weapons of mass destruction are hardly necessary for random massacres. But we have every reason to be much more alarmed than before. Those of us who consider ourselves on the left now have to consider national security issues in a way which has never been our habit in the past. The response of many people on the left is to think that if the United States will just withdraw its troops here and there and bury its head in the sand, everything will be OK. That’s delusional. (…)  There really is a long history of excellent people with the best of hearts and the best of intentions ending up inadvertently collaborating with the worst of totalitarians. There’s a long history of this. To look into your own heart and ask yourself if you’re good and honest and to examine yourself to see if your own analyses are moral and well-intended is not enough. You may have the best of intentions and the purest of hearts and the warmest of feelings of solidarity for other people and yet be led by some failure of imagination to end up more or less aligned with the baddest of bad guys. (…) The simplest history is of the fellow travelers of Stalin. But there’s even more grotesque examples of it — that of the French socialists in the 1930s. They wanted to avoid a new outbreak of the First World War; they refused to believe that millions of people in Germany had gone out of their minds and supported the Nazi movement. They didn’t want to believe that a mass pathological movement had taken power in Germany, they wanted to be open-minded to what the Germans were saying and to the German grievances of the First World War. And the French socialists, in their open-minded, warm-hearted effort to avoid seeing anything like the First World War occur again, went out of their way to try and find what was reasonable and plausible in the arguments of Hitler. They really did end up thinking that the greatest danger to world peace was not posed by Hitler but by the hawks in their own society, in France. These people were the antiwar socialists of France, they were good people. Yet one thing led to another, they opposed France’s army against Hitler, and many of them ended up supporting the Vichy regime and they ended up fascists! (…) It’s not impossible to see something like that today. People want to avoid a war in the Middle East, they say they’re not for Saddam but yet they don’t really want to do anything against Saddam. They see Iraqi liberals and Kurdish democrats struggling against Saddam, and they really don’t want to help these people. They see pathological movements in Palestine and elsewhere engaging in acts of random murder for the purest of irrational reasons and these people, the warmhearted, good-souled antiwar socialists of the Western countries, fall all over themselves in finding ways to justify the terrible things that are happening elsewhere and find ways to prevent themselves from showing solidarity with the victims. (…) What we need is a politics (… is a new radicalism which is going to be against the cynical so-called realism of American conservatism and traditional American policy, in which liberal ideas are considered irrelevant to foreign policy. And also against the head-in-the-sand blindness of a large part of the American left, which can only think that all problems around the world are caused by American imperialism and there’s nothing else to worry about. What we need is a third alternative — a politics of liberal solidarity, of anti-fascism, a politics that’s willing to be interventionist when tyrants or political movements really do threaten us and the people in their own countries, a politics that’s going to be aggressive in spreading and promoting liberal ideas and values in regions of the world where people who hold those values are persecuted. A politics of active solidarity, not just expressions of solidarity, but actions of solidarity with liberal-minded people in other parts of the world. It’s scandalous to me that large parts of the political spectrum aren’t acting on this now. Where are all the universities and human rights foundations and trade unions and all the other civic associations in the United States? Where are those groups now? Why aren’t those groups acting now to establish links of solidarity with people of the Middle East and Muslim world? To try to foment movements, or even revolutions, on behalf of liberal ideals? (…) So I wish Bush had gone about it differently. But now that the thing is getting under way, I fervently hope it goes well. And I think that the attitude of everyone with the best of motives who have opposed the war, should now shift dramatically. The people who have demanded that Bush refrain from action should now demand that the action be more thorough. The danger now is that we will go in and go out too quickly and leave the job half-done. The position of the antiwar movement and of liberals should be that the United States fulfill entirely its obligations to replace Saddam with a decent or even admirable system. We’ve done this in Afghanistan but only in most halfhearted way. We should now do more in Afghanistan and do a lot in Iraq. The people who’ve opposed the war should now demand that Bush do more. Paul Berman
On nous explique que la cause profonde du djihad islamiste est l’invasion et l’occupation militaire de puissances étrangères, comme en Tchétchénie et en Palestine, alors même qu’à Rakka, et ailleurs qu’en Syrie, ce sont les djihadistes eux-mêmes qui représentent des occupants étrangers. On nous dit que le chaos qui suivit le renversement des dictateurs ayant sévi pendant des décennies est à l’origine des mouvements terroristes, comme en Libye, alors que, dans le cas des terroristes marocains, c’est la frustration suscitée par l’impossibilité de renverser la monarchie qui est en cause. On nous explique que c’est le despotisme du général Sissi qui a entraîné l’explosion du terrorisme en Egypte, mais que c’est la fin du despotisme de Ben Ali qui en est la cause en Tunisie. On nous dit que le sionisme est la cause du terrorisme islamiste partout dans le monde, mais, en Syrie, les leaders mondiaux de l’antisionisme nous ont fait comprendre que, au final, ils préféraient se massacrer entre eux. Avant 2011, on considérait que la présence américaine en Irak était à l’origine du terrorisme qui sévissait dans une partie du monde ; après 2011, c’est le retrait américain qui en est devenu responsable. Les inégalités économiques expliquent tout… comme les contrariétés de la vie dans les républiques égalitaires scandinaves. Le chômage explique tout ? Pourtant des terroristes surgissent au Royaume-Uni, où le taux de chômage est remarquablement bas. Le manque d’éducation explique tout ? Pourtant l’Etat islamique est dirigé par un homme diplômé en sciences islamiques, qui est à la tête du réseau de propagande sur Internet et sur les médias sociaux le plus sophistiqué du monde. On nous dit que l’islamophobie est la cause du terrorisme islamiste – alors que l’immense majorité des terroristes islamistes viennent de pays musulmans où l’islamophobie n’est vraiment pas le problème. Ailleurs dans le monde, en France, par exemple, c’est l’exigence intolérante faite aux immigrés de se conformer à la culture française qui aurait fait naître le terrorisme islamiste ; au Royaume-Uni, ce serait au contraire le refus multiculturaliste d’exiger d’eux une adaptation. Il se pourrait que ce soit la doctrine des causes profondes elle-même, telle qu’elle se trouve développée en sciences sociales, qui échoue totalement à cerner les causes du terrorisme. (…) Après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001, de nombreuses personnes ont considéré que l’Amérique avait eu ce qu’elle méritait. Il y a dix mois en France, on entendait que les caricaturistes de Charlie Hebdo l’avaient bien cherché, que les juifs l’avaient bien cherché. Et on commence déjà à entendre la même rengaine à propos des supporteurs du Stade de France, des gens venus dîner au restaurant ou écouter du rock. De cette manière, la doctrine des causes profondes, qui promeut une certaine forme d’aveuglement, nous enlève jusqu’à l’envie de résister. Paul Berman
Today’s reality is that Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone. The Islamic State has carved out a new entity from the post-Ottoman Empire settlement, mobilizing Sunni opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the Iran-dominated government of Iraq. Also emerging, after years of effort, is a de facto independent Kurdistan. If, in this context, defeating the Islamic State means restoring to power Mr. Assad in Syria and Iran’s puppets in Iraq, that outcome is neither feasible nor desirable. Rather than striving to recreate the post-World War I map, Washington should recognize the new geopolitics. The best alternative to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq is a new, independent Sunni state. (…) As we did in Iraq with the 2006 “Anbar Awakening,” the counterinsurgency operation that dislodged Al Qaeda from its stronghold in that Iraqi province, we and our allies must empower viable Sunni leaders, including tribal authorities who prize their existing social structures. No doubt, this will involve former Iraqi and Syrian Baath Party officials; and there may still be some moderate Syrian opposition leaders. All are preferable to the Islamist extremists. (…) Russia and Iran want the Sunni territories returned to Baghdad’s control, reinforcing Iran’s regional influence. (…) Sunnis today support the Islamic State for many of the same reasons they once supported Al Qaeda in Iraq — as a bulwark against being ruled by Tehran via Baghdad. Telling these Sunni people that their reward for rising against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will be to put them back in thrall to Mr. Assad and his ilk, or to Shiite-dominated Baghdad, will simply intensify their support for the jihadists. Why would they switch sides? (…) The Anbar Awakening and the American military’s 2007 “surge” provide the model, as do Kurdish successes against the Islamic State. Local fighters armed, trained and advised by the United States would combine with Arab and American conventional forces. Richard Bolton

Et si c’était le va-t-en guerre Bush qui avait raison?

Devant le chaos qui a suivi l’exaucement, à la tête du monde libre, du voeu depuis si longtemps caressé et à présent presque regretté par l’Europe et le reste du monde d’une Amérique enfin faible  …

Et qui notamment dans le cas du Moyen-Orient, a vu la minorité sunnite du nord de l’Irak reprendre mèche, sous la pression des milices chiites de Bagdad, avec les djihadistes d’Al Qaeda qu’ils avaient chassé quelques années plus tôt …

Alors qu’après avoir accusé l’Occident et l’Amérique de tous les maux, l’on nous propose à présent la pire des solutions pour combattre le monstre de l’Etat islamique …

A savoir solliciter l’aide des mêmes chiites qui l’ont enfanté …

Comment ne pas voir, avec l’ancien ambassadeur américain à l’ONU Richard Bolton, l’évidence …

A savoir que rien ne pourra être réglé dans cette région tant qu’on n’accordera pas enfin aux Sunnites comme aux Kurdes irakiens ou syriens …

L’Etat qu’on leur a toujours refusé ?

Game of Thrones au Moyen-Orient, ou la création d’un «Sunnistan» pour contrer Daesh
RT

26 nov. 2015

Comment détruire Daesh ? C’est la question à laquelle a tenté de répondre dans une tribune John Bolton, ancien ambassadeur américain aux Nations Unies, proche des néo-conservateurs. Et pour lui, cela passera par la création d’un «Sunnistan».

C’est dans le New York Times que John Bolton a développé sa vision stratégique d’un Moyen-Orient complétement redécoupé pour mieux combattre Daesh mais également afin de contrer la vision russo-iranienne de la situation.

Selon le néo-conservateur, d’abord pas de doute, la politique actuelle de Barack Obama manque d’une vision stratégique pour le Moyen-Orient et ne permet pas de répondre à la seule question qui vaille : Quoi après l’Etat islamique ? Or «il est essentiel de résoudre cette question avant d’envisager des plans opérationnels» pour défaire Daesh.

Une nouvelle donne territoriale et géopolitique : le «sunnistan»

Et l’ancien ambassadeur de développer ses idées : pour lui, la réalité est que l’Irak et la Syrie comme entités étatiques indépendantes n’existent plus. L’État islamique s’est taillé un territoire dans des pans entiers de ces deux pays. Ajoutez à cela l’émergence de facto d’un Kurdistan indépendant et vous avez un Moyen-Orient à la physionomie totalement inédite.

Dès lors, pour John Bolton, Washington doit reconnaître cette nouvelle donne géopolitique. La meilleure alternative à l’État islamique dans le nord-ouest de l’Irak et la Syrie est un nouvel Etat sunnite indépendant.

Avantage de cette création étatique ex-nihilo : son potentiel économique certain en tant que producteur de pétrole. Il pourrait aussi constituer un rempart à la fois contre la Syrie de Bachar el-Assad allié à l’Iran chiite, lui-même de Bagdad.

Les premiers gagnants de cette hypothèse développée par John Bolton seraient évidemment les Etats arabes sunnites du Golfe. Ceux-ci «qui ont dû maintenant comprendre le risque pour leur propre sécurité de financer l’extrémisme islamiste, pourraient fournir un financement important» à la nouvelle entité. Et même la Turquie y trouverait son avantage en voyant sa frontière sud stabilisée par ce nouveau «sunnistan». Enfin, même les Kurdes pourraient profiter de la situation, pour peu qu’un Kurdistan voie le jour, officiellement reconnu par Les Etats-Unis.

Pas ou peu de démocratie mais sécurité et stabilité

Si John Bolton envisage ainsi un redécoupage à la serpe du Moyen-Orient, il ne se fait pourtant visiblement pas d’illusion sur le caractère démocratique de la future entité sunnite qu’il appelle de ses voeux. Mais pour cette région instable, la sécurité et la stabilité sont «des ambitions suffisantes».

Pour consolider cet Etat, l’ancien ambassadeur affirme qu’il faudra s’appuyer sur les structures sociales existantes et également sur les anciens responsables irakiens et syriens du parti Baas, préférables selon lui aux extrémistes islamistes. Seulement ce que semble oublier John Bolton est que Daesh a justement prospéré sur le vide politique créé par l’éviction par les Américains de ces membres du parti Baas en Irak.

Contrer l’axe russo-iranien

Cette proposition d’un Etat sunnite sous protectorat américain diffère nettement, selon John Bolton, de la vision russo-iranienne «et de ses alliés, Hezbollah, Bachar el-Assad et Bagdad». Pour lui, l’ambition de cet «axe» serait de restaurer les gouvernements irakien et syrien dans leurs anciennes frontières. Or ce but est «fondamentalement contraire aux intérêts américains, israéliens et à ceux des Etats arabes amis», avertit le néo-conservateur.

Selon lui, Moscou veut s’assurer ainsi la pérennité de ses bases navales de Tartous et de Lattaquié qui lui assurent un accès à la Méditerranée. Téhéran souhaite maintenir le pouvoir alaouite et une protection pour le Hezbollah au Liban. Surtout, l’Iran et la Russie souhaiteraient que les territoires sunnites retournent sous le contrôle du gouvernement chiite de Bagdad, renforçant ainsi de fait l’influence régionale de l’Iran.

En créant cette entité sunnite, John Bolton entend également couper le soutien des populations sunnites à l’Etat islamique en leur garantissant qu’elles ne seront plus sous contrôle alaouite syrien ou chiite irakien.

Voilà pourquoi, après avoir détruit Daesh, les Etats-Unis devraient veiller à créer cette entité sunnite ajoute John Bolton. Evidemment, il faudrait alors déployer des troupes américaines au sol assure-t-il également, même s’il envisage l’aide de «troupes arabes». Mais, conclut-il très tranquillement, «l’opération militaire n’est pas la partie la plus difficile de cette vision post-État islamique». Une opinion qui ne sera peut-être pas partagée par Barack Obama dont la vision militaire se résume à «no boots on the ground» (pas de troupes au sol) et qui refuse désormais tout enlisement de ses troupes au Moyen-Orient.

Voir aussi:

To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State

America is debating how to respond to the terrorist attacks in Paris. Unfortunately, both President Obama’s current policy and other recent proposals lack a strategic vision for the Middle East once the Islamic State, or ISIS, is actually defeated. There are no answers, or only outmoded ones, to the basic question: What comes after the Islamic State?

Before transforming Mr. Obama’s ineffective efforts into a vigorous military campaign to destroy the Islamic State, we need a clear view, shared with NATO allies and others, about what will replace it. It is critical to resolve this issue before considering any operational plans. Strategy does not come from the ground up; instead, tactics flow deductively once we’ve defined the ultimate objectives.

Today’s reality is that Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone. The Islamic State has carved out a new entity from the post-Ottoman Empire settlement, mobilizing Sunni opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the Iran-dominated government of Iraq. Also emerging, after years of effort, is a de facto independent Kurdistan.

If, in this context, defeating the Islamic State means restoring to power Mr. Assad in Syria and Iran’s puppets in Iraq, that outcome is neither feasible nor desirable. Rather than striving to recreate the post-World War I map, Washington should recognize the new geopolitics. The best alternative to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq is a new, independent Sunni state.

This “Sunni-stan” has economic potential as an oil producer (subject to negotiation with the Kurds, to be sure), and could be a bulwark against both Mr. Assad and Iran-allied Baghdad. The rulers of the Arab Gulf states, who should by now have learned the risk to their own security of funding Islamist extremism, could provide significant financing. And Turkey — still a NATO ally, don’t forget — would enjoy greater stability on its southern border, making the existence of a new state at least tolerable.

The functional independence of Kurdistan reinforces this approach. The Kurds have finally become too big a force in the region for Baghdad or Damascus to push them around. They will not be cajoled or coerced into relinquishing territory they now control to Mr. Assad in Syria or to Iraq’s Shiite militias.

The Kurds still face enormous challenges, with dangerously uncertain borders, especially with Turkey. But an independent Kurdistan that has international recognition could work in America’s favor.

Make no mistake, this new Sunni state’s government is unlikely to be a Jeffersonian democracy for many years. But this is a region where alternatives to secular military or semi-authoritarian governments are scarce. Security and stability are sufficient ambitions.

As we did in Iraq with the 2006 “Anbar Awakening,” the counterinsurgency operation that dislodged Al Qaeda from its stronghold in that Iraqi province, we and our allies must empower viable Sunni leaders, including tribal authorities who prize their existing social structures. No doubt, this will involve former Iraqi and Syrian Baath Party officials; and there may still be some moderate Syrian opposition leaders. All are preferable to the Islamist extremists.

The Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia must not only fund much of the new state’s early needs, but also ensure its stability and resistance to radical forces. Once, we might have declared a Jordanian “protectorate” in an American “sphere of influence”; for now, a new state will do.

This Sunni state proposal differs sharply from the vision of the Russian-Iranian axis and its proxies (Hezbollah, Mr. Assad and Tehran-backed Baghdad). Their aim of restoring Iraqi and Syrian governments to their former borders is a goal fundamentally contrary to American, Israeli and friendly Arab state interests. Notions, therefore, of an American-Russian coalition against the Islamic State are as undesirable as they are glib.

In Syria, Moscow wants to dominate the regime (with or without Mr. Assad) and safeguard Russia’s Tartus naval base and its new Latakia air base. Tehran wants a continuing Alawite supremacy, with full protection for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria.

As for Iraq, Russia and Iran want the Sunni territories returned to Baghdad’s control, reinforcing Iran’s regional influence. They may wish for the same in Kurdistan, but they lack the capability there.

Sunnis today support the Islamic State for many of the same reasons they once supported Al Qaeda in Iraq — as a bulwark against being ruled by Tehran via Baghdad. Telling these Sunni people that their reward for rising against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will be to put them back in thrall to Mr. Assad and his ilk, or to Shiite-dominated Baghdad, will simply intensify their support for the jihadists. Why would they switch sides?

This is why, after destroying the Islamic State, America should pursue the far-reaching goal of creating a new Sunni state. Though difficult in the near term, over time this is more conducive to regional order and stability.

Creating an American-led anti-Islamic State alliance instead of Moscow’s proposed coalition will require considerable diplomatic and political effort. American ground combat forces will have to be deployed to provide cohesion and leadership. But this would be necessary to defeat the Islamic State even if the objective were simply to recreate the status quo ante.

The Anbar Awakening and the American military’s 2007 “surge” provide the model, as do Kurdish successes against the Islamic State. Local fighters armed, trained and advised by the United States would combine with Arab and American conventional forces.

The military operation is not the hardest part of this post-Islamic State vision. It will also require sustained American attention and commitment. We cannot walk away from this situation as we did from Iraq in 2011.

The new “Sunni-stan” may not be Switzerland. This is not a democracy initiative, but cold power politics. It is consistent with the strategic objective of obliterating the Islamic State that we share with our allies, and it is achievable.


Accord nucléaire iranien: Si rien ne marche, envoyez les anciens du mossad (When all else fails, roll out the Israeli ex-security chiefs)

10 septembre, 2015
https://scontent-ams3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpt1/t31.0-8/11062705_10200988763718353_1517784865883534733_o.jpgCe qui se passe en Alaska nous touche tous. C’est un signal d’alarme. Et tant que je serai président, l’Amérique jouera un rôle central pour répondre à la menace du changement climatique avant qu’il ne soit trop tard. (…) C’est un défi qui définira les contours de ce siècle de manière plus spectaculaire que tout autre (…) Ce n’est plus l’heure de plaider l’ignorance. Ceux qui veulent ignorer la science sont de plus en plus seuls, ils sont sur une île qui est en train de disparaître. Barack Hussein Obama
I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate threat to our national security. It will impact how our military defends our country. We need to act and we need to act now. Denying it or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces. I know there are some folks back in Washington who refuse to admit that climate change is real. Politicians who say they care about military readiness need to care about this as well. I understand climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world, yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East. Barack Hussein Obama
The extremism that we see, the radical exploitation of religion which is translated into violence, has no basis in any of the real religions. There’s nothing Islamic about what ISIL/Daesh stands for, or is doing to people. (…) We’re living at a point in time where there are just more young people demanding what they see the rest of the world having than at any time in modern history. (…) And that brings us to something like climate change, which is profoundly having an impact in various parts of the world, where droughts are occurring not at a 100-year level but at a 500-year level in places that they haven’t occurred, floods of massive proportions, diminishment of water for crops and agriculture at a time where we need to be talking about sustainable food. (…) In many places we see the desert increasingly creeping into East Africa. We’re seeing herders and farmers pushed into deadly conflict as a result. We’re seeing the Himalayan glaciers receding, which will affect the water that is critical to rice and to other agriculture on both sides of the Himalayas. These are our challenges. (…) As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition, the truth is we – there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt – and I see a lot of heads nodding – they had to respond to. And people need to understand the connection of that. It has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity … John Kerry
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region. Obama (2011)
What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Barack Hussein Obama (2014)
It also reminds us of the tragedy of Obama’s diplomacy, that he really did have something to contribute to U.S. foreign policy and really intended to contribute it but botched it through a peculiar, Carteresque feckless arrogance. When he took office the U.S. was overextended abroad, militarily and in the American public’s willingness to expend blood and treasure trying to bail ungrateful foreigners out of self-inflicted messes. Like many voters, Obama believed a prudent reduction in commitments and ambitions would be healthy for his nation and the world. Humility is good in one’s personal life and has its place in diplomacy. For America to elect a black president willing to be frank about the nation’s shortcomings was a powerful vindication of an open society’s capacity for honest, constructive self-examination. But inability to tell humility from feebleness not only created short-term danger for America and the world, it risks discrediting the option he so passionately championed. In his remarkable Special Providence, Walter Russell Mead identifies four principal schools in American foreign policy. “Hamiltonians” concerned about world order and “Wilsonians” crusading to impose American ideals abroad are the two familiar ones, generally described as “realists” or “idealists” (and prone to squabble over whether idealism is realistic in the long run or vice versa). But Mead adds two others of enormous and often overlooked importance. One is “Jacksonians, »often ignorant and scornful of foreigners but robust supporters of American sovereignty and decisive action when their country is challenged or insulted. And while it might seem petty to resent insults, in foreign policy in particular willingness to tolerate serious insults signals weakness that invites challenges, to such an extent that insults themselves become challenges. Their tendency to swing between scorning the world and kicking its equator imparts a certain volatility to America’s foreign relations. But Jacksonians also give it great supple strength, because they support vigorous action without tolerating hyperactivity. That brings me to the final school, smallest and least influential but still significant and useful, Mead’s “Jeffersonians.” These are idealists, like the Wilsonians. But instead of seeking to impose America’s special virtues on the world, they fear constant engagement in ugly foreign entanglements will tarnish American ideals and undermine domestic liberty. They are present in both parties, on the Democratic “left” and among Republican libertarians. And Mead argues they are another underappreciated source of supple American strength because when the U.S. gets overextended, as under the Wilsonian George W. Bush, they stand ready with an analysis and prescription for retrenchment. Obama is a “Jeffersonian,” despite his drone strikes and excessive surveillance at home and abroad. But, like Carter before him, he seems to have abdicated rather than reduced America’s positive role abroad and, indeed, to doubt it can play one. Mistaking the resulting upheaval for “tranquility” tarnishes not just his presidency but the whole notion of prudent, cautious global engagement. There lies the tragedy of his diplomacy. John Robson
The president’s demeanor is worrying a lot of people. From the immigration crisis on the Mexican border to the Islamic State rising in Mesopotamia, Barack Obama seems totally detached from the world’s convulsions. When he does interrupt his endless rounds of golf, fundraising and photo ops, it’s for some affectless, mechanical, almost forced public statement.  Regarding Ukraine, his detachment — the rote, impassive voice — borders on dissociation. His U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, delivers an impassioned denunciation of Russia. Obama cautions that we not “get out ahead of the facts,” as if the facts of this case — Vladimir Putin’s proxies shooting down a civilian airliner — are in doubt. (…) Obama’s passivity stems from an idea. When Obama says Putin has placed himself on the wrong side of history in Ukraine, he actually believes it. He disdains realpolitik because he believes that, in the end, such primitive 19th-century notions as conquest are self-defeating. History sees to their defeat. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Obama in June 2009 (and many times since) regarding the Green Revolution in Iran. Ultimately, injustice and aggression don’t pay. The Soviets saw their 20th-century empire dissolve. More proximally, U.S. gains in Iraq and Afghanistan were, in time, liquidated. Ozymandias lies forever buried and forgotten in desert sands. Remember when, at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Obama tried to construct for Putin “an offramp” from Crimea? Absurd as this idea was, I think Obama was sincere. He actually imagined that he’d be saving Putin from himself, that Crimea could only redound against Russia in the long run. If you really believe this, then there is no need for forceful, potentially risky U.S. counteractions. Which explains everything since: Obama’s pinprick sanctions; his failure to rally a craven Europe; his refusal to supply Ukraine with the weapons it has been begging for. A real U.S. president would give Kiev the weapons it needs, impose devastating sectoral sanctions on Moscow, reinstate our Central European missile-defense system and make a Reaganesque speech explaining why. Obama has done none of these things. Why should he? He’s on the right side of history. Of course, in the long run nothing lasts. But history is lived in the here and now. The Soviets had only 70 years, Hitler a mere 12. Yet it was enough to murder millions and rain ruin on entire continents. Bashar al-Assad, too, will one day go. But not before having killed at least 100,000 people. All domination must end. But after how much devastation? And if you leave it to the forces of history to repel aggression and redeem injustice, what’s the point of politics, of leadership, in the first place? The world is aflame and our leader is on the 14th green. The arc of history may indeed bend toward justice, Mr. President. But, as you say, the arc is long. The job of a leader is to shorten it, to intervene on behalf of “the fierce urgency of now.” Otherwise, why do we need a president? And why did you seek to become ours? Charles Krauthammer
De l’Irak à l’Ukraine, de la Syrie à la Libye et à l’Afghanistan en passant par Gaza, les conflits sanglants se multiplient. «Le monde est devenu un foutoir», s’est même exclamée Madeleine Albright, ancienne secrétaire d’Etat de Bill Clinton qui utilise d’habitude un langage plus châtié. Cela n’a pas de sens de faire porter toute la responsabilité de ce «foutoir» à Barack Obama et à la diplomatie américaine. Pourtant, dans chacun des points chauds du globe –Irak, Ukraine, Syrie, Libye, Afghanistan et Gaza–, la Maison Blanche a commis de grossières erreurs: en se désengageant trop vite, en ne mesurant pas suffisamment les enjeux et les risques, en menaçant sans jamais agir et en étant incapable de se donner une stratégie. Barack Obama et les Etats-Unis sont ainsi devenus aujourd’hui presque transparents sur la scène internationale, incapables de forcer un cessez-le-feu à Gaza, de faire condamner la Russie de Vladimir Poutine après la destruction en vol d’un avion civil au-dessus de l’est de l’Ukraine ou d’empêcher l’effondrement de l’Irak, de l’Afghanistan, de la Syrie et de la Libye. La diplomatie américaine a perdu au fil des mois sa crédibilité et son autorité.Il faut dire que la politique étrangère américaine cumule les désastres. (…)  Le retrait de l’ensemble des troupes américaines d’Irak a débouché sur la partition de fait du pays. Sans les 15.000 soldats américains, que les généraux voulaient maintenir sur place, les Etats-Unis n’ont eu aucun moyen de soutenir l’armée irakienne et de l’empêcher de s’effondrer face aux djihadistes. La Maison Blanche a beau se justifier en expliquant que c’était sur l’insistance du Premier ministre irakien Nouri al-Maliki, c’était surtout Barack Obama qui ne voulait plus un seul soldat américain sur le sol irakien. L’erreur a encore été plus grande en Syrie. Obama a d’abord refusé de soutenir les rebelles modérés et prédisait alors la chute de Bachar el-Assad. Quand ce dernier a gazé à mort 1.400 civils, franchissant la ligne rouge fixée par Barack Obama, ce dernier a demandé l’autorisation au Congrès d’apporter une réponse militaire… et s’en est remis à Vladimir Poutine pour obtenir du dictateur syrien qu’il renonce à son arsenal chimique. Bachar el-Assad n’est pas tombé. Les rebelles démocrates ont été balayés. Le nombre de morts dépasse les 200.000 et les djihadistes qui mènent la lutte contre le dictateur ont les mêmes méthodes sanguinaires que lui. Il y a eu aussi l’épisode libyen. Sollicité par la France et le Royaume-Uni, Barack Obama a participé à l’intervention aérienne pour renverser Mouammar Khadafi. Mais il a refusé de soutenir le nouveau gouvernement libyen et d’entraîner son armée. En conséquence de quoi, la Libye sombre dans le chaos. La réponse américaine aux printemps arabes a été désastreuse. Quand des citoyens ordinaires sont descendus dans les rues pour réclamer la démocratie, les occidentaux, à commencer par les Etats-Unis, leur ont tourné le dos. «La réponse aurait dû être du même type que le plan Marshall après la Seconde Guerre mondiale…», explique Fred Hiatt toujours dans le Washington Post. Personne ne peut savoir si les Etats-Unis avaient eu un «grand» Président, si les occidentaux auraient pu soutenir activement les démocrates arabes, auraient pu empêcher l’Irak de s’effondrer, Bachar el-Assad de garder le pouvoir et auraient fait reculer Vladimir Poutine. Mais en manifestant une telle incompétence, indécision et même indifférence face aux affaires du monde, Barack Obama l’a indéniablement rendu bien plus dangereux au cours des cinq dernières années. Eric Leser
This may be the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy. Starvation in Biafra a generation ago sparked a movement. Synagogues and churches a decade ago mobilized to relieve misery in Darfur. When the Taliban in 2001 destroyed ancient statues of Buddha at Bamiyan, the world was appalled at the lost heritage. Today the Islamic State is blowing up precious cultural monuments in Palmyra, and half of all Syrians have been displaced — as if, on a proportional basis, 160 million Americans had been made homeless. More than a quarter-million have been killed. Yet the “Save Darfur” signs have not given way to “Save Syria.” One reason is that Obama — who ran for president on the promise of restoring the United States’ moral stature — has constantly reassured Americans that doing nothing is the smart and moral policy. He has argued, at times, that there was nothing the United States could do, belittling the Syrian opposition as “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth.” He has argued that we would only make things worse — “I am more mindful probably than most,” he told the New Republic in 2013, “of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations.” He has implied that because we can’t solve every problem, maybe we shouldn’t solve any. “How do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” he asked (though at the time thousands were not being killed in Congo). (…) Perversely, the worse Syria became, the more justified the president seemed for staying aloof; steps that might have helped in 2012 seemed ineffectual by 2013, and actions that could have saved lives in 2013 would not have been up to the challenge presented by 2014. The fact that the woman who wrote the book on genocide, Samantha Power, and the woman who campaigned to bomb Sudan to save the people of Darfur, Susan Rice, could apparently in good conscience stay on as U.N. ambassador and national security adviser, respectively, lent further moral credibility to U.S. abdication. Most critically, inaction was sold not as a necessary evil but as a notable achievement: The United States at last was leading with the head, not the heart, and with modesty, not arrogance. “ (…) When Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq, critics worried there would be instability; none envisioned the emergence of a full-blown terrorist state. When he announced in August 2011 that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” critics worried the words might prove empty — but few imagined the extent of the catastrophe: not just the savagery of chemical weapons and “barrel bombs,” but also the Islamic State’s recruitment of thousands of foreign fighters, its spread from Libya to Afghanistan, the danger to the U.S. homeland that has alarmed U.S. intelligence officials, the refugees destabilizing Europe. Fred Hiatt
That’s always been this President’s problem: his complete inability to deal with the world at hand, as it exists right in front of his face. When the world forces Barack Obama off his script, he simply retreats to a golf course, ESPN, or most recently the remote wilds of Alaska. Nowhere was this more evident than when his habit of diplomatic detachment inconveniently washed up on the shores of the Greek island of Kos last week when a boat carrying Syrian refugees capsized. While President Jor-El embarked on a magical mystery end-of-summer climate cruise to call attention to Alaskan glacier-melt in summer, the world was suddenly captivated by the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi lying face down in front of rescue workers.It’s fitting in a way: it is the photograph of a young boy washed up on a Turkish beach that encapsulates the consequences of what happens when a coddled President, content to do as little as possible before turning over a world spinning off its axis to his successor, is allowed to distract himself with selfies in Alaska. As thousands sought asylum in Germany, Austria, Denmark and elsewhere, the leader of the free world sought it in the most remote part of the country for another stop on his ongoing Retirepallooza Tour of Meaningless Firsts. While Obama was posing for glorious-leader-make-wonderful-country photos in front of mountains, John Kerry, in one of many ongoing reminders of just how right this country got it in 2004, used the occasion not to address this very real catastrophe splashed all over social media and newspapers, but to hedge it against an imaginary possible future migrant crisis due to global warming. Addressing the world as it exists now means confronting more photos of his dinner-date with Bashar al-Assad (“a real reformer” – Hillary Clinton, 2011) and excusing away the faulty campaign promises of a President content to give Iraq up to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It wasn’t climate change that caused refugees, including Aylan Kurdi and several others, to wash up on a Turkish beach. The message is clear — Obama and his State Department are not going to be shaken off their climate paranoia narrative. When Obama vehemently denied he ever called for a red line of action in Syria, he blamed “The world” and he’s content to let “the world” handle it now in any attempt to repudiate any further responsibility. What do 300,000 refugees and the whole of Europe matter when there is a glacier in the Arctic that needs staring at. As Obama occupies himself with uncertain visions of the how the world will be in the distant future, he ignores it as it exists in the present day at our peril for the conflicts we face now. There will be a price to pay for this and it has nothing to do with sea levels rising 75 years from now. ISIS (that is, Obama’s JV Squad) is threatening to use the crisis of thousands of faceless and unnamed refugees as a gateway to European and western countries. There are very real security questions about who many of these refugees are as well as their intentions for fleeing. According to reports in the Daily Mail & others there has been for some time. Barack Obama maintains that the United States cannot intervene in every crisis in every part of the world and has the record of complete disengagement to prove he means it. But this is a conflict that has a very real chance of infiltrating our cities. This is a part of the world that, no matter how much we pull away from it, will one way or another find a way to pull us back in.(..) Our media collectively demands accountability for these conflicts from every single person…except the one person who has any real power to stop or mitigate it. This has always been the anecdote in Obama’s foreign policy: 1) show up 2) demand the world follow him 3) world leaders balk at his demands 4) he shrugs his shoulders and goes and plays with his selfie stick somewhere. If Obama really feels like going “all-out,” sometimes there will be an additional step 5 involving Twitter pictures of the State Department’s junior-hipster mall brigade flashing grins, thumbs-up, and razor-edged hashtags (fashioned by America’s sharpest military scientists working in the depths of DARPA to help win The Bloody War Of Memes). (…) The media demands we not ignore those fleeing from radical Islamic tyranny,  yet refuses to hold this administration accountable for turning its eyes away from comments made by the mullahs of Iran, so desperate are they to write a narrative about how an unenforceable deal would, in the cosmically perfect words of Rep. Patrick Murphy, “bring peace in our time.”  Americans have been abandoned overseas in Iran, their captivity used as a leverage against a reluctant U.S. Congress. The fight for democracy and the fight to redeem captive Americans or defend refugees in Syria and Iraq isn’t as easy as (in the words of the AP) staring down a melting glacier. The name of Scott Darden, currently being held captive by Houthi rebels in Yemen, takes a backseat to the name of a mountain in Alaska. The beautiful narrative of Obama’s presidency is so much more interesting, and so much easier to romanticize, than the world he’s going to leave behind. (…) And the results of that indifference have just washed up on shore. Steven Miller
When Steven Cohen, a professor at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, conducted a poll of American Jews, including those who, like myself, are not religious, he found that an astounding 63% approved of the nuclear deal, a figure impressively higher right now than American opinion on the subject generally. In other words, with the single exception of J Street, all the major Jewish organizations that are lobbying against the deal and claiming to represent American Jews and Jewish opinion don’t.  (…) But what about Israel, where support among key figures for deep-sixing the nuclear deal is self-evident? Again, just one small problem: almost any major Israeli figure with a military or intelligence background who is retired or out of government and can speak freely on the matter seems to have come out in favor of the agreement. (The same can be said, by the way, for similar figures in this country, as well as Gary Samore, a former Obama administration White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction and until recently head of United Against Nuclear Iran, a Sheldon Adelson-funded group whose job is to knee-cap such an agreement. He stepped down from that post recently to support the nuclear deal.) In Israel, a list as long as your arm of retired intelligence chiefs, generals and admirals, officials of all sorts, even nuclear scientists, have publicly stepped forward to support the agreement, written an open letter to Netanyahu on the subject, and otherwise spoken out, including one ex-head of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, appointed to his position by none other than Netanyahu. In other words, the well-financed fast and furious campaign here against the nuclear deal (which has left just about every Republican senator, representative, and presidential candidate in full froth) and the near hysteria churned up on the subject has created a reality that bears remarkably little relationship to actual reality. David Bromwich
There’s a deep crack emerging in the veneer of wall-to-wall support offered by Israel’s political leadership to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his war against the Iran nuclear agreement. The crack has a name you might recognize: the Israeli security establishment. (…) As unanimous as the politicians are in backing the prime minister, the generals and spymasters are nearly as unanimous in questioning him. Generals publicly backing Netanyahu can be counted on — well — one finger. Many of the security insiders say the deal signed in Vienna on July 14 isn’t as bad as Netanyahu claims. Some call it good for Israel. Others say it’s bad, but it’s a done deal and Israel should make the best of it. Either way, they agree that Israel should work with the Obama administration to plot implementation, rather than mobilize Congress against the White House. All agree that undermining Israel’s alliance with America is a far greater existential threat than anything Iran does.(…)  They include a former chief of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin , who now heads Israel’s main defense think tank; a former chief of arms technology, Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael , who now chairs both The Israel Space Agency and the science ministry’s research and development council; a former chief of military operations, Israel Ziv ; a near-legendary architect of Israeli military intelligence, Dov Tamari ; a former director of the Shin Bet domestic security service, Ami Ayalon , and a former director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Efraim Halevy . And there are others. The list would be longer if we included security figures who spoke in favor of the Lausanne framework agreement in April, which was the basis for this deal, but haven’t addressed the new agreement. And we’re not including anyone who retired with a rank below brigadier general. We’re just discussing the architects of Israeli defense. The roster should also include a onetime chief of military intelligence, Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and prime minister named Ehud Barak. (…) Barak called the nuclear deal a “bad deal” that legitimizes Iran as a nuclear threshold state. He predicted that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a decade. But, he said, Israel “can live with whatever happens there. We are the strongest state in the Middle East, militarily, strategically, economically — and diplomatically, if we’re not foolish.” Again contradicting Netanyahu, Barak said: “The most important thing we need to do right now is restore working relations with the White House. That’s the only place where we can formulate what constitutes a violation, what’s a smoking gun and how to respond.” (…)  That’s the generals’ central theme: Don’t panic. “We need to be calm,” said Yadlin, the former military intelligence chief, in a Ynet online interview . “The agreement isn’t good, but Israel can deal with it.” Instead of “blowing off steam,” he said, Israel should be talking with the United States to prepare responses to violations. By contrast, Ben-Yisrael, who has twice won the Israel Prize for contributions to Israel’s weapons technology, told Walla! News that the Vienna agreement is “not bad at all, perhaps even good for Israel.” True, Iran still calls for Israel’s destruction. But, he said, from the nuclear perspective — which is what the negotiations were about — “it prevents a nuclear bomb for 15 years, which is not bad at all.” Halevy, the former Mossad director, elaborated on Ben-Yisrael’s point in a scathing Ynet op-ed. From the start, Israel “maintained that the Iranian threat is a unique, existential threat.” It wanted the international community to address the threat, and it did. “That was the only goal of the biting sanctions against Iran,” he wrote. Now, he stated, the government tries “to change the rules of the game and include additional demands from Iran in the agreement, like recognizing Israel and halting support for terror.” By threatening to block an agreement that addresses Israel’s “existential-cardinal” goal because it doesn’t address other, nonexistential issues, Halevy wrote, Netanyahu raises the suspicion that he doesn’t want a deal at all. (…) Last January, the Mossad’s director, Tamir Pardo, told a group of senators that imposing new sanctions on Iran, something Netanyahu favored, would undermine the nuclear talks. J.J. Goldberg
Are the quoted members of this community all experts on the Iranian nuclear negotiations, or on nuclear issues more generally speaking? The answer is no. Some are and some are not. And are there not other comparable figures making a very different case, indeed strongly arguing against the Iran deal? Of course there are. And finally, are ex-security establishment figures as a group necessarily the most authoritative voices on this particular topic in the Israeli domestic debate? Again, the answer is no. There are Iran experts, nuclear experts, and Iran nuclear experts, who have been following every detail for years – these individuals have vastly more relevant credentials to discuss the ins and outs and implications of the Iran deal than the ex-head of the Shin Bet. (…) Some of the figures – those that are authoritative – have been quoted as opposing the government’s position on the deal when they are actually trying to convey a more nuanced message than the one being framed by the media. Their message seems tailored primarily for internal consumption – to say to the Israeli public: yes, this deal is bad, but it is not a disaster. We are strong and will be able to deal with the adverse implications. Moreover, they say, Israel’s strategic ties with the US are of paramount importance and cannot be jeopardized by trying to influence an internal American debate. These arguments are quite valid, but they are not arguments in favor of the deal. They are arguments saying that we in Israel have no choice but to try to make the best of a bad situation over which we have no direct control. Some say that they favor the deal because it keeps Iran from nuclear weapons for 10 or 15 years. But does it? That’s exactly the essence of the very serious debate going on these days in Congress! The holes in the deal make that statement precarious at best. Moreover, what happens after 15 years? Unfortunately, Israeli ex-security establishment figures are no less prone than some Americans to focusing on short-term rather than long-term solutions. The current deal was always meant to be comprehensive and final, and yet it is nothing of the sort. This is an issue with serious ramifications for global security down the line, and a simplistic “well we’ve delayed the disaster…maybe”, especially when dealing with nuclear capabilities, is the height of recklessness.(…) what is at stake is not whether and how Israel makes the best of a bad situation, but rather the merits of the deal – most importantly, whether it will stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. (…) Unfortunately, the US administration is trying to advance two messages simultaneously: that this is a good deal, and that it is better than the alternative. But it is either one or the other. If it is a good deal, focus on that. And if the debate is actually over alternatives, then explain why the administration has, from the start, cut off any discussion of alternatives by placing all critics who suggested them (regardless of where they live) in the impossible situation of not being allowed to say anything before the deal is revealed, nor after. But of course, it is with regard to the question of alternatives that the Israeli voices now being quoted are most useful to proponents of the deal. Israel Ziv, one of the retired generals mentioned in the Forward, demonstrates how that works when he argues that the deal is better than the alternatives, like a military strike. But he also notes that “there is no one in Israel who thinks the nuclear agreement is a good agreement,” even if he thinks that that should not be the focus of discussion. Go figure. The recent attempt to say to Americans that they should listen to one set of Israelis rather than another is one more attempt to divert attention from what should be the only focus of attention in the current debate over the nuclear deal: the serious flaws in this deal that will legitimize Iran’s dangerous nuclear threshold status, and that could ultimately pave the way to Iran becoming a nuclear state. That scenario would be irreversible, and the Iranians know it. And when looking at this through Iranian eyes, 15 years is no time at all. Emily Landau
J.J. Goldberg at the Forward has been running a campaign to persuade Americans that Israel’s intelligence community is at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Iran deal. Not only the preponderance of retired professionals but also currently serving ones, dissent from Netanyahu’s read of the deal. Netanyahu can’t silence the former, but he’s given a “gag order” to the latter — to no avail. Military intelligence has even produced a “surprising,” “game-changing” assessment that undermines him completely, according to which the “upsides [of the deal] aren’t perfect,” but “the downsides aren’t unmanageable… The disadvantages are not too calamitous for anyone to cope with them.” Military intelligence sees “an imperfect but real opening in Iran. It believes that opportunities are being lost.” Netanyahu’s own “diagnosis doesn’t match his own intelligence.” It’s all polemical and politicized nonsense. A real expert, Emily Landau (at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv) (…) points out that Iranian politics and nuclear issues are well beyond the expertise of most of them. (…). And most of those who think that Israel should back off a fight over the deal still think it’s a bad one. They just argue that it’s inevitable anyway, so why provoke Barack Obama? This isn’t support for the deal, it’s resigned acquiescence. (…)  Yes, the intelligence assessment is that Iran won’t be able to build a bomb under the terms of the agreement. (That is, if Iran doesn’t cheat—the assessment says the mechanisms for inspection are flawed.) Iran might even show short-term restraint over support for terror, to consolidate its gains from sanctions relief. But the estimate also holds that when the agreement expires, Iran will be only weeks away from a nuclear breakout. In the meantime, Iran gains undeserved legitimacy from the deal, which provokes Arab states to stock up on conventional weapons and accelerate their own nuclear programs. Some of these programs could be militarized over time. The bottom line of the assessment, as reported in the press, is that the risks of the deal outweigh the opportunities. (This formula appears in more than one press report. Goldberg omits it.) (…)  Debates in Israel’s intel community not only occur; they’re encouraged (there’s even an officer in military intelligence who’s a designated “devil’s advocate”). Likewise, it’s vital for Israeli planners to think about the day after a done deal on Iran, and how Israel can make the most of it. But that’s all it is. Goldberg’s latest job is a conspiracy theory for the gullible. You don’t have to be an intel officer to know that it’s a red herring. Martin Kremer

C’est le réchauffement climatique, imbécile !

A l’heure où après le fiasco irakien et syrien et à présent, entre faux passeports et fausses conversions, le chaos des réfugiés en Europe …

Se font chaque jour un peu plus sentir les conséquences catastrophiques de l’inaction d’un Chef du Monde libre …

Trop occupé, obsédé qu’il est par le changement à tout prix et sa place dans l’Histoire et protégé (jusqu’à invoquer le réchauffement climatique !) par une presse aux ordres, à se faire des selfies en Alaska ou à débaptiser des montagnes …

 Devinez qui l’Administration Obama est allée chercher pour faire passer un accord nucléaire iranien qui se révèle lui aussi chaque jour un peu plus catastrophique ?

Roll out the ex-security chiefs

August 3, 2015

Imperialisme musulman: Attention, un colonialisme peut en cacher un autre (No imperialism or colonialism, please, we’re Muslims !)

6 août, 2015

imageL’Arabie Saoudite n’est rien d’autre qu’un Daesh qui a réussi. Éric Zemmour
Obama demande pardon pour les faits et gestes de l’Amérique, son passé, son présent et le reste, il s’excuse de tout. Les relations dégradées avec la Russie, le manque de respect pour l’Islam, les mauvais rapports avec l’Iran, les bisbilles avec l’Europe, le manque d’adulation pour Fidel Castro, tout lui est bon pour battre la coulpe de l’Amérique. Plus encore, il célèbre la contribution (totalement inexistante) de l’Islam à l’essor de l’Amérique, et il se fend d’une révérence au sanglant et sectaire roi d’Arabie, l’Abdullah de la haine. Il annule la ceinture anti-missiles sise en Alaska et propose un désarmement nucléaire inutile. (…) Plus encore, cette déplorable Amérique a semé le désordre et le mal partout dans le monde. Au lieu de collaborer multilatéralement avec tous, d’œuvrer au bien commun avec Poutine, Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Saddam Hussein, Bachir al-Assad, et Cie, l’insupportable Bush en a fait des ennemis. (…) Il n’y a pas d’ennemis, il n’y a que des malentendus. Il ne peut y avoir d’affrontements, seulement des clarifications. Laurent Murawiec
Voilà plus de 60 ans que les gouvernements américains successifs s’opposent à la nation iranienne. En 1332 [1953] avec un coup d’Etat ils ont renversé le gouvernement national de l’Iran et l’ont remplacé par un régime dur, impopulaire et despotique. (…) Le 15 Khordad 1342 [5 juin 1963] ils ont humilié notre nation et ont tué 15 000 personnes de cette nation et ont exilé le chef de notre nation [Ajatollah Khomeini]. En 57 [1978] ils ont tué plus de 1 500 personnes sur la place des martyrs et les tueurs ont reçu le soutien du président américain. Ils ont soutenu la dictature jusqu’au dernier jour. Ils se sont opposés à la révolution de la nation iranienne en quête de liberté, indépendance et justice. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (discours de Kermanshah, le 28 janvier 2009)
En pleine Guerre froide, les États-Unis ont joué un rôle dans le renversement d’un gouvernement iranien démocratiquement élu. Barack Hussein Obama
“We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program.” Obama (Dec. 7, 2013)
Iran has never intended and will never wish to develop nuclear weapons. Hassan Rouhani (Apr. 9, 2015)
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi also (…) pointed to “unfounded allegations” by some world powers over the past 10 years against Iran’s nuclear program and said it has been proved that such false claims have aimed to “exert cruel and illegal pressure [on the country] to prevent the Iranian nation and government’s march on the path of all-out development and progress.” Presstv.ir
We’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward.” Kerry (Jun. 6, 2015)
Every one in the world knows that our Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei) has placed a religious ban on the development, use or acquisition of military nuclear technology and Iran has never been after atomic bombs. » Hassan Rouhani (Jul. 14, 2015)
« I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously. But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts, or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hard-liners chant ‘death to America’ does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those hard-liners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hard-liners chanting ‘death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.” Obama (Aug. 6, 2015)
A senior intelligence official, when asked about the satellite imagery, told us the IAEA was also familiar with what he called « sanitization efforts » since the deal was reached in Vienna, but that the U.S. government and its allies had confidence that the IAEA had the technical means to detect past nuclear work anyway. Bloomberg
What’s curious is that the deal that the Obama Administration now celebrates is based on the same principles that the White House now derides as fairy tales. Like parents putting their children to bed, the White House once sang lullabies to congress and U.S. allies to quiet their concerns about the administration’s diplomatic approach to the Iranian nuclear program. Comparing the administration’s past public statements about the deal with its current positions is a lesson in the political uses of fairy tales … Tablet
The French Revolution, he insists, was a continental attempt to imitate England’s Glorious Revolution, and as soon as it went beyond installing a constitutional monarchy and descended into Jacobinism it drowned democracy itself in blood. Jacobin democracy—populist, egalitarian, naturally inclined to see Marx as the heir of Robespierre—is European. Real democracy—an independent civil society, rule of law, constitutional checks and balances—is an invention of « Anglo-Celtic civilization. »
Britain was lucky, rather than predestined, to be free. Liberty, he argues, is a happy accident of England’s history: « Since the collapse of Rome, there has never been any significant period in Britain when the state was strong enough to enforce its will without considerable concessions to the rights and liberties of important sections of its subjects and without reliance upon consent. » In Britain—and in America—society created and controlled the state. In continental Europe, the state created and controlled both society and nation.
In Conquest’s view, South Africa, India, and democratic Nigeria share more with Canada, the US, and Britain than they do with African and Asian neighbors with political cultures of non-English origin. Common institutions—liberal constitutionalism, the rule of law, checks and balances, and common values like tolerance and individual rights—as well as a common language provide the basis for « a more fruitful unity » than, for example, common membership in the divided and generally impotent United Nations. Michael Ignatief
“The mere existence of the U.S.S.R., and its ideas, distorted the way in which many people over the whole world thought about society, the economy, human history. Many were seduced by the comfortable word ‘socialism,’ even to the extent of rejecting the Western ideas of free discussion, political compromise, plural society, piecemeal practicality, change without chaos.” Robert Conquest
« The Arab conquerors acted in a typically imperialist fashion from the start, subjugating indigenous populations, colonizing their lands, and expropriating their wealth, resources, and labor. (…) From the first Arab-Islamic empire of the mid-seventh century to the Ottomans, the last great Muslim empire, the story of Islam has been the story of the rise and fall of universal empires and, no less important, of imperialist dreams.” Ephraim Karsh
Whether it was the Romans in Gaul, the Arabs throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Asia, the Huns in Eastern Europe, the Mongols in China, the Turks in the Middle East and the Balkans, the Bantu in southern Africa, the Khmer in East Asia, the Aztecs in Mexico, the Iroquois in the Northeast, or the Sioux throughout the Great Plains, human history has been stained by man’s continual use of brutal violence to acquire land and resources and destroy or replace those possessing them. Scholars may find subtle nuances of evil in the European version of this ubiquitous aggression, but for the victims such fine discriminations are irrelevant. (…) Yet this ideologically loaded and historically challenged use of words like “colonial” and “colonialist” remains rife in analyses of the century-long disorder in the Middle East. Both Islamists and Arab nationalists, with sympathy from the Western left, have blamed the European “colonialists” for the lack of development, political thuggery, and endemic violence whose roots lie mainly in tribal culture, illiberal shari’a law, and sectarian conflicts … Bill Thornton

Cachez cet imperialisme et ce colonialisme que je ne saurai voir !

Au lendemain de la signature d’un accord historique …

Sur le programme nucleaire inexistant …

D’un pays en train d’en effacer les dernieres traces …

Par un president americain expurgeant une faute imaginaire

 Et combattant un ennemi sans nom

Quel meilleur hommage en cette disparition de celui qui fut si longtemps seul, pendant la guerre froide, a denoncer les mensonges du monde communiste …

Que ce rappel par l’islamologue Bruce Thornton et le site The Muslim issue …

Que l’imperialisme et le colonialisme occidentaux dont tant les islamistes que leurs idiots utiles nous rabattent les oreilles …

Ne sont non seulement pour rien dans la situation actuelle du Moyen-Orient …

Mais qu’ils ont historiquement peu a apprendre des quelque quinze siècles d’imperialisme musulman …

Y compris celui qui de Chypre a la Papouasie occidentale (respectivement depuis 41 et 49 ans) …

Et sans parler de la  pretendue et oxymorique Republique islamique d’Iran comme du soi-disant Etat islamique …

Continue a sevir dans la plus grande indifference, voire la complicite du pretendu Monde libre ?

MUSLIMS WORLDWIDE
West Papua: The small island where 15% of population have been killed by Muslims
The Muslim issue

August 2, 2015

Muslims are slaughtering the aboriginals of West Papua after taking occupation by force, and killing their dreams of independence granted onto them.

It’s so easy to forget that Muslim violence and oppression is an everyday reality in many small places around the world too.

The people of West Papua have been suffering under Indonesian occupation since 1962. Over 500,000 civilians have been killed, and thousands more have been raped, tortured and imprisoned by Muslims. Foreign media and human rights groups are banned from operating in West Papua, so people rarely hear about the situation there.

The Indonesian archipelago has been an important trade region since at least the 7th century, when Srivijaya and then later Majapahit traded with China and India. Local rulers gradually absorbed foreign cultural, religious and political models from the early centuries CE, and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished.

Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Muslim traders brought the now-dominant Islam, while European powers brought Christianity and fought one another to monopolise trade in the Spice Islands of Maluku during the Age of Discovery. Following three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism, Indonesia was granted its independence from the Dutch after World War II.The Dutch tried to avoid a Muslim takeover of the region and to prepare the natives for independence, the Dutch significantly raised development spending off its low base, began investing in Papuan education, and encouraged Papuan nationalism. But once the Dutch left freedom did not last long and the Muslims quickly moved in and took over.

Indonesia’s history has since been turbulent under its Muslim rule, with challenges posed by natural disasters, mass slaughter, corruption, separatism, a democratisation process, and periods of rapid economic change.

West Papua – The Secret War in Asia

The following short film gives a good introduction to what is happening in West Papua.

History

West Papua was colonised by the Netherlands in 1898, along with the islands that now make up Indonesia. When the Republic of Indonesia became an independent nation state in 1949, West Papua remained under Dutch control. The Dutch government began preparing West Papua for its own independence throughout the 1950s. At the end of 1961, West Papua held a Congress at which its people declared independence, and raised their new flag – the Morning Star.

But within months the dream was dead. The Indonesian Muslim military invaded West Papua and conflict broke out between the Netherlands, Indonesia and the indigenous population regarding control of the territory. The US intervened and engineered an agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands, which in 1962 gave control of West Papua to the United Nations and one year later transferred control to Indonesia. The Papuans were never consulted. However, the agreement did promise them their right to self determination – a right which is guaranteed by the UN to all people in the world.

Act of No Choice

By 1969 there was widespread resistance to Indonesian rule. The Indonesian military had killed and imprisoned thousands of Papuans in the seven years it had occupied the country – yet it was under these conditions that the people were supposed to exercise their right to self determination. It was agreed that the UN should oversee a plebiscite of the people of West Papua, in which they would be given two choices: to remain part of Indonesia or to become an independent nation. This vote was to be called the ‘Act of Free Choice.’

Protests at Act of Free Choice

West Papuans holding placards, calling for UN assitance, after Indonesia’s invasion of West Papua in 1962

But the Act was a sham. Instead of overseeing a free and fair election, the UN stood by while Indonesia rigged the vote. Declaring that the Papuans were too ‘primitive’ to cope with democracy, the Indonesian military hand-picked just 1,026 ‘representative’ Papuans, out of a population of one million, bribed them and threatened to kill them and their families if they voted the wrong way. So strong was the intimidation that despite widespread opposition to Indonesian rule, all 1,026 voted to remain a part of Indonesia. Despite protests from the Papuans, a critical report by a UN official and condemnation of the vote in the international media, the UN shamefully sanctioned the result and West Papua has remained under control of the Indonesian state ever since. The Papuans now dub this episode ‘the Act of No Choice’.

Consigning the fate of a million people to live under the brutal occupation that ensued is one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the UN. Recently there have been a number of detailed reports that heavily criticise the actions of Indonesia, the UN, and its member states during this period. One of the aims of the Free West Papua Campaign is to persuade the UN to review its role in this event and allow the Papuans a true act of self determination.

The People and Land Under Attack

Freeport Mine

Since the first days of Indonesian occupation, the people and land of West Papua have been under relentless attack. In an attempt to control the Papuans, and to claim the land to make way for resource extraction, the Indonesian army has systematically murdered, raped and tortured people in numbers that could constitute a genocide. One of the worst examples of this is the displacement and killing of thousands of people to make way for the giant American- and British-owned Freeport mine, the largest gold mine in the world, which has reduced a sacred mountain to a crater and poisoned the local river system. In a further attempt to eradicate Papuan culture, around one million people from overcrowded shanty towns across Indonesia have been moved into ‘transmigration’ camps cut into the forests.

Resistance to Indonesian Colonialism

Resistance to the Indonesian occupation started from the first days after the invasion. An armed guerrilla group called the OPM (Free Papua Movement) was formed in 1970 to resist the colonisation of West Papua. The OPM carried out a number of guerrilla attacks on the Indonesian military and on the holdings of multinational companies who had taken Papuan land and resources – including a successful attempt to close down the Freeport gold and copper mine. Armed mostly with bows and arrows, the small, ragged but determined OPM fought an almost unknown war against the well-armed, Western-backed Indonesian military for decades.

Recent Years

Following the fall of the Indonesian military dictator, General Suharto, in 1998, a political space briefly opened up in West Papua. The Morning Star flag was flown again and a huge public congress was held in the year 2000 with hundreds of delegates from tribes all across Papua. The Congress rejected the result of the 1969 Act of Free Choice and reaffirmed West Papua as an independent nation. It also gave power to the newly formed Papuan Presidium Council (PDP) to gain world recognition for West Papua’s independence. But these hopes were soon dashed. Fearing secession, the army moved in, and hundreds of people were shot and arrested for public flag raisings and independence rallies. Then, in November 2001, the charismatic president of the PDP, Theys Eluay, was assassinated by Indonesian soldiers.

Independence aspirations continued to be publicly demonstrated and whilst on the ground the police and military continued to respond with violence and intimidation, the Indonesian state attempted to quell these hopes by passing special autonomy legislation. The legislation was supposed to devolve some power and distribute more resources to West Papua but it is widely regarded as a failure by the indigenous Papuans with corruption leading to money being hoarded or misspent.

In recent years a new independence organisation, the KNPB (National Committee for West Papua) has become prominent. Under its guidance huge independence rallies have been held across West Papua and the West Papuan’s voice is united more than ever. As a result, many of its members have been arrested, tortured and killed. In 2012, the KNPB chairman Mako Tabuni was killed by Indonesian police, whilst many others face lengthy jail sentences of up to fifteen years just for raising the West Papuan flag.

Today West Papua’s tragedy continues with ongoing reports of villages being burnt, Papuans being arrested, tortured and shot and the beautiful natural wilderness being devastated by logging, mining, agricultural and biofuel interests.

“I recognise the inalienable right of the indigenous people of West Papua to self-determination which was violated in the 1969 “Act of Free Choice”. The human rights of each of us are undermined if the human rights of others are denied.”

But there is good news too. The issue of West Papua is creeping up the international agenda as campaign groups, Papuan leaders-in-exile and concerned people all over the world alert their leaders to the injustice that is happening in West Papua.

Despite a ban on foreign journalists, media outlets are beginning to cover the story and have exposed leaked videos of West Papuans being tortured by their Muslim occupiers.

With the advent of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) and the International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP) politicians and lawyers are beginning to engage with the issue. Things are moving in the right direction – but they need to move faster if more bloodshed is to be avoided, and the people of West Papua’s cry for freedom is finally to be heard.

Ahmad Zainuddin a member of the House of Representatives claims that West Papuan people voted to join Indonesia with the 1969 Act of free choice.

Ahmad Zainuddin, a member of the House of Representatives in Jakarta, Indonesia, claims that West Papuan people voted to join Indonesia with the 1969 Act of free choice.

West Papau occupied region filled with muslim violence

Herded up like cattle and led away onto Indonesian army trucks to be tortured and then murdered. This is the reality of life in occupied West Papua. A land where over 500,000 people have been murdered by the Indonesian army, and thousands more have ‘disappeared’, been raped, tortured and imprisoned.

Voir aussi:

The Truth About Western “Colonialism”

Bruce Thornton

Hoover
July 29, 2015

Language is the first casualty of wars over foreign policy. To paraphrase Thucydides, during ideological conflict, words have to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which is now given them.

One word that has been central to our foreign policy for over a century is “colonialism.” Rather than describing a historical phenomenon––with all the complexity, mixture of good and evil, and conflicting motives found on every page of history––“colonialism” is now an ideological artifact that functions as a crude epithet. As a result, our foreign policy decisions are deformed by self-loathing and guilt eagerly exploited by our adversaries.
The great scholar of Soviet terror, Robert Conquest, noted this linguistic corruption decades ago. Historical terms like “imperialism” and “colonialism,” Conquest wrote, now refer to “a malign force with no program but the subjugation and exploitation of innocent people.” As such, these terms are verbal “mind-blockers and thought-extinguishers,” which serve “mainly to confuse, and of course to replace, the complex and needed process of understanding with the simple and unneeded process of inflammation.” Particularly in the Middle East, “colonialism” has been used to obscure the factual history that accounts for that region’s chronic dysfunctions, and has legitimized policies doomed to fail because they are founded on distortions of that history.

The simplistic discrediting of colonialism and its evil twin imperialism became prominent in the early twentieth century. In 1902 J.A. Hobson’s influential Imperialism: A Study reduced colonialism to a malign economic phenomenon, the instrument of capitalism’s “economic parasites,” as Hobson called them, who sought resources, markets, and profits abroad. In 1917, Vladimir Lenin, faced with the failure of classical Marxism’s historical predictions of the proletarian revolution, in 1917 built on Hobson’s ideas in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. Now the indigenous colonized peoples would perform the historical role of destroying capitalism that the European proletariat had failed to fulfill.

These ideas influenced the anti-colonial movements after World War II. John-Paul Sartre, in his introduction to Franz Fanon’s anti-colonial screed The Wretched of the Earth, wrote, “Natives of the underdeveloped countries unite!” substituting the Third World for classic Marxism’s “workers of the world.” This leftist idealization of the colonial Third World and its demonization of the capitalist West have survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Marxism, and have become received wisdom both in academe and popular culture. It has underwritten the reflexive guilt of the West, the idea that “every Westerner is presumed guilty until proven innocent,” as French philosopher Pascal Bruckner writes, for the West contains an “essential evil that must be atoned for,” colonialism and imperialism.

This leftist interpretation of words like colonialism and imperialism transforms them into ideologically loaded terms that ultimately distort the tragic truths of history. They imply that Europe’s explorations and conquests constituted a new order of evil. In reality, the movements of peoples in search of resources, as well as the destruction of those already in possession of them, is the perennial dynamic of history.

Whether it was the Romans in Gaul, the Arabs throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Asia, the Huns in Eastern Europe, the Mongols in China, the Turks in the Middle East and the Balkans, the Bantu in southern Africa, the Khmer in East Asia, the Aztecs in Mexico, the Iroquois in the Northeast, or the Sioux throughout the Great Plains, human history has been stained by man’s continual use of brutal violence to acquire land and resources and destroy or replace those possessing them. Scholars may find subtle nuances of evil in the European version of this ubiquitous aggression, but for the victims such fine discriminations are irrelevant.

Yet this ideologically loaded and historically challenged use of words like “colonial” and “colonialist” remains rife in analyses of the century-long disorder in the Middle East. Both Islamists and Arab nationalists, with sympathy from the Western left, have blamed the European “colonialists” for the lack of development, political thuggery, and endemic violence whose roots lie mainly in tribal culture, illiberal shari’a law, and sectarian conflicts.

Moreover, it is blatant hypocrisy for Arab Muslims to complain about imperialism and colonialism. As Middle East historian Efraim Karsh documents in Islamic Imperialism, “The Arab conquerors acted in a typically imperialist fashion from the start, subjugating indigenous populations, colonizing their lands, and expropriating their wealth, resources, and labor.” Indeed, if one wants to find a culture defined by imperialist ambitions, Islam fits the bill much better than do Europeans and Americans, latecomers to the great game of imperial domination that Muslims successfully played for a thousand years.

“From the first Arab-Islamic empire of the mid-seventh century to the Ottomans, the last great Muslim empire,” Karsh writes, “the story of Islam has been the story of the rise and fall of universal empires and, no less important, of imperialist dreams.”

A recent example of this confusion caused by careless language can be found in commentary about the on-going dissolution of Iraq caused by sectarian and ethnic conflicts. There is a growing consensus that the creation of new nations in the region after World War I sowed the seeds of the current disorder. Ignoring those ethnic and sectarian differences, the British fashioned the nation of Iraq out of three Ottoman provinces that had roughly concentrated Kurds, Sunni, and Shi’a in individual provinces.

There is much of value to be learned from this history, but even intelligent commentators obscure that value with misleading words like “colonial.” Wall Street Journal writer Jaroslav Trofimov, for example, recently writing about the creation of the Middle Eastern nations, described France and England as “colonial powers.” Similarly, columnist Charles Krauthammer on the same topic used the phrase “colonial borders.” In both instances, the adjectives are historically misleading.

France and England, of course, were “colonial powers,” but their colonies were not in the Middle East. The region had for centuries been under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. Thus Western “colonialism” was not responsible for the region’s dysfunctions. Rather, it was the incompetent policies and imperialist fantasies of the Ottoman leadership during the century before World War I, which culminated in the disastrous decision to enter the war on the side of Germany, that bear much of the responsibility for the chaos that followed the defeat of the Central Powers.

Another important factor was the questionable desire of the British to create an Arab national homeland in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, and to gratify the imperial pretensions of their ally the Hashemite clan, who shrewdly convinced the British that their self-serving and marginal actions during the war had been important in fighting the Turks.

Obviously, the European powers wanted to influence these new nations in order to protect their geopolitical and economic interests, but they had no desire to colonize them. Idealists may decry that interference, or see it as unjust, but it is not “colonialism” rightly understood.

No more accurate is Krauthammer’s use of “colonial borders” to describe the region’s nations. Like all combatants in a great struggle, in anticipation of the defeat of the Central Powers, the British and French began planning the settlement of the region in 1916 in a meeting that produced the Sykes-Picot agreement later that year. But there is nothing unexceptional or untoward in this. In February 1945, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin met in Yalta to negotiate their spheres of influence in Germany and Eastern Europe after the war. It would be strange if the Entente powers had notlaid out their plans for the territories of the defeated enemy.

Thus as part of the peace treaties and conferences after World War I, the French and British were given, under the authority of negotiated treaties and the supervision of the League of Nations, the “mandates” over the former Ottoman territories lying between Egypt and Turkey. In 1924 the goal of the mandates was spelled out in Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant: “Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.”

Thus the nations created in the old Ottoman territory were sanctioned by international law as the legitimate prerogative of the victorious Entente powers. There was nothing “colonial” about the borders of the new nations.

One can legitimately challenge the true motives of the mandatory powers, doubt their sincerity in protesting their concern for the region’s peoples, or criticize their borders for serving European interests rather than those of the peoples living there. But whatever their designs, colonizing was not one of them. Indeed, by 1924 colonialism had long been coming into question for many in the West, and at the time of the post-war settlement the reigning ideal was not colonialism, but ethnic self-determination as embodied in the nation-state, as Woodrow Wilson had called for in February 1918: “National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent.” The Anglo-French Declaration issued a few days before the war ended on November 11, 1918 agreed, stating that their aims in the former Ottoman territories were “the establishment of National Governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations.”

Again, one can question the wisdom of trying to create Western nation-states and political orders in a region still intensely tribal, with a religion in which the secular nation is an alien import. That incompatibility continues to be an ongoing problem nearly a century later, as we watch the failure of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the hopes of the Arab Spring dashed in the violence and disorder of the Arab Winter.

But whatever the sins of the Europeans in the Middle East, colonialism is not one of them. The misuse of the term may sound trivial, but it legitimizes the jihadist narrative of Western guilt and justified Muslim payback through terrorist violence, now perfumed as “anticolonial resistance.” It reinforces what Middle East scholar J.B. Kelly called the “preemptive cringe,” the willingness of the West to blame itself for the region’s problems, as President Obama did in his 2009 Cairo speech when he condemned the “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims.”

This apologetic stance has characterized our foreign policy and emboldened our enemies for half a century. Today the region is in more danger of collapse into widespread violence and more of a threat to our national interests than at any time in the last fifty years. Perhaps we should start crafting our foreign policy on the foundations of historical truth and precise language.

Voir aussi:

The Triumph of Robert Conquest
He chronicled the Soviet terror that so many in the West refused to see.

WSJ

Aug. 5, 2015

Robert Conquest was born in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, so it seems fitting that he outlived the Soviet Union by more than 25 years.

The indefatigable historian, and enemy, of Soviet totalitarianism died Tuesday at age 98.

Conquest’s major themes were reality and delusion. “The Great Terror” (1968) was the first and still definitive treatment of Stalin’s purges, gulags, show trials and secret police, meticulously documenting the enormity of the death toll. “Harvest of Sorrow” (1986) chronicled what he called the “terror famines” that followed agricultural collectivization.

When sources inside Russia were few and most Kremlinologists were oblivious, these classics contributed immensely to understanding the nature of the Communist project. They also helped shape the response that won the Cold War; Reagan and Thatcher were among his readers.

Still, until Moscow opened the archives post-1989, leftist intellectuals and especially academics denied the realities Conquest exposed, claiming he exaggerated Stalin’s evil. That debate is now closed beyond challenge.

Conquest dedicated his later years at Stanford’s Hoover Institution to plumbing delusion, which he defined as “massive reality denial,” or why Russia had so many apologists and sympathizers. He blamed the persistence of destructive beliefs and the bottomless human capacity for self-deception.

“The mere existence of the U.S.S.R., and its ideas, distorted the way in which many people over the whole world thought about society, the economy, human history,” Conquest wrote in these pages in 1992. “Many were seduced by the comfortable word ‘socialism,’ even to the extent of rejecting the Western ideas of free discussion, political compromise, plural society, piecemeal practicality, change without chaos.”

Conquest added that the lessons of the bloody 20th century “have not yet been learned, or not adequately so.” Many today across the world still offer solace to dictators and mass murderers, whatever their reasons, so Conquest’s insights into human deception remain and will always be relevant.

Right now the United States of America is being led by the ideological heir of Lenin and Stalin, Barack Hussein Obama. A man raised and mentored by hardcore Communists. I have not read the « Great Terror », but I have read and own « Harvest of Sorrow » and the level of abject depravity depicted is beyond description, reducing Ukraine to the cannibalization of children. A systemic war against « the peasantry and the Kulaks » so brutal that it led Stalin’s wife, Nadya, to commit suicide from guilt. This ideology, morphed and re-marketed to fit 21st Century America, is alive and well in the policies of Barack Obama, who has wrecked the greatest nation in the course of human history with his Third World Bolshevism, paraded as democratic socialism.
Let us use the work of Dr. Conquest as a catalyst and a warning of the detriment a cult of personality wedded to totalitarian ideology can have on a people and a society, so as to stop what happened in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany from happening here, or else we are going to need historian’s like Robert Conquest to document Obama’s crimes and atrocities against America. You think we would have learned.

It is human nature not to want to believe the worst. It is what makes Leftism possible. To support Leftist causes, one is required to look away, to deny reality. One can only defend their extreme position on abortion if one does not look at sonograms or the recent videos of Planned Parenthood and refuse to hear the gruesome details of partial birth abortion. And so it is with the Iran peace ‘deal’; to support it one is required to ignore the anti-Semitic, anti American pronouncements of Iran’s leaders, their history of deception, their open support for terrorism, and the violent subjugation of their people . Obama argues that his critics are wrong to take things at face value and that the price of their misjudgment will be war. But if Obama is wrong, if the Ayatollah really means what he says, if history really does teach us, what will the price of Obama’s misjudgment be? Peace? Yep, you would have to believe that too.


Doctrine Obama: Attention, un Münich peut en cacher un autre ! (Former British adviser to US troops: How Obama lost Iraq)

16 avril, 2015
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Notre contrat devient pire, à chaque instant. Lando Carlissian (murmurant entre ses dents)
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal. President Clinton (February 1998)
[La mission des forces armées américaines et britanniques est d’]attaquer les programmes d’armement nucléaires, chimiques et biologiques de l’Irak et sa capacité militaire à menacer ses voisins (…) On ne peut laisser Saddam Hussein menacer ses voisins ou le monde avec des armements nucléaires, des gaz toxiques, ou des armes biologiques. » (…) Il y a six semaines, Saddam Hussein avait annoncé qu’il ne coopérerait plus avec l’Unscom [la commission chargée du désarmement en Irak (…). D’autres pays [que l’Irak possèdent des armements de destruction massive et des missiles balistiques. Avec Saddam, il y a une différence majeure : il les a utilisés. Pas une fois, mais de manière répétée (…). Confronté au dernier acte de défiance de Saddam, fin octobre, nous avons mené une intense campagne diplomatique contre l’Irak, appuyée par une imposante force militaire dans la région (…). J’avais alors décidé d’annuler l’attaque de nos avions (…) parce que Saddam avait accepté nos exigences. J’avais conclu que la meilleure chose à faire était de donner à Saddam une dernière chance (…).  Les inspecteurs en désarmement de l’ONU ont testé la volonté de coopération irakienne (…). Hier soir, le chef de l’Unscom, Richard Butler, a rendu son rapport au secrétaire général de l’ONU [Kofi Annan. Les conclusions sont brutales, claires et profondément inquiétantes. Dans quatre domaines sur cinq, l’Irak n’a pas coopéré. En fait, il a même imposé de nouvelles restrictions au travail des inspecteurs (…). Nous devions agir et agir immédiatement (…).  J’espère que Saddam va maintenant finalement coopérer avec les inspecteurs et respecter les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité. Mais nous devons nous préparer à ce qu’il ne le fasse pas et nous devons faire face au danger très réel qu’il représente. Nous allons donc poursuivre une stratégie à long terme pour contenir l’Irak et ses armes de destruction massive et travailler jusqu’au jour où l’Irak aura un gouvernement digne de sa population (…). La dure réalité est qu’aussi longtemps que Saddam reste au pouvoir il menace le bien-être de sa population, la paix de la région et la sécurité du monde. La meilleure façon de mettre un terme définitif à cette menace est la constitution d’un nouveau gouvernement, un gouvernement prêt à vivre en paix avec ses voisins, un gouvernement qui respecte les droits de sa population. Bill Clinton (16.12.98)
 Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia. Don Rumsfeld (2005)
They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world. Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’, we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words. General Abizaid (2005)
The word getting the workout from the nation’s top guns these days is « caliphate » – the term for the seventh-century Islamic empire that spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain, then ended with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The term can also refer to other caliphates, including the one declared by the Ottoman Turks that ended in 1924. (…) A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. In the view of John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University, there is a difference between the ability of small bands of terrorists to commit attacks across the world and achieving global conquest. « It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically, » said Mr. Esposito, the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown. « Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver. » Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, said Al Qaeda was not leading a movement that threatened to mobilize the vast majority of Muslims. A recent poll Mr. Telhami conducted with Zogby International of 3,900 people in six countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon – found that only 6 percent sympathized with Al Qaeda’s goal of seeking an Islamic state. The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. « There’s no chance in the world that they’ll succeed, » he said. « It’s a silly threat. » (On the other hand, more than 30 percent in Mr. Telhami’s poll said they sympathized with Al Qaeda, because the group stood up to America.) The term « caliphate » has been used internally by policy hawks in the Pentagon since the planning stages for the war in Iraq, but the administration’s public use of the word has increased this summer and fall, around the time that American forces obtained a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 leader in Al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, called for the establishment of a militant Islamic caliphate across Iraq before Al Qaeda’s moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and then a battle against Israel. In recent weeks, the administration’s use of « caliphate » has only intensified, as Mr. Bush has begun a campaign of speeches to try to regain support for the war. He himself has never publicly used the term, although he has repeatedly described the caliphate, as he did in a speech last week when he said that the terrorists want to try to establish « a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. » Six days earlier, Mr. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, made it clear. « Iraq’s future will either embolden terrorists and expand their reach and ability to re-establish a caliphate, or it will deal them a crippling blow, » he said. « For us, failure in Iraq is just not an option. » NYT (2005)
They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all Westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and government; the establishment of effectively Taleban states and Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one caliphate of all Muslim nations. Tony Blair (2005)
I remember having a conversation with one of the colonels out in the field, and although he did not believe that a rapid unilateral withdrawal would actually be helpful, there was no doubt that the US occupation in Iraq was becoming an increasing source of irritation. And that one of the things that we’re going to need to do – and to do sooner rather than later – is to transition our troops out of the day-to-day operations in Iraq and to have a much lower profile and a smaller footprint in the country over the coming year. On the other hand, I did also ask some people who were not particularly sympathetic to the initial war, but were now trying to make things work in Iraq – what they thought would be the result of a total withdrawal and I think the general view was that we were in such a delicate situation right now and that there was so little institutional capacity on the part of the Iraqi government, that a full military withdrawal at this point would probably result in significant civil war and potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths. This by the way was a message that was delivered also by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who I’ve been meeting with while here in Amman, Jordan. The sense, I think, throughout the entire region among those who opposed the US invasion, that now that we’re there it’s important that we don’t act equally precipitously in our approach to withdrawal, but that we actually stabilize the situation and allow time for the new Iraqi government to develop some sort of capacity. Barack Obama (January 9, 2006)
Having visited Iraq, I’m also acutely aware that a precipitous withdrawal of our troops, driven by Congressional edict rather than the realities on the ground, will not undo the mistakes made by this Administration. It could compound them. It could compound them by plunging Iraq into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis. We must exit Iraq, but not in a way that leaves behind a security vacuum filled with terrorism, chaos, ethnic cleansing and genocide that could engulf large swaths of the Middle East and endanger America. We have both moral and national security reasons to manage our exit in a responsible way. Barack Obama (June 21, 2006)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
Sénateur Obama, je ne suis pas le président Bush. Si vous vouliez vous présenter contre le président Bush, il aurait fallu faire campagne il y a quatre ans. John McCain (2008)
The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not. The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind. That’s the decision of the next president of the United States. Senator Obama said the surge could not work, said it would increase sectarian violence, said it was doomed to failure. Recently on a television program, he said it exceed our wildest expectations. But yet, after conceding that, he still says that he would oppose the surge if he had to decide that again today. Incredibly, incredibly Senator Obama didn’t go to Iraq for 900 days and never asked for a meeting with General Petraeus.(…) I’m afraid Senator Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy. (…) And this strategy, and this general, they are winning. Senator Obama refuses to acknowledge that we are winning in Iraq. (…) They just passed an electoral (…) law just in the last few days. There is social, economic progress, and a strategy, a strategy of going into an area, clearing and holding, and the people of the country then become allied with you. They inform on the bad guys. And peace comes to the country, and prosperity. (…) And that same strategy will be employed in Afghanistan by this great general. And Senator Obama, who after promising not to vote to cut off funds for the troops, did the incredible thing of voting to cut off the funds for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. (…) Now General Petraeus has praised the successes, but he said those successes are fragile and if we set a specific date for withdrawal — and by the way, Senator Obama’s original plan, they would have been out last spring before the surge ever had a chance to succeed.(…) But if we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and adopt Senator Obama’s plan, then we will have a wider war and it will make things more complicated throughout the region, including in Afghanistan. (…) I won’t repeat the mistake that I regret enormously, and that is, after we were able to help the Afghan freedom fighters and drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, we basically washed our hands of the region. And the result over time was the Taliban, Al Qaida, and a lot of the difficulties we are facing today. So we can’t ignore those lessons of history. (…) My reading of the threat from Iran is that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to other countries in the region because the other countries in the region will feel compelling requirement to acquire nuclear weapons as well. (…) What I’d also like to point out the Iranians are putting the most lethal IEDs into Iraq which are killing young Americans, there are special groups in Iran coming into Iraq and are being trained in Iran. There is the Republican Guard in Iran, which Senator Kyl had an amendment in order to declare them a sponsor of terror. Senator Obama said that would be provocative. John McCain (26.09.08)
Well, let me just correct something very quickly. I believe the Republican Guard of Iran is a terrorist organization. I’ve consistently said so. What Senator McCain refers to is a measure in the Senate that would try to broaden the mandate inside of Iraq. To deal with Iran. And ironically, the single thing that has strengthened Iran over the last several years has been the war in Iraq. Iraq was Iran’s mortal enemy. That was cleared away. And what we’ve seen over the last several years is Iran’s influence grow. They have funded Hezbollah, they have funded Hamas, they have gone from zero centrifuges to 4,000 centrifuges to develop a nuclear weapon. So obviously, our policy over the last eight years has not worked. Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. It would be a game changer. Not only would it threaten Israel, a country that is our stalwart ally, but it would also create an environment in which you could set off an arms race in this Middle East. (…) We do need tougher sanctions. I do not agree with Senator McCain that we’re going to be able to execute the kind of sanctions we need without some cooperation with some countries like Russia and China that are, I think Senator McCain would agree, not democracies, but have extensive trade with Iran but potentially have an interest in making sure Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. But we are also going to have to, I believe, engage in tough direct diplomacy with Iran and this is a major difference I have with Senator McCain, this notion by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked. It has not worked in Iran, it has not worked in North Korea. In each instance, our efforts of isolation have actually accelerated their efforts to get nuclear weapons. That will change when I’m president of the United States. Barack Obama (26.09.08)
Senator Obama twice said in debates he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raul Castro without precondition. Without precondition. Here is Ahmadinenene (…) who is now in New York, talking about the extermination of the State of Israel, of wiping Israel off the map, and we’re going to sit down, without precondition, across the table, to legitimize and give a propaganda platform to a person that is espousing the extermination of the state of Israel, and therefore then giving them more credence in the world arena and therefore saying, they’ve probably been doing the right thing, because you will sit down across the table from them and that will legitimize their illegal behavior. (…)  Look, I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions. Those pre-conditions would apply that we wouldn’t legitimize with a face to face meeting, a person like Ahmadinejad. Now, Senator Obama said, without preconditions. John McCain (26.09.08)
J’espère que j’ai tort et que le président a raison, mais j’ai bien peur que cette décision provoque des situations qui vont revenir hanter notre pays. Lindsey Graham
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour (…) C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris neuf ans (…)
Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus de 1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30 000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles (…) les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak». «Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir (…) Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays», car «malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires.
Obama (14.12.11)
We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region. Obama (12.12.11)
Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec une gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille filnale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour. C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris presque neuf ans. Et aujourd’hui nous nous souvenons de tout ce que vous avez fait pour le rendre possible. (…) Dur travail et sacrifice. Ces mots décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée. Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles. Près de 4.500 Américains ont perdu la vie, dont 202 héros tombés au champ d’honneur venus d’ici, Fort Bragg. (…) Les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak. Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir. Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays, car malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires. Obama (14.12.11)
Vous devez vous montrer clair, à la fois pour nos alliés et nos ennemis. Vous avez fait un discours il y a quelques semaines au cours duquel vous avez déclaré que vous pensiez que nous devrions avoir encore des soldats en Irak. Ce n’est pas vraiment la bonne façon d’affronter les enjeux de la région. Il est évident que nous ne pouvons pas affronter tous les enjeux de façon militaire. Et ce que j’ai fait pendant ma présidence et continuerai à faire, c’est d’abord m’assurer que ces pays soutiennent nos efforts contre le terrorisme ; qu’ils veillent à notre intérêt pour la sécurité d’Israël, car c’est notre plus fidèle allié dans la région ; qu’ils protègent les minorités religieuses et les femmes, car ces pays ne peuvent se développer si seulement une moitié de la population y contribue ; que nous développions leurs économies. Mais nous devons reconnaître que nous ne pouvons plus faire de construction nationale dans ces régions. Une partie du leadership américain est de veiller à ce que nous construisions d’abord notre pays. Cela nous aidera à garder le type de leadership dont nous avons besoin. Obama (23.10.2012)
What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Barack Hussein Obama (09.08.14)
If only Obama had paid attention to Iraq … But his only interest in Iraq was in ending the war. (…) Iran’s goal was to ensure that Iraq was not integrated into the Arab world, instead becoming a close ally of Iran. Emma Sky
The surge did really work.  It was a complicated series of events that led to the surge’s ultimate success, but one of the empirical metrics we can look to is that violence was reduced by 90% from pre-surge highs. Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus had a theory, which proved absolutely correct, that by reducing the sectarian violence what you would get is more room for politicians in Baghdad to have more flexibility to reach compromises, and that would in turn build upon itself in the form of political cooperation that would lead to further reduction of violence; and that’s what happened. From 2007 through 2010, we really saw the violence coming down as Sunni Arabs were reintegrating into Iraqi politics after being purged in a wholesale manner following the invasion of 2003. The Sunnis came back into the political process and fought al-Qaeda and formed the Iraqiya coalition that eventually won in the 2010 elections. It became the primary driver for the reduction in violence from the Sunni side and that was reciprocated by a reduction of violence by Shia Islamist militias that had been backed by Iran in coordination with Hezbollah and to some extent Assad. Unfortunately, what happened later, for reasons that I cannot even begin to understand, Washington betrayed the promises that the U.S. government had made to the Sunni tribal leaders, the same leaders that had fought al-Qaeda throughout the “Awakening.” With Nouri al Maliki’s sectarian rule, Iraq’s path toward civil war was really inevitable. There was a direct line from Maliki when he returned to power in December 2010 to consolidate his personal control over the organs of the state and steer it toward a very pro-Iranian and sectarian agenda, which inevitably disillusioned and disenfranchised Sunni Arabs for a second time. Then given Maliki’s misrule in Iraq and Assad’s misrule in Syria and their cooperation along with the Iranians and Hezbollah to wage a campaign of genocide, led to a region-wide sectarian war while the United States under President Obama stood back and watched and did nothing as the violence spiraled further and further out of control. (…) Iraq’s unraveling was essentially cemented on March 20th 2003 when the first bombs were dropped on Dora farms and on April 9th when Baghdad fell. Essentially, when Saddam’s regime was blown away, Iraq was blown away too. Saddam had hollowed out the state, similar to Qaddafi in Libya, Saleh in Yemen, and Assad in Syria – the state had become a cult of personality built around one man with no real capacity and no real institutions. When we bombed Saddam’s palaces, the military and intelligence services, and when we watched the Iraqi population rise up to burn and loot the ministries, there was nothing left of the country and nothing left of the state. Therefore, Bremer’s decision to disband the army and create the DeBaathification Commission ensured that the chaos that followed was inevitable.  These decisions displaced hundreds of thousands of members of the Iraqi security services, who were trained and disciplined and knew how to use weapons and where weapons caches were.  When they were told that they had no future in the New Iraq, a violent insurgency was born. So one bad decision was followed by another bad decision, and we ended up with an absolute perfect storm, which led to the chaos that we’ve seen since 2003. Ali Khedery
Dans l’immédiat, notre attention doit se porter en priorité sur les domaines biologique et chimique. C’est là que nos présomptions vis-à-vis de l’Iraq sont les plus significatives : sur le chimique, nous avons des indices d’une capacité de production de VX et d’ypérite ; sur le biologique, nos indices portent sur la détention possible de stocks significatifs de bacille du charbon et de toxine botulique, et une éventuelle capacité de production.  Dominique De Villepin
Even when viewed through a post-war lens, documentary evidence of messages are consistent with the Iraqi Survey Group’s conclusion that Saddam was at least keeping a WMD program primed for a quick re-start the moment the UN Security Council lifted sanctions. Iraqi Perpectives Project (March 2006)
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a de facto link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.  Iraqi Perspectives Project (Saddam and Terrorism, Nov. 2007, released Mar. 2008)
Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 « good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm » in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting « Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, ‘the Gulf,’ and Syria. » It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were « sacrificing for the cause » went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the « Heroes Attack. » This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to « obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province.  » Study (Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia)
There is no question that the United States was divided going into that war. But I think the United States is united coming out of that war. We all recognize the tremendous price that has been paid in lives, in blood. And yet I think we also recognize that those lives were not lost in vain. (…) As difficult as [the Iraq war] was, and the cost in both American and Iraqi lives, I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world. Leon Panetta  (secrétaire américain à la Défense)
Who Lost Iraq? You know who. (…) The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances. The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. (…) The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem, and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise. Charles Krauthammer
En dernière analyse, ce que nous laisserons et comment nous partirons sera plus important que la manière dont nous sommes venus. Ryan Crocker (ex-ambassadeur américain en Irak)
Nous devons également reconnaître que le choix auquel nous sommes confrontés en Irak n’est pas entre le gouvernement irakien actuel et un gouvernement irakien parfait. Il s’agit plutôt d’un choix entre une démocratie jeune, imparfaite et à la peine que nous avons laborieusement amenée à l’existence, et les kamikazés fanatiques d’Al Qaeda et les terroristes commandités par l’Iran qui essayent de la détruire. Si les politiciens de Washington réussissent à imposer un retrait prématuré de nos troupes en Irak, le résultat sera un monde plus dangereux et l’encouragement de nos ennemis. Comme le président iranien s’en est récemment vanté,  » bientôt, nous verrons apparaître un grand vide de pouvoir dans la région. . . [ et ] nous sommes prêts à combler ce vide. » Quelque soient les imperfections de nos amis irakiens, elles ne sont aucunement une excuse pour que nous battions en retraite devant nos ennemis comme Al Qaeda et l’Iran, qui constituent une menace mortelle pour nos intérêts nationaux essentiels. Nous devons comprendre qu’aujourd’hui en Irak nous combattons et sommes en train de vaincre le même réseau terroriste qui nous a attaqués le 11/9. John McCain et Joe Lieberman
La vérité est que c’est les Sunnites qui ont lancé cette guerre il y a quatre ans et qu’ils l’ont perdue. Les tribus ne gagnent jamais les guerres, elles ne font que rejoindre le camp des vainqueurs. Un Irakien
A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. NYT (2005)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression (sanction) imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children.  (…) The latest and the greatest of these aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (ALLAH’S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places -the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka’ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims- by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies.   (…) there is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land. Osama Bin Laden (1996)
Le peuple comprend maintenant les discours des oulémas dans les mosquées, selon lesquels notre pays est devenu une colonie de l’empire américain. Il agit avec détermination pour chasser les Américains d’Arabie saoudite. […] La solution à cette crise est le retrait des troupes américaines. Leur présence militaire est une insulte au peuple saoudien. Ben Laden
27 août 1992 : les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne et la France mettent en place une autre zone d’exclusion aérienne, au sud du 32eme parallèle, avec l’objectif d’observer les violations de droits de l’homme à l’encontre de la population chiite.
3 septembre 1996 : en représailles à un déploiement de troupes irakiennes dans la zone nord, les Etats-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne ripostent militairement dans le sud et étendent la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud, qui passe du 32eme au 33eme parallèle. La France refuse cette extension, mais continue à effectuer des missions de surveillance aérienne au sud du 32ème parallèle..
27 décembre 1996 : Jacques Chirac décide de retirer la France du contrôle de la zone d’exclusion aérienne nord. Il justifie cette décision par le fait que le dispositif a changé de nature avec les bombardements de septembre, et que le volet humanitaire initialement prévu n’y est plus inclus. La France proteste par ailleurs contre la décision unilatérale des Etats-Unis et de la Turquie (avec l’acceptation de la Grande-Bretagne) d’augmenter la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud.
Michel Wéry
Les Etats-Unis n’ont pas envahi l’Irak mais sont intervenus dans un conflit déjà en cours.  Kiron Skinner (conseillère à la sécurité du président Bush)
Since a wounded Saddam could not be left unattended and an oil-rich Saudi Arabia could not be left unprotected, U.S. troops took up long-term residence in the Saudi kingdom, a fateful decision that started the clock ticking toward 9/11. As bin Laden himself explained in his oft-quoted 1996 fatwa, his central aim was “to expel the occupying enemy from the country of the two Holy places.”… Put another way, bin Laden’s casus belli was an unintended and unforeseen byproduct of what Saddam Hussein had done in 1990. The presence of U.S. troops in the land of Mecca and Medina had galvanized al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which triggered America’s global war on terror, which inevitably led back to Iraq, which is where America finds itself today. In a sense, occupation was inevitable after Desert Storm; perhaps the United States ended up occupying the wrong country. … If the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia sparked bin Laden’s global guerrilla war, America’s low threshold for casualties would serve as the fuel to keep it raging. … From bin Laden’s vantage point, America’s retreats from Beirut in the 1980s, Mogadishu in the 1990s and Yemen in 2000 were evidence of weakness. “When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you,” he recalled. “The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the heart of every Muslim and a remedy to the chests of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut, Aden and Mogadishu.” … Hence, quitting Iraq could have dramatic and disastrous consequences – something like the fall of Saigon, Desert One, and the Beirut and Mogadishu pullouts all rolled into one giant propaganda victory for the enemy. Not only would it leave a nascent democracy unprotected from bin Laden’s henchmen, it would serve to confirm their perception that America is a paper tiger lacking the will to fight or to stand with those who are willing to fight. Who would count on America the next time? For that matter, on whom would America be able to count as the wars of 9/11 continue? … Finally, retreat also would re-energize the enemy and pave the way toward his ultimate goal. Imagine Iraq spawning a Balkan-style ethno-religious war while serving as a Taliban-style springboard for terror. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s top terrorist in Iraq, already has said, “We fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the land of the two Holy Places, and after there the West.” Alan W. Dowd
De même que les progressistes européens et américains doutaient des menaces de Hitler et de Staline, les Occidentaux éclairés sont aujourd’hui en danger de manquer l’urgence des idéologies violentes issues du monde musulman. Les socialistes français des années 30 (…) ont voulu éviter un retour de la première guerre mondiale; ils ont refusé de croire que les millions de personnes en Allemagne avaient perdu la tête et avaient soutenu le mouvement nazi. Ils n’ont pas voulu croire qu’un mouvement pathologique de masse avait pris le pouvoir en Allemagne, ils ont voulu rester ouverts à ce que les Allemands disaient et aux revendiquations allemandes de la première guerre mondiale. Et les socialistes français, dans leur effort pour être ouverts et chaleureux afin d’éviter à tout prix le retour d’une guerre comme la première guerre mondiale, ont fait tout leur possible pour essayer de trouver ce qui était raisonnable et plausible dans les arguments d’Hitler. Ils ont vraiment fini par croire que le plus grand danger pour la paix du monde n’était pas posé par Hitler mais par les faucons de leur propre société, en France. Ces gesn-là étaient les socialistes pacifistes de la France, c’était des gens biens. Pourtant, de fil en aiguille, ils se sont opposés à l’armée française contre Hitler, et bon nombre d’entre eux ont fini par soutenir le régime de Vichy et elles ont fini comme fascistes! Ils ont même dérapé vers l’anti-sémitisme pur, et personne ne peut douter qu’une partie de cela s’est reproduit récemment dans le mouvement pacifiste aux Etats-Unis et surtout en Europe. Un des scandales est que nous avons eu des millions de personnes dans la rue protestant contre la guerre en Irak, mais pas pour réclamer la liberté en Irak. Personne n’a marché dans les rues au nom des libertés kurdes. Les intérêts des dissidents libéraux de l’Irak et les démocrates kurdes sont en fait également nos intérêts. Plus ces personnes prospèrent, plus grande sera notre sécurité. C’est un moment où ce qui devrait être nos idéaux — les idéaux de la démocratie libérale et de la solidarité sociale — sont également objectivement notre intérêt. Bush n’a pas réussi à l’expliquer clairement, et une grande partie de la gauche ne l’a même pas perçu. Paul Berman
Avec Assad, on voit justement ce qui arrive quand on laisse un dictateur en place. Les problèmes ne disparaissent pas tout seuls. Tony Blair
L’un des arguments des adversaires de l’intervention de 2003 est de dire que, puisque Saddam Hussein ne possédait aucune arme de destruction massive, l’invasion de l’Irak était injustifiée. D’après les rapports des inspecteurs internationaux, nous savons que, même si Saddam s’était débarrassé de ses armes chimiques, il avait conservé l’expertise et les capacités d’en produire. En 2011, si nous avions laissé Saddam au pouvoir, l’Irak aurait été lui aussi emporté par la vague des révolutions arabes. En tant que sunnite, Saddam aurait tout fait pour préserver son régime face à la révolte de la majorité chiite du pays. Pendant ce temps, de l’autre côté de la frontière, en Syrie, une minorité bénéficiant de l’appui des chiites s’accrocherait au pouvoir et tenterait de résister à la révolte de la majorité sunnite. Le risque aurait donc été grand de voir la région sombrer dans une conflagration confessionnelle généralisée dans laquelle les Etats ne se seraient pas affrontés par procuration, mais directement, avec leurs armées nationales. Tout le Moyen-Orient est en réalité engagé dans une longue et douloureuse transition. Nous devons nous débarrasser de l’idée que  » nous  » avons provoqué cette situation. Ce n’est pas vrai. (…) Nous avons aujourd’hui trois exemples de politique occidentale en matière de changement de régime dans la région. En Irak, nous avons appelé à un changement de régime, renversé la dictature et déployé des troupes pour aider à la reconstruction du pays. Mais l’intervention s’est révélée extrêmement ardue, et aujourd’hui le pays est à nouveau en danger. En Libye, nous avons appelé au changement de régime, chassé Kadhafi grâce à des frappes aériennes mais refusé d’envoyer des troupes au sol. Aujourd’hui, la Libye, ravagée par la violence, a exporté le désordre et de vastes quantités d’armes à travers l’Afrique du Nord et jusqu’en Afrique subsaharienne. En Syrie, nous avons appelé au changement de régime mais n’avons rien fait, et c’est le pays qui se trouve dans la situation la pire. (…) Il n’est pas raisonnable pour l’Occident d’adopter une politique d’indifférence. Car il s’agit, que nous le voulions ou pas, d’un problème qui nous concerne. Les agences de sécurité européennes estiment que la principale menace pour l’avenir proviendra des combattants revenant de Syrie. Le danger est réel de voir le pays devenir pour les terroristes un sanctuaire plus redoutable encore que ne l’était l’Afghanistan dans les années 1990. Mais n’oublions pas non plus les risques que fait peser la guerre civile syrienne sur le Liban et la Jordanie. Il était impossible que cet embrasement reste confiné à l’intérieur des frontières syriennes .Je comprends les raisons pour lesquelles, après l’Afghanistan et l’Irak, l’opinion publique est si hostile à une intervention militaire. Mais une intervention en Syrie n’était pas et n’est pas nécessairement obligée de prendre les formes qu’elle a prises dans ces deux pays. Et, chaque fois que nous renonçons à agir, les mesures que nous serons fatalement amenés à prendre par la suite devront être plus violente. (…) Nous devons prendre conscience que le défi s’étend bien au-delà du Moyen-Orient. L’Afrique, comme le montrent les tragiques événements au Nigeria, y est elle aussi confrontée. L’Extrême-Orient et l’Asie centrale également.L’Irak n’est qu’une facette d’une situation plus générale. Tous les choix qui s’offrent à nous sont inquiétants. Mais, depuis trois ans, nous regardons la Syrie s’enfoncer dans l’abîme et, pendant qu’elle sombre, elle nous enserre lentement et sûrement dans ses rets et nous entraîne avec elle. C’est pourquoi nous devons oublier les différends du passé et agir maintenant pour préserver l’avenir. Tony Blair
Ce n’est pas parce qu’une équipe de juniors porte le maillot des Lakers que cela en fait des Kobe Bryant. Je pense qu’il y a une différence entre les moyens et la portée d’un Ben Laden, d’un réseau qui planifie activement des attaques terroristes de grande envergure contre notre territoire, et ceux de jihadistes impliqués dans des luttes de pouvoir locales, souvent de nature ethnique. Barack Obama (janvier 2014)
The prospect of Iraq’s disintegration is already being spun by the Administration and its media friends as the fault of George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki. So it’s worth understanding how we got here. Iraq was largely at peace when Mr. Obama came to office in 2009. Reporters who had known Baghdad during the worst days of the insurgency in 2006 marveled at how peaceful the city had become thanks to the U.S. military surge and counterinsurgency. In 2012 Anthony Blinken, then Mr. Biden’s top security adviser, boasted that, « What’s beyond debate » is that « Iraq today is less violent, more democratic, and more prosperous. And the United States is more deeply engaged there than at any time in recent history. » Mr. Obama employed the same breezy confidence in a speech last year at the National Defense University, saying that « the core of al Qaeda » was on a « path to defeat, » and that the « future of terrorism » came from « less capable » terrorist groups that mainly threatened « diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. » Mr. Obama concluded his remarks by calling on Congress to repeal its 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al Qaeda. If the war on terror was over, ISIS didn’t get the message. The group, known as Tawhid al-Jihad when it was led a decade ago by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was all but defeated by 2009 but revived as U.S. troops withdrew and especially after the uprising in Syria spiraled into chaos. It now controls territory from the outskirts of Aleppo in northwestern Syria to Fallujah in central Iraq. The possibility that a long civil war in Syria would become an incubator for terrorism and destabilize the region was predictable, and we predicted it. « Now the jihadists have descended by the thousands on Syria, » we noted last May. « They are also moving men and weapons to and from Iraq, which is increasingly sinking back into Sunni-Shiite civil war. . . . If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki feels threatened by al Qaeda and a Sunni rebellion, he will increasingly look to Iran to help him stay in power. » We don’t quote ourselves to boast of prescience but to wonder why the Administration did nothing to avert the clearly looming disaster. Contrary to what Mr. Blinken claimed in 2012, the « diplomatic surge » the Administration promised for Iraq never arrived, nor did U.S. weapons. « The Americans have really deeply disappointed us by not supplying the Iraqi army with the weapons and support it needs to fight terrorism, » the Journal quoted one Iraqi general based in Kirkuk. That might strike some readers as rich coming from the commander of a collapsing army, but it’s a reminder of the price Iraqis and Americans are now paying for Mr. Obama’s failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad that would have maintained a meaningful U.S. military presence. A squadron of Apache attack helicopters, Predator drones and A-10 attack planes based in Iraq might be able to turn back ISIS’s march on Baghdad. WSJ
The president is in fact implementing the policy he promised. It was retrenchment by one word, retreat by another.[Obama’s policy is also what the American public showed in polls that it wants right now] ”It wants it, at least until it gets queasy by looking at the pictures they’ve been seeing tonight. George Will
 Affirmer, au bout de onze ans, que ce à quoi on assiste actuellement est le résultat de ce qui s’est produit à l’époque est aussi simpliste qu’insultant. Dans ce qui s’assimile à une perspective néocolonialiste postmoderne, ceci revient à suggérer que les Irakiens ne sont toujours pas en mesure d’assumer la responsabilité de leur propre pays. Abstraction faite de toutes les autres conséquences, l’invasion de 2003 n’en a pas moins donné aux Irakiens une possibilité d’autodétermination démocratique qu’ils n’auraient jamais eue sous Saddam Hussein. C’est cette démocratie imparfaite qui est menacée ; il faut à présent la conserver et l’améliorer. The Observer
Mosul’s fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn’t a bunch of bug-eyed « Mad Max » guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army. The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons. An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, « al-Naba, » published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization’s annual report for 2013. It even includes « metrics, » detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria. One might ask: Didn’t U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 « Threat Assessment » by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: « AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah. » AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment « since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011. » But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won’t listen. In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan. Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s memoir, « Duty. » It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. « As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his, » Mr. Gates wrote. « For him, it’s all about getting out. » Daniel Henninger
My greatest fear is that we stabilize Iraq, then hand it over to the Iranians in our rush to the exit. I’ve invested too much here to simply walk away and let that happen. General Raymond Odierno (commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, 2010)
Where is the U.S.? Does the U.S. have no interest in protecting the democratic process? Does the U.S. not care what sort of government is put together? Qasim Suleimani is very active putting together the Shia coalition. Does the U.S. not understand what impact this will have on the region—and on internal stability in Iraq? Is the U.S. not worried about Iranian influence in Iraq? Rafi Issawi (Iraqi, deputy prime minister)
 I had arrived ready to apologise to every Iraqi for the war. Instead I had listened to a litany of suffering and pain under Saddam for which I was quite unprepared. The mass graves, the details of torture, the bureaucratisation of abuse. The pure banality of evil. But the Iraqis also had huge expectations of the US. After every war Saddam rebuilt the country in six months, so their attitude was, ‘imagine what the US can do after six months. America can put a man on the moon … you wait’. Emma Sky
Nothing that happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was pre-ordained; different futures than the one unfolding today were possible. Recall that violence declined drastically during the 2007 U.S. troop surge, and that for the next couple of years both Iraq and the West felt that the country was going in the right direction. But the seeds of Iraq’s unravelling were sown in 2010, when the United States did not uphold the election results and failed to broker the formation of a new Iraqi government. As an adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq, I was a witness. (…)The national elections took place on March 7, 2010, and went more smoothly than we had dared hope. After a month of competitive campaigning across the country and wide media coverage of the different candidates and parties, 62 percent of eligible Iraqis turned out to vote. (…) We had not expected Iraqiya—a coalition headed by the secular Shia Ayad Allawi and leaders of the Sunni community, and running on a non-sectarian platform—to do so well. The coalition had won 91 seats—two more than the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition. (…) Even though there was no evidence of fraud to justify a recount, the Iraqi electoral commission and the international community agreed to one, fearful of a repeat of the election fiasco in 2009 in Afghanistan, which had tarnished the credibility of elections there. In the meantime, Maliki’s advisers told us he needed two extra seats, either from the recount or through arbitrary de-Ba’athification that could disqualify Iraqiya candidates. Otherwise, he would be blamed for losing Iraq for the Shia, who make up some two-thirds of the population. (…)  General O and I did not think that the Iraqiya candidate, Allawi, would be able to put a government together with himself as prime minister. But we thought he had the right as the winner of the election to have first go—and that this could lead to a political compromise among the leaders, with either Allawi and Maliki agreeing to share power between them or a third person chosen to be prime minister. But … Hill, General O strode down the embassy corridor looking visibly upset. “He told me that Iraq is not ready for democracy, that Iraq needs a Shia strongman,” the general said, “and Maliki is our man.” Odierno had objected that that was not what the Iraqis wanted. They were rid of one dictator, Hussein, and did not want to create another. (…) Sami al-Askari, a Shia politician close to Maliki who believed that an agreement between State of Law and Iraqiya was the best way forward (…) also told me that everyone except the Americans realized that the formation of the government was perceived as a battle between Iran and the United States for influence in Iraq. The Iranians were active, while the U.S. embassy did nothing. Qasim Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, continued to summon Iraqis to Iran in order to put together a pan-Shia coalition. The Iranians, al-Askari said, intended to drag out government formation until after August 31, when all U.S. combat forces were due to leave, in order to score a “victory” over the United States. (…) In the Arabic media, there was confusion as to why the United States and Iran should both choose Maliki as prime minister, and this fuelled conspiracy theories about a secret deal between those two countries. (…) The Obama administration wanted to see an Iraqi government in place before the U.S. mid-term elections in November. Biden believed the quickest way to form a government was to keep Maliki as prime minister, and to cajole other Iraqis into accepting this. (…) I tried to explain the struggle between secularists and Islamists, and how many Iraqis wanted to move beyond sectarianism. But Biden could not fathom this. For him, Iraq was simply about Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.(…) If only President Obama had paid attention to Iraq. He, more than anyone, would understand the complexity of identities, I thought—and that people can change. But his only interest in Iraq, it appeared, was in ending the war. (…) In July 2014, I visited Erbil, Iraq, shortly after the Islamic State had taken control of a third of the country and the Iraqi Army had disintegrated. I met up with Rafi Issawi. (…) Rafi listed for me the Sunni grievances that had steadily simmered since I’d left—until they had finally boiled over. Maliki had detained thousands of Sunnis without trial, pushed leading Sunnis, including Rafi, out of the political process by accusing them of terrorism and reneged on payments and pledges to the Iraqi tribes who had bravely fought Al Qaeda in Iraq. Year-long Sunni protests demanding an end to discrimination were met by violence, with dozens of unarmed protesters killed by Iraqi security forces. Maliki had completely subverted the judiciary to his will, so that Sunnis felt unable to achieve justice. The Islamic State, Rafi explained to me, was able to take advantage of this situation, publicly claiming to be the defenders of the Sunnis against the Iranian-backed Maliki government. The downward spiral, Rafi told me not surprisingly, had begun in 2010—when Iraqiya was not given the first chance to try to form the government. “We might not have succeeded,” he admitted, “but the process itself would have been important in building trust in Iraq’s young institutions.” Emma Sky

Attention: un Munich peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où, dénoncé presque immédiatement par les intéressés, le prétendu accord « historique » avec Téhéran tourne à la bérézina diplomatique …

Et où la poignée prétendument « historique » avec un Cuba tout aussi inflexible est bien prête de retomber comme le soufflé qu’elle n’a jamais cessé d’être …

Pendant qu’ayant fait main basse sur quatre capitales arabes …

Et se voyant légitimés dans leur quête d’une arme nucléaire …

Les mollahs sont en train de faire basculer, de l’Arabie saoudite à la Turquie l’ensemble de la région dans une course aux armements nucléaires …

Et que, du Moyen-Orient à l’Afrique, se réalisent sous nos propres yeux les pires prédictions, tant moquées, de la bande à Bush sur les intentions caliphatiques des djiahdistes …

Qui se souvient du précédent Munich …

Déjà dénoncé prophétiquement dès 2007 par l’ancien président Bush comme un an plus tard par le sénateur McCain ?

Qui se rappelle …

Comme le confirme, nouvelle Gertrude Bell de l’Irak, l’ancienne conseillère britannique des troupes américaines dans un nouveau livre …

La véritable trahison, par l’Administration Obama, des sunnites qui avaient permis l’élimination d’Al Qaeda en Irak …

Comme l’abandon militaire du pays en refusant d’y laisser assez de troupes …

Pour le plus grand profit non seulement des islamistes que l’on doit combattre à nouveau …

Mais surtout des Iraniens que l’on courtise aujourd’hui ?

How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq
Bush’s mistake was invading the country. His successor’s was leaving it to a strongman.
Emma Sky
Politico
April 07, 2015

When trying to explain the current unrest in the Middle East, from Iraq to Syria to Yemen, American officials often resort to platitudes about Sunni and Shia Muslims fighting each other for “centuries” due to “ancient hatreds.” Not only is this claim historically inaccurate, but it also ignores the unintended consequences that the Iraq War more recently leashed on the region. That war—and the manner in which the United States left it behind in 2011—shifted the balance of power in the region in Iran’s favor. Regional competition, of which Iran’s tension with Saudi Arabia is the main but not only dimension, exacerbated existing fault-lines, with support for extreme sectarian actors, including the Islamic State, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars.

Nothing that happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was pre-ordained; different futures than the one unfolding today were possible. Recall that violence declined drastically during the 2007 U.S. troop surge, and that for the next couple of years both Iraq and the West felt that the country was going in the right direction. But the seeds of Iraq’s unravelling were sown in 2010, when the United States did not uphold the election results and failed to broker the formation of a new Iraqi government. As an adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq, I was a witness.

***

“My greatest fear,” General Raymond Odierno, the then commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, told me in early 2010, “is that we stabilize Iraq, then hand it over to the Iranians in our rush to the exit.”

General O (as he is known), had recently watched the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War, which recounts how U.S. interest in Afghanistan ceased once the mujahedeen defeated the Soviet Army in 1989 and drove them out. Now, he had a premonition that the same could happen in Iraq. “I’ve invested too much here,” he said, “to simply walk away and let that happen.”

I had first met Odierno in 2003, when he was the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division responsible for the provinces of Salah al-Din, Diyala and Kirkuk in the early days of the Iraq War; I had been the representative in Kirkuk of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-led transitional government that controlled Iraq after Hussein’s fall. Now, as his political adviser, I was helping General O ensure that the United States kept its focus on the mission in Iraq while drawing down U.S. forces.

Odierno wanted U.S. engagement with Iraq to continue for years to come, but led by U.S. civilians, not the military. He believed that, in order to train Iraqi security forces and provide the psychological support needed to maintain a level of stability, 20,000 or so U.S. troops needed to stay in Iraq beyond 2011, when all American troops were scheduled to be withdrawn. But the real engagement, General O believed, should be from the other instruments of national power, led by the U.S. embassy.

Every time a congressional delegation visited us in Baghdad, General O put up a slide showing why the United States should continue to invest in Iraq through the Strategic Framework Agreement that the two countries had signed in 2008. General O knew that for the mission to succeed, there needed to be a political agreement between Iraqi leaders. Otherwise, all the security gains that the American troops had fought so hard for would not be sustainable. He took every opportunity to educate and communicate these complexities to the new Obama administration.

For six months, General O had tried hard to support the leadership of Chris Hill, the new American ambassador who had taken up his post in April 2009. But Odierno had begun to despair. It was clear that Hill, though a career diplomat, lacked regional experience and was miscast in the role in Baghdad. In fact, he had not wanted the job, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had persuaded him to take it; she admitted as much to General O, he told me, when he met her in early 2010 in Washington to discuss the dysfunction at the embassy. General O complained that Hill did not engage with Iraqis or with others in the diplomatic community—his only focus appeared to be monitoring the activities of the U.S. military.

It was frightening how a person could so poison a place. Hill brought with him a small cabal who were new to Iraq and marginalized all those with experience in the country. The highly knowledgeable and well-regarded Arabist Robert Ford had cut short his tour as ambassador to Algeria to return to Iraq for a third tour and turned down another ambassadorship to stay on in Iraq and serve as Hill’s deputy. But Hill appeared not to want Ford’s advice on political issues and pressured him to depart the post early in 2010. In his staff meetings, Hill made clear how much he disliked Iraq and Iraqis. Instead, he was focused on making the embassy “normal” like other U.S. embassies. That apparently meant having grass within the embassy compound. The initial attempts to plant seed had failed when birds ate it all, but eventually, great rolls of lawn turf were brought in—I had no idea from where—and took root. By the end of his tenure, there was grass on which the ambassador could play lacrosse.

***

The national elections took place on March 7, 2010, and went more smoothly than we had dared hope. After a month of competitive campaigning across the country and wide media coverage of the different candidates and parties, 62 percent of eligible Iraqis turned out to vote.

The author and Gen. Raymond Odiero in Iraq. | Courtesy of Emma Sky

The European Union and others had fielded hundreds of international poll-watchers alongside thousands of trained Iraqi election observers, while the United Nations provided the Iraqis with advice on technical matters related to elections. All this helped to sustain the credibility of the process. Insurgents sought to create a climate of fear by planting bombs in water bottles and blowing up a house, but the Iraqi security forces stood up to the test.

“We won the elections!” Rafi Issawi, the deputy prime minister, shouted excitedly to me on the phone. I could hear celebratory gunfire in the background. We had not expected Iraqiya—a coalition headed by the secular Shia Ayad Allawi and leaders of the Sunni community, and running on a non-sectarian platform—to do so well. The coalition had won 91 seats—two more than the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition.

I accompanied General O and Hill to a meeting with Maliki the next day. Maliki, a Shia, had been prime minister since 2006. Americans and Iraqis alike initially viewed him as weak, but his reputation grew after he ordered military operations against Shia militias. Since then, Iraqi politicians had become increasingly fearful of his authoritarian tendencies. He had insisted on running separately in the election—as State of Law rather than joining a united Shia coalition as had happened in 2005—in large part because the Shia parties would not agree on him to lead the list. Nobody wanted a second Maliki premiership.

When Hill asked Maliki that day about his retirement plans, it was immediately apparent that he was not contemplating stepping down. Instead, he claimed there had been massive election fraud and that the Mujahideen al-Khalq, an Iranian opposition group locked away in eastern Iraq’s Diyala province, had used satellites to tamper with the computers used to tally the voting results—even though the computers were not connected to the Internet and thousands of election observers had monitored the voting. But Maliki’s advisers had told him he would win big with more than a hundred seats, so he demanded a recount. Maliki was becoming scary.

Even though there was no evidence of fraud to justify a recount, the Iraqi electoral commission and the international community agreed to one, fearful of a repeat of the election fiasco in 2009 in Afghanistan, which had tarnished the credibility of elections there. In the meantime, Maliki’s advisers told us he needed two extra seats, either from the recount or through arbitrary de-Ba’athification that could disqualify Iraqiya candidates. Otherwise, he would be blamed for losing Iraq for the Shia, who make up some two-thirds of the population.

In parliamentary systems, the winning bloc is, by definition, the one that wins the most seats in the election and thus gets to have the first go at trying to form a government. This was certainly the intent of those who had drafted the Iraqi Constitution in 2005. But Maliki sought to challenge this basic notion, pressing Judge Medhat al-Mahmoud, Iraq’s chief justice, for his interpretation of the “winning bloc.” Medhat, continually under pressure from Maliki, returned an ambiguous ruling, saying it could mean either the bloc that receives the most seats in the election or the largest coalition formed after the election, within parliament. This would be Maliki’s escape clause.

General O urged that we should protect the process. He said the United States should not pick winners. It never worked out well. General O and I did not think that the Iraqiya candidate, Allawi, would be able to put a government together with himself as prime minister. But we thought he had the right as the winner of the election to have first go—and that this could lead to a political compromise among the leaders, with either Allawi and Maliki agreeing to share power between them or a third person chosen to be prime minister.

But after one meeting with Hill, General O strode down the embassy corridor looking visibly upset. “He told me that Iraq is not ready for democracy, that Iraq needs a Shia strongman,” the general said, “and Maliki is our man.” Odierno had objected that that was not what the Iraqis wanted. They were rid of one dictator, Hussein, and did not want to create another.

As the embassy did not want to do anything to help the Iraqis form a new government, General O instructed me to try to broker a meeting between Iraqiya and State of Law. They were the two largest blocs, and we saw an agreement between them as the most stable solution—and the one that would also best serve U.S. interests.

***

Finally, in June 2010, three months after the elections, State of Law and Iraqiya, the two largest blocs, headed into negotiations. But there was little trust between the two. State of Law continued to insist on Maliki as prime minister, and Iraqiya on Allawi.

I met up with Sami al-Askari, a Shia politician close to Maliki who believed that an agreement between State of Law and Iraqiya was the best way forward. But he also told me that everyone except the Americans realized that the formation of the government was perceived as a battle between Iran and the United States for influence in Iraq. The Iranians were active, while the U.S. embassy did nothing. Qasim Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, continued to summon Iraqis to Iran in order to put together a pan-Shia coalition. The Iranians, al-Askari said, intended to drag out government formation until after August 31, when all U.S. combat forces were due to leave, in order to score a “victory” over the United States.

The Iranians had indeed not been idle. They were pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to drop his support for Allawi and agree to another Maliki term. For years, the Baathist regime in Syria had allowed jihadi foreign fighters to use their country as a launching pad for horrific attacks in Iraq. In August 2009, coordinated attacks targeted the foreign ministry and the finance ministry in Baghdad, killing around a hundred Iraqis. Maliki had blamed Assad himself for the murders.

The Iranians also were putting huge pressure on the Supreme Council, a Shia party headed by Amar Hakim, to agree a second Maliki premiership. And Iran was seeking to persuade the Sadrists, a Shia party led by Muqtada al-Sadr, through intermediaries from Lebanese Hezbollah, that Maliki would ensure there was no U.S. military presence of any sort in Iraq after 2011, and that the Sadrists would get key posts in the new government. Iran’s goal was to ensure that Iraq was not integrated into the Arab world, instead becoming a close ally of Iran. Maliki would be able to achieve this because all the neighboring Sunni countries hated him. As for Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s Kurdish president, Suleimani was determined to keep him in the role. Their relationship went back decades.

I went to see Rafi, the deputy prime minister. “Where is the U.S.?” he asked. He described how previous U.S. ambassadors had helped to bring Iraqis together. “Does the U.S. have no interest in protecting the democratic process? Does the U.S. not care what sort of government is put together? Qasim Suleimani is very active putting together the Shia coalition. Does the U.S. not understand what impact this will have on the region—and on internal stability in Iraq? Is the U.S. not worried about Iranian influence in Iraq?”

In July, Maliki’s fortunes appeared to take a decisive turn for the worse: The Shia coalition sent him a letter requesting that he withdraw his candidature for prime minister; Iraqiya made it clear that they would offer him the speakership of the parliament or the presidency, but not the premiership, and the Kurds explained that they really did not want to see him as prime minister for another four years.

General O and Hill met Maliki and told him frankly that he had little support from other groups, so it would be very hard for him to remain as prime minister. Maliki continued to insist that only he could do the job, only he could save Iraq. “I dream I am on a boat,” he said. “I keep trying to pull Iraqis out of the water to save them.”

The embassy informed the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Allawi and other Iraqi leaders that Maliki had no chance of being prime minister.

***

General O went back to Washington in mid-July for more meetings. He phoned to tell me that Vice President Joe Biden had agreed to give Maliki and Allawi a deadline. If they could not reach an agreement within two weeks on how to form the government, they should both step aside and let others have a shot at it.

However, when Biden phoned up the two leaders that week, he did not stick to the agreed line. Instead, he told Maliki that the United States would support him remaining as prime minister, and he told Allawi that he should accept Maliki as PM. In the Arabic media, there was confusion as to why the United States and Iran should both choose Maliki as prime minister, and this fuelled conspiracy theories about a secret deal between those two countries.

When I met Rafi, he was incredulous: “How come one week the U.S. was telling everyone that Maliki should step down and the next week telling Maliki he should be PM?” He went on: “Why is the U.S. picking the prime minister? This is Iraq. This is our country. We have to live here. And we care passionately about building a future for our children.” He was deeply upset.

Biden visited Iraq at the end of August 2010. By then, Hill had been replaced as ambassador by Jim Jeffrey. In internal meetings, one U.S. adviser argued that Maliki was “our man”: He would give us a follow-on Status of Forces Agreement to keep a small contingent of U.S. forces in Iraq after 2011; he was a nationalist; and he would fight the Sadrists. Furthermore, the official claimed that Maliki had promised him that he would not seek a third term. “Maliki is not our friend,” replied another official, Jeff Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, exasperated at the delusional nature of the discussion. But Biden had been persuaded by the arguments that there was no one but Maliki who could be prime minister and that he would sign a new security agreement with the United States. The Obama administration wanted to see an Iraqi government in place before the U.S. mid-term elections in November. Biden believed the quickest way to form a government was to keep Maliki as prime minister, and to cajole other Iraqis into accepting this.

“Iraqiya genuinely fear Maliki,” General O explained. They were scared that he would accuse them of being terrorists or bring charges of corruption against them, and would arrest them. Maliki had accused Rafi of being the leader of a terrorist group, for instance—allegations that were totally unfounded. General O described how Maliki had changed so much over the past six months. He had become more sectarian and authoritarian. Iraqis had reason to fear him.

I tried to explain the struggle between secularists and Islamists, and how many Iraqis wanted to move beyond sectarianism. But Biden could not fathom this. For him, Iraq was simply about Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.

I tried another tack: “It is important to build belief in the democratic process by showing people that change can come about through elections—rather than violence. The peaceful transfer of power is key—it has never happened in the Arab World.” At the very least, either Maliki or Talabani needed to give up his seat; otherwise, they would both think they owned the seats. Biden did not agree. He responded that there were often elections in the United States that did not bring about any change.

Biden’s easy smile had evaporated. He was clearly irritated by me. “Look, I know these people,” he went on. “My grandfather was Irish and hated the British. It’s like in the Balkans. They all grow up hating each other.”

The conversation ended, as we had to head over to the meeting with Iraqiya members. Some were in suits, others were wearing their finest traditional robes. There were Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Turkmen Shia, Kurds and a Christian. The full tapestry of Iraqi society was sitting facing us—distinguishable only by their dress, clearly showing us the sort of Iraq they wanted to live in.

Biden started off smiling: “I know you people. My grandfather was Irish and hated the British.” Everyone turned toward me, the Brit. The Iraqis were grinning, expecting there was going to be a good spat between Brits and Americans. How could I stop Biden making a totally inappropriate comment about them all being Sunnis and hating Shia? Thinking on my feet, I said, “Don’t look at me, Mr. Vice President, I am not the only Brit in the room.” One of the Iraqis piped up: “I have a British passport.”

Biden lost his train of thought and moved on. He said that one of his predecessors, Al Gore, had technically won more votes in the 2000 presidential election, but for the good of America had stepped back rather than keep the country in limbo while fighting over the disputed vote-count.

Allawi pretended not to understand that Biden was suggesting he give up his claim to have first go at trying to form the government, letting Maliki remain as prime minister. The meeting finished. After we left, I was sure the Iraqis would be wondering why on earth Biden had mentioned his Irish grandfather and Al Gore. If only President Obama had paid attention to Iraq. He, more than anyone, would understand the complexity of identities, I thought—and that people can change. But his only interest in Iraq, it appeared, was in ending the war.

***

In July 2014, I visited Erbil, Iraq, shortly after the Islamic State had taken control of a third of the country and the Iraqi Army had disintegrated. I met up with Rafi Issawi. So much had happened since General O and I had left Iraq at the end of August 2010. Iran had succeeded in pressuring Muqtada al-Sadr to accept a second Maliki term as prime minister and hence ensured that there would be no follow-on security agreement for a post-2011 U.S. troop presence. The United States had helped to hammer out a power-sharing agreement of sorts in Erbil, but it had never been implemented.

Rafi listed for me the Sunni grievances that had steadily simmered since I’d left—until they had finally boiled over. Maliki had detained thousands of Sunnis without trial, pushed leading Sunnis, including Rafi, out of the political process by accusing them of terrorism and reneged on payments and pledges to the Iraqi tribes who had bravely fought Al Qaeda in Iraq. Year-long Sunni protests demanding an end to discrimination were met by violence, with dozens of unarmed protesters killed by Iraqi security forces. Maliki had completely subverted the judiciary to his will, so that Sunnis felt unable to achieve justice. The Islamic State, Rafi explained to me, was able to take advantage of this situation, publicly claiming to be the defenders of the Sunnis against the Iranian-backed Maliki government.

The downward spiral, Rafi told me not surprisingly, had begun in 2010—when Iraqiya was not given the first chance to try to form the government. “We might not have succeeded,” he admitted, “but the process itself would have been important in building trust in Iraq’s young institutions.”

Emma Sky, senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute, is author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, from which this article is adapted.

Voir aussi:

Ex-British diplomat accuses Hillary Clinton of role in meltdown of Iraq
New book by former adviser to the US in Iraq Emma Sky says Clinton appointed ambassador to Baghdad who had no Middle East experience
Colin Freeman, Chief foreign correspondent
The Guardian
14 Apr 2015

A former British diplomat has accused Hillary Clinton of contributing to Iraq’s disastrous meltdown during her four years as Barack Obama’s foreign policy chief.
Emma Sky, who served as an adviser to one of the top US commanders in Iraq, claims in a new book that Mrs Clinton operated a “dysfunctional” diplomatic mission to Baghdad that allowed a lapse back into sectarian warfare after elections in 2010.
At that time Mrs Clinton was mid-way through her four-year stint as Mr Obama’s Secretary of State, the equivalent position to Foreign Secretary in Britain.
The criticisms, which come as Mrs Clinton announces her presidential bid, are contained in a book that Ms Sky, an Oxford-educated Middle East expert, is to publish next month about the seven years she spent in Iraq.
Entitled The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, it paints an unflattering picture of the Obama administration as it tried to extricate itself from the country as hastily as possible.

While the demand for a speedy drawdown from Iraq was driven primarily by Mr Obama himself, Mrs Clinton is accused of appointing an incompetent US ambassador to Baghdad, Chris Hill, who had little experience of the region and held its people in contempt.

That then paved the way for Washington to be outmanoeuvred by Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who was able to grab a second term in office despite fears that he was a sectarian dictator in the making.

The book also claims that the US-vice president, Joe Biden, showed little interest in Iraq’s political complexities, making oafish comparisons between its sectarian civil war and Britain’s historic tensions with Ireland.

Thanks to Mr Obama’s hasty pull-out at the end of 2011, Ms Sky says, hard-won opportunities for a lasting peace in Iraq after the war to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003 were squandered.

“That war – and the manner in which the United States left it behind in 2011 – shifted the balance of power in the region in Iran’s favour,” she writes. “Regional competition… exacerbated existing fault-lines, with support for extreme sectarian actors, including the Islamic State, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars.”

Ms Sky, who is now an academic at Yale University, first went to work in Iraq in 2003 after a spell as a development expert for the British Council in the Palestinian territories. Although a self-described “tree hugger”, her expertise in Arab affairs saw her appointed as coalition governor of the northern city of Kirkuk, where she then impressed General Ray Odierno, whom she advised during the US troop “surge” that curbed Iraq’s 2006-7 Sunni-Shia civil war.

However, by 2010, Gen Odierno was becoming increasingly concerned that Washington was likely to destabilise Iraq in the “rush to the exit”. He had already “begun to despair”, Ms Sky says, of Mr Hill, who was appointed the year before despite concerns about his lack of Middle East experience.

Lifting the lid on behind the scenes intrigues in Baghdad’s heavily guarded “Green Zone”, Ms Sky writes: “It was clear that Hill, though a career diplomat, lacked regional experience and was miscast in the role in Baghdad. In fact, he had not wanted the job, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had persuaded him to take it; she admitted as much to General Odierno, he told me, when he met her in early 2010 in Washington to discuss the dysfunction at the embassy.”

She adds that “in his staff meetings, Hill made clear how much he disliked Iraq and Iraqis”. His main priority, she said, was getting the embassy to look like a “normal” US mission, which included importing rolls of turf “on which the ambassador could play lacrosse”.

Worse was to come when Mr Biden visited Baghdad. He made clear his impatience when Ms Sky tried to explain about Iraq’s myriad political landscape of secularists, Islamists, and moderates who wanted to move beyond sectarianism. Mr Biden “could not fathom this”, she said, telling her: “My grandfather was Irish and hated the British. It’s like in the Balkans. They all grow up hating each other.”

He repeated the simplistic observation at a meeting with the Iraqiya bloc, a religiously mixed, secular movement, only to be embarrassed when one of the Iraqi politicians told him that he had a British passport.

Ms Sky makes her accusations in an article adapted from her book in Politico magazine, titled “How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq”.

She says the lack of foreign policy focus from Washington ultimately allowed the White House to back Mr Maliki for a second term when he tied in 2010’s elections with Ayad Allawi, the secular, pro-Western leader of the Iraqiya bloc. Mr Hill, she says, told a distraught Gen Odierno “that Iraq is not ready for democracy, that Iraq needs a Shia strongman, and Maliki is our man”.

Her revelations come as Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, met Mr Obama on Tuesday to ask for more arms to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Recent gains against the group in Tikrit have been undermined by Isil counter-attacks in the western province of Anbar.

Voir également:

Bookshelf
Iraq’s Unlikely Eulogist
There was no more improbable duo than Odierno, the hulking general with a shaved head, and his petite English adviser.
Max Boot
The Wall Street journal

April 13, 2015

The British Empire, which at one time dominated the lands stretching from Egypt to Persia, produced a long line of distinguished if often eccentric Arabists —Richard Francis Burton, Gertrude Bell, St. John Philby, T.E. Lawrence, Freya Stark, Wilfred Thesiger and more.

The deepening American involvement in the Middle East over the past decade has inspired its own crop of ardent experts. Some have been Foreign Service officers, such as Robert Ford and Ryan Crocker. Others military officers like Rick Welch, Derek Harvey and Joel Rayburn. Still others—perhaps the largest share—have been temporary recruits, helping the U.S. government understand the “human terrain” and filling gaps left by insufficient State Department resources. This group includes Ali Khedery, a young Arab-American who served as an aide to U.S. ambassadors in Baghdad; Matt Sherman, currently serving as political adviser to the U.S. commander in Kabul after previous stints in both Iraq and Afghanistan; and Carter Malkasian, who advised Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new generation of American Arabists, busy in the field trying to help win two wars, has not yet produced the outpouring of writing that characterized their British predecessors, but they are starting to catch up. Mr. Malkasian penned a first-rate account of his experiences in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, “War Comes to Garmser” (2013), and, last year, Col. Rayburn published a wise book on “Iraq After America.” And now Emma Sky, dubbed “Our Miss Bell” by Iraqi interlocutors, has produced a radiant and beautifully written account, at turns funny and sad, of her service in Iraq.

There could have been few more unlikely candidates to advise U.S. military commanders. British-born and Oxford-educated, Ms. Sky is the kind of “progressive” who imagines that Texas is “a State of cowboys, electric chairs and right-wing zealots who spend their weekends down by the border shooting Mexicans who tried to cross illegally.” She welcomed Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, writing, “After the crazy era of the neoconservatives, the US was now led by a man whose worldview I believed I shared.”

The Unraveling

By Emma Sky
PublicAffairs, 382 pages, $28.99

She had come to assist the American war effort in Iraq by chance in 2003 after having spent a decade as a humanitarian worker in the Middle East. Employed by the British Council, a cultural organization sponsored by the Foreign Office, she received an email asking for volunteers to help the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Single and 30-something, she raised her hand and wound up in Kirkuk, where she became political adviser to Col. William Mayville, commander of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Ms. Sky had no experience of the military and was “wary” of her new colleagues. Upon first meeting Col. Mayville, she threatened to haul him to The Hague if he did anything that violated the Geneva Convention: “I took my brown Filofax with me everywhere,” she writes, “and began documenting everything Colonel Mayville said and did.” Before long, however, she realized that behind his “bravado was a deep intellect—and a wicked sense of humor.” She developed such admiration and affection for the soldiers of the brigade that when they rotated home in early 2004 she “sobbed inconsolably all afternoon.”

She returned home herself in June 2004 but “could not settle back” into her humdrum job. She spent nine months in Jerusalem advising the U.S. military mission monitoring Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and then did a tour in Afghanistan for Britain’s Department for International Development. In 2006, Gen. Raymond Odierno, who had been Col. Mayville’s division commander, invited her to become his political adviser when he was appointed the deputy American commander in Iraq.

There was no more unlikely duo than the hulking, 6-foot-5 former football player with the shaved head and his petite English adviser. To add to the incongruity, Ms. Sky needled Gen. Odierno relentlessly in a way that no one else would have dared—and he returned the favor. On a helicopter ride after “General O” comments that Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer, she replies, “We still don’t know who killed more Iraqis: you or Saddam, sir.” This was greeted by total silence among the general’s aides, but he jocularly shouted, “Open the door, pilots. Throw her out!”

It is part of Gen. Odierno’s greatness as a commander that he realized he needed the independent viewpoint that Ms. Sky could provide to avoid the groupthink that so often characterizes military command. He made her his indispensable aide, and she stayed by his side not only during his tour as the deputy commander in Iraq in 2006-08 but also when he was the top commander, from 2008 to 2010.

Along the way, she helped the U.S. military drag Iraq back from the brink of the abyss—only to see all of their achievements squandered. In Ms. Sky’s telling, the turning point was the failure to allow the secular Shiite Ayad Allawi a chance to form a government after his party had emerged as the top vote-getter in the 2010 election. Ambassador Christopher Hill and Vice President Joe Biden, the architects of the Obama administration’s Iraq policy in spite of their invincible ignorance of the country, threw U.S. influence behind the sitting prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who had refused to accept his electoral defeat. In his second term, he pursued the sectarian agenda that drove many Sunnis into the arms of Islamic State.

Ms. Sky ended up disenchanted with the administration she had once supported: “Biden was a nice man, but he simply had the wrong instincts on Iraq. If only Obama had paid attention to Iraq. . . . But his only interest in Iraq was in ending the war.” By contrast, her respect for the whole U.S. military and in particular for Gen. Odierno—who warned the administration of Mr. Maliki’s authoritarian tendencies—was never higher. He told her, “I gave my best military advice.” She laments: “But he had been ignored.” That is as good an epitaph as any for the American misadventure in Mesopotamia.

Mr. Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign

‘Iraq Is Finished’
Tribal leaders reflect on the enemy destroying their country from within.
Emma Sky

The Atlantic

Apr 8 2015

One afternoon this March, during a visit to Jordan, I sat on the banks of the Dead Sea with my Iraqi friend, Azzam Alwash. As we stared across the salt lake and watched the sun disappear behind the rocky crags of Israel, I recounted a trip I had taken to Jordan 20 years earlier to conduct field research on Palestinian refugees, as part of a Middle East peace effort designed to ensure that within a decade nobody in the region considered himself a refugee.

No one had an inkling back then that the numbers of refugees in the region would increase exponentially, with millions of Iraqis and Syrians displaced from their homes by international intervention and civil war. Nor had I imagined at the time that I would find myself in Iraq after the invasion of 2003, initially as a British representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority—the international transitional government that ran the country for about a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein—and then as the political advisor to U.S. Army General Raymond Odierno when he commanded U.S. forces in the country.

A number of the Iraqis I had gotten to know over the last decade had relocated to Jordan. I had gone there to see them and better understand events in the region—and the conditions that had led to the rise of the Islamic State.

* * *

The evening following our Dead Sea visit, Azzam and I went out for Italian food in Amman with a diverse group of our Iraqi friends, Sunni and Shiite, Kurd and Arab. It was a reunion of sorts; some of us had gone white-water rafting down the Little Zaab river in northern Iraq a few years ago. Azzam was an experienced rafter, but even the danger of the rapids had not pressured the group to trust his leadership and work together. There was a lot of shouting and we all got soaked, but somehow we had survived the trip. This, to me, represented Iraq writ large.

The conversation soon turned to Daesh (known as ISIS in the West), and how the group had formed. A common view I’ve heard in the region, propagated by Sunni and Shiite alike, is that Daesh is the creation of the United States. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq or Islamic State before the U.S. invasion in 2003. Therefore, so the twisted reasoning goes, the United States must have deliberately created the group in order to make Sunnis and Shiites fight each other, thereby allowing the U.S to continue dominating the region. Local media had reported on alleged U.S. airdrops to Daesh. Some outlets even referred to Daesh’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as an Israeli-trained Mossad agent.

One of my dining companions asked me where I thought the group came from. I responded that Daesh was a symptom of a much larger problem. Regional sectarian conflict was an unintended consequence of the Iraq War and the manner in which the United States had left the country, both of which had empowered Iran and changed the balance of power in the Middle East. In my view, regional competition—of which Iran versus Saudi Arabia is the main but not only dimension—exacerbated existing fault lines. Those countries’ support for extreme sectarian actors in different countries had now turned local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars. Iran was funding and training Shiite militias, as well as advising regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. Gulf financing had flowed to Sunni fighters, including the ones that ultimately became Daesh. At the same time, there was a symbiotic relationship between corrupt elites in Iraq and terrorists—they justified each other’s existence, each claiming to provide protection from the other.

Azzam offered another perspective. Daesh, he said, were Muslims, and fundamentalist Salafi Islam was to blame for their existence. The problem, he said, was the literal interpretation of the Quran, which, for example, spelled out harsh criminal punishments reflective of seventh-century practices. Other religions had moved forward and reformed because adherents were willing to interpret texts for their own time. A heated argument broke out as others at the table defended Islam and accused Azzam of being brainwashed by the West. « If we Muslim intellectuals are not self-critical, if we refuse to take responsibility to address the issues, » he responded, « what hope is there for the Middle East? »

* * *

Azzam’s was only one of numerous explanations of Daesh’s origins and power that I heard from Iraqis during my visit to Jordan. All of these explanations contained some truth: There was no one simple reason, but rather a complex set of factors, that had enabled the group to take control of so much of Iraq.

Another explanation came from Sheikh Abdullah al-Yawar, the paramount sheikh of the Shammar tribe, which has around 5 million members in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Last summer, in the wake of the Daesh takeover of Mosul, his mother and brother managed to escape just hours before their palatial 27-room house near Rabiah—northwest of Mosul on the Syrian border—was blown up, his photos and carpets destroyed, his horses scattered to the wilds. It was a house that I knew well and had visited many times. From 2003 onward, Abdullah had decided that he and his family would cooperate with international coalition forces to secure their area, rather than fight against them.

Daesh did not suddenly take control of Mosul last summer, Abdullah told me over dinner with his family at his house in Amman. For years, there had been so much corruption in local government that Daesh had been able to buy influence and supporters. Government in Iraq, he said, was a business—a family business in which politicians in Baghdad and Mosul had stolen millions of dollars worth of the country’s wealth. Daesh had then been able to exploit this situation to take control, presenting itself as a better alternative to corrupt local government.

In Iraq, corrupt elites and terrorists justified each other’s existence, each claiming to provide protection from the other.
But I had a more basic question: « Who are Daesh? » Many, he told me, had come out of the town of Tal Afar, where there had been bitter fighting between the Sunni and Shiite populations during the civil war. They were former Baathists, members of Saddam Hussein’s party who had been purged from Iraq’s government following the international intervention to oust Hussein. Then, after 2003, some became al-Qaeda, and now they were Daesh. They felt excluded and marginalized. Daesh gave them a sense of empowerment and let them present themselves as the defenders of the Sunnis against Shiites, Iran, and the United States.

In northern Iraq last summer, I had met men with large mustaches—the Baathists’ signature facial hair—who claimed to be spokesmen for insurgent groups and said they were leading a Sunni uprising against then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. I asked Abdullah what had happened to them. He responded that they had been all talk. Some had grown the beards mandated by fundamentalists and joined Daesh. Others had done nothing.

Abdullah and his wife provided me quotation after quotation from the Quran to prove that Daesh violated the tenets of Islam. Personally, I told them, I judge people by how they behave. « When I think of a Muslim, I think of the hospitality shown to me, a foreigner, whenever I travel in the Arab world. » I went on, « Sadly, when I now tell people in the U.S. that I am off on holiday to the Middle East, they worry that I will be kidnapped and have my head chopped off. » I had finished the vine leaves and tabbouleh salad we had been eating, and kebab and chicken were now heaped on my plate. I told them I thought I faced a greater risk of death from overeating.

Abdullah turned serious. « We need more help from America, » he said. « Look at what Iran is doing. Iran is now in Tikrit.” (Iranian military officers were highly visible as advisors to Shiite militias seeking to retake the city.) He went on: « This is a huge humiliation for the Sunnis. This is not the way to destroy Daesh. It will cause a worse reaction in the future. »

* * *

A few days later, Sheikh Ghassan al-Assi of the Obeidi tribe, which has around 700,000 members in Iraq, both Sunni and Shiite, took me to a restaurant in Amman that he said was owned by Christians from Baghdad. When the waiter came to take our order, Ghassan said, with an acerbic wit that I was by now long familiar with: « The Americans and British destroyed our country—but we still invite them to lunch! » He would later pick out the best parts of the barbecued fish and put them on my plate.

I had first met Ghassan in 2003, when he had been highly critical of coalition forces in Iraq. Even so, we had remained friends. He had fled to Amman last summer in the wake of the Daesh blitzkrieg. According to Ghassan, the group had blown up the grave of his father, the paramount sheikh of the Obeidis, and had destroyed the houses of his uncles because they collaborated with Maliki. He had hoped that his house would be left alone, since he had not worked with the United States or the Iraqi government. But the week prior to my visit, Daesh had turned up with C4 explosives and blown the home up. He did not know why. He took out his iPhone. « Bastards, bastards, bastards,” he muttered as he flicked through the photos.

« There is no state left. It is a state of militias. »
Over a cup of tea, Ghassan showed me photos of one of his sons, who was wearing a red-and-white checked scarf, with a goatee, and was posing for the camera like a male model. I was surprised; I had never expected a boy born and bred in Hawija—a rough provincial town—to turn out looking like this. Even in Hawija, it seemed, there were people who just wanted to lead normal lives, to wear the latest fashion. It was Dubai, not Daesh, that represented the sort of society they wanted to live in.

Sheikh Ghassan laughed at my astonishment. « Miss Emma,” he asked me somewhat cryptically, “what is life without love? »

* * *

On my last day in Jordan, Jaber al-Jaberi, another tribal leader who had served Iraq as a member of parliament and had once been a candidate for minister of defense, drove me to Jerash, an ancient city outside Amman. With Daesh destroying Iraq’s archaeological sites, we both wanted to go and see Jordan’s. Jaber, too, had been forced to leave his home in Anbar amid the Daesh advance.

« The Sunnis of Iraq are like the Palestinians, » Jaber said. « We’ve been displaced from our land. » Sunnis had been cleansed from Diyala and areas surrounding Baghdad by Shiite militias, and many more had fled from the provinces of Anbar, Nineva, and Salah al-Din because of Daesh. Jaber himself had given up politics and was now spending his days trying to get food and assistance to tribesmen living in terrible conditions in makeshift accommodation in the desert. The Sunnis, he said, had no real leaders, and the Shiite militias were more powerful than the Iraqi security forces.

« Iraq is finished, » he lamented to me. « There is no state left. It is a state of militias.”

The state of Iraq has indeed failed. It no longer has the legitimacy or the power to extend control over its whole territory, and the power vacuum is being filled by a multitude of non-state actors, increasingly extreme and sectarian, who will likely continue to fight each other for years to come, supported by regional powers. Whether a new kind of order will finally emerge, with more local legitimacy, remains to be seen. And for now those who are displaced are left wondering how long it will be until they are able to return home—and to what.

Still, I refused to believe that terrorists could erase Iraq’s past, and I told Jaber so. The past would survive in archives, in exhibits in the British Museum, on the walls of art galleries in Amman, in poems recited around the world. We were in the land where humans had first experimented with settled agriculture, where the Babylonian king Hammurabi gave some of the first written laws, where Jews had written the Talmud. Jaber, I saw, had tears in his eyes. « Nothing can take this away, Jaber,” I told him. “Nothing. Not these terrible terrorists, not these militias, not these awful politicians. A new generation will come one day that can build on this. The hope is the youth who just want to live their lives. »

POSTSCRIPT
Who Lost Iraq?
And How to Get It Back

Emma Sky

Foreign Affairs

June 24, 2014

EMMA SKY is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. From 2007 to 2010, she was the political adviser to Ray Odierno (then the commanding general of U.S. Forces in Iraq).Republicans and Democrats each share some of the blame for the situation in Iraq — the former for the way in which the United States entered the country and the latter for the way in which it left. It was only between 2007 and 2009 that the United States had a coherent strategy in Iraq, matched with the right leadership and the necessary resources. The current turmoil dates back to just after that period, to 2010, after Iraq’s second post-Saddam national election.

Republicans and Democrats each share some of the blame for the situation in Iraq — the former for the way in which the United States entered the country and the latter for the way in which it left. It was only between 2007 and 2009 that the United States had a coherent strategy in Iraq, matched with the right leadership and the necessary resources. The current turmoil dates back to just after that period, to 2010, after Iraq’s second post-Saddam national election.

At that time, some senior officials argued that the United States should uphold the constitutionally mandated right of the winning bloc, Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi, to have the first go at trying to form a government. They maintained that the United States should actively help broker an agreement among Iraqi elites to form the new government and warned of the already apparent autocratic tendencies of Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister.

Other officials argued that Maliki, despite his narrow electoral defeat, was the only conceivable Shia leader who could hold the position. He was also, they said, a friend of the United States who would agree to allow the United States to maintain a small contingent of forces in Iraq after 2011, when the existing agreement between the two countries expired. In the end, it was Iran that stepped in and, by pressuring the Sadrists to support Maliki, secured him a second premiership. The price Iran extracted from Maliki was his support for the removal of all U.S. forces.

Since 2010, Maliki has consolidated his power by targeting his political rivals, subverting the judiciary and independent government commissions, reneging on his promises to the Sunni tribal leaders who had helped him fight al Qaeda, and politicizing the security forces that the United States invested so much in training. He also mishandled the yearlong protests against his government that erupted in Sunni areas at the end of 2012, following the souring of relations between him and Rafi al-Issawi, the highly respected minister of finance. His forces attacked protesters in Hawija, killing 50. Then, in December 2013, he sent troops into western Anbar to attack the desert camps of a Sunni radical group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Following the death of the Iraqi general leading the operation, Maliki ordered his troops into the cities of Anbar province to close down all protest sites.

Maliki’s moves seemed to be tactical successes in that they strengthened his regime. But they have been revealed to be strategic disasters, since they provoked a backlash that weakened the state. With the ISIS takeover of cities in the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din, that reality has been made clear. Iraqi security forces, which outnumber ISIS by around a hundred to one, deserted and fled their positions as ISIS advanced; soldiers’ morale was low and a number of senior officers owed their positions to bribes and political affiliation rather than to competence. Sunni tribes, which previously had turned against the forerunner of ISIS, al Qaeda in Iraq, have this time either fled, remained neutral, or backed the militants. Given their sense of disenfranchisement, they do not trust Maliki’s government to provide for them or to protect them. Some have concluded that ISIS is the lesser of two evils. Sunni clerics in Iraq, along with regional media, are now referring to the Sunni « revolt » against Maliki’s government.

ISIS’ victories are a result of internal divides, rising sectarianism, state failure, and geopolitical competition in two neighboring countries. In one of his recent speeches, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, called on Sunni Muslims to join his organization to fight the Shia and establish a caliphate, which would remove the borders between Muslim lands that were demarcated by colonial powers. “Give up corrupt nationalism,” he urged, “and join the nation of Islam.”

But it is not the borders that are the root of the problems of these countries. It is the political leadership, which has failed to develop inclusive and robust states. Grievances against the governments of Maliki and Bashar al-Assad in Syria have created the environment in which ISIS can prosper. And, ironically, although the ISIS has railed against national divisions, the tensions between its international jihadist agenda and the nationalist agendas of most Sunni groups will inevitably create friction and infighting. For now, though, ISIS will find plenty of Sunnis willing to join the fray.

Meanwhile, facing the shock caused by the collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul, Shia have turned to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for guidance. Sistani issued a fatwa calling on Iraqis to join the security forces in the fight against ISIS. Despite Sistani’s statement that the fatwa was intended for Sunni and Shia civilians alike, Shia militias are using it as an occasion for sectarian mobilization.

In the ongoing turmoil, the Kurds have taken the contested city of Kirkuk and see independence in their sights. U.S. forces invested considerable time and resources in mediating between the different parties in these disputed territories. Without such a neutral third party, the likelihood of Arab-Kurdish conflict is increasing, with ISIS gaining the opportunity to present itself as the protector of the Sunnis against Iranian-backed Shia but also against what they perceive as Kurdish expansionism.

So what can and should the United States do? It is positive that the United States no longer views the violence in Iraq as separate from the bloodshed in Syria and Lebanon. The region has become one battlefield — and U.S. policy must reflect that. It was the 1979 Iranian Revolution that set off the modern-day struggle between Iran and the Sunni powers. And it was the 2003 war in Iraq that led to sectarianization of regional politics. Then it was the 2011 U.S. departure from Iraq that left the impression in the region that Iran had defeated the United States. The United States needs to pursue policies that lessen sectarian tensions and support moderates. The majority of those living in Iraq and Syria yearn to live in peace with just, effective, and transparent governments. The choice before them cannot simply be Iranian-backed exclusionary regimes or al Qaeda­–linked affiliates.

Although the United States and Iran face a common threat in ISIS, the United States should cooperate with Iran only if it leads to major reform of Iraq’s political system so as to overcome sectarian divisions. If not, the specter of a perceived alignment between the United States and Iran could worsen sectarianism and push more Sunnis toward ISIS.

The main political tensions in Iraq today are between Maliki’s drive to centralize power, the Kurds’ desire to maximize their autonomy, and the increasing Sunni awareness of themselves as a distinct community. The fall of Mosul and events that followed are indications that these tensions have come to a head and that it is time for Maliki to admit his failures and open the way for a more competent Shia leader to start a new approach. Although Maliki did head the winning bloc in the most recent elections, those opposed to him have enough votes to replace him if they can agree on an alternative. Iraq’s political elites, in particular the Shia parties, need to select a new prime minister who is acceptable to them and to other communities, and is supported by Iran and Turkey as well as the United States.

In his June 19 statement, U.S. President Barack Obama said, « Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future. Shia, Sunni, Kurds — all Iraqis — must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.” Obama is right to pressure Iraqi politicians to form a new government, rather than insisting that they support Maliki. He correctly recognized that any military options would be effective only if they were in support of an overall political strategy that a new broad-based government agreed to. The United States has a key role to play in helping broker a new deal among the elites that creates a better balance among Iraq’s communities. A new broad-based Iraqi government will need to win back the support of Sunnis against ISIS — and the Obama administration should be prepared to respond positively to requests for assistance to do so.

Iraqi Sunnistan?
Why Separatism Could Rip the Country Apart—Again
Emma Sky and Harith al-Qarawee
Foreign Affairs

January 23, 2013

EMMA SKY is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. From 2007 to 2010, she was the political adviser to Ray Odierno (then the commanding general of U.S. Forces in Iraq). HARITH AL-QARAWEE is an Iraqi political scientist and the author of Imagining the Nation: Nationalism, Sectarianism and Socio-political Conflict in Iraq.

It’s not easy being a prominent Sunni in Iraq these days. This past December, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of several bodyguards of Rafi al-Issawi, the minister of finance and one of the most influential and respected Sunni leaders in Iraq. In response, tens of thousands of Sunnis took to the streets of Anbar, Mosul, and other predominantly Sunni cities, demanding the end of what they consider government persecution. Issawi has accused Maliki of targeting him as part of a systematic campaign against Sunni leaders, which includes the 2011 indictment of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, on terrorism charges. This is not the first time that Maliki has gone after Issawi, either. In 2010, during tense negotiations over the makeup of the government, Maliki accused Issawi of leading a terrorist group — a claim that the U.S. military investigated and found baseless. Not coincidentally, this most recent incident occurred days after President Jalal Talabani, always a dependable moderator in Iraqi politics, was incapacitated by a stroke.

The scale of the ongoing demonstrations reveals the widespread sense of alienation that Sunnis feel in the new Iraq. Prior to 2003, Sunnis rarely identified as members of a religious sect and instead called themselves Iraqi or Arab nationalists. It was the country’s Shia population that claimed to be victims, on account of their persecution by Saddam Hussein.
Today, the roles are reversed. Shia Islamists consolidated power in Baghdad after the toppling of Saddam’s regime, and some — particularly those who were exiled during Baathist rule — now view all Sunnis with suspicion. In turn, many Sunnis take issue with the new political system, which was largely shaped by Shia and Kurdish parties. Today, the Sunni population is mobilizing against the status quo and making sect-specific demands, such as the release of Sunni detainees, an end to the torture of Sunni suspects, and humane treatment of Sunni women in jails. Moreover, demonstrators are calling for the overthrow of the regime, using slogans made popular during the Arab Spring.

Meanwhile, Kurdish leaders identify Maliki as the main problem facing Iraq, and some delegations of Kurds and Shia have travelled to Issawi’s native province of Anbar to express their own distrust of the regime. The top Iraqi Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, has voiced disappointment with Maliki’s government and has called for it to respond to the concerns of the protestors. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s most authentic grassroots Shia movement, the Sadrist Trend, has accused Maliki of provoking the current discontent. Although fear of Maliki’s creeping authoritarianism is pushing his rivals together, growing sectarian tensions may yet rip Iraq apart.
As with other protests in the Arab world, which were initially driven by legitimate local grievances, there is a risk that the current movement will become increasingly sectarian. At political events, some Iraqi Sunni clerics use conciliatory language and emphasize Iraqi fraternity. Others, however, speak passionately about the suffering of the Sunni community at the hands of Maliki’s Shia administration and condemn his ties with Iran.

Since 2008, when Maliki led a harsh crackdown on the Mahdi Army, a Shia militia, the prime minister has tried to present himself as a nationalist leader seeking to unify his country and evenly enforce the rule of law. The rise of Maliki and the popularity he gained with Shia, however, reveal the flaws of Iraq’s new political system, which made state institutions fiefdoms of patronage for sectarian political parties rather than channels for delivering public services. Maliki tried to earn legitimacy beyond just the Shia community, in particular seeking the support of Sunni voters. His confrontation with Massoud Barzani, the president of the semi-independent Iraqi Kurdistan region, over security issues along the disputed border was primarily a move to win the support of the Sunni population there, which is resentful of Kurdish encroachment.
But Maliki has squandered his ability to appeal to the country’s other sects and communities because of his paranoia and ideological bias as a leader of Dawa, the Shia Islamist party. He blames external interference for the current tensions, exploiting images of divisive symbols such as flags of the Saddam era, the Free Syrian Army, and Kurdistan, as well as photos of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And Maliki’s record — his targeting of Sunni politicians, his selective use of law, his influence over the judiciary to ensure rulings in his favor, and his close ties with Iran — confirms that he is prepared to use all means necessary to consolidate power.

Maliki could cling to power by presenting himself as the defender of the Shia in an increasingly tumultuous environment, turning his fear of a regional sectarian conflict into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Al-Qaeda attacks in Iraq are on the rise, provoked by discontent with Maliki and inspired by the Syrian civil war next door. So far this month, al-Qaeda has killed Shia pilgrims in Karbala, a Sunni lawmaker in Anbar, and Kurds in Kirkuk. Meanwhile, other leaders are struggling to remain relevant. The credibility of Sunni government officials is declining, due to their inability to prevent discrimination against their constituents while participating in a system that brings them personal benefits. In the Shia camp, Sadr is moving to the center, positioning himself as a nationalist leader. If Sadr is able to create an alliance with anti-Maliki Sunnis and Kurds — presenting a credible and unifying alternative government — sectarianism could be curbed. However, Maliki might be provoked by such a challenge and clamp down on his rivals even more aggressively.
Politics in Iraq and the surrounding region are increasingly sectarian. Inspired by the rebellion in Syria and supported by the Sunni leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, Iraq’s Sunnis may seek greater autonomy from the Shia-dominated central government in years to come. This need not be the case: in the 2010 national elections, most Sunnis voted for the Iraqiya electoral list, a coalition that defined itself as nonsectarian and was led by a secular Shia politician. But, given the sectarian turn of Iraqi politics, Sunni leaders seem likely to run on one list with a platform built around Sunni grievances in the 2014 national elections. In addition, more hardline Sunni leaders may emerge if the current politicians prove unable to achieve meaningful gains for their communities. Sunni leaders may also, if they manage to overcome their internal divisions, propose an independent Sunni region, similar to the one enjoyed by the Kurds. This would mark the end of Iraqi nationalism and put the survival of the state in question.
Maliki’s efforts to destroy his rivals have drawn him closer to Shia Iran, which has in turn affected regional power dynamics. To counter Iran’s influence, Turkey is now posing as the defender not only of Iraq’s Sunnis but also of its Kurds, even though Turkey has long feared Kurdish nationalism within its own borders. Saudi Arabia, despite its usual counterrevolutionary attitude, is supporting the rebels in Syria in hopes of replacing the Shia-Alawite regime with a Sunni government and undoing the pro-Shia axis that now runs through Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

It is up to Iraq’s politicians, then, to overcome their differences and construct a national platform that addresses the country’s challenges. Any such settlement will require making concessions regarding regional autonomy, internal border disputes, the management and distribution of oil profits, and Baghdad’s foreign policy orientation. Unfortunately, given mutual distrust, the personalization of disputes, and the upcoming electoral season, such compromises do not seem likely — particularly if Maliki insists on remaining in power indefinitely.
The American public is no doubt fatigued by the recent decades of involvement in the country and the region. But to avoid disaster, the United States urgently needs to review its Iraq policy. Washington needs to show the Iraqi people that its intent is not to divide Iraq and keep it weak — even if that appears to have been a main outcome of the U.S. intervention. U.S. President Barack Obama succeeded in keeping his campaign promise of withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. In its second term, the Obama administration should stop supporting a status quo that is driving Iraq toward both authoritarianism and fragmentation. The United States should make clear that it neither condones nor supports the prime minister’s consolidation of power and blatant use of the Iraqi Security Forces — which the United States helped train and equip — to crack down on political opposition. Washington should make its aid to Maliki — or any other Iraqi leader — conditional on his behaving within democratic norms.
In addition, Washington should support Iraqi Shia’s attempts to select a new prime minister and should help facilitate a pact among the country’s elites in order to turn Iraq into a buffer rather than a battlefield state in the volatile region. U.S. engagement in the Middle East should seek to restrain external actors from interfering in Iraq and waging a proxy war there. Washington needs to contain Iran, but should make clear that it is not aligned with Sunnis in a regional sectarian war against Shia. This will require pushing back on Iranian influence in Iraq and simultaneously putting greater pressure on Sunni allies in the region to respect and protect their Shia populations. The United States has invested too much in Iraq to simply ignore these warning signs. Washington should use its diplomatic clout to help prevent further bloodshed.

UPDATE 1-Saudi Arabia, South Korea sign MOU on nuclear power
(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and South Korea have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on the development of nuclear energy, Saudi state news agency SPA said, building on a deal signed in 2011.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Tuesday in Riyadh during an official visit, SPA said.

The MOU calls for South Korean firms to help build at least two small-to-medium sized nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, the South Korean presidential office said in a statement.

« If the two units go ahead, the cost of the contract will be (near) $2 billion, » the statement said.

Saudi Arabia aims to build 17 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power by 2032 as well as around 41 GW of solar capacity. The oil exporter currently has no nuclear power.

Those plans are likely to take until 2040, the head of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE), in charge of overseeing such projects, said in January.

On Tuesday, K.A.Care said in a statement: « The two sides will discuss the current mutual activities and ways and means of future collaboration, building on the bilateral agreement already signed between the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of South Korea in 2011 with a view to develop and apply nuclear energy for peaceful uses. »

That agreement called for cooperation in research and development, as well as in construction and training.

Separately, Saudi Electricity signed four energy-related agreements on Tuesday with U.S. company General Electric as well as South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) , Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction and Eximbank.

The KEPCO agreement calls for cooperation in development of nuclear and renewable energy.

Al Hassan Ghazi Ibrahim Shaker Co. also signed a non-binding MOU with South Korea’s LG Electronics on cooperation in cooling systems for nuclear reactors.

The United Arab Emirates was the first Gulf Arab state to start building a nuclear power plant. In December 2009, the UAE awarded a group led by KEPCO a contract to build four 1,400 MW nuclear reactors to meet surging demand for electricity.

(Reporting by Reem Shamseddine and Brian Kim; editing by Rania El Gamal and Jason Neely)

Voir encore:

Turkey Launches Nuclear Plant Construction, Sparking Protest
ABC

ANKARA, Turkey — Apr 14, 2015

Turkey held a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of parts of its first nuclear reactor, sparking an angry protest by activists.

Activists say Tuesday’s ceremony came despite ongoing court cases against the nuclear plant being built by Russia in Akkuyu, in the Mediterranean coastal province of Mersin.

Protesters blocked a gate leading to the ceremony area, briefly preventing officials from leaving the site. Security forces pushed the activists back with water cannons.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the plant was designed to withstand powerful earthquakes, adding: « There cannot be a developed Turkey without nuclear energy. »

Turkey has chosen a French-Japanese consortium to build the country’s second nuclear plant on the Black Sea coast and also has plans to build a third to reduce the nation’s energy dependence.

Voir encore:

Briton who advised US in Iraq tells how tactics changed after bloody insurgency
Emma Sky, who spent four years in Iraq, says US military started reaching out to groups it had been fighting to stem violence

Nick Hopkins

16 July 2012

The British woman who became adviser to America’s most senior general in Iraq has given an insider’s account of the way the US radically changed tactics to try to stem the violence from 2007 and why military commanders started dealing with insurgents who « had blood on their hands ».

Emma Sky, 44, said she feared Iraq was in danger of becoming « the biggest strategic failure in the history of the US ». She also worried the « surge » strategy, which involved another 20,000 US troops being sent to Baghdad, might make the situation worse.

« There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. Everything had just escalated and escalated. There were occasions when I doubted whether we were ever going to break the back of it, and whether we should call it quits, » she said.

Speaking in detail for the first time about this most turbulent of periods, Sky also describes how:

• Barack Obama’s first trip to Iraq in 2009 almost turned into a diplomatic fiasco.

• She went on secret night trips into some of Baghdad’s most dangerous areas to try to gather information about the strength of the insurgency.

• She became a hostage negotiator to stop a spate of kidnaps escalating into an international crisis involving the Kurds.
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Sky was political adviser to General Ray Odierno, who was commander of all US forces in Iraq, and was also in charge of implementing the overarching « surge » strategy devised by General David Petraeus.

A British liberal who had been against the war in Iraq, she was taken on by the Americans because they respected her judgment and advice, even when it ran directly counter to their own.

Sky spent more than four years in Iraq, and was recruited by Odierno to help him implement the « surge » in 2007. She said the military realised it could not win with might alone, and had to start reaching out to groups that had been waging violence against it.

« I had confidence in our analysis. But I was not sure the strategy would work. Not because I thought it was wrong, but because I worried the situation in Iraq was so out of control our extra forces might only exacerbate the violence, not lessen it, » she said.

« There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. The military has a language that is not accidental, it is used to quarantine emotion. Every day we would hear reports that another 60 or 70 bodies had turned up, heads chopped off or drilled through. It was absolutely horrific. We could tell which groups had been behind the attacks by the way the victims had been killed. »

In the face of this, Sky said, Odierno challenged his soldiers to « understand the causes of instability, to understand the ‘why’ not just describe the ‘what’.

« It meant we would have to start dealing with people we had been fighting and for any commander that is a very difficult thing to do. We couldn’t afford to say: ‘We’ll only deal with people as long as they haven’t got blood on their hands.’ We’ve all got blood on our hands. »

Six months into the campaign, Sky said, things began to change.

« By July we started to feel things were changing. We heard it first from the battalions who described how more and more Iraqis were coming forward to give information about ‘bad guys’, and how insurgents were reaching out to do deals. There were ceasefires everywhere, local agreements, because more and more Iraqis were coming forward wanting to work with us. The intelligence we were getting improved, and the number of Iraqi casualties started to go down. »

When Obama made his first visit to Iraq, a scheduled meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had to be abandoned because White House security staff refused to let the president fly from the American base outside Baghdad to the Green Zone because of bad weather.

Senior Iraqi politicians had always avoided the US base, called Camp Victory, because it was regarded as the seat of the occupation.

With a diplomatic standoff looming, Sky was sent to the Green Zone to see if Maliki could be persuaded to travel by car to meet Obama at the US headquarters.

Maliki was asleep when she arrived.

« So I go over to see the prime minister, who is having his afternoon siesta. I had to wake him up. I said: ‘I am terribly sorry but President Obama cannot come to Green Zone because of the weather and I hate, hate to ask of you, is there any chance you can come to Camp Victory?’ Obama was new. Everyone was excited about him, and Maliki agreed. And if Maliki agreed, then the others would probably come too. »

Inside Iraq: the British peacenik who became key to the US military
Exclusive: How Emma Sky went from anti-war academic to governor of Kirkuk, one of Iraq’s most volatile regions

Nick Hopkins, defence and security correspondent

The Guardian

15 July 2012

On the face of it, Emma Sky was not an obvious candidate to send to Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the war. She had never been to the country before, and had opposed the coalition’s invasion. She had only been to the US once and was instinctively suspicious of the military, perhaps especially the US military.

Yet on Friday, 20 June 2003 , two months after the war began, Sky boarded a flight from RAF Brize Norton, the only woman among 200 soldiers, and headed into the 50C heat and post-conflict chaos of Basra, the city in the south where the British were based.

Two weeks earlier she had been working as an international development adviser for the British Council in Manchester; now she found herself in charge of one of the most volatile regions in Iraq. The journey from north-west England to north-east Iraq owed a lot to fortune, her determination, and some barely scriptable coincidences. But Sky is the first to concede the random nature of her appointment reflected much broader failures in planning and strategy that would ultimately draw the country into a civil war.
Into the breach

Nobody’s ingenue, Sky was certainly used to operating in difficult environments; an Arabist, she had spent 10 years working in Gaza and the West Bank before returning to the UK with the British Council to advise countries in Africa, Asia and south America, on issues such as human rights and governance. When the Foreign Office asked for volunteers to go to Iraq to help with the reconstruction effort, a friend in the civil service prompted Sky to apply.

« I was against the war and I had this idea that I was going to go out to Iraq and apologise to the Iraqis for the invasion, and everything they had experienced, and I would do whatever I could to help them get back on their feet. » A few days and one short phone call later, Sky was told to report to the military air base in Oxfordshire. The Foreign Office did not give her a formal interview or briefing before she left, and she was given no detailed instructions about what to do when she landed. « I had a phone call from someone in the Foreign Office. It wasn’t a long conversation. They said ‘you’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, you’ll be fine’. I was told that there would be someone at the airport waiting for me, carrying a card with my name. When I got to Basra, there was nobody there, and nobody seemed to know I was coming. »

After a sleepless night on the floor in a corridor at Basra airport, Sky hitched a lift on a US Hercules transport plane to Baghdad, and then a military bus into the Republican Palace in the Green Zone. This had become the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) which was supposed to be restoring order to the country.

She tracked down and introduced herself to Sir John Sawers, who was the UK’s special envoy to Iraq, (and is now head of MI6) and spent a week helping out until a proper role was found for her. Life inside the palace was bizarre. « Stately rooms had become dormitories reminiscent of wartime hospitals. At times we showered in mineral water and some days even the floors were washed with mineral water. »

Their dirty laundry was flown to Kuwait for cleaning, and engineers spent days trying to decapitate the four giant heads of Saddam Hussein, which leered from the palace ceilings. Sky says she adapted more easily than most, thanks to her « years at an all boys’ English boarding school that had honed a wide range of survival instincts which proved most useful in the jungle ».

A few days after arriving, she decided to escape into downtown Baghdad on her own – the kind of trip that was already strictly forbidden. She found herself chatting to a man selling cigarettes from a trolley. « I talked to him, he was in his 50s. He said to me ‘it’s a Hobbesian world’. And I was thinking, how does he know about Hobbes? He was referring to all the looting. Iraqis were taking revenge on the state that had controlled their lives for so long. » From the start nothing was quite as it seemed.

Under the leadership of the US diplomat Paul Bremer, the CPA was tasked with reforming and reconstructing the country; but it was always going to struggle, especially in the regions away from Baghdad, where it had fewer people.

Sky was told to fly to northern Iraq because the CPA was short of staff in Erbil, but when she arrived, the posts were already filled, and she was directed to Kirkuk. « They said, ‘we’ve nobody in Kirkuk, so go there’. »

On the border of the autonomous Kurdish area, and 150 miles north of Baghdad, Kirkuk is an ancient, oil-rich city, with tribal rivalries that date back to the Ottoman Empire.

And so this 35-year-old Oxford graduate who had almost fallen out of the Black Hawk helicopter that took her to the city for the first time (« I couldn’t get my harness on and I couldn’t understand why they’d left the door open ») became the governate co-ordinator of this restive area. She reported directly to ambassador Bremer.

In the days before she took up her new post, he invited her to join him on a short tour of the north, which included dinner with the Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani, in the town of Sari Rash. During the meal, Bremer spoke about America’s 4 July Independence Day, which was the next day, and then he turned to Sky for a comment. « I managed to say something about wishing all our former colonies the same success as America. I wondered, how on Earth have I got here? How on Earth had someone like me, a British liberal, become part of a US-led invasion that I had opposed? »

Welcome to Kirkuk

From the airport in Kirkuk, Sky was taken to modern villa near the centre of the city, a base she was supposed to share with a group of American contractors and engineers. But within days, this idea looked a trifle optimistic, as did any notion that a new Iraq would emerge easily from the shadow of the old.

« We received intelligence that the house might be targeted, » said Sky. « We had to turn the lights out at dusk and we slept fully clothed away from the windows. On my fifth night, five mortars were fired at the house. The noise was deafening and seemed to be coming from all sides. We were under attack. I struggled into my body armour and ran down to the safest part of the building where the others were already huddled. We sat in the darkness for what seemed like hours. »

Most of the staff abandoned the villa the following day, but Sky decided to stay. Two nights later, the house was attacked again by gunmen who appeared determined to storm the building. « I woke to the sound of automatic gunfire followed by massive explosions. Dust poured in through the sandbags. I curled up in a ball in bed with my hands over my ears, paralysed by the sound. The attack lasted half an hour … it was only when it was over that I discovered that four rocket propelled grenades had been fired at the house, and one had entered a couple of metres from my bed. »

The private security guards who tried to defend the house believed it was too vulnerable, so Sky accepted the offer of a bunk on the airfield in a US airforce tent, which she shared with seven men. This required her to become expert in the military’s « three-minute showers (30 seconds to soap, two and a half minutes to rinse).

Narrowly avoiding death within her first week was an inauspicious start to her governorship, and the task ahead remained unclear. This was underlined to her a few days later when Sawers arrived in Kirkuk on his farewell tour of the country. He invited Sky to join his entourage, and during the trip, she sought his advice. « His parting advice to me was to become a trusted partner to all groups and to get to know the Turkmen, » she said. « And that, in essence, was as far as guidance from CPA went in the early months. »

With few staff of her own, no orders from Baghdad, and reliant on the US military for protection, Sky concluded there was only one way to get anything done. She would have to work with the 3,500 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade who were based on the outskirts of the city.

« I was a British civilian volunteer who had arrived accidentally in Kirkuk. I looked around and decided to work closely with the military. They were the ones with the power, with the resources, with the bureaucracy. I could spend all my time watching what they do and reporting back on all their mistakes, or I could look at how to work with them. So I rolled up my sleeves, knuckled down. I learned the rank structure, the handshakes, the jokes, the code. »

Sky did this with some trepidation – she had never worked with the military before – and some of those she spoke to at first did their best to confirm her fears. One American officer told her working in Iraq was « like being on Planet of the Apes ». And she heard soldiers referring to Iraqis as « haji », which is an honorific in Arabic, but was being used in a derogatory way, as a racial slur. Some mocked the Iraqi people for living in mud huts, wearing « man dresses » and giving « man kisses ».

« They had come into contact with an ancient civilisation with people who knew their lineage back through centuries, who had survived under the harshest of dictatorships. They did not understand the people they were dealing with. » Sometimes offence was caused unwittingly. In one effort to foster relations with community leaders, the US air force invited a group of dignitaries to a military entertainment show. The « tops and stripes » evening included a mildly racy dance involving women flipping up their skirts. The guests walked out, quickly followed by Sky, who assured them that no offence had been intended.
Abu Ghraib
Iraqi inmates line up for a body search in Abu Ghraib prison: the detention of young men and evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib radicalised many Iraqis. Photograph: John Moore/AP

Sky set about learning the history of Kirkuk and ventured out into the city, in her soft-topped car, to speak to people about their problems. The military seemed genuinely perplexed that Iraqis seemed so hostile. « The brigade viewed themselves as liberators and were angry that Iraqis were not more grateful. One of the questions put to me was, ‘what do we need to do to be loved?’ I told them that people who invaded other peoples’ countries, and killed people who were no threat to them, would never be loved. I said that after the first Gulf war which killed 100,000 Iraqis, a decade of sanctions with the devastating effects on health, education and economy, and the humiliating defeat of the second Gulf war, I could well understand why Iraqis were shooting at us. »

Sky found an unlikely kindred spirit in Colonel William Mayville, the brigade commander with a cowboy swagger. They shared the same goal – to help Kirkuk get on its feet so the military could withdraw. And he also believed – wrongly – her presence heralded the arrival of an army of civilians that would enable his brigade to go home. One of the US military’s rising stars, Mayville loved listening to opera and had a team of highly educated officers – all of which came as a surprise to Sky. As did their willingness to listen to this opinionated Englishwoman who had appeared in their midst.
The restless natives

Sky was included in all classified « battle update briefs » about security operations, and discussions about what the military should be doing next. When she arrived in Kirkuk, the military was running everything in the city. But that was part of the problem. Sky said success should be defined as Kirkukis running their own affairs: the job of the coalition was not to do it for them, but to help them do it themselves.

She and Mayville formed « team government » – a military and civilian partnership, developing ideas that were later reflected in America’s new counter-insurgency strategy. They established the Kirkuk Development Commission to kickstart the local economy. And they also encouraged Iraqis to register any complaints they had about the coalition, including damage done to property during raids.

The two shared an office on the first floor of an old government building in the city centre. « Every day, there were long queues outside our door, with Kirkukis wanting to tell us about weapons of mass destruction or sightings of Saddam. Others were asking for jobs or complaining about services. It was madness, » said Sky.

Among the myriad issues were two that were intertwined; the property claims of 250,000 Kurds who had been expelled from their homes in the city during the 1970s – when Saddam Hussein set out to « arabise » Kirkuk by moving hundreds of families there from the south. The second issue was whether Kirkuk should secede from Iraq and become part of the Kurdish enclave in the north.

Sky urged the CPA to give Kirkuk special status because of its unique make-up; she met the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, when they made flying visits to the city. She argued Kirkuk needed to be exempted from the rush to Iraqi governance the CPA was demanding in other areas. On 19 September 2003, Sky was summoned to a meeting in Baghdad with Bremer and his deputy, the British diplomat Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

Her idea, she says, « was torpedoed » because of concerns that a precedent might be set. Bremer promised Sky that Kirkuk would be treated as a priority – but it wasn’t, because there were so many other priorities.

Sky didn’t find any mourning for Saddam, but she sensed growing anger about decisions taken in Baghdad that had dire consequences on the ground. « I had arrived ready to apologise to every Iraqi for the war. Instead I had listened to a litany of suffering and pain under Saddam for which I was quite unprepared. The mass graves, the details of torture, the bureaucratisation of abuse. The pure banality of evil. But the Iraqis also had huge expectations of the US. After every war Saddam rebuilt the country in six months, so their attitude was, ‘imagine what the US can do after six months. America can put a man on the moon … you wait’. »

Sky admits the CPA simply could not meet these expectations and no amount of hard work from many experienced British and American volunteers could make up for the lack of planning before the invasion. It left the CPA – which was assembled in haste and from scratch – attempting to restore public services, disband the security forces and build new ones, as well as introduce a free market and democracy. « No organisation would have been able to implement such an agenda, particularly without the consent of the population. Those in Baghdad struggled to cope with the daily crises, whilst those in the provinces were often left to their own devices. Some Americans believed Iraq could become a democracy that would serve as a model for the region. Most Iraqis had not consented to this experiment, or to being occupied by foreign forces. »

Driven on by « zealous Iraqi exiles who had no proper constituency », Sky says some senior members of the CPA and the US government seemed to see Iraq as « an experiment, an incubator for bringing in democracy ».

One of the most contentious CPA orders involved the « de-Ba’athification » of society. This demanded that any member of Saddam’s Ba’ath party at grade four level and above should be dismissed, regardless of whether there was any evidence of actual complicity in crimes. Thousands of professional people in Kirkuk lost their jobs at a stroke – including teachers and doctors.

« Demonising the Ba’ath party to this degree was dangerous, » said Sky. « The whole process hit us very, very hard. It did not affect all communities evenly. Some Sunni areas ended up with no doctors in their hospitals and no teachers in their schools. What did the coalition really know about Iraq? Nothing. De-Ba’athification was based on de-Nazification. It didn’t bring catharsis, or justice. It became highly politicised and brought more and more anger. Everybody who had stayed in Iraq had, in order to survive, become complicit to some way with the regime. But instead of saying we have all suffered, and let’s talk about how we deal with the past, this pitted people against each other. De-Ba’athification became a witch-hunt. I don’t think any society could have withstood what we did to it in terms of disbanding the security forces and sacking its civil servants. »

Sky said the brigade started to become « contemptuous of the CPA and its lack of clear policies and obstruction of their work. Their experiences of Iraq led the military to regard most civilians and their agencies as largely incompetent and impotent ».

A fresh insurgency

Sky realised many local Sunni Arabs were joining an emerging insurgency because they felt excluded from the Shia-led Iraq. « Iraqis felt humiliated by the presence of foreign troops on their soil. Right from the outset, there was resistance from former regime members as well as foreign fighters who entered the country to fight jihad. But it was the de-Ba’athication and dissolving of the military that led many Sunnis to believe that there was no future for them and to oppose the coalition as well as the Iraqi leaders they had put in power. »

The US commander in overall charge of the Kirkuk region, Major General Ray Odierno, issued an amnesty to teachers and doctors caught up in de-Ba’athification in an attempt to defuse the issue. But Baghdad controlled the payroll and cut them off.

A mix of resentments and fears fuelled violence to a level nobody had foreseen. « The US military was not trained or prepared to deal with such a situation and they met violence with violence. There were continuous raids and mass round-ups of military-aged males. There were no suitable facilities to hold the detainees, nor systems to process them, and many became radicalised in detention. » Worst of all, she says, was the evidence that US soldiers were abusing detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.

Kirkuk did not escape the bloodshed, and its victims included community leaders Sky had encouraged to help her shape the city’s new landscape. « I had worked in places overseas for a long time, but I had not worked with people who had been killed, or had been killed because of their relationship with me. I spent a lot of time with the provincial council and about a quarter of the people on council were killed. There was always that sense that we had come into their lives and said, ‘who is going to stand up and serve their province?’, and they had come forward, and some of them had been killed. If we had never come into their lives that would never have happened. Some were killed because they stood forward to join the council, some were killed because they were seen as close to the coalition. I can still see their faces, I remember going to their funerals, speaking to their kids. »

By February 2004, Sky had returned to work at the CPA’s headquarters in Baghdad, where life had become even more stressful for its staff. The number of attacks on the Green Zone had reached such a level that people had stopped running to the shelters when the siren sounded – and the siren didn’t always sound.

Beyond the wire and thick bomb-resistant walls, fliers were appearing all over the capital denouncing the occupation. « Everyone was working incredibly hard but I wasn’t convinced we knew who we were fighting, or why they were fighting. » One man who knew that Sky brought a different perspective on Iraq was Odierno, who had a fearsome reputation as an « old school » soldier.

He had watched Sky reaching out to people in Kirkuk and liked the way she worked with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. In almost all respects, Sky and Odierno were different; she is diminutive, precise and controlled. Shaven-headed and muscular, Odierno is a giant, whose military call sign was Iron Horse. He and Sky developed a rapport that became as important as it was unlikely. « Odierno never questioned why one of his commanders had brought in a British civilian woman into an American brigade. I found him honest, straightforward and direct. Whenever he arrived in Kirkuk, we felt a huge sense of relief. He always gave us support and asked how he could help. And he always asked my opinion about why the violence was happening. I think he recognised the solutions were not simply military ones. »

When Odierno returned to Iraq two and a half years later to lead US forces during « the surge », the general decided he needed more than military might to stop Iraq’s vicious civil war. He asked Sky to join his team.

Voir encore:

Inside Iraq: ‘We had to deal with people who had blood on their hands’
Exclusive: Emma Sky – a British civilian who advised US commanders in Iraq – explains how the surge changed military tactics, and why Obama’s Baghdad trip almost ended in disaster

Part one of our exclusive interview with Emma Sky

Nick Hopkins

The Guardian

16 July 2012

Emma Sky was at her home in Wandsworth, south-west London in September 2006, when she received an email from a friend in the US. At first she tried to ignore it. But Sky knew she wouldn’t refuse him his unusual request.

The author was General Raymond T Odierno, one of the US army’s most senior officers. He was about to return to Iraq to head « Phantom Corps » in a last ditch attempt to stop violence tearing the country apart.

And he wanted Sky to go with him as his political adviser.

« I hadn’t been in Iraq for two years and had just done a six-month tour in Afghanistan, so the email came as something of a surprise. When he asked me to return I was flattered. I also felt that if anyone could make a difference in Iraq it was Odierno. The general is a good listener, he doesn’t think he knows the whole truth, he is intellectually curious. He is prepared to take in ideas, and then make decisions. That’s why I was prepared to return at the worst of times. »

The presence of a British woman at his side would prove controversial and unpopular in some quarters, particularly at the US state department, but the stakes were high and Odierno was evidently prepared to take a risk.

The general had been criticised for his aggressive approach to security in the months after the invasion, though Sky says he took the blame for circumstances beyond his control, and she did not find him to be « some brutal unthinking monster who suddenly had a complete change of personality ».

Sky believed he wanted her to help challenge the army’s punch first instincts, raise with him things he might not want to hear, as well as offer advice he couldn’t get « in-house ». « He didn’t want me to comply and he didn’t pigeonhole me. »

The situation in Iraq at the time was desperate. The violence in Iraq had morphed from an insurgency into sectarian conflict. The al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had provoked a civil war between Sunni and Shias that would take the country close to collapse.

In 2006, 16,564 Iraqi civilians died, including 3,389 in September, the highest amount for any month during the conflict. Coalition casualties were also high; 873 troops were killed that year, 823 of them American. Inevitably, political support for continuing the military campaign was ebbing away in Washington and London.

Nevertheless, the US president George Bush was poised to disregard the advice of some of his closest advisers – and most commentators too – to announce he was sending an extra 20,000 troops to Iraq, most of them into the cauldron of Baghdad.

The surge was a gamble. It seemed then, and with hindsight remains, an astonishing risk taken by a president who had stopped believing those people who said the violence was being provoked solely by the presence of US forces.

With thousands of extra troops heading for Iraq, Odierno set up headquarters in the vast US military base outside Baghdad near the airport, the unfortunately named Camp Victory.

Sky was given her own basic accommodation and was expected to accompany the general everywhere he went.

Emma Sky became a core member of General Odierno’s team and went everywhere he went. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian Linda Nylind/Guardian

She became a core member of Odierno’s handpicked team, which included of some of the best officers in the military, all of them Iraq veterans.

Specifically, Odierno wanted Sky to help him work out an operational plan. A process, she said, that could only begin with a brutal acknowledgment of previous tactics.

« During one of our first discussions, I told him that the situation in Iraq was a disaster and perhaps the biggest strategic failure in the history of the US, » said Sky.

« His response was, ‘what are we going to do about it? We cannot leave it like this’. There was no denial about the extent of the problem. »

« We spent many hours discussing the depth of the problem and what needed to be done. Sometimes it was just me and him, at the end of the day, sitting at Camp Victory on his balcony, and he’s smoking cigars. Sometimes we are at his office and he’s brought in a small team of people. But every day we would be up late talking about why people are using violence. »

« There was a power struggle going on at every level, a communal struggle for power and resources. I knew from my time in Kirkuk that politics drives this kind of instability, and that politics needs to be managed to bring down violence. I believed Iraqis were using violence to achieve political goals. We had to stop stigmatising these people. We had to stop calling these people the enemy. We needed to identify all the different the groups and ask, ‘why are they fighting? What are the drivers of instability?' »
Implementing Fardh al-Qanoon

The overall strategy was masterminded by General David Petraeus, who had spent months in the US developing a new counter-insurgency doctrine.

In February 2007, he arrived in Baghdad to assume command of all coalition forces in Iraq, and reviewed the plans drawn up by Odierno’s team about where and how the extra troops should be deployed.

« The operational details for the surge were left to General Odierno, » said Sky.

An important part of the new campaign involved separating the people who might be persuaded to abandon violence, the so-called « reconcilables », from those who were not. The former would not be targeted by Special Forces operations, the latter could be.

The men in charge of this were General Petraeus’ deputy, Graeme Lamb, a former director of UK special forces, and the American General Stanley McChrystal.

« The irreconcilables were those people who essentially believed that you have to destroy the nation-state to build the caliphate. But you have to be really careful deciding who can be won over, and who can’t. It meant we would have to start dealing with people we had been fighting and for any commander that is a very difficult thing to do. We couldn’t afford to say ‘we’ll only deal with people as long as they haven’t got blood on their hands’. We’ve all got blood on our hands, » Sky says.

Referring to where he was going to put the « wedge », and who could be put in his « squeeze box », Lamb drew up « Restricted Target Lists » – the names and details of those Iraqis that could not be targeted in operations because they were talking to the military. McChrystal dealt with those who refused to compromise.

Once Odierno’s plans had been endorsed by Petraeus, he and Sergeant Major Neil Ciotola travelled the length and breadth of Iraq to visit the troops and explain the new tactics. Sky was always at Odierno’s side.

The campaign was given an Arabic name, Fardh al-Qanoon – imposing the law. As an important first step, US troops began to move out of their bases to live among the local population.

And they had to do two things which were fundamentally counter-intuitive; prioritise protecting the population rather than trying to defeat the enemy; secondly, reach out to the armed groups which were killing civilians and soldiers.

« The general challenged his soldiers to understand the causes of instability, to understand the ‘why’ not just describe the ‘what’. » He would tell the soldiers, ‘the average Iraqi is just like you and me, they want to have their breakfast, take their kids to school and go to work. They are good people they are not our enemy’. People were using violence to achieve political objectives, so we had to create a process where they could achieve their objectives without violence. I had confidence in our analysis. But I was not sure the strategy would work. Not because I thought it was wrong, but because I worried the situation in Iraq was so out of control our extra forces might only exacerbate the violence, not lessen it. »

In those first months, there were few signs of progress and there was violence everywhere they went.

« You can hear it, you can smell it, it is all around. We would go to the hospitals to visit the wounded. We would attend memorial and ramp services for the dead. Every day, the general would be slipped a note with details of casualties which went up and up. We lost over a hundred soldiers a month in April, May and June 2007. In the past, I had been a spectator, an observer. I had never been involved in the decision-making to send our soldiers somewhere. It’s not like being a politician sitting in London. We were living among these men. People I knew died out there, and I am asking myself, ‘what have we sent them out to die for?’

« For weeks and weeks this went on. And every day, the general would talk to commanders and troops, explain the strategy, listen to their concerns, boost their morale. He would tell them that he knew it was so tough in this gruelling heat to put on body armour and go out day after day on raids. And the general continued telling them that they were making a difference, and all the little tactical successes were helping the strategy. »

Sky said she never felt in danger herself, though with hindsight, she accepts her confidence may have been misplaced.

« We were on our way to Mosul when our plane got shot at and we started to take evasive action. Then the door at the back of the plane fell open and we had to get it closed, and on the ground there was shooting, and when we got in a vehicle and it was hit by an IED. But I never had a sense that I was going to die, and I was sure the General could not die. I thought, this is not where the story ends. »

Sky said she found many of the daily security briefings distressing.

« We’d have power point presentations with pictures of men who’ve had half their brains blown out. Some things you never forget … the smell of burning bodies. I didn’t want to learn to cope with these images. The military talk about KIAs (killed in action). That’s how they cope. They don’t say, the victims were women and children. There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. The military has a language that is not accidental, it is used to quarantine emotion. Everyday we would hear reports that another 60 or 70 bodies had turned up, heads chopped off or drilled through. It was absolutely horrific. We could tell which groups had been behind the attacks by the way the victims had been killed. »

« It can be very lonely being in command and the general appreciated having a confidante. As commander you have to show leadership, you can’t show you have doubts, you have to be strong. But I was a civilian outside the chain of command who could say ‘how are you feeling, are you alright, has it been a bad day? We were not peers and he was always in charge. But I could be more of a friend to him. »
The awakening

Within two months of the launch of the new campaign, al-Qaida militants had claimed responsibility for an audacious suicide bomb attack on the Iraqi parliament in the heart of the fortified Green Zone; two of the bridges in the capital were also hit by truck bombs. These « spectaculars » inevitably raised further doubts about the surge among Iraqi politicians and, privately, among military commanders.

But these incidents proved to be the high-water mark. « When the insurgents blew up the parliament, everyone in Iraq was probably thinking ‘this isn’t going to work’. Of course there were nights when I thought, we are bringing more violence and it is causing more violence, but is it actually going to break the violence. Everything had just escalated and escalated … there were occasions when I doubted whether we were ever going to break the back of it, and whether we should call it quits.

« But by July we started to feel things were changing. We heard it first from the battalions who described how more and more Iraqis were coming forward to give information about ‘bad guys’, and how insurgents were reaching out to do deals. There were ceasefires everywhere, local agreements, because more and more Iraqis were coming forward wanting to work with us. The intelligence we were getting improved, and the number of Iraqi casualties started to go down. »

Separately, the « awakening » in Anbar, which had begun a year earlier, began to have its own important effect. Anbar had been the most violent of all Iraq’s provinces, a place where Sunni tribal leaders had joined forces with al-Qaida to fight American forces. That was until those same tribal chiefs began to see al-Qaida as a greater threat to them, and turned to the US military for help to drive the insurgents out of the region.

This process had begun before the surge, but the Fardh al-Qanoon programme put the US in a better position to work with, and build trust between, sheiks who had spent the previous four years waging vicious conflict against American forces.

« The Sunnis could see we were trying to push back on the Shia extremists, and I think that had a huge affect, » said Sky. « With the awakening happening and spreading, it created the environment for the Sunnis to come back into society. This started before the surge when the Anbaris became sick of al-Qaida. In that wonderful way people in the region can switch alliances, they just changed side. One minute they are wearing al-Qaida patches on their sleeves, and the next they are taking them off and calling themselves ‘Sahwa’ (Awakening). They saw they could get American help, and they regarded Iran, and the Shia militias it supported, as the bigger threat, and decided to align with the US to fight them. »
Talking to Bassima

While tentative progress was being made out on the ground by the military, Sky was tasked with talking to the Iraqi government and assuaging some of their fears.

One unexpected consequence of the campaign was that Shia leaders had begun to worry that through the ever-increasing awakening the US was creating a Sunni army that would eventually overthrow them.

Sky decided to approach Dr Bassima al-Jaidri, the military adviser of the Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Jaidra was remarkable in many ways. She was a young Shia, in her late 30s. She had been a rocket engineer. And she was tough. Sky admits that some in the military suspected she was a « leader of the Shia death squads across Baghdad ». Such criticism didn’t seem to faze her at all.

When she was denounced by the US for her unwillingness to include Sunnis in the higher echelons of the new Iraqi security forces, she said: « I have had a long struggle with men … I can handle the American officers. »

Over the summer and autumn, Sky made regular helicopter trips into the Green Zone to speak to Al-Jaidra, who was known for wearing the striking combination of stiletto heels and a veil.

The meetings would take place in her office which was part of the prime minister’s office.

« I thought, I cannot go to speak to Maliki directly, so the best way to influence him is through Bassima. I think it would be fair to say she is not an easy woman. I would try to explain to her what we were doing and why.

« The Iraqi government could not accept some of the people we were doing deals with. To them they were bad Ba’athists, terrorists, and the awakening was creating a militia which could be a danger to the state.

« They were so suspicious of our motives … and they could not believe that the US had gone into Iraq without a grand plan. They assumed that this was all part of a conspiracy by the US to purposefully destroy Iraq, keep it weak and humiliate its people. I tried to get her to understand our position and how we had got there, and vice-versa. »

To encourage Iraqi government support for the awakening, Odierno had been relaying to the prime minister « good news » stories he had received from his commanders about the Sons of Iraq, the term the US used to described the awakening.

« But Maliki was only hearing bad news from his people on the ground. He therefore assumed the US was plotting a coup against him using the Sons of Iraq! When you ask your commanders for good news, you get good news. If you ask for bad news, you get bad news. »

Sky said it took « weeks and weeks » to earn Al-Jaidra’s trust. It helped that they were women in similar positions. « We were both working for big men. We were the same age, and neither of us had married. And we were both trying to bring our bosses closer together.

Sky persuaded Al-Jaidra that it would be better, and safer, for the government to integrate the new groups emerging around the country into the Iraqi security forces, rather than ostracise them.

In December 2007, Odierno and Maliki were at a meeting of the National Security Conference in Baghdad. When Odierno set out why the awakening needed to be integrated into Iraq’s security and the plan to do so, Maliki commented: « I agree with the general 100%. »

« Some people in the room gasped, » said Sky. « It was a hugely important moment. That year we went from being in hell to bringing the violence down. »
Iraq Inquiry opens in London
Tony Blair in Iraq in May 2007: when the prime minister met Emma Sky he asked if she really was British and why she was working with the US military. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/EPA

In 2007, 15,960 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence. In 2008, the number had come down to 4,859. US casualties went from 904 in 2007 to 314 in 2008.
The British

Sky was at the heart of the US military machine and her advice was being sought at the top of the political pyramid. But she says she only ever met British diplomats when she accompanied Odierno to embassy meetings.

When Tony Blair made his last visit to Iraq in May 2007, Sky was introduced to him by Petraeus and Odierno. They told the prime minister their senior adviser was from the UK.

He said: « Are you really British? I assured him that I was British born and bred. He then asked, ‘so how come you are working with the US military?’ I replied, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. »

To end any suspicions, Sky says she was not and never has worked for MI6.

Sky saw what the British were doing from the US side of the fence. More than 40,000 British troops took part in the 2003 invasion but, by 2007, it seemed the UK was losing control of the south to the Iran-backed Shia militias of the cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

And there was little political appetite to win back this territory. The early confidence that led senior members of the British military to boast to the Americans about their experience in counter-insurgency had evaporated.

« This was a time when the British were saying, ‘the problem in Basra is the British presence’, so the Brits were intending to pull out. » Sky remembers one conversation with an American general. « He said to me, ‘we are surging and the Brits are de-surging’. He didn’t know the opposite of surge. »

Sky added: « The British public support for this war was always very low. In America they are much more supportive of the military and even though you saw public opinion turning against the Iraq war, it wasn’t to the level that it was in Britain. Of course the Americans wished the British forces were bigger and had more resources, but to be perfectly honest, the British think far more about what the Americans think of them than the Americans think about them. » At the end of the day, the Americans were grateful to have the British as a close ally.

In March 2008, 30,000 troops from the Iraqi army surged into Basra to clear the city of Shia militias; the operation was called the Charge of the Knights. The British were peripherally involved, mostly giving medical and logistical help.

Brigadier Julian Free, commander of British troops in Basra at the time, admitted the UK could do little more. « We didn’t have enough capacity in the air and we didn’t have enough capability on the ground. »
David Petraeus , Ray Odierno,
General Petraeus contacted Sky to ask how they could persuade General Odierno to replace him as commanding general of all coalition forces in Iraq. Photograph: Dusan Vranic/AP

All of which meant the British inevitably left Iraq under a cloud. « The Sadrists will always claim that they are the ones who won in the south, and pushed the British out, » said Sky. « And I think the Iraqi government will claim that the British didn’t stand there and fight. »

With the British hamstrung by lack of numbers, and with Prime Minister Maliki overestimating the capabilities of his own forces, the US had to intervene to stop the Charge of the Knights turning into another disaster.

« The risk of failing in Basra would have been catastrophic for the country, » Sky said.

The end game

AT the end of 2007, Sky left Iraq for what she thought was the last time.

But three months later there was an unexpected reshuffle at the top of the US military. The officer in charge of US Central Command (Centcom), Admiral William Fallon, was forced to resign after an article in Esquire magazine, written with his cooperation, claimed he was opposed to President Bush’s approach to Iran. In the rearrangement, Petraeus was to leave Iraq to take command from Centcom and Odierno was asked to return to replace him as the commanding general of all coalition forces in Iraq.

« I was walking in the hills in France when I got this email from Gen Petraeus saying, how can we persuade Odierno to accept to come back to replace me in Iraq. General Odierno had been separated from his family for so long and had been so looking forward to going home. Within months, he was told he was being sent back to Iraq. For senior commanders, they get little choice. The poor guy, I felt so sorry for him. But General Odierno was going to go regardless. For him it was duty. And if he goes, and he wants my help, I go. That’s a given. »

Sky spent two months working for Petraeus in Baghdad in May and June, and then returned to Iraq as Odierno’s adviser shortly before he arrived in September. This time, with broader responsibilities, she was based in the US embassy in Baghdad, but still accompanied Odierno to all his meetings.

Not everyone was pleased.

« One of the general’s staff told me that everybody hated me. Someone else said to me ‘if you send anymore emails to the general we will destroy you, get rid of you’. Staff like to feel they are controlling the general and they did not like him getting different ideas from me. It was upsetting, but I felt the mission was important. If I’d thought the general didn’t value me there is no way I would have put up with that shit. I didn’t tell the general about it. He had enough things going on. You certainly need thick skin to work with some in the military. »

But such incidents were isolated, and most of Odierno’s staff accepted her.

The key initial task was on negotiating a status of forces agreement, the legal basis that allowed the US to remain in the country, and for how long. Sky, the Englishwoman, was asked to represent the US military during the talks.

With a UN resolution due to expire, getting an agreement was essential before the end of 2008. « I was on of a small team under the US ambassador Ryan Crocker. If we didn’t get it, the US would have to withdraw 150,000 troops within two or three months, they’d have to pack up and go home. And if the US went home, the Iraqis wouldn’t get their help anymore. »

« There were times when I really thought this isn’t going to happen, it really came down to the wire. Some of the Iraqis were scared the agreement made the prime minister too strong and wanted reassurances. We had already done a contingency plan on the basis we’d have to leave. But, at the last moment, an agreement was signed. It specified that the military had to be out of the cities by the end of June 2009, and out of Iraq completely by 2011. »

After so many years of fighting in Iraq, it was natural the military would find it difficult to let go.

« General Odierno would go out visiting troops and they would always say, ‘security isn’t good enough, there is still a risk, we cannot leave’. But by letting go, our relationship with Iraqis would improve. So the general had to get them to understand that success was something different now. We were shifting from counter-insurgency to stability, and putting Iraqis in the lead was the priority. When you do counter-insurgency the focus is protecting the people. In stabilisation, the priority is building up the institutions. »

As the change in military posture and preparations for withdrawal continued, Sky remembers tensions between the military and the state department. Some of the embassy officials were on their first tours to Iraq and didn’t seem as committed as their predecessors or the soldiers.

« One of the diplomats told me it was like being handed a bus with no wheels on, and I said, at least you recognise it as a bus. In the last few years you couldn’t even recognise it as a bus. »
Secret trips into Baghdad

Because Sky wasn’t in the military chain of command, and because she wasn’t an American, nobody could actually stop her leaving the confines of the Green Zone to get out among Iraqis.

These trips gave Sky a chance to speak to Iraqis and see places for herself, picking up valuable on-the-ground understanding she could feed back to the general and his staff.

« Everyone was under all these regulations. I was supposed to be as well, but being a non-American, and not coming under the British either, I was in a unique situation and Odierno trusted my judgment. I would travel at night around Baghdad to get a sense of what it was like so I could report back on different areas. I was going out with and among Iraqis. I could see if the Iraqis were working the checkpoints properly, if the electricity was on. Things like that can help give commanders the confidence to let go.

« In some places, I’d get people from the area to take me around. I was going in and out of Sadr city (a district of Baghdad), which the Americans regarded as one of the most dangerous places on earth at the time. »

The year before, Sky had helped work on the ceasefire of Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), an Iraqi paramilitary group created by Al-Sadr, so she already knew some of its members.

« I knew some of them, and I had built up a relationship with them. They had their own lives and their own motivations. Iraqis are the most extraordinary people, they might distrust each other but they can be remarkably open to an outsider. »

Sky said she did not feel in danger – the people she relied upon to keep her safe on her trips into the city’s underworld were taking high risks too.

« I think they felt responsible for me. I was a woman on my own, and they took good care of me. The people who would have done me harm, would have done them harm too. So if the security was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. Although the risk of kidnapping was real, I was not worried that I would be taken. I trusted the Iraqis with my life, I trusted them completely. »

Sky would travel from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. « In some areas there was still something sinister, completely dark. And in others, you didn’t get that at all. You could see areas coming back to life. When women and children are in the streets you know they must feel safe. Even Sadr city started to buzz, and that was very exciting. »

During the day, Sky would occasionally have meetings with Iraqis at the Rashid Hotel in the Green Zone. One meeting made a particular impression. « I thought this man was just an angry Sunni, and we were trying to find common ground. We had tea together. A little later I discovered he had been arrested and was the al-Qaida emir for northern Iraq. I don’t know how he managed to get into the Green Zone. »

Sky still keeps in touch with some of the Iraqis she knew then, including one member of JAM, who sends her a Valentine’s card every year.

Obama’s first Iraqi trip
When Obama was unable to go to the Green Zone to meet Maliki, Sky played a key role in getting the Iraqi prime minister to go to Camp Victory to meet the US president. Photograph: the Guardian The Guardian

The election of Barack Obama didn’t change US plans to pull back from Iraq according to the timetable set by George Bush.

But Obama-mania was still very much alive when he made his first visit to Baghdad in April, 2009. He was mobbed by US troops, and Iraq’s senior politicians and tribal leaders were enthusiastic to meet him too.

Though not reported at the time, Sky says the trip so nearly ended in acute embarrassment for all sides.

The problem was something even the leader of the free world could not control; the weather.

« Obama was supposed to land at Camp Victory and then go by helicopter to the Green Zone to meet the Iraqi prime minister and other Iraqi politicians. But the weather was so bad the helicopters couldn’t fly. The president’s security people were saying there’s no way he will travel by road to the ceremony, and the US embassy was saying there’s no way the Iraqi politicians will come to Camp Victory, the seat of the occupation. And I am saying, there’s no way the president can come to Iraq and not see Iraqis. It is their country, he has to meet them. It would be a disaster if he didn’t. » Odierno told Sky to try to persuade Prime Minister Maliki to drive to Camp Victory.

« So I go over to see the prime minister, who is having his afternoon siesta. I had to wake him up. I said ‘I am terribly sorry but President Obama cannot come to the Green Zone because of the weather and I hate, hate to ask of you, is there any chance you can come to Camp Victory?’ Obama was new. Everyone was excited about him, and Maliki agreed. And if Maliki agreed, then the others would probably come too. »

In the Green Zone, nobody else knew about the looming crisis. « President Talabani had got the band playing and was waiting for Obama to arrive, and I am trying to focus on getting Maliki to Camp Victory. You have to remember that a lot of these politicians don’t get on at all, and we still had to decide the order of who sees Obama, when and where. »

Odierno’s residence in Camp Victory became the emergency reception area and Sky travelled with the prime minister’s convoy on the way out to the base. There were myriad security check-points along the route and Sky knew the prime minister would take umbrage if he was stopped anywhere along the drive, and U-turn back to the Green Zone.

« I was in the first car, sending messages to the military to open the checkpoint gates. At every one I jumped out, waved my military badge and shouted. ‘Prime Minister of Iraq, open the gate’. It was a miracle that we got him in without a major diplomatic incident. » President Talabani arrived soon after, but there was nowhere for him to wait before his audience with Obama. « We ended up putting him the bedroom of Odierno’s bodyguard. There was laundry all over the bed. »

Sky attended all the meetings between the Iraqis and Obama, and Odierno introduced them. Despite the chaos, and the opportunities for bruised egos, the visit ended without any major diplomatic incidents.

To Sky’s surprise, Maliki was so impressed with his tour around Camp Victory that he thought it would make a good site to hold the Arab Summit in 2010.

« The next day in our staff meeting General Odierno told his chief of staff to come up with a feasibility study to get all US soldiers out of Camp Victory in 2010 just in case the prime minister asked about it again. The chief of staff almost had a heart attack. »
Hostages

Although the ceasefires between Sunnis and Shia were holding, tensions in the north had increased between Kurds and Arabs.

The president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, and Iraq’s Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, did not get on well, which didn’t help matters when, as Sky put it, « things began to get a bit dodgy in the north » – Kurdish peshmerga forces were squaring up to Iraqi security forces.

One episode reflected the difficulties; there had been a spate of bomb attacks close to the town of Hawija, just south of Kirkuk, which had been blamed on al-Qaida. Sky suspected it wasn’t insurgents, but local Arabs fearful that their town was about to be overrun by the Kurdish peshmerga.

« I was sitting in the office in Baghdad when someone showed me a map of where all the different forces were due to be stationed, including peshmerga south of Kirkuk. I thought this upsurge in violence isn’t al-Qaida, it is the Hawija Arabs. They are angry. So Gen Odierno told me to accompany one of his generals to speak to the sheiks.

« The sheikhs are not an easy lot but I had known them since 2003. I told them the peshmerga would not be positioned south of Kirkuk. And they said, ‘thank God, we had to put plant all these road side bombs because we were worried you were letting them in’. This is how they saw things so they took their own defensive action. »

Matters came to a head in Nineveh in February 2010, when the province’s new Arab governor, Atheel Najafi, decided he was going to test his freedom of movement by taking a trip into an area of his province which was predominantly Kurdish.

« The governor is supposed to have freedom of movement, but the Kurds said he can’t go in there. The Americans said he could, as part of an agreement that we had brokered.

« So the Americans escort the governor and the Kurds send reinforcements and things begin to escalate, and then shots are fired at the governor.

« The US brought tanks to a Kurdish village, and are flying F16 fighters overhead to try to calm the situation. And then the Iraqi security forces arrested some Kurds for trying to assassinate the governor. »

It was not an end to the affair.

« I was woken up at 2am by the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, who had received a report from Ankara that the Kurds had invaded Mosul. I didn’t know what he was talking about and was desperate to find out what was going on.

« This was really very bad, definitely up there in the list of the most stressful events I have ever had to deal with. There hadn’t been an invasion, but the Kurds had kidnapped a number of Arabs in Nineveh in response to the arrests. So we had a group of Kurds detained in Mosul, and an group of Arabs had been taken in retaliation. »

Sky said the US embassy insisted that men accused of attempting to assassinate the governor should be put on trial, in accordance with the rule of law.

« When I mentioned this to the Kurds, they screamed at me ‘there is no rule of law in Iraq’. Every time Barzani turned on his TV, they were showing the American tanks and the F16s. He was furious… »

Odierno told Sky to find a pragmatic solution to the crisis; realistically, it could only be solved one way – an exchange of hostages.

« I tried to organise a deal to swap the detained Kurds with the Arabs. But to do this, I needed to get proof of life of the Arab detainees. So I had to fly up to Kurdistan on the general’s plane. The weather was absolutely terrible. There was thick fog, the airport was closed and the pilots couldn’t see the runway. But they were determined to get me to my meeting and managed to land on the second attempt. The Kurds were amazed I’d manage to fly in.

The Kurds took Sky to a presidential guest house, but before addressing the critical security situation, her hosts said she had another appointment – with a beautician.

« They got a young Kurdish girl to look after me. I had my hair cut and my legs waxed. It was quite nice but rather bizarre. Then they said they wanted to take me to a new mall. They love their malls. »

This was partly a deception; on the way, Sky was diverted to meet members of the Asayesh, the Kurdish intelligence service.

« They were holding three of the Arab hostages. I saw they were alive and well. So I called the deputy prime minister (Rafi al-Issawi) and told him I had proof of life. »

Sky flew down to Baghdad to pick up Issawi and his adviser, Jaber al Jaberi, and then they all flew back to Mosul to seal the deal.

There was a further twist; the three Kurds suspected of attempting to assassinate the governor had to be taken before a court so an Iraqi judge could formally release them from custody.

The Kurds were suspicious.

« So we are sitting at the airport trying to do the deal. The Kurds have informers everywhere and there was no way they wanted the prisoners taken before a judge without having some way of ensuring they came back again.

« So we had to give up Jaber as a hostage to the Kurds. He wasn’t very pleased about that! »

Two American military helicopters went to pick up the 15 kidnapped Arabs.

« The Kurdish negotiation side wouldn’t let the Arabs get off the helicopters until the Kurds were back from the judge. All this time they were saying, we are going to call off the deal, we are going to call off the deal. This went on for about four or five hours … it was incredibly stressful. The mobile reception was terrible. It was on, then off, then on then off. » Eventually, the Kurds and the Arabs were released.

« Issawi hugged them and gave them each some money. The Arabs had had no idea why they had been detained. Then we held a press conference in which Issawi went on about national reconciliation and on the flight back to Baghdad he was saying how great it was to do something that made all sides happy. »
Conclusion

Emma Sky left Iraq, along with Odierno in September 2010, at the end of combat operations. In total, she had been in the country for 50 months, completing more tours than most military commanders.

By nature she was suspicious of armed forces, and she was no supporter of America either. So Sky was probably the last person US commanders wanted at their side pointing out where they were going wrong. Which is one of the reasons she came to like and respect them. They were brave enough to take her in, and braver still to listen to what she was saying. The British would not have dared be so bold.

Sky has thought long and hard about what went wrong in those early days, and whether enough was done in the later years to give Iraq a chance for stability.

She is angry that no one has been held accountable for a war fought over false claims of WMD which had such high costs; more than 100,000 Iraqis were killed, along with 4,486 US soldiers and 179 British soldiers.

She believes the surge helped reduce the violence and allowed US forces to withdraw in 2011 with dignity – something that would have been inconceivable years earlier.

Sky says it is probably too early to judge whether Iraq can evolve into a democracy and become a force for regional stability: « People tend to be critical of the military, but the criticism needs to be more focused on the politicians and civilian leaders who failed to set an overall strategy. No one has been held accountable. They do not understand what the military is capable of, what it can and cannot do. Success in Iraq was always going to be defined by politics. We needed a political solution, a pact, a peace. The military had been asked to fight the war and then to deal with the consequences of it, without anyone in political authority having a plan or understanding Iraq well enough to appreciate the consequences of some of their decisions.

« I don’t want to live in a world where we see the killing of innocent civilians and don’t yearn to stop it. However, the Iraq war should have taught us, if nothing else, about the limitations of our own power. »

She is also unashamed of her conversion regarding the US military. As a self-confessed Guardian reader, she had prejudices that were challenged, and ultimately reshaped, by her experiences.

« They made me feel part of the team, and were as driven as I was to find a way of improving the situation in Iraq. I went on patrol with them, and spent hours in humvees and helicopters. I built up a camaraderie with soldiers that only people who go to war experience. Some of them remain close friends. » Odierno was the best of the lot, she says.

« I would have followed him anywhere. »

Sky still keeps in touch with many Iraqis – including a few who were once insurgents.

« If I had never volunteered and stepped on that plane in 2003 I would never have known that Iraq is such an amazing society. I think Iraqis are some of the most warm, generous, kind and funny people. »

« Nothing in my life will ever compare to the experience I had in Iraq. I had a real sense of purpose and I don’t regret going there for a single moment. People sometimes ask me, why did you go to Iraq, and I respond, why wouldn’t you go? » It was the best decision of my life. »

Voir de plus:

Iraq war will haunt west, says Briton who advised US military
Exclusive: Emma Sky – British civilian who advised US commanders in Iraq – says Muslim world sees a war on Islam

Nick Hopkins, defence and security correspondent

The Guardian

15 July 2012

A British woman who worked at the top of the US military during the most troubled periods of the Iraq war has said she fears the west has yet to see how some Muslims brought up in the last decade will seek revenge for the « war on terror ».

Speaking for the first time about her experiences, Emma Sky also questioned why no officials on either side of the Atlantic have been held to account for the failures in planning before the invasion.

Sky, 44, was political adviser to America’s most senior general in Iraq, and was part of the team that implemented the counterinsurgency strategy that helped to control the civil war that erupted in the country. The appointment of an English woman at the heart of the US military was a bold and unprecedented move, and it gave her unique access and insights into the conduct of one of the most controversial campaigns in modern history.

In all, the Oxford graduate spent more than four years in Iraq, including a spell as civilian governor of one of its most complex regions. She met Tony Blair and Barack Obama in Baghdad and earned the trust of senior Iraqi officials, as well as many of the country’s leading politicians and community leaders, some of whom remain her friends.

Now back in London, Sky has been reflecting on her time in Iraq in a series of interviews with the Guardian. She expressed concern about the effects this period has had on the Arab world, and how some of the mistakes made in Iraq appear to have been repeated in Afghanistan.

But Sky also defended the military and the senior commanders she worked with, who, she said, did everything they could to retrieve the situation.

She argued politicians and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic should have been held responsible for the decision to go to war, and the lack of strategy and planning for its aftermath – the consequences of which are still being felt.

A lack of understanding of the Arab world also meant the west struggled to grasp why it had provoked so much violence, and who was responsible for it.

« We’ve been fighting the war on terror for 10 years » said Sky. « At times it seems we have been fighting demons. We behaved as if there were a finite number of people in the world who had to be killed or captured. And we were slow to realise that our actions were creating more enemies.

« It has been seen by many Muslims as a war on Islam. Now, we are saying, ‘We’ve pulled out of Iraq, we are pulling out of Afghanistan, and it’s all over now.’ It may be over for the politicians. But it is not over for the Muslim world. Well over 100,000 Muslims have been killed since 9/11 following our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly by other Muslims.

« We have to ask ourselves, what do we think this has done to their world? And how will they avenge these deaths in years to come? It is not over for the soldiers who have physical injuries and mental scars, nor the families who have lost loved ones. »

She added: « The world is better off without Saddam. But nobody has been held accountable for what happened in Iraq, and there is a danger that we won’t learn the right lessons, particularly related to the limitations of our power.

« Politicians can still claim that Iraq was a violent society, or that Iraqis went into civil war because of ancient hatreds, or the violence was the inevitable result of the removal of Saddam, or that al-Qaida and Iran caused the problems. They distract from our own responsibility for causing some of the problems by our presence and the policies we pursued. »

She said the focus on building up local security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was not the right priority.

« We think it is about us, and it is about our security. But in the end, it is about their politics … success in Iraq was always going to be defined by politics. We needed a political solution, a pact, a peace. »

Sky was one of the British volunteers who went to Iraq in the aftermath of the invasion to help the reconstruction effort being led by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

She was appointed civilian governor of Kirkuk, the oil-rich city in the north of the country, and impressed US commanders with the way she worked with an American brigade to bring stability to the region.

Her frankness about the problems facing the country, and the coalition’s difficulties in dealing with them, did not deter the American military from recruiting her in 2007. She was made political adviser to General Ray Odierno, the US commander sent to Iraq to oversee the military « surge » – which involved 20,000 extra troops being sent to the country to stem the violence.

In 2008, Odierno succeeded General David Petraeus as overall commander of forces in Iraq. He asked Sky to return with him in the same advisory role. Odierno is now chief of staff of the US army and Petraeus is director of the CIA.

As a civilian member of Odierno’s team, Sky accompanied him everywhere, and was given responsibilities that seem remarkable for a « foreigner ». She witnessed some of the horrific violence that led to tens of thousands of Iraqis, and thousands of coalition troops, being killed. A number of people she considered friends – Iraqi and American – died in the fighting.

An Arabist who spent 10 years working in Jerusalem, Sky said: « I had worked in places overseas for a long time, but I had not worked with people who were then killed – sometimes due to their association with me. That first year in Kirkuk, I spent a lot of time with the provincial council and about a quarter of the people on the council were killed.

« There was always that sense that we had come into their lives and said, ‘Who is going to stand up and serve their province?’ and they had come forward, and some of them had been killed. If we had never come into their lives that might never have happened. »

Voir par ailleurs:

George Bush’s Prediction of the Iraq Meltdown

David Paulin

Front Page

June 20, 2014

[1]Former President George W. Bush is remaining mum on the tragedy unfolding in Iraq. But as an army of bloodthirsty Islamists rampages across Iraq with the goal [2] of establishing a 7th century religious tyranny — a caliphate — it’s worth recalling who years ago had predicted this would happen if the Democrats got their way.

It was President George W. Bush and his top officials.

They warned early on that Iraq was ripe for the rise of an Islamic caliphate — either in a failed state created by Saddam Hussein or, they later contended, if the U.S.-led coalition bugged out without leaving behind a stable Iraq. Two years into the U.S.-led occupation, in 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld warned that a premature withdrawal would be disastrous — and he foresaw what has in fact happened. He explained, “Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia.”

Vice President Dick Cheney also warned of the rise of a caliphate if the U.S. withdrew before Iraq was capable of governing and defending itself. “They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the seventh-century caliphate” to be “governed by Sharia law, the most rigid interpretation of the Koran,” he said.

Gen. John P. Abizaid, then America’s top commander in the Middle East, also offered prescient testimony in 2005 to the House Armed Services Committee, forseeing what the terror masters would do in a weak Iraqi state. “They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world. Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’ we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words.”

Liberals jeered such dire predictions — and especially at the repeated use of the word “caliphate.”

The New York Times, for instance, ran a piece [3]on December 12, 2005, that mocked the forgoing Bush-administration officials for their warnings of a “caliphate” — portraying them as foreign-policy amateurs peddling an alarmist view of the Middle East. Wrote reporter Elisabeth Bumiller:

A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, obviously don’t believe what’s printed in The New York Times. ISIS, incidentally, has reportedly been preparing to make its move for several years — right under the radar of the Obama administration. Were they emboldened by President Obama’s endless apologies to the Muslim world? Or the deadlines he’d set for leaving Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably all of the above. But what no doubt really energized them was President Obama’s failure to negotiate a deal with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that would have left sufficient U.S. troops in Iraq.

President Bush, for his part, issued a prophetic warning [4]in 2007 when vetoing a Democratic bill that would have withdrawn U.S. troops. “To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States,” he said.

It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
A little history is worth recalling. Saddam’s failure to account for his weapons of mass destruction, including remnants of his toxic arsenal (some of which was in fact found [5]), gave the Bush administration legal cover for going into Iraq. But only a fool would believe weapons of mass destruction were the only reason for the war. The U.S.-led invasion, or liberation, was in fact part of a vision to remake the Middle East: a long-term project to liberate millions in Iraq; nudge the region toward modernity; and above all make America safer in a post-9/11 world — all by correctly defining who the enemy was and taking the war on terror to them.

The Bush administration certainly encountered setbacks in Iraq and made mistakes; the fog of war invariably upsets the best-laid plans of politicians and generals. But Iraq only plunged into utter chaos after President Obama brought home U.S. troops, despite warnings that Iraq was not ready to govern or defend itself. The blood and treasure that America spent in Iraq has been squandered.

The terror masters were energized in Syria, thanks to the Obama administration’s tepid support [6]of moderate rebels there. Now they are on the march, just as President Bush and his top officials had predicted. After they establish their regional caliphate in Iraq and Syria, expect them to next turn their attention toward their real enemies: America, Israel, and the West. Oil prices are bound to go through the roof, sending the global economy into a tailspin.

President Obama and his foreign-policy advisors have blood on their hands. But if Obama remains in character, he’ll do what he usually does — blame it all on George Bush.

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[1] Image: http://www.frontpagemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/140616-isis-iraq-jms-1914_dfd9d334d657162e5efe720e4f206e29.jpg

[2] goal: http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-iraq-debacle-1402615473

[3] ran a piece : http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/12/politics/12letter.html?_r=1&

[4] prophetic warning : http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2014/06/flashback-george-w-bush-predicted-iraqi-meltdown-if-us-troops-were-withdrawn-from-region/

[5] found: http://hotair.com/archives/2010/10/24/wikileaks-documents-show-wmds-found-in-iraq/

[6] tepid support : http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/world/middleeast/former-ambassador-to-syria-urges-increasing-arms-supply-to-moderate-rebels.html

[7] Click here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref%3dnb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=david+horowitz&rh=n:133140011%2ck:david+horowitz&ajr=0#/ref=sr_st?keywords=david+horowitz&qid=1316459840&rh=n:133140011%2ck:david+horowitz&sort=daterank

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Voir aussi:

Que veulent les terroristes?

Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
26 juillet 2005

Version originale anglaise: What Do the Terrorists Want? [A Caliphate and Shari’a]
Adaptation française: Alain Jean-Mairet

Que veulent les terroristes? La réponse devrait être évidente. Pourtant, elle ne l’est pas.

Les terroristes de la génération précédente exprimaient clairement leur volonté. Lors du détournement de trois avions de ligne en septembre 1970, par exemple, le Front populaire de libération de la Palestine exigea et obtint la mise en liberté de terroristes arabes détenus en Grande-Bretagne, en Suisse et en Allemagne de l’ouest. Lors de l’attaque du siège du B’nai B’rith et de deux autres immeubles de Washington, D.C., en 1977, un groupe musulman hanafite exigea l’interdiction d’un film, «Le Message» (VO: Mohammad, Messenger of God), 750 dollars (au titre de remboursement d’une amende), la remise des cinq hommes qui avaient massacré la famille du leader hanafite et le meurtrier de Malcolm X.

Ces «exigences non négociables» liées à des prises d’otages provoquèrent des drames déchirants et autant de dilemmes politiques. «Nous ne négocierons jamais avec des terroristes», déclarèrent les responsables politiques. «Donnez-leur Hawaii mais rendez-moi mon mari», suppliaient les épouses des otages.

Ces temps sont si lointains et leur terminologie est à tel point oubliée que même le président Bush parle aujourd’hui d’«exigences non négociables» (en l’occurrence en matière de dignité humaine), oubliant l’origine sinistre de cette expression.

La plupart des attentats terroristes perpétrés de nos jours ne sont accompagnés d’aucune exigence. Des bombes explosent, des avions sont détournés et s’écrasent sur des immeubles, des hôtels s’effondrent. Les morts sont comptés. Les enquêteurs établissent l’identité des auteurs. De vagues sites web émettent après coup des revendications non authentifiées.

Mais les raisons de la violence ne sont pas explicitées. Les analystes, y compris votre serviteur, doivent donc spéculer sur les motifs. Ceux-ci peuvent être liés aux ressentiments personnels des terroristes, basés sur la pauvreté, des préjudices ou des sentiments d’aliénation culturelle. Par ailleurs, on peut discerner une intention d’influer sur la politique internationale:

  • «frapper» à Madrid pour obtenir que les gouvernements retirent leurs troupes d’Irak.
  • Convaincre les Américains de quitter l’Arabie Saoudite.
  • Faire cesser l’aide américaine à Israël.
  • Faire pression sur New Dehli pour qu’elle abandonne tout contrôle sur le Cachemire.

Tout cela pourrait avoir contribué à motiver les violences. Pour reprendre les termes du Daily Telegraph de Londres, les problèmes en Irak et en Afghanistan ajoutèrent à chaque fois «une nouvelle pierre à la montagne de rancunes érigée par des militants fanatiques». Mais aucun de ces éléments n’est décisif dans le choix de sacrifier sa vie pour tuer d’autres gens.

Dans presque tous les cas, les terroristes djihadistes nourrissent une ambition manifeste, celle d’établir un règne mondial dominé par les Musulmans, l’Islam et la loi islamique, la charia. Ou, pour citer une nouvelle fois le Daily Telegraph, leur «projet réel est l’extension du territoire islamique sur l’ensemble du globe et l’instauration d’un califat mondial basé sur la charia».

Les terroristes affichent cet objectif ouvertement. Les islamistes qui assassinèrent Anouar El-Sadate en 1991 décorèrent leurs cages de banderoles proclamant «Le califat ou la mort». Dans une biographie, l’un des penseurs islamistes les plus influents, et qui a inspiré Oussama Ben Laden, Abdullah Azzam, déclare que sa vie «s’articula autour d’un seul but, celui d’instaurer le règne d’Allah sur la Terre» et de restaurer le califat.

Ben Laden lui-même parla de veiller à ce que «le pieux califat prenne son essor depuis l’Afghanistan». Son principal adjoint, Ayman al-Zawahiri, rêvait aussi de rétablir le califat lorsqu’il écrivit «l’histoire, si Dieu le veut, va prendre un grand tournant dans la direction opposée, contre l’empire des États-Unis et le gouvernement juif mondial.» Un autre leader d’Al-Qaida, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, publie un magazine qui déclara: «Grâce à la bénédiction du djihad, le compte-à-rebours a commencé pour l’Amérique. Elle sera déclarée vaincue très bientôt», puis le califat sera mis en place.

Ou, comme l’écrivait Mohammed Bouyeri dans la note qu’il fixa sur la dépouille de Theo van Gogh, le cinéaste hollandais qu’il venait d’assassiner, «l’Islam vaincra grâce au sang des martyres qui répandent sa lumière dans chaque recoin de cette terre».

Il est intéressant de relever que l’assassin de van Gogh se montra contrarié par les motifs erronés qui lui furent attribués. Lors de son procès, il insista sur ce point: «J’ai fait ce que j’ai fait par pure foi. Je veux que vous sachiez que j’ai agi par conviction et que je ne l’ai pas tué parce qu’il était hollandais ou que j’étais marocain et que je me sentais offensé.»

Bien que les terroristes déclarent haut et fort leurs motivations djihadistes, les Occidentaux comme les Musulmans, trop souvent, ne les entendent pas. Comme l’observe l’auteure canadienne Irshad Manji, les organisations islamiques prétendent que «l’Islam est un spectateur innocent du terrorisme actuel».

Ce que veulent les terroristes est extrêmement clair. Et il faut fournir un effort monumental de dénégation pour ne pas le reconnaître, mais nous autres Occidentaux semblons bien en être capables.

Voir également:

White House Letter
21st-Century Warnings of a Threat Rooted in the 7th

Elizabeth Bumuller
The new York Times

December 12, 2005
WASHINGTON

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said it in a speech last Monday in Washington and again on Thursday on PBS. Eric S. Edelman, the under secretary of defense for policy, said it the week before in a round table at the Council on Foreign Relations. Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said it in October in speeches in New York and Los Angeles. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, said it in September in hearings on Capitol Hill.

Vice President Dick Cheney was one of the first members of the Bush administration to say it, at a campaign stop in Lake Elmo, Minn., in September 2004.

The word getting the workout from the nation’s top guns these days is « caliphate » – the term for the seventh-century Islamic empire that spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain, then ended with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The term can also refer to other caliphates, including the one declared by the Ottoman Turks that ended in 1924.

Specialists on Islam say the word is a mysterious and ominous one for many Americans, and that the administration knows it. « They recognize that there’s a lot of resonance when they use the term ‘caliphate,’  » said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and now a scholar at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, said that the word had an « almost instinctive fearful impact. »

So now, Mr. Cheney and others warn, Al Qaeda’s ultimate goal is the re-establishment of the caliphate, with calamitous consequences for the United States. As Mr. Cheney put it in Lake Elmo, referring to Osama bin Laden and his followers: « They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the seventh-century caliphate » to be « governed by Sharia law, the most rigid interpretation of the Koran. »

Or as Mr. Rumsfeld put it on Monday: « Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia. »

General Abizaid was dire, too. « They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world, » he told the House Armed Services Committee in September, adding that the caliphate’s goals would include the destruction of Israel. « Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’  » General Abizaid said, « we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words. »

A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq.

In the view of John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University, there is a difference between the ability of small bands of terrorists to commit attacks across the world and achieving global conquest.

« It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically, » said Mr. Esposito, the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown. « Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver. »

Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, said Al Qaeda was not leading a movement that threatened to mobilize the vast majority of Muslims. A recent poll Mr. Telhami conducted with Zogby International of 3,900 people in six countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon – found that only 6 percent sympathized with Al Qaeda’s goal of seeking an Islamic state.

The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. « There’s no chance in the world that they’ll succeed, » he said. « It’s a silly threat. » (On the other hand, more than 30 percent in Mr. Telhami’s poll said they sympathized with Al Qaeda, because the group stood up to America.)

The term « caliphate » has been used internally by policy hawks in the Pentagon since the planning stages for the war in Iraq, but the administration’s public use of the word has increased this summer and fall, around the time that American forces obtained a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 leader in Al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, called for the establishment of a militant Islamic caliphate across Iraq before Al Qaeda’s moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and then a battle against Israel.

In recent weeks, the administration’s use of « caliphate » has only intensified, as Mr. Bush has begun a campaign of speeches to try to regain support for the war. He himself has never publicly used the term, although he has repeatedly described the caliphate, as he did in a speech last week when he said that the terrorists want to try to establish « a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. »

Six days earlier, Mr. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, made it clear. « Iraq’s future will either embolden terrorists and expand their reach and ability to re-establish a caliphate, or it will deal them a crippling blow, » he said. « For us, failure in Iraq is just not an option. »

Voir encore:

Caliwho ? Bush’s New Word: ‘Caliphate’
Matthew Philips

Newsweek

10/12/06

When President George W. Bush starts using fifty-cent words in press conferences, one has to wonder why, and on Wednesday, during his Rose Garden appearance, he used the word “caliphate” four times. The enemy, he said—by which he clearly meant the Islamic terrorist enemy—wants to “extend the caliphate,” “establish a caliphate,” and “spread their caliphate.” Caliphate? Really? Many people live long, fruitful lives without once using the word caliphate. Almost no one, with the exception of our president and some of his advisers, uses it as a pejorative.

As NEWSWEEK reported last month, the president and the people who prep him are still clearly casting about for the right phrase to pin on America’s elusive enemy .  “Axis of evil” is outdated by now. “Islamist,” the preferred choice of scholars, has been deemed too jargony and academic. “Islamofascist” is a recent favorite, and in a speech last month the president used it as punctuation in a litany of other tags, notably “Islamic radicalism” and “militant jihadism.” The beauty of “caliphate” is that no one but students of Islamic history have much more than a vague idea of what it means. “Bush has been successful in defining terms in his own way,” said Steve Ebbins, a former Democratic speechwriter. “[The Bush administration] has captured the language. If you control the language, you control the message and are able to sway people’s attitude toward your policy. It’s a policy-endorsing mechanism.” Until last January, the president rarely used it, if ever. Since then, he’s used it more than 15 times.

A caliphate , according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is the “office or dominion of a caliph”; a caliph is “a successor of Muhammad … [the] spiritual head of Islam.” Simply put, the caliph is Islam’s deputy to the world. After the Prophet Muhammad died in 632 A.D., his father-in-law, Abu Bakr, became the first caliph. (At the heart of the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims, even today, is the question of succession: who has the right to become Islam’s caliph?) From the time of the Prophet’s death until the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258, caliphs ruled over Muslims and presided over the Muslim expansion throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe. These were the caliphates; some beneficent, some warmongering, in concept not unlike any other empire or dynasty.

In fairness, Bush isn’t the first person in recent history to appropriate the word caliphate and use it as a weapon. Osama bin Laden did it himself, most notably three years ago, in his statement to the United Sates via Al-Jazeera. “Baghdad, the seat of the caliphate, will not fall to you, God willing,” he said, “and we will fight you as long as we carry our guns.” Bin Laden’s rhetoric evoked, as it often does, an earlier, golden era of Islam, one that exists more in his imagination than in the lawless, crumbling city of Baghdad today. Backers of the war in Iraq—Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, not to mention hawks like Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania—jumped on the word and used it in speeches dozens of times.

Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American Islamic Relations, says bin Laden’s word choices distort Islam for the world, and he wishes the president would take more care. When Ahmed heard “caliphate” Wednesday morning, he thought of the way Bush used the word “crusade” after September 11. “There’s a fundamental misunderstanding with the president and his advisers on core Islamic issues,” Ahmed said. “He’s getting bad advice, they’re misinformed on Islamic terminology.” Either that, or he’s making a strategic rhetorical choice.

Voir enfin:

Full text: Blair speech on terror
Mr Blair said ‘evil ideology’ motivated the London bombers
The following is the full text of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s speech on the London bombings, delivered at the Labour Party national conference on Saturday. The greatest danger is that we fail to face up to the nature of the threat we are dealing with. What we witnessed in London last Thursday week was not an aberrant act.

It was not random. It was not a product of particular local circumstances in West Yorkshire.

Senseless though any such horrible murder is, it was not without sense for its organisers. It had a purpose. It was done according to a plan. It was meant.

What we are confronting here is an evil ideology.

It is not a clash of civilisations – all civilised people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it.

This is the battle that must be won, a battle not just about the terrorist methods but their views. Not just their barbaric acts, but their barbaric ideas. Not only what they do but what they think and the thinking they would impose on others.

Religious ideology

This ideology and the violence that is inherent in it did not start a few years ago in response to a particular policy. Over the past 12 years, Al-Qaeda and its associates have attacked 26 countries, killed thousands of people, many of them Muslims.

They have networks in virtually every major country and thousands of fellow travellers. They are well-financed. Look at their websites.

They aren’t unsophisticated in their propaganda. They recruit however and whoever they can and with success.

Neither is it true that they have no demands. They do. It is just that no sane person would negotiate on them.

This is a religious ideology… Those who kill in its name believe genuinely that in doing it, they do God’s work; they go to paradise.

They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all Westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and government; the establishment of effectively Taleban states and Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one caliphate of all Muslim nations.

We don’t have to wonder what type of country those states would be. Afghanistan was such a state. Girls put out of school.

Women denied even rudimentary rights. People living in abject poverty and oppression. All of it justified by reference to religious faith.

The 20th century showed how powerful political ideologies could be. This is a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam, as far removed from its essential decency and truth as Protestant gunmen who kill Catholics or vice versa, are from Christianity. But do not let us underestimate it or dismiss it.

Those who kill in its name believe genuinely that in doing it, they do God’s work; they go to paradise.

‘Legitimate targets’

From the mid 1990s onwards, statements from Al-Qaeda, gave very clear expression to this ideology: « Every Muslim, the minute he can start differentiating, carries hatred towards the Americans, Jews and Christians. This is part of our ideology. The creation of Israel is a crime and it has to be erased.

« You should know that targeting Americans and Jews and killing them anywhere you find them on the earth is one of the greatest duties and one of the best acts of piety you can offer to God Almighty. Just as great is their hatred for so-called apostate governments in Muslim countries. This is why mainstream Muslims are also regarded as legitimate targets ».

Mr Blair said the « devilish logic » of their claims must be exposed.
At last year’s (Labour) party conference, I talked about this ideology in these terms.

Its roots are not superficial, but deep, in the madrassas of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.

This is what we are up against. It cannot be beaten except by confronting it, symptoms and causes, head-on. Without compromise and without delusion.

The extremist propaganda is cleverly aimed at their target audience. It plays on our tolerance and good nature.

It exploits the tendency to guilt of the developed world, as if it is our behaviour that should change, that if we only tried to work out and act on their grievances, we could lift this evil, that if we changed our behaviour, they would change theirs. This is a misunderstanding of a catastrophic order.

Their cause is not founded on an injustice. It is founded on a belief, one whose fanaticism is such it can’t be moderated. It can’t be remedied. It has to be stood up to.

And, of course, they will use any issue that is a matter of dissent within our democracy. But we should lay bare the almost-devilish logic behind such manipulation.

‘Callous indifference’

If it is the plight of the Palestinians that drives them, why, every time it looks as if Israel and Palestine are making progress, does the same ideology perpetrate an outrage that turns hope back into despair?

If it is Afghanistan that motivates them, why blow up innocent Afghans on their way to their first ever election? If it is Iraq that motivates them, why is the same ideology killing Iraqis by terror in defiance of an elected Iraqi government?

What was September 11, 2001 the reprisal for? Why even after the first Madrid bomb (in March 2004) and the election of a new Spanish government, were they planning another atrocity when caught?

In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat.

Why if it is the cause of Muslims that concerns them, do they kill so many with such callous indifference?

We must pull this up by its roots. Within Britain, we must join up with our Muslims community to take on the extremists. Worldwide, we should confront it everywhere it exists.

Next week I and other party leaders will meet key members of the Muslim community. Out of it I hope we can get agreed action to take this common fight forward. I want also to work with other nations to promote the true face of Islam worldwide.

Round the world, there are conferences already being held, numerous inter-faith dialogues in place but we need to bring all of these activities together and give them focus.

Defeating the threat

We must be clear about how we win this struggle. We should take what security measures we can. But let us not kid ourselves.

In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat.

That means not just arguing against their terrorism, but their politics and their perversion of religious faith. It means exposing as the rubbish it is, the propaganda about America and its allies wanting to punish Muslims or eradicate Islam.

It means championing our values of freedom, tolerance and respect for others. It means explaining why the suppression of women and the disdain for democracy are wrong.

The idea that elected governments are the preserve of those of any other faith or culture is insulting and wrong. Muslims believe in democracy just as much as any other faith and, given the chance, show it.

We must step up the urgency of our efforts. Here and abroad, the times the terrorists have succeeded are all too well known.

Less known are the times they have been foiled. The human life destroyed we can see. The billions of dollars every nation now spends is huge and growing. And they kill without limit.

They murdered over 50 innocent people (in London) last week. But it could have been over 500. And had it been, they would have rejoiced.

The spirit of our age is one in which the prejudices of the past are put behind us, where our diversity is our strength. It is this which is under attack. Moderates are not moderate through weakness but through strength. Now is the time to show it in defence of our common values. »

Voir enfin:

January 2006 Trip to Iraq and Kuwait – Podcast Transcript

TOPIC: Iraq
January 9, 2006
From the Road: Speaking with American Troops in Iraq
Complete Text
PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: Hello, this is Senator Barack Obama, and I am resuming my podcasts after a couple weeks Christmas Break. And I am calling from a cell phone at a hotel overlooking the hills of Amman, Jordan. It’s actually a beautiful city, Jordan. The sun is setting and I am just come back from my first trip into Iraq.

You know, obviously Iraq has dominated our foreign policy for the last several years. Listeners to my regular podcasts or those who followed my campaign, I think, are aware of the fact that I have been deeply skeptical about the administration’s policy towards Iraq and the initial invasion. I felt it was important for me to visit Iraq myself and get some sort of first hand report about what was happening there.

So, I started the trip actually from Kuwait, where the US maintains several bases that are used to provide logistical support for what’s happening in Iraq. I met with troops as well as some of the generals who are in charge of logistical support. They talked about the enormous efforts that are required to maintain our presence in Iraq. There are about 20,000 troops in this base in Kuwait and they typically provide initial training for troops before they deploy into Iraq as well as providing water and fuel and are used as a launching site for operations in Iraq.

I had the opportunity to meet with a number of troops from Illinois as well as play a little basketball with some of the troops in the gymnasium there. And so I had a chance to talk to them about their feelings about what was happening. I think it’s fair to say that morale among almost every US troop that I met was high. I think everybody is very proud of the work that they’re doing and understandably so. Because regardless of how you feel about the war, what’s astonishing is just the pride that our men and women in uniform take about accomplishing the tasks before them. The effort in Iraq is just an unbelievable logistical task.

We flew into Baghdad and then I was helicoptered into the Green Zone. And when you visit the Green Zone, which is several miles wide and long in the center of Baghdad, you really get a sense that US military operations have built an entire city within a city. There are thousands of US military personnel and coalition forces – everything from embassy personnel to logistical support to troops that are about to be deployed into other areas of the country.

It’s an impressive achievement and in conversations with US personnel there all of them felt a genuine sense of progress after this most recent election. The feeling was that there was a great opportunity for the first time in sometime to create a national unity government that actually had some claim of legitimacy with the Iraqi people.

I had a meeting then with Ambassador Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Iraq, who discussed the meaning of the most recent election. His belief is that there is an opportunity to create a government that unifies Shiite, Sunni and Kurd, but that it’s not going to be easy. That the election in and of itself doesn’t create that unity. In fact the election was largely along sectarian lines. But that hopefully there is a recognition on the part of the leadership in all these various factions that recognizes a unified Iraq is better than the alternative, regardless of how difficult it is. And overall I was impressed with the work that he was doing.

Later that evening I had dinner with the President or Iraq, President Talabani as well as a number of ministers in the current Iraqi government, representing various factions. And the general impression was that they recognized the need to arrive at accommodations; and that was a cause for some small optimism.

The next day we took Blackhawk helicopters and went out to Fallujah, which is the site of some of the worst violence in Iraq. I did not travel through the city proper but rather flew into the primary US military base out there, and had a briefing from both their general as well as the colonels who were in charge of troops out there. As we arrived we learned that just a day earlier five marines had been killed, and obviously people were pretty somber about that. It’s still very dangerous work to be done.

And in discussions with our military, one message that came across repeatedly was that there is not going to be a military solution to the problem of Iraq; that only political accommodations can solve some of these problems. One of the colonels that we met in Fallujah, who is in charge of intelligence, pointed out that you’ve got 50% unemployment rates in many of the western portions of Iraq. And what that means is that the insurgency is going to continually grow unless the central government pays attention to the concrete needs of the people in that area. It also means that despite the work of the US military in apprehending the leaders of the insurgency in that area, there are always young men who are willing to fill the shoes of those who are apprehended. And as a consequence, the insurgency and the dangers posed by the explosive devices that they are setting throughout the country will continue, as well as the suicide bombings. This colonel really felt very strongly that the problem we faced was not a matter of foreign fighters, but rather a combination of foreign Jihadists and, more importantly, the homegrown support that continues to be generated.

We went to Kirkuk in northern Iraq where the situation is a little bit more stable, although there is significant tension there. Kirkuk is the site of a lot of oil wealth that the Kurdish want to incorporate into their regional government and is being resisted by Shiite and Sunni alike. And so a very complicated political process is taking place in that region.

You know, as you fly from Baghdad airport to the Green Zone and then out to places like Fallujah and you look down on the countryside and over the city, you realize how devastating this war has been for the country. It still looks shell-shocked. The land is muddy and fallow and strewn with skeletons of old trucks and cars and the imprints of buildings that are now reduced to rubble. There is very little traffic on the streets; a few people are on foot. It reminds you of how devastating war is.

The conversations that I had with troops who had lost friends and colleagues reminded me of how personally devastating war is to soldiers and their families.

And I think generally it emphasizes, in my mind at least, how our foreign policy has to be tough but it has to also be smart; and that we have to possess some element of humility about our capacity to remake other countries and other cultures.

I think there are several things that I at least learned from the trip, some of which reinforced some of my previous thoughts and some thoughts that are new:

Number one, we have probably a six-month window in which to create the sort of national unity government that can actually deliver a basic government to the Iraqi people and deliver the sort of political accommodations that are the necessary precursor for any solution to the violence in Iraq. Whether that’s going to happen or not will depend on the degree to which the Shiite majority shows restraint and recognizes the need to bring Sunnis into all levels of government, particularly the security forces. It’s also going to depend on the degree that the Sunnis are willing to recognize that they are never going to have the same degree of power given their numbers as they did under Saddam Hussein.

The second thing that’s going to need to happen if there is going to be any modicum of success in Iraq is that the security forces themselves have to be representative of all portions of Iraqi society. Right now the security forces are dominated by Shiite. There have been some disturbing reports about the Ministry of the Interior and the police being used as a vendetta force against Sunnis. That obviously helps to fan the insurgency, which raises a broader point.

And that is that it’s going to be important for whatever government that is elected to actually start building institutional capacity.

We met with some of the officials that are in charge of reconstruction over there; and it’s clear that the basic structure of civil service – a non-corrupt, technocratic approach to solving problems and delivering services is not deeply imbedded there and has to be developed. And changing that culture is going to take time but it’s going to have to start. And whatever else the national unity government accomplishes it’s got to recognize that it needs a basic structure of service delivery to gain the confidence of the Iraqi people.

Finally, and I think most importantly, what’s clear is that there is not going to be a military solution to this problem. I heard this repeatedly, not just from civilians or observers, but from the military – our military – the recognition that the insurgency cannot be defeated by armed might alone. And it is absolutely critical that our policies recognize that.

I remember having a conversation with one of the colonels out in the field, and although he did not believe that a rapid unilateral withdrawal would actually be helpful, there was no doubt that the US occupation in Iraq was becoming an increasing source of irritation. And that one of the things that we’re going to need to do – and to do sooner rather than later – is to transition our troops out of the day-to-day operations in Iraq and to have a much lower profile and a smaller footprint in the country over the coming year.

On the other hand, I did also ask some people who were not particularly sympathetic to the initial war, but were now trying to make things work in Iraq – what they thought would be the result of a total withdrawal and I think the general view was that we were in such a delicate situation right now and that there was so little institutional capacity on the part of the Iraqi government, that a full military withdrawal at this point would probably result in significant civil war and potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths. This by the way was a message that was delivered also by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who I’ve been meeting with while here in Amman, Jordan.

The sense, I think, throughout the entire region among those who opposed the US invasion, that now that we’re there it’s important that we don’t act equally precipitously in our approach to withdrawal, but that we actually stabilize the situation and allow time for the new Iraqi government to develop some sort of capacity.

I guess the final point I just want to make is how proud I am of the US troops there. One of the things that I continually emphasized to them was that regardless of how any of us feel about the administration’s decision to go into Iraq, all of us are extraordinarily proud of the work that they’re doing. What the US military accomplishes on a day-to-day basis, in just setting up and rebuilding portions of the country that have been destroyed and in carrying out extraordinarily difficult tasks on a day-to-day basis is amazing.

And particularly when I was talking to the Illinois troops many of them are guardsmen and reservists – some of them on their second or third rotation – it was important for me to emphasize to them that the folks back home fully support them even as we have, I think, a very legitimate debate back in Washington about what we’re doing there.

The fact is that our US military is probably the most capable institution on the planet in terms of carrying out extraordinarily difficult assignments. But it’s incumbent on our civilian leadership in Washington to make sure that we don’t provide them with assignments that are impossible to accomplish. And I continue to be concerned that we have set out for ourselves just an enormous task of rebuilding an extremely volatile and large country, and the military is not going to be able to do it alone so we’re going to have to have some good policies from Washington to move it forward.

Anyway, I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday. I will be returning to Washington after several days in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It’s obviously a difficult time there, given the grave illness that Ariel Sharon is suffering. It’s thrown the entire Middle East into tumult and I may have some more to say about that when I get back. So hopefully I’ll be able to deliver a podcast next week and look forward to being back home to see my wife and kids next week as well.

Take care everybody. Bye-bye.

Voir enfin

Il règne un bordel sans nom au Moyen-Orient et les Etats-Unis n’y sont pas pour rien
David Rothkopf

Traduit par Peggy Sastre

Slate

05.04.2015

Aujourd’hui, tout le Moyen-Orient est en guerre. L’incohérence stratégique de l’administration Obama n’aura fait que précipiter la région dans le chaos.

Si le chaos généralisé que connaît aujourd’hui le Moyen-Orient n’est pas entièrement imputable à l’administration Obama, reste que sa politique étrangère dans la région est un échec complet.

Irak, Syrie, Libye, Yémen…
Aujourd’hui, le capharnaüm en est à un niveau littéralement inédit. Pour la première fois depuis les deux Guerres mondiales, quasiment tous les pays allant de la Libye à l’Afghanistan sont impliqués dans un conflit armé (avec le sultanat d’Oman comme notable exception). Le chaos, l’incertitude et la complexité que connaissent la versatilité et bien souvent l’incohérence des alliances et des inimitiés en présence a de quoi donner le vertige.

En Irak et en Syrie, les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés combattent aux côtés de l’Iran pour défaire l’Etat islamique (EI), mais au Yémen, les Etats-Unis et bon nombre ces mêmes partenaires régionaux collaborent pour repousser les forces houthies soutenues par l’Iran.

Face à l’Iran, Israël et l’Arabie saoudite sont plutôt sur la même longueur d’onde, mais le reste de leurs anciennes et profondes divisions sont toujours d’actualité.

En Syrie, l’Iran soutient Bachar el-Assad; les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés occidentaux déplorent son action, mais tolèrent sa présence, tandis que certaines factions rebelles soutenues par les Etats-Unis dans leur combat contre l’EI cherchent (et depuis longtemps) à le destituer. Les Etats-Unis voudraient que les pays de la région défendent leurs propres intérêts –et pas seulement en Libye, ni pour court-circuiter l’Amérique.

Nous sommes donc face à un ensemble d’opérations aux conséquences totalement désastreuses ou, pour emprunter aux militaires américains un terme technique adéquat, un clusterfuck –à peu près traduisible par «tas de merde» ou «bordel sans nom» (pour gagner en politesse, on parle de charlie foxtrot, selon les règles de l’alphabet phonétique). Pas étonnant donc que tant d’Américains veuillent se désinvestir de cette région le plus vite possible. Selon eux, l’incendie qui embrase le Moyen-Orient est bien au-delà des capacités de contrôle de leur pays, les animosités locales servant de combustible sont anciennes et la plupart des conflits actuels sans grande importance pour leur vie quotidienne.

Il est vrai que le schisme entre sunnites et chiites, vieux d’un millénaire, joue un rôle certain (quoique peut-être surestimé) dans le morcellement du Yémen ou dans les divisions qui ont pu participer à la faillite de l’Etat irakien et à l’essor de l’EI. En outre, il est indéniable que bon nombre des soulèvements actuels s’ancrent dans les abus d’Etats autocratiques, voleurs des peuples et inaptes aux moindres rudiments de gouvernance. Un nombre considérable de ces problèmes actuels remontent aussi aux errements des dirigeants de l’Empire britannique (qui, avec le recul, n’étaient pas vraiment dotés de cette habilité quasi-divine à créer des nations dont ils pouvaient se targuer). D’autres conflits sont la résultante de stratégies de stabilisation régionale –tels les accords Sykes-Picot– devenues caduques après près d’un siècle d’existence. Il va sans dire que l’invasion de l’Irak par George W. Bush n’aura pas non plus amélioré les choses. Sans oublier, bien évidemment, Benjamin Netanyahou, qui n’aura jamais cessé d’être un connard.

En sus, avancent les partisans du désengagement, l’Amérique a du pétrole. Nous avons du gaz. Nous n’avons plus autant besoin du Moyen-Orient qu’avant. Et, soit dit en passant, nous avons aussi prouvé combien nous étions nuls en interventions militaires et en édification nationale (au Moyen-Orient et ailleurs).

Obama avait bien dit qu’il se désengageait, non?
Ainsi, pourquoi ne pas reprendre tout simplement nos billes et laisser ce feu s’éteindre de lui-même? D’ailleurs, quand on y pense, n’était-ce pas là notre plan? La raison de l’élection de Barack Obama?

Oui, mais non. Concernant ce dernier point, Obama a sans doute été élu pour mettre fin aux guerres en Irak et en Afghanistan, mais reste que la sécurité de l’Amérique face aux potentielles menaces émanant de cette région demeure toujours de sa responsabilité. Et, en tant que président, il lui incombe la responsabilité encore plus générale de défendre nos intérêts nationaux dans le monde entier.

Des intérêts qui exigent que nous restions engagés au Moyen-Orient. Sur le plan de l’énergie, si nous avons nos propres réserves en quantités suffisantes, les prix de l’énergie sont fixés sur un marché mondialisé, ce qui signifie que toute fluctuation d’envergure, que cette fluctuation soit liée aux réserves disponibles ou à l’évaluation des risques, aura toujours un impact sur nous.

En outre, si le conflit régional en vient à s’aggraver, il pourrait avoir de très graves conséquences mondiales. La guerre entre sunnites et chiites pourrait se propager. L’EI, infiltré dans toute la région, pourrait tirer parti de ce chaos, à l’instar d’al-Qaida, du Front al-Nosra en Syrie, de l’Aube de la Libye, voire du Hamas. La Libye pourrait très facilement devenir le prochain Yémen, ce qui provoquerait très certainement une intervention régionale comme celle que mène actuellement l’Arabie saoudite (si les Egyptiens ont accepté de participer à cette intervention, c’est aussi parce qu’ils auront inévitablement à mener toute action lancée contre leur voisin occidental).

Le morcellement de pays comme l’Irak, la Syrie, le Yémen ou la Libye modifiera très certainement l’équilibre régional des pouvoirs –surtout si cela génère la création d’un Etat (ou d’Etats) comme celui que veut voir advenir l’EI en Irak et en Syrie, voire d’une région entièrement défaillante sur le plan de la gouvernance et qui deviendra un terreau d’autant plus fertile pour l’extrémisme.

Les leçons du passé
Comme le 11-Septembre nous l’a appris –et comme l’ont démontré les récents événements en Europe, en Afrique, au Canada et aux Etats-Unis– dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, des problèmes qui pourraient sembler lointains peuvent très bien et très vite se faufiler dans nos rues ou dans celles de nos alliés.

Nous avons assisté à l’essor d’al-Qaida dans la péninsule arabique et en Afrique du Nord. Aujourd’hui, l’EI déborde en Afghanistan et, au Nigeria, Boko Haram a prêté allégeance à ce tout nouveau et dynamique acteur du secteur terroriste. Les combattants de l’EI ont trouvé des recrues en Europe ou aux Etats-Unis (cf. le très récent cas des deux membres de la Garde nationale arrêtés dans l’Illinois) qui reviendront certainement chez eux pour propager le chaos si jamais la menace qu’ils représentent n’est pas étouffée sur les champs de bataille du Moyen-Orient. Qui plus est, nos alliés essentiels que sont Israël et la Jordanie risquent aussi gros face à cette agitation. Si leurs positions en viennent à être fragilisées, les Etats-Unis seront obligés de s’investir encore davantage dans la région, et pour un coût encore plus élevé.

D’énormes facteurs géopolitiques sont aussi en jeu. Oui, un chaos prolongé et des gouvernements affaiblis rendront encore plus difficiles le contrôle et la gestion des menaces produites dans la région.

Mais, en dernier ressort, quand ces guerres finiront, de nouveaux gouvernements nationaux émergeront et l’influence que l’Amérique pourra avoir sur eux dépendra directement de la manière dont notre soutien et notre rôle dans leur construction auront été perçus. Parallèlement, si nous nous désengageons ou si nous en venons à n’avoir plus aucune capacité d’action, notre influence sur la nature de ces gouvernement en sera d’autant diminuée, si ce n’est réduite à néant. Et si notre influence diminue, d’autres pays verront la leur augmenter (comme c’est d’ores et déjà le cas). Aujourd’hui, cela pourrait sembler secondaire, mais avec la cristallisation de nouvelles rivalités et de nouveaux problèmes au cours du XXIe siècle, faire une croix sur notre influence dans une région du monde aussi stratégique –et laisser la place à d’autres– pourrait avoir de bien malheureuses ramifications.

La responsabilité de la Maison Blanche
Dès lors, si l’administration Obama n’est évidemment pas responsable de la plupart des racines, ni des nombreuses causes aggravantes de la mêlée actuelle au Moyen-Orient, il est aussi vrai qu’elle ne peut se permettre de tourner le dos à ces soulèvements/conflits, de prendre des mesures à moitié pensées, ni de faire le choix d’actions principalement réactives et largement improvisées en l’absence de toute stratégie globale.

Malheureusement pour les Américains, pour nos alliés, pour la région et pour le monde, voici trois des principales méthodes mises en œuvre par l’actuelle Maison Blanche.

Autant de façons de faire qui auront matériellement contribué à la situation que nous connaissons aujourd’hui.

En Irak, au cours des deux dernières années de l’administration Bush, la situation était à la stabilisation et à l’amélioration, notamment grâce au renfort de troupes de 2007, à davantage d’attention accordée aux sunnites et à l’implication active et continuelle du président et des responsables du gouvernement afin de trouver des solutions précises à un problème –non, soyons clairs, à une catastrophe– dont ils avaient été les auteurs. Notamment, il s’agissait de de gérer leur très mauvais choix de Premier ministre, Nouri al-Maliki. L’Irak était encore loin du pays de cocagne, mais, en tendance, les choses allaient dans la bonne direction. La décision d’Obama d’accélérer le départ des troupes américaines (d’une manière qui n’allait pas vraiment faire le nécessaire pour produire le type de Status of Forces Agreement qu’une présence prolongée aurait permis) a tout détricoté. Son inattention à la mauvaise gouvernance de Maliki et au soulèvement d’une partie des sunnites, puis à l’essor de l’EI, allait encore aggraver la situation.

Evidemment, le fiasco présidentiel fait d’indécision, de décisions incohérentes et de sourde oreille aux recommandations de son équipe quant à l’agitation grandissante en Syrie est aussi un facteur d’envergure. Une réaction paresseuse et confuse au Printemps arabe allait être redoublée par une très mauvaise gestion et un dangereux affaiblissement de la relation vitale qu’entretenaient les Etats-Unis avec l’Egypte.

L’ambivalence d’Obama face à l’action, et aux mesures nécessaires à une sortie de crise en Libye est un autre exemple de ces erreurs de jugement qui ont créé davantage de problèmes qu’elles n’en ont résolus.

Le poids de l’Iran
Voilà l’ironie des années Obama qui, malgré l’espoir d’une nouvelle ère et d’une amélioration des relations régionales incarné dans un discours prononcé au cœur du monde arabe, verront en fin de compte un changement «pour le mieux» se faire non pas avec les arabes, mais avec les perses.

Durant le premier mandat, la sévérité de l’administration quant aux sanctions infligées à l’Iran sur la question du nucléaire aura précédé un second mandat tellement assoiffé d’un accord nucléaire que tout le monde, de Téhéran au fin fond de l’Ohio, estime que les Etats-Unis désirent plus ardemment cet accord que les Iraniens et qu’ils ont ainsi perdu tout levier dans les négociations. Cette évolution, qui n’aura pas été accompagnée d’une coordination suffisante avec nos principaux alliés de la région, d’Israël aux monarchies du Golfe, capable d’apaiser leurs tourments vis-à-vis du rapprochement entre les Etats-Unis et l’Iran, n’a eu de cesse de préoccuper ces alliés (et leurs apprentis dans la région), à mesure que l’Iran se révélait comme le seul pays du Moyen-Orient susceptible de tirer parti de la propagation du chaos.

Cela a été le cas au Yémen, avec ses liens toujours plus resserrés avec Bagdad et un gouvernement irakien toujours plus dépendant de ses soldats, de ses armes et de ses conseillers  pour combattre l’EI, et en Syrie (où Assad semble bien parti pour être toujours au pouvoir après le départ d’Obama de la Maison Blanche).

L’indignation du général américain Lloyd Austin à l’idée de commander des troupes combattant aux côtés de milices chiites, après le sort que ces dernières ont pu réserver aux soldats américains durant la Guerre d’Irak, aura été émouvante. Mais elle pourrait sonner creux, vu qu’elle repose sur une tromperie sémantique.

Le monde sait qu’en Irak, l’Amérique fournit un soutien aérien aux milices chiites menées et financées par l’Iran pour combattre l’EI.

Le monde sait que s’il est question de coalition américaine, c’est l’Iran qui gagne aujourd’hui le plus en influence, car il est disposé à envoyer des soldats au sol.

Voilà pourquoi ce n’est pas Austin, mais Qassem Suleimani le commandant de la Force Al-Qods qui est portée aux nues en Irak, dans toutes les régions chiites et même kurdes.

Ne pensez pas qu’une telle réalité, déni mis à part, n’a pas joué de rôle dans la méfiance grandissante que suscite l’administration Obama chez nos alliés les plus essentiels du Golfe, d’Egypte et d’ailleurs. Ne pensez que cela ne les a pas poussés à penser qu’ils allaient devoir agir par eux-mêmes au Yémen afin de contre-balancer les gains iraniens.

«Laissez les gars du cru se démerder» n’est pas plus une stratégie de politique étrangère américaine que le «ne faites pas de conneries»

Les Etats-Unis ont voulu tirer un trait sur cette interprétation en arguant que Washington soutenait à la fois le combat contre les Houthis au Yémen et ne travaille pas vraiment main dans la main avec les Iraniens en Irak (la récente retraite des milices chiites, soi-disant parce qu’elles ont trop de mal à œuvrer aux côtés des Etats-Unis, me semble suspecte et bien trop savamment orchestrée. Peut-être que nous ne sommes pas en «coordination» avec les Iraniens, mais nous avons su jouer du téléphone avec eux via nos interlocuteurs irakiens… à tout le moins).

Pendant ce temps, les négociations sur le nucléaire iranien n’ont fait que détériorer un peu plus notre relation avec Israël. Comme mentionné précédemment, avoir Benjamin Netanyahou comme partenaire n’a rien d’une partie de plaisir. Mais il est aussi indéniable que la Maison Blanche a versé de l’huile sur le feu et a réduit en cendres les fondations traditionnelles de cette relation. Qu’importe ce que nous apporteront ces 21 prochains mois –et voir cette relation se détériorer encore davantage est tout à fait probable– il n’y a rien d’exagéré à dire que la relation entre les dirigeants américains et israéliens est au plus bas de toute leur histoire.

En réalité, vous pouvez dire ce que vous voulez sur les origines du bordel actuel au Moyen-Orient, mais le fait que les relations de l’Amérique et de chacun des pays les plus essentiels de la région –sauf l’Iran– soient au plus bas de leur histoire est tout à fait significatif.

Des mauvais choix, une mauvaise gestion et une diplomatie défectueuse ne sont pas les causes principales des problèmes que l’Amérique s’est créés dans la région.

Le plus gros coupable est à chercher du côté de son incohérence stratégique. Visiblement, nous ne savons pas vraiment quels sont nos intérêts, ni n’avons de vision claire pour l’avenir dans la région, telle que pourrait le permettre une collaboration avec nos alliés d’ici et d’ailleurs.

Ne pas faire preuve de naïveté
«Laissez les gars du cru se démerder» n’est pas plus une stratégie de politique étrangère américaine que le «ne faites pas de conneries». Au mieux, il ne s’agit que d’une modalité de cette stratégie et, en réalité, nous avons affaire à une abrogation de responsabilité face à des relations porteuses d’éléments économiques, commerciaux, politiques ou encore militaires cruciaux pour l’influence et les intérêts des Etats-Unis.

De même, nos relations avec d’autres puissances majeures devraient nous offrir ce genre d’outils si, au moins, nous nous donnions la peine de nous occuper du gros du boulot diplomatique (et prétendre que c’est ce que nous faisons avec l’Iran n’est pas convaincant, vu que nous ne le faisons pas en fonction des autres et nombreux problèmes de la région, et vu les désastres que nous avons pu causer en Libye ou en Syrie).

Pour le président, il serait facile de dire:

«Je cherche la stabilité au Moyen-Orient. Je cherche à préserver les intérêts américains, de la sécurité de nos alliés à la sécurité de notre territoire, des liens commerciaux aux préoccupations économiques mondiales. Je cherche à réussir ce projet en établissant de nouvelles alliances avec nos alliés traditionnels qui nous aideront à garantir la stabilité qui leur est nécessaire pour se reconstruire et pour se préserver d’éventuels errements d’autres acteurs régionaux, comme l’Iran. Si nous pouvons obtenir des progrès en contenant la menace nucléaire iranienne et en mettant en œuvre un meilleur dialogue avec ce pays, cela sera pour le mieux. Mais nous savons aussi que l’Iran représente toujours de nombreux risques, que ce soit parce que ce pays soutient des organisations terroristes comme le Hezbollah et le Hamas, ou parce qu’il coordonne des cyberattaques contre des cibles américaines. Ce n’est qu’en cessant de telles activités et en faisant disparaître de telles menaces que l’Iran pourra gagner en statut. Et rien ne nous fera dévier de notre objectif premier, à savoir le rétablissement de l’équilibre au Moyen-Orient.»
Mais, seuls, ces mots ne suffiront pas. Il faudra les compléter d’actions, et d’actions significatives. Il ne faudra pas faire preuve de naïveté.

Il faut éloigner de notre esprit l’idée que l’Iran pourrait un jour devenir notre ami. La menace nucléaire n’est qu’une des nombreuses menaces que représente ce pays, et elle n’est même pas la plus grave.

Géopolitiquement parlant, nos échecs et notre inaction aura poussé les pays de la région à chercher le soutien d’autres grandes puissances. De l’Egypte à Israël, en passant par les pays du Golfe, toute la région pivote (quelle ironie) vers l’Asie –vers l’Inde et la Chine et, où cela est possible, vers le Japon et l’Asie du Sud-Est. La Russie, aussi, gagne en influence au Caire, à Tel Aviv et à Téhéran.

Répartir les charges ne pose aucun problème. Voir notre influence fondre comme neige au soleil, si.

Dans la région, renouer d’anciennes alliances signifiera accorder davantage d’attention aux besoins de nos partenaires, et ce grâce à des actions, pas des mots, en les écoutant, et pas en leur plaquant des discours tous faits. En outre, il faut admettre que, dans certains conflits, si nous ne sommes pas disposés à envoyer des soldats au sol (et la guerre contre l’EI est de ces conflits), nous ne serons pas considérés comme menant réellement la danse, ni comme étant réellement investis, et d’autres pays disposés à faire un tel investissement (comme l’Iran) en sortiront vainqueurs.

Devrions-nous gagner en agressivité pour chercher des solutions diplomatiques aux problèmes de la Syrie, de la Libye, du Yémen et de l’Irak? La réponse est oui. Mais pour réussir, il faudra que nos adversaires sachent qu’ils paieront le prix cher, infligé par une coalition dévouée et incluant les ressources et l’engagement véritable des dirigeants d’une des nations les plus riches et les plus puissantes du monde, aux côtés de puissances locales en qui elle a réellement confiance et à qui elle offre suffisamment d’autonomie pour leur laisser les coudées franches dans la région. Et les négociations ne seront un succès que si nous mettons en œuvre une diplomatie qui n’est pas entravée par des dates-limites artificielles, ou dépréciée par des messages laissant entendre que nous avons davantage besoin d’un accord que nos interlocuteurs.

Dès lors, il nous faut reconnaître les origines complexes de la crise actuelle. Mais ne minimisons pas le fait qu’en ne réussissant pas à y faire face, nous allons très certainement aux devants de pertes majeures pour les intérêts américains dans la région.

Qui plus est, nous sommes à un moment qui requiert une grande vigilance, et qui devrait se traduire par davantage d’action multilatérale de la part des Etats-Unis et de ses alliés au sein de l’ONU.

Que tous les pays de la région soient en guerre a autant de chances de mener à une situation qui dégénère qu’à des solutions. Nous ne sommes pas loin d’assister à une conflagration que nous n’avons plus connue depuis août 1945.

Et même si cela ne se produit pas, un chaos durable au Moyen-Orient ne fera qu’alimenter la propagation de l’extrémisme en Afrique et en Asie, et la propagation du terrorisme en Europe et en Amérique du Nord.

Les enjeux ne pourraient pas être plus élevés. Et il est évident que, même en admettant que l’Amérique n’a qu’une capacité limitée à influer sur ce qui se passe au sol, nous avons l’urgente obligation d’essayer, et d’essayer sans répéter les erreurs du passé. Parce que ce que nous avons fait depuis six ans ne fonctionne tout simplement pas et, en réalité, cela ne fait qu’aggraver l’une des plus graves situations que le monde connaît aujourd’hui.

Voir par ailleurs:

Le retrait de l’armée américaine d’Irak – «C’est une réussite extraordinaire»
Le président Barack Obama appelle à tirer les leçons du conflit
Le Devoir
15 décembre 2011

Le président Barack Obama a salué hier la «réussite extraordinaire» des États-Unis en Irak, mais a appelé à tirer des leçons de ce conflit, en rendant hommage aux soldats quelques jours avant la fin du retrait prévu de l’armée américaine de ce pays. «Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour», a dit le président.<br />
Photo: Agence France-Presse (photo) Le président Barack Obama a salué hier la «réussite extraordinaire» des États-Unis en Irak, mais a appelé à tirer des leçons de ce conflit, en rendant hommage aux soldats quelques jours avant la fin du retrait prévu de l’armée américaine de ce pays. «Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour», a dit le président.
Fort Bragg — Le président Barack Obama a salué hier la «réussite extraordinaire» des États-Unis en Irak, mais a appelé à tirer des leçons de ce conflit, en rendant hommage aux soldats quelques jours avant la fin du retrait prévu de l’armée américaine de ce pays.

Lors d’un discours devant des soldats à Fort Bragg, en Caroline du Nord, M. Obama a aussi évoqué le «prix élevé» de cette guerre de près de neuf ans à laquelle il s’était opposé quand il n’était pas encore à la tête des États-Unis.

«Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour», a lancé le président.

Accompagné de son épouse Michelle, M. Obama s’exprimait devant 3000 militaires rassemblés à Fort Bragg où sont basées plusieurs unités des forces spéciales ainsi que la 82e division d’infanterie aéroportée, déployée à de multiples reprises en Irak depuis l’invasion de mars 2003.

«C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris neuf ans», a-t-il dit, en reconnaissant «le dur travail et le sacrifice» qui ont été nécessaires.

«Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus de 1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30 000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles», a-t-il ajouté, en allusion aux séquelles psychologiques dont souffrent certains anciens combattants.

Quatre mille cinq cents soldats américains et au moins 60 000 Irakiens ont péri durant le conflit depuis l’invasion de mars-avril 2003. Tout compris, la guerre d’Irak aura coûté plus de 1000 milliards de dollars, a dit mardi le président Obama.

M. Obama avait beaucoup évoqué lors de sa campagne présidentielle victorieuse de 2008 son opposition initiale à la guerre en Irak, en 2002 et 2003 lorsqu’il n’était encore qu’élu local.

Le dirigeant démocrate avait en effet durement critiqué l’administration de son prédécesseur républicain George W. Bush pour avoir lancé cette guerre, selon lui à mauvais escient. Mais il a dû gérer les conséquences de ce conflit tant en politique étrangère que sur le plan intérieur.

La guerre a constitué «une source de grande controverse ici», a rappelé M. Obama, qui avait estimé lundi, en recevant le premier ministre irakien, Nouri al-Maliki, à la Maison-Blanche, que «l’histoire jugera[it]» la décision d’ouvrir les hostilités.

Même s’il a noté qu’il était «plus difficile de mettre fin à une guerre que de l’entamer», il a une nouvelle fois évité la polémique hier en soulignant que «les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak». «Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir», a-t-il indiqué.

«Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays», car «malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires», a assuré aux soldats M. Obama, candidat à sa réélection en novembre 2012 et confronté à l’hostilité de ses adversaires républicains en position de force au Congrès.

Seuls quelques milliers de soldats américains restent en Irak à l’approche de la date-butoir du 31 décembre après laquelle ils devront avoir quitté le pays.


Nucléaire iranien: L’Iran sera plus inspecté que n’importe quel autre pays dans le monde (Peace in our time: All the hallmarks of the Munich negotiations)

3 avril, 2015
Chamberlain Obama
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Il est dans votre intérêt qu’un seul homme meure pour le peuple, et que la nation entière ne périsse pas. Caïphe (Jean 11: 50)
Ce jour même, Pilate et Hérode devinrent amis, d’ennemis qu’ils étaient auparavant. Luc 23: 12
Je vous donne ma paix. Je ne vous donne pas comme le monde donne. Jésus (Jean 14: 27)
 Il s’élèvera de faux Christs et de faux prophètes; ils feront de grands prodiges et des miracles, au point de séduire, s’il était possible, même les élus. Jésus (Matthieu 24: 24)
Quand les hommes diront: Paix et sûreté! alors une ruine soudaine les surprendra … Paul (I Thessaloniciens 5: 3)
En pleine semaine sainte, la polémique ne pouvait passer inaperçue. Mgr Di Falco a révélé que la RATP avait exigé que soient retirées des affiches annonçant le prochain concert du groupe «Les Prêtres» la mention «au profit des Chrétiens d’Orient» (…) Si la RATP a exigé que soit supprimée la mention des Chrétiens d’Orient, c’est parce que «la RATP et sa régie publicitaire ne peuvent prendre parti dans un conflit de quelque nature qu’il soit» selon leur communiqué commun. «Toute atteinte à ce principe ouvrirait la brèche à des prises de positions antagonistes sur notre territoire». Annoncer que ce concert était offert au profit de ces chrétiens d’Orient est «une information se situant dans le contexte d’un conflit armé à l’étranger et (…) le principe de neutralité du service public qui régit les règles de fonctionnement de l’affichage par Métrobus, trouve en effet dans ce cas à s’appliquer.» Vous avez bien lu. Pour la RATP, les Chrétiens d’Orient sont juste un camp face à l’autre, un camp pour lequel on ne peut pas prendre parti. Alors que la France, par la voix de Laurent Fabius, se démène à l’ONU pour que cesse le génocide dont sont victimes ces minorités d’Irak et d’ailleurs, alors que le Président de la République a reçu des Chrétiens obligés de fuir leur pays pour ne pas être massacrés par Daesh, la RATP -elle- refuse de choisir. Entre Daesh et ses victimes, elle veut rester «neutre».. Cette neutralité-là est impossible. Cette neutralité est une complicité avec celui qui massacre, contre l’innocent qui est massacré. Cette neutralité rappelle celle de Pilate et de tous ceux qui l’ont suivi depuis 2000 ans, se lavant les mains des massacres commis, et fermant les yeux sur le sort des victimes, pour ne pas faire de vagues ni perdre leur poste. Abbé Pierre-Hervé Grosjean (curé de Saint Cyr l’Ecole)
Le carême chrétien, qui en parle ? Il est coutumier de voir les politiques et les médias accompagner le ramadan. Cependant, personne n’aura dit un mot, en symétrie, du rituel catholique qui vient de s’achever. Les fêtes de Pâques ne sont pas davantage commentées.L’excès de discrétion des catholiques accélère leur effacement. La RATP vient ainsi  de refuser d’apposer la mention « Au bénéfice des chrétiens d’Orient » sur une affiche du métro parisien. Elle annonce le prochain concert du groupe « Les Prêtres ». La RATP fait valoir la laïcité. Mais elle-même  accepte fréquemment des publicités rappelant le ramadan. Le deux poids deux mesures saute au yeux. La RATP fait honte. Mais tendre l’autre joue a aussi ses limites. C’est la protestation des Chrétiens qui doit se faire entendre. Ivan Rioufol
Mes bons amis, pour la deuxième fois de notre histoire, un premier ministre britannique revient d’Allemagne apportant la paix dans l’honneur. Je crois que c’est la paix pour notre temps… Rentrez-chez vous et dormez en paix. Neville Chamberlain
Nous avons subi une défaite totale et sans mélange (…). Notre peuple doit savoir que nous avons subi une défaite sans guerre, dont les conséquences nous accompagneront longtemps sur notre chemin. (…) Ils ont accepté le déshonneur pour avoir la paix. Ils auront le déshonneur et la guerre. Churchill (1938)
Plus le mensonge est gros, plus il passe. Plus souvent il est répété, plus le peuple le croit. Goebbels
Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. René Girard
Les lamentations sur ce qui est advenu de la politique étrangère américaine au Moyen-Orient passent à côté de l’essentiel. Le plus remarquable concernant la diplomatie du président Obama dans la région, c’est qu’elle est revenue au point de départ – jusqu’au début de sa présidence. La promesse d’ « ouverture » vers l’Iran, l’indulgence envers la tyrannie de Bashar Assad en Syrie, l’abandon des gains américains en Irak et le malaise systématique à l’égard d’Israël — tels étaient les traits distinctifs de l’approche du nouveau président en politique étrangère. A présent, nous ne faisons qu’assister aux conséquences alarmantes d’une perspective aussi malavisée que naïve. Fouad Ajami (oct. 2013)
J’annonce au monde entier que si les infidèles font obstacle à notre religion, nous nous opposerons au monde entier et nous ne cesserons pas avant leur anéantissement, nous en sortirons tous libérés ou nous obtiendrons une plus grande liberté qui est le martyr. Soit nous nous serrerons les uns aux autres pour célébrer la victoire de l’islam sur le monde ou bien nous aurons tous la vie éternelle grâce au martyr. Dans les deux cas, la victoire et le succès seront à nous. Khomeiny
Le problème n’est pas la sécurité d’Israël, la souveraineté du Liban ou les ingérences de la Syrie ou du Hezbollah : Le problème est centré sur l’effort de l’Iran à obtenir le Droit d’Abolir l’Exclusivité de la Dissuasion. La prolifération sauvage, le concept de «tous nucléaires» sera la fin de la Guerre Froide et le retour à la période précédant la Dissuasion. Les mollahs et leurs alliés, le Venezuela, l’Algérie, la Syrie, la Corée du Nord et la Russie…, se militarisent à une très grande échelle sachant qu’ils vont bientôt neutraliser le parapluie protecteur de la dissuasion et alors ils pourront faire parler la poudre. Chacun visera à dominer sa région et sans que les affrontements se déroulent en Europe, l’Europe sera dépouillée de ses intérêts en Afrique ou en Amérique du Sud et sans combattre, elle devra déposer les armes. Ce qui est incroyable c’est la myopie de la diplomatie française et de ses experts. (…) Aucun d’entre eux ne se doute que la république islamique a des alliés qui ont un objectif commun: mettre un terme à une discrimination qui dure depuis 50 ans, la dissuasion nucléaire ! Cette discrimination assure à la France une position que beaucoup d’états lui envient. Ils attendent avec impatience de pouvoir se mesurer avec cette ancienne puissance coloniale que beaucoup jugent arrogante, suffisante et gourmande. Iran-Resist
L’Iran aurait pu être la Corée du Sud; il est devenu la Corée du Nord. (…) Mais n’oubliez pas qu’Ahmadinejad n’est que le représentant d’un régime de nature totalitaire, qui ne peut se réformer et évoluer, quelle que soit la personne qui le représente. (…) Aujourd’hui, le problème ne vient pas de l’idée de se doter de l’énergie nucléaire ; il provient de la nature du régime islamique. (…) je ne crois pas que les mollahs soient assez fous pour penser un jour utiliser la bombe contre Israël: ils savent très bien qu’ils seraient aussitôt anéantis. Ce qu’ils veulent, c’est disposer de la bombe pour pouvoir s’institutionnaliser une fois pour toutes dans la région et étendre leurs zones d’influence. Ils rêvent de créer un califat chiite du XXIe siècle et entendent l’imposer par la bombe atomique (…) il est manifeste qu’un gouvernement paranoïaque crée des crises un peu partout pour tenter de regagner à l’extérieur la légitimité qu’il a perdue à l’intérieur. Les dérives du clan au pouvoir ne se limitent pas au soutien au Hamas, elles vont jusqu’à l’Amérique latine de Chavez. Il ne s’agit en rien d’une vision qui vise à défendre notre intérêt national. Si le régime veut survivre, il doit absolument mettre en échec le monde libre, combattre ses valeurs. La République islamique ne peut pas perdurer dans un monde où l’on parle des droits de l’homme ou de la démocratie. Tous ces principes sont du cyanure pour les islamistes. Comment voulez-vous que les successeurs de Khomeini, dont le but reste l’exportation de la révolution, puissent s’asseoir un jour à la même table que le président Sarkozy ou le président Obama? Dans les mois à venir, un jeu diplomatique peut s’engager, mais, au final, il ne faut pas se faire d’illusion. Même si Khatami revenait au pouvoir, le comportement du régime resterait identique, car le vrai décideur c’est Khamenei. Je ne vois aucune raison pour laquelle le régime islamiste accepterait un changement de comportement. Cela provoquerait, de manière certaine, sa chute. Il ne peut plus revenir en arrière. J’ai bien peur que la diplomatie ne tourne en rond une nouvelle fois et que la course à la bombe ne continue pendant ce temps. Reza Pahlavi
En tant que défenseur de la rue arabe, [l’Iran] ne peut pas avoir un dialogue apaisé avec les Etats-Unis, dialogue au cours duquel il accepterait les demandes de cet Etat qui est le protecteur par excellence d’Israël. Téhéran a le soutien de la rue arabe, talon d’Achille des Alliés Arabes des Etats-Unis, car justement il refuse tout compromis et laisse entendre qu’il pourra un jour lui offrir une bombe nucléaire qui neutralisera la dissuasion israélienne. Pour préserver cette promesse utile, Téhéran doit sans cesse exagérer ses capacités militaires ou nucléaires et des slogans anti-israéliens. Il faut cependant préciser que sur un plan concret, les actions médiatiques de Téhéran ne visent pas la sécurité d’Israël, mais celle des Alliés arabes des Etats-Unis, Etats dont les dirigeants ne peuvent satisfaire les attentes belliqueuses de la rue arabe. Ainsi Téhéran a un levier de pression extraordinaire sur Washington. Comme toute forme de dissuasion, ce système exige un entretien permanent. Téhéran doit sans cesse fouetter la colère et les frustrations de la rue arabe ! Il doit aussi garder ses milices actives, de chaînes de propagande en effervescence et son programme nucléaire le plus opaque possible, sinon il ne serait pas menaçant. C’est pourquoi, il ne peut pas accepter des compensations purement économiques offertes par les Six en échange d’un apaisement ou une suspension de ses activités nucléaires. Ce refus permanent de compromis est vital pour le régime. (…) Il n’y a rien qui fasse plus peur aux mollahs qu’un réchauffement avec les Etats-Unis : ils risquent d’y perdre la rue arabe, puis le pouvoir. C’est pourquoi, le 9 septembre, quand Téhéran a accepté une rencontre pour désactiver les sanctions promises en juillet, il s’est aussitôt mis en action pour faire capoter ce projet de dialogue apaisé qui est un véritable danger pour sa survie. Iran Resist
Les camps d’entraînement du Hezbollah sous contrôle iranien ou sous le nom du Hezbollah sont disséminés sur les quatre continents, dont l’Argentine, le Paraguay, la Colombie et probablement au Venezuela, en Asie Pacifique, l’Indonésie intéresse les mollahs. Il ne faut surtout pas oublier l’Afrique où les mollahs comptent de nombreux alliés parmi lesquels au premier rang se trouve l’Afrique du Sud, pays phare de ce continent et intermédiaire diplomatique dans de nombreux conflits régionaux. (…) Mais, il y a aussi les Etats-Unis, où le régime compte des nombreux partisans débarqués dans ce pays avec des passeports iraniens et des titres de professeurs ou chercheurs. L’Europe compte aussi d’importants centres (d’études et de recherches) gérés par le Hezbollah et selon la presse allemande, le nombre des partisans du Hezbollah sera de 900 dans ce pays. L’ensemble des ces réseaux internationaux qui sont présent en Amérique Latine, dans les pays du Golfe Persique, aux Etats-Unis, en Europe ou en Asie Pacifique font état d’une éclatante santé idéologique. (…) Dans ces conditions, nous songeons au dernier article d’Antoine Sfeir dans le Figaro. Sfeir qui est un des agents du lobby des mollahs en France et se rend souvent en Iran écrit naïvement : L’Iran possèdera tôt ou tard l’arme nucléaire. La véritable question est de savoir s’il l’aura avec nous ou contre nous ?” Iran-Resist
Une chose est claire, c’est que le USS Vincennes était en état de légitime défense. Cet accident tragique s’est produit dans un contexte d’attaques illégales iraniennes répétées, injustifiées et non-provoquées contre la marine marchande et les forces armées des Etats-Unis. Et il s’est produit au cours d’une attaque navale lancée par des navires iraniens contre un navire neutre et plus tard contre le Vincennes quand il est venu secourir le bateau innocent en perdition. Vice-président George H.W. Bush (Siège des Nations-Unies, le 14 juillet 1988)
Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism, striking Israel, U.S. Arab allies, and at times Americans. (…) Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has backed an array of terrorist groups. These groups have fostered unrest in Iraq and the oil-rich Gulf Kingdoms, killed Iran’s enemies in Europe, and struck at enemies like Israel and the United States. Most infamously for Americans, Iran has backed the Lebanese Hizballah, providing it with hundreds of millions of dollars, sophisticated arms, and advanced training. Among its many operations, Hizballah in 1983 bombed the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks hosting U.S. peacekeepers in Beirut, killing 17 embassy officials and 241 Marines. Iran has also backed Hizballah in its numerous operations against Israel, including a 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and the bus driver, and has given money and weapons to Hamas, which has used these to attack Israel in repeated clashes. Tehran has also quietly maintained links to Al Qaeda itself, hosting several important figures though also restricting their activities. For Iran, ties to terrorists served multiple purposes. Ideologically, Tehran often believed that the terrorists’ goals – to spread an Iranian-style Islamic state, to overthrow an apostate regime, to battle Israel, and so on – were the right ones, and thus it was supporting the “good guys.” But strategic considerations also proved vital. Ties to terrorist groups enabled Iran to extend its influence around the world, something its weak military and struggle economy could not accomplish. With ties to groups like Hamas, Iran was also able to establish itself as an important actor against Israel – always a popular cause in the Middle East – and, in so doing, live up to its self-image of being an Islamic revolutionary power, not a champion of the Shi’a community, which is a minority in most Arab countries. (…) Especially as talks over Iran’s nuclear program appear close to bearing fruit, the United States should make clear it condemns terrorism of all stripes, regardless of who the victim is. Daniel L. Byman (Brookings, 2013)
L’ouvrage signé sous un pseudonyme – on parle d’un collectif d’opposants iraniens – revient d’abord sur l’organisation de l’appareil d’Etat iranien, avant d’analyser l’action de celui-ci à l’étranger, à travers le mouvement politique chi’ite mondial (POCHM) et la nébuleuse nationale-islamique iranienne (NINI), entre autres. Une approche très exhaustive s’attache à passer en revue les actions les plus déstabilisatrices et les réseaux d’amitiés / complicités de la république islamique sur l’ensemble de la planète, y compris dans des zones où une menace iranienne n’apparaissait pas évidente aux observateurs (de la Nouvelle Zélande à l’Uruguay, en passant par la Bolivie ou la Roumanie). (…) Malgré l’absence d’une hypothèse forte, sans doute due à l’effet-catalogue de ce travail, on voit bien la centralité des solidarités chi’ites à l’œuvre dans les réseaux présentés ici. (…) Il ne faut pas se fier au titre de cet ouvrage : il n’est pas question – ou si peu – du Hezbollah ici, ni en tant que tel, ni en tant que symptôme d’une méthode iranienne, consistant par exemple à transformer un pays arabe donné en « multivocal state », par l’établissement d’un pouvoir parallèle fondé sur la mise en œuvre d’un mouvement armé d’identité chi’ite mais capitalisant sur l’opposition à Israël. (…) On pourra, à partir des exemples nombreux qui sont passés en revue dans ce document, réfléchir à quelques problématiques qui en émergent : La question de l’animation, par l’Iran et d’autres, d’un réseaux de « politiques étrangères protestataires », solidaires entre elles, refusant les initiatives occidentales et leur « diplomatie de club » (pour reprendre l’expression de Bertrand Badie), politiques qui comptent des relais de téhéran à Caracas en passant par Pyongyang, Minsk, voire Pékin ou Moscou. La question de la nuisance en politique étrangère, qui consiste à contrer efficacement les initiatives dominantes au cas par cas, plutôt que de proposer une politique de puissance alternative avec une stratégie globale (ainsi l’Iran a-t-il davantage profité des erreurs américaines au Moyen-Orient, plutôt qu’il n’aurait bâti de stratégie a priori). Enfin, bien évidemment, la question de la mobilisation de ressources et de réseaux religieux à l’appui d’une action extérieure … Frédéric Charillon
Sur le long terme, Obama et son entourage ont toujours fantasmé sur une réconciliation globale entre les Etats-Unis et l’islamisme, qu’il s’agisse de l’islamisme sunnite des Frères musulmans ou de l’islamisme chiite iranien. C’était le sens, dès 2009, du discours-manifeste du Caire, prononcé, il ne faut pas l’oublier, au moment même où le pouvoir des mollahs écrasait dans le sang un « printemps iranien ». Cela a été également le sens, par la suite, de la temporisation d’Obama sur la question du nucléaire iranien : Washington s’est prononcé en faveur de sanctions économiques de plus en plus lourdes, mais n’a pas envisagé sérieusement une action militaire contre l’Iran ni accordé de feu vert à une éventuelle action militaire israélienne.(…) Des négociations discrètes ont été menées au début de l’été entre Washington et Téhéran, et elles avaient suffisamment abouti dès le mois d’août – quand Rouhani a pris officiellement ses fonctions – pour que plusieurs revues américaines influentes diffusent presque immédiatement des articles préparant l’opinion à cette « détente », sinon à ce renversement d’alliance. La New York Review of Books publie dans sa livraison datée du 15 août un long article en faveur d’un « nouvelle approche envers l’Iran » cosigné, de manière significative – l’union sacrée, pourrait-on dire -, par un universitaire pro-iranien, William Luers, un ancien ambassadeur aux Nations Unies, Thomas Pickering et un homme politique républicain, Jim Walsh. Quant à Foreign Affairs, elle consacre sa couverture de septembre-octobre au chef véritable du régime iranien, l’ayatollah et Guide spirituel Ali Khamenei. Akbar Ganji, un journaliste prestigieux, souvent présenté comme le « Soljénitsyne iranien », y affirme à la fois que Rouhani ne peut se rapprocher des Etats-Unis sans l’accord préalable et l’appui de Khamenei, ce qui est vrai ; et que les Etats-Unis doivent saisir cette « chance », ce qui est plus discutable. (…) A un autre niveau, à plus court terme, Obama a sans doute vu dans un rapprochement avec l’Iran le moyen d’effacer ou de faire oublier ses échecs répétés au Moyen-Orient : en Libye, en Egypte et finalement en Syrie. Une Grande Puissance, c’est un pays qui peut faire la guerre et qui, par voie de conséquence, est en mesure d’imposer sa volonté à d’autres pays. Et « pouvoir faire la guerre », en amont, cela suppose à la fois des moyens techniques (une armée, des armements, des technologies), et des moyens politiques ou moraux (une vision du monde, des objectifs, une détermination). L’Amérique d’Obama a toujours les moyens techniques d’une Très Grande Puissance, mais elle s’est comportée en Syrie, à travers ses tergiversations et finalement sa capitulation diplomatique devant la Russie de Poutine, comme si elle n’en avait plus les moyens politiques ou moraux. Ce que les alliés traditionnels des Etats-Unis ne sont pas près de pardonner au président sur le plan international (des Etats du Golfe à la France de Hollande), ni les Américains eux-mêmes en politique intérieure.(…) Les clés d’Obama se trouvent dans son livre autobiographique, Les Rêves de mon père. Deux faits, qu’il rapporte avec beaucoup de franchise : d’abord, un drame intime : il n’a pratiquement pas connu son père ; ensuite, un drame identitaire : l’Amérique traditionnelle – anglo-saxonne, judéo-chrétienne, blanche – est pour lui une sorte de pays étranger. Il est certes né aux Etats-Unis, mais il n’y a pas passé son enfance. Il n’a pas été élevé dans la foi chrétienne, mais dans un mélange d’humanisme athée et d’islam libéral. Et bien que sa mère soit blanche, il a toujours été considéré comme un Noir. Comment surmonte-t-il ces deux drames ? A travers l’action politique en vue d’une Amérique nouvelle, multiraciale, multireligieuse, multiculturelle. En fait, il veut enfanter cette nouvelle Amérique qui lui ressemblerait, être à la fois son propre père et celui d’une nation remodelée à son image. Ce qui passe, entre autre choses, par une réconciliation – fusionnelle – avec un islam qui est le contraire même de l’Amérique traditionnelle. Ce n’est là qu’un fantasme. La politique rationnelle d’Obama se réfère à d’autres considérations, d’autres raisonnements. Mais les fantasmes sont souvent aussi puissants ou plus puissants que la rationalité. Et qui plus est, les fantasmes personnels du président actuel recoupent ceux d’une bonne partie de la société américaine : les Noirs, les non-Blancs en général, mais aussi les milieux blancs d’extrême-gauche, une partie des élites intellectuelles… (…) Qui peut encore soutenir sérieusement qu’Israël est au cœur de tous les problèmes du Proche Orient et que tout passe, dans cette région, par la « résolution » du « problème palestinien » ? Depuis près de quatre ans, le monde arabe et islamique n’en finit pas de se décomposer et de se recomposer sous nos yeux, entraîné par ses pesanteurs propres. Une analyste géopolitique, Robin Wright, vient même de prédire dans le New York Times, le quotidien le plus pro-Obama des Etats-Unis, le remplacement de cinq Etats moyen-orientaux (la Syrie, l’Irak, l’Arabie Saoudite, la Libye, le Yemen) par quinze nouveaux Etats à caractère ethnoreligieux. Voilà qui merite au moins autant d’attention que les articles promouvant le « nouvel Iran » du président Rouhani. Et qui relativise le « processus de paix » Jérusalem-Ramallah. Michel Gurfinkiel
The foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran. (…) The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. (…) Our withdrawal from Iraq in late 2011 contributed to a perception that the U.S. was pulling back from the Middle East. This perception has complicated our ability to shape developments in the region and thus to further our interests. These perceptions have also shaken many of our allies and, for a period at least, made it harder to persuade them to support our approaches. (…) Neither the Iranians nor Daesh are ten feet tall, but the perception in the region for the past few years has been that of the U.S. on the wane, and our adversaries on the rise. I hope that we can begin to reverse that now. David Petraeus
Iran is already in violation of a number of Security Council resolutions demanding it cease all uranium enrichment and heavy water activity – a process used to create weapons-grade plutonium. Furthermore, none of this activity is even remotely necessary if Iran, as it claims, only wants a peaceful nuclear program.There are many countries that have nuclear power that do not have the capability to enrich their own fuel. They buy it from abroad and that’s what Iran could do. And that’s what the media are neglecting to tell you. There are over thirty countries around the world that have nuclear power programs but according to the World Nuclear Association, only eleven have the capacity to enrich their own fuel. Here are some of the countries that have nuclear energy but don’t enrich their own nuclear fuel: Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine. The fact is that, of countries that have enrichment capabilities, the majority also possess nuclear weapons. Countries that enrich nuclear materials but do not have nuclear weapons include Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Countries that enrich and do have nuclear weapons include Pakistan, Russia and China. When you think of Iran, do you think it fits in with Germany, Japan and the Netherlands? Or, does it fit better with Pakistan, Russia and China? If that isn’t enough to make you uncomfortable, in a speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council in 2005, Rouhani himself said: A country that could enrich uranium to about 3.5 percent will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90 percent. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons. Since Argentina, Armenia, Sweden and Spain can buy nuclear fuel from abroad, why can’t Iran? Since our neighbors Canada and Mexico can pursue this policy, why can’t Iran? Camera
La Corée du Nord a appris au monde qu’au poker nucléaire la folie feinte vous vaut de l’aide étrangère ou l’attention planétaire — du fait que même la certitude qu’on a affaire à un bluff à 99% reste suffisante pour effrayer les opinions publiques occidentales. La Corée du nord est le proverbial envieux psychopathe du quartier qui agresse constamment ses voisins prospères d’à côté, en partant du principe que les voisins ne pourront manquer de prendre en compte ses menaces aussi sauvages qu’absurdes parce qu’il n’a rien et qu’ils ont tout à perdre. (…) L’Iran pourrait reprendre à l’infini le modèle de Kim — menaçant une semaine de rayer Israël de la carte, faisant machine arrière la semaine d’après sous prétexte de problèmes de traduction. L’objectif ne serait pas nécessairement de détruire Israël (ce qui vaudrait à l’Iran la destruction de la culture persane pour un siècle), mais d’imposer une telle atmosphère d’inquiétude et de pessimisme à l’Etat juif que son économie en serait affaiblie, son émigration en serait encouragée et sa réputation géostratégique en serait érodée. La Corée du nord est passée maître dans de telles tactiques de chantage nucléaire. A certains moments, Pyongyang a même réussi à réduire les deux géants asiatiques – Japon et Corée du Sud – à la quasi-paralysie.(…) Un Iran nucléaire n’aurait à s’inquiéter ni d’un ennemi existentiel avec une population d’un milliard d’habitants à côté tel que l’Inde ni d’un mécène tout aussi peuplé comme la Chine susceptible d’imposer des lignes rouges à ses crises de folie périodiques. Téhéran serait libre au contraire de faire et de dire ce qu’il veut. Et son statut de puissance nucléaire deviendrait un multiplicateur de force pour son énorme richesse pétrolière et son statut auto-proclamé de leader mondial des musulmans chiites. Si la Corée du Nord est un danger, alors un Iran nucléaire plus gros, plus riche et sans dissuasion serait un cauchemar. Victor Davis Hanson
A l’époque, pendant que nous étions en train de discuter avec les Européens à Téhéran, nous installions des équipements dans certaines parties d’Ispahan, et le projet était sur le point d’être complété. En réalité, c’est en créant un climat de sérénité, que nous avons pu achever Ispahan. Hassan Rohani (03.11.03)
What has been released by the website of the White House as a fact sheet is a one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action (the title of the Iran-powers deal), and this fact sheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true. Marziyeh Afkham (Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman)
The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments (…) Why don’t we all stick to what we agreed to ? Why do we need to produce different texts ? (…) The terminology is different. The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again (…) And I urge you to read the entire text. If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment. (…) What Iran has agreed is not to enrich above 5%. We did not agree to dismantle anything. Javad Zarif (Iranian foreign minister, 23.01.14)
Mort à l’Amérique, parce que l’Amérique est la source d’origine de cette pression. Ils insistent à mettre la pression sur l’économie de nos chères personnes. Quel est leur objectif ? Leur objectif est de monter les gens contre le système. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  (20.03.15)
L’armement de la Cisjordanie a commencé et les armes seront fournies aux habitants de cette région. Les sionistes doivent savoir que la prochaine guerre ne sera pas limitée aux frontières actuelles et les Moudjahidine les repousseront. Mohammad Reza Naqdi (commandant de la milice Basij des Gardiens de la Révolution de l’Iran, 2014)
Effacer Israël de la carte est non négociable. Mohammad Reza Naqdi (2015)
https://twitter.com/JZarif/status/583723860522115072

Là, c’est une étape importante, très importante même, mais le bout du chemin, c’est la fin juin (…) Il est écrit dans ce qu’on a signé: rien n’est acté tant que tout n’a pas été acté. (…)  Les Américains et les Iraniens nous avaient proposé un texte, mais nous avions dit ‘non’ parce que le Président et moi avions estimé qu’il n’était pas assez solide. L’Iranien avait menacé de rentrer chez lui et de démissionner. Mais il est finalement resté à la table. (…) il faut « lever les sanctions au fur et à mesure que l’Iran respecte ses engagements. (…) la France « n’a rien contre l’Iran » : « nous voulons juste que l’accord soit perçu comme solide pour éviter que les autres pays du Golfe comme l’Arabie Saoudite se lancent dans la prolifération nucléaire. Laurent Fabius
We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program. Barack Hussein Obama (December 07, 2013)
Je suis convaincu que si cet accord-cadre mène à un accord total et définitif, notre pays, nos alliés et le monde seront plus en sécurité. L’Iran sera « plus inspecté que n’importe quel autre pays dans le monde. Si l’Iran triche, le monde le saura. Si nous voyons quelque chose de louche, nous mènerons des inspections. Barack Hussein Obama
Le programme nucléaire civil iranien et l’usage d’un réacteur de recherche (à Arak) sont acceptés par les 5+1, y compris l’enrichissement, ce qui n’était pas le cas auparavant. En face, Téhéran a accepté de réduire drastiquement ses capacités nucléaires ainsi que la mise en oeuvre du protocole additionnel du Traité de non-prolifération (TNP) qui facilitera les contrôles des inspecteurs de l’AIEA. L’Iran a aussi accepté que la levée des sanctions soit progressive et conditionnées au rythme de l’application de l’accord (diminution du nombre de centrifugeuses, fermeture de Fordo, etc.) (…) Grâce à l’accord de Lausanne, le programme nucléaire iranien est très sérieusement encadré. Il sera surveillé à la loupe. Les différentes clauses concernant l’enrichissement, ou les sites sensibles de Fordo, d’Arak ou de Natanz, permettront de limiter de façon drastique toute possibilité d’accès à l’arme atomique. Aucun pays au monde n’a accepté de telles restrictions en matière nucléaire. Au-delà même des 10 à 15 ans prévus par les paramètres de l’accord, l’Iran continuera en outre à être soumis aux contrôles prévus par l’AIEA. (…) Il s’agit maintenant de « mettre en musique » les lignes générales présentées jeudi soir par la chef de la diplomatie de l’UE, Federica Mogherini, et le ministre iranien des Affaires étrangères, Mohammad Javad Zarif ; d’affiner les détails de leur mise en oeuvre. Certains points de la déclaration commune sont très clairs, d’autres plus flous. Parallèlement à cette déclaration, les Etats-Unis ont diffusé un document comprenant une liste de « paramètres ». Celle-ci n’est pas formellement acceptée par les Iraniens, mais il semble qu’elle servira de ligne directrice pour la rédaction de l’accord détaillé.  (…) La voie de la diplomatie est un pari. Les partisans du dialogue considèrent que le retour de la prospérité en Iran, après la levée des sanctions, va contribuer à détendre l’atmosphère. Certains craignent l’inverse, c’est vrai. L’aboutissement de ces longues discussions devrait, selon moi, renforcer le président Hassan Rohani, élu sur la promesse d’ouverture au monde. A l’intérieur comme en ce qui concerne la politique extérieure. De quoi renforcer le camp des modérés dont il est le chef de file, à l’occasion des prochaines législatives, en 2016. Réintroduire l’Iran dans le jeu international, faire en sorte qu’il se sente moins menacé, peut, je le crois, conforter la voie de la modération dans sa relation au monde.  François Nicoullaud (ancien ambassadeur de France en Iran)
L’accord nucléaire avec l’Iran : un succès inespéré Obtenu après un marathon de huit jours et huit nuits de négociations à Lausanne, l’accord du 2 avril 2015 entre l’Iran et les grandes puissances de la «communauté internationale» (représentées par les ministres des Affaires étrangères des cinq membres permanents du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, de l’Allemagne et de l’Union européenne) a toutes les chances d’être encore enseigné dans trente ans au sein des universités de sciences politiques du monde entier comme un modèle de succès de la diplomatie multilatérale. Car s’il n’est pas saboté d’ici le 30 juin (date prévue officiellement pour sa signature définitive incluant tous les protocoles techniques) par les extrémistes des deux bords (les faucons du Congrès américain et les conservateurs du Majlis iranien), ce deal sur le dossier atomique iranien mettra fin aux risques de prolifération nucléaire au Moyen-Orient. Mieux, pour la stabilité de cette région, il pourra faire de l’Iran un partenaire de l’Occident, et non plus un rival ou un ennemi. Renaud Girard (Le Figaro)
Iran’s habit of lulling the world with a cascade of small infractions is an ingenious way to advance its program without provoking a crisis. A year may simply not be enough time to build an international consensus on measures to redress Iranian violations. Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen and Ray Takeyh (former CIA director, former IAEA deputy chief and Iran expert)
Les négociations nucléaires avec la Corée du Nord prouvent que le programme de l’Iran ne manquera pas de se poursuivre, qu’il y ait ou pas un accord. Si l’on se fie aux critères de bonne foi nucléaire de Barak Obama et de John Kerry, la Corée du Nord était un État modèle-en 1992. En 1985, la Corée du Nord avait signé le Traité de non-prolifération des armes nucléaires. En 1992, elle cosignait en compagnie de la Corée du Sud une déclaration conjointe proclamant la «dénucléarisation» de la péninsule coréenne. La Corée du Nord signa par la suite un accord de contrôle avec l’Agence internationale pour l’Énergie atomique (AIEA). Dans les mois qui suivirent, l’AIEA décelait des «irrégularités» dans le programme nucléaire de la Corée du Nord. (…) Après des négociations avec la Corée du Nord, et suite à des rapports de la CIA révélant que ce pays avai séparé assez de plutonium pour une ou deux armes nucléaires, les États-Unis et la Corée du Nord signaient en 1994 un Accord-Cadre à Genève. Comme la Corée du Nord promettait de renoncer à ses capacités de production d’armes nucléaires, l’Accord-Cadre est célébré comme un succès diplomatique majeur de la présidence Clinton. En 1996-97, les États-Unis négocient avec la Corée du Nord sur la prolifération des missiles balistiques. (…) En octobre 2002, les États-Unis déclarent que la Corée du Nord admet l’existence d’un programme secret d’enrichissement militaire de l’uranium. (…) La Corée du Nord interdit alors tout accès de l’AIEA à ses installations nucléaires, quitte le Traité de non-prolifération et relance un réacteur nucléaire. Les négociations reprennent à Pékin en avril 2003. La Corée du Nord déclare qu’elle possède des armes nucléaires mais qu’ elle démantèlera ses «installations nucléaires» en contrepartie de pétrole et de nourriture. En février 2005, le ministre des affaires étrangères de la Corée du Nord déclare à nouveau que son pays a produit des armes nucléaires. Quelques mois plus tard, les Coréens affirment qu’ils sont prêts à abandonner «toute arme nucléaire» et à rejoindre le Traité de non-prolifération. Un nouveau cycle de négociations commence. (…) En octobre, la Corée du Nord procède à l’essai d’un engin nucléaire souterrain. (…) La Corée du Nord déclare qu’elle n’est  plus « liée » par les accords antérieurs. Le 25 mai 2009, la Corée du Nord procède à un second essai nucléaire souterrain. (…) Début 2013, un groupe de contrôle détecte une activité ayant « toutes les caractéristiques d’une explosion » sur le site des essais nucléaires souterrains de la Corée du Nord. (…) En novembre dernier, le ministre des affaires étrangères russe Sergueï Lavrov déclare que la Corée du Nord est prête à reprendre les négociations à six. —- Il faut que tous les membres du Sénat lisent les 81 pages de la chronologie. La Corée du Nord prouve, de façon irréfutable, que le modèle des «négociations» ne fonctionne pas s’il n’est pas associé à des actes crédibles de menace et de coercition. L’Iran sait que ses négociateurs nucléaires lui procurent l’immunité. La question n’est pas quand ou comment l’Iran violera un accord quelconque. L’Occident lui demandera platement – quoi d’autre? – davantage de négociations. Les programmes nucléaires et balistiques de l’Iran se poursuivront à l’image de la Corée du Nord, c’est l’évidence, quoi qu’on dise. Daniel Henninger
À peine les négociateurs avaient-ils annoncé l’accord avec l’Iran sur le nucléaire que les conservateurs dégainaient leurs tweets vengeurs annonçant, avec leur ton mesuré légendaire, la fin du monde. Ils accusent le président Obama de s’être aplati devant les Iraniens et d’avoir lâché trop de concessions. Peu importe si les détails ne sont pas connus avant l’échéance du 30 juin, ils sont convaincus que cet accord est une catastrophe majeure. Leur comparaison favorite, ce sont évidemment les accords de Munich en 1938. « Neville Chamberlain a obtenu d’Adolf Hitler un meilleur accord », a déclaré le sénateur Mark Kirk de l’Illinois. « Arrêtez toute cette négativité sur l’accord avec l’Iran, mes chers conservateurs. Les Iraniens n’ont pas eu la région des Sudètes », ironise Ed Morrissey, un blogueur de droite. Dans le magazine National Review, l’historien Victor Davis Hanson écrit : « Notre déshonneur à Lausanne, comme à Munich, peut éviter une confrontation aujourd’hui, mais notre honte garantit une guerre dans l’avenir proche. » Les néoconservateurs, qu’on croyait enterrés avec le fiasco de la guerre en Irak, ont repris du poil de la bête et sont de nouveau très influents chez les républicains. Malgré leurs échecs répétés, ils ont conservé leur vision belliqueuse du monde et leur credo : pas de compromis avec les ennemis de l’Amérique, même si cela doit mener à une autre guerre et mettre la planète à feu et à sang. « Pour stopper la bombe de l’Iran, bombardez l’Iran, » écrivait récemment John Bolton, l’ambassadeur aux Nations unies de George W. Bush, dans le New York Times. Les conservateurs ont vraiment tout fait ces derniers mois pour torpiller les négociations avec Téhéran. Ils ont invité début mars le Premier ministre israélien, sans le dire à la Maison-Blanche. Benjamin Netanyahu, en plein Congrès, a attaqué la politique d’Obama en disant que tout accord « ouvrirait la voie » à une bombe atomique iranienne. Quelques jours plus tard, 47 sénateurs ont signé une lettre qu’ils ont envoyée directement à Téhéran à l’instigation du sénateur Tom Cotton de l’Arkansas. Objectif : rappeler au régime iranien que le Congrès pouvait faire machine arrière sur tout accord. Du jamais-vu dans les annales de la diplomatie. Hélène Vissière (Le Point)
Just hours after the announcement of what the United States characterized as a historic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, the country’s leading negotiator lashed out at the Obama administration for lying about the details of a tentative framework. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the Obama administration of misleading the American people and Congress in a fact sheet it released following the culmination of negotiations with the Islamic Republic. (…) The pushback from Iran’s chief diplomat follows a pattern of similar accusations by senior Iranian political figures after the announcement of previous agreements. Following the signing of an interim agreement with Iran aimed at scaling back its nuclear work, Iran accused the United States of lying about details of the agreement. Free Beacon
I run into people constantly who believe that the bluffer in this relationship is Obama. Their argument holds that Obama will move toward a strategy of containment soon after the election, and that there is no way he would ever use military force to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. I’m in the camp of people, however, who take him at his word, in part because he’s repeated himself on the subject so many times and in part because he has laid out such an effective argument against containment and for disruption, by force, if necessary. With the help of Armin Rosen, of The Atlantic’s International Channel, I’ve posted below a partial accounting of Obama’s statements on the subject. Of course, it is possible that in a second term, should he win his bid for reelection, he will change his mind on the subject, and it is possible, of course, that Iran will somehow manage to defy his demands. But the record is the record: Given the number of times he’s told the American public, and the world, that he will stop Iran from going nuclear, it is hard to believe that he will suddenly change his mind and back out of his promise. Jeffrey Goldberg (2012)
Barack Obama has been compared to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who concluded the ill-fated Munich Pact with Hitler in 1938. But Chamberlain acted out of a sincere belief that he was avoiding a greater evil. Chamberlain was not thinking of his place in history. He was thinking only of the Britain that he loved, a Britain that was all but disarmed, exhausted, and vulnerable. He was dealing with a nation that had been decimated by the Great War, a nation whose “best and brightest” five years earlier had declared in the infamous Oxford Oath that they would not fight for king or country, and a nation that was as materially unprepared for war as Germany was prepared to fight. Chamberlain dealt from a position of weakness, one that Hitler continually exploited in the negotiations, even by changing the time and place to make it more inconvenient for the British leader to attend them. In sharp contrast, Mr. Obama is acting out of personal aggrandizement. He believes he is replicating President Richard Nixon’s historic opening of China. For Mr. Obama, the Iranian nuclear arms deal is about his place in history. Mr. Obama is dealing from a position of strength that he refuses to use. The sanctions have hurt Iran. Falling oil prices only add to Iran’s vulnerability. Instead of using the sanctions to pursue his original promise that Iran would not get the bomb, Mr. Obama has moved the goal post. Iran would not get the bomb immediately. It would be permitted to enrich uranium well beyond the 5 percent need for generating nuclear energy and be left with a breakout capacity to create a bomb. Meanwhile, Iran is refusing surprise inspections, the hallmark of any such agreement, and has ruled its military facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordo, off limits to any inspections, period. Iran continues to showcase public displays of Israel being obliterated by an Iranian nuclear bomb, and even in the midst of negotiations government-orchestrated mass rallies cry out, “Death to America.” If Chamberlain possessed America’s strength and was dealing with Iran’s weakness, would he be negotiating as Mr. Obama is? Would he be more concerned about a Jew building an extra bedroom in Jerusalem than an Iranian building a bomb at Fordo? (…) It is unrealistic to hope that Mr. Obama could emerge as a modern Churchill in this chaotic and dangerous chapter in human history. But even Chamberlain would not have made the disastrous agreement that Mr. Obama seems so eager to conclude. Mr. Obama is an amateur who is enthralled with the sound of his own voice and is incapable of coming to grips with the consequences of his actions. He is surrounded by sycophants, second-rate intellectuals, and a media that remains compliant and uncritical in the face of repeated foreign policy disasters. As country after country in the world’s most dangerous region fall into chaos—Libya and Yemen are essentially anarchic states, even as Syria and Iraq continue to devolve—Mr. Obama puzzlingly focuses much of his attention and rhetoric on Israel, childishly refusing to accept the mandate its people have given their prime minister in an election that, by the way, added three additional seats to the country’s Arab minority. We can debate whether we should ever have been in Iraq, but Mr. Obama’s hasty withdrawal to make good on a campaign promise created the power vacuum filled by the Islamic State. In Syria, he vacillated over the enforcement of red lines and whom to arm. There too, he created a vacuum filled by the Islamic State. In Egypt, he withdrew support for President Hosni Mubarack, who for thirty years kept the peace with Israel and turned Egypt into a stable and reliable ally. Obama permitted the tyrannical Muslim Brotherhood to come to power failing to realize that one election, one time, resulting in a tyranny is not democracy. In Libya, President Muammar al-Gaddafi, once an international pariah, had reversed course as far back as 1999 and attempted to reenter the community of nations, even giving up his nuclear program. Libya was a stable dictatorship that was willing to engage in economic and diplomatic relations with the West. Its revolutionary ambitions of pan-Arabism and its expansionist tendencies had abated. When revolutionary forces rose up against Gaddafi, Mr. Obama not only verbally supported the revolutionaries, he sent NATO war planes to assist them. Gaddafi was defeated and murdered. Libya is now in chaos and another hot house for Islamic extremism. The deal with Iran follows in the wake of these foreign policy disasters. Among our traditional Sunni allies in the region, it is seen as a betrayal not simply because it advances Iran’s nuclear ambitions but also because it encourages Iran’s support for the Houthi Shiite militia in Yemen and Iran’s adventurism in Iraq. The lifting of sanctions means more resources for Iran to transfer to its meddlesome proxies like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the assassin of Lebanon’s democratic aspirations.  The nuclear deal gives Iran an unacceptable nuclear umbrella that will compel the Gulf State Sunnis to launch their own nuclear programs, setting off a disastrous proliferation in the region. The Iran deal is a march toward the nuclear abyss hand-in-hand with the world’s largest exporter of terrorism– the patron of Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthi militias in Yemen, Shiite militias in Iraq, and operatives killing Jews in Argentina. Regrettably, a naïve, petulant President Obama sees this as a crowning part of his legacy and nothing will stand in his way. Until Mr. Obama released a 1987 classified report detailing Israel’s nuclear program, we believed that the president’s Iranian policy was motivated by a different vision of America’s interests in the Middle East. Admittedly, it is one that would be difficult to dissect, let alone to explain. But Mr. Obama’s latest petulant act shows that this is not a president motivated by policy but by personal feelings. He sacrificed the security of our close ally and its seven million citizens because he felt slighted. How else does one explain that Israel’s nuclear program is made public while the report’s description of the programs of our NATO partners is redacted? (…) Ultimately, this deal will come back to haunt Mr. Obama’s legacy far more than Munich haunted Chamberlain’s. The Observer
The current negotiations with the Iranians in Lausanne, Switzerland, have all the hallmarks of the Munich negotiations. Most Westerners accept that the Iranian government funds terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. It has all but taken over Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Yet the idea of stronger sanctions, blockades, or even force to stop Iranian efforts to get a bomb are considered scarier than Iran getting a bomb that it just possibly might not threaten to use. The U.S. and its NATO partners are far stronger than Iran in every imaginable measure of military and economic strength. The Iranian economy is struggling, its government is corrupt, and its conventional military is obsolete. Iran’s only chance of gaining strength is to show both its own population and the world at large that stronger Western powers backed down in fear of its threats and recklessness. Iran is not united. It is a mishmash nation in which over a third of the population is not Persian. Millions of protestors hit the streets in 2009. An Iranian journalist covering the talks defected in Switzerland — and said that U.S. officials at the talks are there mainly to speak on behalf of Iran. By reaching an agreement with Iran, John Kerry and Barack Obama hope to salvage some sort of legacy — in the vain fashion of Chamberlain — out of a heretofore failed foreign policy. Victor Davis Hanson

La paix pour notre temps !

En ce début de la Pâque juive, véritable contre-histoire, quoi qu’en dise Hollywood il y a plus de 3 000 ans, de la mère de toutes les épurations ethniques

Et de Vendredi saint chrétien qui vit, on s’en souvient il y a  2 000 ans, une énième tentative de pacification et de réconciliation sur le dos d’un tiers exclu se retourner en sa dénonciation …

En ces temps étranges où une affiche de concert pour les Chrétiens d’Orient semblent plus choquants que leurs découpages à présent presque quotidiens au couteau de boucher …

A l’heure où du haut de six années de reculades et de lignes rouges comme de fausses promesses, le faux Messie noir de la Maison Blanche nous assure sans rire …

Qu’un pays qui a passé les douze dernières années à mentir et tricher …

Et, de Beyrouth à Khobar et de Gaza à Paris ou Buenos Aires, les trente dernières années à alimenter le terrorisme mondial

Pour finir aujourd’hui, du Golan à Gaza et de la Syrie au Yémen, à faire main basse sur plus de la moitié du Moyen-Orient …

Sera « plus inspecté que n’importe quel autre pays dans le monde »

Et que le plus sérieusement du monde nos experts nous confirment qu’ « aucun pays au monde n’a accepté de telles restrictions en matière nucléaire »

Saluant à qui mieux mieux un « succès inespéré » ayant « toutes les chances d’être encore enseigné dans trente ans au sein des universités de sciences politiques du monde entier comme un modèle de succès de la diplomatie multilatérale » …

Et ne trouvant pas de mots assez durs pour dénoncer, pour un pré-accord dont « les détails ne sont pas connus avant l’échéance du 30 juin », les républicains qui « se déchainent « et les « néoconservateurs, qu’on croyait enterrés avec le fiasco de la guerre en Irak » …

Pendant que comme à leur habitude quelques heures à peine après les négociateurs iraniens …

Accusaient déjà la Maison Blanche de mensonges sur la teneur exacte des termes du prétendu accord …

Comment ne pas avoir avec l’historien militaire américain Victor Davis Hanson …

Comme une étrange impression de déjà vu …

Jusqu’à l’indispensable tiers exclu, juifs ou chrétiens africains  ou arabes (tant qu’ils ne sont pas… palestiniens !) remplaçant avantageusement la Tchécoslovaquie d’antan  …

D’un tristement fameux accord dans une certaine ville de Bavière il y a quelque 77 ans ?

The Shadow of Munich Haunts the Iran Negotiations
Victor Davis Hanson
The National Review
April 2, 2015
Once again our leaders are needlessly appeasing a hostile state that shows them nothing but contempt. The Western capitulation to Adolf Hitler in the 1938 Munich Agreement is cited as classic appeasement that destroyed Czechoslovakia, backfired on France and Britain, and led to World War II.
All of that is true.
But there was much more that caused the Munich debacle than simple Western naiveté. The full tragedy of that ill-fated agreement should warn us on the eve of the Obama’s administration’s gullible agreement with Iran on nuclear proliferation.
Fable one is the idea that most people saw right through the Munich folly. True, Europeans knew that Hitler had never once told the truth and was already murdering German citizens who were Jews, Communists, or homosexuals. But Europeans did not care all that much.
Instead, the Western world was ecstatic over the agreement. After the carnage of World War I, Europeans would do anything to avoid even a small confrontation — even if such appeasement all but ensured a far greater bloodbath than the one that began in 1914.
Another myth was that Hitler’s Wehrmacht was strong and the democracies were weak. In fact, the combined French and British militaries were far larger than Hitler’s. French Char tanks and British Spitfire fighters were as good as, or superior to, their German counterparts.
Czechoslovakia had formidable defenses and an impressive arms industry. Poland and perhaps even the Soviet Union were ready to join a coalition to stop Hitler from dissolving the Czech state.
It is also untrue that the Third Reich was united. Many of Hitler’s top generals did not want war. Yet each time Hitler successfully called the Allies’ bluff — in the Rhineland or with the annexation of Austria — the credibility of his doubters sank while his own reckless risk-taking became even more popular.
Munich was hardly a compassionate agreement. In callous fashion it immediately doomed millions of Czechs and put Poland on the target list of the Third Reich. Munich was directly tied to the vanity of Neville Chamberlain. In the first few weeks after Munich, Chamberlain basked in adulation, posing as the humane savior of Western civilization. In contrast, loud skeptic Winston Churchill was dismissed by the media and public as an old warmonger.
Hitler failed to appreciate the magnanimity and concessions of the French and British. He later called his Munich diplomatic partners “worms.” Hitler said of the obsequious Chamberlain, “I’ll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers.”
The current negotiations with the Iranians in Lausanne, Switzerland, have all the hallmarks of the Munich negotiations.
Most Westerners accept that the Iranian government funds terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. It has all but taken over Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Yet the idea of stronger sanctions, blockades, or even force to stop Iranian efforts to get a bomb are considered scarier than Iran getting a bomb that it just possibly might not threaten to use.
The U.S. and its NATO partners are far stronger than Iran in every imaginable measure of military and economic strength. The Iranian economy is struggling, its government is corrupt, and its conventional military is obsolete. Iran’s only chance of gaining strength is to show both its own population and the world at large that stronger Western powers backed down in fear of its threats and recklessness.
Iran is not united. It is a mishmash nation in which over a third of the population is not Persian. Millions of protestors hit the streets in 2009. An Iranian journalist covering the talks defected in Switzerland — and said that U.S. officials at the talks are there mainly to speak on behalf of Iran.
By reaching an agreement with Iran, John Kerry and Barack Obama hope to salvage some sort of legacy — in the vain fashion of Chamberlain — out of a heretofore failed foreign policy.
There are more Munich parallels. The Iranian agreement will force rich Sunni nations to get their own bombs to ensure a nuclear Middle East standoff. A deal with Iran shows callous disagreed for our close ally Israel, which is serially threatened by Iran’s mullahs. The United States is distant from Iran. But our allies in the Middle East and Europe are within its missile range. Supporters of the Obama administration deride skeptics such as Democratic senator Robert Menendez and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as if they were doubting old Churchills.
Finally, the Iranians, like Hitler, have only contempt for the administration that has treated them so fawningly. During the negotiations in Switzerland, the Iranians blew up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. Their supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, did his usual “death to America” shtick before adoring crowds. Our dishonor in Lausanne, as with Munich, may avoid a confrontation in the present, but our shame will guarantee a war in the near future.
— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com. © 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Voir aussi:

L’Express
03/04/2015
Au terme de plusieurs mois de négociations, un accord cadre pour résoudre le dossier du nucléaire iranien a été conclu jeudi à Lausanne. François Nicoullaud, ancien ambassadeur de France en Iran, spécialiste du dossier, revient sur les avancées de ce compromis « historique ».
Barack Obama a parlé d’un accord « historique ». Est-ce vraiment le cas?
Oui. Cela faisait plus de 35 ans que les deux pays étaient en conflit. L’accord intervient douze ans après les premières négociations. Les détails de l’accord restent à formaliser, mais on vient de franchir une étape extrêmement importante pour la résolution de cette crise.
L’accord vous semble-t-il équilibré ?
Les deux parties ont chacune fait des concessions, mais chacune a su préserver des aspects essentiels de ses objectifs. Le programme nucléaire civil iranien et l’usage d’un réacteur de recherche (à Arak) sont acceptés par les 5+1, y compris l’enrichissement, ce qui n’était pas le cas auparavant. En face, Téhéran a accepté de réduire drastiquement ses capacités nucléaires ainsi que la mise en oeuvre du protocole additionnel du Traité de non-prolifération (TNP) qui facilitera les contrôles des inspecteurs de l’AIEA. L’Iran a aussi accepté que la levée des sanctions soit progressive et conditionnées au rythme de l’application de l’accord (diminution du nombre de centrifugeuses, fermeture de Fordo, etc.)
Les opposants à l’accord estiment qu’il encourage l’Iran dans sa course au nucléaire; le gouvernement israélien évoque un « pas dans une direction très très dangereuse »…
Les opposants aux négociations n’ont jamais présenté d’alternative crédible. Depuis 12 ans, ils ont évoqué des solutions radicales, sans résultat. L’usage de la force, la destruction des installations iraniennes était pour eux la seule option envisageable. Cela n’aura contribué qu’à l’aggravation des tensions dans une région qui n’en n’a guère besoin. Le compromis n’est peut-être pas parfait; mais c’est la nature même d’un compromis.Il constitue pourtant un véritable soulagement. Grâce à l’accord de Lausanne, le programme nucléaire iranien est très sérieusement encadré. Il sera surveillé à la loupe. Les différentes clauses concernant l’enrichissement, ou les sites sensibles de Fordo, d’Arak ou de Natanz, permettront de limiter de façon drastique toute possibilité d’accès à l’arme atomique. Aucun pays au monde n’a accepté de telles restrictions en matière nucléaire. Au-delà même des 10 à 15 ans prévus par les paramètres de l’accord, l’Iran continuera en outre à être soumis aux contrôles prévus par l’AIEA.
L’accord de Lausanne peut-il encourager la prolifération dans la région, comme le craignent ses adversaires ?
Je ne vois pas pourquoi un accord qui ferme toutes les voies d’accès à la bombe serait encourageant pour quiconque.Certains observateurs ont relevé que les termes de cet accord sont moins favorables que celui négocié en 2003 entre l’Iran et l’Union européenne…Il est clair qu’en 2003, au moment des premières discussions, Téhéran ne disposait que de quelques dizaines de centrifugeuses contre près de 20.000 aujourd’hui. L’Iran était prêt à accepter des contraintes plus fortes qu’aujourd’hui. Si on avait accepté de discuter sérieusement alors, la République islamique se serait probablement contentée d’un millier de centrifugeuse, tandis que l’accord cadre du 2 avril en prévoit près de 6000.
Que va-t-il se passer d’ici l’accord final du 30 juin?
Il s’agit maintenant de « mettre en musique » les lignes générales présentées jeudi soir par la chef de la diplomatie de l’UE, Federica Mogherini, et le ministre iranien des Affaires étrangères, Mohammad Javad Zarif ; d’affiner les détails de leur mise en oeuvre. Certains points de la déclaration commune sont très clairs, d’autres plus flous. Parallèlement à cette déclaration, les Etats-Unis ont diffusé un document comprenant une liste de « paramètres ». Celle-ci n’est pas formellement acceptée par les Iraniens, mais il semble qu’elle servira de ligne directrice pour la rédaction de l’accord détaillé.
La France a tenu une position souvent plus ferme que les Etats-Unis…
Elle a poussé à des solutions « robustes », selon le terme employé par Laurent Fabius. On trouve en effet la marque des exigences de Paris dans l’accord cadre: la levée des sanctions par phases, le démantèlement du coeur du réacteur à eau lourde d’Arak (remplacé par un réacteur destiné à la recherche). Je ne crois pas que les demandes de la France ont véritablement gêné les discussions. Elles ont pu générer des tensions, pas un blocage.Les détracteurs des négociations craignent que cet accord ne conforte le sentiment hégémonique de l’Iran dans la région…La voie de la diplomatie est un pari. Les partisans du dialogue considèrent que le retour de la prospérité en Iran, après la levée des sanctions, va contribuer à détendre l’atmosphère. Certains craignent l’inverse, c’est vrai. L’aboutissement de ces longues discussions devrait, selon moi, renforcer le président Hassan Rohani, élu sur la promesse d’ouverture au monde. A l’intérieur comme en ce qui concerne la politique extérieure. De quoi renforcer le camp des modérés dont il est le chef de file, à l’occasion des prochaines législatives, en 2016. Réintroduire l’Iran dans le jeu international, faire en sorte qu’il se sente moins menacé, peut, je le crois, conforter la voie de la modération dans sa relation au monde.
Voir également:

Iran Accuses U.S. of Lying About New Nuke Agreement

Says White House misleading Congress, American people with fact sheet

Free Beacon

April 2, 2015

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Just hours after the announcement of what the United States characterized as a historic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, the country’s leading negotiator lashed out at the Obama administration for lying about the details of a tentative framework.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the Obama administration of misleading the American people and Congress in a fact sheet it released following the culmination of negotiations with the Islamic Republic.

Zarif bragged in an earlier press conference with reporters that the United States had tentatively agreed to let it continue the enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear bomb, as well as key nuclear research.

Zarif additionally said Iran would have all nuclear-related sanctions lifted once a final deal is signed and that the country would not be forced to shut down any of its currently operating nuclear installations.

Following a subsequent press conference by Secretary of State John Kerry—and release of a administration fact sheet on Iranian concessions—Zarif lashed out on Twitter over what he dubbed lies.

“The solutions are good for all, as they stand,” he tweeted. “There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on.”

Zarif went on to push back against claims by Kerry that the sanctions relief would be implemented in a phased fashion—and only after Iran verifies that it is not conducting any work on the nuclear weapons front.

Zarif, echoing previous comments, said the United States has promised an immediate termination of sanctions.

“Iran/5+1 Statement: ‘US will cease the application of ALL nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions.’ Is this gradual?” he wrote on Twitter.

He then suggested a correction: “Iran/P5+1 Statement: ‘The EU will TERMINATE the implementation of ALL nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions’. How about this?”

The pushback from Iran’s chief diplomat follows a pattern of similar accusations by senior Iranian political figures after the announcement of previous agreements.

Following the signing of an interim agreement with Iran aimed at scaling back its nuclear work, Iran accused the United States of lying about details of the agreement.

On Thursday evening, Zarif told reporters the latest agreement allows Iran to keep operating its nuclear program.

“None of those measures” that will move to scale back Iran’s program “include closing any of our facilities,” Zarif said. “We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development.”

“Our heavy water reactor will be modernized and we will continue the Fordow facility,” Zarif said. “We will have centrifuges installed in Fordow, but not enriching.”

The move to allow Iran to keep centrifuges at Fordow, a controversial onetime military site, has elicited concern that Tehran could ramp up its nuclear work with ease.

Zarif said that once a final agreement is made, “all U.S. nuclear related secondary sanctions will be terminated,” he said. “This, I think, would be a major step forward.”

Zarif also revealed that Iran will be allowed to sell “enriched uranium” in the international market place and will be “hopefully making some money” from it.

Voir encore:

President Obama Must Not Complete a Disastrous Deal With Iran
Forget Churchill—Obama Isn’t Measuring up to Neville Chamberlain
The Editors

The Observer

03/31/15

With the US on the brink of signing an agreement that will lift the crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for alleged guarantees that Iran will limit its nuclear ambitions to peaceful means, the Observer urges President Obama not to place his personal hunger for a legacy issue ahead of his most solemn duty – protecting America’s national security.

Barack Obama has been compared to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who concluded the ill-fated Munich Pact with Hitler in 1938. But Chamberlain acted out of a sincere belief that he was avoiding a greater evil. Chamberlain was not thinking of his place in history. He was thinking only of the Britain that he loved, a Britain that was all but disarmed, exhausted, and vulnerable. He was dealing with a nation that had been decimated by the Great War, a nation whose “best and brightest” five years earlier had declared in the infamous Oxford Oath that they would not fight for king or country, and a nation that was as materially unprepared for war as Germany was prepared to fight. Chamberlain dealt from a position of weakness, one that Hitler continually exploited in the negotiations, even by changing the time and place to make it more inconvenient for the British leader to attend them.
In sharp contrast, Mr. Obama is acting out of personal aggrandizement. He believes he is replicating President Richard Nixon’s historic opening of China.

In sharp contrast, Mr. Obama is acting out of personal aggrandizement. He believes he is replicating President Richard Nixon’s historic opening of China. For Mr. Obama, the Iranian nuclear arms deal is about his place in history. Mr. Obama is dealing from a position of strength that he refuses to use. The sanctions have hurt Iran. Falling oil prices only add to Iran’s vulnerability. Instead of using the sanctions to pursue his original promise that Iran would not get the bomb, Mr. Obama has moved the goal post. Iran would not get the bomb immediately. It would be permitted to enrich uranium well beyond the 5 percent need for generating nuclear energy and be left with a breakout capacity to create a bomb.

Meanwhile, Iran is refusing surprise inspections, the hallmark of any such agreement, and has ruled its military facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordo, off limits to any inspections, period. Iran continues to showcase public displays of Israel being obliterated by an Iranian nuclear bomb, and even in the midst of negotiations government-orchestrated mass rallies cry out, “Death to America.”

If Chamberlain possessed America’s strength and was dealing with Iran’s weakness, would he be negotiating as Mr. Obama is? Would he be more concerned about a Jew building an extra bedroom in Jerusalem than an Iranian building a bomb at Fordo?

Before becoming prime minister, Chamberlain held two ministerial portfolios. He was considered a thoughtful and effective cabinet member. Upon becoming Prime Minister in 1940, Winston Churchill appointed Chamberlain to the new War Cabinet.

History has debated whether Chamberlain was the reckless appeaser that he is stereotyped as or the man who dealt from a position of extreme weakness against a foe he was unprepared to go to war against and who sacrificed part of Czechoslovakia to buy Britain time to rearm. Even Churchill, who filleted Chamberlain with his famous “choice between war and dishonor and now will get both” zinger, understood that Chamberlain was acting in good faith and kept his vanquished predecessor in his War cabinet.

On Iran, No Deal Is Better Than A Good Deal

It is unrealistic to hope that Mr. Obama could emerge as a modern Churchill in this chaotic and dangerous chapter in human history. But even Chamberlain would not have made the disastrous agreement that Mr. Obama seems so eager to conclude.

It is unrealistic to hope that Mr. Obama could emerge as a modern Churchill in this chaotic and dangerous chapter in human history. But even Chamberlain would not have made the disastrous agreement that Mr. Obama seems so eager to conclude.

Mr. Obama is an amateur who is enthralled with the sound of his own voice and is incapable of coming to grips with the consequences of his actions. He is surrounded by sycophants, second-rate intellectuals, and a media that remains compliant and uncritical in the face of repeated foreign policy disasters. As country after country in the world’s most dangerous region fall into chaos—Libya and Yemen are essentially anarchic states, even as Syria and Iraq continue to devolve—Mr. Obama puzzlingly focuses much of his attention and rhetoric on Israel, childishly refusing to accept the mandate its people have given their prime minister in an election that, by the way, added three additional seats to the country’s Arab minority.

We can debate whether we should ever have been in Iraq, but Mr. Obama’s hasty withdrawal to make good on a campaign promise created the power vacuum filled by the Islamic State. In Syria, he vacillated over the enforcement of red lines and whom to arm. There too, he created a vacuum filled by the Islamic State.

In Egypt, he withdrew support for President Hosni Mubarack, who for thirty years kept the peace with Israel and turned Egypt into a stable and reliable ally. Obama permitted the tyrannical Muslim Brotherhood to come to power failing to realize that one election, one time, resulting in a tyranny is not democracy.

In Libya, President Muammar al-Gaddafi, once an international pariah, had reversed course as far back as 1999 and attempted to reenter the community of nations, even giving up his nuclear program. Libya was a stable dictatorship that was willing to engage in economic and diplomatic relations with the West. Its revolutionary ambitions of pan-Arabism and its expansionist tendencies had abated. When revolutionary forces rose up against Gaddafi, Mr. Obama not only verbally supported the revolutionaries, he sent NATO war planes to assist them. Gaddafi was defeated and murdered. Libya is now in chaos and another hot house for Islamic extremism.

The Iran deal is a march toward the nuclear abyss hand-in-hand with the world’s largest exporter of terrorism

The deal with Iran follows in the wake of these foreign policy disasters. Among our traditional Sunni allies in the region, it is seen as a betrayal not simply because it advances Iran’s nuclear ambitions but also because it encourages Iran’s support for the Houthi Shiite militia in Yemen and Iran’s adventurism in Iraq. The lifting of sanctions means more resources for Iran to transfer to its meddlesome proxies like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the assassin of Lebanon’s democratic aspirations.  The nuclear deal gives Iran an unacceptable nuclear umbrella that will compel the Gulf State Sunnis to launch their own nuclear programs, setting off a disastrous proliferation in the region.

The Iran deal is a march toward the nuclear abyss hand-in-hand with the world’s largest exporter of terrorism– the patron of Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthi militias in Yemen, Shiite militias in Iraq, and operatives killing Jews in Argentina. Regrettably, a naïve, petulant President Obama sees this as a crowning part of his legacy and nothing will stand in his way.

Until Mr. Obama released a 1987 classified report detailing Israel’s nuclear program, we believed that the president’s Iranian policy was motivated by a different vision of America’s interests in the Middle East. Admittedly, it is one that would be difficult to dissect, let alone to explain.

But Mr. Obama’s latest petulant act shows that this is not a president motivated by policy but by personal feelings. He sacrificed the security of our close ally and its seven million citizens because he felt slighted. How else does one explain that Israel’s nuclear program is made public while the report’s description of the programs of our NATO partners is redacted?

We might call for Mr. Obama to find his inner Churchill and walk away from this tragedy, but we would be happy if he would simply find the character of the “real” Neville Chamberlain, who when dealing from a position of America’s strength would never have signed a deal with the devil. Ultimately, this deal will come back to haunt Mr. Obama’s legacy far more than Munich haunted Chamberlain’s.

Voir également:

Surrender to Tehran

The Editors

The National Review

April 2, 2015

We now have a definitive answer to the oft-asked but hardly challenging question of whether President Obama wanted a deal with Iran so badly he would accept a truly awful bargain. The answer: Of course he did.

Iranian negotiators have triumphed on nearly every substantive point: They will get complete sanctions relief and U.N. legitimacy all at once, while keeping thousands of centrifuges, multiple nuclear sites, the right to develop new, more advanced enrichment equipment — even permission to continue nuclear research at a highly reinforced underground facility that was kept secret from international inspectors for years. In exchange, the West got promises of a new, tough inspections regime, even though there is already a long record of Iran’s developing nuclear facilities in secret. The White House says the deal pushes the time it would take Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon to a year, but widely respected arms-control experts have said, given the difficulty of performing good inspections and of building consensus around violations, that this is not enough.

The Iranians’ success has little to do with the ability of the Iranian negotiators and a lot to do with the Obama administration’s zeal for an agreement at any cost. The president wanted a deal because he has been desperate to forge a opening to the Iranian regime since the beginning of his presidency, and unenforceable international agreements that damage American interests are his favorite form of laurel. (Winning wars seems to rank a good bit lower.)

The White House has made it more and more clear that it believes an agreement with Iran, and the rapprochement presumed to follow, will create an Iran we can deal with and will be a big step toward solving many of the region’s problems, such as the rise of ISIS.

This idea is, of course, fantastical. The enemy of our enemy and all, but legitimizing and strengthening a totalitarian, terrorist regime that happens to appear to be loosely on the same side of one battle (in Iraq, Iranian-backed Shia militias aren’t really the answer to Sunni radicals) isn’t much of a long-term strategy. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s founding doctrine renders the United States its mortal enemy. This regime is never going to be a partner, and this deal is premised not just on the idea that we think they could be, but that we should give them just about every concession possible to make it happen.

Obama’s plan is not necessarily a fait accompli. There are months until the final deal will be hammered out, and sanctions relief may not start for some time. The president suggested today that he will consult Congress about the deal, though it is almost inconceivable that he will voluntarily submit it for approval. It falls to Congress, then, to pass new legislation to set requirements for a final agreement with Iran and empower itself to vote a deal down, although it will take a veto-proof majority to get such a measure into law. The situation demands serious resistance from Congress, in any case, and from our sometimes-wiser allies, France chief among them. Yet it is also quite possible that this charade will proceed, and that Obama, elevating strategic naïveté to an art form, has committed one of the great diplomatic blunders of our time. An emboldened Iran will be a very dangerous thing for the Middle East and Israel; the nuclear-arms race that this deal could spark would be even worse. We hope the president and our allies will come to recognize the folly of the tentative deal before it is formally complete. If not, Congress must do everything it can to scuttle it, and show the world — and our allies — that U.S. policy has some adult supervision.

Voir de même:

Not a Good Deal

Fred Fleitz

April 2, 2015

It legitimizes and advances Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. At a press conference this afternoon, President Obama lauded the preliminary agreement reached with Iran to reduce the risk of an Iranian nuclear weapon, saying “this is a good deal.” He claimed it will keep Iran at least a year away from constructing a nuclear weapon and will be subject to intrusive and unprecedented inspections and verification. This preliminary agreement is the outline for a comprehensive agreement due by June 30.
The details of the framework agreement as spelled out in a White House fact sheet and President Obama’s speech raise many questions about a final deal. It is troubling that no final agreed-upon text has been released and that Iranian and EU officials were vague in their statements about the framework.
Earlier today on National Review, Patrick Brennan wrote about tweets by Abas Aslani, the head of an Iranian government news agency, that show how the Iranian view of the agreement differs from the Obama administration’s view. Aslani tweeted, for instance, that Iran will continue to develop advanced centrifuges during the duration of the deal and “all economic sanctions by EU, US will be lifted immediately including financial, banking, insurance, oil.”
Here are my initial thoughts about the preliminary agreement, based on our knowledge of it at this hour.
Uranium Enrichment
According to the White House fact sheet, Iran will go from 9,000 operational centrifuges to 6,104. Of these, 5,060 will enrich uranium for ten years. All centrifuges will be Iran’s first-generation IR-1 design. The remaining 10,000 operational and non-operational centrifuges will be put in storage and monitored by the IAEA. These machines will be used to replace operating centrifuges.
. For 15 years, Iran has agreed not to enrich over 3.67% U-235 and not to build additional enrichment facilities.
. Iran also has agreed to “reduce” its current enriched-uranium stockpile of about 10,000 kilograms (enough to fuel eight or more nuclear weapons if enriched to weapons-grade) to 300 kilograms. President Obama said in his speech today that Iran’s enriched uranium would be “neutralized.”
. The U.S. fact sheet says Iran will not use advanced centrifuge models for ten years and will develop them according to a schedule worked out under the agreement. However, an Iranian spokesman tweeted that Iran will continue its R&D on advanced centrifuges during the agreement and will do “the beginning and completing process” of IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 to IR-8 centrifuges during the ten-year span of the agreement.
. Iran will move most of its centrifuges out of its underground Fordow enrichment facility and will not enrich uranium there for at least 15 years. Two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges will be put in storage, and the facility will be used for peaceful purposes.
Comment
This agreement will allow Iran to continue uranium enrichment, an activity that the United States has refused to agree to in nuclear-technology cooperation agreements with its friends and allies because it is so easy to use a peaceful enrichment program to make weapons fuel. There is no practical reason for Iran to conduct uranium enrichment with 6,000 centrifuges. It would take about 200,000 centrifuges for Iran to enrich enough uranium to fuel its Bushehr power reactor. 5,000 centrifuges are far too many for other peaceful purposes such as producing medical isotopes or fuel plates for the Tehran research reactor. Moreover, it would be far more economical for Iran to purchase reactor fuel rods, fuel plates, and medical isotopes from other countries.
The Obama administration hopes to address the risks of Iranian uranium enrichment by having intrusive IAEA inspections and by requiring Iran to “reduce” or “neutralize” its enriched-uranium stockpile. From the president’s statement and the White House fact sheet, it appears that Iran is refusing to send its enriched uranium to Russia as the U.S. had proposed. Also, the U.S. fact sheet says only that Iran’s current enriched-uranium stockpile will be reduced; it does not say what will happen to uranium enriched during the agreement.
We also don’t know what the words “reduced” or “neutralized” mean. The Obama administration previously claimed that the risk of Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile had been reduced because some of it had been converted to uranium powder. Experts later discounted this claim because this process can be reversed in about two weeks.
If Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile remains in the country and is only reduced to powder, Iran will retain the capability to make eight or more nuclear weapons in about three months. Former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen recently published a chart on Iran’s nuclear “breakout” time that shows how Iran could make enough enriched uranium for one weapon in twelve weeks from reactor-grade uranium using 6,000 centrifuges, and how it could do so in 16 weeks using only 1,000 centrifuges. Click here to view.
The decision to let Iran keep its previously secret, heavily fortified Fordow enrichment facility is a major American cave. President Obama said in 2012 about this facility: “We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful [nuclear] program.”
Bottom line
The preliminary agreement legitimizes — and even allows the advancement of — Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. It does not appear to delay the breakout time for an Iranian nuclear weapon. Incredibly, no enrichment equipment or facilities will be disassembled or destroyed. Given Iran’s long history of cheating on nuclear agreements and covert nuclear activities, allowing it to do any uranium enrichment is very dangerous. This is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said that Iran’s enrichment program has only one purpose: to make nuclear bombs. This is reason enough for the U.S. Congress to reject this agreement and impose new sanctions until Iran complies with U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring it to halt all uranium enrichment.
Inspections and Verification
President Obama said today: “Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history. So this deal is not based on trust. It’s based on unprecedented verification.” According to Obama, “If Iran cheats, the world will know it.”
. The president also said, “Iran has agreed to give the IAEA access to the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program, from uranium mills that provide the raw materials to the centrifuge production and storage facilities that support the program.”
. According to the White House fact sheet, the IAEA will have access to these facilities for 20 to 25 years. According to the fact sheet, Iran has agreed to implement the IAEA additional protocol, which requires it to provide the IAEA with information on declared and undeclared nuclear sites. Iran also “will be required” to give the IAEA access to possible covert sites related to uranium enrichment.
. The president said “Iran’s past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed.” The fact sheet says “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of its program.”
Comment
Although the verification measures detailed by the president go beyond what Iran is currently subject to, Tehran has never fully cooperated with IAEA inspectors. Moreover, this verification plan does not permit snap inspections and unfettered access to all Iranian nuclear facilities, including military bases where Iran is believed to have conducted nuclear-weapons work. The agreement also is vague on requiring Iran to answer questions about past weapons-related work. Iran agreed to a twelve-step program with IAEA in late 2013 to address these questions but has addressed only one of them.
It is hard to trust the Obama administration and Iran on verification and compliance. Iran violated the terms of the interim agreement that set up the nuclear talks, but the Obama administration repeatedly has claimed it was in compliance. President Obama again made this false claim in his speech today.
Bottom line
Verification of a final agreement must require Iran to answer all outstanding questions about weapons-related work and allow unfettered access by the IAEA to all facilities where nuclear activities are believed to have taken place. The preliminary agreement appears to give Iran a pass on previous nuclear-weapons work and set up a verification plan that will not detect all weapons-related activities.
Arak Heavy-Water Reactor
According to the White House fact sheet, Iran will remove the core of this reactor and install a new core so this reactor will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. This reactor will remain a heavy-water reactor and will be operated for peaceful purposes.
Iran has agreed not to reprocess the spent fuel of this reactor to produce plutonium indefinitely, will sell its excess heavy water not needed for the redesigned reactor, and will not build more heavy-water reactors for 15 years.
Comment
Heavy-water reactors are a very serious proliferation risk because they are a source of plutonium. If this reactor remains a heavy-water reactor, it will be a plutonium source. Iran constructed this reactor in defiance of IAEA resolutions. Allowing Tehran to operate it undermines the credibility of the Western states who pushed these resolutions and increases Iran’s expertise in operating and building plutonium-producing reactors.
Sanctions
According to the fact sheet, U.S. and EU sanctions will be lifted after the IAEA verifies that Iran has complied with “all of its key nuclear-related steps.”
. These sanctions will “snap back” if Iran fails to comply with its commitments.
. Previous U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran will mostly be lifted if Iran complies with key nuclear-related steps, including resolving possible nuclear-weapons-related activities.
. As stated above, the Iranian government appears to believe all sanctions will be lifted immediately.
. U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human-rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place.
Comment
Iranian cheating on nuclear agreements has usually been slow and subtle. It is unlikely to engage in any unambiguous cheating that will force the Obama administration to restore sanctions if they are lifted. Moreover, once sanctions are lifted — especially EU and U.N. sanctions — it will be very difficult to reimpose them. The framework seems to set fairly easy benchmarks that would allow most sanctions against Iran to be lifted quickly. This would be a boon for the Iranian economy and would generate significantly more funds that Iran could use to bolster its ever-increasing efforts to interfere with its neighbors and spread its influence in the Middle East.
An American Capitulation
This framework appears certain to lead to a deal that will significantly advance Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, though agreement is supposed to reduce the threat from Iran’s nuclear program. By allowing Iran to improve its expertise in uranium enrichment and plutonium production and by legitimizing its nuclear program, a deal based on this framework will increase the risk from an Iranian nuclear weapon. Such an agreement will probably further destabilize the Middle East and could lead to a regional nuclear-arms race.
President Obama’s claim that the only alternative to this agreement is war with Iran is false. Continuing the status quo would be a much better outcome than an agreement that paves the way to an Iranian nuclear bomb.
The president claimed that the United States will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy if Congress kills this deal. I believe the opposite is the case. Our Middle East friends and allies are likely to reject this preliminary agreement as a sell-out to the Iranian mullahs that puts their security at risk at a time when Iranian influence is growing in the region.
For the sake of American security and the security of America’s Middle East friends and allies, Congress must do what it can to kill any nuclear agreement with Iran based on the deeply flawed framework unveiled today.
— Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, is senior vice president for policy and programs for the Center for Security Policy. He worked on the Iranian nuclear issue for the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee.

Voir encore:

We Have a Deal with Iran, and It Looks Like They Got Almost Everything They Wanted

Patrick Brennan

The National Review

April 2, 2015

Western powers and Iran have announced that the framework for an eventual long-term deal on Iran’s nuclear program has been reached, defying expectations that they might just entirely blow past the end-of-March deadline.

A bit of good news: Iran does appear to have agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium (which is a couple, relatively short steps from being weapons material) out of the country, to Russia. Not great, but there had been rumors they would insist on keeping the material.

The bad news: pretty much everything else.

There isn’t really a deal, there are just “parameters” (in the words of the EU representative today), and the explicit wording of them won’t even be made public.

The details of the deal are supposed to be decided by the end of June, and it’s not clear that they will become public then, either. The actual interim agreement under which Iran, the U.S., international agencies, and others have been operating under for a year and a half now has never been made public. The details, such as they are, are seriously worrisome.

Tweets by the head of an Iranian government news agency, along with some (skeptical) context:

: More than 5000 centrifuges will continue to enrich 3.67% in Natanz .

For lack of better phrasing, that is a lot of centrifuges — Iran has more than that now, but it’s a huge number. Once upon a time, the West’s position was that Iran should have no centrifuges. Arak is a plutonium plant that many worry could provide an alternative path to a nuclear weapon (though Iran has long said it will convert it into a harmless facility).

Summary of solutions: None of Iran’s nuclear facilities or activities will not be suspended or shut down.

Fordow is a highly reinforced nuclear research facility that would be very difficult to destroy in the event that Iranian efforts to “break out” and build a bomb are detected — although Iran says it will not use those centrifuges for enrichment, just research. Perhaps Iran’s best scientists just don’t like sunlight and have a thing for heavy doors. Perhaps.

In R&D, will do the beginning & completing process of IR-4، IR-5 ،6IR- و IR-8 centrigues during 10 yrs.

In terms of R&D, Iran will continue its R&D on advanced centrifuges.

The U.S., Europe, and others had wanted the deal to be 20 years. The hope was that sanctions would be lifted gradually, as Iran demonstrates compliance.

Heckuva job, John.

UPDATE: A summary of the parameters is here. As with the interim deal that it replaces, though, this is, oddly, not an official text of an international agreement — just a description of it. (Sorta like a Vox-splainer, except, you know, with nuclear consequences.)

Voir de plus:

World News
Concessions Fueled Iran Nuclear Talks
U.S. gave up on eliminating most of Iran’s nuclear program, while Tehran took steps such as agreeing to mothball centrifuges
The Wall Street Journal

April 2, 2015

The White House decided a less ambitious agreement would be pursued. “As soon as we got into the real negotiations with them, we understood that any final deal was going to involve some domestic enrichment capability,” a senior U.S. official said, referring to the production of nuclear fuel, which has both civilian and military uses. “But I can honestly tell you, we always anticipated that.”

Crucially, the goal of the talks shifted—away from dismantling structures and toward a more complex set of limitations designed to extend the time Iran would need to “break out” and make a dash toward a nuclear weapon.

That early yield would set the tone of the negotiations to come, with the U.S. making steady concessions over the course of the talks. But the Iranians also took steps—mothballing thousands of centrifuge machines, expanding the role of U.N. inspectors and diminishing its stockpile of fissile material—that many experts doubted they would.

The deal announced Thursday followed months of negotiation, topped off by marathon negotiating sessions in the last few days. U.S. officials called it a historic success because it places limits on all elements of Iran’s program, and introduces a system to verify them. “This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon,” President Barack Obama said.

But he added: “Iran is not going to simply dismantle its program because we demand it to do so. That’s not how the world works, and that’s not what history shows us.” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, for his part, said that while Iran will abide by the deal, “our facilities will continue.”

The framework now has to be turned into a final and formal agreement, by a deadline of June 30. Meanwhile, it will be at the core of bitter debate—at home and abroad—over whether the U.S. conceded too much, particularly by allowing Iran to retain its basic nuclear infrastructure, though in shrunken form.

“I’m a little puzzled by the political agreement,” said Olli Heinonen, a previous inspections chief at the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. “You’re going to leave Iran as a threshold state. There isn’t much room to maneuver.”

A recounting of some 19 months of direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran, through interviews with American, European and Iranian diplomats, reveals a president single-minded in his focus on forging a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran.

Talks have been going on almost continuously—and through three extensions—since negotiators reached an interim agreement in November 2013 that capped parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of some Western economic sanctions.

At that time, Mr. Obama said U.S. negotiators were still focused on dismantling much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including a heavy-water reactor in the city of Arak, a fortified underground enrichment facility called Fordow and advanced centrifuge machines which spin uranium gas into nuclear fuel.

But in the resumed negotiations, many of which were held in Vienna, Iran’s diplomats stuck to the line that none of the country’s nuclear facilities would be dismantled. Mr. Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister, told American officials that his country’s nuclear pursuit was equivalent to the U.S.’s space program during the height of the Cold War. But he denied, as have all Iranian officials, that the nuclear program had any military dimensions.

Tehran’s unbending position succeeded in substantially shifting Washington’s overall objective for the talks by early 2014, according to current and former U.S. negotiators.

While negotiations initially focused on substantially reshaping Iran’s overall program, the aim shifted to trying to deny Iran the ability to quickly “break out” from any restrictions and accumulate enough weapons-grade fuel for a bomb. U.S. scientists concluded that 12 months was enough time for the West to detect any moves by Tehran to assemble a bomb and to respond. Negotiators began focusing on that goal.

“We understood as soon as we got into a serious negotiation with them that at the end of the day they were going to have to have some domestic capacity because there’s no other deal that they’d say ‘yes’ to,” said the senior U.S. official who was briefed on negotiations.

As talks proceeded past two deadlines last year, the U.S. agreed to a stream of concessions. The American positions at times drew ire from other negotiating powers, particularly France, and U.S. officials acknowledged publicly for the first time that a final deal would leave many of Iran’s nuclear sites in place.

Talks centered on reducing the nearly 20,000 centrifuges Iran had assembled at its two main enrichment facilities in the cities of Natanz and Qom. Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief interlocutor was Mr. Zarif, a U.S.-educated diplomat who was appointed by Iran’s newly elected President Hasan Rouhani. But the White House knew Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was the ultimate arbiter on the nuclear issue, and that he held deep reservations about any engagement with Washington.

Mr. Obama decided to write a secret letter to Mr. Khamenei in October arguing that Washington and Tehran could cooperate in fighting Islamic State rebels if a nuclear accord was reached, according to people briefed on the correspondence.

In early November, the U.S. delegation passed on an eight-page document to Mr. Zarif’s team at meetings in Oman that they believed showed flexibility in solving the technical aspects of the nuclear dispute. It focused on the number of centrifuges Iran could run and the types of nuclear research it could pursue. A week later, the chairman of an Iranian parliamentary committee, Ibrahim Karkhaneh, made the proposal public and blasted it as aimed at bringing the country’s nuclear program “back to zero.”

This discord caused Washington and Tehran to miss a second deadline, on Nov. 24, to reach a comprehensive agreement. The White House decided to extend the talks again.

By January, opposition in Congress had gained steam as lawmakers saw the White House’s initial demands for the talks continue to slip. Mr. Obama, trying to manage the pressure to take a harder line, decided that month to tell lawmakers that the U.S. wouldn’t agree to another extension.

At the same time, during a series of meetings in Europe, Iran signaled a willingness to make a vital shift, according to senior Western diplomats.
The Road to a Deal

January 2003: The International Atomic Energy Agency begins to investigate Iran’s nuclear program.

December 2006: U.N. Security Council imposes first of several sanctions on Iran, including a ban on nuclear-related trade.

July 2010: President Barack Obama signs a law banning from the U.S. financial system foreign companies that do business with sanctioned Iranian entities.

November 2013: After three rounds of talks in five weeks, Iran and the six powers reach an interim deal offering Iran modest sanctions relief in exchange for curtailing the most advanced parts of its nuclear program.

Sept. 2, 2014: After talks in Tehran, Iran agrees to allow U.N. atomic experts additional access to nuclear-related sites and pledges to address Western suspicions that Iran worked on weaponizing its program.

Feb. 24, 2015: After talks in Geneva, a senior U.S. official says there has been progress toward a deal.

March 26-April 2, 2015: Iran and the six world powers agree on the parameters of a deal to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The U.S. had for more than a year insisted that a final deal needed to put Iran at least a year away from being able to amass enough nuclear fuel for a bomb. In those January meetings, Iranian officials began asking questions about exactly what such a condition would entail.

By the time the world’s top diplomats gathered in Munich in early February for a security conference, the U.S. got clear word that Iran was willing to accept a deal structured around the one-year demand, said one of the diplomats in the talks.

From there, other stalled pieces began to fall into place.

Negotiators homed in on the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to operate—and Iran finally agreed to reduce them to 5,060. U.S. officials acknowledged in February that while they were aiming for a deal that would last 15 years or more, Iran would be able to scale up its enrichment activities and possibly its nuclear research in the final years of a deal.

When negotiators gathered in Switzerland in mid-March, enrichment had been pushed down the list of issues to resolve. But political pressure on Mr. Obama was as intense as it had been since talks began in 2013. U.S. lawmakers were moving toward a veto-proof bipartisan majority to override Mr. Obama’s promised veto of legislation that would give Congress the authority to approve or reject a deal. Mr. Obama’s relations with Israel were in tatters after its increasingly shrill denunciation of the deal being negotiated.

By the time they arrived in Lausanne on March 26, Mr. Kerry and his team had developed an increasingly close relationship with the Iranian delegation. In addition to Mr. Zarif, it included President Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. The nuclear scientist received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s at the same time U.S. Energy Secretary Ernes Moniz was teaching there, though they never met. Mr. Moniz joined the U.S. delegation.

The primary issues during the final round were the pace at which U.N. sanctions would be lifted on Iran and the future scope of Iran’s nuclear research and development, according to U.S. and European officials. Messrs. Kerry and Zarif went into talks almost immediately upon arriving at Lausanne’s Beau-Rivage Palace, an 18th century estate.

The crunch point came on Wednesday, more than a day after the March 31 deadline passed. The two men met for more than eight hours in a conference in a bid to resolve their differences.

One of the final sticking points was over Iran’s future nuclear research and development, U.S. officials said. Negotiators met at 9 p.m. that Wednesday, Switzerland time, and continued until Messrs. Salehi and Moniz reached an agreement on it at 6 a.m. Thursday.

It was midnight in Washington when Mr. Obama got a call from National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Mr. Obama gave them the go-ahead to close out a deal. “People know what my bottom lines are,” he said.

Mr. Obama signed off Thursday morning around 10 during his daily presidential briefing in the Oval Office. He began calling world leaders, first talking to British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande of France. He also spoke with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, but left a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for later in the day because, a senior administration official said, that conversation “is going to take longer.”

Voir de même:

The Iran time bomb
Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen and Ray Takeyh

The Washington Post

March 22

Michael Hayden led the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009 and the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005. Olli Heinonen is a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As negotiations between Iran and the great powers press forward, Secretary of State John F. Kerry seems to have settled on this defense of any agreement: The terms will leave Iran at least a year away from obtaining a nuclear bomb, thus giving the world plenty of time to react to infractions. The argument is meant to reassure, particularly when a sizable enrichment capacity and a sunset clause appear to have already been conceded. A careful assessment, however, reveals that a one-year breakout time may not be sufficient to detect and reverse Iranian violations.

Once the United States had an indication that Iran was violating an agreement, a bureaucratic process would be necessary to validate the information. It could be months before the director of national intelligence would be confident enough to present a case for action to the president. Several U.S. intelligence agencies, the Energy Department and national nuclear laboratories would need a chance to sniff the data to be convinced that a technical breach had occurred. Only after this methodical review was finished could the director go to the White House with conclusions and recommendations.

Given that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be the on-site inspection organization responsible for the verification of an agreement, the United States’ scoop would have to be forwarded to that body. Of course, both the speed and the extent of U.S. sharing would be affected by the need to protect sensitive human or technical sources of information. Only then would IAEA representatives begin talking with their Iranian counterparts about gaining access to disputed sites or activities. History suggests the Iranians would engage in protracted negotiations and much arcane questioning of the evidence. Iran could eventually offer some access while holding back key data and personnel. It would be only after tortured discussions that the IAEA could proclaim itself dissatisfied with Iran’s reaction. This process also could take months.

Should the indication of infractions originate with the IAEA, the United States would likewise want to validate the findings itself, which would also be time-consuming.

Once the IAEA arrived at a verdict of noncompliance, it would forward its grievances to the U.N. Security Council for adjudication. The United States would have to convince the other member states invested in the agreement — including veto-wielding Russia and China — that the accord was being violated and that forceful action was needed. Time would be spent quarrelling over divergent views, with several outcomes possible, including a Security Council presidential statement or a resolution whose content would need to be agreed upon. And only then could new economic sanctions be imposed on Iran. So, add at least a few more months.

Could sanctions really make a meaningful impact on Iran in whatever time, if any, remained in a one-year scenario? Any sanctions would take time to stress Iran’s economy, particularly in the aftermath of an agreement that paved the way for the return of trade and investment. Of course, the United States would not have to wait for the economic pressure to work and could use force against Iran without U.N. endorsement. However, since the advent of nuclear weapons, the United States has negotiated arms-control agreements with an entire spectrum of adversaries and has never used force in response to violations.

And the reality is that any cheating by Iran would always be incremental and never egregious. Throughout the duration of an agreement, there would be occasional reports of Iran enriching to unacceptably high levels and revelations of unreported nuclear installations and experimentation in weapon designs. Iran’s habit of lulling the world with a cascade of small infractions is an ingenious way to advance its program without provoking a crisis. In the end, a year simply may not be enough time to build an international consensus on measures to redress Iranian violations.

In the midst of all the typical Washington political cacophony about the progress of the negotiations, what is lost is that an accord between the United States and Iran would be the most consequential arms-control agreement of the post-Cold War period. It would determine the level of stability in the Middle East and impact global nuclear nonproliferation norms. With stakes so high, we need a national debate about the nature and parameters of any agreement. The right venue for that debate is the halls of Congress. No agreement can be considered viable or enduring without such legislative approbation.

Voir aussi:

Wonder Land
Why the Iran Deal Is Irrelevant
Nuclear talks with North Korea prove Iran’s program will go forward—deal or no deal.
Daniel Henninger
The WSJ

April 1, 2015

By the nuclear compliance standards of Barack Obama and John Kerry, North Korea was a model state—in 1992. In 1985, North Korea joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In 1992 it and South Korea jointly declared the “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. North Korea next signed a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Within months, the IAEA reported “inconsistencies” in North Korea’s nuclear program.

What follows is a quarter-century summary of arms negotiations with North Korea, based on the chronology assembled by the Arms Control Association. What happens in Lausanne doesn’t matter. No agreement is going to stop Iran. Agreements, and a lot of talk, did not stop North Korea.

After negotiations with North Korea (shortened here to “NK”)—and after the CIA reports that NK has separated enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons—the U.S. and NK in 1994 sign the Agreed Framework in Geneva. With NK promising to eliminate its ability to produce nuclear weapons, the Agreed Framework is hailed as a major diplomatic triumph for the Clinton presidency.

Through 1996-97, the U.S. negotiates with NK over ballistic-missile proliferation. On Aug. 31, 1998, NK launches the Taepo Dong-1 missile with a range of about 1,200 miles. The missile flies over Japan. U.S. intelligence admits “surprise” at the new third stage on the Paekdosan-1 launch vehicle.

Nonetheless, talks are held in December over a suspected underground nuclear factory. A U.S. inspection team visits the facility at Kumchang-ni and finds no violation of the Agreed Framework.

American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow John Bolton on whether the Iranian Supreme Leader will sign off on the nuclear deal in time for Tuesday’s deadline. Photo credit: Associated Press.

In 2000, the Clinton administration relaxes economic sanctions. Kim Jong Il tells visiting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright he won’t test the Taepo Dong-1 long-range missile again. The seventh round of missile talks is held in Malaysia.

In 2001, new U.S. President George W. Bush commits to “comprehensive” talks. In October 2002, the U.S. says North Korea has admitted it has had a secret program to enrich weapons-grade uranium. The State Department’s Richard Boucher calls it a “serious violation” of the Agreed Framework.

North Korea then cuts the IAEA seals on its nuclear factories, withdraws from the Non-Proliferation treaty and restarts a nuclear reactor. Talks resume in Beijing in April 2003. North Korea says it possesses nuclear weapons—but will dismantle its “nuclear facility” in return for fuel oil and food.

In February 2005, NK’s foreign ministry says again that it has produced nuclear weapons. Months later, the Koreans now say they are willing to abandon “all nuclear weapons” and rejoin the nonproliferation treaty. A new round of talks begin.

On July 4, 2006, North Korea fires seven ballistic missiles, including the new, long-range Taepo Dong-2. The State Department calls this “provocative.” U.N. Security Council Resolution 1695 condemns the Koreans.

In October, North Korea explodes a nuclear device in an underground test. The Security Council adopts Resolution 1718. Six-party talks resume in Beijing. North Korea says it will stop if it receives massive shipments of fuel oil. It gets the fuel oil.

In March 2007, the U.S. agrees to North Korea’s primary demand: that the U.S. unfreeze $25 million of its assets held in Banco Delta Asia in Macau. In 2008 President Bush removes NK as a state sponsor of terrorism.

In January 2009, North Korea says its stockpile of plutonium is “already weaponized.” We are now into the Obama presidency.

That April, NK launches the Unha-2 long-range ballistic missile, which the Security Council condemns. NK says it is no longer “bound” by any agreements.

On May 25, 2009, North Korea conducts its second underground nuclear test. The Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 1874. The State Department says the U.S. wants “a bilateral discussion with North Korea.” In November 2010, NK announces it has a 2,000-centrifuge uranium enrichment factory.

In early 2012, the Obama administration offers to give 240,000 metric tons of food in return for “strict monitoring.” Late that year, NK launches a long-range ballistic missile, which the Security Council condemns, citing violations of Resolutions 1718 and 1874.

In early 2013, a monitoring group detects activity with “explosion-like characteristics” at North Korea’s underground test site. The Security Council passes Resolution 2094.

Last November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that North Korea is ready to the resume six-party talks.
***

Every member of the Senate should read the full 81-page chronology. North Korea proves, irrefutably, that the “talks” model, absent credible measures of coercion or threat, won’t work.

Iran knows it has nuclear negotiators’ immunity: No matter how or when Iran debauches any agreement, the West, abjectly, will request—what else?—more talks. Iran’s nuclear-bomb and ballistic-missile programs will go forward, as North Korea’s obviously did, no matter what.

The next U.S. president has to find an alternative to the existing nuclear negotiations model. Hillary will not. That unavoidable job falls to her opposition.

Iran is not North Korea.

It exists in a totally different geopolitical milieu.

North Korea has three neighbors, two of which (China and Russia) can and will make sure that its idiocy doesn’t get out of hand.

Iran is proud, an imperial aspirant, and more than a little embarrassed that the world tolerates a nuclear Pakistan, India, and Israel in its neighborhood but insists for it otherwise.

Voir de même:

Global View
The Capitulationist
The Obama administration refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender to Iran be prematurely and fatally exposed.
Bret Stephens
WSJ

March 30, 2015

For a sense of the magnitude of the capitulation represented by Barack Obama’s Iran diplomacy, it’s worth recalling what the president said when he was trying to sell his interim nuclear agreement to a Washington, D.C., audience in December 2013.

“We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program,” Mr. Obama said of the Iranians in an interview with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire philanthropist. “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”

Hardly more than a year later, on the eve of what might be deal-day, here is where those promises stand:

Fordo: “The United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”—Associated Press, March 26.

Arak: “Today, the six powers negotiating with Iran . . . want the reactor at Arak, still under construction, reconfigured to produce less plutonium, the other bomb fuel.”—The New York Times, March 7.

Advanced centrifuges: “Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, the Iranian news media reported Sunday, a development likely to add to Western concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.”—Reuters, March 3.

But the president and his administration made other promises, too. Consider a partial list:

Possible military dimensions: In September 2009 Mr. Obama warned Iran that it was “on notice” that it would have to “come clean” on all of its nuclear secrets. Now the administration is prepared to let it slide.

“Under the new plan,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman reported last week, “Tehran wouldn’t be expected to immediately clarify all the outstanding questions raised by the IAEA in a 2011 report on Iran’s alleged secretive work. A full reckoning of Iran’s past activities would be demanded in later years as part of a nuclear deal that is expected to last at least 15 years.”

Verification: Another thing the president said in that interview with Mr. Saban is that any deal would involve “extraordinary constraints and verification mechanisms and intrusive inspections.”
Foundation for Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz on the Secretary of State’s concessions to Tehran as the nuclear-deal deadline nears. Photos: Getty Images

Iran isn’t playing ball on this one, either. “An Iranian official on Tuesday [March 24] rebuked the chief of the U.N. atomic agency for demanding snap inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites, saying the request hindered efforts to reach an agreement with the world powers,” reports the AP. But this has done nothing to dent the administration’s enthusiasm for an agreement.

“It was never especially probable that a detailed, satisfactory verification regime would be included in the sort of substantive framework agreement that the Americans have been working for,” the Economist noted last week.

Ballistic missiles: In February 2014, Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator, testified to Congress that while the interim agreement was silent on Iran’s production of ballistic missiles, “that is indeed going to be part of something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.” This point is vital because ballistic missiles are a central component of a robust nuclear arsenal.

Except missiles are off the table, too. “Diplomats say the topic [of missiles] has not been part of formal discussions for weeks,” the AP reported Monday.

Break-out: President Obama has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. will only sign a deal that gives the U.S. and its allies a year’s notice if Iran decides to “break out” and go for a bomb.

But if the Iranians won’t come clean on their past weapons’ work, it’s impossible to know how long they would really need to assemble a bomb once they have sufficient nuclear material.

Nor does the one-year period square with the way Iran would try to test the agreement: “Iran’s habit of lulling the world with a cascade of small infractions is an ingenious way to advance its program without provoking a crisis,” Michael Hayden, the former CIA director, wrote with former IAEA deputy chief Olli Heinonen and Iran expert Ray Takeyh in a recent Washington Post op-ed. “A year may simply not be enough time to build an international consensus on measures to redress Iranian violations.”
***

Some readers may object that Iran has made its own significant concessions. Except it hasn’t. They may also claim that the U.S. has no choice but to strike a deal. Except we entered these negotiations with all the strong cards. We just chose to give them up.

Finally, critics may argue that I’m being unfair to the administration, since nobody knows the agreement’s precise terms. But that’s rich coming from an administration that refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender be prematurely and fatally exposed.

Nearly a century ago Woodrow Wilson insisted on “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in public view.” Barack Obama prefers to capitulate to tyrants in secret. Judging from the above, it’s no wonder.

Voir encore:

Laurent Fabius : « La France est ferme » sur le nucléaire iranien
Barthélémy Gaillard
Europe 1

03 avril 2015
INTERVIEW E1 – De retour de Lausanne où il a participé aux négociations sur le nucléaire iranien, le ministre des Affaires étrangères reste prudent après qu’un accord de principe a été trouvé.
Rester prudent malgré les avancées. Visage de la France autour de la table des négociations sur le nucléaire iranien à Lausanne, Laurent Fabius refuse de s’enthousiasmer après qu’un accord de principe a été trouvé jeudi soir entre l’Iran et les six Etats (Chine, Russie, Etats-Unis, Grande-Bretagne, France, Italie, Allemagne) qui participaient aux discussions.

Et pour cause, si l’idée d’une levée des sanctions économiques infligées à Téhéran et l’arrêt du programme nucléaire militaire iranien ont été actés, le texte signé ne définit pas précisément les modalités de mise en œuvre de ces deux chantiers d’envergure. C’est pourquoi Laurent Fabius s’était montré parmi les négociateurs les plus stricts envers Téhéran lors des pourparlers.

>> Une position qui avait été critiquée par une partie de la presse internationale. Au micro d’Europe 1, le ministre des Affaires étrangères s’en justifie.

Les termes de l’accord. Laurent Fabius résume les enjeux de l’accord qui vient d’être conclu en trois points. « L’énergie nucléaire civile, c’est 100% oui, la bombe atomique, c’est non. Le problème c’est que les mêmes machines permettent de créer les deux. C’est pourquoi le cœur des négociations porte sur les centrifugeuses. Et c’est pourquoi, sur les 9.200 centrifugeuses en marche en Iran, Téhéran a accepté de passer à 5.060. Le deuxième point porte sur les ressources en uranium et sur son taux d’enrichissement. Le ministre affirme que les négociations ont conclu que « l’Iran ne pourra plus avoir que 300 kilos d’uranium contre 8 tonnes actuellement, enrichi à 3.27% contre 20% actuellement ».

Dernier point, le plus flou pour l’instant, la durée du contrôle exercé par l’AIEA (agence internationale de l’énergie atomique) : « l’accord porte sur 10 ans au minimum, mais sur certains autres points elle porte sur 12, 13, 15 et même 25 ans. Tout cela reste à préciser ». Enfin, sur la levée des sanctions économiques, Laurent Fabius estime que « 150 milliards de dollars sont en jeu pour l’Iran ». Mais ce point-là « n’est pas le plus facile », conclut-il.

Le rôle de la France dans les négociations. « La France, elle est ferme », annonce d’emblée Laurent Fabius, qui assume sans ambages le rôle de garde-fou du Quai d’Orsay dans les négociations, quitte parfois à ralentir le processus, comme il l’explique au micro d’Europe 1 : « Les Américains et les Iraniens nous avaient proposé un texte, mais nous avions dit ‘non’ parce que le Président et moi avions estimé qu’il n’était pas assez solide. L’Iranien avait menacé de rentrer chez lui et de démissionner. Mais il est finalement resté à la table. Depuis, la France est regardée de manière particulière parce qu’on sait que nous voulons l’accord mais sur une base ferme. »

C’est pourquoi la prudence est de mise pour Laurent Fabius, qui résume la situation : « Rien n’est acté tant que tout n’a pas été acté. » Sur la levée des sanctions économiques à l’encontre de l’Iran, Laurent Fabius estime qu’il faut « lever les sanctions au fur et à mesure que l’Iran respecte ses engagements ». Mais là-dessus, « il n’y a pas encore un accord », tempère-t-il.

Pourquoi il faut « un accord solide et vérifiable » selon le Quai d’Orsay. « Notre position a toujours été de dire il faut un accord, mais il ne peut être conclu que s’il est solide et vérifiable », martèle sans relâche Laurent Fabius. S’il reconnaît que cet accord de principe « est une étape importante, très importante même », le ministre des Affaires étrangères rappelle que « le bout du chemin, c’est la fin juin », en faisant allusion à la signature d’un texte définitif aux contours plus précis.

Cette fermeté française se justifie pour Laurent Fabius qui assure que la France « n’a rien contre l’Iran » : « nous voulons juste que l’accord soit perçu comme solide pour éviter que les autres pays du Golfe comme l’Arabie Saoudite se lancent dans la prolifération nucléaire ».

Voir de plus:

Accord sur le nucléaire iranien : les républicains se déchaînent
Le Point

03/04/2015

Les détails n’étaient pas encore connus que les conservateurs étrillaient sur Twitter l’accord conclu à Lausanne, le « Munich » d’Obama, selon eux.

De notre correspondante à Washington, Hélène Vissière
À peine les négociateurs avaient-ils annoncé l’accord avec l’Iran sur le nucléaire que les conservateurs dégainaient leurs tweets vengeurs annonçant, avec leur ton mesuré légendaire, la fin du monde. Ils accusent le président Obama de s’être aplati devant les Iraniens et d’avoir lâché trop de concessions. Peu importe si les détails ne sont pas connus avant l’échéance du 30 juin, ils sont convaincus que cet accord est une catastrophe majeure. Leur comparaison favorite, ce sont évidemment les accords de Munich en 1938. « Neville Chamberlain a obtenu d’Adolf Hitler un meilleur accord », a déclaré le sénateur Mark Kirk de l’Illinois. « Arrêtez toute cette négativité sur l’accord avec l’Iran, mes chers conservateurs. Les Iraniens n’ont pas eu la région des Sudètes », ironise Ed Morrissey, un blogueur de droite. Dans le magazine National Review, l’historien Victor Davis Hanson écrit : « Notre déshonneur à Lausanne, comme à Munich, peut éviter une confrontation aujourd’hui, mais notre honte garantit une guerre dans l’avenir proche. »

« Bombardez l’Iran »

Les néoconservateurs, qu’on croyait enterrés avec le fiasco de la guerre en Irak, ont repris du poil de la bête et sont de nouveau très influents chez les républicains. Malgré leurs échecs répétés, ils ont conservé leur vision belliqueuse du monde et leur credo : pas de compromis avec les ennemis de l’Amérique, même si cela doit mener à une autre guerre et mettre la planète à feu et à sang. « Pour stopper la bombe de l’Iran, bombardez l’Iran, » écrivait récemment John Bolton, l’ambassadeur aux Nations unies de George W. Bush, dans le New York Times.

Les conservateurs ont vraiment tout fait ces derniers mois pour torpiller les négociations avec Téhéran. Ils ont invité début mars le Premier ministre israélien, sans le dire à la Maison-Blanche. Benjamin Netanyahu, en plein Congrès, a attaqué la politique d’Obama en disant que tout accord « ouvrirait la voie » à une bombe atomique iranienne. Quelques jours plus tard, 47 sénateurs ont signé une lettre qu’ils ont envoyée directement à Téhéran à l’instigation du sénateur Tom Cotton de l’Arkansas. Objectif : rappeler au régime iranien que le Congrès pouvait faire machine arrière sur tout accord. Du jamais-vu dans les annales de la diplomatie.

Jeudi, ils se sont aussitôt déchaînés pour dénoncer ce que le président Obama a qualifié d' »accord historique ». « Il n’y a pas d’accord avec l’Iran. Il y a seulement une liste de concessions américaines dangereuses », a clamé Tom Cotton. Jeb Bush, le candidat non officiel à la Maison-Blanche, a renchéri : « Je ne peux pas soutenir un tel accord foireux. » Le gouverneur du Wisconsin, Scott Walker, autre présidentiable, a lancé sur Twitter : « L’accord dangereux d’Obama avec l’Iran récompense un ennemi, sape la sécurité de nos alliés et menace la nôtre. »
La bataille du Congrès

Mais ils ont aussi beaucoup insisté sur le fait que le Congrès devait examiner l’accord et avoir le dernier mot. « Le Congrès doit être autorisé à revoir tous les détails de n’importe quel accord avant que les sanctions ne soient levées, » a affirmé John Boehner, le speaker de la Chambre des représentants, qui a invité Netanyahu et est allé lui rendre visite en Israël la semaine dernière.

Le sénateur Bob Corker a ajouté qu’il allait faire pression pour faire voter une loi qui donne au Congrès le pouvoir de modifier l’accord. Le président Obama a dit et redit qu’il mettrait son veto à toute législation qui donne au Congrès la possibilité d’approuver ou de rejeter un accord. L’avenir des négociations avec l’Iran dépend donc de la capacité de Barack Obama à convaincre tous les démocrates et quelques républicains de lui laisser les mains libres d’ici la fin juin.

Signe encourageant pour la Maison-Blanche : le soutien étonnant de Bill O’Reilly, l’un des commentateurs vedettes de la chaîne conservatrice Fox News, connu pour ses positions farouchement anti-Obama. Il a déclaré à l’antenne que l’on devait donner à la diplomatie une chance. « Vous ne voulez pas une guerre avec l’Iran, vous ne voulez pas bombarder ce pays » parce que « ça va enflammer le monde ». « Donc, si l’on peut obtenir quelque chose de correct, il faut tenter le coup », a-t-il lâché à la stupéfaction de la présentatrice de la chaîne qui l’écoutait.

Voir également:

Reza Naqdi : La destruction d’Israël est « non négociable »
Le commandant du Basij menace aussi les Saoudiens et déclare qu’ils connaîtront le même destin que Saddam Hussein
Lazar Berman

The Times of Israel

31 mars 2015

Le commandant de la milice Basij des Gardiens de la Révolution de l’Iran a déclaré qu’ « effacer Israël de la carte » est « non négociable », a rapporté mardi, Radio Israel.

Mohammad Reza Naqdi a également menacé l’Arabie saoudite, en affirmant que l’offensive menée au Yémen « aura le même destin que celui de Saddam Hussein ».

Les commentaires de Naqdi ont été rendus publics alors que l’Iran et les six puissances mondiales se préparent, mardi, à présenter une déclaration générale acceptant de poursuivre les négociations nucléaires en entrant dans une nouvelle phase qui vise à parvenir à un accord global à la fin du mois de juin.

En 2014, Naqdi avait déclaré que l’Iran intensifiait ses efforts pour armer les Palestiniens de Cisjordanie dans sa bataille contre Israël, en ajoutant que cette manœuvre conduirait à l’anéantissement d’Israël, avait indiqué l’agence de presse iranienne Fars.

« L’armement de la Cisjordanie a commencé et les armes seront fournies aux habitants de cette région », a déclaré Naqdi.

« Les sionistes doivent savoir que la prochaine guerre ne sera pas limitée aux frontières actuelles et les Moudjahidine les repousseront », a-t-il ajouté.

Naqdi a affirmé que la majeure partie de l’arsenal du Hamas, la formation technique et le savoir-faire dans le conflit de l’été dernier avec Israël provenait de l’Iran.

Le Basij est une force armée religieuse composée de volontaires, mise en place en 1979 par les dirigeants révolutionnaires du pays. Elle sert de police morale et d’outil de répression des dissidents.

En janvier, un projet de loi qui aurait donné plus de pouvoirs à la Basij pour faire respecter le port obligatoire du voile par les femmes a été jugé anticonstitutionnel.

Cette milice fait des manœuvres annuelles, parfois aux côtés des unités de l’armée iranienne.

Jonathan Beck et l’AFP ont contribué à cet article.

Voir de plus:

Téhéran n’a cédé sur aucun point par rapport à ses positions initiales 
Y. Carmon et A. Savyon *

MEMRI

1 avril 2015

Au vu de leur incapacité à parvenir à un accord en novembre 2014, l’Iran et le groupe des P5 + 1 ont décidé de prolonger la validité du plan d’action conjoint conclu à Genève le 24 novembre de six mois supplémentaires, jusqu’à juin 2015.

Suite à cet arrangement, les Etats-Unis ont prévu une poursuite des négociations en deux temps :

1. Trois mois (jusqu’à fin mars 2015) pour parvenir à un accord-cadre

2. Trois mois supplémentaires (jusqu’à fin juin 2015) pour s’entendre sur les points techniques de cet accord.

Toutefois, dans un discours prononcé en février 2015, le Guide suprême iranien Ali Khamenei a annoncé qu’il était en total désaccord avec cette procédure, affirmant qu’il n’y aurait pas deux, mais une seule étape, que l’accord devait être conclu en juin 2015, et qu’il comprendrait la levée de toutes les sanctions contre l’Iran. Cela signifie que la date limite du 31 mars 2015 ne signifie rien pour Khamenei.

De leur côté, les États-Unis ne tiennent pas compte de l’annonce de Khamenei, et s’efforcent, sans grand succès, de placer l’Iran dans cette logique de processus en deux temps qu’ils ont instituée. Mais l’Iran refuse de signer un document provisoire ; c’est pourquoi les ministres des Affaires étrangères occidentaux impliqués dans les négociations, comme le ministre des Affaires étrangères britannique Phillip Hammond, ont précisé que les arrangements qui seraient conclus à ce stade seraient uniquement oraux.

Il convient de souligner que l’Iran n’a rien cédé, à aucun moment, sur ses exigences initiales :

1. Téhéran refuse le retrait de son uranium enrichi d’Iran.

2. Téhéran refuse une levée progressive des sanctions.

3. Téhéran refuse toute restriction du nombre de ses centrifugeuses.

4. Téhéran refuse les inspections intrusives et les inspections inopinées.

5. Téhéran refuse toute interruption de ses recherches et activités de développement.

6. Téhéran refuse tout changement relatif à la nature de son réacteur à eau lourde d’Arak.

7. Téhéran refuse la fermeture de son site secret d’enrichissement de Fordow.

8. Téhéran refuse toutes les restrictions à ses activités nucléaires après l’expiration de l’accord.

9. Téhéran refuse que son programme de missiles à longue portée soit inclus dans les négociations.

10. Téhéran refuse de rendre des comptes sur ses anciennes activités nucléaires militaires clandestines.

11. Téhéran refuse d’autoriser des inspections de sites militaires soupçonnés de mener des activités nucléaires.

Dans sa déclaration du 18 février 2015, Khamenei a précisé qu’il accepterait uniquement un accord en une étape, et que cet accord devait inclure la levée de toutes les sanctions contre l’Iran et clairement établir que l’Occident ne profiterait pas d’un accord-cadre pour imposer sa position à l’Iran lors d’une seconde étape, lorsque les détails seraient discutés.

Ci-dessous la déclaration du 18 février de Khamenei sur les négociations nucléaires : [1]

« Les mains de la nation iranienne et de ses hauts responsables n’ont jamais été liées, ce que nous avons bien montré. A partir de maintenant, nous allons également le démontrer avec nos initiatives et notre courage. C’est l’Amérique qui est coincée et empêtrée dans un problème, et la réalité à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur de la région le prouve.

C’est vous [les Américains] qui avez subi défaite sur défaite pendant de nombreuses années ; c’est la République islamique d’Iran qui progresse, et qui ne peut en aucune façon être comparée à [l’Iran] d’il y a 30 et quelques années…

L’Iran va de l’avant, tandis que les Américains, qui n’ont pas réussi à déraciner [la République islamique d’Iran], sont maintenant forcés de tolérer le régime de la République islamique. Leurs plans politiques, sécuritaires, économiques et culturels ne nous empêcheront pas d’avancer…

[Dans le cadre des négociations nucléaires,] je vais accepter un plan réalisable, mais je ne vais pas accepter un mauvais accord. Comme les Américains, je pense que pas d’accord vaut mieux qu’un mauvais accord, et je crois qu’il vaut mieux ne pas parvenir à un accord que de conclure un accord qui nuira aux intérêts nationaux de l’Iran et ouvrira la voie à l’humiliation de la nation iranienne.

La conduite des États-Unis au cours des négociations, et de certains pays européens qui lui obéissent, est illogique. Ils ont de multiples attentes et pensent que l’on va satisfaire toutes leurs exigences. Mais ce n’est pas ainsi que l’on mène des négociations. La nation iranienne ne tolérera pas le harcèlement, la cupidité et une conduite irrationnelle. J’accepte de poursuivre les négociations afin de parvenir à un bon accord… Les négociations doivent préserver l’honneur de la nation iranienne, et la poursuite [de son programme nucléaire]…

Le scénario d’un accord sur les grands principes, suivi d’un accord sur les détails, n’est pas recommandé, car notre expérience avec la partie adverse nous a appris qu’un accord-cadre leur servira à inventer une série d’excuses dans [la suite des négociations sur] les détails. Si un accord doit être atteint, ce sera un accord en une seule étape, et il doit comprendre le cadre général ainsi que les détails. Le contenu de l’accord doit être clair, et ne pas donner lieu à [diverses] interprétations. Les paragraphes de l’accord ne doivent pas permettre à la partie adverse, habituée à marchander, de chercher des excuses au sujet des différents points. Les sanctions doivent être complètement levées. »

En outre, Khamenei a menacé d’imposer des sanctions avec le gaz naturel : « S’il doit y avoir des sanctions, la nation iranienne peut également imposer des sanctions, et elle le fera. »

* Y. Carmon est président fondateur de MEMRI ; A. Savyon est directrice du Projet sur les médias iraniens.

Note:

[1] Leader.ir, 18 février 2015.

Voir par ailleurs:

Iran’s Terrorism Problem

Daniel L. Byman

Brookings

November 21, 2013

Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism, striking Israel, U.S. Arab allies, and at times Americans. The twin blasts on Tuesday that destroyed the Iranian embassy in Lebanon and killed at least twenty people, however, should remind us that Iran faces a serious terrorism problem of its own. It is tempting to enjoy Iran getting a taste of its own medicine, but the growing violence risks further destabilizing the Middle East and harming U.S. interests there.

A History of Violence

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has backed an array of terrorist groups. These groups have fostered unrest in Iraq and the oil-rich Gulf Kingdoms, killed Iran’s enemies in Europe, and struck at enemies like Israel and the United States. Most infamously for Americans, Iran has backed the Lebanese Hizballah, providing it with hundreds of millions of dollars, sophisticated arms, and advanced training. Among its many operations, Hizballah in 1983 bombed the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks hosting U.S. peacekeepers in Beirut, killing 17 embassy officials and 241 Marines. Iran has also backed Hizballah in its numerous operations against Israel, including a 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and the bus driver, and has given money and weapons to Hamas, which has used these to attack Israel in repeated clashes. Tehran has also quietly maintained links to Al Qaeda itself, hosting several important figures though also restricting their activities.

For Iran, ties to terrorists served multiple purposes. Ideologically, Tehran often believed that the terrorists’ goals – to spread an Iranian-style Islamic state, to overthrow an apostate regime, to battle Israel, and so on – were the right ones, and thus it was supporting the “good guys.” But strategic considerations also proved vital. Ties to terrorist groups enabled Iran to extend its influence around the world, something its weak military and struggle economy could not accomplish. With ties to groups like Hamas, Iran was also able to establish itself as an important actor against Israel – always a popular cause in the Middle East – and, in so doing, live up to its self-image of being an Islamic revolutionary power, not a champion of the Shi’a community, which is a minority in most Arab countries.

A Two-Edged Sword

Yet Iran has long suffered from terrorism as well. Since the revolution, the Mujahedin-e Khalq has used violence against the regime, assassinating senior officials and waging a guerrilla war from nearby Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. (The United States listed the MEK as a terrorist organization in 1997 but delisted it in 2012). In response, Iran has engaged in a vendetta against MEK members, trying to kill its leaders around the world.

Iran has also suffered violence at home from other groups. Jundullah, which champions Iran’s Baluch community, which is also Sunni, has caused dozens of casualties in the last decade. Tehran also considers the assassination of its nuclear scientists and attacks on senior security officials, which it blames on Israel and the United States, as part of a terrorist campaign against the state.

The Syrian conflict, however, has shattered Iran’s careful plans and raised the risk from Sunni jihadist terrorist groups. In the eyes of Al Qaeda and local Sunni jihadist groups, Iran is very much on the wrong side of this war. They tie Iran, correctly, to Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria and the Nuri al-Maliki regime next door in Iraq. Iran is blamed for the Syrian regime’s atrocities in particular, and as the conflict has morphed from largely peaceful protest to sectarian civil war, Tehran, a Shi’a power, is lumped in with Asad’s regime, which is dominated by the Alawite community, which has similarities to Shiism. As such, Iran and Hizballah have become high on the list, at times at the very top, of the broader Sunni jihadist movement, with funders, suicide bombers, recruiters, and ideologues all decrying the apostates. Throughout the Arab world, Iran’s malevolent role is decried – a painful reversal for a regime that has long tried to lead this region. Israel, and even the United States, are still hated but are seen as less immediate threats. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which has links to Al Qaeda, claimed credit for the bombing of the embassy in Lebanon.

Indeed, that the bombing occurred in Lebanon is a symbol of Iran’s dangerous position. Lebanon is often portrayed as Iran’s playground, where its minion Hizballah holds sway. But Lebanon is also home to Sunni jihadists and an array of more secular and anti-Iran Lebanese groups. As Syria dominates the regional consciousness, Iran’s status in Lebanon has fallen.

The blows to Iran’s regional stature are good for U.S. influence, but anti-Iranian terrorism is not. In addition to the loss of innocent life, growing terrorism exacerbates Iran’s sense of isolation and grievance, leading it to double down on groups like Hizballah and Hamas. In addition, the skyrocketing sectarianism in the region also poses risks for U.S. interests, threatening to destabilize already precarious countries like Iraq and drag U.S. allies into proxy confrontations and self-defeating interventions, including support for jihadists who hate both Iran and the United States. Especially as talks over Iran’s nuclear program appear close to bearing fruit, the United States should make clear it condemns terrorism of all stripes, regardless of who the victim is.

Daniel L. Byman

Research Director, Center for Middle East Policy

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy

Daniel Byman is the director of research and a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. His research focuses on counterterrorism and Middle East security. He is also a professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. He served as a staff member on the 9/11 Commission and worked for the U.S. government. His most recent book is A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Voir enfin:

Abbé Grosjean : «Entre Daech et les Chrétiens d’Orient, la RATP doit choisir»
Pierre-Hervé Grosjean
Le Figaro

01/04/2015

FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – Au nom de la laïcité, la RATP a exigé le retrait de la mention «au profit des Chrétiens d’Orient» sur des affiches promotionnelles placardées dans le métro. Pour l’abbé Grosjean, cette neutralité devient une complicité avec ceux qui massacrent.

L’abbé Pierre-Hervé Grosjean, curé de Saint Cyr l’Ecole, est Secrétaire Général de la Commission «Ethique et Politique» du Diocèse de Versailles. Il a récement publié Aimer en vérité (Artège, 2014). Il est l’un des animateurs du Padreblog.

En pleine semaine sainte, la polémique ne pouvait passer inaperçue. Mgr Di Falco a révélé que la RATP avait exigé que soient retirées des affiches annonçant le prochain concert du groupe «Les Prêtres» la mention «au profit des Chrétiens d’Orient». Aux premières demandes d’explication, le groupe répond par le principe de «laïcité».

Ce député vient au secours de son évêque en dénonçant une décision de la RATP qui relève selon lui d’un véritable «intégrisme laïc».

La bêtise de l’argument va jusqu’à mettre en colère le député Joël Giraud, dont le Parti Radical de Gauche est pourtant connu pour sa vision souvent restrictive de la laïcité. Ce député vient au secours de son évêque en dénonçant une décision de la RATP qui relève selon lui d’un véritable «intégrisme laïc».

Les réseaux sociaux s’enflamment, et la RATP promet une nouvelle réaction, en lien avec sa régie publicitaire Metrobus. Cette nouvelle réaction est encore pire et révèle au choix une ignorance crasse de la situation ou un mépris incroyable des minorités persécutées dont il est question.

Si la RATP a exigé que soit supprimée la mention des Chrétiens d’Orient, c’est parce que «la RATP et sa régie publicitaire ne peuvent prendre parti dans un conflit de quelque nature qu’il soit» selon leur communiqué commun. «Toute atteinte à ce principe ouvrirait la brèche à des prises de positions antagonistes sur notre territoire». Annoncer que ce concert était offert au profit de ces chrétiens d’Orient est «une information se situant dans le contexte d’un conflit armé à l’étranger et (…) le principe de neutralité du service public qui régit les règles de fonctionnement de l’affichage par Métrobus, trouve en effet dans ce cas à s’appliquer.»

Pour la RATP, les Chrétiens d’Orient sont juste un camp face à l’autre, un camp pour lequel on ne peut pas prendre parti.
Vous avez bien lu. Pour la RATP, les Chrétiens d’Orient sont juste un camp face à l’autre, un camp pour lequel on ne peut pas prendre parti. Alors que la France, par la voix de Laurent Fabius, se démène à l’ONU pour que cesse le génocide dont sont victimes ces minorités d’Irak et d’ailleurs, alors que le Président de la République a reçu des Chrétiens obligés de fuir leur pays pour ne pas être massacrés par Daesh, la RATP -elle- refuse de choisir. Entre Daesh et ses victimes, elle veut rester «neutre»..

Cette neutralité est une complicité avec celui qui massacre, contre l’innocent qui est massacré. Cette neutralité rappelle celle de Pilate et de tous ceux qui l’ont suivi depuis 2000 ans, se lavant les mains des massacres commis.
Cette neutralité-là est impossible. Cette neutralité est une complicité avec celui qui massacre, contre l’innocent qui est massacré. Cette neutralité rappelle celle de Pilate et de tous ceux qui l’ont suivi depuis 2000 ans, se lavant les mains des massacres commis, et fermant les yeux sur le sort des victimes, pour ne pas faire de vagues ni perdre leur poste. Cette neutralité est indigne d’un groupe comme la RATP, elle révolte sans aucun doute nombre de ses agents qui ont pleuré avec tous nos compatriotes les victimes de l’horreur terroriste. Cette neutralité-là est une insulte à la France, qui a toujours mis sa fierté à défendre les droits de l’homme, et particulièrement des minorités persécutées, partout dans le monde. Plutôt que de reconnaître humblement et simplement une erreur d’appréciation, la RATP s’enfonce et finit par justifier l’injustifiable. Quel aveuglement et quelle mépris a-t-il fallu à celui qui a donné l’ordre de rayer de l’affiche cette mention des Chrétiens d’Orient! Et à ceux qui ont rédigé ce communiqué? Pensaient-ils faire taire la voix des persécutés, réduire au silence la communauté chrétienne, et au delà des Chrétiens, tous ceux qui sont émus par le sort des minorités martyrisées en Orient, en invoquant le principe de «neutralité»?

Je repense à la supplication des Chrétiens réfugiés rencontrés à Erbil en Irak, en accompagnant Mgr Barbarin qui venait les visiter et les soutenir. «Ne nous oubliez pas!» disaient-ils aux français. «Ne nous effacez pas!» sera leur nouveau cri du cœur, en apprenant cette histoire qui nous fait honte.

Pierre Mongin, président de la RATP, se retrouve ce jour devant trois questions auxquelles il doit répondre pour faire cesser le trouble:

-valide-t-il ce communiqué ou reconnaît-il une erreur bien regrettable mais du coup pardonnable?

-pense-t-il qu’on puisse être «neutre» devant le massacre des chrétiens persécutés? Entre Daesh et ses victimes, la RATP peut-elle revendiquer un principe de neutralité?

-serait-ce le mot «chrétiens» qui gêne certains, comme pourrait le laisser penser, dans un premier temps, le recours à l’argument de la laïcité?

Il faut espérer qu’il aura à cœur de nous rassurer et de réparer ce scandale, avant qu’il ternisse pour nous tous la joie de Pâques!

Voir par ailleurs:

Obama’s Crystal-Clear Promise to Stop Iran From Getting a Nuclear Weapon

Jeffrey Goldberg

The Atlantic

Oct 2, 2012

Reuters is reporting that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are both satisfied with their non-encounter at the United Nations last week. Both men « left the U.N. meeting with more than they arrived with: Obama with an assurance that Israel would not attack Iran’s nuclear sites before the November 6 U.S. presidential election, and Netanyahu with a commitment from Obama to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from producing an atomic bomb. »I found the second half of this statement surprising. If it is indeed news to Netanyahu that Obama has promised to do « whatever it takes » to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold, then he hasn’t been listening. He’s not the only one who hasn’t heard the President clearly on the subject. I run into people constantly who believe that the bluffer in this relationship is Obama. Their argument holds that Obama will move toward a strategy of containment soon after the election, and that there is no way he would ever use military force to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

I’m in the camp of people, however, who take him at his word, in part because he’s repeated himself on the subject so many times and in part because he has laid out such an effective argument against containment and for disruption, by force, if necessary. With the help of Armin Rosen, of The Atlantic’s International Channel, I’ve posted below a partial accounting of Obama’s statements on the subject. Of course, it is possible that in a second term, should he win his bid for reelection, he will change his mind on the subject, and it is possible, of course, that Iran will somehow manage to defy his demands. But the record is the record: Given the number of times he’s told the American public, and the world, that he will stop Iran from going nuclear, it is hard to believe that he will suddenly change his mind and back out of his promise.Here are some of his statements on the subject, going back to his first campaign for the presidency:

June 5, 2008, in Cairo: « I will continue to be clear on the fact that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilizing for the entire region.It is strongly in America’s interest to prevent such a scenario. »

June 8, 2008, to AIPAC: « The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat…. Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. »

October 7 2008, in the second presidential debate: « We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. And so it’s unacceptable. And I will do everything that’s required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table, »November 7, 2008, press conference: « Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable. And we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening. »

February 27, 2009, speech at Camp Lejeune: « (W)e are focusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world. »

January 27, 2010, State of the Union address: « And as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise. »

July 1, /2010, at the signing of the Iran Sanctions Act: « There should be no doubt —  the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. »

May 19, 2011, speech on the Middle East: « Now, our opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known. »

May 22, 2011, in an address to AIPAC: « You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons…. So let me be absolutely clear — we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. »October 13,2011, press conference after meeting with South Korean president: « Now, we don’t take any options off the table in terms of how we operate with Iran. »

November 14, 2011, press conference: « So what I did was to speak with President Medvedev, as well as President Hu, and all three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power and that we don’t trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. That’s in the interests of all of us… I have said repeatedly and I will say it today, we are not taking any options off the table, because it’s my firm belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would pose a security threat not only to the region but also to the United States. »

December 8, 2011,  press conference: (In response to question about pressuring Iran): « No options off the table means I’m considering all options. »

December 16, 2011, speech to the General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism: « Another grave concern — and a threat to the security of Israel, the United States and the world — is Iran’s nuclear program. And that’s why our policy has been absolutely clear: We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons…and that’s why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table. We have been clear. »

January 24, 2012, State of the Union address: « Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. »March 2, 2012, interview with Goldblog:  « I… don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say. »

March 4, 2012, speech to  AIPAC: « I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say That includes all elements of American power:  A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency. »

March 5, 2012, remarks after meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu: « … I reserve all options, and my policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it. »

March 6, 2012, press conference: « And what I have said is, is that we will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon. My policy is not containment; my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon — because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our non-proliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists.

March 14, 2012, remarks after meeting with David Cameron: « …And as I said in a speech just a couple of weeks ago, I am determined not simply to contain Iran that is in possession of a nuclear weapon; I am determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon — in part for the reasons that David mentioned… We will do everything we can to resolve this diplomatically, but ultimately, we’ve got to have somebody on the other side of the table who’s taking this seriously. »September 25, 2012, speech to the United Nations General Assembly: « Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained…the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. »


Nucléaire iranien: Attention, un remueur de chien peut en cacher un autre ! (Four Arab capitals plus Washington: Warning, a dog-wagger can hide another)

22 mars, 2015
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Pourquoi le chien remue-t-il la queue ? Parce que le chien est plus malin que la queue. Si la queue était plus maline, c’est qui elle remuerait le chien. Conrad Brean (Des hommes d’influence)

To ‘wag the dog’ means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. Usingenglish.com
Why did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel feel the need to wag the dog in Washington? For that was, of course, what he was doing in his anti-Iran speech to Congress. If you’re seriously trying to affect American foreign policy, you don’t insult the president and so obviously align yourself with his political opposition. No, the real purpose of that speech was to distract the Israeli electorate with saber-rattling bombast, to shift its attention away from the economic discontent that, polls suggest, may well boot Mr. Netanyahu from office in Tuesday’s election. (…) So Mr. Netanyahu tried to change the subject from internal inequality to external threats, a tactic those who remember the Bush years should find completely familiar. We’ll find out on Tuesday whether he succeeded. Paul Krugman
In my eyes, [the US administration’s comments on the two-state solution] are less related to the Palestinian issue but are much more connected to the Iranian issue. We’re having a substantial disagreement with Washington over the agreement they’re about to sign in the coming days and weeks. Dore Gold (former ambassador to the United Nations and close Netanyahu adviser)
Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. René Girard
Le problème n’est pas la sécurité d’Israël, la souveraineté du Liban ou les ingérences de la Syrie ou du Hezbollah : Le problème est centré sur l’effort de l’Iran à obtenir le Droit d’Abolir l’Exclusivité de la Dissuasion. La prolifération sauvage, le concept de «tous nucléaires» sera la fin de la Guerre Froide et le retour à la période précédant la Dissuasion. Les mollahs et leurs alliés, le Venezuela, l’Algérie, la Syrie, la Corée du Nord et la Russie…, se militarisent à une très grande échelle sachant qu’ils vont bientôt neutraliser le parapluie protecteur de la dissuasion et alors ils pourront faire parler la poudre. Chacun visera à dominer sa région et sans que les affrontements se déroulent en Europe, l’Europe sera dépouillée de ses intérêts en Afrique ou en Amérique du Sud et sans combattre, elle devra déposer les armes. Ce qui est incroyable c’est la myopie de la diplomatie française et de ses experts. (…) Aucun d’entre eux ne se doute que la république islamique a des alliés qui ont un objectif commun: mettre un terme à une discrimination qui dure depuis 50 ans, la dissuasion nucléaire ! Cette discrimination assure à la France une position que beaucoup d’états lui envient. Ils attendent avec impatience de pouvoir se mesurer avec cette ancienne puissance coloniale que beaucoup jugent arrogante, suffisante et gourmande. Iran-Resist
L’Iran aurait pu être la Corée du Sud; il est devenu la Corée du Nord. (…) Mais n’oubliez pas qu’Ahmadinejad n’est que le représentant d’un régime de nature totalitaire, qui ne peut se réformer et évoluer, quelle que soit la personne qui le représente. (…) Aujourd’hui, le problème ne vient pas de l’idée de se doter de l’énergie nucléaire ; il provient de la nature du régime islamique. (…) je ne crois pas que les mollahs soient assez fous pour penser un jour utiliser la bombe contre Israël: ils savent très bien qu’ils seraient aussitôt anéantis. Ce qu’ils veulent, c’est disposer de la bombe pour pouvoir s’institutionnaliser une fois pour toutes dans la région et étendre leurs zones d’influence. Ils rêvent de créer un califat chiite du XXIe siècle et entendent l’imposer par la bombe atomique (…) il est manifeste qu’un gouvernement paranoïaque crée des crises un peu partout pour tenter de regagner à l’extérieur la légitimité qu’il a perdue à l’intérieur. Les dérives du clan au pouvoir ne se limitent pas au soutien au Hamas, elles vont jusqu’à l’Amérique latine de Chavez. Il ne s’agit en rien d’une vision qui vise à défendre notre intérêt national. Si le régime veut survivre, il doit absolument mettre en échec le monde libre, combattre ses valeurs. La République islamique ne peut pas perdurer dans un monde où l’on parle des droits de l’homme ou de la démocratie. Tous ces principes sont du cyanure pour les islamistes. Comment voulez-vous que les successeurs de Khomeini, dont le but reste l’exportation de la révolution, puissent s’asseoir un jour à la même table que le président Sarkozy ou le président Obama? Dans les mois à venir, un jeu diplomatique peut s’engager, mais, au final, il ne faut pas se faire d’illusion. Même si Khatami revenait au pouvoir, le comportement du régime resterait identique, car le vrai décideur c’est Khamenei. Je ne vois aucune raison pour laquelle le régime islamiste accepterait un changement de comportement. Cela provoquerait, de manière certaine, sa chute. Il ne peut plus revenir en arrière. J’ai bien peur que la diplomatie ne tourne en rond une nouvelle fois et que la course à la bombe ne continue pendant ce temps. Reza Pahlavi
En tant que défenseur de la rue arabe, [l’Iran] ne peut pas avoir un dialogue apaisé avec les Etats-Unis, dialogue au cours duquel il accepterait les demandes de cet Etat qui est le protecteur par excellence d’Israël. Téhéran a le soutien de la rue arabe, talon d’Achille des Alliés Arabes des Etats-Unis, car justement il refuse tout compromis et laisse entendre qu’il pourra un jour lui offrir une bombe nucléaire qui neutralisera la dissuasion israélienne. Pour préserver cette promesse utile, Téhéran doit sans cesse exagérer ses capacités militaires ou nucléaires et des slogans anti-israéliens. Il faut cependant préciser que sur un plan concret, les actions médiatiques de Téhéran ne visent pas la sécurité d’Israël, mais celle des Alliés arabes des Etats-Unis, Etats dont les dirigeants ne peuvent satisfaire les attentes belliqueuses de la rue arabe. Ainsi Téhéran a un levier de pression extraordinaire sur Washington. Comme toute forme de dissuasion, ce système exige un entretien permanent. Téhéran doit sans cesse fouetter la colère et les frustrations de la rue arabe ! Il doit aussi garder ses milices actives, de chaînes de propagande en effervescence et son programme nucléaire le plus opaque possible, sinon il ne serait pas menaçant. C’est pourquoi, il ne peut pas accepter des compensations purement économiques offertes par les Six en échange d’un apaisement ou une suspension de ses activités nucléaires. Ce refus permanent de compromis est vital pour le régime. (…) Il n’y a rien qui fasse plus peur aux mollahs qu’un réchauffement avec les Etats-Unis : ils risquent d’y perdre la rue arabe, puis le pouvoir. C’est pourquoi, le 9 septembre, quand Téhéran a accepté une rencontre pour désactiver les sanctions promises en juillet, il s’est aussitôt mis en action pour faire capoter ce projet de dialogue apaisé qui est un véritable danger pour sa survie. Iran Resist
The Iranian government has responded more positively than the Bush Administration has to the Iraq Study Group’s proposal for talks between the two. And government sources in Tehran tell TIME that this reflects a sincere and calculated desire among the Iranian leadership for improved relations with Washington. Responding to the Baker-Hamilton report’s proposal that Washington move quickly to engage Iran on talks over stabilizing Iraq, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki dangled an offer of cooperation in a statement published by an Iranian news agency. « Iran will support any policies returning security, stability and territorial integrity to Iraq, » he said, « and considers withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and leaving security to the Iraqi government as the most suitable option. » In an interview on Al Jazeera, Mottaki added that if the U.S. needs an « honorable way out of Iraq, » and Iran « is in a position to help. » President Bush, by contrast, appeared to rebuff the suggestion, insisting that Iran would have to suspend its uranium-enrichment program before it could talk to the U.S. about Iraq. And the response from many U.S. lawmakers questioning Iran’s motives in Iraq underscored the continued taboo in Washington over dealing openly with the Islamic Republic. Three Iranian sources — a government official and two figures close to government policymakers — tell TIME that Mottaki’s statement is reflective of a solid consensus among the regime’s foreign-policy decision makers that restoring relations with the U.S. is in Iran’s best interests. « If tomorrow the U.S. seriously — and I emphasize the word seriously — tried to engage Iran, in a way that accepted the 1979 Iranian revolution and engaged Iran in a respectful atmosphere, then Iran would welcome the chance to address mutual concerns, » said one of the sources, a prominent expert on U.S.-Iranian relations. (…) Some Iranian leaders and officials, including President Ahmadinejad, also believe that Iran now has the opportunity to deal with Washington from a position of strength, for the first time since the 1979 revolution. The sources say that this assessment is based on a perception that the U.S. is stuck in quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Iran’s influence in the region and throughout the Muslim world is expanding. These officials see further evidence of Iran’s advantage in the difficulties the U.S. continues to encounter in winning support for U.N. tough sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. The sources say that Iranian officials believe that to open a serious dialogue with the U.S. in these circumstances would significantly enhance Iran’s international prestige and regional influence. Time (2006)
Sur le long terme, Obama et son entourage ont toujours fantasmé sur une réconciliation globale entre les Etats-Unis et l’islamisme, qu’il s’agisse de l’islamisme sunnite des Frères musulmans ou de l’islamisme chiite iranien. C’était le sens, dès 2009, du discours-manifeste du Caire, prononcé, il ne faut pas l’oublier, au moment même où le pouvoir des mollahs écrasait dans le sang un « printemps iranien ». Cela a été également le sens, par la suite, de la temporisation d’Obama sur la question du nucléaire iranien : Washington s’est prononcé en faveur de sanctions économiques de plus en plus lourdes, mais n’a pas envisagé sérieusement une action militaire contre l’Iran ni accordé de feu vert à une éventuelle action militaire israélienne.(…) Des négociations discrètes ont été menées au début de l’été entre Washington et Téhéran, et elles avaient suffisamment abouti dès le mois d’août – quand Rouhani a pris officiellement ses fonctions – pour que plusieurs revues américaines influentes diffusent presque immédiatement des articles préparant l’opinion à cette « détente », sinon à ce renversement d’alliance. La New York Review of Books publie dans sa livraison datée du 15 août un long article en faveur d’un « nouvelle approche envers l’Iran » cosigné, de manière significative – l’union sacrée, pourrait-on dire -, par un universitaire pro-iranien, William Luers, un ancien ambassadeur aux Nations Unies, Thomas Pickering et un homme politique républicain, Jim Walsh. Quant à Foreign Affairs, elle consacre sa couverture de septembre-octobre au chef véritable du régime iranien, l’ayatollah et Guide spirituel Ali Khamenei. Akbar Ganji, un journaliste prestigieux, souvent présenté comme le « Soljénitsyne iranien », y affirme à la fois que Rouhani ne peut se rapprocher des Etats-Unis sans l’accord préalable et l’appui de Khamenei, ce qui est vrai ; et que les Etats-Unis doivent saisir cette « chance », ce qui est plus discutable. (…) A un autre niveau, à plus court terme, Obama a sans doute vu dans un rapprochement avec l’Iran le moyen d’effacer ou de faire oublier ses échecs répétés au Moyen-Orient : en Libye, en Egypte et finalement en Syrie. Une Grande Puissance, c’est un pays qui peut faire la guerre et qui, par voie de conséquence, est en mesure d’imposer sa volonté à d’autres pays. Et « pouvoir faire la guerre », en amont, cela suppose à la fois des moyens techniques (une armée, des armements, des technologies), et des moyens politiques ou moraux (une vision du monde, des objectifs, une détermination). L’Amérique d’Obama a toujours les moyens techniques d’une Très Grande Puissance, mais elle s’est comportée en Syrie, à travers ses tergiversations et finalement sa capitulation diplomatique devant la Russie de Poutine, comme si elle n’en avait plus les moyens politiques ou moraux. Ce que les alliés traditionnels des Etats-Unis ne sont pas près de pardonner au président sur le plan international (des Etats du Golfe à la France de Hollande), ni les Américains eux-mêmes en politique intérieure.(…) Les clés d’Obama se trouvent dans son livre autobiographique, Les Rêves de mon père. Deux faits, qu’il rapporte avec beaucoup de franchise : d’abord, un drame intime : il n’a pratiquement pas connu son père ; ensuite, un drame identitaire : l’Amérique traditionnelle – anglo-saxonne, judéo-chrétienne, blanche – est pour lui une sorte de pays étranger. Il est certes né aux Etats-Unis, mais il n’y a pas passé son enfance. Il n’a pas été élevé dans la foi chrétienne, mais dans un mélange d’humanisme athée et d’islam libéral. Et bien que sa mère soit blanche, il a toujours été considéré comme un Noir. Comment surmonte-t-il ces deux drames ? A travers l’action politique en vue d’une Amérique nouvelle, multiraciale, multireligieuse, multiculturelle. En fait, il veut enfanter cette nouvelle Amérique qui lui ressemblerait, être à la fois son propre père et celui d’une nation remodelée à son image. Ce qui passe, entre autre choses, par une réconciliation – fusionnelle – avec un islam qui est le contraire même de l’Amérique traditionnelle. Ce n’est là qu’un fantasme. La politique rationnelle d’Obama se réfère à d’autres considérations, d’autres raisonnements. Mais les fantasmes sont souvent aussi puissants ou plus puissants que la rationalité. Et qui plus est, les fantasmes personnels du président actuel recoupent ceux d’une bonne partie de la société américaine : les Noirs, les non-Blancs en général, mais aussi les milieux blancs d’extrême-gauche, une partie des élites intellectuelles… (…) Qui peut encore soutenir sérieusement qu’Israël est au cœur de tous les problèmes du Proche Orient et que tout passe, dans cette région, par la « résolution » du « problème palestinien » ? Depuis près de quatre ans, le monde arabe et islamique n’en finit pas de se décomposer et de se recomposer sous nos yeux, entraîné par ses pesanteurs propres. Une analyste géopolitique, Robin Wright, vient même de prédire dans le New York Times, le quotidien le plus pro-Obama des Etats-Unis, le remplacement de cinq Etats moyen-orientaux (la Syrie, l’Irak, l’Arabie Saoudite, la Libye, le Yemen) par quinze nouveaux Etats à caractère ethnoreligieux. Voilà qui merite au moins autant d’attention que les articles promouvant le « nouvel Iran » du président Rouhani. Et qui relativise le « processus de paix » Jérusalem-Ramallah. Michel Gurfinkiel
The military planners’ scorecard made one thing perfectly clear: by 2011, enough information was available to conclude that absent a significant U.S. military presence, within a few years, the situation in Iraq was likely to deteriorate — perhaps irreversibly. The Iraqi military, for example, was still three to five years away from being able to independently sustain the gains made during the past four years.(…) Had a residual U.S. force stayed in Iraq after 2011, the United States would have had far greater insight into the growing threat posed by ISIS and could have helped the Iraqis stop the group from taking so much territory. Instead, ISIS’ march across northern Iraq took Washington almost completely by surprise. (…)     In April (2011), Obama directed (U.S. forces in Iraq commander General Lloyd) Austin to develop a plan that would result in a residual force of just 8,000 to 10,000 troops and to identify the missions that a force of that size could realistically accomplish. In August, according to (then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq James) Jeffrey, Obama informed him that he was free to start negotiations with the Iraqis to keep 5,000 U.S. service members in Iraq: 3,500 combat troops who would be stationed on yearlong tours of duty and 1,500 special operations forces who would rotate in and out every four months. (…)     Washington had to drop its insistence that U.S. forces enjoy complete immunity from Iraqi law. Instead, in somewhat ambiguous terms, the agreement gave Iraqi authorities legal jurisdiction over cases in which U.S. service members were accused of committing serious, premeditated felonies while off duty and away from U.S. facilities. In his memoir, Duty, published earlier this year, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that Pentagon lawyers (during Bush’s negotiations with Iraq) strongly opposed the compromise. But Gates explains that he believed it was worth the risk if it meant that U.S. forces could stay in Iraq past 2008. Commanders in the field were also comfortable with the compromise; after all, since members of the U.S. armed forces are on duty 24 hours a day and are not permitted to leave their bases unless on a mission, there was little chance that an American marine or soldier would ever wind up in the hands of Iraqi authorities. (…)     In early September (2011), U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns visited Iraq to press Maliki on both those issues. According to a former administration official familiar with what happened during the meeting, Maliki told Burns that although he could likely persuade Iraq’s parliament to request a residual force, anyone who believed that the parliament would approve a status-of-forces agreement that included complete immunity did not understand Iraqi politics. Instead, Maliki proposed signing an executive memorandum granting immunity without the need to gain parliamentary approval. White House lawyers rejected that offer, arguing that for any such agreement to be legally binding, it would have to be formally ratified by the Iraqi parliament. In early October, as Maliki had predicted, the parliament approved the request for an extended U.S. military presence but declined to grant legal immunity to U.S. military personnel. Later that month, Obama told Maliki that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, in fulfillment of the terms of the agreement signed by the Bush administration in 2008. (…) In the nearly three years since Bush had agreed to a similar compromise, no U.S. service member or civilian official stationed in Iraq had been charged with violating an Iraqi law. (…) It is also worth pointing out that the U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq today count on a promise of immunity backed only by a diplomatic note signed by the Iraqi foreign minister — an assurance even less solid than the one Maliki offered (and Obama rejected) in 2011.  Rick Brennan (senior civilian adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq, 2006-2011)
Ok, so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb, but shouldn’t we at least bomb the Islamic State to smithereens and help destroy this head-chopping menace? Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran? In 2002, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad. ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism — mixing old pro-Saddam Baathists with medieval Sunni religious fanatics with a collection of ideologues, misfits and adventure-seekers from around the Sunni Muslim world. Obviously, I abhor ISIS and don’t want to see it spread or take over Iraq. I simply raise this question rhetorically because no one else is: Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really? If it seems as though we have only bad choices in the Middle East today and nothing seems to work, there is a reason: Because past is prologue, and the past has carved so much scar tissue into that landscape that it’s hard to see anything healthy or beautiful growing out of it anytime soon. Sorry to be so grim. Thomas Friedman (NYT)
The foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran. (…) The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. (…) Our withdrawal from Iraq in late 2011 contributed to a perception that the U.S. was pulling back from the Middle East. This perception has complicated our ability to shape developments in the region and thus to further our interests. These perceptions have also shaken many of our allies and, for a period at least, made it harder to persuade them to support our approaches. (…) Neither the Iranians nor Daesh are ten feet tall, but the perception in the region for the past few years has been that of the U.S. on the wane, and our adversaries on the rise. I hope that we can begin to reverse that now. David Petraeus
French leaders think the U.S. president is dangerously naïve on Iran’s ambitions, and that his notion of making Iran an « objective ally » in the war against ISIS, or even a partner, together with Putin’s Russia, to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, is both far-fetched and « amateurish. » When Claude Angéli says that both France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, and its President, François Hollande, have told friends that they rely on « the support of the US Congress » to prevent Obama from giving in to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it is the kind of quote you can take to the bank. French diplomats worry that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, every other local Middle East power will want them. Among their worst nightmares is a situation in which Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia join the Dr. Strangelove club. French diplomats may not like Israel, but they do not believe that the Israelis would use a nuclear device except in a truly Armageddon situation for Israel. As for Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Turkey going nuclear, however, they see terrifying possibilities: irresponsible leaders, or some ISIS-type terrorist outfit, could actually use them. In other words, even if they would never express it as clearly as that, they see Israelis as « like us, » but others potentially as madmen. The Quai d’Orsay (the French Foreign Ministry) may loathe, on principle, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: any briefing by French diplomats will, as a matter of course, explain how very wrong Israel is to alienate its « American ally. » All the same, France’s political stance on the projected U.S.-Iran deal is astonishingly close to that of the Israeli PM, as he outlined to the U.S. Congress on March 3. Laurent Fabius — once François Mitterrand’s youngest Prime Minister; today’s François Hollande’s seasoned Foreign Minister — is « fed up with Barack Obama’s nuclear laxity » regarding Iran, a Quai senior diplomat told Le Canard Enchaîné’s usually well-informed Claude Angéli, who can be relied on to give the unvarnished French view on matters foreign. « Just as in 2013, France will oppose any agreement too favorable to Iran if this turns out to be necessary. Fabius made this very clear to John Kerry when they met on Saturday March 7th. » This, Angéli points out, is far from the « soothing communiqué » issued at the end of the Kerry-Fabius meeting in which both men supposedly « shared » the same view of the Iran negotiations. The communiqué itself may have come as a surprise to a number of French MPs and Senators from their respective Foreign Affairs Committees. Fabius himself, in a meeting last week, made extremely clear his deep distrust (« contempt, really, » one MP says) of both John Kerry and Barack Obama. Another of the group quotes Fabius as saying: « The United States was really ready to sign just about anything with the Iranians, » before explaining that he himself had sent out, mid-February, a number of French ‘counter-proposals’ to the State Department and White House, in order to prevent an agreement too imbalanced in favor of Iran. Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
Une intéressante alliance des «faucons» se dessine de facto entre Paris, Jérusalem, le Congrès et les monarchies du Golfe, ­anxieuses d’un accord avec la Perse qui se ferait sur leur dos. Le Figaro (11.11.13)
We are not exactly impotent little babies. They [Israelis] have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? (…) Well, we have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse. [Israeli jet fighters and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, off the Sinai Peninsula, during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel later claimed the ship was the object of friendly fire.] (…)  Obama has been very impressive in refining our policy toward the world on a lot of issues, very impressive. But he has been relatively much less impressive in the follow-through. (…) Not as precise, clear-cut, and forthcoming as would be desirable. (…) By now we should have been able to formulate a clearer posture on what we are prepared to do to promote a Palestinian-Israeli peace. Simply giving a frequent-traveler ticket to George Mitchell is not the same thing as policy. It took a long time to get going on Iran, but there is an excuse there, the Iranian domestic mess. And we are now eight months into the administration, and I would have thought by now we could have formulated a strategy that we would have considered “our” strategy for dealing with Iran and Pakistan. For example, the Carter administration, which is sometimes mocked, by now had in motion a policy of disarmament with the Russians, which the Russians didn’t like, but eventually bought; it had started a policy of normalization with the Chinese; it rammed through the Panama Canal treaty; and it was moving very, very openly toward an Israeli-Arab political peace initiative. (…) There was a closer connection between desire and execution. Also the president was not as deeply embroiled, and buffeted, by a very broad, and commendable and ambitious domestic program as President Obama is. I think the Republican onslaught to the president, the wavering of some Democrats, has vastly complicated not only his choices in foreign affairs, but even limited the amount of attention he can give to them. (…) I don’t think it’s the number of issues; it’s how decisively a president acts. A president, in his first year, is at the peak of his popularity, and if he acts decisively, even if some oppose him, most will rally around him, out of patriotism, out of opportunism, out of loyalty, out of the crowd instinct, just a variety of human motives. (…)  The first year is decisive. How much you can set in motion the first year sets the tone for much of the rest of the term. In part, that’s because all these things take more than one year to complete. But the point is you want to have a dynamic start that carries momentum with it. Zbigniew Brzezinski (2009)
A l’époque, pendant que nous étions en train de discuter avec les Européens à Téhéran, nous installions des équipements dans certaines parties d’Ispahan, et le projet était sur le point d’être complété. En réalité, c’est en créant un climat de sérénité, que nous avons pu achever Ispahan. Hassan Rohani (03.11.03)
What has been released by the website of the White House as a fact sheet is a one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action (the title of the Iran-powers deal), and this fact sheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true. Marziyeh Afkham (Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman)
Iran is already in violation of a number of Security Council resolutions demanding it cease all uranium enrichment and heavy water activity – a process used to create weapons-grade plutonium. Furthermore, none of this activity is even remotely necessary if Iran, as it claims, only wants a peaceful nuclear program. There are many countries that have nuclear power that do not have the capability to enrich their own fuel. They buy it from abroad and that’s what Iran could do. And that’s what the media are neglecting to tell you. There are over thirty countries around the world that have nuclear power programs but according to the World Nuclear Association, only eleven have the capacity to enrich their own fuel. Here are some of the countries that have nuclear energy but don’t enrich their own nuclear fuel: Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine. The fact is that, of countries that have enrichment capabilities, the majority also possess nuclear weapons. Countries that enrich nuclear materials but do not have nuclear weapons include Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Countries that enrich and do have nuclear weapons include Pakistan, Russia and China. When you think of Iran, do you think it fits in with Germany, Japan and the Netherlands? Or, does it fit better with Pakistan, Russia and China? If that isn’t enough to make you uncomfortable, in a speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council in 2005, Rouhani himself said: A country that could enrich uranium to about 3.5 percent will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90 percent. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons. Since Argentina, Armenia, Sweden and Spain can buy nuclear fuel from abroad, why can’t Iran? Since our neighbors Canada and Mexico can pursue this policy, why can’t Iran? Camera
La Corée du Nord a appris au monde qu’au poker nucléaire la folie feinte vous vaut de l’aide étrangère ou l’attention planétaire — du fait que même la certitude qu’on a affaire à un bluff à 99% reste suffisante pour effrayer les opinions publiques occidentales. La Corée du nord est le proverbial envieux psychopathe du quartier qui agresse constamment ses voisins prospères d’à côté, en partant du principe que les voisins ne pourront manquer de prendre en compte ses menaces aussi sauvages qu’absurdes parce qu’il n’a rien et qu’ils ont tout à perdre. (…) L’Iran pourrait reprendre à l’infini le modèle de Kim — menaçant une semaine de rayer Israël de la carte, faisant machine arrière la semaine d’après sous prétexte de problèmes de traduction. L’objectif ne serait pas nécessairement de détruire Israël (ce qui vaudrait à l’Iran la destruction de la culture persane pour un siècle), mais d’imposer une telle atmosphère d’inquiétude et de pessimisme à l’Etat juif que son économie en serait affaiblie, son émigration en serait encouragée et sa réputation géostratégique en serait érodée. La Corée du nord est passée maître dans de telles tactiques de chantage nucléaire. A certains moments, Pyongyang a même réussi à réduire les deux géants asiatiques – Japon et Corée du Sud – à la quasi-paralysie.(…) Un Iran nucléaire n’aurait à s’inquiéter ni d’un ennemi existentiel avec une population d’un milliard d’habitants à côté tel que l’Inde ni d’un mécène tout aussi peuplé comme la Chine susceptible d’imposer des lignes rouges à ses crises de folie périodiques. Téhéran serait libre au contraire de faire et de dire ce qu’il veut. Et son statut de puissance nucléaire deviendrait un multiplicateur de force pour son énorme richesse pétrolière et son statut auto-proclamé de leader mondial des musulmans chiites. Si la Corée du Nord est un danger, alors un Iran nucléaire plus gros, plus riche et sans dissuasion serait un cauchemar. Victor Davis Hanson
If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us. Obama
 What we intended as caution, the Iranians saw as weakness. Obama’s aide
On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important . . . to give me space. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility. Obama (to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev)
At our urging, over months, Russia and Iran repeatedly reinforced our warning to Assad. We all sent the same message again and again: don’t do it. Susan Rice
I threatened [sic] kinetic strikes on Syria unless they got rid of their chemical weapons. Obama (March 2014)
The “good news is that Assad’s allies, both Russia and Iran, recognize that this [use of sarin] was—this was a breach, that this was a problem. And for them to potentially put pressure on Assad to say, ‘Let’s figure out a way that the international community gets control of . . . these weapons in a verifiable and forcible way’—I think it’s something that we will run to ground. Obama
 “[I]f as a consequence of a deal on their nuclear program, those voices and trends inside of Iran are strengthened, and their economy becomes more integrated into the international community, and there’s more travel and greater openness, even if that takes a decade or 15 years or 20 years, then that’s very much an outcome we should desire. Obama
The White House version both underplays the [American] concessions and overplays Iranian commitments. The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again. Javad Zarif (Iranian foreign minister)
Nous avons rappelé que ce genre de discours était contraire aux traditions d’Israël. Bien que ce pays soit fondé sur une terre historiquement juive, et sur le besoin de créer une nation juive, la démocratie israélienne repose sur la notion que tous ses citoyens sont égaux en droits. C’est ce qui fait la grandeur de cette démocratie. Si cela venait à changer, je pense que cela donnerait des arguments à ceux qui ne veulent pas d’un Etat juif, et que cela affaiblirait la démocratie israélienne (…) Disons que nous lui faisons confiance quand il dit que cela n’arrivera pas tant qu’il sera Premier ministre. C’est pourquoi nous devons explorer d’autres options afin d’empêcher que la région ne sombre dans le chaos. J’ai eu l’occasion de parler hier à M. Netanyahu. Je l’ai félicité pour sa victoire, et je lui ai réaffirmé mon attachement  à une solution à deux États qui est, de notre point de vue, la seule garantie sur le long terme de la sécurité d’Israël, en tant qu’État juif et démocratique. Je lui ai également rappelé qu’après ses récentes déclarations, il serait difficile de croire qu’Israël est sérieusement attaché à la poursuite des négociations. Cependant, nous continuerons d’insister sur le fait que, du point de vue des États-Unis, le statu quo est intenable, a poursuivi le président américain. Nous sommes attachés à la sécurité d’Israël, mais il n’est pas possible de poursuivre cette voie éternellement, avec l’implantation de nouvelles colonies. C’est un facteur d’instabilité dans la région. (…) Il faut tout d’abord que les Iraniens démontrent clairement qu’ils ne fabriquent pas de bombes nucléaires, et qu’ils nous laissent toute latitude pour nous en assurer. (…) Il n’y aura pas d’accord tant que tout n’aura pas été résolu. (…) Je dois avouer que les Iraniens n’ont pas fait jusqu’ici les compromis que j’estime indispensables pour parvenir à cet accord. Mais ils se sont montrés ouverts, ce qui laisse la porte ouverte à la recherche d’une solution (…). Je vais devoir démontrer au peuple américain, mais aussi aux Israéliens et au reste du monde, que nous avons mis en place des mécanismes qui empêcheront l’Iran d’accéder à la bombe atomique (…) Il est évident que beaucoup d’Israéliens se méfient, à juste titre, de leur voisin iranien. L’Iran a tenu des propos ignobles et antisémites, et menacé Israël d’annihilation. C’est précisément pour cela que j’ai dit, avant même de devenir président, que l’Iran ne devait pas disposer de l’arme nucléaire. Barack Obama
There was a free and fair democratic election, the only nation in the region that will have such a thing.  The president should get over it.  Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President.  It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of ISIS and Iranian movement throughout the region, which is threatening the very fabric of the region.  The least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign.  If every politician were held to everything they say in a political campaign, obviously, that would be a topic of long discussion. But the point is, is the J.V., as the president described them, is just moving over into Yemen.  We see this horrible situation in Libya. We see ISIS everywhere in the world.  We see the Iranians now backing the Shia militias in Tikrit, where they’re going to – where they’re going to massacre a number of Sunnis. And it is – the guy in charge is a guy named Suleimani, who – who imported – excuse me – I will catch up here – Suleimani moved thousands of copper-tipped IEDs into Iraq and killed hundreds of American soldiers and Marines.  And the president of the United States is praising the mullahs and their behavior in the region. (…) I wish he had spoken to the people of Iran in 2009, when they rose up against a corrupt election and he refused to speak out on their behalf while they were chanting ‘Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you with them?’ Again, does anyone – does he believe that anyone in Iran is able to speak up?  Are they able to speak up for anything that the mullahs disagree with?  They’re either jailed or killed.  Again, this is a view, a world view the president has which is totally divorced from reality. John McCain
What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu. There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu. (…) an effort to oust Netanyahu was guided by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird and that V15, or Victory 15, ads hurt Netanyahu in the polls. John McLaughlin (Republican strategist)
Un premier avion iranien est arrivé dimanche à Sanaa, au lendemain de la signature d’un accord entre Téhéran et des responsables de l’aviation de la capitale yéménite, contrôlée par la milice chiite des Houthis, a constaté un photographe de l’AFP. L’appareil de la compagnie Mahan Air est arrivé à Sanaa avec à son bord une équipe du Croissant rouge iranien et des caisses de médicaments, a précisé à l’AFP un responsable de l’aviation yéménite. Il a ajouté que des diplomates iraniens étaient présents pour accueillir ce vol, le premier entre les deux pays depuis des années. AFP (01.03.15)
Des photos et des vidéos amateur prouvent que Qassem Soleimani, le commandant des forces d’élites iraniennes, est en Irak et se bat au côté des forces irakiennes – soutenues et armées par les États-unis – contre les jihadistes de l’organisation de l’État islamique. (…) Les preuves de la présence de ce commandant iranien en Irak se multiplient donc alors même que l’Iran refuse d’admettre sa participation dans la guerre en Irak contre l’organisation de l’État islamique, ce qui reviendrait à officialiser sa collaboration militaire de fait avec les États-Unis. France 24 (04.09.14)
Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon as a popular force like Basij (Iran’s militia). Similarly popular forces were also formed in Syria and Iraq, and today we are watching the formation of Ansarollah in Yemen. Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi (representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force)
Ansarollah is a similar copy of Hezbollah in a strategic area. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami
We witness today that our revolution is exported to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Ali Akbar Nategh-Nuri (former speaker of Iran’s Majles and head of the Office of Inspection of the House of the Supreme Leader)
The Islamic Republic’s borders … are now transferred to the farthest points in the Middle East. Today, the strategic depth of Iran stretches to Mediterranean coasts and Bab al-Mandab Strait [southwest of Yemen]. Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Said (supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC)
Mort à l’Amérique, parce que l’Amérique est la source d’origine de cette pression. Ils insistent à mettre la pression sur l’économie de nos chères personnes. Quel est leur objectif ? Leur objectif est de monter les gens contre le système. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  (20.03.15)
In the giddy aftermath of Obama’s electoral victory in 2008, anything seemed possible. The president saw himself as a transformational leader, not just in domestic politics but also in the international arena, where, as he believed, he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. To say that Obama regarded Bush’s foreign policy as anachronistic is an understatement. To him it was a caricature of yesteryear, the foreign-policy equivalent of Leave It to Beaver. Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland, an arena in which the United States assembled global military coalitions to defeat enemies whom it depicted in terms like “Axis of Evil,” and into Obamaworld, a place more attuned to the nuances, complexities, and contradictions—and opportunities—of the 21st century. In today’s globalized environment, Obama told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, “our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. . . . No balance of power among nations will hold.” If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation. For the new president, nothing revealed the conceptual inadequacies of Bushland more clearly than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Before coming to Washington, Obama had opposed the toppling of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; once in the U.S. Senate, he rejected Bush’s “surge” and introduced legislation to end the war. Shortly after his inauguration in January 2009, he pledged to bring the troops home quickly—a commitment that he would indeed honor. But if calling for withdrawal from Iraq had been a relatively easy position to take for a senator, for a president it raised a key practical question: beyond abstract nostrums like “no nation can . . . dominate another nation,” what new order should replace the American-led system that Bush had been building? This was, and remains, the fundamental strategic question that Obama has faced in the Middle East, though one would search his speeches in vain for an answer to it. But Obama does have a relatively concrete vision. When he arrived in Washington in 2006, he absorbed a set of ideas that had incubated on Capitol Hill during the previous three years—ideas that had received widespread attention thanks to the final report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan congressional commission whose co-chairs, former secretary of state James Baker and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, interpreted their mission broadly, offering advice on all key aspects of Middle East policy. (…) Expressing the ethos of an influential segment of the foreign-policy elite, the Baker-Hamilton report became the blueprint for the foreign policy of the Obama administration, and its spirit continues to pervade Obama’s inner circle. Denis McDonough, now the president’s chief of staff, once worked as an aide to Lee Hamilton; so did Benjamin Rhodes, who helped write the Iraq Study Group’s report. Obama not only adopted the blueprint but took it one step further, recruiting Vladimir Putin’s Russia as another candidate for membership in the new club. The administration’s early “reset” with Russia and its policy of reaching out to Iran and Syria formed two parts of a single vision. If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse (“a coalition of the willing”) to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation. To rid the world of rogues and tyrants, one must embrace and soften them. (…) The same desire to accommodate Iran has tailored Obama’s strategy toward the terrorist group Islamic State. (…) The administration has indeed subtly exploited the rise of terrorist enclaves to elevate Obama’s outreach to Iran. Behind the scenes, coordination and consultation have reached new heights. (…) With American acquiescence, Iran is steadily taking control of the security sector of the Iraqi state. Soon it will dominate the energy sector as well, giving it effective control over the fifth largest oil reserves in the world. When the announced goal of the United States is to build up a moderate Sunni bloc capable of driving a wedge between Islamic State and the Sunni communities, aligning with Iran is politically self-defeating. In both Iraq and Syria, Iran projects its power through sectarian militias that slaughter Sunni Muslims with abandon. Are there any Sunni powers in the region that see American outreach to Tehran as a good thing? Are there any military-aged Sunni men in Iraq and Syria who now see the United States as a friendly power? There are none. (…) Over the last three years, Obama has given Iran a free hand in Syria and Iraq, on the simplistic assumption that Tehran would combat al-Qaeda and like-minded groups in a manner serving American interests. The result, in both countries, has been the near-total alienation of all Sunnis and the development of an extremist safe haven that now stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Damascus. America is now applying to the disease a larger dose of the snake oil that helped cause the malady in the first place. The approach is detrimental to American interests in other arenas as well. We received a portent of things to come on January 18 of this year, when the Israel Defense Forces struck a convoy of senior Hizballah and Iranian officers, including a general in the Revolutionary Guards, in the Golan Heights. Ten days later, Hizballah and Iran retaliated. In other words, by treating Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest, Obama is allowing the shock troops of Iran to dig in on the border of Israel—not to mention the border of Jordan. (…) In November 2013, when Obama purchased the participation of Iran in the Joint Plan of Action, he established a basic asymmetry that has remained a key feature of the negotiations ever since. He traded permanent American concessions for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint. (…)  The most significant such gestures by Iran were to dilute its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 percent; to refrain from installing new centrifuges; and to place a hold on further construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. All three, however, can be easily reversed. By contrast, the Americans recognized the Iranian right to enrich and agreed to the principle that all restrictions on Iran’s program would be of a limited character and for a defined period of time. These two concessions are major, and because they are not just the policy of the United States government but now the collective position of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, they will likely never be reversed. (…) We can say with certainty that Obama has had no illusions about this asymmetry—that he conducted the negotiations with his eyes wide open—because the White House took pains to hide the truth from the American public. In 2013, instead of publishing the text of the JPOA, it issued a highly misleading fact sheet. Peppered with terms like “halt,” “roll back,” and “dismantle,” the document left the impression that the Iranians had agreed to destroy their nuclear program. (…) Over the last year, Obama has reportedly allowed Iran to retain, in one form or another, its facilities at Natanz, Fordow, and Arak—sites that Iran built in flagrant violation of the NPT to which it is a signatory. This is the same Obama who declared at the outset of negotiations that the Iranians “don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. . . . And so the question ultimately is going to be, are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements that they’ve made.” The answer to his question, by now, is clear: the Iranians will not roll back anything. The president believes that globalization and economic integration will induce Tehran to forgo its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile Iran’s rulers are growing stronger, bolder, and ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity. (…) In making his personal rift with Netanyahu the subject of intense public debate, the White House means to direct attention away from the strategic rift between them—and from the fact that the entire Israeli elite, regardless of political orientation, as well as much of the U.S. Congress, regards the president’s conciliatory approach to Iran as profoundly misguided. Meanwhile, the president is depicting his congressional critics as irresponsible warmongers. He would have us believe that there are only two options: his undeclared détente with Iran and yet another war in the Middle East. This is a false choice. It ignores the one policy that every president since Jimmy Carter has pursued till now: vigorous containment on all fronts, not just in the nuclear arena. Obama, however, is intent on obscuring this option, and for a simple reason: an honest debate about it would force him to come clean with the American people and admit the depth of his commitment to the strategy whose grim results are multiplying by the day. Michael Doran
Given all we know, I would argue that Obama’s mission is to guide America not only out of Bushland (as Doran puts it) but out of Rooseveltland, Kennedyland, and Clintonland—and indeed to reverse most of the foreign-policy legacy of his own party, with the exception of that of Wallace and its 1972 candidate for the presidency, George McGovern. The ideas espoused by Obama “incubated” decades ago, and were most likely adopted back at Columbia University or in the Chicago kitchen of his friends of Weathermen fame, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. (…) The enduring hold of that ideology is visible not only in his Iran policy but also, most recently, with respect to Cuba. There, too, he has reversed decades of American foreign policy, and has done so, as in the case of Iran, without seeking any deep concessions from the Castro regime. In concluding the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action with Iran, Doran notes, Obama accepted a “basic asymmetry,” trading permanent American concessions [in exchange] for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint.” Similarly, in Cuba, Obama’s recent deal—call it another “Joint Plan of Action”—abandons previous American demands for real political change on the island prior to any lifting of the embargo. And just as he has offered his regrets to Tehran for the (long exaggerated) American role in the 1953 overthrow of the Mossadegh government, so too has he expressed apologies—in this case, in a telephone call with Raul Castro—“for taking such a long time” to change U.S. policy. In both instances, Obama has acted not to advance American national interests but to make amends for U.S. policies and actions that he views as the immoral and retrograde detritus of the “cold-war mentality.” (…) One need only look at the success of the Reagan administration in dealing with the Soviet Union to know that military power, strong alliances, and ideological clarity—what Doran refers to as “vigorous containment on all fronts”—do not lead to war. They lead to success. Elliott Abrams
In Dueck’s judgment, Obama’s approach to the world is predicated first and foremost on his bedrock intention to be a “transformational” president. The transformation in question is largely domestic—hence his preoccupation with the Affordable Care Act, which remakes a rather large swath of the American economy. Abroad, and in aid of the main focus on his domestic agenda (“nation-building at home”), the president’s overwhelming objective has been to keep international affairs at bay. But when world events do inevitably impose themselves, Obama is no less confident of his unique ability to exert a transformational impact.  (…) As Dueck sees it, the strategy is twofold: retrenchment, and accommodation. Retrenchment means liquidating some of what Obama construes to be overinvestments the U.S. has made around the world, particularly in the Middle East, while also reducing the strength of the U.S. military—since, in his view, our temptation to resort to military force has itself been responsible for many of the world’s ills. Accommodation, in turn, means reaching out and “engaging” America’s adversaries, thereby turning them, in the common phrase, from part of the problem into part of the solution. Understanding this strategy of retrenchment and accommodation is a useful vehicle for explaining many apparently discrete episodes in Obama’s tenure, from the early “strategic reassurance” of China, to the “reset” of relations with Russia, and of course to the “open hand” approach to Tehran that Michael Doran dissects so well. It also clarifies the chronic neglect of allies, and it illuminates, as Abrams rightly underlines, the president’s chronic need—the political equivalent of Tourette syndrome—to express regret and apologize publicly for past exercises of American power in pursuit of our national interests. (…) What distinguishes Obama is the ideological aversion to American power and the formulation of a strategy whose overriding impetus is to constrain that power. The scandal is not that the administration has kept this a secret but that a supine press and intellectual class have failed—“declined” may be the better (if much too polite) word—to explain it to the American people. Eric Edelman
As former George W. Bush White House aide Michael Doran meticulously lays out in his recently published tour-de-force “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” the U.S.-Iran partnership that is reshaping the Middle East has been in the making since Obama first came to office. The most salient point then about the current P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran isn’t the nuclear issue, but the fact that they create a channel to allow both sides to keep talking—which means that all sorts of subjects are going to come up, from Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon to Yemen and maybe even other thorny issues, like Argentina and the Nisman investigation into Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in 1994. U.S. response to everything in the region is now tied to the fate of the Iranian nuclear program, which in turn is simply the linchpin of Obama’s larger vision of a partnership between Washington and Tehran. (…) From Iran’s perspective, then, it controls not only four Arab capitals, but it also holds Washington captive. (…)  First of all, it’s not clear how Iran can accept any permanent agreement with the White House about the nuclear program, or anything else, for that matter. From Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ perspective, a deal might empower President Hassan Rouhani at their expense. From Rouhani’s perspective, a deal might make him, a so-called moderate, superfluous as someone who’s already played his role. Most important, there is the point of view of Khamenei, which partakes of the historic rationale of the Islamic Republic. Its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini promised one thing—not to raise the standard of living or educate women, nor even to hasten the return of the Mahdi, but rather that the life of a genuine Muslim rested on the pillar of resistance against the godless, the arrogant West, especially America. Signing an accord with the Great Satan would undermine the fundamental legitimacy of the regime. Obama wants a deal with Iran so much in large part because he doesn’t think the United States should be the world’s policeman—and he’s right. Our oil and natural gas industry won’t make us energy independent but it makes us less dependent and we simply don’t need that high a profile in a part of the world that has seldom returned our love. So, why keep shedding blood and spending money—as well as domestic political capital—in the Middle East? The answer is not that we need to look out for the world’s interests, but that we need to continue protecting our own. A nuclear weapon in the hands of an expansionist regime doesn’t get the United States out of the Middle East. It puts Iran on our doorstep, by turning the clerical regime into an aggressive global nuclear-armed power. There can’t be much question by now about what Iran has in mind for the Middle East, or for other countries that it enlists in its schemes, like Argentina. What Iran wants makes the world a more dangerous place for Americans. The question is not whether there’s a deal to be had with Iran, but if it’s too late to crash the comprehensive agreement the White House has already struck with our new regional partner—whose sickening consequences are plain to see. Lee Smith

Et si la queue se révélait plus maline que le chien ?

Refus de bombarder la Syrie, hostilité contre ses alliés israéliens et égyptiens ou à présent français, abandon de l’Irak, de la Libye et maintenant, sans armes ni bagages, du Yemen, fourniture de renseignement au Hezbollah …

A l’heure où le monde se gratte la tête devant une politique étrangère américaine de plus en plus déroutante

Qui, après Baghdad, Damas et Beirut, vient de livrer avec Sanaa pas moins de quatre capitales arabes à son prétendu pire ennemi

Et réussit l’exploit, comme l’expliquait le Figaro il y a deux ans, de réunir à nouveau contre elle « une intéressante alliance des «faucons» de facto entre Paris, Jérusalem, le Congrès et les monarchies du Golfe » …

Pendant que pour avoir tenté d’alerter le monde sur le danger nucléaire iranien, le Premier ministre sortant israélien se voyait accuser de « remuer le chien »

Comment ne pas repenser …

A la lecture de la brillante déconstruction de la doctrine Obama sur l’Iran par l’ancien conseiller de George Bush Michael Doran …

A cette excellente comédie de Barry Levinson de la fin des années 90 (Wag the dog – titre français: Des hommes d’influence) …

Où, selon l’expression anglaise du titre, un président américain n’était pas loin de lancer une guerre pour détourner l’attention médiatique d’une histoire de moeurs risquant de menacer sa réélection ?

Sauf que le chien dont il faudrait cette fois détourner l’attention (graal de la diplomatie américaine depuis plus de 40 ans) ne serait autre que l’entente avec un régime …

Qui ne peut tout simplement pas renoncer, sans signer son arrêt de mort immédiat, à sa vitale capacité de nuisance …

Et que la queue censée servir de diversion ne serait rien de moins que la discussion sur l’acquisition par ce dernier…

De l’arme nucléaire ?

Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy
The president has long been criticized for his lack of strategic vision. But what if a strategy, centered on Iran, has been in place from the start and consistently followed to this day?
Michael Doran
Mosc
Feb. 2 2015

About the author
Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council. He is finishing a book on President Eisenhower and the Middle East. He tweets @doranimated.

President Barack Obama wishes the Islamic Republic of Iran every success. Its leaders, he explained in a recent interview, stand at a crossroads. They can choose to press ahead with their nuclear program, thereby continuing to flout the will of the international community and further isolate their country; or they can accept limitations on their nuclear ambitions and enter an era of harmonious relations with the rest of the world. “They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it,” the president urged—because “if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication . . . inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power.”

How eager is the president to see Iran break through its isolation and become a very successful regional power? Very eager. A year ago, Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national-security adviser for strategic communication and a key member of the president’s inner circle, shared some good news with a friendly group of Democratic-party activists. The November 2013 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the “P5+1”—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—represented, he said, not only “the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian [nuclear] issue,” but “probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.” For the administration, Rhodes emphasized, “this is healthcare . . . , just to put it in context.” Unaware that he was being recorded, he then confided to his guests that Obama was planning to keep Congress in the dark and out of the picture: “We’re already kind of thinking through, how do we structure a deal so we don’t necessarily require legislative action right away.”

Why the need to bypass Congress? Rhodes had little need to elaborate. As the president himself once noted balefully, “[T]here is hostility and suspicion toward Iran, not just among members of Congress but the American people”—and besides, “members of Congress are very attentive to what Israel says on its security issues.” And that “hostility and suspicion” still persist, prompting the president in his latest State of the Union address to repeat his oft-stated warning that he will veto “any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo [the] progress” made so far toward a “comprehensive agreement” with the Islamic Republic.

As far as the president is concerned, the less we know about his Iran plans, the better. Yet those plans, as Rhodes stressed, are not a minor or incidental component of his foreign policy. To the contrary, they are central to his administration’s strategic thinking about the role of the United States in the world, and especially in the Middle East.

Moreover, that has been true from the beginning. In the first year of Obama’s first term, a senior administration official would later tell David Sanger of the New York Times, “There were more [White House] meetings on Iran than there were on Iraq, Afghanistan, and China. It was the thing we spent the most time on and talked about the least in public [emphasis added].” All along, Obama has regarded his hoped-for “comprehensive agreement” with Iran as an urgent priority, and, with rare exceptions, has consistently wrapped his approach to that priority in exceptional layers of secrecy.

From time to time, critics and even friends of the president have complained vocally about the seeming disarray or fecklessness of the administration’s handling of foreign policy. Words like amateurish, immature, and incompetent are bandied about; what’s needed, we’re told, is less ad-hoc fumbling, more of a guiding strategic vision. Most recently, Leslie Gelb, a former government official and past president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has charged that “the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national-security policy,” and has urged the president to replace the entire inner core of his advisers with “strong and strategic people of proven . . . experience.”

One sympathizes with Gelb’s sense of alarm, but his premises are mistaken. Inexperience is a problem in this administration, but there is no lack of strategic vision. Quite the contrary: a strategy has been in place from the start, and however clumsily it may on occasion have been implemented, and whatever resistance it has generated abroad or at home, Obama has doggedly adhered to the policies that have flowed from it.

In what follows, we’ll trace the course of the most important of those policies and their contribution to the president’s announced determination to encourage and augment Iran’s potential as a successful regional power and as a friend and partner to the United States.

2009-2010: Round One, Part I

In the giddy aftermath of Obama’s electoral victory in 2008, anything seemed possible. The president saw himself as a transformational leader, not just in domestic politics but also in the international arena, where, as he believed, he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. To say that Obama regarded Bush’s foreign policy as anachronistic is an understatement. To him it was a caricature of yesteryear, the foreign-policy equivalent of Leave It to Beaver. Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland, an arena in which the United States assembled global military coalitions to defeat enemies whom it depicted in terms like “Axis of Evil,” and into Obamaworld, a place more attuned to the nuances, complexities, and contradictions—and opportunities—of the 21st century. In today’s globalized environment, Obama told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, “our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. . . . No balance of power among nations will hold.”

If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation.
For the new president, nothing revealed the conceptual inadequacies of Bushland more clearly than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Before coming to Washington, Obama had opposed the toppling of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; once in the U.S. Senate, he rejected Bush’s “surge” and introduced legislation to end the war. Shortly after his inauguration in January 2009, he pledged to bring the troops home quickly—a commitment that he would indeed honor. But if calling for withdrawal from Iraq had been a relatively easy position to take for a senator, for a president it raised a key practical question: beyond abstract nostrums like “no nation can . . . dominate another nation,” what new order should replace the American-led system that Bush had been building?

This was, and remains, the fundamental strategic question that Obama has faced in the Middle East, though one would search his speeches in vain for an answer to it. But Obama does have a relatively concrete vision. When he arrived in Washington in 2006, he absorbed a set of ideas that had incubated on Capitol Hill during the previous three years—ideas that had received widespread attention thanks to the final report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan congressional commission whose co-chairs, former secretary of state James Baker and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, interpreted their mission broadly, offering advice on all key aspects of Middle East policy.

The report, published in December 2006, urged then-President Bush to take four major steps: withdraw American troops from Iraq; surge American troops in Afghanistan; reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli “peace process”; and, last but far from least, launch a diplomatic engagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its junior partner, the Assad regime in Syria. Baker and Hamilton believed that Bush stood in thrall to Israel and was therefore insufficiently alive to the benefits of cooperating with Iran and Syria. Those two regimes, supposedly, shared with Washington the twin goals of stabilizing Iraq and defeating al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadi groups. In turn, this shared interest would provide a foundation for building a concert system of states—a club of stable powers that could work together to contain the worst pathologies of the Middle East and lead the way to a sunnier future.

Expressing the ethos of an influential segment of the foreign-policy elite, the Baker-Hamilton report became the blueprint for the foreign policy of the Obama administration, and its spirit continues to pervade Obama’s inner circle. Denis McDonough, now the president’s chief of staff, once worked as an aide to Lee Hamilton; so did Benjamin Rhodes, who helped write the Iraq Study Group’s report. Obama not only adopted the blueprint but took it one step further, recruiting Vladimir Putin’s Russia as another candidate for membership in the new club. The administration’s early “reset” with Russia and its policy of reaching out to Iran and Syria formed two parts of a single vision. If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse (“a coalition of the willing”) to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation. To rid the world of rogues and tyrants, one must embrace and soften them.

How would this work in the case of Iran? During the Bush years, an elaborate myth had developed according to which the mullahs in Tehran had themselves reached out in friendship to Washington, offering a “grand bargain”: a deal on everything from regional security to nuclear weapons. The swaggering Bush, however, had slapped away the outstretched Iranian hand, squandering the opportunity of a lifetime to normalize U.S.-Iranian relations and thereby bring order to the entire Middle East.

Obama based his policy of outreach to Tehran on two key assumptions of the grand-bargain myth: that Tehran and Washington were natural allies, and that Washington itself was the primary cause of the enmity between the two. If only the United States were to adopt a less belligerent posture, so the thinking went, Iran would reciprocate. In his very first television interview from the White House, Obama announced his desire to talk to the Iranians, to see “where there are potential avenues for progress.” Echoing his inaugural address, he said, “[I]f countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”

Unfortunately, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, ignored the president’s invitation. Five months later, in June 2009, when the Green Movement was born, his autocratic fist was still clenched. As the streets of Tehran exploded in the largest anti-government demonstrations the country had seen since the revolution of 1979, he used that fist to beat down the protesters. For their part, the protesters, hungry for democratic reform and enraged by government rigging of the recent presidential election, appealed to Obama for help. He responded meekly, issuing tepid statements of support while maintaining a steady posture of neutrality. To alienate Khamenei, after all, might kill the dream of a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations.

If this show of deference was calculated to warm the dictator’s heart, it failed. “What we intended as caution,” one of Obama’s aides would later tell a reporter, “the Iranians saw as weakness.” Indeed, the president’s studied “caution” may even have emboldened Tehran to push forward, in yet another in the long series of blatant violations of its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), with its construction of a secret uranium enrichment facility in an underground bunker at Fordow, near Qom.

When members of Iran’s Green Movement appealed to Obama for help in 2009, he responded meekly—after all, to alienate Khamenei might kill the dream of a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations.
This time, Obama reacted. Revealing the bunker’s existence, he placed Khamenei in a tough spot. The Russians, who had been habitually more lenient toward the Iranian nuclear program than the Americans, were irritated by the disclosure of this clandestine activity; the French were moved to demand a strong Western response.

But when Khamenei finessed the situation by adopting a seemingly more flexible attitude toward negotiations, Obama quickly obliged. Delighted to find a receptive Iranian across the table, he dismissed the French call for toughness, instead volunteering a plan that would meet Iran’s desire to keep most of its nuclear infrastructure intact while proving to the world that it was not stockpiling fissile material for a bomb. In keeping with his larger aspirations, the president also placed Moscow at the center of the action, proposing that the Iranians transfer their enriched uranium to Russia in exchange for fuel rods capable of powering a nuclear reactor but not of being used in a bomb. The Iranian negotiators, displaying their new spirit of compromise, accepted the terms. Even President Ahmadinejad, the notorious hardliner, pronounced himself on board.

Obama, it seemed to some, had pulled off a major coup. Less than a year after taking office, he was turning his vision of a new Middle East order into a reality. Or was he? Once the heat was off, Khamenei reneged on the deal, throwing the president back to square one and in the process weakening him politically at home, where congressional skeptics of his engagement policy now began lobbying for more stringent economic sanctions on Tehran. To protect his flank, Obama tacked rightward, appropriating, if with visible reluctance, some of his opponents’ rhetoric and bits of their playbook as well. In 2010, he signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), which eventually would prove more painful to Iran than any previous measure of its kind.

In later years, whenever Obama would stand accused of being soft on Iran, he would invariably point to CISADA as evidence to the contrary. “[O]ver the course of several years,” he stated in March 2014, “we were able to enforce an unprecedented sanctions regime that so crippled the Iranian economy that they were willing to come to the table.” The “table” in question was the negotiation resulting in the November 2013 agreement, known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), which we shall come to in due course. But masked in the president’s boast was the fact that he had actually opposed CISADA, which was rammed down his throat by a Senate vote of 99 to zero.

Once the bill became law, a cadre of talented and dedicated professionals in the Treasury Department set to work implementing it. But the moment of presumed “convergence” between Obama and his congressional skeptics proved temporary and tactical; their fundamental difference in outlook would become much more apparent in the president’s second term. For the skeptics, the way to change Khamenei’s behavior was to place him before a stark choice: dismantle Iran’s nuclear program—period—or face catastrophic consequences. For Obama, to force a confrontation with Khamenei would destroy any chance of reaching an accommodation on the nuclear front and put paid to his grand vision of a new Middle East order.

2011-2012: Round One, Part II

“The hardest cross I have to bear is the Cross of Lorraine,” Winston Churchill supposedly cracked about managing his wartime relations with Charles de Gaulle. As Obama sees it, his hardest cross to bear has been the Star of David, represented by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

To the Israelis, who have long regarded Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, Obama’s engagement policy was misguided from the start. Their assessment mattered, because influential Americans listened to them. What was more, American Jews constituted an important segment of the Democratic party’s popular base and an even more important segment of its donors. In the election year of 2012, for Obama to be perceived as indifferent to Israeli security would jeopardize his prospects of a second term—and hardly among Jews alone.

When the Israelis threatened to attack Iran, Obama responded by putting Israel in a bear hug. From one angle, it looked like an expression of friendship. From another, like an effort to break Netanyahu’s ribs.
The Israelis did more than just criticize Obama; they also threatened to take action against Iran that would place the president in an intolerable dilemma. In 2011, Ehud Barak, the defense minister at the time, announced that Iran was quickly approaching a “zone of immunity,” meaning that its nuclear program would henceforth be impervious to Israeli attack. As Iran approached that zone, Israel would have no choice but to strike. And what would America do then? The Israeli warnings grew ever starker as the presidential election season heated up. Netanyahu, it seemed, was using the threat of Israeli action as a way of prodding Washington itself to take a harder line.

To this challenge, Obama responded by putting Israel in a bear hug. From one angle, it looked like an expression of profound friendship: the president significantly increased military and intelligence cooperation, and he insisted, fervently and loudly, that his policy was to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by all means possible. With the aid of influential American Jews and Israelis who testified to his sincerity, Obama successfully blunted the force of the charge that he was hostile to Israel.

From another angle, however, the bear hug looked like an effort to break Netanyahu’s ribs. Even while expressing affection for Israel, Obama found ways to signal his loathing for its prime minister. During one tense meeting at the White House, for example, the president abruptly broke off to join his family for dinner, leaving Netanyahu to wait for him alone. In mitigation, Obama supporters would adduce ongoing friction between the two countries over West Bank settlements and peace negotiations with the Palestinians. This was true enough, but the two men differed on quite a number of issues, among which Iran held by far the greatest strategic significance. In managing the anxieties of his liberal Jewish supporters, Obama found it useful to explain the bad atmosphere as a function of Netanyahu’s “extremism” rather than of his own outreach to Iran—to suggest, in effect, that if only the hothead in the room would sit down and shut up, the grownups could proceed to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem along reasonable lines.

The tactic proved effective. At least for the duration, Obama prevented Israel from attacking Iran; preserved American freedom of action with regard to Iran’s nuclear program; and kept his disagreements with the Israeli government within the comfort zone of American Jewish Democrats.

If, however, Netanyahu was Obama’s biggest regional headache, there was no lack of others. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was certainly the most consequential. Obama had assumed that the king would welcome his approach to the Middle East as a breath of fresh air. After all, the Baker-Hamilton crowd regarded the Arab-Israeli conflict as the major irritant in relations between the United States and the Arabs. Bush’s close alignment with Israel, so the thinking went, had damaged those relations; by contrast, Obama, the moment he took office, announced his goal of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all, and followed up by picking a fight with Netanyahu over Jewish settlements in the West Bank. How could the Saudis react with anything but pleasure?

In fact, they distanced themselves—bluntly and publicly. While meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the end of July 2009, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal announced that Obama’s approach to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict “has not and, we believe, will not lead to peace.” Behind that statement lay a complex of attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, but much more than that. At the end of the Bush administration, King Abdullah had made his top regional priority abundantly clear when, according to leaked State Department documents, he repeatedly urged the United States to destroy Iran’s nuclear program and thereby “cut off the head of the snake” in the Middle East.

When Obama strode into office and announced his desire to kiss the snake, the Saudis lost no time in making their displeasure felt. Three months later, the king responded gruffly to an extensive presentation on Obama’s outreach program by Dennis Ross, then a senior official in the State Department with responsibility for Iran. “I am a man of action,” Abdullah said according to a New York Times report. “Unlike you, I prefer not to talk a lot.” He then posed a series of pointed questions that Ross could not answer. “What is your goal? What will you do if this does not work? What will you do if the Chinese and the Russians are not with you? How will you deal with Iran’s nuclear program if there is not a united response?” The questions added up to a simple point: your Iran policy is based on wishful thinking.

As it happens, one traditional American ally in the region was—at least at first—untroubled by Obama’s policy of Iran engagement: the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Indeed, Erdoğan found much to extol in the new American initiative, which dovetailed perfectly with his own foreign policy of “zero problems with [Arab and Muslim] neighbors.” Among other things, Erdoğan meant to establish Ankara as the middleman between the United States and Iran and Syria, Turkey’s traditional adversaries. This vision nested so comfortably within Obama’s planned concert system that Erdoğan quickly became one of the few international personalities with whom Obama developed a close personal rapport.

Contrary to what observers have long assumed, Obama does connect his Iran policy and his Syria policy: just as he showed deference to Iran on the nuclear front, he has deferred to the Iranian interest in Syria.
Soon, however, serious tensions arose. By the summer of 2012, one problem overshadowed all others: Syria—and behind Syria, Iran. Erdoğan watched in horror as the Iranians together with their proxies, Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite militias, intervened in the Syrian civil war. Iranian-directed units were not only training and equipping Bashar Assad’s forces in his battle for survival, but also engaging in direct combat. At the same time, within the Syrian opposition to Assad, a radical Sunni jihadi element was growing at an alarming rate. In short order, the Turks were adding their voice to a powerful chorus—including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf sheikhdoms, and the Jordanians—urgently requesting that Washington take action to build up the moderate Sunni opposition to both Assad and Iran.

The director of the CIA, David Petraeus, responded to this request by America’s regional allies with a plan to train and equip Syrian rebels in Jordan and to assist them once back in Syria. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all supported the Petraeus plan. But Obama rejected it.

Why? Undoubtedly the president had a mix of reasons and possible motives, which were the objects of extensive speculation in the media. But one motive was never included in the list: namely, his fear of antagonizing Iran. For the longest time, it was simply assumed that Obama drew no connection between his Iran policy and his Syria policy. This, however, was not the case. In fact—as we shall see below—just as, from the beginning, he showed deference to Iran on the nuclear front, he showed the same deference to the Iranian interest in Syria.

2013-2014: Round Two, The Secret Backchannel

An ostensible thaw in American-Iranian relations occurred early in the president’s second term. To hear him tell it today, what precipitated the thaw was a strategic shift by Tehran on the nuclear front. In his version of the story—let’s call it the “official version”—two factors account for the Iranian change of heart. One of them was American coercive diplomacy; the other was a new spirit of reform in Tehran. And the two were interrelated. The first, as Obama himself explained in the March 2014 interview cited earlier, had taken the form of “an unprecedented sanctions regime that so crippled the Iranian economy that [the Iranians] were willing to come to the table.” The second was a corollary of the first. The same sanctions regime had also helped bring to power the new government of Hassan Rouhani, whose moderate approach would in turn culminate in the November 2013 signing of the interim nuclear deal, which “for the first time in a decade halts their nuclear program.”

Obama’s version is an after-the-fact cocktail of misdirection and half-truths, stirred by him and his aides and served up with a clear goal in mind: to conceal Round Two of his Iran outreach.

The turning point in the American-Iranian relationship was not, as the official version would have it, the election of Hassan Rouhani in June 2013. It was the reelection of Barack Obama in November 2012.
In early 2013, at the outset of his second term, Obama developed a secret bilateral channel to Ahmadinejad’s regime. When the full impact of this is taken into account, a surprising fact comes to light. The turning point in the American-Iranian relationship was not, as the official version would have it, the election of Hassan Rouhani in June 2013. It was the reelection of Barack Obama in November 2012.

Indeed, the first secret meeting with the Iranians (that is, the first we know of) took place even earlier, in early July 2012, eleven months before Rouhani came to power. Jake Sullivan, who at the time was the director of policy planning in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, traveled secretly to Oman to meet with Iranian officials. The Obama administration has told us next to nothing about Sullivan’s meeting, so we are forced to speculate about the message that he delivered.

Most pertinent is the timing. At that moment, pressure was mounting on the president to intervene in Syria. Sullivan probably briefed the Iranians on Obama’s strong desire to stay out of that conflict, and may have sought Tehran’s help in moderating Assad’s behavior. But summer 2012 was also the height of the American presidential campaign. Perhaps Sullivan told the Iranians that the president was keen to restart serious nuclear negotiations after the election. Recall that this meeting took place shortly after a hot microphone had caught Obama saying to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important . . . to give me space. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Did Sullivan give the Iranians a similar message? Did he tell Ahmadinejad’s officials that Obama’s need to secure the pro-Israel vote had forced him to take a deceptively belligerent line toward Iran? That Iran had nothing to fear from an Israeli attack? That after the election Obama would demonstrate even greater flexibility on the nuclear issue?

Whatever the answers to these questions, it is a matter of record that Obama opened his second term with a campaign of outreach to Tehran—a campaign that was as intensive as it was secret. By February 2013, a month after his inauguration, the backchannel was crowded with American officials. Not just Sullivan, but Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, National Security Council staffer Puneet Talwar, State Department non-proliferation adviser Robert Einhorn, and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice were all engaging their Iranian counterparts.

According to the official version, this stampede toward Tehran had no impact on Iranian-American relations. Nothing notable occurred in that realm, we are told, until the arrival on the scene of Rouhani. In fact, however, it was during this earlier period that Obama laid the basis for the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action. And that agreement was the product of three American concessions—two of which, and possibly the third as well, were made long before Rouhani ever came to power.

In April 2013, the Americans and their P5+1 partners met with Iranian negotiators in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they offered to relieve the sanctions regime in exchange for the elimination of Iran’s stockpiles of uranium that had already been enriched to 20 percent. This was concession number one, bowing to the longstanding Iranian demand for economic compensation immediately, before a final agreement could be reached. Even more important was concession number two, which permitted the Iranians to continue enriching uranium to levels of 5 percent—this, despite the fact that six United Nations Security Council resolutions had ordered Iran to cease all enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Iranian negotiators rejected these two gifts—or, rather, they pocketed them and demanded a third, the one they coveted the most. Hailing the proposals by their counterparts as a step in the right direction, they criticized them for failing to stipulate the Iranian “right to enrich.” There was a difference, they argued, between temporarily permitting Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent and recognizing its inalienable right to do so. If Obama wanted a deal, he would have to agree to shred the Security Council resolutions by offering, up front, an arrangement that would end the economic sanctions on Iran entirely and that would allow the Iranians to enrich uranium in perpetuity.

By exaggerating the spirit of reform in Tehran, the White House was able to suggest that Iran, and not America, had compromised.
Obama’s acceptance of this condition, the third and most important American gift, is what made the Joint Plan of Action possible. The American negotiators transmitted the president’s acceptance to the Iranians in the backchannel, and then John Kerry sprang it on his hapless negotiating partners in November. We do not know when, precisely, Obama made this offer, but the Iranians set their three conditions before Rouhani took office.

In brief, the Iranian election was hardly the key factor that made the interim deal possible. But it did supply window dressing at home when it came to selling the deal to Congress and the American public. By exaggerating the spirit of reform in Tehran, the White House was able to suggest that Rouhani’s embrace of the deal represented an Iranian, not an American, compromise. In truth, Obama neither coerced nor manipulated; he capitulated, and he acquiesced.

Round Two: Iran, Syria, and Islamic State

The nuclear issue wasn’t the only tender spot in U.S.-Iran relations in this period. Before returning to it, let’s look briefly at two other regional fronts.

Obama’s second term has also included efforts to accommodate Iran over Syria. Susan Rice, by now the president’s national-security adviser, inadvertently admitted as much in an address she delivered on September 9, 2013, a few weeks after Bashar Assad had conducted a sarin-gas attack on Ghouta, a suburb outside Damascus, that killed approximately 1,500 civilians. Reviewing past American efforts to restrain the Syrian dictator, Rice blithely depicted Tehran as Washington’s partner. “At our urging, over months, Russia and Iran repeatedly reinforced our warning to Assad,” she explained. “We all sent the same message again and again: don’t do it.”

Why did Obama back off on strikes against Syria? Could it have been fear of scuttling the biggest—and still secret—foreign-policy initiative of his entire presidency?
Rice’s remarks were disingenuous. In reality, the Islamic Republic was then precisely what it remains today, namely, the prime enabler of Assad’s murder machine. But Rice’s intention was not to describe Iranian behavior accurately. In addition to accustoming the American press and foreign-policy elite to the idea that Iran was at least a potential partner, her speech was aimed at influencing Congress’s deliberation of air strikes against Syria—strikes that Obama had abruptly delayed a week and a half earlier in what will certainly be remembered as one of the oddest moments of his presidency.

The oddity began shortly after Obama sent Secretary of State John Kerry out to deliver a Churchillian exhortation on the theme of an impending American attack. While that speech was still reverberating, the president convened a meeting of his inner circle in the Oval Office, where he expressed misgivings about the policy that his Secretary of State had just announced. Curiously, the meeting did not include either Kerry or Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the principal members of his senior national-security staff. Obama then invited Denis McDonough to break away from the others and join him for a private walk around the White House grounds. On his return, Obama stunned the waiting group with the news that he had decided to delay the strikes on Assad in order to seek congressional approval.

What thoughts did Obama share with McDonough? We can dispense with the official explanation, which stresses the president’s principled belief in the need to consult the legislative branch on matters of war and peace. That belief had played no part in previous decisions, like the one to intervene in Libya. Clearly, Obama was hiding behind Congress in order either to delay action or to kill it altogether. The true reasons for the delay were evidently too sensitive even for the ears of his closest national-security aides. Could they have included fear of scuttling the biggest—and still secret—foreign-policy initiative of his second term, possibly of his entire presidency?

In the event, the punt to Congress bought Obama some time, but at a significant political cost. At home the decision made him appear dithering and weak; on Capitol Hill, Democrats quietly fumed over the way the White House was abruptly ordering them out on a limb. In Syria, Assad crowed with delight as his opponents crumpled in despair. Elsewhere, American allies felt exposed and vulnerable, wondering whether Obama would ever truly come to their aid in a pinch.

As we know, Obama’s quandary would become Moscow’s opportunity. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered the president a way to regain his balance. Russia and the United States, Lavrov proposed, would cooperate to strip Assad of his sarin gas. From the sidelines, the Iranians publicly applauded the proposal, and Obama jumped to accept it.

But the deal was a quid pro quo. In return for a minor (though highly visible) concession from Assad, Obama tacitly agreed not to enter the Syrian battlefield. In effect, the Russians, Assad, and the Iranians were offering him, and he was accepting, surrender with honor, enabling him to say later, with a straight face, that the episode was a successful example of his coercive diplomacy. “Let’s be very clear about what happened,” he bragged in his March 2014 interview. “I threatened [sic] kinetic strikes on Syria unless they got rid of their chemical weapons.” In reality, Assad only gained—and gained big. Obama immediately muted his calls for Assad to step down from power, and his behavior thoroughly demoralized the Syrian opposition. Nor did the deal stop Assad from launching further chemical attacks. Once deprived of his sarin stockpiles, he simply switched to chlorine.

During an interview on primetime television shortly after Lavrov offered his country’s help, Obama pointed to Russian and Iranian cooperation with Washington as one of the bargain’s greatest benefits. The “good news,” he said, “is that Assad’s allies, both Russia and Iran, recognize that this [use of sarin] was—this was a breach, that this was a problem. And for them to potentially put pressure on Assad to say, ‘Let’s figure out a way that the international community gets control of . . . these weapons in a verifiable and forcible way’—I think it’s something that we will run to ground.”

This was fictive. Obama made it sound as if Tehran was eager to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. Even as he was speaking, Iran was publicly blaming the Syrian rebels, not Assad, for the Ghouta attack. Nor was stopping the slaughter ever the president’s true goal. From his perspective, he did not have the power to prevent Assad’s atrocities. He did, however, have the sense to recognize a good thing when he saw it. The opportunity to join with Iran in an ostensibly cooperative venture was too good to let slip away—and so he seized it.

That Obama has treated Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest all along has been brought home in a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. In August 2014, according to the Journal, the president wrote a letter to Ali Khamenei, acknowledging the obstacle to their cooperation presented by the nuclear impasse but taking pains to reassure Khamenei regarding the fate of Assad, his closest ally. American military operations inside Syria, he wrote, would target neither the Syrian dictator nor his forces.

This element of the president’s thinking has received remarkably little attention, even though Obama himself pointed to it directly in a January 2014 interview with David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker. The Arab states and Israel, Obama said then, wanted Washington to be their proxy in the contest with Iran; but he adamantly refused to play that role. Instead, he envisioned, in Remnick’s words, “a new geostrategic equilibrium, one less turbulent than the current landscape of civil war, terror, and sectarian battle.” Who would help him develop the strategy to achieve this equilibrium? “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” the president responded, alluding to the acknowledged godfather of the cold-war strategy of containment. What he truly needed instead were strategic partners, and a prime candidate for that role was—he explained—Iran.

Obama was here revealing his main rationale in 2012 for rejecting the Petraeus plan to arm the Syrian opposition that we examined earlier. Clearly, the president viewed the anti-Assad movement in Syria just as he had viewed the Green Movement in Iran three years earlier: as an impediment to realizing the strategic priority of guiding Iran to the path of success. Was the Middle East in fact polarized between the Iranian-led alliance and just about everyone else? Yes. Were all traditional allies of the United States calling for him to stand up to Iran? Yes. Did the principal members of his National Security Council recommend as one that the United States heed the call of the allies? Again, yes. But Obama’s eyes were still locked on the main prize: the grand bargain with Tehran.

The same desire to accommodate Iran has tailored Obama’s strategy toward the terrorist group Islamic State. That, too, has not received the attention it deserves.

Last June, when Islamic State warriors captured Mosul in northern Iraq, the foreign-policy approval ratings of the president plummeted, and Obama’s critics claimed, not for the first time, that he had no strategy at all. Ben Rhodes sprang to his defense, suggesting that despite appearances to the contrary, the administration actually had a plan, if a hitherto unannounced one. “We have longer-run plays that we’re running,” he said. “Part of this is keeping your eye on the long game even as you go through tumultuous periods.”

The administration has subtly exploited the rise of the Islamic State to elevate Obama’s outreach to Iran. Behind the scenes, coordination and consultation have reached new heights.
Rhodes offered no details, and subsequent events seemed to confirm the impression that Obama actually had no long game. In addition to being caught flat-footed by Islamic State, moreover, he was reversing himself on other major issues: sending troops back to Iraq after having celebrated their homecoming, ordering military operations in Syria that he had opposed for years. How could such reversals be consistent with a long game?

The answer is that the reversals, although real, involved much less than met the eye, and the long game remained in place. In August, it seemed as if the American military was preparing to mount a sustained intervention in both Iraq and Syria; today, however, it is increasingly apparent that Obama has at best a semi-coherent containment plan for Iraq and no plan at all for Syria—a deficiency that was obvious from the start. At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Senator Marco Rubio pointed to the obvious weaknesses in the administration’s approach, and asked John Kerry how to fix them. Kerry stunningly suggested that the gaps would be filled by . . . Iran and Assad. “[Y]ou’re presuming that Iran and Syria don’t have any capacity to take on” Islamic State, Kerry said. “If we are failing and failing miserably, who knows what choice they might make.”

Here, giving the game away, Kerry provided a glimpse at the mental map of the president and his top advisers. The administration has indeed subtly exploited the rise of terrorist enclaves to elevate Obama’s outreach to Iran. Behind the scenes, coordination and consultation have reached new heights.

Meanwhile, so have expressions of dissatisfaction with traditional allies for taking positions hostile to Iran. Our “biggest problem” in Syria is our own regional allies, Vice President Joseph Biden complained to students at Harvard University in early October. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were “so determined to take down Assad” that they were pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons” into the Syrian opposition. A few weeks later, a senior Obama administration official cuttingly described another ally, Israel’s prime minister, as “a chickenshit,” and a second official, similarly on the record, bragged about the success of the United States in shielding the Islamic Republic from Israel. “[U]ltimately [Netanyahu] couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”

Of course, administration officials routinely insist that the United States is not working with Tehran. The coordination, however, is impossible to disguise. Thus, when Iranian jets recently appeared in Iraqi skies, they professed ignorance. Reporters, noting that the jets were flying sorties in the same air space as American jets and striking related targets, asked the Pentagon spokesman how the American and Iranian air forces could work in the same space without colliding. “We are flying missions over Iraq, [and] we coordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those,” said the spokesman. “It’s up to the Iraqi government to de-conflict that airspace.” When Kerry was asked about the news that the Iranian air force was operating in Iraq, he responded that this was a “net positive.”

A positive? With American acquiescence, Iran is steadily taking control of the security sector of the Iraqi state. Soon it will dominate the energy sector as well, giving it effective control over the fifth largest oil reserves in the world. When the announced goal of the United States is to build up a moderate Sunni bloc capable of driving a wedge between Islamic State and the Sunni communities, aligning with Iran is politically self-defeating. In both Iraq and Syria, Iran projects its power through sectarian militias that slaughter Sunni Muslims with abandon. Are there any Sunni powers in the region that see American outreach to Tehran as a good thing? Are there any military-aged Sunni men in Iraq and Syria who now see the United States as a friendly power? There are none.

In theory, one might argue that although an association with Iran is politically toxic and militarily dangerous, the capabilities it brings to the fight against the Islamic State more than compensate. But they don’t. Over the last three years, Obama has given Iran a free hand in Syria and Iraq, on the simplistic assumption that Tehran would combat al-Qaeda and like-minded groups in a manner serving American interests. The result, in both countries, has been the near-total alienation of all Sunnis and the development of an extremist safe haven that now stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Damascus. America is now applying to the disease a larger dose of the snake oil that helped cause the malady in the first place.

The approach is detrimental to American interests in other arenas as well. We received a portent of things to come on January 18 of this year, when the Israel Defense Forces struck a convoy of senior Hizballah and Iranian officers, including a general in the Revolutionary Guards, in the Golan Heights. Ten days later, Hizballah and Iran retaliated. In other words, by treating Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest, Obama is allowing the shock troops of Iran to dig in on the border of Israel—not to mention the border of Jordan. The president’s policy assumes that Israel and America’s other allies will hang back quietly while Iran takes southern Syria firmly in its grip. They will not; to assume otherwise is folly.

Round Three: 2015-

In November 2013, when Obama purchased the participation of Iran in the Joint Plan of Action, he established a basic asymmetry that has remained a key feature of the negotiations ever since. He traded permanent American concessions for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint.

The most significant such gestures by Iran were to dilute its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 percent; to refrain from installing new centrifuges; and to place a hold on further construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. All three, however, can be easily reversed. By contrast, the Americans recognized the Iranian right to enrich and agreed to the principle that all restrictions on Iran’s program would be of a limited character and for a defined period of time. These two concessions are major, and because they are not just the policy of the United States government but now the collective position of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, they will likely never be reversed.

In his negotiations with Iran, the president has traded major American concessions for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint. These concessions will likely never be reversed.
Obama has repeatedly stated, most recently in his 2015 State of the Union address, that the interim agreement “halted” the Iranian nuclear program. Or, as he put it in his March 2014 interview, the “logic” of the JPOA was “to freeze the situation for a certain period of time to allow the negotiators to work.” But the agreement froze only American actions; it hardly stopped the Iranians from moving forward.

For one thing, the JPOA restricts the program only with respect to enrichment capacity and stockpiles; it is entirely silent about the military components: ballistic missiles, procurement, warhead production. For another, to call what the JPOA achieved even in these limited domains “a freeze” is a gross exaggeration. Iranian nuclear scientists have continued to perfect their craft. They are learning how to operate old centrifuges with greater efficiency. And thanks to a loophole in the JPOA permitting work on “research and development,” they are also mastering the use of new, more effective centrifuges.

Therefore, the Iranian nuclear program is poised to surge ahead. The moment the JPOA lapses—a date first scheduled for July 2014, then rescheduled to November 2014, then re-rescheduled to June 30 of this year, possibly to be re-re-rescheduled yet again—Iran will be in a stronger position than before the negotiations began. This fact gives Tehran considerable leverage over Washington during the next rounds.

We can say with certainty that Obama has had no illusions about this asymmetry—that he conducted the negotiations with his eyes wide open—because the White House took pains to hide the truth from the American public. In 2013, instead of publishing the text of the JPOA, it issued a highly misleading fact sheet. Peppered with terms like “halt,” “roll back,” and “dismantle,” the document left the impression that the Iranians had agreed to destroy their nuclear program.

The Iranian foreign minister, however, refused to play along. He protested—loudly and publicly. “The White House version both underplays the [American] concessions and overplays Iranian commitments,” Javad Zarif correctly told a television interviewer. “The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again.” He defied the interviewer to “find a . . . single word that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text.”

President Rouhani went even further. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, he emphasized not just that Iran had refused to destroy centrifuges within the terms of the JPOA, but that it would never destroy them “under any circumstances.” Currently Iran has approximately 9,000 centrifuges installed and spinning, and roughly 10,000 more installed but inactive. Until Rouhani made his statement, the Obama administration had led journalists to believe that the final agreement would force the Iranians to dismantle some 15,000 centrifuges.Rouhani disabused the world of those expectations.

“This strikes me as a train wreck,” a distraught Zakaria exclaimed after the interview. “This strikes me as potentially a huge obstacle because the Iranian conception of what the deal is going to look like and the American conception now look like they are miles apart.” Not long thereafter, as if to confirm the point, Ali Khamenei called for an outcome that will permit the development of an industrial-sized nuclear program over the next decade.

Khamenei’s hard line no doubt came as a surprise to Obama. When the president first approved the JPOA, he failed to recognize a key fact: his twin goals of liberating Iran from its international isolation and stripping the Islamic Republic of its nuclear capabilities were completely at odds with each other. From Obama’s perspective, he was offering Khamenei an irresistible deal: a strategic accommodation with the United States. Iran analysts had led the president to believe that Khamenei was desperate for just such an accommodation, and to achieve that prize he was searching only for a “face-saving” nuclear program—one that would give him a symbolic enrichment capability, nothing more. What soon became clear, however, was that Khamenei was betting that Obama would accommodate Iran even if it insisted on, and aggressively pursued, an industrial-scale program.

In theory, Khamenei’s intransigence could have handed Obama an opportunity. He could admit the “train wreck”—namely, that Round Two of his Iran engagement had followed the disastrous pattern set by Round One—and begin working with Congress and our despairing allies to regain lost leverage. This he obviously declined to do. Instead, he has chosen to keep the negotiating process alive by retreating further. Rather than leaving the table, he has paid Iran to keep negotiating—paid literally, in the form of sanctions relief, which provides Iran with $700,000,000 per month in revenue; and figuratively, with further concessions on the nuclear front.

Over the last year, Obama has reportedly allowed Iran to retain, in one form or another, its facilities at Natanz, Fordow, and Arak—sites that Iran built in flagrant violation of the NPT to which it is a signatory. This is the same Obama who declared at the outset of negotiations that the Iranians “don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. . . . And so the question ultimately is going to be, are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements that they’ve made.” The answer to his question, by now, is clear: the Iranians will not roll back anything.

The president believes that globalization and economic integration will induce Tehran to forgo its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile Iran’s rulers are growing stronger, bolder, and ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity.
For a majority in Congress, and for all of America’s allies in the Middle East, this fact is obvious, and it leads to an equally obvious conclusion: the only way to salvage the West’s position in the nuclear negotiations is to regain the leverage that the president’s deferential approach has ceded to Iran. With this thought in mind, a large group of Senators is currently supporting legislation that will make the re-imposition of sanctions mandatory and immediate if the Iranians fail to make a deal by the time the current term of the JPOA lapses.

In an effort to bolster that initiative, Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington to address Congress on Iran. Netanyahu accepted the invitation without first consulting the White House, which reacted in a storm of indignation, describing the move as an egregious break in protocol and an insult to the president. Instead of trying to paper over the disagreement, Obama has done everything in his power to advertise it. In making his personal rift with Netanyahu the subject of intense public debate, the White House means to direct attention away from the strategic rift between them—and from the fact that the entire Israeli elite, regardless of political orientation, as well as much of the U.S. Congress, regards the president’s conciliatory approach to Iran as profoundly misguided.

Meanwhile, the president is depicting his congressional critics as irresponsible warmongers. He would have us believe that there are only two options: his undeclared détente with Iran and yet another war in the Middle East. This is a false choice. It ignores the one policy that every president since Jimmy Carter has pursued till now: vigorous containment on all fronts, not just in the nuclear arena. Obama, however, is intent on obscuring this option, and for a simple reason: an honest debate about it would force him to come clean with the American people and admit the depth of his commitment to the strategy whose grim results are multiplying by the day.

As a matter of ideology as much as strategy, Obama believes that integrating Iran into the international diplomatic and economic system is a much more effective method of moderating its aggressive behavior than applying more pressure. Contrary to logic, and to all the accumulated evidence before and since the November 2013 interim agreement, he appears also to believe that his method is working. In his March 2014 interview, he argued that his approach was actually strengthening reformers and reformist trends in Tehran: “[I]f as a consequence of a deal on their nuclear program,” he said, “those voices and trends inside of Iran are strengthened, and their economy becomes more integrated into the international community, and there’s more travel and greater openness, even if that takes a decade or 15 years or 20 years, then that’s very much an outcome we should desire.”

Perhaps the president is correct. Perhaps globalization will remove the roughness from the Islamic Republic just as ocean waves polish the jagged edges of shells. If so, however, it will happen on much the same, oceanic schedule. In the meantime, the seasoned thugs in Tehran whom the president has appointed as his strategic partners in a new world order grow stronger and bolder: ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity, ever more confident in their hegemonic objectives. On condition that they forgo their nuclear ambitions, the president has offered them “a path to break through [their] isolation” and become “a very successful regional power.” They, for their part, at minuscule and temporary inconvenience to themselves, have not only reaped the economic and diplomatic rewards pursuant to participation in the JPOA but also fully preserved those nuclear ambitions and the means of achieving them. Having bested the most powerful country on earth in their drive for success on their terms, they have good reason to be confident.

Voir aussi:

What the President Thinks He’s Doing
The ideological roots of his disastrous Iran strategy.
Response
Elliott Abrams
Feb. 9 2015

About the author
Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he maintains a blog, Pressure Points. He is the author of, most recently, Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

President Obama’s foreign policy cannot be understood or defended as an effort to advance American national interests as they are normally understood.  By any usual definition—strengthening of allies, defeat of enemies, military advances, nuclear nonproliferation—his administration’s policies have been disastrous. That leads logically to the question: “Well, what does the president think he’s doing?”

In “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” Michael Doran has tried to answer this question, and has offered a superb analysis. No one has more persuasively explained the connections between that strategy’s various parts, such as the president’s inaction in Syria and his hostility toward Israel, and the primary Obama goal of a rapprochement with Iran. Doran is especially effective in analyzing policy toward the Assad regime: “Obama has treated Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest all along,” and in his August 2014 letter to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei took “pains to reassure Khamenei regarding the fate of Assad, [the latter’s] closest ally. American military operations inside Syria . . . would target neither the Syrian dictator nor his forces.”

If I have one disagreement with Doran, it is over the origins of Obama’s approach to foreign policy. According to Doran, Obama “believed he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush,” and “Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland.” What was the origin of these beliefs and this mission? In arguing that “Obama does have a relatively concrete vision,” Doran points out that on joining the Senate in 2006, “he absorbed a set of ideas that had incubated on Capitol Hill during the previous three years—ideas that had received widespread attention thanks to the final report of the Iraq Study Group.”

In fact, Obama came to Washington with his beliefs about American foreign policy and our role in the world already well set in his mind, and needed no guidance from the Iraq Study Group. We were given some insight into those basic beliefs early in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. While in Iowa in 2007, as Politico reported at the time, he visited Adair County,

making a stop in the hometown of one of the saints of the American left, one-time vice president and Progressive-party presidential candidate Henry Wallace. “We’ve got some progressives here in Adair. I’m feeling really good now,” Obama said. . . . “That’s quite a lineage there. . . . It’s a blessing.”

This, about the man whom FDR dumped from the 1944 ticket for his espousal of leftist causes, the man who ran against Truman and the Democratic party in 1948, and who argued that peace with the Soviet Union only required more American understanding and outreach in place of militarism and cold-war hostility.

Given all we know, I would argue that Obama’s mission is to guide America not only out of Bushland (as Doran puts it) but out of Rooseveltland, Kennedyland, and Clintonland—and indeed to reverse most of the foreign-policy legacy of his own party, with the exception of that of Wallace and its 1972 candidate for the presidency, George McGovern. The ideas espoused by Obama “incubated” decades ago, and were most likely adopted back at Columbia University or in the Chicago kitchen of his friends of Weathermen fame, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.

Doran refers several times to Obama’s “strategic vision.” I would prefer the term “ideology.” The enduring hold of that ideology is visible not only in his Iran policy but also, most recently, with respect to Cuba. There, too, he has reversed decades of American foreign policy, and has done so, as in the case of Iran, without seeking any deep concessions from the Castro regime.

In concluding the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action with Iran, Doran notes, Obama accepted a “basic asymmetry,” trading permanent American concessions [in exchange] for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint.” Similarly, in Cuba, Obama’s recent deal—call it another “Joint Plan of Action”—abandons previous American demands for real political change on the island prior to any lifting of the embargo. And just as he has offered his regrets to Tehran for the (long exaggerated) American role in the 1953 overthrow of the Mossadegh government, so too has he expressed apologies—in this case, in a telephone call with Raul Castro—“for taking such a long time” to change U.S. policy. In both instances, Obama has acted not to advance American national interests but to make amends for U.S. policies and actions that he views as the immoral and retrograde detritus of the “cold-war mentality.”

Of course, Obama’s defenders acknowledge none of this. Instead, they invoke his putatively superior understanding of reality.  As Doran paraphrases it, the president believes that, over time, “integrating Iran [and, I would add, Cuba] into the international diplomatic and economic system is a much more effective method of moderating its aggressive behavior than applying more pressure.” Obama and his supporters also assert that, in any event, the only alternative to his approach is war. Doran rightly dismisses both arguments. One need only look at the success of the Reagan administration in dealing with the Soviet Union to know that military power, strong alliances, and ideological clarity—what Doran refers to as “vigorous containment on all fronts”—do not lead to war. They lead to success.

Doran concludes his essay on a very pessimistic note: “Having bested the most powerful country on earth in their drive for success on their terms, [the Iranians] have good reason to be confident.” Allow me to conclude on a more optimistic note: they have reason to be confident for now, but current policy may not outlast Obama. It remains to be seen whether, after January 20, 2017, the American people and their leaders in Washington will really permit a nation of 70 million, with a third-rate military and a damaged economy, to dominate the Middle East and threaten all of our allies and interests there.

Voir de même:

The Obama Doctrine
An ideological aversion to American power is at the core of the president’s foreign policy.
Response
Eric Edelman
Feb. 16 2015

About the author
Eric Edelman, a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, is Hertog distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Michael Doran’s long essay in Mosaic, “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” and Elliott Abrams’s response to it, “What the President Thinks He’s Doing,” command the attention of anyone seriously interested in the administration’s policies and plans for the Middle East. I agree with Abrams that Doran’s analysis is superb, and that “no one has more persuasively explained the connections” among the various parts of the Iran policy being pursued by the White House.

I’m also in broad agreement with Doran’s conclusion: namely, that “the only way to salvage the West’s position in the nuclear negotiations is to regain the leverage that the president’s deferential approach has ceded to Iran.” As I testified in late January before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, rather than actively seeking Iran’s partnership, the United States must be willing to compete with it:

On one level, this requires a change in tone. The administration must emphasize its readiness to exert more pressure on Iran instead of exerting pressure on Congress with talking points that come “straight out of Tehran,” according to a ranking member of the Senate. On another level, the United States must respond more robustly to Tehran’s ongoing efforts to shift the balance of power in the Middle East. Rather than asking its cooperation and blessing—especially in Iraq and Syria—the United States should undertake every possible effort to isolate Iran in its own backyard.

Concerning one point, the origins of Obama’s “secret” strategy, Abrams takes issue with Doran, suggesting that they can be found less in the work of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, whose report was issued in 2006, than in Obama’s overarching, “progressive” aversion to American power and its uses in the world, an ideological stance that connects many points of reference in the president’s life from Henry Wallace to George McGovern to Reverend Jeremiah Wright to Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn. That both Doran and Abrams are correct, each in his own way, emerges from an examination of the White House’s larger global strategy. This, as it happens, is the subject of an excellent new study, The Obama Doctrine, by Colin Dueck, forthcoming from Oxford in May.

In Dueck’s judgment, Obama’s approach to the world is predicated first and foremost on his bedrock intention to be a “transformational” president. The transformation in question is largely domestic—hence his preoccupation with the Affordable Care Act, which remakes a rather large swath of the American economy. Abroad, and in aid of the main focus on his domestic agenda (“nation-building at home”), the president’s overwhelming objective has been to keep international affairs at bay. But when world events do inevitably impose themselves, Obama is no less confident of his unique ability to exert a transformational impact. “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” Doran quotes him as saying, an attitude fully in keeping with his expressed view that “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

How, then, does the president mean to execute his global transformation? As Dueck sees it, the strategy is twofold: retrenchment, and accommodation. Retrenchment means liquidating some of what Obama construes to be overinvestments the U.S. has made around the world, particularly in the Middle East, while also reducing the strength of the U.S. military—since, in his view, our temptation to resort to military force has itself been responsible for many of the world’s ills. Accommodation, in turn, means reaching out and “engaging” America’s adversaries, thereby turning them, in the common phrase, from part of the problem into part of the solution.

Understanding this strategy of retrenchment and accommodation is a useful vehicle for explaining many apparently discrete episodes in Obama’s tenure, from the early “strategic reassurance” of China, to the “reset” of relations with Russia, and of course to the “open hand” approach to Tehran that Michael Doran dissects so well. It also clarifies the chronic neglect of allies, and it illuminates, as Abrams rightly underlines, the president’s chronic need—the political equivalent of Tourette syndrome—to express regret and apologize publicly for past exercises of American power in pursuit of our national interests.

As for the tactical implementation of the strategy in individual cases, that has been delegated to individuals like Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes, who helped write the Iraq Study Group report. Doran, it seems to me, is correct to see that document as key to grasping the administration’s Iran policy, and to the coherent, step-by-step unfolding of that policy, though perhaps less so to understanding the larger strategy as a whole.

Is any of this a “secret,” as Doran suggests? When it comes to the ultimate sources of Obama’s views and his conduct in national-security affairs, the evidence has been hiding in plain sight since before he was elected. As Abrams points out in his response to Doran, and more extensively in a profound essay, “The Citizen of the World Presidency,” in Commentary (September 2013), those sources were implicit in the president’s personal history and in his various mentors and associates as he came to political maturity. Moreover, he and his acolytes have continued to articulate his ideas in public documents and, usually without attribution, in comments to the pre