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

16 avril, 2015
https://i2.wp.com/image.tmdb.org/t/p/w1280/3zm9Fw0eTkH06cMoWjQ9lJl6ZgY.jpg
https://scontent-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/11156282_10200493657501007_6618323855774895097_n.jpg?oh=c529f5160685fedabc06d5f4857c2bb4&oe=55DFDA7BNotre 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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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
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.

URLs in this post:

[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 enfin:

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. »


Doctrine Obama: C’est mort à l’Amérique, imbécile ! (Continuation of the jihad by other means: American power is what they all hope to break)

12 avril, 2015
https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/t31.0-8/10003674_1070465586313700_7193367525536975127_o.jpghttps://scontent-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/10491203_1070485379645054_1522694794172874079_n.jpg?oh=0fd6ff33e4f716e022380d1c41371160&oe=55E58EBB Apologizer in chief on DDayhttps://scottthong.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/revjerwright341.jpg?w=450&h=345Ce 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
One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in. Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable. Josefina Vidal (Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, 25.01.15)
Although Cuba no longer actively supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world, the Cuban government continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists. Members of ETA, the FARC, and the ELN remained in Cuba during 2008, some having arrived in Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Spain and Colombia. Cuban authorities continued to publicly defend the FARC. However, on July 6, 2008, former Cuban President Fidel Castro called on the FARC to release the hostages they were holding without preconditions. He has also condemned the FARC’s mistreatment of captives and of their abduction of civilian politicians who had no role in the armed conflict. The United States has no evidence of terrorist-related money laundering or terrorist financing activities in Cuba, although Cuba has one of the world’s most secretive and non-transparent national banking systems. Cuba has no financial intelligence unit. Cuba’s Law 93 Against Acts of Terrorism provides the government authority to track, block, or seize terrorist assets. The Cuban government continued to permit some U.S. fugitives—including members of U.S. militant groups such as the Boricua Popular, or Macheteros, and the Black Liberation Army to live legally in Cuba. In keeping with its public declaration, the government has not provided safe haven to any new U.S. fugitives wanted for terrorism since 2006. US Department of state
Imagine there’s no Israel, It’s easy if you try, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will be as one … (à fredonner sur un air connu)
Il a fallu s’y atteler et dans ces lieux, on peut rendre hommage aux Cubains, issus de la Révolution qui se sont résolus à tenir tête aux États-Unis, leurs plus proches voisins. Les Cubains, les Cubains de Cuba, fiers de leur révolution sociale, savent qu’ils ne sont plus seuls. En revendiquant leur dignité, ils s’associent aux revendications de tous les peuples opprimés et, de ce fait, ils rejoignent les bâtisseurs du monde de demain. Danielle Mitterrand (Porto Alegre, février 2003)
L’Amérique est toujours le tueur numéro 1 dans le monde. . . Nous sommes profondément impliqués dans l’importation de la drogue, l’exportation d’armes et la formation de tueurs professionnels. . . Nous avons bombardé le Cambodge, l’Irak et le Nicaragua, tuant les femmes et les enfants tout en essayant de monter l’opinion publique contre Castro et Khaddafi. . . Nous avons mis Mandela en prison et soutenu la ségrégation pendant 27 ans. Nous croyons en la suprématie blanche et l’infériorité noire et y croyons davantage qu’en Dieu. … Nous avons soutenu le sionisme sans scrupule tout en ignorant les Palestiniens et stigmatisé quiconque le dénonçait comme anti-sémite. . . Nous ne nous inquiétons en rien de la vie humaine si la fin justifie les moyens. . . Nous avons lancé le virus du SIDA. . . Nous ne pouvons maintenir notre niveau de vie qu’en nous assurant que les personnes du tiers monde vivent dans la pauvreté la plus abjecte. Rev. Jeremiah Wright (le 15 janvier 2006)
L’audace de l’espoir. Voilà le meilleur de l’esprit américain ; avoir l’audace de croire, malgré toutes les indications contraires, que nous pouvions restaurer un sens de la communauté au sein d’une nation déchirée ; l’audace de croire que malgré des revers personnels, la perte d’un emploi, un malade dans la famille ou une famille empêtrée dans la pauvreté, nous avions quelque emprise- et par conséquent une responsabilité sur notre propre destin. Barack Hussein Obama
Je veux aussi, une fois élu, organiser un sommet dans le monde musulman, avec tous les chefs d’Etat, pour discuter franchement sur la façon de contenir le fossé qui s’agrandit chaque jour entre les musulmans et l’Occident. Je veux leur demander de rejoindre notre combat contre le terrorisme. Nous devons aussi écouter leurs préoccupations. (…) Je veux dialoguer directement avec l’Iran et la Syrie. Nous ne stabiliserons pas la région si nous ne parlons pas à nos ennemis. Lorsqu’on est en désaccord profond avec quelqu’un, il faut lui parler directement. Barack Obama (Paris Match, le 31 janvier 2008)
Il n’y a aucune raison que nous ne puissions restaurer le respect dont jouissait l’Amérique et le partenariat qu’elle avait avec le monde musulman voilà 20 ou 30 ans de cela. (…) J’ai déclaré durant la campagne qu’il est très important pour nous de faire en sorte que nous utilisions tous les outils de la puissance américaine, y compris la diplomatie, dans nos relations avec l’Iran. Barack Hussein Obama
We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand. You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.” The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it? Barack Hussein Obama
It’s the dreamers — no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless — that are able to change the course of human events. We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid. We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War. It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians. It’s not to say that my country is perfect — we are not. And that’s the point. We always have to have citizens who are willing to question and push our government, and identify injustice. We have to wrestle with our own challenges — from issues of race to policing to inequality. But what makes me most proud about the extraordinary example of the United States is not that we’re perfect, but that we struggle with it, and we have this open space in which society can continually try to make us a more perfect union. (…) As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity. As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies. There’s nothing wrong with that. (…) And whether it’s crackdowns on free expression in Russia or China, or restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Egypt, or prison camps run by the North Korean regime — human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world. And when that happens, we believe we have a moral obligation to speak out. (…) As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way. We are respectful of the difference among our countries. The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past. (…) We have a debt to pay, because the voices of ordinary people have made us better. That’s a debt that I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world. (…) God bless you. Barack Hussein Obama (Sommet des Amériques, Panama city, April 10, 2015)
Les frères Jonas sont ici ; ils sont là quelque part. Sasha et Malia sont de grandes fans. Mais les gars, allez pas vous faire des idées. J’ai deux mots pour vous: « predator drone ». Vous les verrez même pas venir. Vous croyez que je plaisante, hein ? Barack Hussein Obama
I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech. And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo, which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest. Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks. The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart. The French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace. Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another. What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism. I’m aware that I make these observations from a special position, one of safety. In America, no one goes into cartooning for the adrenaline. As Jon Stewart said in the aftermath of the killings, comedy in a free society shouldn’t take courage. Writing satire is a privilege I’ve never taken lightly.  And I’m still trying to get it right. Doonesbury remains a work in progress, an imperfect chronicle of human imperfection. It is work, though, that only exists because of the remarkable license that commentators enjoy in this country. That license has been stretched beyond recognition in the digital age. It’s not easy figuring out where the red line is for satire anymore. But it’s always worth asking this question: Is anyone, anyone at all, laughing? If not, maybe you crossed it. Garry Trudeau
Si à Poitiers Charles Martel avait été battu, le monde aurait changé de face. Puisque le monde était déjà condamné à l’influence judaïque (et son sous-produit le christianisme est une chose si insipide !), il aurait mieux valu que l’islam triomphe. Cette religion récompense l’héroïsme, promet au guerrier les joies du septième ciel… Animé d’un esprit semblable, les Germains auraient conquis le monde. Ils en ont été empêchés par le christianisme. Hitler (1942)
Après tout, qui parle encore aujourd’hui de l’annihilation des Arméniens? Hitler (22 août 1939)
Nous ne savons pas si Hitler est sur le point de fonder un nouvel islam. Il est d’ores et déjà sur la voie; il ressemble à Mahomet. L’émotion en Allemagne est islamique, guerrière et islamique. Ils sont tous ivres d’un dieu farouche. Jung (1939)
Mein Kamp (…) Tel était le nouveau Coran de la foi et de la guerre: emphatique, fastidieux, sans forme, mais empli de son propre message. Churchill
Si le Reich allemand s’impose comme protecteur de tous ceux dont le sang allemand coule dans les veines, et bien la foi musulmane impose à chaque Musulman de se considérer comme protecteur de toute personne ayant été imprégnée de l’apprentissage coranique. Hassan el Banna (fondateur des Frères musulmans et grand-père de Tariq et Hani Ramadan)
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
Beaucoup de déçus dans la lutte entre le monde islamique et les infidèles ont essayé de rejeter la responsabilité en annonçant qu’il n’est pas possible d’avoir un monde sans les États-Unis et le sionisme. Mais vous savez que ce sont un but et un slogan réalisables. Pour étayer ses propos, le président se réfère à la chute, dans l’histoire récente, de plusieurs régimes que personne ne voyait sombrer. Lorsque notre cher imam (Khomeiny) a annoncé que le régime (du Shah) devait être supprimé, beaucoup de ceux qui prétendaient être politiquement bien informés ont déclaré que ce n’était pas possible. Qui pouvait penser qu’un jour, nous pourrions être témoins de l’effondrement de l’empire de l’Est (Union soviétique) ? L’Imam a annoncé que Saddam devait s’en aller puis a ajouté qu’il s’affaiblirait plus vite que personne ne l’imagine.  L’Imam (Khomeiny) a annoncé que le régime occupant Jérusalem devait disparaître de la page du temps. Ahmadinejad (Conférence du monde sans sionisme, 25 octobre 2005)
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)
Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride. Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy; this too is jihad. Hassan Rouhani
La situation est tragique mais les forces en présence au Moyen-Orient font qu’au long terme, Israël, comme autrefois les Royaumes francs, finira par disparaître. Cette région a toujours rejeté les corps étrangers. Dominique de Villepin (Paris, automne 2001)
Nul ne peut ne pas rêver de la destruction de n’importe quelle puissance devenue à ce point hégémonique (…) A la limite, c’est eux qui l’ont fait, mais c’est nous qui l’avons voulu. Jean Baudrillard (novembre 2001)
En des occasions diverses j’ai défini cette époque comme un temps de guerre, une troisième guerre mondiale « par morceaux », où nous assistons quotidiennement à des crimes atroces, à des massacres sanglants, et à la folie de la destruction. Malheureusement, encore aujourd’hui, nous entendons le cri étouffé et négligé de beaucoup de nos frères et sœurs sans défense, qui, à cause de leur foi au Christ ou de leur appartenance ethnique, sont publiquement et atrocement tués – décapités, crucifiés, brulés vifs –, ou bien contraints d’abandonner leur terre. Aujourd’hui encore nous sommes en train de vivre une sorte de génocide causé par l’indifférence générale et collective, par le silence complice de Caïn qui s’exclame : « Que m’importe ? », « Suis-je le gardien de mon frère ? » (…) Notre humanité a vécu, le siècle dernier, trois grandes tragédies inouïes : la première est celle qui est généralement considérée comme « le premier génocide du XXème siècle » ; elle a frappé votre peuple arménien – première nation chrétienne –, avec les Syriens catholiques et orthodoxes, les Assyriens, les Chaldéens et les Grecs. Des évêques, des prêtres, des religieux, des femmes, des hommes, des personnes âgées et même des enfants et des malades sans défense ont été tués. Les deux autres ont été perpétrées par la nazisme et par le stalinisme. Et, plus récemment, d’autres exterminations de masse, comme celles au Cambodge, au Rwanda, au Burundi, en Bosnie. Cependant, il semble que l’humanité ne réussisse pas à cesser de verser le sang innocent. Il semble que l’enthousiasme qui est apparu à la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale soit en train de disparaître et de se dissoudre. Il semble que la famille humaine refuse d’apprendre de ses propres erreurs causées par la loi de la terreur ; et ainsi, encore aujourd’hui, il y en a qui cherchent à éliminer leurs semblables, avec l’aide des uns et le silence complice des autres qui restent spectateurs.  (…) Se souvenir d’eux est nécessaire, plus encore c’est un devoir, parce que là où il n’y a plus de mémoire, cela signifie que le mal tient encore la blessure ouverte ; cacher ou nier le mal c’est comme laisser une blessure continuer à saigner sans la panser ! Pape François
Les « pacifistes » croient donner une chance à la paix. En fait, s’ils donnent une chance, c’est à l’aveuglement et à lui seul. Les manifestations de samedi dernier c’est l’union sacrée de John Lennon et de Neville Chamberlain. Une naïveté poussée jusqu’à l’absence complète de discernement le dispute au mépris de la réalité. Il n’y a rien à attendre d’une telle alliance. Laurent Murawiec
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. (…) Mais où Obama a-t-il donc appris ces inepties ? D’où vient cet amoncellement de mécomptes du monde, d’idées fausses et difformes? D’où provient ce prurit du je-vous-demande pardon ? On est habitué au Jimmycartérisme, qui se mettait à quatre pattes devant Khomeiny (« un saint »), l’URSS, Cuba, le tiers monde, le terrorisme musulman. D’où vient qu’Obama ait – dirigeant d’une république – courbé la tête devant le roi d’Arabie ? C’est là qu’il convient de se souvenir de l’homme qui fut son pasteur pendant vingt ans, ce qui est très long quand on n’en a pas encore cinquante : le pasteur Jeremy Wright, de l’Eglise de la Trinité à Chicago, dont Obama ne se sépara que contraint et forcé, pour cause de déclarations insupportablement anti-américaines et antioccidentales, délirantes et conspirationnistes, et qui « passaient mal» dans la campagne.(…) C’est Wright qui fait du diplômé de Harvard qui est maintenant un agitateur local (community organizer), un politicien en vue à Chicago. N’oublions pas que la carrière politique locale d’Obama est lancée par les fanatiques de la haine de l’Amérique, les ultragauchistes terroristes des Weathermen, à Chicago, qui répètent et confirment la même antienne idéologique. Tous les aquariums où a nagé le têtard avaient la même eau. Obama est la version manucurée de Wright : il est allé à Harvard. Il n’éructe pas, il ne bave pas, il ne montre pas le poing. Il n’émet pas de gros mots à jet continu comme le fait son gourou. Elégant, Il est tout miel – mais les dragées, même recouvertes de sucre, n’en sont pas moins au poivre. Le fond est identique. Wright insulte l’Amérique, Obama demande pardon : dans les deux cas, elle est coupable. Wright est pasteur, Obama est président. 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. Quelle honte ! Il faut réparer les torts commis. L’Amérique ne trouvera sa rédemption que dans le retrait, la pénitence, la contrition, et une forme de disparition. (…) Il faut, à tout prix, trouver des terrains d’entente avec tous. Il faut aller loin, très loin, dans les concessions : l’autre côté finira bien par comprendre. Kim Jong-Il, Hugo Chavez, l’ayatollah Khamenei, Assad, le Hamas, on trouvera les compromis nécessaires à un deal avec les avocats des partie adverses. Sans entente, on retombe dans les errements de l’Amérique honnie. L’Amérique, quelle horreur, se laisse aller à défendre ses alliés contre ses ennemis. On se bat au Vietnam et en Corée contre le communisme agresseur. On se bat contre le Communisme soviétique. Que croyez-vous que l’Obama de la campagne électorale ait signifié à Berlin, en disant, non sans délire, que le monde avait gagné la Guerre froide « en s’unissant » comme s’il n’y avait un qu’un seul camp dans cette guerre ! L’Amérique doit être réduite dans ses prétentions et dans sa puissance. Le monde doit être réduit à un seul camp, celui des faiseurs de paix, avec lesquels l’entente est toujours trouvable. Il n’y a pas d’ennemis, il n’y a que des malentendus. Il ne peut y avoir d’affrontements, seulement des clarifications. (…) Notons à propos que la mêlée des «réalistes»de la politique étrangère, qui préconise justement de se débarrasser des alliés afin de s´arranger avec les méchants, est aux anges, et participe à la mise en oeuvre de l´obamisterie. Ah! finalement, on ne s´embarrasse plus d´autre chose que la «stabilité» à court terme. (…) Obama ne sépare ni le blanc du noir, ni l´ami de l´ennemi. Il a gratuitement offensé les Anglais en méprisant la «relation spéciale». Il a offensé le Japon, en ne se souciant pas de lui ni du survol de son territoire par le missile nord-coréen. Il n´a pas eu un mot pour l´allié taïwanais. Il prépare avec acharnement une crise avec Israel. Il a montré à la Tchéquie et à la Pologne, sur l´affaire de la défense anti- missiles, qu´il ne faut pas compter sur Washington et qu´ils seront sacrifiés sur l´autel du «nouveau départ» avec Moscou. Pour tous, la leçon est brutale: à l´ère d´Obama, mieux vaut être un ennemi qu´un ami: ami, on vous jettera aux orties. Ennemi, on fera tout pour vous plaire. Laurent Murawiec
Quand l’Autriche se moque de vous, c’est que ce n’est pas votre semaine. Pourtant qui peut blâmer Madame Fekter, vu le dédain qu’Obama a montré pour son propre pays à l’étranger, jouant au philosophe-roi au-dessus de la mêlée qui négocie entre sa patrie renégate et un monde par ailleurs chaleureux et accueillant ? (…) Il est particulièrement étrange de voir un leader mondial célébrer le déclin de son propre pays. Encore quelques tournées mondiales comme celle-ci et Obama aura beaucoup plus de déclin à célébrer. Charles Krauthammer
Bref, nous assistons au retour de l’idéalisme postnational d’un Carter mais avec cette fois le charisme d’un Reagan. Pendant 40 ans nos écoles ont enseigné l’équivalence morale, le pacifisme utopique et le multiculturalisme bien intentionné et nous apprenons maintenant que tout ceci n’était pas que de la thérapie mais est insidieusement devenu notre évangile national. Victor Davis Hanson
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
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
La gauche a beaucoup de chance. Des historiens et des politologues complaisants veulent toujours voir dans les turbulences qui l’agitent le fruit de divergences idéologiques, de visions du monde opposées comme l’on disait autrefois. Ainsi, on opposera une gauche girondine à une gauche jacobine, une première gauche à une seconde etc… On remarquera que pour beaucoup ces fractures internes sont issues de la révolution française. Curieusement, une période de la révolution est toujours oubliée. Si l’on excepte de rares occasions, on parle peu de la gauche thermidorienne et pourtant, pensons nous, cette période est capitale pour comprendre ce qu’est devenue, aujourd’hui, la gauche française. La période thermidorienne débute avec la chute de Robespierre le 9 thermidor (27 juillet 1794) et finit avec le coup d’Etat de Bonaparte, le 18 brumaire (9 novembre1799). Elle culminera avec le Directoire. La coalition qui mettra fin à la dictature robespierriste est, dans sa composition, assez hétéroclite. Elle va d’ex-conventionnels terroristes aux anciens girondins en passant par le centre mou de la révolution : le fameux marais. En apparence, sauf l’hostilité à Robespierre, pour des raisons diverses d’ailleurs, ils ne sont d’accord sur rien. En apparence seulement. Car comme le soulignent Furet et Richet dans leur livre La révolution française, ce qui les réunit c’est la poursuite d’un double objectif : celui de la conquête et de l’intérêt. Il ne s’agit plus de créer l’homme vertueux mais de profiter (au sens plein du terme) des acquis de la révolution. Les thermidoriens les plus célèbres, dont le fameux Barras, seront des jouisseurs. Ils aiment l’argent et la jouissance dans tous ses aspects. De ce point de vue, la gauche Canal+ vient de loin, elle n’est pas née avec le mitterrandisme, ni avec 1968. La république spartiate rêvée par Robespierre et Saint-Just fait désormais place à la République des palais et des costumes extravagants. (…) Enfin, dernier legs de Thermidor : l’institutionnalisation du pouvoir intellectuel. C’est dans cette période que va, en effet, s’institutionnaliser le pouvoir intellectuel en France avec la création de l’Institut et la domination des fameux idéologues tant raillés par Bonaparte puis Napoléon. Dès lors, l’intellectuel français va adopter des caractéristiques qui ne le quitteront plus. Il sera philosophiquement progressiste, socialement bourgeois, très souvent anticlérical ou athée, profondément élitiste (même s’il proclame le contraire) et très souvent fâché avec le monde réel. Et conclurons-nous très proche des pouvoirs établis ! L’intellectuel de gauche n’est pas né avec l’affaire Dreyfus, il est un enfant de Thermidor. (…) Pourtant, lorsque l’on examine avec attention cette période on se rend compte que toutes les contradictions de la gauche et toutes ses évolutions futures s’y trouvent contenues. La phase thermidorienne de la révolution française est en quelque sorte le laboratoire historique de la gauche contemporaine. Le cynisme, le sociétalisme des oligarques socialistes ne sont pas des accidents de l’histoire, ils sont ancrés en elle. L’argent roi et le progressisme fou sont des vieux compagnons de route de la gauche française ! Jean-Claude Pacitto
Les drones américains ont liquidé plus de monde que le nombre total des détenus de Guantanamo. Pouvons nous être certains qu’il n’y avait parmi eux aucun cas d’erreurs sur la personne ou de morts innocentes ? Les prisonniers de Guantanamo avaient au moins une chance d’établir leur identité, d’être examinés par un Comité de surveillance et, dans la plupart des cas, d’être relâchés. Ceux qui restent à Guantanamo ont été contrôlés et, finalement, devront faire face à une forme quelconque de procédure judiciaire. Ceux qui ont été tués par des frappes de drones, quels qu’ils aient été, ont disparu. Un point c’est tout. Kurt Volker
Cooperation is not an exercise in good feeling; it presupposes congruent definitions of stability. There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Even while combating common enemies, such as ISIS, Iran has declined to embrace common objectives. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means. The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield, Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts. Henry Kissinger and George Schultz
Obama rencontre Castro, mais a refusé de rencontrer Netanyahu. Pourquoi légitimer le dictateur cruel d’un régime répressif ? Jeb Bush
Nous assistons au retour de l’idéalisme postnational d’un Carter mais avec cette fois le charisme d’un Reagan. Pendant 40 ans nos écoles ont enseigné l’équivalence morale, le pacifisme utopique et le multiculturalisme bien intentionné et nous apprenons maintenant que tout ceci n’était pas que de la thérapie mais est insidieusement devenu notre évangile national. Victor Davis Hanson
De l’Iran au Venezuela et à Cuba, du Myanmar à la Corée du Nord et à la Chine, du Soudan à l’Afghanistan et à l’Irak, de la Russie à la Syrie et à l’Arabie Saoudite, l’administration Obama a systématiquement enlevé les droits de l’homme et la promotion de la démocratie de l’ordre du jour de l’Amérique. A leur place, elle a préconisé l’amélioration de l’image de l’Amérique, le multilatéralisme et un relativisme moral qui soit ne voit aucune distinction entre les dictateurs et leurs victimes soit considère les distinctions peu importantes à l’avancement des intérêts américains. Caroline Glick
The steady aim of this nation, as of all enlightened nations should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. …Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. …The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. … The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right cannot be divorced. Theodore Roosevelt (Dec. 4, 1904)
There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants … and that is the force of human freedom…. The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. … America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one... « America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one … From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. George W. Bush
On the day in November 1961, when the Air Force achieved the first successful silo launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the SM-80, the Western Hemisphere part of the Monroe Doctrine ceased to mean anything at all – while the ideas behind it began to mean everything in the world. At bottom, the notion of a sanctified Western Hemisphere depended upon its separation from the rest of the world by two vast oceans, making intrusions of any sort obvious. The ICBM’s – soon the Soviet Union and other countries had theirs – shrank the world in a military sense. Then long-range jet aircraft, satellite telephones, television and the Internet all, in turn, did the job socially and commercially. By Mr. Bush’s Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with – what? – nothing but a single sphere … which is to say, the entire world. For the mission – the messianic mission! – has never shrunk in the slightest (…) David Gelernter, the scientist and writer, argues that « Americanism » is a fundamentally religious notion shared by an incredibly varied population from every part of the globe and every conceivable background, all of whom feel that they have arrived, as Ronald Reagan put it, at a « shining city upon a hill. » God knows how many of them just might agree with President Bush – and Theodore Roosevelt – that it is America’s destiny and duty to bring that salvation to all mankind. Tom Wolfe
If Iran is able to successfully evade addressing the IAEA’s concerns now, when biting sanctions are in place, why would it address them later when these sanctions are lifted, regardless of anything it may pledge today? David Albright
Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium. Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz. Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war? It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war. It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy. (…) Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program. Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind. Charles Krauthammer
You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon. Charles Krauthammer
Obama’s decision to literally extend a hand of friendship toward a Castro represents the abandonment of decades of cherished Democratic foreign affairs doctrine.  (…) By contrast, Obama has stood by and watched as the world’s most brutal regimes oversaw the reclamation of their power. Obama turned a blind eye toward the crushing of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, and today strengthens the Mullah’s domestic authority by inking dubious deals with Tehran that will allegedly yield great rewards for the Islamic Republic’s ruling class. In Iran, Obama is rightly seen as no friend to the friendless, and he has greatly strengthened the hand of the system’s stakeholders. The same could be said of Venezuela, where bloody anti-government riots broke out in 2014 and were subsequently crushed by Caracas. Though the global left and Nicolas Maduro’s government saw the riots as an extension of America’s desire to oust his regime from power, Obama made no statements to that effect at the rebellion’s zenith. Only over a year after the fighting in the streets had been quelled did the administration name a handful of Maduro regime officials as threats to American national security in order to target them with sanctions. Perhaps the president wanted to avoid a repeat of his galling refusal to follow up on his 2011 insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. That feel-good statement was not met with action. Quite the contrary; the president stood back and allowed the regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents with conventional and chemical weapons before tepidly committing to take action. But even that reluctant acknowledgment of the president’s responsibility to posterity was not met with engagement. Only when the situation became untenable, the terrorist threat to Western security grew imminent, and the attacks on human decency in the Middle East became truly unprecedented did the United States finally begin to address them. In Moscow, where Obama’s pledge to have more flexibility with the Putin regime in his second term was taken quite literally, the Soviet approach to information management and the suppression of domestic criticism is back in vogue. Journalists who dare to censure the regime again fear for their lives and livelihoods. The institutions of civil society that the Clinton administration invested time and energy, not to mention millions of dollars, trying to build up are now being eagerly destroyed by a Russia that sees more value in repression and revanchism than openness. Once an administration success story, a modest loosening of restrictions on freedoms in Burma has been completely reversed by the military junta in Naypyidaw. (…) In China, an economic powerhouse that nevertheless remains a one-party communist autocracy, America has tacitly consented to supporting the regime’s increased interest in total command and control. (…) Even within the NATO alliance, repression is on the rise. In Turkey, the secularism Kemal Ataturk regarded as a basic value has been de-emphasized. (…) The U.S. has joined other United Nations member in expressing concern over Turkey’s authoritarian drift, but human rights groups have called Obama’s silence on this matter “deafening.” In fact, about the only nation in which Obama pursued what he claimed was a purely humanitarian foreign policy was his decision to lead from behind while Europe toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. There, the West’s attempt to stave off a humanitarian crisis yielded an even greater one. Not only is Libya a failed state today, but it serves as an incubator for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups. Obama surely hopes historians will define his legacy as one of nobly sloughing off the burdens of the past, and opening America up to a brave new dawn in which multilateral talk shops become powerful forces for good. But Obama confuses the people of the world for their governments – a distinction that his Democratic predecessors understood and frequently made. While Obama pursues what he considers a pragmatic approach to international relations, the tide of freedoms that characterized the end of the last century is waning. When the need to protect Obama’s image for the sake of the left’s sense of self-validation subsides, it will become clear that the president’s true legacy was one of accommodation toward international community’s most repressive elements purely for the sake of convenience and fleeting domestic political gain. Noah Rothman
It was U.S. policy that caused the destruction of the Libyan state, such as it was. U.S. policy, from starting a war to failing to plan for its Phase 4 post-combat aftermath, explains not only the god-awful mess that Libya has become, but also what happened to Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. (…) Like Libya, Iraq was a nasty, authoritarian hellhole before U.S. policy made it even worse. We may blame that on the Bush Administration for mis-starting a war that had not been properly planned, but Iraq would not be quite the mess it is today had the Obama Administration not mis-ended it by yanking our presence out without a SOFA agreement. (…) Did Syria’s troubles fall out of the sky, too? Here U.S. policy is mostly guilty of sins of omission rather than sins of commission, some of them circling back to our hands-off-Iran supinity, but it is guilty all the same. As we have said here at TAI many times over the past three years, a judicious early use of U.S. power and leadership well short of kinetic action—difficult though it always was, true—could have averted the still evolving worst-case calamity that Syria has become. Syria is well on its way to complete Somalization. Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling? Adam Garfinkle
The pattern of which I speak, conceived by the historian Walter A. McDougall, consists of four phases that tend to repeat in cycles. First, there is a shock to the system, usually in the form of a surprise attack: the shot fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, Pearl Harbour in 1941, and September 11 in 2001. In the phase directly after the shock, the leader of the day—Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, George W. Bush—vows to resurrect the status quo ante and punish the evildoers. That corresponds to Lincoln’s vow to save the Union, Wilson’s vow to defend the right of American free passage on the high seas, and Bush’s vow to find and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks so that America’s minimally acceptable standard of near perfect security could be restored. But third, in the course of mobilising the national effort to achieve the limited goals set after the shock, the transcendent God-talk begins and the effort soon becomes enmeshed in the sacred narrative of American exceptionalism. This leads to a distension of goals and expectations, to geopolitical amnesia, and to what cognitive psychologists call a dominant strategy that is impervious to negative feedback and logical contradiction. And so, in the September 11 decade, we chose a war that thoughtlessly destroyed the regional balance against Iranian hegemonism without even stopping to ask about the broader implications of a Shi’a government in Baghdad. One does not, apparently, descend to the smarminess of geopolitical analysis when one is doing the Lord’s work. So, too, did we turn what could and should have remained a punitive military operation in Afghanistan into a quixotic, distracted, underfunded nation- and state-building campaign. And so, too, did we conflate all our adversaries into one monolithic demon—typical of eschatological thinking. The administration conflated secular, Ba’athi Iraq with the apocalyptical Muslim fanatics of al-Qaeda, and so went to war against a country uninvolved in 9/11 whose threat to America was not, as is commonly claimed, zero, but which hardly justified, or excused, the haste and threadbare planning with which the war was launched and conducted. Then, in the fourth phase, overreach leads to setbacks (the Korean War, for example, and the Iraq insurgency) and regrets (like the Vietnam War), ultimately resulting in at least temporary retrenchment … until the cycle starts all over again. This four-phase model fits the September 11 decade to a tee. The attack itself is of course phase 1; the Bush doctrine version 1.0 represents phase 2; the Second Inaugural signals the full efflorescence of phase 3; and the election of Barack Obama marks the consolidation of phase 4. It matters in all this, however, whether the ideological vehicle that propels phase 3 forward even remotely reflects or aligns with reality. When it does, as it did during and after World War II, no one pays attention since things tend then to turn out well. In the case of the September 11 decade, unfortunately, it did not. There have been basically two problems with it. First, the « forward strategy » for freedom’s ascription of causality for Islamist terrorism is mistaken. Second, even if it were not mistaken, the timetables in which democracy promotion was seen as a solution for mass-casualty terrorism do not even begin to match. The reason is that despite President Bush’s assertion that democracy promotion is « the work of generations » and that democracy is about more than elections, that is not the basis upon which the administration actually behaved. It rushed into premature elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, with troublesome and still open-ended consequences for Iraq and disastrous ones for Lebanon and Gaza. After September 11, as Americans searched for analogies that might help them understand the motivations for the attacks, most found themselves with very shallow reservoirs of historical analogies. Indeed, Americans tended almost exclusively to choose Cold War metaphors to explain September 11. Liberal idealists took their characteristic meliorist approach: It was poverty and injustice that motivated the attacks, and American policies that determined the target. There were dozens of calls for a « Marshall Plan for the Middle East », and hundreds of pleas to concentrate more than ever on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, as if that were somehow a magic bullet that could fix all problems. Conservative idealists, as already noted, took the democracy-promotion approach, arguing that the motivation was not economic but political. Both were wrong; Islamist radicalism, in truth, is a form of chiliastic violence that has taken many forms in many cultures over the past two millennia, from the Jewish zealots of the First Century of the Common Era, to the 16th-century Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, to the 19th-century « ghost dances » of American Indians. But the obvious weaknesses of the meliorist approach encouraged conservative idealists in their conviction that their own view, therefore, must be right. (Manichean-minded Americans have real problems when any potential set of choices exceeds two.) The administration’s rhetoric went even further, however, suggesting that US policy was largely responsible for the debased condition of Arab political cultures. When Bush famously said in November 2003: « Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty », he argued in essence that it was US policy, not the long incubated political culture of the region, that accounted for Arab autocracy. The Bush White House, in essence, adopted the wrongheaded left-wing side of an old debate over « friendly tyrants » as lesser evils and what to do with and about them, a very strange position for an avowedly conservative administration to take. The President also seemed to be saying, in a locution repeated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005 and many times thereafter, that US Cold War policy in the region was unsuccessful on its own terms, that it did not provide safety and stability. Adam Garfinkle
 The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job. Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century. This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence. President Obama has rejected American exceptionalism as no American president before him ever has; he did so in London on 29 April 2009, when he answered a question as follows: “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” By relativizing what has always been an absolute, Obama showed how profoundly his image of America has been influenced by the received truths of the Vietnam anti-war movement and counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. If he has a theory of American exceptionalism, it is a far subtler, humbler and more historically contingent one than the secular messianist, attenuated Protestant version that has been common to American history. The President also believes that downward pressure on the defense budget is warranted; his projected budgets show as much, though the prospective cuts are not draconian. But in this he joins a large, politically ecumenical contingent, so his views do not imply opposition to the forward-presence approach to grand strategy. And the fact that US relations with many of its allies, notably in Europe, have worsened during Obama’s tenure is more likely a consequence of the President being distracted than it is of any active dislike for either specific allies or alliances in general. Nor does his candid view that fighting in Afghanistan for another decade and spending $1 trillion doing so is not in America’s best national interest, mean that he is reticent about using force on behalf of strategic aims when it is in America’s interest to do so. Perhaps Obama accepts the forward strategy but will end up starving it of resources to the point that it will shockingly fail some crucial test—perhaps the worst outcome of all. Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either. (…) Read any serious history of American diplomacy and it becomes readily apparent how central the character of the president is to it. One of the great mysteries of understanding US foreign policy today in its essence is that, more than any other occupant of the Oval Office, Americans and foreigners alike simply do not have a good feel for who Barack Obama really is. Aside from being relatively young and recent upon the national political scene, he doesn’t fit into any category with which we are accustomed to understand intellectual and temperamental origins. More importantly, Obama’s ‘mentality’ is not only hard for outsiders to read, he is, thanks to the facts of his nativity and life circumstances, an unusually self-constructed personality. He is black in an obvious physical way but culturally not black in any significant way. He is a person who, finding himself naturally belonging nowhere, has striven to shape himself into a person who belongs everywhere. As his books suggest, he is a man who has put himself through more reconstructive psychological surgery than any American politician in memory. A few of the resultant characteristics are critically important for understanding how he serves as both president and commander-in-chief. Obama has understood above all that he must keep his cool. His cultivated aloofness is absolutely necessary to his successful political personality, for he cannot allow himself to exude emotion lest he raise the politically fatal specter of ‘the emotional black man’. His analytical mien, however, has made it hard for him to bond with foreign heads of state and even with some members of his own staff. His relationship with General Jones, for example, lacked rapport to the point that it seems to be a major reason for Jones resigning his position. But Obama’s ‘cool’ does not imply a stunted capacity for emotional intelligence. To the contrary: he knows unerringly where the emotional balance of a conversation needs to be, and it is for this reason that Obama’s self-confidence is so imperturbable. He knows he can read other people without letting them read him. And this is why, in parallel with the complex of his racial identity, he never defers to others psychologically or emotionally, not towards individuals and not, as with the US military, towards any group. The combination of ‘cool’ and empathetic control helps explain Obama’s character as commander-in-chief. He is respected in the ranks for sacking General Stanley McChrystal after the latter’s inexcusable act of disrespect and insubordination. That was control at work. But US troops do not feel that Obama has their back. He thinks of them as victims, not warriors, and one does not defer to victims. His ‘cool’, as well as his having had no prior contact with the professional military ethos at work, enjoins a distance that diminishes his effectiveness as commander-in-chief. Obama’s mastery at projecting himself as self-confident, empathetic and imperturbable has also compensated for his lack of original policy ideas. Whether in law school, on the streets of Chicago, in the US Senate or in the race for the White House, he has commanded respect by being the master orchestrator of the ideas, talents and ambitions of others. Many claim that his personality archetype is that of the ‘professor’, but this is not so; it is that of the judge. It is the judge who sits above others; they defer to him, not he to them. It is the judge who bids others speak while he holds his peace and shows no telling emotion. It is the judge who settles disputes and orders fair and just resolution. It is the judge whose presumed intelligence trumps all others. This kind of personality archetype can succeed well within American politics. In this sense it is precisely Charles Evans Hughes, a former chief justice of the US Supreme Court, not Carter, Wilson, Niebuhr, Nixon or FDR who stands as the true forebear of Barack Obama. But in the international arena even the American president cannot pull off a judge act and get away with it. Wilson tried and failed (or was that a prophet act?). The American president among his international peers is but one of many, perhaps primus inter pares but certainly without a mandate to act like it. Obama cum ‘judge’ has not impressed these peers: not among our European allies, who are ill at ease with his aloofness; not among Arabs and Muslims, who think him ill-mannered for bad-mouthing his predecessors while being hosted in foreign lands; not among Russians and Chinese, who think him gullible and guileless. Obama may still be popular on the ‘streets’ of the world because of the color of his skin, the contrast he draws to his predecessor, the general hope for renewal he symbolizes, and his willingness to play to chauvinist sentiment abroad by apologizing for supposed past American sins; but this matters not at all in the palaces where decisions are made. As his novelty has worn off, he impresses less and less. One reason President Obama does not impress the foreigners who matter is that he looks to be a figure in political distress at home. They know, as does the President, that his legacy will be forged in the context of the American domestic moment. Success at home can empower him abroad, but the opposite is not the case. That is why it is impossible to assess the Obama foreign policy bereft of its domestic political context. (…) If we now try to put all the foregoing factors together, what do we find assembled? We find a president in a tough spot who most likely does not know if he is inspired more by Wilson or Niebuhr, because reality thus far has not forced him to choose. We don’t know if he is resigned to a strategy of forward deployment or desirous of an offshore alternative because he likely doesn’t know either, having never been posed the question in so many words. We find a man whose inexperience leaves him with an incomplete grasp of what he gives up by asserting such close control over foreign policy from the White House. We see a man whose personality does not function abroad as successfully as it has at home, and so cannot with brilliant speeches alone dissolve the conflicting interests that define the cauldron of international politics into a comforting pot of warm milk. We see a man commanding a decision system untested by crisis, and one whose core issues remain unfocused for all the distractions of other challenges in his path. We see, lastly but not least, a man whose political instincts are no more detachable from him than his own shadow. From all these sources, bumping against and mixing with one another, comes the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Where the man will lead that policy, or the policy lead the man (the rest of us in tow), is now driven by the fact that the President is adrift conceptually since his initial engagement strategies did not succeed. Obama now awaits the crisis that will forge his legacy, but what that crisis will be, and whether the president will meet it with the American national interest or his personal political concerns foremost in mind, no one knows. No one can possibly know. Adam Garfinkle
Je ne pense donc pas que le Président ait une théorie stratégique explicite sur le dossier du Proche-Orient. Je n’entends tourner aucun des mécanismes de Kissinger. Ses orientations à l’égard de la région ressemblent plus à celles de George H. W. Bush : il a des intuitions, des instincts. Et ceux-ci lui soufflent qu’obtenir ce qu’on veut dans cette partie du monde est très difficile et le devient de plus en plus, dans la mesure où la possibilité d’avoir un interlocuteur unique – dont nous « jouissions » en ayant pour alliés des régimes arabes autoritaires et stables – n’est plus ce qu’elle était. (…) Si j’ai raison de soutenir que le Président Obama a des instincts et des intuitions, mais pas de grande et ambitieuse stratégie pour le Proche-Orient, a-t-il néanmoins quelque chose de plus précis à l’esprit, replaçant le Proche-Orient dans un cadre global plus vaste ? La réponse à cette question est la même : le Président n’est pas, je pense, un homme qui a confiance dans l’exercice d’une stratégie formelle, mais il ne fonctionne pas non plus complètement au cas par cas. Il croit probablement que les États-Unis sont effectivement trop investis au Proche-Orient et pas assez en Asie. D’où l’idée du pivot et peu importe qu’on l’ait sabotée en la présentant comme une proposition alternative. Selon toute vraisemblance, il s’est un jour demandé quel était le pire scénario pour le Proche-Orient. Ce qui se passerait si tout allait mal. En quoi cela affecterait vraiment les intérêts vitaux de l’Amérique. Non ses engagements traditionnels, non sa réputation, non ses obligations découlant de l’habitude et pas d’une approche nouvelle – mais ses authentiques intérêts vitaux. Et sa réponse a probablement été que, sauf réaction en chaîne en matière de prolifération d’ADM, les conséquences seraient minimes. Une fois encore, je doute qu’Obama déploie consciemment ici une logique stratégique explicite ou formalisée ou qu’il accepte les théories universitaires du réalisme bienveillant ou de l’équilibre naturel. Mais je pense qu’il se rend compte qu’après le relatif immobilisme de la Guerre froide, le monde est devenu globalement plus confus ; que le degré de contrôle que peuvent donner les relations interétatiques traditionnelles sur une zone aux enjeux importants a baissé à mesure que, grâce aux nouvelles cyber-technologies, les mobilisations populaires et populistes se sont accrues aux niveaux à la fois sous-étatique et trans-étatique. Le Proche-Orient est certainement bien plus compliqué et confus, même si ce n’est pas, ou pas encore, le cas du reste du monde. À mon avis, cette intuition a eu pour effet de rendre le Président Obama encore plus hostile au risque de manière générale et en particulier dans une région où il manque à tout le moins d’expérience et en son for intérieur d’assurance. Il est visiblement mal à l’aise lorsque ses conseillers sont divisés. Comme un juge, il essaie de trouver un dénominateur commun entre eux, ce qui est une bonne chose dans un travail de militant associatif, mais pas nécessairement en politique étrangère. Lorsque ses conseillers se livrent à une pensée de groupe, ce qu’ils font de plus en plus depuis le départ de Gates et de Donilon, ou lorsque aucun d’eux ne fait d’objections sérieuses à quelque chose (par exemple à la lubie de Kerry sur la paix israélo-palestinienne), il est satisfait de s’investir dans la gestion de son image – la twitterisation de la politique étrangère américaine en quelque sorte – parce qu’il sait qu’il ne peut tout simplement pas ignorer toutes ces choses. La sensibilité du Président aux limites a également tendance à rendre sa politique réactive et ses objectifs réels modestes. Aussi, dans la confusion qu’est le Proche-Orient aujourd’hui, il veut que l’Irak soit gouverné de manière plus inclusive. Il veut que la Syrie et la Libye soient gouvernées, point. Il veut que l’Égypte soit stable et il n’est pas très regardant sur la manière dont cela peut se faire. Il veut que l’Iran n’ait pas d’armes nucléaires et il est prêt à beaucoup de choses pour l’empêcher par la diplomatie car il pense probablement que les dirigeants iraniens ne peuvent pas aujourd’hui exercer leur volonté au-delà de leurs frontières avec plus de réel succès que nous. Il ne semble avoir d’idées précises et ne souhaiter agir préventivement que pour empêcher que des attaques terroristes tuent des citoyens américains, en particulier sur le sol des États-Unis. D’où son goût pour les attaques de drones, sa tolérance à l’égard de Guantánamo, son refus d’émasculer une série de programmes de la NSA, sauf à la marge, et son soutien généreux à l’ouverture discrète dans le monde entier de bases petites, mais puissantes, pour les forces spéciales. Cet ensemble de positions n’est ni de l’apaisement ni de l’isolationnisme. Ce n’est manifestement pas non plus du maximalisme stratégique. C’est quelque chose d’intermédiaire et dans cet entre-deux, suspendu entre des attentes héritées du passé et des hésitations dues au flou de l’avenir, les choses deviennent parfois étranges ou pénibles lorsqu’il faut prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions. Étrange, comme Genève II.  Adam Garfinkle
Pour Obama, le terrorisme est, à la racine, un produit de la désintégration sociale. La guerre est peut-être nécessaire pour contenir l’avancée de l’Etat islamique, mais seulement une réforme sociale peut vraiment s’en débarrasser. Ajoutez à cette vision le vécu d’un parfait ‘outsider’, moitié blanc et moitié noir avec une enfance et une famille dispersée autour du monde, et on commence à voir le profil d’un homme avec une empathie automatique pour les marginaux et un sens presque instinctif que les plus importants problèmes du monde sont enracinés, non pas dans l’idéologie, mais dans des structures sociales et économiques oppressives qui renforcent la marginalisation. Cette sensibilité est plus large que n’importe quelle orthodoxie économique, et elle est enracinée dans la dure expérience du Sud de Chicago. Après avoir pris la tête de la plus importante superpuissance du monde en janvier 2009, ce travailleur social s’est mis à construire une politique étrangère qui traduisait ses impressions en actions géopolitiques.(…) Le monde était un énorme Chicago, ses problèmes essentiels pas totalement différents de ceux des Noirs du Sud de Chicago, et les solutions à ces problèmes étaient enracinées dans la même capacité humaine à surpasser les divisions sociales et les inégalités. Voilà en quoi consistait le « provincialisme » d’Obama, sa vision d’un monde qui favorisait les désavantagés et les opprimés, qui percevait les conflits idéologiques et politiques entre les gouvernements comme secondaires par rapport à des crises plus universelles et en fin de compte sociales qui troublaient un monde déjà tumultueux. (…) L’aversion du président Obama pour Netanyahu est intense et … Il y a peu de doute que cette hostilité soit devenue personnelle – un dirigeant juif américain a affirmé que c’est le président Obama lui-même qui a donné l’interview à The Atlantic, dans laquelle un responsable anonyme s’est moqué de Netanyahu en le qualifiant de « chickenshit » [poule mouillée] – mais ses origines sont plus profondes qu’une antipathie personnelle. (…) Lorsque Netanyahu insiste pour parler de l’histoire juive à l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU, tout en refusant d’aborder la dépossession palestinienne, quand il rejette d’emblée et à plusieurs reprises l’idée qu’une éventuelle réadaptation de l’Iran pourrait être plus souhaitable qu’une confrontation permanente, Obama entend des échos de ces militants de Chicago dont le chauvinisme a fait plus de mal que de bien à leurs communautés. (…) Pour les deux hommes, l’écart est plus profond que la fracture démocrates-républicains, plus profond que la question palestinienne, plus profond encore que la bataille sur l’Iran. Obama a cherché à introduire une nouvelle conscience dans les affaires mondiales, une conscience qui a défini son identité politique. Netanyahu défend les anciennes méthodes – dont dépendent, selon lui, la sécurité nationale. Haviv Rettig Gur
Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition. What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. It is capitalism, for example, that the communists opposed, and they saw liberal capitalism as simply one of the masks that the heartless capitalist system could wear. For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threatFor the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat. Obama’s ideas from this point of view are if anything less sympathetic to Iranian theocrats than those of, say, American evangelicals who aren’t running around supporting gay marriage, transgender rights and an industrial strength feminism that conservative Iranian mullahs see as blasphemy made flesh. The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements. The Iranians are as likely to use negotiations to trip up and humiliate Obama as they were willing to doublecross Jimmy Carter and to drag out hostage negotiations as a way of making him look weak in the eyes of the world. American power is what they hope to break, and they don’t like it more or trust it more when a liberal Democrat stands at the head of our system. The Iranians appear to believe that Obama desperately needs an agreement with Iran, and are using the leverage they think this gives them to tease and torment the president while they push for more concessions. (…) Given that the Iranians, as much as the communists before them, believe that the conflict between them and the United States is a conflict arising from the differences between the two country’s systems rather than from personality clashes or minor and adjustable conflicts of interest, the mullahs would by their own lights be foolish indeed if they didn’t do everything possible to push their advantages in Geneva and elsewhere. Walter Russell Mead

Attention: une guerre sainte peut en cacher une autre !

En ce 100e anniversaire du premier génocide du XXe siècle …

Et modèle et début, entre nazisme, communisme et à nouveau aujourd’hui islam comme l’a rappelé le pape, d’une longue liste de violences génocidaires …

Où après la reconnaissance du droit à l’arme nucléaire d’un pays appelant explicitement à l’annihilation de l’Etat hébreu …

Et après son refus de rencontrer le dirigeant sortant de l’unique véritable démocratie du Moyen-Orient …

Ou même de se déplacer pour le 70e anniversaire de la libération d’Auschwitz ou, défendu par ses belles âmes, la Marche de Paris pour la liberté d’expression …

L’actuel chef du Monde libre et discret Predator in chief n’a rien trouvé de mieux que de célébrer les prétendument historiques retrouvailles avec l’un des derniers dictateurs stalinistes de la planète …

Comment ne pas voir avec le politologue américain Walter Russell Mead …

Derrière l’impressionnante liste de mauvaises causes que le président Obama aura épousées …

Et sous couvert, au niveau intérieur et sociétal comme dans la France socialiste, de la non moins impressionnante liste de prétendues bonnes causes et d’intérêts bien compris

Le véritable objectif …

Tant des ennemis de l’Amérique et de l’Occident …

Que du Flagellant en chef et de toute sa génération de pleureuses …

A savoir derrière l’abaissement voire l’élimination de l’Amérique et d’Israël

Celui du Monde libre qu’ils représentent ?

Not A Partner For Peace
Walter Russell  Mead

The American Interest

April 10, 2015

The Supreme Leader’s Speech and Liberal Delusions Walter Russell MeadWhat liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of America’s adversaries, it is the American system and American civilization that are the enemies.
Iran’s Supreme Leader gave a speech yesterday regarding the nuclear framework agreement, and what he said cannot have been comforting to the Obama Administration. Khamenei made two unequivocal demands: 1) sanctions must be lifted as soon as a final deal is signed, and 2) there will be no inspections of Iranian military sites. These stand in sharp contrast to the framework agreement as it has been repeatedly described by Western leaders ever since they announced it more than a week ago.

Careful observers should not be terribly surprised—at least not by the first demand. None other than Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Secretary John Kerry’s direct interlocutor at the talks in Lausanne, immediately tweeted after the announcement that in his understanding the sanctions would be lifted immediately upon signing—not gradually.

As to the question of inspections of Iranian military sites, that too was a contentious area of discussion carefully sidestepped during the framework negotiations. Leaks preceding the announcement of the agreement indicated that the talks nearly broke down due to Iran refusing to disclose what military nuclear research it had already undertaken.

It’s hard to predict how events will play out, but the Obama Administration should have no illusions on one count: Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition.

What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. It is capitalism, for example, that the communists opposed, and they saw liberal capitalism as simply one of the masks that the heartless capitalist system could wear. For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threatFor the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat. Obama’s ideas from this point of view are if anything less sympathetic to Iranian theocrats than those of, say, American evangelicals who aren’t running around supporting gay marriage, transgender rights and an industrial strength feminism that conservative Iranian mullahs see as blasphemy made flesh.

The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements.

The Iranians are as likely to use negotiations to trip up and humiliate Obama as they were willing to doublecross Jimmy Carter and to drag out hostage negotiations as a way of making him look weak in the eyes of the world. American power is what they hope to break, and they don’t like it more or trust it more when a liberal Democrat stands at the head of our system.

The Iranians appear to believe that Obama desperately needs an agreement with Iran, and are using the leverage they think this gives them to tease and torment the president while they push for more concessions. They think, for example, that his reluctance to intervene in the Middle East reflects his desperate hunger for a deal—and so they are doubling down on that by stepping up support for the Houthis in Yemen. With the announcement of the framework agreement and their subsequent pullback, they seem to be playing him exactly the way Lucy plays Charlie Brown: the goal is to snatch the football away after Charlie Brown is committed to kicking it.

Will Iran walk away from a deal, or will it sign? Ultimately, nobody except the Supreme Leader knows, and he may not have made up his mind quite yet. Whatever else Iran is doing, it is clearly try its best to push the final negotiations in a more favorable direction—waiting to see what else he can get before acting decisively.

Given that the Iranians, as much as the communists before, them believe that the conflict between them and the United States is a conflict arising from the differences between the two country’s systems rather than from personality clashes or minor and adjustable conflicts of interest, the mullahs would by their own lights be foolish indeed if they didn’t do everything possible to push their advantages in Geneva and elsewhere. Iran may in the end be willing to give Obama the deal he so badly wants, but the mullahs aim to make him pay the highest possible price for the smallest possible gain that they can.  From what we have seen in the days since the framework agreement was announced, Iran doesn’t think the squeezing process is over, and it thinks that the Obama administration can and will end up paying more to get less.

Voir aussi:

Iranian President: Diplomacy With U.S. is an Active ‘Jihad’
Diplomacy just as significant as new weapons, missiles
Adam Kredo
March 12, 2015
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described his country’s diplomacy with the United States as an active “jihad” that is just as significant to Tehran’s advancement as the slew of new weapons and missiles showcased by the Islamic Republic’s military.

Rouhani praised the country’s military leaders for standing “against the enemy on the battlefield” and said as president, he would carry out this “jihad” on the diplomatic front.

Rouhani’s comments echo those of foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator Javad Zarif, who said Tuesday that Iran has emerged as “the winner” in talks with Western powers. Like Zarif, Rouhani boasted that Iran’s years-long diplomacy with Western nations over its nuclear program established the Islamic Republic as a global power.

Iran has made headway in convincing the U.S. to allow it to maintain much of its core infrastructure through diplomatic talks that Rouhani said are viewed as a “jihad.”

“Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride,” Rouhani said earlier this week. “Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy–this, too, is jihad.”

“Our power is growing each day, but we don’t intend to be aggressive toward anyone. However, we will certainly defend our country, nation, independence, and honor wholeheartedly.”

Iran stands “10 times more powerful” than it was during the time of the Iran-Iraq War, Rouhani said, which “reflects a serious deterrence to the enemies’ threats.”

Iranian leaders view the ongoing talks with the United States and other nations as a source of global legitimacy.

Rouhani’s remarks have “significant domestic implications,” according to an analysis published by the American Enterprise Institute.

“Iran’s negotiations team to the status of Iran-Iraq War commanders, who are traditionally revered by the regime as upholders of Islamic Revolutionary values, could potentially lead to rhetorical backlash from regime hardliners opposed to the nuclear negotiations,” AEI wrote.

Matan Shamir, director of research at United Against Nuclear Iran, said Rouhani’s latest comments show he is not a moderate leader.

“While Rouhani talks about a ‘win-win’ nuclear deal to global audiences, his comments make clear that he continues to view the U.S. an antagonistic global oppressor that must be triumphed over, in this case by a diplomatic ‘jihad,’” Shamir said. “This is clearly not the language of a moderate or of a regime with which rapprochement is at all realistic.”

Zarif said Tuesday that a final nuclear deal with the United States is meaningless at this point.

“We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not,” Zarif was quoted as saying by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”

As Rouhani and Zarif grandstand on the nuclear front, Iranian military leaders have begun to unveil a host of new missiles and sea-based weapons.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Iran’s defensive capabilities “are non-negotiable in the nuclear talks,” AEI reported.

The comments came the same day Iran paraded its new cruise missiles.

Hajizadeh also dismissed economic sanctions on Iran, saying that “his is a message which should be understood by the bullying powers which raise excessive demands.”

On Wednesday, the State Department said any final deal with Iran was “nonbinding,” meaning that neither party would be legally obliged to uphold the agreement.

Voir également:

Obama has destroyed the Democratic Party’s legacy on human rights
Noah Rothman

Hot air

April 12, 2015

Marco Rubio couldn’t have asked for a better foil than a president in the White House who eagerly shakes the hand of a Castro in the pursuit of a “legacy issue.” When he launches his presidential campaign on Monday, it’s fair to expect the Florida senator to dwell on the matter of Obama’s crass disrespect for the oppressed Cuban people. The president has said he wants to break the “shackles” that constrain his freedom of action overseas. The “shackles” he derides were those foreign policy precepts that once rendered America the shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom, and a champion of fundamental human aspiration for the better part of a century.

If he is so inclined, Rubio might also make note of the fact that Raul Castro doesn’t seem interested in playing the docile and repentant dictator in order to help Obama recast the communists in Havana as responsible international actors. In what CNN’s Jim Acosta called “a borderline rant,” Castro’s speech at the Summit of the Americas was apparently loaded with a fair amount of good, old-fashioned America bashing.

“Castro, in a meandering, nearly hour-long speech to the Summit of the Americas, ran through an exhaustive history of perceived Cuban grievances against the U.S. dating back more than a century—a vivid display of how raw passions remain over American attempts to undermine Cuba’s government,” Time Magazine reported.

Eventually, Castro said he had become “emotional” and apologized to Obama personally “because he had no responsibility for this.” What Castro refers to as “this” is, in fact, 200 years of American policy toward the Western Hemisphere – a source of much consternation for the revolutionary left. “In my opinion, President Obama is an honest man,” Castro glowed.

Having successfully courted the communist dictator, Obama and Castro proceeded to have what the administration apparently considered a historic, if not fruitful, bilateral meeting. “In a later news conference, Obama said that he was ‘optimistic that we’ll continue to make progress, and that this can indeed be a turning point,’” a Washington Post dispatch read.

A realist might look upon Obama’s approach to thawing relations with Cuba and smile. The United States has long regarded this region as pivotal, and Washington has warily eyed Beijing’s efforts to supplant U.S. influence in South and Central America and the Caribbean for years. But Cuba has counted itself a member of any foreign camp dedicated to balancing against U.S. power for decades, and the United States has somehow soldiered on without the complicity of a placid regime in Havana.

What’s more, Obama’s decision to literally extend a hand of friendship toward a Castro represents the abandonment of decades of cherished Democratic foreign affairs doctrine. One of the precious few lasting achievements secured by Jimmy Carter’s administration was to ensure that the concept of human rights served a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. In principle if not always in practice, respect for human rights became the sine qua non for friendly bilateral relations with the United States after 1977. That has remained the case through both Democratic and Republican administrations ever since. Many on the left would argue that this focus forced more than a handful of repressive regimes to extend to their domestic dissident elements the deference they needed in order to ultimately topple the governments they opposed.

By contrast, Obama has stood by and watched as the world’s most brutal regimes oversaw the reclamation of their power.

Obama turned a blind eye toward the crushing of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, and today strengthens the Mullah’s domestic authority by inking dubious deals with Tehran that will allegedly yield great rewards for the Islamic Republic’s ruling class. In Iran, Obama is rightly seen as no friend to the friendless, and he has greatly strengthened the hand of the system’s stakeholders.

The same could be said of Venezuela, where bloody anti-government riots broke out in 2014 and were subsequently crushed by Caracas. Though the global left and Nicolas Maduro’s government saw the riots as an extension of America’s desire to oust his regime from power, Obama made no statements to that effect at the rebellion’s zenith. Only over a year after the fighting in the streets had been quelled did the administration name a handful of Maduro regime officials as threats to American national security in order to target them with sanctions.

Perhaps the president wanted to avoid a repeat of his galling refusal to follow up on his 2011 insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. That feel-good statement was not met with action. Quite the contrary; the president stood back and allowed the regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents with conventional and chemical weapons before tepidly committing to take action. But even that reluctant acknowledgment of the president’s responsibility to posterity was not met with engagement. Only when the situation became untenable, the terrorist threat to Western security grew imminent, and the attacks on human decency in the Middle East became truly unprecedented did the United States finally begin to address them.

In Moscow, where Obama’s pledge to have more flexibility with the Putin regime in his second term was taken quite literally, the Soviet approach to information management and the suppression of domestic criticism is back in vogue. Journalists who dare to censure the regime again fear for their lives and livelihoods. The institutions of civil society that the Clinton administration invested time and energy, not to mention millions of dollars, trying to build up are now being eagerly destroyed by a Russia that sees more value in repression and revanchism than openness.

Once an administration success story, a modest loosening of restrictions on freedoms in Burma has been completely reversed by the military junta in Naypyidaw. In January, Human Rights Watch called on the government to “stop arresting peaceful protesters and immediately and unconditionally free those imprisoned.” It is a call you will not here echoed in Washington too loudly, lest the political class recall that the crowning achievement of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as America’s chief diplomat was to secure the illusory opening of Burma and to finally guarantee Aung San Suu Kyi’s pathway to power.

In China, an economic powerhouse that nevertheless remains a one-party communist autocracy, America has tacitly consented to supporting the regime’s increased interest in total command and control. A series of moves to roll back nascent freedoms of speech, religion, and expression in China in 2014 following the rise of President Xi Jinping has led many to wonder if information technology and free trade truly have the power to compel openness in closed societies. “China’s repression of political activists, writers, independent journalists, artists and religious groups who potentially challenge the party’s monopoly of power has intensified since Xi took office nearly two years ago,” The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall reported in December.

Even within the NATO alliance, repression is on the rise. In Turkey, the secularism Kemal Ataturk regarded as a basic value has been de-emphasized. As Ankara has grown friendlier toward Islamism, so has it embraced anti-democratic policies toward journalists and regime critics alike. “We feel the pressure every day,” one unnamed Turkish journalist told Haaretz in December. “We go over our articles with extreme care and remove anything that could give Erdogan’s dogs a pretext for going after us.” The U.S. has joined other United Nations member in expressing concern over Turkey’s authoritarian drift, but human rights groups have called Obama’s silence on this matter “deafening.”

In fact, about the only nation in which Obama pursued what he claimed was a purely humanitarian foreign policy was his decision to lead from behind while Europe toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. There, the West’s attempt to stave off a humanitarian crisis yielded an even greater one. Not only is Libya a failed state today, but it serves as an incubator for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups.

Obama surely hopes historians will define his legacy as one of nobly sloughing off the burdens of the past, and opening America up to a brave new dawn in which multilateral talk shops become powerful forces for good. But Obama confuses the people of the world for their governments – a distinction that his Democratic predecessors understood and frequently made. While Obama pursues what he considers a pragmatic approach to international relations, the tide of freedoms that characterized the end of the last century is waning. When the need to protect Obama’s image for the sake of the left’s sense of self-validation subsides, it will become clear that the president’s true legacy was one of accommodation toward international community’s most repressive elements purely for the sake of convenience and fleeting domestic political gain.

Voir encore:

Qu’est-ce vraiment que l’instabilité ?

Adam Garfinkle

traduit par Commentaire

Les « experts » autoproclamés du Proche-Orient ont longtemps déploré l’instabilité de la région. C’est qu’ils ne savaient rien de la véritable instabilité.

Imaginez-vous en train d’essayer de suivre un match capital de base-ball ou de football – par exemple la finale de la Série mondiale de base-ball ou un Super Bowl – sans pouvoir y assister, ni même le regarder à la télévision, sans savoir quels joueurs ont été sélectionnés à ce moment-là et sans même avoir de commentaire en direct par la radio ou Internet. Vous ne disposez en tout et pour tout que de comptes rendus de seconde ou troisième main, dont on ne peut être certain qu’ils sont fiables et impartiaux et, pire, dont on a des raisons de supposer qu’ils brouillent ou déforment les faits. C’est un peu comme essayer de suivre aujourd’hui la politique étrangère américaine, en particulier sa politique au Proche-Orient. Il se passe des choses, alors même qu’on est en plein débat intérieur et qu’il y a des désaccords. On procède à des estimations et on prend des décisions, or ces expertises, importantes ou non, emportent des conséquences. Pour ceux qui ne sont pas sur le terrain et qui sont même dans l’impossibilité de suivre le match en temps réel, il est frustrant d’essayer d’imaginer ce qui est en train de se passer, car ce que nous savons du processus de décision pourrait s’expliquer de plusieurs manières.

Il est certain que la métaphore sportive connaît des limites. La politique étrangère américaine n’est pas un jeu. Elle ne peut se mesurer par un score chiffré. Il y a plus de deux équipes. Le nombre des joueurs de part et d’autre n’est ni le même ni fixe. On ne distingue pas nettement l’offensive de la défensive. La compétition ne s’arrête jamais tout à fait. Les règles sont floues. Il n’y a pas d’arbitre, à part peut-être la logique implacable de l’interaction stratégique. Vous avez néanmoins compris l’idée de base : il se passe des choses importantes, mais nous, qui ne sommes pas dans le secret des dieux, ne pouvons que faire des hypothèses sur ce dont il s’agit. Or c’est un « grand jeu ». L’instabilité sans précédent du Proche-Orient, quels qu’en soient les autres effets, va obliger les responsables américains à prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions qui en engendreront d’autres, créant des réalités en fonction de la réponse apportée, avec lesquelles nous devrons vivre pendant des décennies. C’est une époque de remise à plat, c’est pourquoi il est tellement nécessaire (ou il devrait l’être) de prendre de bonnes décisions.

Nous connaissons la plupart des questions qui se posent : que faire s’agissant de la guerre civile en Syrie ? Quel est le meilleur moyen d’arrêter ou de limiter le programme nucléaire militaire de l’Iran ? Que faire face à la nouvelle fragmentation de l’Irak ? Comment faire pour que la situation en Syrie et en Irak ne se propage pas en Jordanie et au Liban ? Comment traiter le problème majeur que pose la Turquie, c’est-à-dire la question kurde en Syrie et en Irak, alors que ce pays est en pleine crise politique et que celle-ci pourrait être très grave ? Jusqu’où et de quelle manière pousser des négociations de paix israélo-palestiniennes et quelle priorité leur donner ? Comment influencer l’évolution politique du « printemps arabe » en Égypte, en Tunisie, en Libye, à Bahreïn et ailleurs ? Comment envisager les clivages confessionnels en formation dans la région et propres à certains pays ? En quoi le dossier de non prolifération est-il lié aux autres défis de la région ? Comment repenser le rôle des services de renseignement antiterroristes américains, compte tenu du retrait de tant de programmes et de personnel d’Irak et bientôt d’Afghanistan ?

Ce qui est frappant dans ces questions est qu’un grand nombre d’entre elles exigent une réponse immédiate alors qu’elles ont tendance à être très diverses, très difficiles et très imbriquées. Ce qui est inhabituel. À son tour, cette observation amène à d’autres questions : l’Administration Obama a-t-elle une théorie stratégique sur ce dossier régional, susceptible d’intégrer tous ces éléments dans un cadre logique global ? Et cette théorie sur le dossier du Proche-Orient, si elle existe, est-elle consciemment liée à des objectifs stratégiques globaux ? Si c’est le cas, d’où vient cette théorie ? Du Président ? Du secrétaire d’État ? De quelqu’un d’autre ? Les dirigeants se sont-ils, ou non, mis d’accord sur une partie de cette théorie, sa plus grande partie, sa totalité ?

Ce ne sont pas des questions simples car les différents présidents et dirigeants ont manifestement des manières différentes d’établir un lien entre les abstractions stratégiques et leur comportement politique. Certains ont bel et bien des théories explicites sur le dossier et s’efforcent avec cohérence de faire coïncider leur comportement et leur stratégie. Le mandat Nixon-Kissinger était la quintessence de ce genre d’approche ; instruits par la Seconde Guerre mondiale et disciplinés par la Guerre froide, les Administrations Eisenhower et Kennedy-Johnson s’en rapprochaient elles aussi.

Certaines Administrations ont eu des théories extrêmement abstraites, souvent intensément moralistes, sur ce dossier ; mais elles étaient trop abstraites pour rester cohérentes dans le processus politique. Elles ont souvent obligé ses subordonnés à deviner et à défendre ce que voulait le Président. Ce fut le cas des présidences Reagan et George W. Bush et, dans une certaine mesure, aussi celle de Carter.

Certains présidents et leurs conseillers les plus proches ont eu beaucoup recours aux intuitions en matière politique et n’ont pas été très enclins à formaliser l’exercice stratégique ou à expliciter leurs stratégies. L’équipe Bush-Scowcroft-Baker en est un exemple, de même que celle de Truman-Acheson. Un président peut être porté à la stratégie sans avoir de stratégie formalisée et, en période de calme, c’est ce qu’il peut faire de mieux. En effet, au moment où le président doit prendre des décisions, il n’a plus un très grand nombre d’options à sa disposition. Son instinct peut l’amener à regrouper d’une certaine manière les questions à trancher, même s’il ne peut expliquer totalement, ou de manière cohérente, pourquoi la décision qu’il a prise était de nature à satisfaire un Kissinger, un Brzezinski, un Acheson ou même un Scowcroft.

Certains présidents semblent ne pas avoir besoin de stratégie, n’être ni portés à penser en ces termes ni à l’aise avec cette méthode. Ils ont donc tendance à traiter au cas par cas les questions qui ne peuvent manquer de se poser en politique étrangère. La période Clinton-Christopher en est une illustration.

Et Barack Obama ? La politique étrangère de cette Administration se contente-t-elle d’improviser, comme l’affirment beaucoup et comme le laissent penser certains éléments du processus de décision ? Ou bien, quoi qu’on en pense, cette Administration a-t-elle, comme d’autres l’affirment, une théorie stratégique explicite sur ce dossier, intégrant le Proche-Orient dans une vision globale ? Ou encore, comme l’Administration de George H. W. Bush, a-t-elle des instincts très intelligents (ou très malencontreux) n’allant pas jusqu’à une stratégie explicite et formalisée, mais n’en conduisant pas moins, peu à peu, la politique dans une direction particulière ? Laquelle ? Comment le sait-on ? Quelles en sont les preuves ?

Une situation nouvelle

C’est à ces questions que je vais tenter de répondre. Mais, pour qu’une réponse ait du sens, il faut d’abord mieux comprendre en quoi un Proche-Orient totalement déstabilisé est une chose nouvelle et comment il en est arrivé là. On examinera ensuite brièvement quelques-unes des diverses décisions à prendre au Proche-Orient (Syrie, Iran et Irak), dans l’espoir de faire émerger un modèle caractérisant le processus de décision dans l’Administration Obama. Peut-être pourra-t-on alors définir l’approche de cette Administration, afin de se prononcer sur son degré de discernement et son cap probable.

Au cours des soixante-dix dernières années s’est développée une sorte de tic intellectuel chez les observateurs occidentaux occasionnels du « Proche-Orient » consistant à considérer la région comme « instable ». (J’ai prudemment mis Proche-Orient entre guillemets pour suggérer que les susdits observateurs occasionnels définissent sans grande rigueur la région dont ils parlent.) Or, comme beaucoup de choses, une zone n’est stable ou instable que par comparaison avec un autre endroit ou avec le même endroit à une autre époque. C’est pourquoi la manière de définir la zone dont on parle affecte nécessairement les comparaisons.

Par conséquent, si ces observateurs occasionnels occidentaux entendaient par « Proche-Orient » uniquement la zone du conflit « arabo-israélien » (et ce fut souvent le cas), alors les guerres de 1948-1949, 1956, 1967, 1970-1971, 1973, 1982, etc., les périodes de « paix », truffées d’actes de terrorisme, de représailles, de raids, d’assassinats et autres, justifient probablement de considérer cette zone comme extrêmement instable par comparaison avec l’Europe, l’Amérique du Sud et la plus grande partie de l’Asie durant la Guerre froide. Si ces observateurs entendaient parler du Levant ou des pays du Golfe, ou de l’Afrique du Nord ou, plus largement, du « monde arabe », ou encore plus largement, du « monde musulman », l’étiquette « instabilité » convient beaucoup moins. Certes, il y a eu des révolutions de palais, des assassinats et des interventions de militaires en politique, plus quelques insurrections, guerres civiles et autres épisodes de violences politiques de masse dans des pays de toutes ces zones. Mais il n’y a eu en réalité qu’une seule véritable guerre interétatique, dans laquelle Israël n’ait pas été impliqué, et aucune qui ait opposé des États arabes directement l’un à l’autre.

Il y a eu aussi des régimes extrêmement stables, qui ont duré très longtemps : Kadhafi en Libye, de septembre 1969 à octobre 2011 ; les Assad en Syrie, de novembre 1970 à ce jour ; Moubarak en Égypte, d’octobre 1981 à février 2012 ; le Baath en Irak, essentiellement sous Saddam Hussein, de juillet 1968 à mars 2003, et on pourrait continuer ainsi. Bien sûr, les cimetières sont stables eux aussi, c’est pourquoi la stabilité n’est pas, contrairement à ce que croient la plupart d’entre nous, toujours une bonne chose pour des sociétés civiles saines. Mais j’emploie le mot « stabilité » dans une acception descriptive, celle des sciences sociales – ni plus ni moins.

On peut se faire une idée de la relative stabilité qu’a connue le Proche-Orient pendant la plus grande partie de ces soixante à soixante-dix dernières années, jusqu’avant la fin de l’année 2010, en la comparant à ce qui s’y passe maintenant. À présent, la région dans son ensemble – quasiment sa totalité, quelle que soit la manière de la définir – est instable. Réellement instable. Cela pourrait même s’aggraver encore et c’est probablement ce qui se passera. C’est cela l’instabilité : toute une région engagée dans l’équivalent politique d’un derby de démolition, sauf que personne ne semble beaucoup s’amuser.

À l’heure actuelle, s’il n’y a pas de guerres conventionnelles entre pays voisins, ce qui se passe dans la région est de nature à produire un cocktail d’instabilité. Guerres civiles et insurrections actives majeures ? Voyez par vous-même : Syrie, Irak, Yémen, Afghanistan et Somalie (les deux derniers si l’on inclut des pays non arabes). Violence politique n’allant pas jusqu’à des insurrections organisées ? Libye, Égypte, Bahreïn, Liban et, sans doute, Algérie. Gouvernements simplement effrayés ou plus ou moins faibles ? Jordanie, Tunisie, Arabie Saoudite, Maroc, Soudan et tout à la fois le Hamas à Gaza et l’Autorité palestinienne en Cisjordanie. Gouvernements ayant en temps normal de bonnes institutions, mais aujourd’hui en crise politique et ne contrôlant pas la totalité de leur territoire national ? Turquie. Les deux seuls grands pays de la région (j’exclus les trois familles ou groupes de familles du Golfe à la tête de leur pays : Oman, Qatar et les Émirats arabes unis) qui contrôlent leur territoire national et qui, selon leurs propres estimations, ne sont pas au bord d’une débâcle intérieure, sont l’Iran et Israël. Or ces deux pays pourraient bien entrer en guerre avant même que le reste de la région ne se remette.

De plus, comme beaucoup d’observateurs l’ont fait remarquer, nous ne sommes pas confrontés seulement à deux douzaines de pays faisant face à des problèmes, mais à quelques pays dont l’existence même, en tant qu’entités politiques, est menacée. C’est sûrement le cas de la Syrie et probablement de l’Irak. Il n’est pas davantage certain que l’intégrité territoriale de la Libye, du Liban, du Yémen et du Soudan puisse être longtemps préservée. La perspective d’un soulèvement contre le régime (non pour faire tomber le gouvernement, mais pour changer vraiment de régime) dans les monarchies du Bahreïn, d’Arabie Saoudite, de Jordanie et du Maroc est loin d’être nulle. La montée du nationalisme pankurde aura des effets sur la configuration territoriale de l’Iran et de la Turquie ainsi que sur celle de l’Irak et de la Syrie. La « Palestine », qui est moins qu’une entité politique, mais plus qu’un produit de l’imagination politique, a longtemps été dans les limbes et, malgré les négociations actuelles, y restera probablement encore un certain temps. On ne parle donc pas seulement de la somme des problèmes de chaque pays, mais de tout un sous-système étatique régional, qui ondule et se désintègre sous l’effet de la décomposition de certaines de ses unités et de la faiblesse et de l’imprévisibilité croissantes des autres.

Qui blâmer ?

De même que les observateurs occidentaux occasionnels sont prompts à gloser sur l’instabilité du Proche-Orient, ils étaient, et sont toujours, déterminés à en faire porter la responsabilité à quelqu’un. La majorité de la presse américaine fonctionne sur l’analyse biographique : qui sont les étoiles montantes, qui voit son étoile pâlir ; qui est has been et qui ne l’est pas (encore). Cela épargne aux journalistes et aux rédacteurs en chef d’avoir à comprendre vraiment les problèmes ; en outre, ils ont probablement raison de penser que c’est ce qu’attendent la plupart de leurs lecteurs. Les potins de haute volée l’emportent très largement sur l’analyse de fond.

Ce qui a pour résultat qu’en fonction de leurs opinions politiques, certains attribuent au président Obama la responsabilité de la confusion actuelle au Proche-Orient. Il aurait dû intervenir très tôt en Syrie, déclarent-ils d’un air supérieur. Il aurait dû soutenir la révolution verte iranienne en 2009. Il aurait dû défendre Moubarak, même si les propres collègues de Moubarak étaient en train de le renverser. S’il avait fait tout cela, plus une liste interminable de choses qu’il aurait dû faire, mais n’a pas faites, ou qu’il a faites, mais n’aurait pas dû faire, tout irait bien aujourd’hui.

D’autres préfèrent blâmer George W. Bush et les neocons. C’est la guerre en Irak qui a tout provoqué. Je ne plaisante pas ; dans un bref article intitulé « What the War in Iraq Wrought », paru dans le New Yorker du 15 janvier 2014, un journaliste, nommé John Lee Anderson, attribue tout ce qui va mal dans la région, et même, par voie de conséquence, ce qui se passe en Égypte, à la guerre en Irak parce que c’est elle qui aurait créé le démon sectaire lâché aujourd’hui au Proche-Orient.

Certains sont plus œcuméniques dans leur révisionnisme : ce sont les États-Unis et toutes leurs Administrations, aussi loin qu’on puisse remonter, qui sont à l’origine de tous ces problèmes. À moins que ce ne soient les Britanniques ou les Français, ou l’Occident générique, ou les Russes ou (bien sûr, ne les oublions pas) les Juifs. Il semble rarement venir à l’esprit que les peuples de cette région pourraient avoir une certaine responsabilité dans leur situation actuelle. Et l’on ne pense presque jamais que chercher un bouc émissaire n’est peut-être pas le meilleur moyen de comprendre les réalités régionales.

Il est particulièrement agaçant d’entendre des gens, qui devraient être plus avisés, tenir ce genre de discours, plus encore lorsqu’ils les tiennent sur le mode du mea culpa. J’ai été stupéfait en entendant le Président Bush dire en 2003 : « Pendant soixante ans, les États-Unis ont recherché la stabilité au Proche-Orient au détriment de la démocratie et n’ont obtenu ni l’une ni l’autre », déclaration que Condoleezza Rice a souvent répétée lorsqu’elle était secrétaire d’État (ce qui, plus que toute autre chose, m’a amené à cesser de travailler pour elle). En d’autres termes, la raison pour laquelle les pays arabes n’étaient pas des démocraties et produisaient donc des terroristes ne tenait pas aux milliers d’années de leur propre expérience historique et culturelle, mais aux décisions de politique étrangère prises par les États-Unis au cours des six précédentes décennies. Tel était le raisonnement de ceux qui, à gauche, critiquaient le soutien des États-Unis aux régimes autoritaires dans le contexte de la Guerre froide. Que des Républicains ouvertement conservateurs se mettent à le reprendre avait de quoi vous couper le souffle, notamment parce que, quel que soit celui qui le tient, ce raisonnement est absurde.

Nous avons assuré la stabilité pendant ces soixante années. Quel que soit le critère retenu, la politique américaine au Proche-Orient pendant la Guerre froide a été un succès. Bien plus important, pour revenir à la question, il n’a jamais été en notre pouvoir de transformer les États arabes en démocraties. C’est une chose qu’aujourd’hui George W. Bush (je l’espère) a apprise à ses dépens ainsi que le docteur Rice. Il est stupéfiant que, même lorsque nous nous critiquons nous-mêmes, nous le fassions avec une dose d’hubris himalayesque : tout tourne toujours autour de nous. Sauf que c’est faux. Les États-Unis ne sont pas, et n’ont jamais été, le facteur déterminant de tout ce qui se passe au Proche-Orient, ni ailleurs non plus du reste (sauf peut-être à Panama à une époque). Redescendons sur terre.

Ce qui ne signifie pas pour autant que les décisions des présidents restent totalement sans effet. Pour le meilleur ou pour le pire, une partie de ce que font les États-Unis ne reste pas, la plupart du temps, sans conséquences ou a beaucoup de répercussions, de temps en temps au moins. La guerre en Irak s’est révélée peu judicieuse : à coup sûr la manière de la mener, voire la décision même de l’entreprendre. La manière dont nous avons décidé d’opérer en Afghanistan, après la chute du régime des Talibans, était également une erreur, bien qu’il ait fallu plus de temps à la plupart des observateurs pour s’en rendre compte. Rater ces deux guerres équivalait à une défaite stratégique américaine dans l’ensemble de la région ; tous les alliés et partenaires des États-Unis en ont donc pâti, de même que tous ses adversaires et rivaux l’ont emporté d’une manière ou d’une autre.

Ayant hérité de cette défaite, l’Administration Obama a décidé de réduire les pertes américaines et de voir ensuite si cette action aggravait ou non les choses. Il est certain que l’oscillation entre interventionnisme militant et repli américain sous Obama a elle aussi désorienté les esprits. S’agissant des vastes répercussions des récentes politiques américaines, la guerre en Irak a certes attisé les charbons ardents des dissensions confessionnelles, mais ce n’est pas elle qui les a créées. La recrudescence des violences entre sunnites et chiites remonte approximativement à 1973-1974, année où le quadruplement des prix du pétrole a tout à la fois préparé le terrain de l’effondrement du régime des Pahlavi en Iran et financé le wahhabisme saoudien, laissant présager une collision future entre les clergés extrémistes sunnite et chiite. (Non que, dans l’Islam, le conflit confessionnel soit exclusivement de nature théologique, il ne l’est pas plus que ne l’étaient les guerres de religion au xvie siècle en Europe.) Si l’Administration Obama avait rapidement et efficacement jugulé la situation en Syrie, elle aurait pu retarder l’affrontement confessionnel dans la région – mais probablement pas de beaucoup, puisque le démon avait déjà brisé ses chaînes en Irak et fait des apparitions mortelles dans un pays aussi éloigné que le Pakistan.

Des facteurs inhérents à la région expliquent une grande partie de ce qui se passe aujourd’hui. À quelques exceptions près, leurs sociétés tribales et leurs identités religieuses affaiblissent les États arabes. Ces États faibles, dont la plupart sont hétérogènes ethniquement ou religieusement, ont été incapables de créer des loyautés réelles ou d’obtenir, au fil des ans, une croissance économique forte ou une plus grande justice sociale. Beaucoup d’entre eux ont été fossilisés par la malédiction des ressources. Les tendances très patriarcales et autoritaires de ces sociétés les ont empêchées de s’adapter à nombre d’aspects de la modernité ; elles ont notamment été incapables de remplacer par une économie de marché la patrimonialisation des ressources opérée par une élite vivant de la rente qui caractérise tous les pays arabes, républiques ou monarchies, depuis le début de l’époque de l’indépendance.

Malgré toutes ces insuffisances, les élites des États arabes ont préféré blâmer l’Occident, les États-Unis et spécialement Israël ; et, plus bizarre encore, elles ont réussi à en persuader de nombreux Occidentaux. Il est certain que le caractère artificiel de nombre d’États territoriaux, créés dans le sillage de la Première Guerre mondiale, n’a pas arrangé les choses. Mais, dans la plupart des cas, après tant d’années, ce n’est ni le seul ni le principal obstacle ; et on ne peut certainement pas en attribuer la responsabilité au Président Bush, au Président Obama ou aux États-Unis en général.

Bref, les désordres du type de ceux que nous observons aujourd’hui au Proche-Orient ont de nombreuses causes, certaines très anciennes, d’autres plus récentes. Elles sont difficiles à démêler et encore plus difficiles à expliquer à des gens dès lors qu’ils n’ont pas envie de savoir si cela contredit leur quête de boucs émissaires, dans un but politique ou faute de meilleure idée. On peut améliorer la connaissance d’un militant politique, mais non le faire réfléchir.

Notre lamentable politique syrienne

Examinons à présent quelques-unes des décisions à prendre, énumérées ci-dessus, pour essayer de nous y retrouver dans l’écheveau des politiques. Même si beaucoup d’éléments de ce dossier sont interconnectés, on les étudiera les uns après les autres en les combinant au fil des besoins.

Tout d’abord la Syrie. Le meilleur moyen de comprendre la politique américaine à l’égard de la Syrie est de partir de la Libye. En mars 2011, avant que la Syrie ne se soit vraiment soulevée, le Président décida de s’associer à la Grande-Bretagne et à la France et d’entreprendre une guerre en Libye. Les conseillers de l’Administration étaient divisés face au désordre croissant en Libye. Le secrétaire à la Défense, Bob Gates, et tous les membres du Comité des chefs d’état-major étaient opposés à l’intervention. De même que le vice-Président Biden et le conseiller à la Sécurité nationale de l’époque, Tom Donilon, qui était « un homme de Biden ». C’était aussi le cas de beaucoup de gens à l’extérieur de l’Administration, dont le président du Council of Foreign Relations et votre humble serviteur.

Le Président semblait partagé. Aussi posa-t-il une série de conditions strictes pour consentir à l’intervention – dont un soutien de la Ligue arabe et une résolution du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU sur la base de l’article 7. Toutefois, il écouta les partisans de la guerre lorsque le secrétaire d’État, Hillary Clinton, s’y rallia et que, peut-être à son grand regret et contre toute attente, les conditions qu’il avait posées se trouvèrent toutes réunies. Même s’il faut attendre des mémoires fiables pour en être certain, mon sentiment est que le Président ne tarda pas à regretter sa décision en voyant les conséquences multiples, sinistres et involontaires de l’intervention en Libye. Le défaut de planification par ses alliés de la phase de la guerre postérieure aux combats, malgré un triste précédent, a eu de sombres répercussions en Libye (qui ont conduit au raid sur Benghazi de septembre 2012), mais aussi au Mali, au nord du Nigéria et, sans doute, en Algérie.

Aussi, lorsque, quelques mois plus tard, ses conseillers se divisèrent à nouveau sur la Syrie, le Président Obama résolut de ne pas s’en mêler. Il est difficile de dire dans quelle mesure des considérations de politique politicienne entrèrent en jeu – l’élection de 2012 approchait –, mais il est probable selon moi qu’elles ont tenu une place importante (je l’ai dit à l’époque). En toute hypothèse, même sans échéance électorale pour altérer son jugement, la passivité américaine à l’égard de la Syrie était tout à fait prévisible.

Il ne fait pas de doute que, dès le début, le Président a entendu force analyses et propos amers sur la Syrie. Il est à mon avis malheureux qu’à cause de la Libye, on ait fait preuve d’une prudence excessive. Prendre rapidement le leadership, de concert avec la Turquie et avec le soutien de l’OTAN, aurait pu arrêter la violence avant qu’elle ne se soit métastasée, radicalisée entre camps religieux et étendue à d’autres pays. Il n’était pas nécessaire, ni même souhaitable, pour y parvenir, d’envoyer des troupes sur le terrain ni même d’instaurer dès le début des zones d’exclusion aérienne. Il y a des moyens d’exercer de l’influence sans pour autant mettre en danger un grand nombre de soldats américains : c’est pour cette raison que nous avons des alliés, des opérations de renseignement, des forces spéciales et tout un assortiment de cyberprocédés douteux. Mais l’Administration a découragé les Turcs et la politique de passivité qu’elle a adoptée s’est révélée être la plus coûteuse de toutes les politiques.

Pour être honnête, la Syrie a toujours constitué un problème difficile. Si la Libye est une île du point de vue militaire et un petit pays en termes démographiques, la Syrie est plus vaste, plus difficile à vaincre militairement et, comme on le sait, elle dispose de stocks d’armes chimiques, voire biologiques. Les armes à longue portée, comme les missiles de croisière, ne sont pas ce qu’il y a de mieux pour maîtriser l’espace aérien ou pour travailler en étroite coordination avec des forces rebelles sur le terrain. Le président du Comité des chefs d’états-majors interarmées, Martin Dempsey, a du reste abondam ment déclaré qu’il faudrait effectuer 700 sorties pour détruire le système de défense aérienne syrien avant que les avions américains puissent entrer en action. C’est un nombre qui paraît élevé et c’était bien l’impression que Dempsey voulait donner en le citant. Cependant, à la différence de la Libye, le dossier syrien comportait des enjeux très importants, pour la plupart liés à l’Iran. La combinaison d’enjeux d’intérêts nationaux incontestables et d’options militaires malaisées rendait donc les choses difficiles.

Le temps que l’Administration en vienne à envisager sérieusement d’armer les rebelles (elle commença par coordonner des accords avec des tiers, comme la Croatie, et par demander à la CIA de faire passer quelques stocks d’armes de Libye aux rebelles syriens), un grand nombre de jihadistes sunnites radicaux avaient fait leur apparition et fusionné dans Jabhat al-Nusra. Ce qui rendait encore plus difficile ce qu’on avait déjà du mal à entreprendre. Il était normal de s’inquiéter que des armes américaines puissent tomber entre de mauvaises mains, c’est pourquoi l’envoi de matériels non létaux devint la forme d’aide préférée. Mais l’inquiétude ne devrait pas être paralysante, à moins que l’on ne veuille précisément être paralysé et que l’on ait des raisons pour cela.

Même l’aide non létale arrivait lentement et en petite quantité, conduisant certains observateurs à soupçonner que l’Administration voulait à présent que le régime Assad survive pour faire contrepoids aux jihadistes sunnites. (Peu importait l’égarement qui lui avait fait déclarer « Assad doit partir » lorsqu’on avait l’impression que c’était ce qui allait se produire.) Du coup, certains allèrent jusqu’à affirmer que la passivité en Syrie était un élément de négociation pour amadouer les Iraniens. C’est bien possible. Maintenant que nous connaissons l’étendue et les dates des contacts secrets avec l’Iran, menés en partie par l’ambassadeur Jeffrey Feltman depuis son poste de l’ONU à New York, on peut imaginer lebody language des Américains, voire leur langage au sens propre. Ils ont effectivement pu tenir ce discours aux Iraniens : « Écoutez, faites ce que vous voulez en Syrie ; nous, Américains, n’avons pas l’intention de nous ingérer dans vos relations avec vos voisins. Nous ne cherchons même pas à renverser le régime. » Et, comme preuve de l’absence d’intentions agressives, on a très bien pu évoquer les débuts de la politique d’« engagement » de l’Administration, qui a conduit les États-Unis à adopter une attitude réservée lors du soulèvement de l’opposition verte en 2009.

On reviendra plus loin sur le dossier iranien, mais il est essentiel de comprendre que, dès le départ, l’Administration Obama a considéré la Syrie comme un sous-problème de moindre importance dans le cadre d’une politique centrée sur l’Iran. En cela, elle était dans la ligne des précédentes Administrations. Les États-Unis n’ont en fait jamais eu de politique spécifique à l’égard de la Syrie. Notre ligne vis-à-vis de celle-ci a toujours été un dérivé de politiques plus importantes – relations arabo-israéliennes, Irak, Turquie, Liban, etc. Par le passé, cette tendance a eu de très malheureuses conséquences, permettant même au régime syrien de tuer des Américains et de s’en prendre par ailleurs à des intérêts américains – comme en Irak, par exemple – sans en payer vraiment le prix. Cette fois-ci, elle paraissait au moins un peu plus logique.

On peut bien sûr soutenir qu’une politique américaine plus énergique à l’égard du régime Assad aurait assuré plus d’efficacité à sa politique iranienne, mais ce n’est pas l’approche adoptée par l’Administration Obama. Les Iraniens ne craignaient plus les programmes d’ADM irakiens, tournure des événements assez ironique compte tenu de l’attitude du Président à l’égard de la guerre en Irak. Je subodore en outre que l’Administration pensait que, si le régime iranien cessait de nous considérer comme une menace mortelle, son analyse en termes de coûts-avantages de l’acquisition d’armes nucléaires s’en trouverait modifiée. Nous pouvions en augmenter le coût par des sanctions et réduire par la diplomatie les avantages d’une politique aussi risquée – et nous pourrions peut-être traduire cette nouvelle approche iranienne par un accord officiel. Mais revenons pour l’instant à la Syrie.

Les lignes rouges

La passivité américaine face à la guerre civile syrienne se prolongeant, le cours de la bataille tourna à l’avantage du régime. Il est clair que l’une des raisons de la passivité initiale des États-Unis était l’impression, confirmée par les évaluations des services de renseignement, que les rebelles allaient gagner, avec ou sans notre aide. On en voyait la preuve dans les défections de sunnites de premier plan, tels Manaf Tlass et d’autres. Mais, comme c’est le cas depuis très longtemps en Syrie, les sunnites ne parvinrent pas à s’entendre entre eux ni à coopérer vraiment pour passer de leurs premiers succès à la phase de destruction du régime. Pendant ce temps, les Russes déversaient des armes et des conseillers, dont certains s’étaient battus en Tchétchénie, et les Iraniens, via le Hezbollah et les brigades al-Qods, commençaient à apporter une aide décisive à Assad. Le cours de la guerre se renversa. Mais l’Administration Obama n’agit pas davantage – si ce n’est que sa politique se concentra dès lors sur les armes chimiques syriennes : la Maison-Blanche traça la première des deux « lignes rouges » contre l’emploi d’armes chimiques.

J’imagine que le Président pensait que la première ligne rouge sur les armes chimiques ne l’engageait pas – c’était un moyen de paraître fort et impliqué, sans prendre le moindre risque. À ce moment-là, aucune arme chimique n’avait été utilisée pendant les combats. C’était profondément méconnaître le régime alaouite et ses dirigeants. L’Administration aurait dû faire plus attention à l’habileté que les Syriens mettaient à humilier Kofi Annan et au plaisir qu’ils en retiraient. En fait, le régime syrien n’aurait peut-être jamais utilisé d’armes chimiques si le Président Obama ne l’avait pas mis en garde contre leur emploi – en vérité, aucune raison strictement militaire ne les y obligeait. Sentant la réticence d’Obama à s’engager militairement, le régime syrien fit ce qu’il sait le mieux faire : intimider, provoquer et croiser le fer psychologiquement avec une partie moins engagée. De plus, en utilisant les armes chimiques sans avoir à en payer le prix, il narguait les rebelles en leur signalant qu’il était très vraisemblable que les Américains les laisseraient tomber.

Vint alors la seconde ligne rouge sur les armes chimiques et nous nous souvenons tous de ce qui suivit. N’ayant utilisé auparavant qu’une très petite quantité d’armes chimiques pour tester la réponse américaine (il n’y en eut pas), les Syriens les employèrent alors à grande échelle et de façon manifeste. Certains Américains crédules (dont l’éminent James Fallows) affirmèrent que l’opposition avait fait cela en catimini pour incriminer le régime, mais nefirent qu’étaler leur ignorance et leur mauvais jugement. Les Russes étaient eux aussi enclins à croire ce mensonge, mais on n’en attendait pas moins d’eux en tant que conseils d’Assad.

Au milieu de tous ces nocifs gaz virtuels, de peur d’être obligée d’agir, l’Administration s’efforça d’ignorer les preuves d’emploi réitéré d’armes chimiques. Il devint trop embarrassant de persister dans cette attitude, dans la mesure où les preuves s’accumulaient, venues de partout, y compris des services de renseignement français et britannique. Alors, l’Administration se mit soudain en colère et se prépara à agir, allant jusqu’à envoyer en Méditerranée six navires équipés de missiles de croisière. Mais, tout aussi subitement, après que les Britanniques lui eurent retiré leur soutien en raison de l’opposition imprévue de leur Parlement, Obama décida de ne pas se montrer moins démocrate que la Grande-Bretagne et de demander l’approbation du Congrès.

On ne sait toujours pas vraiment si Obama pensait obtenir cet accord ou s’il savait que ce ne serait pas le cas et qu’il pourrait ainsi blâmer le Congrès de l’empêcher de faire une chose qu’il n’avait jamais vraiment voulu faire. Quoi qu’il en soit, au cours de cet épisode, l’Administration laissa entendre qu’il s’agirait d’une attaque « très réduite » avec des armes commandées à distance – absurde et fâcheuse remarque de Kerry, destinée à tranquilliser les sceptiques au Congrès, inquiets d’un risque de dérive. Le Président se sentit obligé de le contredire en public (« l’armée américaine ne fait pas de piqûres d’épingle »). Mais le mal était fait ; la langue du secrétaire d’État avait fourché, privant une éventuelle attaque de la plus grande partie de son impact, avant qu’on ait même posé le doigt sur la gâchette. Finalement, comme on le sait, après avoir fait naître de faux espoirs, le Président prit le contre-pied de la plupart de ses assistants et renonça à l’usage de la force contre un simulacre d’accord sur les armes chimiques conclu sous l’égide des Russes.

Il n’y a rien de mal à éliminer les armes chimiques syriennes, compte tenu du risque d’effondrement de l’État syrien, mais cet accord n’élimine pas toutes les armes chimiques de Syrie. Il ne met fin qu’à celles que le régime a déclarées – et nous n’avons aucun moyen fiable de vérifier l’existence de ce qu’il a passé sous silence. Il est très probable que les armes les plus modernes et les plus létales n’ont pas été déclarées, laissant la soi-disant communauté internationale – essentiellement les États-Unis, comme c’était prévisible – jouer le rôle de ramasseur d’ordures de produits dangereux, qui plus est en prenant les frais en charge.

Il était extrêmement douloureux de voir le Président passer de ligne rouge en ligne rouge, puis au subterfuge du Congrès et enfin au gilet de sauvetage diplomatique russe (qui n’était pas aussi improvisé que l’Administration a voulu le faire croire à l’époque). Le nouveau conseiller à la Sécurité nationale, Susan Rice, s’est révélée parfaitement incompétente en présidant, ou en essayant de présider, à la recherche de l’excuse la plus embarrassante que j’aie jamais vue dans un processus de décision en politique étrangère.

Et pour quel résultat ? Premièrement, comme beaucoup de gens l’ont fait remarquer, l’accord sur les armes chimiques légitimait Assad et le transformait en partenaire pour la mise en œuvre de l’accord – en contradiction directe avec la politique du « Assad doit partir ». Le retard mis à évacuer les produits chimiques du pays a fait ressortir la même contradiction. La Syrie étant une zone de guerre, il fallait sécuriser le transport par voie de terre avant de transférer les produits chimiques vers un port. Or qui rendait le transport par voie de terre problématique ? Nos alliés putatifs, l’Armée syrienne libre (ASL) et ses associés. Nous étions donc obligés de nous plaindre que nos alliés retardaient la mise en œuvre d’un accord que nous avions conclu avec leur ennemi, qui est aussi le nôtre. En d’autres termes, nous voulions à présent que la partie, que nous souhaitions voir gagner, perde temporairement et localement pour faire progresser un accord de contrôle d’armement largement cosmétique et totalement dissocié du reste de la guerre civile. Si ce n’est pas la preuve de l’incohérence et de l’irresponsabilité de cette politique, je me demande bien ce que c’est.

Indépendamment de l’impression produite aux États-Unis, l’ASL l’a interprétée comme une trahison, de même que les Saoudiens. Le régime syrien a accéléré ses opérations militaires dans la foulée de l’accord sur les armes chimiques ; une fois Assad certain que les États-Unis n’emploieraient pas la force, il a risqué le tout pour le tout en essayant d’écraser l’opposition. Il s’est concentré sur le tissu conjonctif reliant la région de Damas à la province de Lattaquié (où la bataille pour al-Qusayr a été déterminante – il suffit de regarder une carte) et, plus au nord, pour reprendre Alep. Il a depuis bien progressé dans ces deux zones.
Genève II

Pourquoi se dépêcher ? La raison en était la conférence de Genève II, qui devait avoir lieu en mai dernier et qui a finalement eu lieu en janvier 2014.

En juin 2012, neuf nations se sont retrouvées à Genève, la majorité d’entre elles pour essayer de travailler à un régime de transition sans Assad. Mais deux d’entre elles voulaient tout le contraire : c’est-à-dire pas d’accord sur cette question. La réunion du Groupe d’Action, nom qui lui fut donné, constituait l’ultime effort de Kofi Annan, parrainé par l’ONU, pour arrêter la guerre. Comme il fallait s’y attendre, elle échoua, de même que toutes les autres tentatives d’Annan. La Russie et la Chine bloquèrent toute formule appelant au départ d’Assad. On s’entendit sur une déclaration constituant le plus petit commun dénominateur : elle mentionnait sans grande conviction la nécessité de créer un régime de transition, sans dire explicitement qu’Assad ne pourrait pas en faire partie. Elle indique en effet que ce régime « pourra comprendre des membres de l’actuel gouvernement et de l’opposition ainsi que d’autres groupes et sera formé sur la base du consentement mutuel ».

Le reste du communiqué relevait largement de l’ineptie et de l’utopie : s’agissant de chimériques cessez-le-feu, de la démocratie dans une zone qui ne l’avait jamais connue en quatre mille ans. Il comportait en outre des éléments involontairement humoristiques. Alors que des innocents étaient massacrés par milliers par leur propre gouvernement, les rédacteurs de l’ONU prirent le temps de réclamer que des femmes soient représentées à toutes les phases de la transition. Ce qui était vraiment gentil.

À l’approche de Genève II, tout se mit peu à peu à menacer de dérailler. L’irresponsabi lité et l’incohérence de cette politique apparurent de nouveau au grand jour. Dans un contexte où des groupes rebelles s’étaient lancés dans des luttes violentes et fratricides et où le régime avait pris l’avantage, notamment dans la région d’Alep, le gouvernement américain essaya d’obtenir de la coalition de l’ASL qu’elle assiste à la réunion de Genève II. Mais cette coalition compte 144 groupes et les récents combats contre l’État islamique d’Irak et du Levant (ISIS) l’avaient encore plus divisée. La plupart des groupes d’opposition ne voulaient pas y aller à moins que la conférence ne prévoie expressément le départ d’Assad. C’est pourquoi Kerry a répété avant Genève II que c’était précisément le sens que les États-Unis donnaient à cette conférence. Toutefois, la présence de certains groupes d’opposition, alors que nombre d’entre eux n’y participeraient pas, risquait d’accentuer les divisions et donc d’affaiblir la coalition militaire sur le terrain en Syrie.

Je n’arrive pas à comprendre comment le Département d’État peut faire cette lecture du communiqué du 30 juin 2012. Ce n’est pas la lettre du texte et ce n’est certainement pas la lecture qu’en font le régime syrien ou les Russes. Kerry a accusé les Syriens de « révisionnisme » dans leur interprétation du document du 30 juin 2012, mais l’accusation peut tout aussi aisément lui être retournée. C’est ainsi que le secrétaire général de l’ONU, Ban Ki-Moon, a pu inviter les Iraniens à la dernière minute, invitation à laquelle le gouvernement américain s’est opposé tout en semblant l’encourager. Les dernières semaines, Kerry avait en effet paru très soucieux que les Iraniens soient associés à la conférence, mais pas en tant que participants, puisqu’ils étaient censés ne pas accepter l’interprétation américaine des termes de la conférence. Cependant, les Iraniens pouvaient approuver la lettre du communiqué du 30 juin 2012, qui ne préjugeait d’aucune manière de l’avenir d’Assad. C’est pourquoi Moon, qui sait lire, les avait invités.

Ce qui mit Kerry en colère. Aucun secrétaire d’État américain n’aime qu’un type de l’ONU vienne lui couper l’herbe sous le pied, qui plus est sans avertissement et à un moment particulièrement sensible. Le Département d’État a donc demandé à Moon de retirer l’invitation faite à l’Iran, alors même que c’était le body language américain, engageant à l’égard de l’Iran, qui l’avait probablement convaincu de la lancer. Moon s’est rapidement exécuté, mais à contrecœur. L’annulation de l’invitation a épargné au gouvernement américain de devoir se retirer de la conférence qu’il parrainait, événement dans lequel nous avions assidûment et futilement mis tant de vains et faux espoirs.

Mais cela aurait peut-être été préférable. Compte tenu de la situation sur le terrain et du refus des États-Unis de faire quoi que ce soit, même de vaguement efficace, cette conférence ne pouvait aboutir à ce que l’Administration en espérait. Les adversaires ne veulent pas démordre de leur vision d’un jeu à somme nulle et les parrains de la conférence ne sont pas d’accord sur le fond, c’est-à-dire sur ses objectifs. L’échec américain sera donc vu dans toute la région comme la confirmation de l’impuissance américaine et comme une victoire d’Assad, des Iraniens, des Russes et de la brutalité totalement impitoyable exercée contre des populations civiles. J’avoue ne pas comprendre pourquoi nous devrions avoir envie d’en être complices.

Se lamenter du peu de chances de réussite de ce round de la diplomatie de Genève, tout en soulignant que « c’est la seule chose qu’il nous reste à essayer » – des responsables américains ont bien dit en public des choses de ce genre –, montre seulement, une fois encore, que la diplomatie peut bel et bien être nocive si les dirigeants ne parviennent pas à comprendre que la force et la diplomatie sont complémentaires et non opposées. Bêler que ce n’est que le début d’un long processus ou que la conférence encouragera des défections au sein du régime ou qu’une vision alternative à la guerre est en soi utile est une pure sottise. On n’arrête pas une véritable guerre civile avec des cartes de vœux rédigées de manière bien sentie ni avec une bouillie débile sur « comment réussir une négociation ». Tout ce que cette conférence a fait, fait et fera est de multiplier encore le nombre de morts tandis que les deux parties cherchent à prendre l’avantage militaire sur le terrain.

Vous faut-il un autre exemple de la nocivité que peut avoir une diplomatie bornée ? Alors que Genève II approchait, les États-Unis se sont officiellement associés à la Russie pour tenter de persuader les deux parties de déclarer des cessez-le-feu avant la conférence, y voyant un moyen de mettre fin définitivement à la guerre. Mais il y a des preuves incontes tables sur le terrain que le régime syrien offre non des cessez-le-feu locaux, mais des conditions de reddition. En échange de doses homéopathiques de nourriture et de médicaments, le régime demande aux civils assiégés de faire flotter le drapeau syrien au-dessus de la ville ou des alentours. Mais, dès que des agents du régime entrent dans la ville, ils exigent qu’on leur dise où se trouvent les combattants rebelles, arrêtent quelques personnes et abattent purement et simplement ceux qui essaient de s’enfuir. Ce sont des « cessez-le-feu » à la mode tchétchène. John Kerry peut-il vraiment l’ignorer ? Et, s’il le sait, comment peut-il les encourager ? Est-il cynique au point d’être prêt à trahir sciemment des alliés des États-Unis pour mettre fin à la guerre ?

Quoi qu’il s’y passe, le spectacle de Genève II déshonore d’ores et déjà la grande tradition du leadership politique américain. Mieux vaudrait que cette ombre jetée sur notre politique se limite au Proche-Orient. On peut néanmoins se demander ce que, par exemple, les responsables japonais pensent au fond d’eux-mêmes en ce moment. Quant à Kerry, il se borne, apparemment, à répéter qu’il faut laisser une chance à la politique d’apaisement.

Miser sur l’Iran ?

Ce qui nous ramène à l’Iran. Les équipes techniques sont parvenues à un accord sur le nucléaire qui devrait entrer en application. Ce qui est une bonne chose, pour le moment, malgré les défauts de cet accord. La brièveté de sa durée d’application (six mois seulement) et la capitulation de l’Occident sur le principe de l’enrichissement de l’uranium rendent plus probable une éventuelle bombe iranienne, et non l’inverse. Comme j’ai déjà eu l’occasion de le dire, seule la perspective d’un changement dans les relations américano-iraniennes, indépendamment de tout accord, peut justifier que l’on prenne ce risque. Or quelle est la probabilité de ce changement ?

Elle n’est pas égale à zéro, mais elle n’est pas très élevée non plus. Si les Iraniens n’ont plus peur que les Américains tentent de renverser leur régime et s’ils croient que cette Administration-là n’est pas obsédée par l’épouvantail de l’hégémonie régionale iranienne, il est possible qu’ils se disent qu’ils n’ont pas besoin d’une capacité nucléaire complète pour nous dissuader. Ce qui résout le problème, au moins pour les trois prochaines années : l’Iran ne franchira pas le seuil nucléaire tant que persistera cet engagement diplomatique. Si les États-Unis doivent payer encore et encore pour le préserver, comme cela semble très possible, le coût ne sera pas excessif – poursuit le raisonnement – s’il s’agit d’éviter une guerre. Et ne vous trompez pas : l’Administration continue à déclarer, comme émanant d’une décision présidentielle, douloureuse et de longue haleine, mais censée être à toute épreuve, que l’objectif de cette politique est et demeure la prévention et non la dissuasion. (Nous revient alors en mémoire la remarque de Bob Gates : « La parole de cette Maison-Blanche ne signifie rien. »)

Ce type d’approche par paiement au forfait me rappelle un merveilleux passage de Mon nom est Aram de William Saroyan : « Si vous donnez à un voleur, il ne peut plus vous voler et n’est donc plus un voleur. » Je ne veux pas dire par là que la politique d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran n’est que de l’apaisement. C’est une interprétation de ses motivations, mais on peut l’envisager autrement. Il faut pour cela mélanger les niveaux d’analyse en faisant preuve d’inventivité.

Il est possible, comme l’ont soutenu certains, que l’Administration Obama ait une grande théorie, une stratégie ambitieuse, considérant qu’une entente avec l’Iran est le meilleur moyen de protéger la région et le monde de la menace durable que fait peser le radicalisme des jihadistes sunnites. Il est possible que l’Administration veuille s’appuyer sur les chiites pour contrebalancer la prolifération de franchises d’Al-Qaïda dans la région et au-delà de celle-ci et qu’elle pense que le prix à payer à court terme en vaut la peine. Ce prix comporterait une grave détérioration de nos relations avec l’Arabie Saoudite, qui a déjà commencé, mais, pourraient dire ses partisans, et après ? Auprès de qui d’autre les Saoudiens iraient-ils chercher une protection ? Le prix implique aussi une tension dans nos relations avec Israël : il nous faudrait le prier de nous faire confiance, afin qu’il nous soutienne au cas où les choses tourneraient mal. Ce qui rend les Israéliens nerveux, mais n’a rien d’excentrique s’agissant d’une politique de puissance – et il est certain que les jihadistes sunnites doivent inquiéter les Israéliens autant que leurs ennemis chiites inspirés par les Iraniens.

Le complément de ce raisonnement est que la crainte de l’hégémonie iranienne est largement exagérée. L’Iran n’est pas une si grande puissance. Son budget militaire annuel n’atteint même pas les rallonges budgétaires américaines de ces dernières années de guerre. La supériorité militaire technique des États-Unis sur l’Iran est quasiment écrasante. Plus encore, que signifie vraiment l’hégémonie régionale de l’Iran ? Quelles en sont les limites probables et naturelles ?

Une puissance perse et chiite fait penser à des anticorps naturels dans une région arabe et majoritairement sunnite. L’influence iranienne pourrait faire une grande différence au Bahreïn, où un régime sunnite minoritaire gouverne et opprime une majorité chiite ; elle pourrait peut-être faire une différence dans la province Al-Hasa, en Arabie Saoudite, où se trouvent tout à la fois la majorité des chiites et du pétrole du pays. Quant à l’Irak, nous savons déjà que l’Iran peut avoir une vraie forme d’influence à Bagdad, tant que les chiites sont au pouvoir, mais cela ne signifie pas pour autant qu’il dicte et contrôle tout ce qui s’y passe. L’Iran peut semer la pagaille de manière peu probante au Liban, mais la politique libanaise est structurellement peu probante – il ne peut donc en attendre de bénéfices durables. Les Iraniens peuvent fournir des armes aux Houthis chiites au Yémen, comme ils le font depuis peu ; mais quel intérêt vital les États-Unis ont-ils au Yémen, si ce n’est empêcher ce pays de devenir un terreau pour Al-Qaïda ? Et, bien sûr, les Iraniens peuvent s’allier aux alaouites en Syrie, bien que les chiites duodécimains et les alaouites n’aient pas grand-chose en commun en dehors de leur antipathie pour les sunnites.

En d’autres termes, même avec les dysfonctionnement des pays arabes, l’idée que, d’une manière ou d’une autre, les Iraniens pourraient recréer un empire territorial ayant un contrôle absolu – du genre de celui des Empires achéménide, sassanide ou safavide – au Proche-Orient actuel est une vue de l’esprit. Ils peuvent provoquer des troubles dans certaines zones, mais, sans une sérieuse capacité nucléaire, l’Iran ne peut attaquer ni conquérir la Palestine ou tout autre État du Levant ou du Golfe. Dans un siècle ou deux, les arabophones seront toujours au moins 280 millions, contrairement aux persanophones. Si la politique américaine peut maintenir l’Iran au-dessous d’une sérieuse capacité nucléaire, quel danger y a-t-il donc à laisser Téhéran s’empêtrer dans d’interminables conflits débilitants avec différents pays arabes et sunnites ? Et, si les Russes veulent les y aider, ils sont en droit de venir eux aussi piétiner en vain le bac à sable. Ils finiront probablement par le regretter (amèrement).

Ne prenons pas cela trop à la légère. Il n’est certainement pas sans risques qu’après avoir fourni des équipements de sécurité à la région pendant plusieurs décennies, les États-Unis décident soudain qu’ils ont « surinvesti » dans cette région, pour reprendre l’intempestive formule de Ben Rhodes qui a fait l’objet d’une fuite. Certains de nos partenaires commencent à envisager des contre-alliances, tandis que d’autres étudient de nouvelles formes d’autodéfense. Nous n’avons pas envie que l’Arabie Saoudite obtienne une bombe nucléaire grâce au Pakistan. Pire encore, la guerre confessionnelle a tendance à multiplier les radicaux et à marginaliser (ou à éliminer) les modérés, ce qui n’est pas non plus dans l’intérêt de notre sécurité à long terme. Soutenir tacitement Assad et ses parrains iraniens, ou être seulement considérés comme le faisant, ne peut qu’encourager le radicalisme sunnite dans la région et au-delà. C’est donc une chose d’imaginer que, si nous nous désengageons du Proche-Orient et que nous laissons jouer les équilibres naturels, ceux-ci mettront entre parenthèses les dangers que court cette région, et c’en est une autre de survivre à la transition d’un type de régime de sécurité à un autre.

Boucle d’or

Je soupçonne les responsables de cette Administration de comprendre assez bien tout cela. Je doute qu’Obama et Kerry « rêvent certainement d’un coup de maître du genre de celui de Nixon en Chine » sur l’Iran et qu’ils voient « sans aucun doute l’Iran et ses alliés chiites comme des partenaires potentiels dans le combat contre le jihadisme sunnite ». Ceux qui, pendant le premier mandat, ont participé au plus haut niveau aux délibérations sur des questions de ce genre décrivent le Président comme très méfiant à l’égard des coups ambitieux et très sceptique sur les motivations des Iraniens. Des mots tels que « certainement » et « sans aucun doute » n’ont en aucun cas leur place dans un débat de ce genre. Lorsque, plus récemment, Obama n’a pas donné à l’accord nucléaire plus de 50 % de chances de réussir, il manifestait là aussi scepticisme et réserve.

Je ne pense donc pas que le Président ait une théorie stratégique explicite sur le dossier du Proche-Orient. Je n’entends tourner aucun des mécanismes de Kissinger. Ses orientations à l’égard de la région ressemblent plus à celles de George H. W. Bush : il a des intuitions, des instincts. Et ceux-ci lui soufflent qu’obtenir ce qu’on veut dans cette partie du monde est très difficile et le devient de plus en plus, dans la mesure où la possibilité d’avoir un interlocuteur unique – dont nous « jouissions » en ayant pour alliés des régimes arabes autoritaires et stables – n’est plus ce qu’elle était. Je pense que Rhodes orientait Obama à toutes fins utiles en écrivant ce qui suit à Jeffrey Goldberg :

« En politique étrangère, les États-Unis prennent des décisions fondées sur nos intérêts. Il n’est pas dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique d’avoir des troupes dans chaque conflit du Proche-Orient ou d’y être en permanence impliqués dans des guerres sans fin.

Il est de notre intérêt de déployer d’importants efforts diplomatiques – et des ressources – pour essayer de résoudre des conflits et de renforcer les capacités de nos partenaires, ce qui est exactement ce que nous faisons.

L’idée qu’il y ait eu jadis une époque où nous dictions les affaires intérieures des pays du Proche-Orient n’est pas conforme aux faits. Lorsque nous avions bien plus d’une centaine de milliers de troupes en Irak, nous n’avons pas été capables de façonner la réalité politique de ce pays ni de mettre fin à la haine religieuse.

Qui plus est, l’idée que nous soyons désengagés est fausse puisque nous sommes plus engagés dans la région que toute autre nation – pour parvenir à un accord sur le programme nucléaire iranien, faire progresser la paix entre Israël et la Palestine, détruire les réserves d’armes chimiques syriennes, contrer Al-Qaïda et ses associés, assurer la sécurité d’Israël et de nos partenaires du Golfe et soutenir la transition vers la démocratie du Yémen à la Libye. »

Rhodes écrivant à un journaliste, il y a nécessairement du baratin là-dedans – surtout vers la fin. Notre « engagement » est avant tout de la frime ; il s’agit d’en donner l’impression, parce qu’en l’absence de toute volonté de prendre des risques et de le faire durablement, il ne peut en aller autrement. Notre diplomatie vis-à-vis de la Syrie pose problème, notre diplomatie sur la question arabo-israélienne n’aboutira pas à la paix, l’accord avec l’Iran finira peut-être bien, mais peut-être pas, il n’y aura pas de transition démocratique en Libye ni au Yémen, etc. Il s’agit donc de l’une de ces nombreuses déclarations qui est vraie en paroles, mais non en intention. L’intention est de faire passer notre passivité pour autre chose que ce qu’elle est et de la faire paraître à la fois avisée et prudente.

La vérité est que nous sommes face au problème classique de Boucle d’or. Nous ne voulons pas en faire trop peu, parce que cela comporte des risques, mais nous ne voulons pas non plus en faire trop, parce que cela comporte aussi des risques. Il est difficile de trouver le « juste » degré et même les gens honnêtes et bien informés peuvent ne pas s’entendre sur ce qu’est ce « juste » degré. Je pense personnellement que le Président sous-estime les coûts et les risques cumulatifs d’en faire trop peu, qui ne se limitent pas au Proche-Orient. Mais je ne pense pas qu’il faille lui attribuer des objectifs très ambitieux et discutables. De très nombreuses « doctrines » présidentielles ont été créées par des observateurs extérieurs qui essayaient de donner plus de cohérence aux idées d’une Administration qu’elles n’en avaient vraiment. Par pitié, n’inventons pas de toutes pièces une Doctrine Obama.

Et, bien sûr, même si l’Administration Obama recherchait un grand et nouvel équilibre régional avec les mollahs perses, le Président doit savoir qu’il n’y a aucune garantie que ce nouvel ordre régional soit assez attirant pour nous dispenser d’avoir une politique. L’effondrement de la Syrie et de l’Irak en tant qu’États pose des problèmes de zone grise au contre-terrorisme ; on pourrait dire que c’est aussi ce qui risque d’arriver à la Libye et à d’autres pays. Être moins intrusifs dans la région ne ferait pas nécessairement de nous des cibles moins privilégiées. Être vus comme acoquinés à l’Iran pourrait bel et bien nous transformer en cibles encore plus privilégiées. Les équilibres locaux ne résoudront pas tous nos problèmes actuels et risquent même d’en créer.
L’Irak à nouveau en crise

Ce qui nous amène tout naturellement à l’Irak où l’enfer s’est (à nouveau) déchaîné. Sous la forme d’ISIS, Al-Qaïda est de retour et garde le contrôle de Ramadi et Falluja. Les efforts menés depuis Bagdad pour que les chefs tribaux persuadent ISIS de quitter ces villes n’ont pas réussi et ont peut-être même débouché sur un nouveau pacte sunnite dirigé contre Maliki à Bagdad. À ce jour, Al-Qaïda a aussi placé Bagdad en mode verrouillage : les démons se rapprochent. Et tout le monde en Irak croit encore en son for intérieur qu’au combat, un sunnite des tribus du désert vaut à lui seul une centaine de villageois chiites froussards. C’est la tradition, c’est la perception et, du même coup, c’est dans une certaine mesure la réalité. Une avant-garde sunnite, islamiste ou non, pourrait-elle faire peu de cas d’une armée chiite, bien plus importante sur le papier, mais en train de se désintégrer, et atteindre Bagdad ? Évidemment qu’elle le pourrait. Celui qui en doute encore n’a toujours rien compris à l’Irak.

Dans ces conditions, l’Administration Obama devrait-elle accéder à la demande de fournitures d’armes et de formations émanant du Premier ministre Maliki ? C’est tentant. N’ayant pas réussi à obtenir un accord SOFA, nous pourrions à présent garantir que la structure de commandement irakienne reste américaine pour de nombreuses années et sauver quelque chose de la relation de travail que nous envisagions avec l’Irak il y a quelques années. Si nous l’aidons, nous pourrions obtenir de lui qu’il ferme le couloir aérien entre l’Iran et la Syrie (mais voulons-nous vraiment fermer ce couloir ?). La plupart des Américains impliqués dans la politique de guerre souhaitent que nous agissions ainsi et se disent en mesure de livrer rapidement ce matériel.

Je comprends ces raisons et j’y crois jusqu’à un certain point. Maliki a besoin de nous, nous pouvons donc peut-être l’aider et le persuader ainsi de gouverner de manière plus inclusive. Pour l’instant, il s’est révélé être un crétin sectaire et maladroit. Nous avons intérêt à ce que l’Irak ne se désintègre pas complètement et, pour cela, il faut à Bagdad un gouvernement qui soit plus réellement national que d’esprit sectaire. Mais que se passera-t-il si l’on ne parvient pas à maîtriser les sunnites, quelle que soit la quantité d’armes que nous envoyons ou le nombre d’officiers irakiens que nous promettons de former ?

Que décidera le Président et quand le décidera-t-il ? S’il est d’accord avec l’idée que nous sommes trop investis dans la région et qu’il doute de la capacité de tiers à s’engager délibérément dans une région comme l’Irak, il pourrait être tenté d’ignorer Maliki. Si l’Irak se désagrège complètement, il pourra faire ce qu’il fait le mieux : en rendre George W. Bush entièrement responsable. (Ce qu’il devrait faire, si cela se produit, est se coordonner avec la Turquie pour reconnaître le Gouvernement régional kurde comme un État indépendant, mais il ne le fera pas.)

D’un autre côté, l’effondrement de l’État irakien est en soi une mauvaise chose pour nous et son effondrement ou la victoire des sunnites radicaux là-bas aggravera encore la situation en Syrie. C’est une grave décision et aucune théorie globale sur ce dossier ne peut la faciliter. Mon sentiment est qu’en définitive, c’est la politique qui l’emportera, comme c’est habituellement le cas dans cette Administration. Lorsque le Président envisage la perspective que des armes américaines et des soldats américains, fût-ce comme formateurs, retournent en Irak, il a un mouvement de recul. Je pense qu’il calera. Je me demande si les secrétaires d’État Hagel et Kerry ont une idée là-dessus et si c’est la même. Ah, pouvoir être une petite souris pendant une réunion des responsables sur cette question !
La structure mentale du Président

Si j’ai raison de soutenir que le Président Obama a des instincts et des intuitions, mais pas de grande et ambitieuse stratégie pour le Proche-Orient, a-t-il néanmoins quelque chose de plus précis à l’esprit, replaçant le Proche-Orient dans un cadre global plus vaste ?

La réponse à cette question est la même : le Président n’est pas, je pense, un homme qui a confiance dans l’exercice d’une stratégie formelle, mais il ne fonctionne pas non plus complètement au cas par cas. Il croit probablement que les États-Unis sont effectivement trop investis au Proche-Orient et pas assez en Asie. D’où l’idée du pivot et peu importe qu’on l’ait sabotée en la présentant comme une proposition alternative. Selon toute vraisemblance, il s’est un jour demandé quel était le pire scénario pour le Proche-Orient. Ce qui se passerait si tout allait mal. En quoi cela affecterait vraiment les intérêts vitaux de l’Amérique. Non ses engagements traditionnels, non sa réputation, non ses obligations découlant de l’habitude et pas d’une approche nouvelle – mais ses authentiques intérêts vitaux. Et sa réponse a probablement été que, sauf réaction en chaîne en matière de prolifération d’ADM, les conséquences seraient minimes.

Une fois encore, je doute qu’Obama déploie consciemment ici une logique stratégique explicite ou formalisée ou qu’il accepte les théories universitaires du réalisme bienveillant ou de l’équilibre naturel. Mais je pense qu’il se rend compte qu’après le relatif immobilisme de la Guerre froide, le monde est devenu globalement plus confus ; que le degré de contrôle que peuvent donner les relations interétatiques traditionnelles sur une zone aux enjeux importants a baissé à mesure que, grâce aux nouvelles cyber-technologies, les mobilisations populaires et populistes se sont accrues aux niveaux à la fois sous-étatique et trans-étatique. Le Proche-Orient est certainement bien plus compliqué et confus, même si ce n’est pas, ou pas encore, le cas du reste du monde.

À mon avis, cette intuition a eu pour effet de rendre le Président Obama encore plus hostile au risque de manière générale et en particulier dans une région où il manque à tout le moins d’expérience et en son for intérieur d’assurance. Il est visiblement mal à l’aise lorsque ses conseillers sont divisés. Comme un juge, il essaie de trouver un dénominateur commun entre eux, ce qui est une bonne chose dans un travail de militant associatif, mais pas nécessairement en politique étrangère. Lorsque ses conseillers se livrent à une pensée de groupe, ce qu’ils font de plus en plus depuis le départ de Gates et de Donilon, ou lorsque aucun d’eux ne fait d’objections sérieuses à quelque chose (par exemple à la lubie de Kerry sur la paix israélo-palestinienne), il est satisfait de s’investir dans la gestion de son image – la twitterisation de la politique étrangère américaine en quelque sorte – parce qu’il sait qu’il ne peut tout simplement pas ignorer toutes ces choses.

La sensibilité du Président aux limites a également tendance à rendre sa politique réactive et ses objectifs réels modestes. Aussi, dans la confusion qu’est le Proche-Orient aujourd’hui, il veut que l’Irak soit gouverné de manière plus inclusive. Il veut que la Syrie et la Libye soient gouvernées, point. Il veut que l’Égypte soit stable et il n’est pas très regardant sur la manière dont cela peut se faire. Il veut que l’Iran n’ait pas d’armes nucléaires et il est prêt à beaucoup de choses pour l’empêcher par la diplomatie car il pense probablement que les dirigeants iraniens ne peuvent pas aujourd’hui exercer leur volonté au-delà de leurs frontières avec plus de réel succès que nous.

Il ne semble avoir d’idées précises et ne souhaiter agir préventivement que pour empêcher que des attaques terroristes tuent des citoyens américains, en particulier sur le sol des États-Unis. D’où son goût pour les attaques de drones, sa tolérance à l’égard de Guantánamo, son refus d’émasculer une série de programmes de la NSA, sauf à la marge, et son soutien généreux à l’ouverture discrète dans le monde entier de bases petites, mais puissantes, pour les forces spéciales.

Cet ensemble de positions n’est ni de l’apaissement ni de l’isolationnisme. Ce n’est manifestement pas non plus du maximalisme stratégique. C’est quelque chose d’intermédiaire et dans cet entre-deux, suspendu entre des attentes héritées du passé et des hésitations dues au flou de l’avenir, les choses deviennent parfois étranges ou pénibles lorsqu’il faut prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions. Étrange, comme Genève II.

Docteur (PhD) de l’université de Pennsylvanie). Fondateur et editor de la revue The American Interest. De 2002 à 2005, a été assistant du secrétaire d’État. Ancieneditor de The National Interest. A enseigné à John Hopkins University, à l’université de Pennsylvanie et à Haverford College. A été un des collaborateur du sénateur H. M. Jackson. Parmi ses livres : Jewcentricity : How the Jews Get Praised, Blamed and Used to Explain Nearly Everything (Wiley, 2009) et The Origin and Impact of the Vietnam Antiwar Movement (St. Martin’s, 1995).

What Hasn’t the U.S. Given Up in the Iran Negotiations?

Charles Krauthammer

The National Review

April 9 2015

Under Obama’s proposed deal, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would remain intact, with the centrifuges spinning. “Negotiations . . . to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability . . .” — Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the Wall Street Journal, April 8

It was but a year and a half ago that Barack Obama endorsed the objective of abolition when he said that Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow nuclear facility, its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor, and its advanced centrifuges were all unnecessary for a civilian nuclear program. The logic was clear: Since Iran was claiming to be pursuing an exclusively civilian program, these would have to go.

Yet under the deal Obama is now trying to sell, not one of these is to be dismantled. Indeed, Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure is kept intact, just frozen or repurposed for the length of the deal (about a decade). Thus Fordow’s centrifuges will keep spinning. They will now be fed xenon, zinc, and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.

And upon the expiration of the deal, conceded Obama Monday on NPR, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb will be “almost down to zero,” i.e., it will be able to produce nuclear weapons at will and without delay.

And then there’s cheating. Not to worry, says Obama. We have guarantees of compliance: “unprecedented inspections” and “snapback” sanctions.

The inspection promises are a farce. We haven’t even held the Iranians to their current obligation to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on their previous nuclear activities. The IAEA charges Iran with stonewalling on eleven of twelve issues.

As veteran nuclear expert David Albright points out, that makes future verification impossible — how can you determine what’s been illegally changed or added if you have no baseline? Worse, there’s been no mention of the only verification regime with real teeth — at-will, unannounced visits to any facility, declared or undeclared. The joint European-Iranian statement spoke only of “enhanced access through agreed procedures,” which doesn’t remotely suggest spot inspections. And on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures.”

The IAEA hasn’t been allowed to see the Parchin weaponization facility in ten years. And the massive Fordow complex was disclosed not by the IAEA but by Iranian dissidents.

Yet even if violations are found, what then? First, they have to be certified by the IAEA. Which then reports to the United Nations, where Iran has the right to challenge the charge. Which then has to be considered, argued and adjudicated. Which then presumably goes to the Security Council where China, Russia and sundry anti-Western countries will act as Iran’s lawyers. Which all would take months — after which there is no guarantee that China and Russia will ratify the finding anyway.

As for the “snapback” sanctions — our last remaining bit of pressure — they are equally fantastic. There’s no way sanctions will be re-imposed once they have been lifted. It took a decade to weave China, Russia, and the Europeans into the current sanctions infrastructure. Once gone, it doesn’t snap back. None will pull their companies out of a thriving, post-sanctions Iran. As Kissinger and Shultz point out, we will be fought every step of the way, leaving the U.S., not Iran, isolated.

Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism. But this defies logic: With sanctions lifted, its economy booming, and tens of billions injected into its treasury, why would Iran curb rather than expand its relentless drive for regional dominance?

An overriding objective of these negotiations, as Obama has said, is to prevent the inevitable proliferation — Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states — that would occur if Iran went nuclear. Yet the prospective agreement is so clearly a pathway to an Iranian bomb that the Saudis are signaling that the deal itself would impel them to go nuclear. You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.

What is the alternative, asks the president? He’s repeatedly answered the question himself: No deal is better than a bad deal.

Voir également:

The fatal flaw in the Iran deal
Charles Krauthammer

The Washington post

February 26 2015

A sunset clause?

The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the elements of a “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would reenter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview in December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations.

Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.

Such an agreement also means the end of nonproliferation. When a rogue state defies the world, continues illegal enrichment and then gets the world to bless an eventual unrestricted industrial-level enrichment program, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is dead. And regional hyperproliferation becomes inevitable as Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others seek shelter in going nuclear themselves.

Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium.

Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table in the first place. And that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. That’s the opening. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point — no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

That’s the carrot. As for the stick, make it quietly known that the United States will not stand in the way of any threatened nation that takes things into its own hands. We leave the regional threat to the regional powers, say, Israeli bombers overflying Saudi Arabia.

Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program.

Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind.

Voir encore:

An Innocent Abroad

Adam Garfinkle

American review

For all the grand speeches, President Obama has little of substance to show on the foreign policy front.
This article originally appeared in The American Review (Sydney, Australia).

If, as Winston Churchill declared on 1 October, 1939, Russia is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, then the foreign policy of the Obama administration is an ambivalence wrapped in a mentality inside a perplexity. The latter is not as inclined to malignity as was the former in Joseph Stalin’s time, but it is just as difficult to decipher as we approach its first term halfway mark.

The fact that it is hard to speak coherently about that which turns out to be incoherent may help to account for the fact that virtually no one has offered a full-scale synthesis of the subject. Shorter sketches on discrete issues there are. Partisan op-ed length potshots and (usually) mercifully brief blog posts written by the standard assortment of fans, fanatics and fantasists both abound. But, quite uncharacteristically, little big-picture analysis has been published. Doubtless there are several reasons for this unusual state of affairs concerning the affairs of state, but the sheer difficulty of doing the deed has to be one of them.

Why the difficulty, and what might an answer to that question tell us about the subject itself? Three reasons produced by the administration’s own choices and nature come first to mind. They have to do with the interplay of policy rhetoric and behavior, management style and the key factor of personality in presidential as opposed to Westminster forms of democracy. Three other reasons of very different sorts, and having to do with existential realities not of the administration’s making, come to mind as well. One, which complements the management piece, is the notable fact that there has yet been no significant sudden crisis to condense plans and intentions into procedural precedent—no 3 am telephone call to the White House residential quarters from the National Security Advisor. The historical record shows that the precedents which matter most, those that elevate some people and privilege certain ideas, are formed from experience, not theory. So far, that experience ‘under fire’ is absent from the Obama watch.

A second extrinsic concern is a new slipperiness of definition about the subject itself. Foreign policy has always been difficult to disentangle from national security policy. Today, however, both are entwined with the extrusions of a domestic economic crisis that is beginning to look larger and more structurally grounded than was apparent in the tumultuous autumn of 2008. Foreign policy looks different to national leaders when seen through the lens of domestic priorities, and this can disorient observers used to a more conventional setup. The third extrinsic reason is so obvious that most observers neglect it: politics. Barack Obama seeks to be re-elected president in 2012, and his statecraft can not reasonably be understood in isolation from that fact.

Let us look at these factors in turn, and then assemble them in hopes of achieving a synthetic analysis. We should not be surprised if our own hard labors at understanding parallel in some ways the difficulties confronting the still new Obama administration that is our subject.

As to the rhetoric of US foreign policy in the Obama era, the one statement that may be offered without fear of contradiction is that there has been plenty of it—much of it presidential in nature. There have been not just one but two start-of-term foundational foreign policy speeches, the purpose of which is to articulate to the world the purpose of American power. The President delivered the first on 7 July 2009 in Moscow, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the second on 15 July in Washington. Both speeches bore the structure of a standard start-of-term foundational statement in that each stressed five principles or pillars. (The problem was that the President’s five principles and those of his Secretary of State did not match up well, a fact bearing on the question of management, to which we return below.)

We also have as of late May 2010 the obligatory annual National Security Strategy, a document that is, accurately or not, taken to bear the imprimatur of an administration at its highest level. Besides these we have the presidential foreign policy addresses delivered in Ankara and Cairo, critical war policy speeches on Afghanistan and Iraq, two major presentations to the UN General Assembly, a most unusual philosophical discourse on the occasion of the President’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, and more besides in the form of interviews, news conferences, official statements on the occasion of state visits, and so on. We also have, not at all incidentally, the first Obama budget, which speaks volumes in numbers. Compared to most of his post-World War II predecessors, Obama has been a veritable one-man talkfest.

And what does all this word wrangling tell us? It tells us a good deal less than one might think, not because nothing of substance has been said, but because nearly everything has been said. Usually the President has seemed to be channeling Woodrow Wilson, dismissing balance-of-power and spheres-of-influence language as ‘so 19th century’ in favor of utopianesque ventures like Global Zero in nuclear weapons and an emphasis on taming strategic competition though legal progress towards global governance. But other times he has seemed to be channeling Reinhold Niebuhr, speaking like a moral realist who recognizes the inevitability of trade-offs and the tenacity of the will to have power among people. The sum of it is a profound ambivalence.

Beneath the rhetoric, however, there have emerged certain intellectual and policy tendencies, but these have been either unclear or unstable. For example, in its not very original but understandable desire to be the un-Dubya, the Obama administration broke from the gate offering earnest engagement to nearly every American adversary it could find—Iran, Syria, North Korea, Burma and others. With an apology or two usually to hand, it trusted that more diplomacy and less prominence for the military instruments of foreign policy would unfreeze problems large and small. At the same time that it privileged an effusive and accommodating tone, its body language was that of cold-blooded tactical realism. It sought the pragmatic deal and rigorously avoided the ‘d’-word—‘democracy’ promotion—in its rhetorical ensemble.

All this suggested that, at a time of straitened economic and political circumstances at home, the administration was eager to beat the kind of tactical retreat that would simultaneously reduce US obligations while not letting things go to hell in a hand basket. This was not an unreasonable approach, particularly with regard to bringing two difficult, expensive and divisive shooting wars to an end. Nevertheless, the policy claimed more than a tactical intent: it pointed inwards to a core source of US troubles. It strongly implied that many gridlocked danger spots around the globe were caused not by genuine conflict of interests or the aggressive designs of others, but by the wayward psychology of American machismo, its preachy holier-than-thou tone, and the temper-escalated misunderstandings that arose there from to make the world more dangerous than it needed to be. A new tone, the President seemed to think, would make a huge difference; speeches could therefore be, in some cases at least, self-executing vehicles of policy.

As it happened, the administration’s early efforts to translate a new rhetoric into policy success did not fare well. Certainly, no major problem has fallen to solution just because Obama made a speech about it. Indeed, there is scant evidence that the change in tone the President did manage to bring about has sprouted any positive concrete policy consequences at all. Polls have shown that while the President is on balance more popular abroad than his predecessor, his policies really are not—not in the Middle East, not in Europe, not in Asia.

Moreover, many of the administration’s policies are not new, and this has posed other problems for the marriage of rhetoric and reality. While what has been discontinuous has not worked (at least not yet), the major areas of policy marked by continuity are understandably not among the administration’s favorite talking points. It has stunned many, including many in the United States, that Obama’s policies in a host of sensitive areas in what used to be called the ‘global war on terror’ bear a striking resemblance to those of the two Bush administrations.

Thus, candidate Obama swore to close down the Guantanamo prison; but President Obama, finding the problem more complex than he thought once in office, has failed to do so. President Obama, while jettisoning the ‘war on terror’ for the lower-case Orwellian ‘overseas contingency operations’, has nevertheless increased the use of Predator drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan, many of which have the character of targeted killings. And he has duly sent forth his lawyers to explain why such killings and attempted killings, even of some self-exiled American citizens like Sheik Anwar al-Awlaqi, do not violate US law.

Before his inauguration many believed, too, that Obama would encourage lustration deep within the Central Intelligence Agency over accusations of its having been involved in torture in secret prisons abroad. He did no such thing, choosing instead to protect the autonomy and morale of CIA operations. Indeed, from all reliable accounts, as well as from Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, his approach to national security has ramped up sharply the use of clandestine operations undertaken by the CIA and other agencies of the US government, including those engaged in warrantless wiretaps. It has to follow, whether the President yet realizes it or not, that crossing an inevitably too-inflexible legal line from time to time just goes with that territory.

The failure of the administration’s engagement initiatives to transform their targets has doubled back in certain ways on the rhetoric itself. Thus, in recent months the administration has exaggerated the success of US–Russia relations as an end in itself, when the original purpose of engaging the Russians was to gain aid for alleviating more painful pressures in Iran and Afghanistan. Some early engagement efforts, too, were counterproductive to the administration’s own aspirations. Its misguided blundering into the Israeli–Palestinian cauldron set back the re-commencement of direct Israeli–Palestinian negotiations by a year.

To his credit, the President admitted that the problem was more formidable than he had thought. But even after that bout of contrition, new mistakes along the same lines as the old ones have thrown a pall over those negotiations’ likely achievement.

Some of the administration’s engagement initiatives brought harsh criticism at home, too, and so carried political complications. This was especially true for policy towards an Iranian leadership newly challenged in the streets after its rigged June 2009 election. Even many who wished the administration well were aghast at its stony dismissal of Iranian ‘greens’ brave enough to risk their lives for freedom. Other efforts, like the outreach to Syria, simply fell flat on their faces for lack of any interest on the other side.

The attempt to truly join rhetoric and behavior into a coherent whole foundered further as the level of policy abstraction increased. Thus, in the Middle East the administration insisted that the Arab–Israeli conflict was linked to everything else that seemed to be the matter with the region (a vast exaggeration), while in relations with Russia, with its famous ‘reset’ button as another example of the belief that tone and atmospherics could trump interests in relations between major countries, it explicitly denied linkage (a sheer impossibility). It had wished to reach an understanding with Moscow on both Afghanistan and Iran without getting snared in neuralgic issues such as the Georgia–Abkhazia–South Ossetia morass. It thought to use arms control as a kind of lubricant to assuage Russian pride, a notion recommended by the fact that 95 per cent of the work on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) had already been completed during the Bush administration—but this, it insisted, was not a form of linkage.

The Russians, for their part, insisted otherwise. They demanded payment for any help they might give, as eventually manifested in the US withdrawal of certain ballistic missile defense plans in Eastern Europe, Moscow’s refusal to unequivocally rule out the supply of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, US indulgence of Russian aid for Iran’s bringing the Bushehr nuclear plant on-line, and more besides. The administration got for all this a better understanding about logistical cooperation vis-à-vis Afghanistan and a Russian vote for tougher anti-Iran sanctions that are of dubious utility in any event. And much to the administration’s consternation and surprise, Moscow slow-rolled the START talks, less to gain advantage within that agreement than to foil administration timetables at the UN and on the ground in south-west Asia. Thus the administration learned (one hopes) that linkage is a way of life, not a procedural tap one can turn on in one place or off in another at will.

Even in areas seemingly of high priority to the administration, it could not reliably connect the rhetoric-to-policy dots. On non-proliferation policy, for example, the administration belabored efforts on its Global Zero initiative, the late April 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit and the May 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference, even as policy towards Iran and North Korea lay disconnected from these affairs. It was as if administration principals thought they could move reality by pushing on the shadows it made. Meanwhile, although US policy on the Iranian nuclear program remained unchanged—an Iranian nuclear weapons capability remains ‘unacceptable’ and no option to enforce that policy will be ‘removed from the table’—authoritative voices from within the administration signaled that the use of force against Iran is for any practical purpose not on the table as long as US efforts are still surging up and struggling on in Afghanistan.

We shall see how all this shakes out in due course, but the noises coming out of the Pentagon are inherently believable because they are logical: using force against Iran while the conflict in Afghanistan persists would be the equivalent in American politics of starting a second war. Unless a clear existential threat to the United States is believed to exist, as in World War II, sane strategists don’t open a second front while a first one is already in a mess. So when the Secretary of State, amid one of her “crippling sanctions” reveries, began musing out loud about “learning to live with an Iranian bomb”, no one was particularly surprised, least of all the Iranian leadership. Yet it seems not to have occurred to administration principals that one cannot effectively raise the prospect of a new form of extended deterrence on one hand while undermining its credibility through a Global Zero initiative on the other.

Indeed, the fuzzy indeterminacy that characterizes the Obama foreign policy holds true even at the highest echelon of strategy. The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job.

Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century.

This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence.

President Obama has rejected American exceptionalism as no American president before him ever has; he did so in London on 29 April 2009, when he answered a question as follows: “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” By relativizing what has always been an absolute, Obama showed how profoundly his image of America has been influenced by the received truths of the Vietnam anti-war movement and counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. If he has a theory of American exceptionalism, it is a far subtler, humbler and more historically contingent one than the secular messianist, attenuated Protestant version that has been common to American history.

The President also believes that downward pressure on the defense budget is warranted; his projected budgets show as much, though the prospective cuts are not draconian. But in this he joins a large, politically ecumenical contingent, so his views do not imply opposition to the forward-presence approach to grand strategy. And the fact that US relations with many of its allies, notably in Europe, have worsened during Obama’s tenure is more likely a consequence of the President being distracted than it is of any active dislike for either specific allies or alliances in general. Nor does his candid view that fighting in Afghanistan for another decade and spending $1 trillion doing so is not in America’s best national interest, mean that he is reticent about using force on behalf of strategic aims when it is in America’s interest to do so. Perhaps Obama accepts the forward strategy but will end up starving it of resources to the point that it will shockingly fail some crucial test—perhaps the worst outcome of all.

Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either.

A good deal of the seeming incoherence in any US foreign policy administration stems from management decisions made early on in a president’s tenure. How a president wishes to set up his foreign and national security policy system is a function of his personality, though, as we will see below, that hardly exhausts the ways that a president’s personality affects US foreign policy.

There are as many ways to set up the system as there are presidents, but, in general, a president will prefer either formal or informal structures, and either a big or a small tent of key advisers. The less formal and smaller, the more centered in the White House a policy system is likely to be; the more formal and larger, the less White House-centric a policy system is likely to be. Classic examples: president Eisenhower’s National Security Council was formal, systemically organized and sprawlingly large; president John F Kennedy’s was less formal and much smaller. Both models have at times worked well, and both have at times worked poorly; outcomes derive from the quality of the leaders overseeing the structure as much or more than the structure itself. But structure is not irrelevant. What a large formal system gains in coverage, the use of institutional memory, bureaucratic buy-in, and an enhanced capacity to both plan and implement it may lose in speed, flexibility and creativity. What a smaller, more informal system may gain in speed, flexibility and creativity, even to the point of enabling genuine boldness, it may lose in coverage, cross-issue coherence, bureaucratic support and the ability to implement its own directives.

President Obama has chosen the small, White House-centered model, and he has made clear that no matter how pressed he is with domestic policy issues, he and he alone commands his foreign policy system, not he together with his National Security Adviser as in most prior White House-centered systems. This is as far a cry as one can imagine from what Warren Harding declared after his inauguration in 1921, when he pointed to his secretary of state, Charles Evans Hughes, and directed all media questions about foreign relations to him. The problem is that one person, or even 35 key appointees holed up in the Old Executive Office building, cannot possibly manage the foreign/national security policy of the United States.

There are two and only two ways to handle the mismatch between a small decision system and an enormous array of decision points: prioritization and delegation. President Obama has left no doubt what he cares most about. He cares about ridding the United States of its combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan without jeopardizing rock-bottom US security equities in those countries. Now that he has seen the intelligence at a new level and in more detail, he is concerned about terrorism, which leads him to be particularly concerned about Pakistan. In turn and much related, he cares deeply about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, both to rogue states and to terrorists, understanding that either would likely be strategic game-changers. As already noted, he seems to think that the Arab–Israeli conflict, especially the Palestinian dimension of it, is more intrinsically linked to this entire problem set than it actually is, and so he has reasoned that the so-called peace process must be a high priority. In the beginning of the administration, too, Russia held a high priority because, as has already been noted, it was seen as an important tactical ally in dealing with both Iran and Afghanistan. China mattered as well, of course, but less for its growing geopolitical importance than for its role in the global economy.

For most of these priority concerns the President appointed a special envoy who reports directly to him. The envoy in effect for the wars is the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, to whom he shrewdly delegated the gist of these policy management burdens—shrewdly because Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, gives him political cover from two directions: he blunts Republican criticism and to a point his presence distances the President symbolically from the wars themselves should things go wrong. His ‘envoy’ for all Russia/NATO issues is the Vice-President, Joe Biden, who thinks he understands them and apparently has persuaded the President as much.

This leaves nearly everything else—the care and feeding of various and sundry allies, Latin America and the Caribbean, most of Asia, all of Oceania, the Balkans, the Arctic, and a whole host of functional issues from ‘trafficking in persons’ to international religious freedom—delegated to the State Department. This puts the State Department in an even more minor position than usual, and tips its internal scales away from foreign policy to foreign relations, seemingly a subtle but really a significant difference because in a White House-centered system the State Department cannot act boldly or take major initiatives. This arrangement also delegates by default major aspects of China policy and trade policy to the Treasury and Commerce departments, respectively, and leaves a large dollop of policy towards Mexico with the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

The President’s personal style, of which more in a moment, has lent itself to this arrangement for several reasons. One is that he could place his key political operatives, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod (both now gone on to other jobs), closer to the policy action. Another, however, is concern that the inter-agency process in the Executive Branch does not work well. The subject was the focus of a major commission study before and during the transition, the Project on National Security Reform, on which several members of the incoming administration were involved—including both the President’s former national security advisor, General Jim Jones, and his first national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair. The special envoy tack comes directly from that study.

As for the politics of the thing, President Obama is not yet persuaded that Hillary Clinton’s political threat to him has ended. His decision to appoint her Secretary of State, and her decision to accept the position, were both fraught with unexpressed but well understood political calculation. Turning Ms Clinton and the State Department into relatively bit players in the policymaking process was not accidental. The lack of genuine trust in that relationship also explains why the two July 2009 foundational speeches were so uncharacteristically uncoordinated with one another.

The administration has already paid a price for the President’s management decisions. To give but one of many examples, in July 2009 the president managed to rile a valuable ally, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, through complete inadvertence. Having unilaterally blessed the expansion of the G-8 into the G-20 in the face of global economic instability, he ordered members of his administration to seek the rebalancing of voting protocols within International Monetary Fund and the World Bank so that they might better reflect contemporary (and idealized) world power distributions. As he planned his own Global Zero initiative, too, offices at the National Security Council and State Department were busy continuing their work from the transition on how to reform the UN by reshaping the Security Council.

One of their ideas was to create a single European Union seat in place of the two owned by Britain and France. As is the way of government, each of these initiatives proceeded unaware of what others were doing. And so it happened that, within the course of about a month, three core symbols of what remains of French grandeur were attacked by the US government: the status of France as a nuclear power, the status of France as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, and the status of France as a major player in international financial affairs. It is the job, in this case, of the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs to anticipate inadvertencies of this sort, and to stop a runaway policy train before it flies off the trestle. Phillip Gordon, the current Assistant Secretary, is particularly expert on France and knows Sarkozy; he even translated one of his books into English while working at the Brookings Institution. He was aware of the ‘perfect storm’ brewing in US–French relations, but whatever he tried to do to avert damage it failed to stop the French volcano from erupting—which it did when Sarkozy fumed aloud in the halls of the UN building about how the president was “living in an imaginary” as opposed to a real world. It was not easy to make the French nostalgic for the days of George W Bush, but the Obama team managed it. This is what comes from trying to run the entire foreign policy of the United States from the White House.

Read any serious history of American diplomacy and it becomes readily apparent how central the character of the president is to it. One of the great mysteries of understanding US foreign policy today in its essence is that, more than any other occupant of the Oval Office, Americans and foreigners alike simply do not have a good feel for who Barack Obama really is. Aside from being relatively young and recent upon the national political scene, he doesn’t fit into any category with which we are accustomed to understand intellectual and temperamental origins. More importantly, Obama’s ‘mentality’ is not only hard for outsiders to read, he is, thanks to the facts of his nativity and life circumstances, an unusually self-constructed personality. He is black in an obvious physical way but culturally not black in any significant way. He is a person who, finding himself naturally belonging nowhere, has striven to shape himself into a person who belongs everywhere. As his books suggest, he is a man who has put himself through more reconstructive psychological surgery than any American politician in memory. A few of the resultant characteristics are critically important for understanding how he serves as both president and commander-in-chief.

Obama has understood above all that he must keep his cool. His cultivated aloofness is absolutely necessary to his successful political personality, for he cannot allow himself to exude emotion lest he raise the politically fatal specter of ‘the emotional black man’. His analytical mien, however, has made it hard for him to bond with foreign heads of state and even with some members of his own staff. His relationship with General Jones, for example, lacked rapport to the point that it seems to be a major reason for Jones resigning his position.

But Obama’s ‘cool’ does not imply a stunted capacity for emotional intelligence. To the contrary: he knows unerringly where the emotional balance of a conversation needs to be, and it is for this reason that Obama’s self-confidence is so imperturbable. He knows he can read other people without letting them read him. And this is why, in parallel with the complex of his racial identity, he never defers to others psychologically or emotionally, not towards individuals and not, as with the US military, towards any group.

The combination of ‘cool’ and empathetic control helps explain Obama’s character as commander-in-chief. He is respected in the ranks for sacking General Stanley McChrystal after the latter’s inexcusable act of disrespect and insubordination. That was control at work. But US troops do not feel that Obama has their back. He thinks of them as victims, not warriors, and one does not defer to victims. His ‘cool’, as well as his having had no prior contact with the professional military ethos at work, enjoins a distance that diminishes his effectiveness as commander-in-chief.

Obama’s mastery at projecting himself as self-confident, empathetic and imperturbable has also compensated for his lack of original policy ideas. Whether in law school, on the streets of Chicago, in the US Senate or in the race for the White House, he has commanded respect by being the master orchestrator of the ideas, talents and ambitions of others. Many claim that his personality archetype is that of the ‘professor’, but this is not so; it is that of the judge. It is the judge who sits above others; they defer to him, not he to them. It is the judge who bids others speak while he holds his peace and shows no telling emotion. It is the judge who settles disputes and orders fair and just resolution. It is the judge whose presumed intelligence trumps all others.

This kind of personality archetype can succeed well within American politics. In this sense it is precisely Charles Evans Hughes, a former chief justice of the US Supreme Court, not Carter, Wilson, Niebuhr, Nixon or FDR who stands as the true forebear of Barack Obama. But in the international arena even the American president cannot pull off a judge act and get away with it. Wilson tried and failed (or was that a prophet act?). The American president among his international peers is but one of many, perhaps primus inter pares but certainly without a mandate to act like it. Obama cum ‘judge’ has not impressed these peers: not among our European allies, who are ill at ease with his aloofness; not among Arabs and Muslims, who think him ill-mannered for bad-mouthing his predecessors while being hosted in foreign lands; not among Russians and Chinese, who think him gullible and guileless. Obama may still be popular on the ‘streets’ of the world because of the color of his skin, the contrast he draws to his predecessor, the general hope for renewal he symbolizes, and his willingness to play to chauvinist sentiment abroad by apologizing for supposed past American sins; but this matters not at all in the palaces where decisions are made. As his novelty has worn off, he impresses less and less.

One reason President Obama does not impress the foreigners who matter is that he looks to be a figure in political distress at home. They know, as does the President, that his legacy will be forged in the context of the American domestic moment. Success at home can empower him abroad, but the opposite is not the case. That is why it is impossible to assess the Obama foreign policy bereft of its domestic political context.

When Obama entered office, the economy justifiably dominated his time and energy. Once he gained a moment to sit back and take stock, his attention flowed to what he cares most about: issues of social and economic fairness within America. Thus, even a man who has insisted on monopolizing his own foreign policy saw it ultimately as a holding action against more urgent and important domestic challenges. This explains the remark of a confidante of General Jones, that “after all that Obama had done to practically beg him to take that job… Jim had the sense that Obama didn’t really care.” Yet the decision to privilege healthcare over energy policy was a grave error, similar to the one president Clinton made in 1993 and, in reverse order of policy domains, to the one president Carter made in 1977. One does not come newly enthroned to a place like Washington and try first thing to tackle the hardest, most special-interest encrusted issue in town. That is bound to exhaust more political capital than a novice president can afford. Obama’s victory on the healthcare issue was meager on its own terms and decidedly Pyrrhic politically. It never grew the legs to burnish his image more broadly, whether at home or, except very briefly, abroad.

It soon became clear, too, that a man who bravely campaigned against the K-Street ‘transactional culture’, which he identified as the root of US political dysfunction, lacked the power once in office to do anything about it beyond decreeing a few feckless White House edicts about hiring lobbyists for executive branch jobs. When the President decided on the stimulus package, when he put together his first budget, when he needed the healthcare and then the financial reform bills drafted, what did he do? Having few ideas of his own, only the remnants of a campaign staff and, most importantly, very few close political allies, he had no choice but to turn to the Democratic leadership in Congress to commute these tasks. This, to put it mildly, is no way to fight the K-Street transactional culture. Foreign leaders saw this as well, and they saw the widespread (if largely unfair) charges of leadership forfeit over the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The conclusion they drew is that President Obama is a weak leader, a conclusion that high unemployment figures, Obama’s falling approval ratings and the results of the mid-term election have since done nothing to alter.

Clearly, this is only one way that American domestic circumstances cast their shadow on American foreign policy in the age of Obama. As foreign policy has become both inseparable from and subordinate to economic concerns, these concerns play back on foreign policy from several angles. They bring pressure for a more austere defense budget, which in turn affects key planning judgments with major strategic consequences in the future. They promote concern about trade deficits and distorted international capital flows that directly affect US policy towards China and thus, at least indirectly, towards a dozen or so important allies.

Political weakness and the subordination of foreign policy to domestic priorities also join to explain the contours of the President’s trip to the United Nations in September 2010. The President devoted his yearly General Assembly speech to a political need: rebalancing a perceived lack of commitment to democracy and human rights promotion in US policy. Though delivered before an audience of prestigious foreign diplomats and heads of state in Turtle Bay, the speech’s real audience was composed of American voters in advance of the November mid-term election. The real business of the trip, however, was transacted in a private two hour meeting with the Chinese Premier, trying to convince him to realign the value of China’s currency in the interest of greater long-term international economic stability. The Chinese military is building fast; China is asserting its sovereignty in its trans-territorial waters in ways never before seen, all as the capabilities and resources of the US Navy are shrinking. But what takes pride of place in US diplomacy towards China? Trade and money. Is this shortsighted? Perhaps, perhaps not; it is, in any case, politically unavoidable, for if Obama does not raise the specter of tariffs, the US Congress will.

So we are brought to politics. An American administration may be compared to a tea ball within a teapot. The tea ball brings name and flavor to the brew, but without the liquid surroundings and the element of heat to make the whole thing boil, nothing much would happen.

Barack Obama is a master of the political arts. To expect such a man to simply set aside that mastery once president is to expect too much. Moreover, politics provides the unifying energy that binds the various parts of a president’s obligations and aspirations together. Its sources are manifold but its consequence is seamless. Just as one rock-solid reason that Lyndon Johnson persisted as he did in the Vietnam War was to protect politically what he cared about most—his Great Society program—so Barack Obama’s decision on 1 December 2009 to juxtapose a July 2011 exit date next to his decision to “surge” 30,000 more US troops into Afghanistan turned on his need, as he reportedly expressed it to Senator Lindsay Graham, “not to lose the whole Democratic Party” before major votes on healthcare and other legislation.

Some American critics have complained precisely on this point. It is standard practice in Washington to condemn the insertion of political motives into foreign and national security policy decisions. But it is not, because it cannot be, standard practice to actually desist from it, at least much of the time—and, if anything, Thomas Donilon’s elevation to the post of National Security Advisor increases the weight of political factors in the administration’s decision-making processes.

If we now try to put all the foregoing factors together, what do we find assembled? We find a president in a tough spot who most likely does not know if he is inspired more by Wilson or Niebuhr, because reality thus far has not forced him to choose. We don’t know if he is resigned to a strategy of forward deployment or desirous of an offshore alternative because he likely doesn’t know either, having never been posed the question in so many words. We find a man whose inexperience leaves him with an incomplete grasp of what he gives up by asserting such close control over foreign policy from the White House. We see a man whose personality does not function abroad as successfully as it has at home, and so cannot with brilliant speeches alone dissolve the conflicting interests that define the cauldron of international politics into a comforting pot of warm milk. We see a man commanding a decision system untested by crisis, and one whose core issues remain unfocused for all the distractions of other challenges in his path. We see, lastly but not least, a man whose political instincts are no more detachable from him than his own shadow.

From all these sources, bumping against and mixing with one another, comes the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Where the man will lead that policy, or the policy lead the man (the rest of us in tow), is now driven by the fact that the President is adrift conceptually since his initial engagement strategies did not succeed. Obama now awaits the crisis that will forge his legacy, but what that crisis will be, and whether the president will meet it with the American national interest or his personal political concerns foremost in mind, no one knows. No one can possibly know.
Adam Garfinkle is Editor of The American Interest.

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The silent death of American grand strategy
Over the past quarter century, the American political class, its leadership included, seems to have lost the ability to think strategically about the world and America’s place in it. The reinforcing reasons for this are both remote and proximate, some buried deep within American political culture and others the result of recent and, one hopes, ephemeral distractions. But whatever the reasons may be, four generic phenomena have resulted from the recent abeyance of strategic thought.

First, the error quotient of US foreign policy has risen, and even great powers ultimately have limited margins for error. Second, US policy has become largely reactive, particularly since American leaders’ quality time has been all but monopolised by the deep post-2008 economic swoon and accompanying signs of equally deep political dysfunction. Third, the US reputation for foreign policy constancy and competence has suffered, not least in encouraging revisionist actors to take advantage of the US attention deficit. And these three phenomena have together stimulated a fourth: a shift by default from the US grand strategy in place since the end of World War II to one absentmindedly bearing a different set of prospective risks and benefits.

None of this is particularly good news for American allies.

Unlike classical European and Asian statesmen, American leaders have never developed a tradition of formal grand-strategy making. There is no American version of Clausewitz or Sun Tzu, and comparatively little grand-strategy literature written by native-born intellectuals and leaders exists. This is partly because of the idealistic anti–“Old World” mercantilist bias of the Founders’ Enlightenment ideology. It is also partly because, after the first few decades of American independence and the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European imperialism away from the New World, the nation no longer found itself locked in strategic competition with proximate near-equals. The American state’s initial grand strategy, which was to acquire as much of North America as possible, arose ineluctably from the conditions in which the young nation found itself. Whether it was called Jefferson’s “empire of liberty” or “manifest destiny,” this first, developmentalist grand strategy gained nearly universal, if mostly tacit, consensus. There was no need to write formal tracts about it and argue over them in private conclave, and no one did except in rare cases such as Seward’s Folly — the US purchase of Alaska in 1867.

While this first American grand strategy was simple and hence clear, as all grand strategies worth their salt must be, it was not for the saintly or faint of heart. As Machiavelli put it just past 500 years ago, every benign political order rests on antecedent crimes. The American case is no exception: the barbarous treatment of native Americans, slavery, an early avarice directed toward Canada that led to the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, which even as unsentimental a man as Ulysses S. Grant condemned as one of the most unjust wars ever inflicted by a stronger power upon a weaker one. America’s westward expansion was also a necessary precondition for the worst calamity in American history: the Civil War. Withal, the strategy succeeded and by so doing exhausted itself. By the time Frederick Jackson Turner famously wrote about the “closing of the frontier” at the end of the 19th century, the strategy had become obsolete, notwithstanding some unrequited but on balance faint imperial yearnings directed toward the Caribbean and, of course, Hawaii.

At that moment in American history, following the Spanish–American War, several strands came together to produce the second American grand strategy. Alfred Thayer Mahan, the great American navalist, fused his grasp of the British strategic tradition with the newly developing academic notion of geopolitics and out came the template for American anti-hegemonism. Long since unworried about a peer competitor in the Western Hemisphere or the return of a European power in strength to the New World, the grand strategy of the United States as a maritime-oriented World Island would be to oppose the emergence of a hegemonic power in either peninsular Europe or East Asia.

This was not a principled anti-hegemonic stance, for Mahan and others were unperturbed about America’s own New World dominance. It rather flowed from two different principles: First, in a technologically dynamic age, the impossibility that any power at either bracket of Eurasia could amass sufficient resources to literally endanger US security could no longer be taken for granted; and second, no power should be allowed to compel the United States to undertake a level of mobilisation that would undermine the small-government, no-standing-army injunctions of the Founders.

How to implement this strategy? Through self-help and key alliances. Self-help consisted mainly of building up the US Navy to world-class scale; hence President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world in 1905; the construction of the Panama Canal, completed in 1913, needs also be seen in this light. It consisted in Asia too, many supposed, of US control of the Philippines. The alliance consisted in riding the coattails of the Royal Navy, that great fleet which bestrode the empire on which the sun never set, and aligning America’s diplomacy too, where possible, with that of Britain. Together, this maritime strategy could be aptly termed one of offshore balancing, which fairly describes the British post-Napoleonic Wars grand strategy that inspired Mahan to devise it.

American strategy also depended for its implementation on deft diplomacy to complement growing US wealth and power. For example, after World War I, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, beyond convening the famed Washington Naval Conference of 1922, set to clean up the imperial detritus in the Pacific occasioned by the collapse of the German Empire. A series of linked negotiations involving the United States, Britain, Japan, and France established a new multilateral security balance upon the exit of Germany from the Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana Islands, Samoa, and Shantung Province in China — which Japan had seized during the World War but, thanks to American diplomatic efforts, was returned to China in 1922.

Alas, the new Pacific order depended on all participants keeping up their insurance premiums, so to speak — but with the coming of the Great Depression America’s security investments all but ceased. American military weakness, particularly its drawdown in naval power, turned the Philippines from potential strategic asset into real strategic liability in the face of rising Japanese militarism. The result was the onset of the Pacific War in 1941, the first direct fist-on-fist test of America’s Mahanian grand strategy.

World War II supplied proper nouns to American grand strategy as World War I never had. In Europe the feared hegemon was Nazi Germany; in Asia it was Japan. America’s guiding wartime two-front tactic, as the immediate application of its larger grand strategy, was so simple that it consisted of but two words: “Europe First.” The strategy was implemented successfully and, after the war, the United States found its own military forces stationed on the brackets of Eurasia, and with both its British and French allies much weaker for war’s wear. As the names of potential hegemons changed from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia in Europe, and from Japan to Communist China in Asia, America’s two-front anti-hegemonic grand strategy changed in two ways. First, the pro-democracy ideological dimension of the Cold War, long latent in American thinking about global affairs, merged with the anti-hegemonic objectives of US grand strategy. Second, the mode of its implementation changed from offshore balancing to forward deployment. Together, these changes gave rise, in George Kennan’s famous term, to a strategy called “containment.”

Whereas in the past, the US Navy, in concert with the British Navy, was the principal military instrument of US grand strategy, after the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the outbreak of war in Korea the main instrument also came to include the US Air Force, now with nuclear weapons, deployed both at home and in bases ringing the Soviet Union and Communist China. The ongoing aim of US grand strategy now was to deter geostrategic advance by either hostile would-be hegemon, who were believed to be in league with each other for reasons of ideological affinity, but also to suppress security competitions in Europe and Asia that might provide opportunities or temptations for an adversary’s advance toward a hegemonic position.

Since US interests in both brackets of Eurasia were relatively impartial compared to those of local powers, and whereas US strength was truly unparalleled, American strategy attracted many local associates. This enabled US diplomacy to assemble a robust but flexible alliance system spanning Europe and Asia. The ideological and economic dimensions of US policy, also attractive to many abroad, became complements to this policy according to the Tocquevillian conviction that prosperous democracies make for better strategic partners. The US Navy and Air Force thus became, in effect, the ante that allowed Washington to participate in the geopolitics of the two regions, and the alliance structures, in turn, provided a politically supportable means by which US power could combine with that of others. By the advent of the Eisenhower Administration, if not a few years earlier, the grand strategy of the United States was sufficiently clear that a single sentence sufficed to express it: Prevent the emergence of a hegemon over peninsular Europe or East Asia by suppressing security competitions through the forward deployment of US forces, and through a supportive pro-democracy, pro-trade diplomacy.

Through the end of the Cold War in 1989–91, that was America’s post-World War II grand strategy. The strategy did not work perfectly, as the Vietnam War debacle illustrates. It also required some adjustment, for example to add the greater Middle East to its ambit, not mainly for its own sake, but for that region’s instrumental significance to European and Asian security in a new oil-fired age. Yet despite the tendency of the ideological aspect of the struggle to kick up much obfuscating dust, on a good day most senior American leaders, certainly those in the relevant Executive Branch offices and in the upper ranks of the military, were more or less able to articulate that single sentence.

No more. As Walter Russell Mead put it recently, “the habit of supremacy developed in the last generation” caused the “strategic dimension, in the sense of managing intractable relations with actual or potential geopolitical adversaries, [to] largely disappear … from American foreign policy debates.” That, in turn, has allowed the recurrence of those legal and moral modes of thinking about foreign and national security policy that George Kennan and many others tirelessly warned against. What passes for thought about strategic problems now transpires through what Mead calls “an uncomplicated atmosphere of Whig determinism” that manages to somehow turn Anglo-American institutions and values into supposed universal best practice.

This is not a partisan issue. Both American liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, each in their own ways, have long been bridled to Whig views of history. Both were disciplined from indulging in excessive secular messianism during the Cold War by the realism-inducing spectre of clear and present dangers. In the Cold War’s wake, however, resurgent Whiggery has trumped all — even during and just after the shock of 9/11.

The Clinton Administration acted as though the great wave of post–Cold War globalisation represented a cosmic confluence of American power, interests, and values all wonderfully woven together. Strategy was subsumed by multi-dimensional triumph, so that all foreign policy need do was remove lingering obstacles and deal with the occasional atavistic rogue-regime’s response to the galloping obsolescence of its ways of doing business. In consequence, funding for the military and foreign assistance plummeted.

The Bush 43 Administration held a similar view, except that the now obviously underestimated scale of the aforementioned atavistic reactions evoked a more muscular and ambitious promotion of presumed universal best practice. For a short time, President Bush’s “forward strategy for freedom” seemed to become the new US grand strategy. Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of the origins and nature of the 9/11 problem, as it careened through the prism of American exceptionalism, led to decisions that compounded US burdens and devalued resources, in the form of America’s alliances and its “soft power” reservoirs, that had long been vital to US grand strategy.

To take a signal example of the former, while the principal military instruments of US grand strategy are its Navy and Air Force, the doubled US defence budget in the decade after 9/11 overwhelmingly flowed to the Army and the Marines as the recapitalisation of the Navy and the Air Force languished. Had American leaders recognised and affirmed what US grand strategy actually was, launching and (mis) fighting two land wars in Asia Minor would have been the last things they would have chosen to do. By the time the second Bush term ended, the pre-9/11 strategy had not been restored, though US military and diplomatic activities remained wedded to it. But no replacement stood in its place as the 2008 economic crisis descended.

With that shock there soon came a new American administration preoccupied with domestic problems and even more prone than its post-Cold War predecessors to think in legal-moral categories rather than in strategic ones. The combination, with rare “kinetic” exceptions such as the misadventure in Libya and the failed “surge” in Afghanistan, has turned US foreign policy into an extended duck-and-cover drill. These tendencies are illustrated in the Syria and Iran policy portfolios, where a focus on non-proliferation issues has related to second tier the larger strategic stakes raised by the cases seen separately, and especially seen together. Meanwhile, the “pivot to Asia” of the first Obama term was misframed as an either-or choice, and its naval and air force components remain too resource-straitened for either adversaries or allies to yet take it very seriously.

Insofar as there is any larger thinking about strategy in the current administration, perhaps a coherent view actually does exist despite the appearance of ad hocery. That view, an optimistic or benign realism, is said to posit that the United States can withdraw from virtually all European and most Middle Eastern issues without risk because a more or less friendly post-American balance of power is latent in the structure of international affairs and will bloom forth if only America gets out of the way and lets it do so.

Such a view, identified with a neo-offshore balancing perspective, certainly exists in academic circles. Whether this view is truly characteristic of high-level Obama Administration thinking is difficult to know. The signs are ambiguous. Even outward indications of the existence of a coherent strategic view, such as the 2010 roll-out of the Navy–Air Force “Air-Sea Battle” construct — a quintessential offshore balancing proposition — sometimes turn out to be less than meets the eye. In that case, the rollout reflected less a substantive or doctrinal adjustment and more a joint attempt by two beleaguered services to advance their claims to larger defence budget shares.

Perhaps a switch from a forward-deployment method of preventing hostile hegemons in favour of an offshore-balancing one is wise. Perhaps the United States cannot afford the post–World War strategy for political reasons; perhaps, too, it runs more risks than vital US interests warrant in a post–Cold War environment. Certainly it is irresponsible to maintain commitments without willing the means to redeem them en extremis — that is the sort of derangement of ends and means that birthed the Pacific War. Perhaps the anti-hegemonic state-based objective itself is outdated, and that the threat of apocalyptical terrorism joined to weapons of mass destruction is now the principle problem to be addressed.

One would think that, under the circumstances, Americans among themselves and with allies would be discussing these issues. After all, differing means of executing an anti-hegemonic strategy demand different mixes of military-technical, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and other skill sets. Each requires different kinds of alliances and asks different things of allies. Some regions seem more amenable to stable do-it-yourself local balances than others; but which are which? The potentially destabilising consequences of transitioning from one posture to the other, too, need to be thought through.

Unfortunately, little in the way of a strategic debate is discernible in Washington, either within the administration at high levels or among the political class at large. There is still little recognition here in Washington even of what US grand strategy has been for nearly the past seventy years, hence no basis from which to discuss alternatives. Instead, US thinking, if one can call it that, is being driven by financial strictures, some of them, like sequestration, self-inflicted beyond necessity or logic. In short, the United States is sliding toward an offshore-balancing grand strategy by default, without discussing its implications and without even calling it by its proper name.

A nation does not have a grand strategy if those responsible for devising and implementing it cannot articulate what it is. American grand strategy thus seems to have suffered a strange, silent death. One wishes to say rest in peace, as with any saddening death, but that wish may very well go unrequited. Although relatively few Americans have noticed the problem, senior figures among several allies and associates have. American commitments to allies have nowhere been formally rescinded, but the credibility of those commitments is now everywhere doubted. Even America’s larger competitors have reason to be anxious, for when the rule-maker and provider of global common security goods for more than half a century appears to suddenly abdicate much of that role, uncertainty and perhaps a bit of trouble cannot be far behind.

Voir de même:

Star-spangled anger
It was the day religion and politics collided. Ten years on, what has America done to itself?

Adam Garfinkle

American review

As with the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the assassination of President Kennedy, all adult Americans know where they were on September 11, 2001. On that Tuesday morning I was five blocks from the White House at the 5th-floor offices of National Affairs in Washington, an office that housed both The National Interest and The Public Interest magazines. The Washington Monument was in its usual place outside my south-west-facing office window as were, of course, the streets below. Once it had become clear that an attack was in progress, national and local media assumed a slightly manic tone. Most private offices reacted by letting their staff go, resulting in gridlocked mayhem throughout the city.

The headless-chicken reaction of the nation’s capital to the September 11 attacks disgusted me. Having lived in Israel, it had become second nature for me to assume a stoical mien in times like these, lest one contribute to an enemy’s designs. Just as, Eleanor Roosevelt once observed, no one can make a person feel inferior without his or her consent, no one can terrorise you unless you co-operate. I was against co-operating, so I ordered my staff to stay put, do a day’s work and go home as usual. Of course we would use the phone to assure relatives and friends that we were safe and we would monitor the news; if necessary, we would adjust to further events. We all stayed until past 5pm, emerging later for the evening commute into a virtual ghost town.

In the past decade, I have often thought of those first few hours after the attacks, and I have come to realise the basic error that US leaders made was to inadvertently co-operate with an enemy too weak to achieve its ends in any other way. To me, September 11 did not « change everything ». I thought that, whatever our private worries about the future, the public face of American leadership should radiate optimism and courage, not anger or fear.

Of course, we needed to prevent follow-on attacks. That, it seemed clear to me, meant urgently removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that had sheltered and abetted the September 11 plotters. We also eventually needed to take out, in one way or another, those who might be planning more attacks, wherever they might be. The Bush doctrine version 1.0, rolled out in the immediate wake of the attack, which held regimes complicit with terrorism to be equally liable for American retribution, was entirely appropriate. Nor did I object to President Bush terming the situation a war, for that was necessary to tell people what was at stake, to break with the failed policies of the past, and to make available certain prudent presidential legal authorities. Still, despite the need to act, I was sure we should not take ourselves psychological hostage, as the Carter administration had allowed to occur after the US Embassy in Tehran was seized by Iranian fanatics in November 1979. We should not allow the attacks to define or monopolize US foreign policy as a whole.

Alas, that is precisely what the administration did allow. The only senior US leader who seemed to take the approach I thought best was Colin Powell, whose influence had been marginalised in the administration. He did not believe that the terrorist threat was of an existential nature that required the cashiering of American strategic principles, allies or institutions. But other administration principals thought differently, quickly accepting a theory-in-waiting, widely ascribed to so-called neo-conservatives, of why September 11 had happened: a democracy deficit in the Arab-Muslim world had forced frustrated citizens into the mosque, where they had been easy prey for religious charlatans and demagogues. The answer was to open up space for dissent, democratic debate and the social balm supposedly provided by market economics. Then these stultified societies could breathe and develop normally, and would not produce demonic mass murderers like Osama bin Laden.

Thus did fear boomerang, in the way that human emotions predictably do, to encourage a form of hubris fed from the wells of post-Cold War triumph (and triumphalism). The September 11 attacks had the effect of propelling US policy to do more at a time when its capacity to influence events had diminished thanks to the end of Cold War bipolarity and the diffusion of lethal technologies to weak state and non-state actors. It propelled the US to ramp up its metabolism and inflate its definition of vital interests rather than calmly discern distinctions among them. Unrivalled US power, pre-eminently of the military kind, would end the threat by transforming the political cultures of more than two dozen Arab and Muslim-majority countries into liberal democracies. This solution in turn depended on the validity of what was known as democratic peace theory—that democracies do not make war on other democracies—and on cherished Tocquevillian views of the pacific nature of egalitarian democratic societies.

Contrary to what many claim, this theory of the sources of September 11 existed within the administration well before the Iraq war began. It existed within Bush’s mind, encouraged by, among others, his speechwriter Michael Gerson and strategic visitors like Natan Sharansky; but it did not have the force of formal policy. The theory emerged into public view when, in February 2003, Bush gave a major speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which all the basic themes of this view found expression. That constituted the Bush doctrine version 3.0, now layered on top of version 2.0, characterised by the pre-emption plank famously inserted into the September 2002 National Security Strategy.

What became known as « the forward strategy for freedom » then found full expression from the bully pulpit in November 2003, with the President’s marquee speech at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The Strategy was then canonised in his Second Inaugural of January 2005, which Thomas Wolfe aptly dubbed the globalisation of the Monroe Doctrine. The worse things got in Iraq, and the more the WMD rationale for that campaign lost persuasiveness, the higher the rhetorical bar of democracy promotion rose—a classic case of cognitive dissonance at work in what is colloquially called in American poker-speak « doubling down ».

The rush to closure over a fearful shock to US security interests, and the hubristic response to it, was part of a longstanding pattern in American foreign policy history. The Bush administration’s reactions to September 11 were not the work of any neo-con cabal. Self-avowed neo-conservatives composed a group that was always smaller, more internally diverse and less influential than is often supposed. Rather, neo-cons struck chords very familiar to American history and political culture, chords that even national interest conservatives like Vice- President Cheney and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld could harmonise with. Had there been no neo-cons, the pattern would have asserted itself anyway in some other ideological dialect.

The pattern of which I speak, conceived by the historian Walter A. McDougall, consists of four phases that tend to repeat in cycles. First, there is a shock to the system, usually in the form of a surprise attack: the shot fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, Pearl Harbour in 1941, and September 11 in 2001. In the phase directly after the shock, the leader of the day—Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, George W. Bush—vows to resurrect the status quo ante and punish the evildoers. That corresponds to Lincoln’s vow to save the Union, Wilson’s vow to defend the right of American free passage on the high seas, and Bush’s vow to find and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks so that America’s minimally acceptable standard of near perfect security could be restored.

But third, in the course of mobilising the national effort to achieve the limited goals set after the shock, the transcendent God-talk begins and the effort soon becomes enmeshed in the sacred narrative of American exceptionalism. This leads to a distension of goals and expectations, to geopolitical amnesia, and to what cognitive psychologists call a dominant strategy that is impervious to negative feedback and logical contradiction.

And so, in the September 11 decade, we chose a war that thoughtlessly destroyed the regional balance against Iranian hegemonism without even stopping to ask about the broader implications of a Shi’a government in Baghdad. One does not, apparently, descend to the smarminess of geopolitical analysis when one is doing the Lord’s work. So, too, did we turn what could and should have remained a punitive military operation in Afghanistan into a quixotic, distracted, underfunded nation- and state-building campaign. And so, too, did we conflate all our adversaries into one monolithic demon—typical of eschatological thinking. The administration conflated secular, Ba’athi Iraq with the apocalyptical Muslim fanatics of al-Qaeda, and so went to war against a country uninvolved in 9/11 whose threat to America was not, as is commonly claimed, zero, but which hardly justified, or excused, the haste and threadbare planning with which the war was launched and conducted.

Then, in the fourth phase, overreach leads to setbacks (the Korean War, for example, and the Iraq insurgency) and regrets (like the Vietnam War), ultimately resulting in at least temporary retrenchment … until the cycle starts all over again. This four-phase model fits the September 11 decade to a tee. The attack itself is of course phase 1; the Bush doctrine version 1.0 represents phase 2; the Second Inaugural signals the full efflorescence of phase 3; and the election of Barack Obama marks the consolidation of phase 4.

It matters in all this, however, whether the ideological vehicle that propels phase 3 forward even remotely reflects or aligns with reality. When it does, as it did during and after World War II, no one pays attention since things tend then to turn out well. In the case of the September 11 decade, unfortunately, it did not. There have been basically two problems with it. First, the « forward strategy » for freedom’s ascription of causality for Islamist terrorism is mistaken. Second, even if it were not mistaken, the timetables in which democracy promotion was seen as a solution for mass-casualty terrorism do not even begin to match. The reason is that despite President Bush’s assertion that democracy promotion is « the work of generations » and that democracy is about more than elections, that is not the basis upon which the administration actually behaved. It rushed into premature elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, with troublesome and still open-ended consequences for Iraq and disastrous ones for Lebanon and Gaza.

After September 11, as Americans searched for analogies that might help them understand the motivations for the attacks, most found themselves with very shallow reservoirs of historical analogies. Indeed, Americans tended almost exclusively to choose Cold War metaphors to explain September 11. Liberal idealists took their characteristic meliorist approach: It was poverty and injustice that motivated the attacks, and American policies that determined the target. There were dozens of calls for a « Marshall Plan for the Middle East », and hundreds of pleas to concentrate more than ever on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, as if that were somehow a magic bullet that could fix all problems. Conservative idealists, as already noted, took the democracy-promotion approach, arguing that the motivation was not economic but political.

Both were wrong; Islamist radicalism, in truth, is a form of chiliastic violence that has taken many forms in many cultures over the past two millennia, from the Jewish zealots of the First Century of the Common Era, to the 16th-century Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, to the 19th-century « ghost dances » of American Indians. But the obvious weaknesses of the meliorist approach encouraged conservative idealists in their conviction that their own view, therefore, must be right. (Manichean-minded Americans have real problems when any potential set of choices exceeds two.)

The administration’s rhetoric went even further, however, suggesting that US policy was largely responsible for the debased condition of Arab political cultures. When Bush famously said in November 2003: « Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty », he argued in essence that it was US policy, not the long incubated political culture of the region, that accounted for Arab autocracy. The Bush White House, in essence, adopted the wrongheaded left-wing side of an old debate over « friendly tyrants » as lesser evils and what to do with and about them, a very strange position for an avowedly conservative administration to take. The President also seemed to be saying, in a locution repeated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005 and many times thereafter, that US Cold War policy in the region was unsuccessful on its own terms, that it did not provide safety and stability.

These claims are nonsensical by any realistic measure. US Cold War policy in the Middle East achieved exactly what it set out to achieve within the broad framework of containment: It kept the Soviets out, the oil flowing to the benefit of the liberal economic order over which the US stood guard, and the region’s only democracy, Israel, safe. The record was not perfect, of course, and we certainly should have rethought old habits sooner than we did after the Berlin Wall fell; but it was good enough, as we say, for government work. Certainly, too, it was never in the power of the US government to bring about democracy in the Arab world during the Cold War. Yet the Bush administration’s solution for the problem whose origins it misread was just that for the post-Cold War era: deep-rooted reform of the Middle East’s sordid collection of autocracies and tyrannies (the major differences between the two were summarily overlooked) and, absent reform from within, the policy strongly implied that pro-democracy regime change would be imposed from without.

The result was almost breathtakingly counterproductive. The more the « forward strategy » bore down on the Middle East, with guns in Iraq and with projects and programs galore practically everywhere else they could gain access, the more effectively local nativists used Western energies jujitsu-like to gain leverage over their domestic adversaries. Rapid economic growth and rapid democratisation, even had they been possible, would not have stabilised Arab societies and made them less likely to spark off political violence against the West; it would have made such violence more likely. We are fortunate, therefore, that the strategy did not « succeed » for any longer than it did.

When the Bush administration campaigned to spread democracy to the Arabs, it never occurred to most of its principals that what they saw as a secular endeavour would be interpreted in the Muslim world through a religious prism, and used accordingly in intra-Islamic civilisational disputes. When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, tried to persuade Iraqis not to vote because « democracy » was a front, in essence, for Christian evangelism, a slippery slope leading down to apostasy, he spoke a language that resonated in the ears of a great many (though happily not a majority of) Iraqis and other Muslim Arabs.

As it happens, the locals were essentially correct. Americans were speaking a creedal tongue that we thought entirely separate from « religion », a word that does not exist as such in Arabic. After all, we « separate church from state ». In truth, American political culture is not as secular as most think: The contemporary American idea of democracy, seen as the pre-eminent symbol of social egalitarianism (something very different from the Founders’ view) is an attenuated expression of aspects of Anglo-American Protestant Christian tradition. Our longing to spread it to the Muslims is the 21st-century version of what was, in the 19th century, a much more honest and self-aware missionary movement. We might fool ourselves by pretending that our deepest beliefs can be neatly compartmentalised into what is « political » and what is « religious », but Middle Easterners, who possess no such compartments by dint of a history sans Renaissance or Reformation, know better. Not that theology and ideology are identical, but as creedal systems they are bound to be seen as dramatically less distinct by cultures in which political theology, to use Mark Lilla’s apt terminology, has never been vanquished or, in most countries, even seriously challenged.

Looking at US behaviour in the September 11 decade as a manifestation of a secularised political theology explains far more than the standard parsing of the usual-suspects schools of thought: conservative and liberal realists and idealists, Jacksonians and Hamiltonians and all that. Consider for example that when, only days after September 11, Susan Sontag and other members of the professional adversary culture in the United States dared to suggest—in The New Yorker in Sontag’s case—that the perpetrators of September 11 were not cowards and that Americans were not innocent victims of terrorism, but rather were suffering just revenge for selfish and abrasive American foreign policies, they were treated exactly as heretics were in the so-called age of religion. They were not engaged or debated but shunned or excoriated. Had it still been in style, they would probably have been burned as witches.

The American penchant for seeing the world, especially the world of foreign and national security policy, in transcendental terms, is not an historical constant. It tends to rise in phase 3 of the cycle, when the God-talk emerges out of post-shock mobilisation. But there is a concurrent trend of more recent vintage that may have made things more acute during the September 11 decade.

Over the past half century, America has become increasingly deculturated. As Robert Putnam put it in his Bowling Alone argument, we have suffered a deep erosion of social capital. The face-to-face glue which enables social interactions to generate and sustain a common understanding about what is and isn’t virtuous behaviour—the very heart of what ultimately makes a society prosperous and happy—has been in ever shorter supply.

The implications of de-acculturation for American politics are are manifest. The decline of social trust abets both the polarisation of politics and popular cynicism toward government. It produces a political system in which the chain of connective institutions that link family to neighbourhood to larger community to town or region and ultimately to the national level gets broken, rendering the state both alien and intrusive at the same time as it tries to compensate for a social fabric now rent and tattered. Political parties, particularly those that tend to represent class or ideological structures, flow into the spaces once occupied by a diverse array of social interaction. They become in-group/out-group oriented as well-known psychological dynamics spread the distance between them, leading to an exaggerated perception of how much they actually differ in practical terms. The result is that compromise and horse-trading become more difficult, and the insertion of « culture war » issues into this environment has served only to harden the edges of the us-versus-them distinctions that define it. Identity groups disguised as political parties do not play well together.

The implications of all this for foreign policy are obvious. Presidential judgments necessarily become politicised, and opponents invariably try to criminalise them. Every decision becomes part of the catechism to the loyal, an act of moral enormity to the opposition. That is why the acrid debates over Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and warrantless wiretaps, the Patriot Act and the reach of wartime executive authority, took on the tones they did. These arguments did not remind one of the civilities of the common law tradition; they sounded more like transcripts from the Spanish Inquisition.

The great sociologist E. Digby Baltzell, the man who coined the term WASP back in the 1950s, once said to me that the greatest tragedy of 20th-century America is that the formidable energies of religion had migrated into politics, to the detriment of both. No wiser comment has ever been made about the trajectory of American politics this past half century, and here lies, I think, the key insight for those trying to comprehend the American September 11 decade at its very core. The decade has not been about what others have done to America; it has been about what Americans have done to themselves.

Adam Garfinkle served as chief staff writer of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century (Hart-Rudman Commission), which predicted mass-casualty terrorism on American soil before September 11 and first proposed creation of a Department of Homeland Security. He then served as editor of The National Interest and as speechwriter to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He is founding editor of The American Interest.

Indeed, the fuzzy indeterminacy that characterizes the Obama foreign policy holds true even at the highest echelon of strategy. The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job.*

Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century.

This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence. . .

Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either.

Presidential Language
Be It Resolved
Adam Garfinkle
The American interest
December 30, 2014

In the course of an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep released earlier this week, President Obama tried to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher-ups in Tehran. Will it work?

NPR released yesterday a presidential interview, taped December 18, that bears on many issues, not least the Middle East. I probably should let the opportunity to comment pass, but I can’t. I probably should eat much less ice cream too, but I can’t seem to do that either. Well, more on New Year’s resolutions anon.

Two globules of presidential language in particular catch my attention, both foreshadowed by a Reuters article on December 28. Let me take the two in turn.

In the interview President Obama praises the “incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran” and adds that if Iran agrees to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions Iran “would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules—and that would be good for everybody.” The President offered that Iran has “legitimate defense concerns” and “suffered from a terrible war with Iraq” in the 1980s, but he criticized it for regional “adventurism, the support of organizations like Hizballah, the threats they’ve directed at Israel.”

The Reuters story commented in demur, drive-by style that, while the President thinks an agreement is still possible and perhaps likely, Vice President Biden said earlier this month that he gives the negotiations a “less than even shot” of succeeding. POTUS can’t so easily dump Biden like he dumped Hagel, because Biden got elected—besides which, the VP’s own “can’t-help-myself” problem, which manifests itself most often in his predilection for “committing a truth” (as he sees it) in public, is under better control today than at any time since his election to the Senate in 1972. (For those unaware, just by the way, the phrase “to commit a truth” is a key element of speechwriting wit; it means that one should not say something in public just because it’s true, unless it serves a particular purpose. Political speech is not a didactic exercise; it is inherently about controlling and manipulating impressions.)

Ah, but back to that other member of the Executive Branch who got elected, the President. What to make of these, one hopes, non-scripted remarks?

It’s clear—actually a little too clear—that President Obama is trying to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher ups in Tehran. Someone no doubt explained to the President in another, earlier drive-by incident that these guys believe they deserve more respect for their sovereignty, history, and culture than they get. He wants to assure them, insofar as he can, that regime change is not high up on the U.S. want list with regard to Iran, though he cannot explicitly rule it out without cutting the knees out from future U.S. policy options. He wants to let them know he’s sensitive to how the world looks from their perspective.

All of this publicly articulated respect is designed, it seems likely to me as a recovering Executive Branch speechwriter, to reduce the heat on the roiling pot that contains the conspiracy theories Iranians cook up and consume on a depressingly regular basis. The practical purpose? To get the Supreme Leader to authorize the concessions he needs to make to let the deal happen, in return for which we promise not to betray his trust. Respect worked for Aretha Franklin; maybe it’ll work for Barack Obama, too.

But note that, in the list of Iranian sins, the President did not even mention Iran’s role in Syria, or in Yemen. Note, too, that he omitted mentions of Iranian-supported terrorist and insurgent-war acts that have claimed American lives. He never warns that we now intend to link the nuclear negotiations with Iranian regional behavior, as we should have been doing all along. Note too, however, that if we have already secretly consummated a “big deal” with Iran to split U.S. regional security responsibilities with Tehran largely at Arab expense—as some commentators here but especially in the region think is a done deal already a few years ago—it would be harder to make sense of this sort of klutzy fawning language.

The Administration may still yearn for such a deal, however, which now, as in 2009, gives off the sound of one tongue flapping. Here we are, it would seem, at the second coming (or third or fourth coming, depending on what evidence you credit and how you count) of the original outstretched hand offering engagement to mutual benefit for the future. The first time the Administration did this, the Iranian “Green movement” protesting a rigged election was a victim, and our hand got slapped. (Or as Shel Silverstein once wrote: “Cast your bread on the water and what do you get? Another day older, and your bread gets wet.”) Nor did the Supreme Leader deign to answer the first of now three private presidential letters.

It remains to be seen who will suffer this time around, but one thing is certain: When the Saudis, Israelis, and other U.S. associates in the region hear presidential language like this, they head for their mental bunkers and hunker down. Meanwhile, President Obama should not be watching his mailbox for a letter from Tehran.

It will all be judged wise and worldly, perhaps, if the tactic succeeds and we get in due course a nuclear deal worth having. Me, I’m with Joe Biden on this one, as an earlier post explained in some detail. But will it succeed?

Some clever folks in the White House are sensitive to Iranian insecurities and have coached the President on how to make the Iranian lion purr. Alas, they can’t turn the Iranian lion into a vegetarian, and they have a long way to go to evoke any genuine purring. I do not think this will succeed, and let me explain why by speculating on how the Supreme Leader and other Iranians of his ilk will probably hear this sort of language.

The Iranian Lion. Not a vegetarian.

“So”, says the Supreme leader to President Rouhani over mint tea one afternoon, “the Americans think they get to judge whether we can be a successful regional power! They presume their dominance, these upstarts, as they speak to the heirs of the Achaemenid dynasty, the Sassanid dynasty, the Safavid dynasty—as these historical adolescents speak to the very founders of civilization. They speak to us not as equals but as masters. They are not and never will be our masters.”

“Yes, sir”, answers Rouhani. “You will remember when Judge [William P.] Clark, one of the NSC Advisors during the Reagan years, characterized Iranian statesmen as ‘a bunch of rug merchants’, do you not? Despite all their failures since, the hubris in Washington is undaunted. This young and inexperienced man speaks of how everyone will benefit if Iran submits to America’s will, as if life on earth can be like paradise. He speaks of international norms and rules as though everyone accepts them, despite the fact that most people in the world have suffered from the Western arrogance and oppression they symbolize.”

Yes, there is no doubt that Khamenei and Rouhani remember Judge Clark’s comment, for they assiduously collect every insult cast their way in faithful expectation of historical revenge; and you can bet your bottom dollar that the President and his advisers, including current NSC Advisor Susan Rice, lack that particular datum in their active memory banks. And much more important, yes, the Iranian government is full of geostrategic realists who know what a revisionist state is. And they are people who, for the most part—whether we can them moderates or hardliners—sincerely project the Shi’a martyrology complex onto the imagined political sociology of the world. This precisely was the Ayatollah Khomeini’s creative and expansive act of ideological genius; it still defines Iranian foreign policy ideals just as it sustained the revolution in its infancy, particularly during very hard times. So when Barack Obama tells Iranians how much they suffered during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, he comes across like a trespasser on sacred cemetery soil. “Who is this idolatrous man who presumes to narrate our holy suffering?”, the Supreme Leader asks the President.

When Robert Burns wrote, “O would God the gift to gi’ us, to see ourselves as others see us”, he weren’t just whistling Dixie folks, or suggesting that short Cliffs Notes courses in cultural studies would suffice for serious purposes. He really meant it.

The NPR interviewer asked the President whether in his last two years in office he would help war-torn countries like Libya, Syria, and Iraq. His answer was that these countries have to take the lead: “We can help, but we can’t do it for them. I think the American people recognize that. There are times here in Washington where pundits don’t; they think you can just move chess pieces around the table. And whenever we have that kind of hubris, we tend to get burned.”

Well, obviously the President is reading the wrong pundits (and in my view he acts unpresidentially even to mention them publicly). He should be reading me. I don’t want us to be engaged in a bombing campaign against the Islamic State if it is premised on a counterproductive half-strategy. I don’t want U.S. combat troops aiding the Abadi government in Baghdad, along side of Iranian Revolutionary Guard units, trying to reclaim for a unitary Iraqi state what it cannot firmly reclaim. I never argued for boots on the ground in Syria, or anything on the ground or in the air with respect to Libya. I and The American Interest with me over the years have been sympathetic to not “devoting another trillion dollars” to misbegotten foreign wars because, yes, as the President said, “we need to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding our schools, our roads, our basic science, and research here in the United States.” We at TAI used the phrase “nation-building at home” before he did (you can look it up—just check out the lead section of volume 4, number 3, published just before Obama’s inauguration).

Cover

So then what’s wrong with this picture of presidential remarks on Libya, Syria, and Iraq? What’s wrong is that the President is apparently unable or unwilling to connect his own damned dots.

Did Libya’s troubles today, by which I mean in brief that it has not one dysfunctional government but pretenses of two, just fall out of the sky one day? Unless you mean the U.S. cruise missiles targeted on Tripoli that kicked off a war in March 2011, no. If that is what you mean, as the NPR interviewer had the temerity to suggest, than yes. It was U.S. policy that caused the destruction of the Libyan state, such as it was. U.S. policy, from starting a war to failing to plan for its Phase 4 post-combat aftermath, explains not only the god-awful mess that Libya has become, but also what happened to Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Libya has to get its act together to deserve our help?! What Libya? There is for all practical purposes no Libyan state for us to help.

Did Iraq’s troubles today, by which I mean the state’s collapse back into roughly the three Ottoman provinces cobbled together to create it in 1920, just sort of happen, too? Like Libya, Iraq was a nasty, authoritarian hellhole before U.S. policy made it even worse. We may blame that on the Bush Administration for mis-starting a war that had not been properly planned, but Iraq would not be quite the mess it is today had the Obama Administration not mis-ended it by yanking our presence out without a SOFA agreement. Iraq has to get its act together to deserve our continued or expanded help?! What Iraq? There is, very nearly, no Iraqi state for us to help.

Did Syria’s troubles fall out of the sky, too? Here U.S. policy is mostly guilty of sins of omission rather than sins of commission, some of them circling back to our hands-off-Iran supinity, but it is guilty all the same. As we have said here at TAI many times over the past three years, a judicious early use of U.S. power and leadership well short of kinetic action—difficult though it always was, true—could have averted the still evolving worst-case calamity that Syria has become. Syria is well on its way to complete Somalization. So Syria, too, has to get its act together to deserve our help?! What Syria? There is, very nearly, no Syrian state for us to help.

Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling?

I have commented in recent weeks about the dropping away of relevant context in the reporting of important news stories, which I suspect is linked to the generic disappearance of even relatively recent historical memory in our IT-addled, radically segmented collective cognitive state (see, for example, this). But this amnesic babble really takes all, and coming from the President of the United States it frankly makes me a bit uncomfortable.

One of my secular New Year’s resolutions is to read and think more, write and speak less. Another, however, is to write more quickly on the heels of breaking stories, as I’m doing now. Another is to cut back on the ice cream; I like to think that will buy me an indulgence for a bit more single malt, which is more conducive to thinking than to writing, and so the circle of my resolutions comes to completion.

I wish Vice President Biden success in his effort to cut back further on committing truths in public. I’m always here for you, Joe, if you need me.

As for the President, I hope he will add a resolution for 2015 to stop saying stupid “stuff” to his previous determination to not do stupid “stuff.” Since saying and doing are mingled behaviors, especially when they emanate from the Oval Office, a truth that even non-speechwriters can appreciate and that this President seems implicitly to credit more than most, there’s reason to expect both resolution and redemption. Happy New Year!
Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.

Voir encore:

Obama says days of U.S ‘meddling’ in Latin America are over
Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

April 10, 2015

President Obama told Latin America leaders in Panama Friday that the days of U.S. exploitation of the region are over, and that America owes a debt to the rest of the world for helping to bring equality to the U.S.

“We are respectful of the differences among our countries,” Mr. Obama said at the Summit of the Americas. “The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.”

The crowd erupted in sustained applause.

Mr. Obama urged leaders in the region to embrace democratic principles, including public debate and dissent.

“It’s not to say that my country’s perfect, we are not. And that’s the point,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to wrestle with our own challenges from issues of race to policing to inequality. We embrace our ability to become better through our democracy.”

Referring to slavery and Jim Crow-era segregation in the U.S., Mr. Obama also said that outside forces helped to improve life in America.

“There was a time in our own country when there were groups that were voiceless and powerless,” Mr. Obama said. “Because of world opinion, that helped to change those circumstances. We have a debt to pay because the voices of ordinary people made us better. That’s a debt I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world.”

Earlier, Mr. Obama took an apparent swipe at Cuba’s communist regime when he said “almost everybody” in Latin America has been smart enough to move their countries to a market-based economy.

“By virtue of wisdom, and some things that didn’t work and some things that did, everybody around the region … has a very practical solution, or a practical orientation,” Mr. Obama said.

Then he grinned and added, “Maybe not everybody, but almost everybody.” The audience of business leaders laughed.

The president, who is expected to meet for the first time with Cuban President Raul Castro Saturday on the sidelines of the summit, said countries in the hemisphere previously subscribed either to a “statist” economic model or a free-market approach.

“Everything was very ideological in this region in discussing how economic development went forward,” Mr. Obama said. “I believe the free market is the greatest wealth-generator and innovator and is a recipe for success for countries.”

Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

Voir encore:

Remarks by President Obama at the Civil Society Forum
On April 10, 2015, in Office of the Press Secretary, Speeches and Remarks, The President, Western Hemisphere, by The White House
Hotel El Panama
Panama City, Panama

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas tardes.  Thank you, President Varela.  Thank you very much, Panama, for hosting this Summit of the Americas.  And I thank everybody who’s traveled here from across the region for the courageous work that you do to defend freedom and human rights, and to promote equality and opportunity and justice across our hemisphere and around the world.

I am proud to be with you at this first-ever official gathering of civil society leaders at the Summit of the Americas. And I’m pleased to have Cuba represented with us at this summit for the very first time.  (Applause.)

We’re here for a very simple reason.  We believe that strong, successful countries require strong and vibrant civil societies.  We know that throughout our history, human progress has been propelled not just by famous leaders, not just by states, but by ordinary men and women who believe that change is possible; by citizens who are willing to stand up against incredible odds and great danger not only to protect their own rights, but to extend rights to others.

I had a chance to reflect on this last month when I was in the small town of Selma, Alabama.  Some of you may have heard of it.  It’s a place where, 50 years ago, African-Americans marched in peaceful, nonviolent protest — not to ask for special treatment but to be treated equally, in accordance with the founding documents of our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of Rights.  They were part of a civil rights movement that had endured violence and repression for decades, and would endure it again that day, as many of the marchers were beaten.

But they kept marching.  And despite the beatings of that day, they came back, and more returned.  And the conscience of a nation was stirred.  Their efforts bent, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, the arc of the moral universe towards justice.  And it was their vision for a more fair and just and inclusive and generous society that ultimately triumphed.  And the only reason I stand here today as the President of the United States is because those ordinary people — maids, and janitors, and schoolteachers — were willing to endure hardship on my behalf.  (Applause.)

And that’s why I believe so strongly in the work that you do.  It’s the dreamers — no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless — that are able to change the course of human events.  We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid.  We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain.  In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War.  It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians.

It’s not to say that my country is perfect — we are not.  And that’s the point.  We always have to have citizens who are willing to question and push our government, and identify injustice.  We have to wrestle with our own challenges — from issues of race to policing to inequality.  But what makes me most proud about the extraordinary example of the United States is not that we’re perfect, but that we struggle with it, and we have this open space in which society can continually try to make us a more perfect union.

We’ve stood up, at great cost, for freedom and human dignity, not just in our own country, but elsewhere.  I’m proud of that.  And we embrace our ability to become better through our democracy.  And that requires more than just the work of government.  It demands the hard and frustrating, sometimes, but absolutely vital work of ordinary citizens coming together to make common cause.

So civil society is the conscience of our countries.  It’s the catalyst of change.  It’s why strong nations don’t fear active citizens.  Strong nations embrace and support and empower active citizens.  And by the way, it’s not as if active citizens are always right — they’re not.  Sometimes people start yelling at me or arguing at me, and I think, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  But sometimes they do.  And the question is not whether they’re always right; the question is, do you have a society in which that conversation, that debate can be tested and ideas are tested in the marketplace.

And because of the efforts of civil society, now, by and large, there’s a consensus in the Americas on democracy and human rights, and social development and social inclusiveness.  I recognize there’s strong differences about the role of civil society, but I believe we can all benefit from open and tolerant and inclusive dialogue.  And we should reject violence or intimidation that’s aimed at silencing people’s voices.

The freedom to be heard is a principle that the Americas at large is committed to.  And that doesn’t mean, as I said, that we’re going to agree on every issue.  But we should address those issue candidly and honestly and civilly, and welcome the voices of all of our people into the debates that shape the future of the hemisphere.  (Applause.)

Just to take one example:  As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity.

As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But I’m here to say that when we do speak out, we’re going to do so because the United States of America does believe, and will always stand for, a certain set of universal values.  And when we do partner with civil society, it’s because we believe our relationship should be with governments and with the peoples that they represent.

It’s also because we believe that your work is more important than ever.  Here in the Americas, inequality still locks too many people out of our economies.  Discrimination still locks too many out of our societies.  Around the world, there are still too many places where laws are passed to stifle civil society, where governments cut off funding for groups that they don’t agree with.  Where entrepreneurs are crushed under corruption.  Where activists and journalists are locked up on trumped-up charges because they dare to be critical of their governments.  Where the way you look, or how you pray, or who you love can get you imprisoned or killed.

And whether it’s crackdowns on free expression in Russia or China, or restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Egypt, or prison camps run by the North Korean regime — human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world.  And when that happens, we believe we have a moral obligation to speak out.

We also know that our support for civil society is not just about what we’re against, but also what we’re for.  Because we’ve noticed that governments that are more responsive and effective are typically governments where the people are free to assemble, and speak their minds, and petition their leaders, and hold us accountable.

We know that our economies attract more trade and investment when citizens are free to start a new business without paying a bribe.   We know that our societies are more likely to succeed when all our people — regardless of color, or class, or creed, or sexual orientation, or gender — are free to live and pray and love as they choose.  That’s what we believe.

And, increasingly, civil society is a source of ideas — about everything from promoting transparency and free expression, to reversing inequality and rescuing our environment.  And that’s why, as part of our Stand with Civil Society Initiative, we’ve joined with people around the world to push back on those who deny your right to be heard.  I’ve made it a mission of our government not only to protect civil society groups, but to partner with you and empower you with the knowledge and the technology and the resources to put your ideas into action.  And the U.S. supports the efforts to establish a permanent, meaningful role for civil societies in future Summits of the Americas.  (Applause.)

So let me just say, when the United States sees space closing for civil society, we will work to open it.  When efforts are made to wall you off from the world, we’ll try to connect you with each other.  When you are silenced, we’ll try to speak out alongside you.  And when you’re suppressed, we want to help strengthen you.  As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way.  We are respectful of the difference among our countries.  The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.  (Applause.)

But what it does mean — but we do have to be very clear that when we speak out on behalf of somebody who’s been imprisoned for no other reason than because they spoke truth to power, when we are helping an organization that is trying to empower a minority group inside a country to get more access to resources, we’re not doing that because it serves our own interests; we’re doing it because we think it’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  And that’s important.

And I hope that all the other countries at the Summit of the Americas will join us in seeing that it’s important.  Because sometimes, as difficult as it is, it’s important for us to be able to speak honestly and candidly on behalf of people who are vulnerable and people who are powerless, people who are voiceless.  I know, because there was a time in our own country where there were groups that were voiceless and powerless.  And because of world opinion, that helped to change those circumstance.  We have a debt to pay, because the voices of ordinary people have made us better.  That’s a debt that I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)  God bless you.

Voir enfin:

The Doctrine That Never Died
Tom Wolfe

The New York Times

January 30, 2005
SURELY some bright bulb from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York or the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton has already remarked that President Bush’s inaugural address 10 days ago is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. No? So many savants and not one peep out of the lot of them? Really?

The president had barely warmed up: « There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants … and that is the force of human freedom…. The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. … America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one… » when – bango! – I flashed back 100 years and 47 days on the dot to another president. George W. Bush was speaking, but the voice echoing inside my skull – a high-pitched voice, an odd voice, coming from such a great big hairy bear of a man – was that of the president who dusted off Monroe’s idea and dragged it into the 20th century.

« The steady aim of this nation, as of all enlightened nations, » said the Echo, « should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. …Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. …The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. … The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right cannot be divorced. »

Theodore Roosevelt! – Dec. 4, 1904, announcing to Congress the first corollary to the Monroe Doctrine – an item I had deposited in the memory bank and hadn’t touched since I said goodbye to graduate school in the mid-1950’s!

In each case what I was hearing was the usual rustle and flourish of the curtains opening upon a grandiloquent backdrop. But if there was one thing I learned before departing academe and heading off wayward into journalism, it was that these pretty preambles to major political messages, all this solemn rhetorical throat-clearing – the parts always omitted from the textbooks as superfluous – are inevitably what in fact gives the game away.

Theodore Roosevelt’s corollary to President James Monroe’s famous doctrine of 1823 proclaimed that not only did America have the right, à la Monroe, to block European attempts to re-colonize any of the Western Hemisphere, it also had the right to take over and shape up any nation in the hemisphere guilty of « chronic wrongdoing » or uncivilized behavior that left it « impotent, » powerless to defend itself against aggressors from the Other Hemisphere, meaning mainly England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

The immediate problem was that the Dominican Republic had just reneged on millions in European loans so flagrantly that an Italian warship had turned up just off the harbor of Santo Domingo. Roosevelt sent the Navy down to frighten off the Italians and all other snarling Europeans. Then the United States took over the Dominican customs operations and debt management and by and by the whole country, eventually sending in the military to run the place. We didn’t hesitate to occupy Haiti and Nicaragua, either.

Back in 1823, Europeans had ridiculed Monroe and his doctrine. Baron de Tuyll, the Russian minister to Washington, said Americans were too busy hard-grabbing and making money to ever stop long enough to fight, even if they had the power, which they didn’t. But by the early 1900’s it was a different story.

First there was T.R. And then came Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1912 Japanese businessmen appeared to be on the verge of buying vast areas of Mexico’s Baja California bordering our Southern California. Lodge drew up, and the Senate ratified, what became known as the Lodge Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The United States would allow no foreign interests, no Other Hemispheroids of any description, to give any foreign government « practical power of control » over territory in This Hemisphere. The Japanese government immediately denied having any connection with the tycoons, and the Baja deals, if any, evaporated.

Then, in 1950, George Kennan, the diplomat who had developed the containment theory of dealing with the Soviet Union after the Second World War, toured Latin America and came away alarmed by Communist influence in the region. So he devised the third corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Kennan Corollary said that Communism was simply a tool of Soviet national power. The United States had no choice, under the mandates of the Monroe Doctrine, but to eradicate Communist activity wherever it turned up in Latin America … by any means necessary, even if it meant averting one’s eyes from dictatorial regimes whose police force did everything but wear badges saying Chronic Wrongdoing.

The historian Gaddis Smith summarizes the Lodge and Kennan Corollaries elegantly and economically in « The Last Years of the Monroe Doctrine, 1945-1993. » Now, Gaddis Smith was a graduate-schoolmate of mine and very much a star even then and has remained a star historian ever since. So do I dare suggest that in this one instance, in a brilliant career going on 50 years now, that Gaddis Smith might have been …wrong? … that 1945 to 1993 were not the last years of the Monroe Doctrine? … that the doctrine was more buff and boisterous than it has ever been 10 days ago, Jan. 20, 2005?

But before we go forward, let’s take one more step back in time and recall the curious case of Antarctica. In 1939 Franklin Roosevelt authorized the first official United States exploration of the South Pole, led by Admiral Richard E. Byrd. The expedition was scientific – but also military. The Japanese and the Germans were known to be rooting about in the ice down there, as were the Russians, the British, the Chileans, the Argentines, all of them yapping and stepping on one another’s heels. Gradually it dawned on the whole bunch of them: at the South Pole the hemispheres got … awfully narrow. In fact, there was one point, smaller than a dime, if you could ever find it, where there were no more Hemispheres at all. Finally, everybody in essence just gave up and forgot about it. It was so cold down there, you couldn’t shove a shell into the gullet of a piece of artillery … or a missile into a silo.

Ah, yes, a missile. On the day in November 1961, when the Air Force achieved the first successful silo launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the SM-80, the Western Hemisphere part of the Monroe Doctrine ceased to mean anything at all – while the ideas behind it began to mean everything in the world.

At bottom, the notion of a sanctified Western Hemisphere depended upon its separation from the rest of the world by two vast oceans, making intrusions of any sort obvious. The ICBM’s – soon the Soviet Union and other countries had theirs – shrank the world in a military sense. Then long-range jet aircraft, satellite telephones, television and the Internet all, in turn, did the job socially and commercially. By Mr. Bush’s Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with – what? – nothing but a single sphere … which is to say, the entire world.

For the mission – the messianic mission! – has never shrunk in the slightest … which brings us back to the pretty preambles and the solemn rhetorical throat-clearing … the parts always omitted from the textbooks as superfluous. « America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one, » President Bush said. He added, « From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. »

David Gelernter, the scientist and writer, argues that « Americanism » is a fundamentally religious notion shared by an incredibly varied population from every part of the globe and every conceivable background, all of whom feel that they have arrived, as Ronald Reagan put it, at a « shining city upon a hill. » God knows how many of them just might agree with President Bush – and Theodore Roosevelt – that it is America’s destiny and duty to bring that salvation to all mankind.

This article misstated part of the history of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The silo launching of a solid-fuel SM-80 Minuteman missile in November 1961 was not the first of an ICBM; a less practical liquid-fuel Titan missile was launched from a silo earlier that year.

Tom Wolfe is the author, most recently, of « I Am Charlotte Simmons. »

Voir par ailleurs:

Journée historique entre Raul Castro et Barack Obama
Laure Mandeville
Le Figaro

12/04/2015

VIDÉO – Samed, les deux présidents américain et cubain ont échangé une poignée de main et se sont entretenus en marge du sommet des Amériques à Panama. Mais le chemin de la normalisation reste semé de nombreux points de contentieux.
De notre correspondante à Washington

Un peu plus d’une heure, à portes fermées. C’est le temps qu’ont passé ensemble les présidents Barack Obama et Raul Castro, ce samedi lors du sommet des Amériques à Panama. Il n’y avait pas eu de telle rencontre entre un dirigeant américain et un dirigeant cubain depuis 1956 quand Eisenhower y avait rencontré le dictateur Batista. Quand Obama et Castro se sont levés et se sont tendu la main, souriants et décontractés dans leurs costumes sombres, le moment historique a donc été fixé sur pellicule par des nuées de photographes et de cameramen. Un nouveau chapitre s’ouvrait dans l’histoire des Etats-Unis et de Cuba.

«Cela a été une conversation franche et fructueuse», un dialogue «très direct», a affirmé le président Obama devant les journalistes, reconnaissant toutefois que des différences importantes persistent sur les Droits de l’homme. «Nous avons réussi à parler honnêtement de nos différences et de nos préoccupations, de telle manière que je pense que nous détenons la possibilité de faire avancer la relation entre nos deux pays dans une direction différente et meilleure», a-t-il ajouté, optimiste. Raul Castro, lui, a affirmé qu’il faudrait «beaucoup de patience». «L’Histoire entre nos deux pays a été compliquée, mais nous sommes disposés à avancer et à discuter de tout, y compris des droits de l’homme». Le Cubain, visiblement de bonne humeur, avait déjà montré son intention de créer un climat détendu lors du Sommet, en plaisantant sur le fait qu’il avait droit à 8 minutes de discours multipliés par 6, puisque Cuba avait été exclu pendant six sommets. Après un long plaidoyer contre les ingérences des anciennes administrations américaines dans les affaires cubaines et latino-américaines, il a salué la probité de Barack Obama, le qualifiant «d’honnête homme». Il a dit vouloir avancer dans un ‘’dialogue respectueux, pour permettre une «coexistence civilisée» en dépit de «profondes différences».

La reprise des relations diplomatiques a figuré en bonne place dans les discussions, faisant suite à trois séries de discussions de haut niveau entre La Havane et Washington. Castro a demandé à Obama d’accélérer les démarches pour le retrait de Cuba de la liste des pays soutenant le terrorisme, indiquant qu’il verrait comme un «pas positif» une «décision rapide» des États-Unis sur ce dossier. L’Américain a indiqué qu’il avait reçu une recommandation favorable du Département d’Etat, mais qu’il n’avait pas encore eu le temps de l’étudier avant de la transmettre au Congrès. Un sujet qui risque de susciter des tiraillements au sein de la majorité républicaine, sur la colline du Capitole.

Au-delà des relations diplomatiques, le chemin de la normalisation reste semé de nombreux points de contentieux, dont le plus délicat est bien sûr l’embargo total sur les transactions économiques et financières avec Cuba, imposé depuis 1962. Le président cubain a une nouvelle fois insisté samedi sur la nécessité de «résoudre» cette question. Depuis l’annonce historique du rapprochement avec Cuba en décembre, Obama a demandé au Congrès, de travailler à la levée de l’embargo car lui seul peut le faire. Mais les deux chambres, dominées par les républicains sont pour l’instant très partagées sur la question, sous la pression notamment de la minorité cubaine américaine, dans l’ensemble très conservatrice sur la question des relations avec Cuba. Cette minorité influente exige toujours des changements préalables substantiels en matière de libertés à Cuba, que le clan conservateur des généraux de l’île, veut empêcher à toute force.

Le chemin de la normalisation s’avère donc semé d’obstacles, même si la nouvelle génération de cubains américains est plus ouverte à la réconciliation que celle de leurs parents. «Nous sommes en terre inconnue ici, il s’agit de changer fondamentalement la manière dont les Etats-Unis considèrent Cuba, son gouvernement, sa population, sa société civile», a résumé le principal conseiller de politique étrangère d’Obama, Ben Rhodes. L’équipe du président Obama espère que le développement des relations et la modernisation finissent par créer une dynamique positive d’ouverture au plan politique, une approche soutenue par l’opinion publique américaine, favorable à une évolution des relations à 59%. La normalisation avec Cuba est d’autant plus soutenue qu’elle va entraîner une normalisation des relations des Etats-Unis avec l’ensemble de la région, notent les experts. «Le fantôme de Cuba était présent dans toutes les relations bilatérales et multilatérales, à partir de maintenant, il disparaît», a confié à l’AFP Santiago Canton, responsable du centre Robert Kennedy pour la justice et les droits de l’homme.

Voir aussi:

Cuba leaves talks on US ties insisting it won’t make major changes to its system
Michael Weissenstein And Anne-Marie Garcia,

The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

25 Jan, 2015

HAVANA – The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left President Raul Castro’s government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country’s struggling economy.

Following the highest-level open talks in three decades between the two nations, Cuban officials remained firm in rejecting significant reforms pushed by the United States as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise move to re-establish ties and rebuild economic relations with the Communist-led country.

« One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in, » Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press after the end of the talks. « Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable. »

It’s not clear if Cuba’s tough stance is part of normal negotiation tactics or a hardened position that could prevent the talks from moving forward.

The Obama administration has dedicated significant political capital to rapprochement, but closer ties with the economic giant to the north also could have major importance for Cuba, which saw growth slow sharply in 2014 and is watching with concern as falling oil prices slam Venezuela, which has been a vital source of economic support.

In a wide-ranging interview, Vidal said that before deciding whether to allow greater economic ties with the U.S., Cuba was seeking more answers about Obama’s dramatic of loosening the half-century trade embargo.

Measures put into effect this month range from permitting large-scale sales of telecommunications equipment to allowing U.S. banks to open accounts in Cuba, but Vidal said officials on the island want to know if Cuba can buy such gear on credit and whether it is now free to use dollars for transactions around the world, not just those newly permitted with U.S. institutions. Until now, at least, U.S. law and policy has banned most foreign dealings with Cuba.

« I could make an endless list of questions and this is going to require a series of clarifications in order to really know where we are and what possibilities are going to open up, » Vidal said.

Obama also launched a review of Cuba’s inclusion on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and Vidal said « it will be difficult to conceive of the reestablishment of relations » while Cuba remains on that list, which imposes financial and other restrictions.

Vidal also said full normalization will be impossible until Congress lifts the many elements of the trade embargo that aren’t affected by Obama’s executive action — a step seen as unlikely with a Republican-dominated Congress. Among key prohibitions that remain is a ban on routine tourism to Cuba.

Even a relatively simple measure such as granting U.S. diplomats freedom of movement around Cuba, she said, is tied to reduced U.S. support of dissidents, whom Cuba says are breaking the law by acting to undermine the government of behalf of U.S. interests.

« It’s associated with a change in behaviour in the diplomatic missions as such and of the diplomatic officials, who must conduct themselves as our officials in Washington do, with total respect for the laws of that country, » Vidal said.

She also said Cuba has not softened its refusal to turn over U.S. fugitives granted asylum in Cuba. The warming of relations has spawned new demands in the U.S. for the State Department to seek the return of fugitives including Joanne Chesimard, a Black Liberation Army member now known as Assata Shakur, who fled to Cuba after she was convicted in 1977 of killing a New Jersey state trooper.

Vidal said the two nations’ extradition treaty « had a very clear clause saying that the agreement didn’t apply to people who could be tied to crimes of a political nature. »

But the opening already has led to some changes, at least in the short-term: Cuba significantly relaxed its near-total control of public information during the talks in Havana, allowing the live broadcast of news conferences in which foreign reporters questioned Vidal about sensitive topics including human rights. Cuban television even broadcast part of a news conference with Vidal’s counterpart, Roberta Jacobson, to foreign reporters, state media and independent Cuban reporters who are considered members of the opposition.

Cubans said they were taken aback by the flow of information but wanted to know much more about what the new relationship with the U.S. means.

« We’ve seen so much, really so much more than what we’re used to, about very sensitive topics in our country, » said Diego Ferrer, a 68-year-old retired state worker.

Jesus Rivero, also 68 and retired from government work, sat on a park bench in Old Havana reading a report in the official Communist Party newspaper, Granma, about Jacobson’s press conference.

« It’s good that Granma reports the press conference in the residence of the head of the Interests Section, » Rivero said. « But I think they should explain much more so that the whole population really understands what’s going on. »

Voir de plus:

The Abuse of Satire
Garry Trudeau on Charlie Hebdo, free-speech fanaticism, and the problem with “punching downward”
Garry Trudeau

The New Yorker

Apr 11 2015

The following is the text of remarks Garry Trudeau delivered on April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award.

My career—I guess I can officially call it that now—was not my idea. When my editor, Jim Andrews, recruited me out during my junior year in college and gave me the job I still hold, it wasn’t clear to me what he was up to. Inexplicably, he didn’t seem concerned that I was short on the technical skills normally associated with creating a comic strip—it was my perspective he was interested in, my generational identity. He saw the sloppy draftsmanship as a kind of cartoon vérité, dispatches from the front, raw and subversive.

Why were they so subversive? Well, mostly because I didn’t know any better.  My years in college had given me the completely false impression that there were no constraints, that it was safe for an artist to comment on volatile cultural and political issues in public. In college, there’s no down side. In the real world, there is, but in the euphoria of being recognized for anything, you don’t notice it at first. Indeed, one of the nicer things about youthful cluelessness is that it’s so frequently confused with courage.

One of the nicer things about youthful cluelessness is that it’s so frequently confused with courage.
In fact, it’s just flawed risk assessment. I have a friend who was the Army’s top psychiatrist, and she once told me that they had a technical term in the Army for the prefrontal cortex, where judgment and social control are located. She said, “We call them sergeants.”

In the print world, we call them editors. And I had one, and he was gifted, but the early going was rocky. The strip was forever being banned. And more often than not, word would come back that it was not the editor but the stuffy, out of touch owner/publisher who was hostile to the feature.

For a while, I thought we had an insurmountable generational problem, but one night after losing three papers, my boss, John McMeel, took me out for a steak and explained his strategy. The 34-year-old syndicate head looked at his 22-year-old discovery over the rim of his martini glass, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry. Sooner or later, these guys die.”

Well, damned if he wasn’t right. A year later, the beloved patriarch of those three papers passed on, leaving them to his intemperate son, whose first official act, naturally, was to restore Doonesbury. And in the years that followed, a happy pattern emerged: All across the country, publishers who had vowed that Doonesbury would appear in their papers over their dead bodies were getting their wish.

So McMeel was clearly on to something—a brilliant actuarial marketing strategy, but it didn’t completely solve the problem. I’ve been shuttled in and out of papers my whole career, most recently when I wrote about Texas’s mandatory transvaginal probes, apparently not a comics page staple. I lost 70 papers for the week, so obviously my judgment about red lines hasn’t gotten any more astute.

I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.

And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo, which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest.

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.
By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks.

The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart. The French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace. Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another.

What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.

I’m aware that I make these observations from a special position, one of safety. In America, no one goes into cartooning for the adrenaline. As Jon Stewart said in the aftermath of the killings, comedy in a free society shouldn’t take courage.

Writing satire is a privilege I’ve never taken lightly.  And I’m still trying to get it right. Doonesbury remains a work in progress, an imperfect chronicle of human imperfection. It is work, though, that only exists because of the remarkable license that commentators enjoy in this country. That license has been stretched beyond recognition in the digital age. It’s not easy figuring out where the red line is for satire anymore. But it’s always worth asking this question: Is anyone, anyone at all, laughing? If not, maybe you crossed it.

Voir aussi:

SALUTATION DU SAINT-PERE AU DÉBUT DE LA MESSE POUR LES FIDÈLES DE RITE ARMÉNIEN

Pape François

MESSE POUR LES FIDÈLES DE RITE ARMÉNIEN

Basilique vaticane
IIe Dimanche de Pâques (ou de la Divine Miséricorde), 12 avril 2015

Chers frères et sœurs Arméniens, chers frères et sœurs,

En des occasions diverses j’ai défini cette époque comme un temps de guerre, une troisième guerre mondiale « par morceaux », où nous assistons quotidiennement à des crimes atroces, à des massacres sanglants, et à la folie de la destruction. Malheureusement, encore aujourd’hui, nous entendons le cri étouffé et négligé de beaucoup de nos frères et sœurs sans défense, qui, à cause de leur foi au Christ ou de leur appartenance ethnique, sont publiquement et atrocement tués – décapités, crucifiés, brulés vifs –, ou bien contraints d’abandonner leur terre.

Aujourd’hui encore nous sommes en train de vivre une sorte de génocide causé par l’indifférence générale et collective, par le silence complice de Caïn qui s’exclame : « Que m’importe ? », « Suis-je le gardien de mon frère ? » (Gn 4, 9 ; Homélie à Redipuglia, 13 septembre 2014).

Notre humanité a vécu, le siècle dernier, trois grandes tragédies inouïes : la première est celle qui est généralement considérée comme « le premier génocide du XXème siècle » (Jean-Paul II et Karekin II, Déclaration commune, Etchmiadzin, 27 septembre 2001) ; elle a frappé votre peuple arménien – première nation chrétienne –, avec les Syriens catholiques et orthodoxes, les Assyriens, les Chaldéens et les Grecs. Des évêques, des prêtres, des religieux, des femmes, des hommes, des personnes âgées et même des enfants et des malades sans défense ont été tués. Les deux autres ont été perpétrées par la nazisme et par le stalinisme. Et, plus récemment, d’autres exterminations de masse, comme celles au Cambodge, au Rwanda, au Burundi, en Bosnie. Cependant, il semble que l’humanité ne réussisse pas à cesser de verser le sang innocent. Il semble que l’enthousiasme qui est apparu à la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale soit en train de disparaître et de se dissoudre. Il semble que la famille humaine refuse d’apprendre de ses propres erreurs causées par la loi de la terreur ; et ainsi, encore aujourd’hui, il y en a qui cherchent à éliminer leurs semblables, avec l’aide des uns et le silence complice des autres qui restent spectateurs. Nous n’avons pas encore appris que « la guerre est une folie, un massacre inutile » (cf. Homélie à Redipuglia, 13 septembre 2014).

Chers frères arméniens, aujourd’hui nous rappelons, le cœur transpercé de douleur mais rempli d’espérance dans le Seigneur ressuscité, le centenaire de ce tragique événement, de cette  effroyable et folle extermination, que vos ancêtres ont cruellement soufferte. Se souvenir d’eux est nécessaire, plus encore c’est un devoir, parce que là où il n’y a plus de mémoire, cela signifie que le mal tient encore la blessure ouverte ; cacher ou nier le mal c’est comme laisser une blessure continuer à saigner sans la panser !

Je vous salue avec affection et je vous remercie pour votre témoignage.

Je salue et je remercie pour sa présence Monsieur Serž Sargsyan, Président de la République d’Arménie.

Je salue aussi cordialement mes frères Patriarches et Évêques : Sa Sainteté Karekin II, Patriarche Suprême et Catholicos de tous les Arméniens ; Sa Sainteté Aram Ier, Catholicos de la Grande Maison de Cilicie ; Sa Béatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarche de Cilicie des Arméniens Catholiques ; les deux Catholicossats de l’Église Apostolique Arménienne, et le Patriarcat de l’Église Arméno-Catholique.

Avec la ferme certitude que le mal ne vient jamais de Dieu infiniment Bon, et enracinés dans la foi, affirmons que la cruauté ne peut jamais être attribuée à l’œuvre de Dieu, et en outre ne doit absolument pas trouver en son Saint Nom une quelconque justification. Vivons ensemble cette célébration en fixant notre regard sur Jésus-Christ, vainqueur de la mort et du mal.

Voir enfin:

What the War in Iraq Wrought
Jon Lee Anderson

The New Yorker
January 15, 2014

It’s been nearly eleven years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which, almost since it began, proved to be the historically fatal element in the war on terror launched by George W. Bush’s White House. His Administration, and its sundry neoconservative wingmen, went so far as to tout the war in Iraq as a means to promote democracy across the Muslim lands. At the same time, there was a growing unease that things might not turn out well. In a 2005 conversation I had with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq at the time, Zalmay Khalilzad, he spoke of his fears: “I shudder to think what we could face if we don’t fix Iraq.” He foresaw the possibility that an Iraqi civil war between Sunnis and Shiites could infect the entire Middle East.

Where are we today? It seems a good time to take stock.

In Iraq, two years after President Barack Obama made good on his word and pulled U.S. troops out—forty-five hundred American lives later, and God knows how many Iraqi lives later—the slumbering sectarian war has reignited. At least eight thousand Iraqis were killed in the violence in 2013, a majority of them Shiite civilians targeted for murder or killed in bomb blasts set by the reascendant Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda. That’s right: they’re back. Now calling themselves ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham—the jihadis, who were supposedly defeated by Sunni tribesmen and American troops under the tutelage of David Petraeus, in the so-called Sunni Awakening of 2006-08, are not only active again; they are dominating the Syrian battlefield on the rebel side, and in the past few weeks seized the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and a good part of nearby Ramadi, too.

Remember Fallujah? That’s the city on the outskirts of Baghdad, in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, the homeland of restive tribes since the British occupation of Mesopotamia, a hundred years ago. It’s also where, in 2004, in a bid to beat the extremists who controlled it at the time, U.S. combat troops fought two separate battles, at a cost of more than a hundred and twenty American lives. Nearly a quarter of the American troops killed in Iraq during the war—about a thousand men and women—died in Anbar Province.

Now the Al Qaeda flag waves in the center of Fallujah. At least fifty-two people died in Iraq from terrorist bombs on Wednesday. There are car bombs nearly every day.

In Syria, more than two and a half years into a bloody civil war, as many as a hundred and twenty thousand people are dead, with more than a quarter of the country’s population now living as refugees, either displaced internally or in neighboring countries. Al Qaeda and other Islamist rebel groups have taken over what was once a popular, broad-based uprising against the Assad dictatorship, and are killing one another, and ordinary Syrian civilians, across a wide swath of that country. Having effectively lost control of much of the country’s second most important city, Aleppo, to rebels, the regime is now feeling confident enough to be preparing an assault to retake it. Syria’s conflict is about a lot of different things, of course, but in the business of killing, which is the hardtack, everyday stuff of war, it, too, is Shiite versus Sunni.

As for neighboring Lebanon—the Mediterranean rump state formed in the European carve-up of the Ottoman Empire, in the wake of the First World War—thanks to the spillover of Syria’s conflict, it is looking increasingly like a cracked pane of glass, just waiting for the next hard shake to fall apart completely. As in Syria, the violence is pitting Shiite against Sunni, and also against Christian.

And on and on. The region is, effectively, coming apart. If the Cold War helped to suppress long-standing feuds and rivalries (while helping to incubate militant Islam), which the fall of the Soviet Union exposed, it seems obvious now that key nerve endings were cut by the U.S. intervention in Iraq—and the one in Afghanistan, too—finishing off whatever uneasy compromises remained. (The death, by hanging, of Saddam Hussein, in 2006, had a vengeful quality, but it appeased none of Iraq’s demons.) The Arab Spring of 2011, that phenomenon which so raised hopes and caused hearts to flutter in the West—and, indeed, across the Middle East—has collapsed, and been replaced by increasing volatility. Egypt, the bulwark of American power in the region, a staunch Western ally ever since Anwar Sadat signed a peace deal with Israel at Camp David, is now, post-Mubarak and post-Muslim Brotherhood, in the grip of a military clique that is, by the day, widening its definition of who and what is a terrorist. Extremist violence has begun as a reaction, or possibly as a provocation, or both. Expect tyranny, and more violence, in the land of the pharaohs, and—who knows—maybe even civil war. In Bahrain, the Shiite majority simmers under a Sunni king. In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of young male volunteers, anxious for the chance to kill Shiites in Syria’s jihad, manage to go off and do just that, with the ease of Californians flying to Las Vegas for weekend gambling breaks.

And there is anarchic Libya, with its myriad armed gangs, its jihadis, and its own waves of bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations; fragile (and still marginally hopeful) Tunisia; Mali and the other shaky statelets of western Africa, Burkina Faso and Niger, in which terrorists occasionally kill and are chased but nothing is the same as it was; Nigeria, with the fanatical jihadi group Boko Haram, which seeks common cause with Al Qaeda in the region and at home, and kills Christians with breathtaking frequency, only to find its own people massacred by out-of-control government troops; and the Central African Republic, where poverty and underlying tribal enmities have now found terrifying expression within a Christian-versus-Muslim prism.

Indeed, an arc of violent political instability now links Muslim nations from Mauritania to Pakistan, affecting neighbors in Europe and Africa, and there is no end in sight. Most worryingly, in the contiguous nations of central and eastern Africa, where the states are weak, a rash of uncontained conflicts has spread, their violence and refugees flowing outward and overlapping, in a great bulge of mayhem that extends from the Horn to the Nile and from the Great Lakes region to the Sahel. It is dangerous: war thrives in a vacuum.

Nowadays, the U.S. has no interest in sending combat troops, just advisers or small SWAT teams dispatched here and there on specific missions (to kill Osama bin Laden or sundry terrorists in Somalia). Instead, it supports peacekeeping missions, sends humanitarian aid, and engages in hard-nosed diplomacy. That’s all well and good. Why fight wars if you can’t win them? More troops won’t rewind the past or undo the tragic mistakes and the stupidities of the Iraq invasion and its aftermath. But, at the same time, who says that this is not a world at war? Do we have a plan of action?

Back in the days when he was trying to fix Iraq, Ambassador Khalilzad talked about his use of chaos theory, but he lamented the lack of American strategists with the heft and the depth of Zbigniew Brzezinski, his old mentor, or Henry Kissinger, helping to steer things at the top—someone with a world view and a chess master’s eye. It was, I suppose, his way of saying that, for all its sweeping ambitions, the U.S.S. Enterprise was steering blind.

No new Brzezinski ever appeared on the scene. Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld have long since retired to their ranches to, variously, paint, get a heart transplant, and write self-serving memoirs. Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense, has come out with a tell-all book of his own, revealing, among other things, that he cried at night over the deaths of American troops. That’s comforting. We’re all back home now, or nearly so. But we’ve left a mess behind. So what’s next? Where do we go from here?

As for those American soldiers asking, “Was our sacrifice in Fallujah worth it?,” one is at a loss about how to reply to the thought that comes to mind this week: No, it really wasn’t. It is time to get angry.

Voir par ailleurs:

La gauche actuelle est thermidorienne et cynique
Jean-Claude Pacitto, maître de conférences à l’université Paris Est et Philippe Jourdan, professeur à l’université Paris Est

Le Monde

10.04.2015

La gauche a beaucoup de chance. Des historiens et des politologues complaisants veulent toujours voir dans les turbulences qui l’agitent le fruit de divergences idéologiques, de visions du monde opposées comme l’on disait autrefois. Ainsi, on opposera une gauche girondine à une gauche jacobine, une première gauche à une seconde etc…

On remarquera que pour beaucoup ces fractures internes sont issues de la révolution française. Curieusement, une période de la révolution est toujours oubliée. Si l’on excepte de rares occasions, on parle peu de la gauche thermidorienne et pourtant, pensons nous, cette période est capitale pour comprendre ce qu’est devenue, aujourd’hui, la gauche française. La période thermidorienne débute avec la chute de Robespierre le 9 thermidor (27 juillet 1794) et finit avec le coup d’Etat de Bonaparte, le 18 brumaire (9 novembre1799). Elle culminera avec le Directoire. La coalition qui mettra fin à la dictature robespierriste est, dans sa composition, assez hétéroclite. Elle va d’ex-conventionnels terroristes aux anciens girondins en passant par le centre mou de la révolution : le fameux marais. En apparence, sauf l’hostilité à Robespierre, pour des raisons diverses d’ailleurs, ils ne sont d’accord sur rien. En apparence seulement. Car comme le soulignent Furet et Richet dans leur livre La révolution française, ce qui les réunit c’est la poursuite d’un double objectif : celui de la conquête et de l’intérêt. Il ne s’agit plus de créer l’homme vertueux mais de profiter (au sens plein du terme) des acquis de la révolution. Les thermidoriens les plus célèbres, dont le fameux Barras, seront des jouisseurs. Ils aiment l’argent et la jouissance dans tous ses aspects. De ce point de vue, la gauche Canal+ vient de loin, elle n’est pas née avec le mitterrandisme, ni avec 1968. La république spartiate rêvée par Robespierre et Saint-Just fait désormais place à la République des palais et des costumes extravagants.

La période du Directoire sera aussi cette époque où les spéculateurs de tout poil vont nouer avec le pouvoir politique des relations troubles. Les liaisons de la gauche avec la finance ont des antécédents et on se rend compte alors que ce n’est pas simplement ici une rencontre de circonstance. Pour se maintenir au pouvoir et profiter de leurs richesses, souvent acquises de manière suspecte, les thermidoriens seront prêts à tout, notamment aux coups d’Etat. Voyant des complots royalistes partout ils sauront en profiter pour s’offrir une virginité politique à bon compte. Malgré leur cynisme et le caractère très intéressé de leur investissement en politique, ces hommes sont pourtant, d’un point de vue philosophique, des hommes de gauche. Barras, Tallien, Reubell, La Révellière-Lépeaux et bien d’autres encore communient à la philosophie des lumières. Ils croient en la politique de la table rase et vomissent le catholicisme. Leur vision du monde est celle du progressisme de Condorcet. L’anticléricalisme leur est d’autant plus utile qu’il masque l’abandon de leur part de toute volonté de transformation sociale. Car, comme les socialistes d’aujourd’hui les thermidoriens sont, pour la plupart, des bourgeois (Barras était lui issu de la noblesse) qui se méfient de la « canaille ». Les philosophes des lumières leur ont légué une méfiance du peuple qui ne fera que s’approfondir. De ce point de vue aussi, la « prolophobie » actuelle du parti socialiste vient de loin. Ainsi, plus le directoire accentuera sa politique favorable aux intérêts, plus l’anticléricalisme se fera pesant avec un point paroxystique atteint après le coup d’Etat de Fructidor qui entrainera la déportation de centaines de prêtres. Le sociétalisme de la gauche n’est pas né ces trente dernières années, il lui est consubstantiel. Comme l’a bien montré Michéa, il n’est que la manifestation politique de la vision progressiste du monde telle qu’issue de la philosophie des lumières. La nouveauté que les thermidoriens vont léguer à la gauche contemporaine réside dans leur très forte capacité à habiller le cynisme et un amour inconsidéré du pouvoir pour le pouvoir des oripeaux du progressisme. Si l’on ne saurait exonérer les thermidoriens d’un minimum de convictions, ce qui les caractérise avant tout c’est une passion pour le pouvoir et de tout ce qu’il permet. Dans cette perspective, les nombreux dirigeants du PS qui sont issus de l’extrême gauche ne sont pas sans rappeler tous ces ex-conventionnels adeptes de la terreur qui sauront très bien se reconvertir après le 9 thermidor et entamer, pour beaucoup d’entre-eux, des carrières très fructueuses (à tous les points de vue), on pense ici à Fouché5. Il y a beaucoup de thermidorisme dans la trajectoire d’un Cambadélis, passé du lambertisme au strauss-kahnisme et ce n’est pas un hasard s’il est devenu premier secrétaire du parti socialiste. Ayant à peu près tout renié, il ne cesse de déclamer son progressisme avec une insistance qui fait sourire. N’est pas homme des lumières qui veut !

Enfin, dernier legs de Thermidor : l’institutionnalisation du pouvoir intellectuel. C’est dans cette période que va, en effet, s’institutionnaliser le pouvoir intellectuel en France avec la création de l’Institut et la domination des fameux idéologues tant raillés par Bonaparte puis Napoléon. Dès lors, l’intellectuel français va adopter des caractéristiques qui ne le quitteront plus. Il sera philosophiquement progressiste, socialement bourgeois, très souvent anticlérical ou athée, profondément élitiste (même s’il proclame le contraire) et très souvent fâché avec le monde réel. Et conclurons-nous très proche des pouvoirs établis ! L’intellectuel de gauche n’est pas né avec l’affaire Dreyfus, il est un enfant de Thermidor.

La gauche est mal à l’aise avec Thermidor. C’est un héritage qu’elle ne revendique pas. D’ailleurs, c’est le parent pauvre de l’histoire de la révolution française alors que d’un point de vue chronologique c’est la période la plus longue (hors Consulat). On débat toujours de Robespierre mais qui se souvient de Barras ? Pourtant, lorsque l’on examine avec attention cette période on se rend compte que toutes les contradictions de la gauche et toutes ses évolutions futures s’y trouvent contenues. La phase thermidorienne de la révolution française est en quelque sorte le laboratoire historique de la gauche contemporaine. Le cynisme, le sociétalisme des oligarques socialistes ne sont pas des accidents de l’histoire, ils sont ancrés en elle. L’argent roi et le progressisme fou sont des vieux compagnons de route de la gauche française !


Doctrine Obama: Après moi le déluge ! (The audacity of hope springs eternal: Is this a random series of errors by an incompetent leadership or does some grand, if misconceived, idea stand behind the pattern?)

7 avril, 2015
https://i2.wp.com/images.huffingtonpost.com/gen/29981/original.jpghttps://thisistwitchy.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/barack-obama-signing-copies-of-his-book-the-audaci.jpg?w=450&h=675Hope springs eternal. Proverbe anglais
L’espoir fait vivre. Proverbe français bien connu
L’audace de l’espoir. Voilà le meilleur de l’esprit américain ; avoir l’audace de croire, malgré toutes les indications contraires, que nous pouvions restaurer un sens de la communauté au sein d’une nation déchirée ; l’audace de croire que malgré des revers personnels, la perte d’un emploi, un malade dans la famille ou une famille empêtrée dans la pauvreté, nous avions quelque emprise- et par conséquent une responsabilité sur notre propre destin. Barack Hussein Obama
Je ne suis pas contre toutes les guerres ; je suis seulement contre les guerres idiotes. Barack Hussein Obama
Il n’y a aucune raison que nous ne puissions restaurer le respect dont jouissait l’Amérique et le partenariat qu’elle avait avec le monde musulman voilà 20 ou 30 ans de cela. (…) J’ai déclaré durant la campagne qu’il est très important pour nous de faire en sorte que nous utilisions tous les outils de la puissance américaine, y compris la diplomatie, dans nos relations avec l’Iran. Barack Hussein Obama
We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand,” the president said. “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.” The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it? Barack Hussein Obama
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
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
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
La politique étrangère des pays industrialisés ne doit pas devenir l’otage des pays producteurs de pétrole. Henry Kissinger
Certains semblent croire que nous devrions négocier avec des terroristes et des radicaux, comme si un discours ingénieux suffisait à persuader ces derniers qu’ils se trompent depuis le début. Nous avons déjà entendu cette illusion ridicule par le passé. Lorsque les chars nazis marchaient sur la Pologne en 1939, un sénateur américain avait dit: ‘Monsieur, si seulement nous avions pu parler à Hitler, tout cela ne serait jamais arrivé. Nous avons l’obligation d’appeler cela le confort illusoire de l’apaisement, qui a été discrédité à maintes reprises dans l’Histoire. George Bush (devant le parlement israélien, le 15 mai 2008)
For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years. Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a concession, the West has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new proposal. In the process, the Iranian program has reached a point officially described as being within two to three months of building a nuclear weapon. Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer.(…)  Still, the ultimate significance of the framework will depend on its verifiability and enforceability. Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The so-called framework represents a unilateral American interpretation. Some of its clauses have been dismissed by the principal Iranian negotiator as “spin.” A joint EU-Iran statement differs in important respects, especially with regard to the lifting of sanctions and permitted research and development. (…) Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting. Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment? In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another. Any report of a violation is likely to prompt debate over its significance—or even calls for new talks with Tehran to explore the issue. The experience of Iran’s work on a heavy-water reactor during the “interim agreement” period—when suspect activity was identified but played down in the interest of a positive negotiating atmosphere—is not encouraging. (…) The agreement’s primary enforcement mechanism, the threat of renewed sanctions, emphasizes a broad-based asymmetry, which provides Iran permanent relief from sanctions in exchange for temporary restraints on Iranian conduct. Undertaking the “snap-back” of sanctions is unlikely to be as clear or as automatic as the phrase implies. Iran is in a position to violate the agreement by executive decision. Restoring the most effective sanctions will require coordinated international action. In countries that had reluctantly joined in previous rounds, the demands of public and commercial opinion will militate against automatic or even prompt “snap-back.” If the follow-on process does not unambiguously define the term, an attempt to reimpose sanctions risks primarily isolating America, not Iran. (…) The interim agreement accepted Iranian enrichment; the new agreement makes it an integral part of the architecture. For the U.S., a decade-long restriction on Iran’s nuclear capacity is a possibly hopeful interlude. For Iran’s neighbors—who perceive their imperatives in terms of millennial rivalries—it is a dangerous prelude to an even more dangerous permanent fact of life. Some of the chief actors in the Middle East are likely to view the U.S. as willing to concede a nuclear military capability to the country they consider their principal threat. Several will insist on at least an equivalent capability. Saudi Arabia has signaled that it will enter the lists; others are likely to follow. In that sense, the implications of the negotiation are irreversible. If the Middle East is “proliferated” and becomes host to a plethora of nuclear-threshold states, several in mortal rivalry with each other, on what concept of nuclear deterrence or strategic stability will international security be based? (…) Previous thinking on nuclear strategy also assumed the existence of stable state actors. Among the original nuclear powers, geographic distances and the relatively large size of programs combined with moral revulsion to make surprise attack all but inconceivable. How will these doctrines translate into a region where sponsorship of nonstate proxies is common, the state structure is under assault, and death on behalf of jihad is a kind of fulfillment? Some have suggested the U.S. can dissuade Iran’s neighbors from developing individual deterrent capacities by extending an American nuclear umbrella to them. But how will these guarantees be defined? What factors will govern their implementation? Are the guarantees extended against the use of nuclear weapons—or against any military attack, conventional or nuclear? (…) What if nuclear weapons are employed as psychological blackmail?(…)  Even while combating common enemies, such as ISIS, Iran has declined to embrace common objectives. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means. The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield, Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts. (…) If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. Henry Kissinger and George Schultz
L’argument selon lequel la liberté ne peut venir que de l’intérieur et ne peut être offerte à des peuples lointains est bien plus fausse que l’on croit. Dans toute l’histoire moderne, la fortune de la liberté a toujours dépendu de la volonté de la ou des puissances dominantes du moment. Le tout récemment disparu professeur Samuel P. Huntington avait développé ce point de la manière la plus détaillée. Dans 15 des 29 pays démocratiques en 1970, les régimes démocratiques avaient été soit initiés par une puissance étrangère soit étaient le produit de l’indépendance contre une occupation étrangère. (…) Tout au long du flux et du reflux de la liberté, la puissance est toujours restée importante et la liberté a toujours eu besoin de la protection de grandes puissances. Le pouvoir d’attraction des pamphlets de Mill, Locke et Paine était fondé sur les canons de la Pax Britannica, et sur la force de l’Amérique quand la puissance britannique a flanché. (…) L’ironie est maintenant évidente: George W. Bush comme force pour l’émancipation des terres musulmanes et Barack Hussein Obama en messager des bonnes vieilles habitudes. Ainsi c’est le plouc qui porte au monde le message que les musulmans et les Arabes n’ont pas la tyrannie dans leur ADN et l’homme aux fragments musulmans, kenyans et indonésiens dans sa propre vie et son identité qui annonce son acceptation de l’ordre établi. Mr. Obama pourrait encore reconnaître l’impact révolutionnaire de la diplomatie de son prédecesseur mais jusqu’à présent il s’est refusé à le faire. (…) Son soutien au  » processus de paix » est un retour à la diplomatie stérile des années Clinton, avec sa croyance que le terrorisme prend sa source dans les revendications des Palestiniens. M. Obama et ses conseillers se sont gardés d’affirmer que le terrorisme a disparu, mais il y a un message indubitable donné par eux que nous pouvons retourner à nos propres affaires, que Wall Street est plus mortel et dangereux que la fameuse  » rue arabo-musulmane ». Fouad Ajami
Les dirigeants iraniens ont déjà obtenu toutes les concessions imaginables de la part d’une administration Obama qui est prête à tout pour qu’un accord soit signé et pour qu’au bout du processus, Obama soit sur la photo, à côté de Rouhani, mais toutes les concessions imaginables ne leur suffisent pas. Ils veulent davantage : l’humiliation des Etats-Unis et d’Obama. Et ils ne désespèrent pas obtenir ce qu’ils veulent. Il leur suffit pour cela de demander toujours ce qu’ils savent que leurs interlocuteurs ne pourront pas accepter sans se rouler dans la fange. Ils savent qu’Obama ira jusqu’à se rouler dans la fange : c’est d’ailleurs ce qu’il a commencé à faire en tenant un discours grotesque en lequel il y a deux ou trois mensonges par phrase. Les dirigeants iraniens sont à la tête, nombre de commentateurs l’oublient, d’un régime révolutionnaire et islamique. Ils ne veulent pas s’entendre avec les Etats-Unis : cela, ils pourraient l’obtenir aisément dans les circonstances présentes. Ils veulent la défaite des Etats-Unis. Ils ne veulent pas se voir reconnus en tant que puissance importante : cela, ils l’ont obtenu avec le cycle de négociations qui ne s’achève pas, et qui amènent autour de la table pour des journées entières ministres et délégations. Ils veulent que leur reconnaissance comme puissance importante soit accompagnée d’un abaissement du monde occidental tout entier. Ils ne veulent pas seulement obtenir une position de puissance hégémonique sur tout le Proche-Orient : cela, ils l’ont quasiment déjà obtenu aussi, grâce à tout ce qui leur a déjà été concédé. Ils veulent obtenir les moyens d’en finir avec Israël, et avec les régimes sunnites du statu quo (Jordanie, Egypte, Arabie Saoudite). Et il faut le dire, hélas : ils sont en train d’obtenir la défaite des Etats-Unis. Ils ont pour cela des alliés de poids : Barack Obama, et John Kerry eux-mêmes. La guerre et le chaos qui embrasent peu à peu tout le Proche-Orient, et qui débordent sur l’Afrique sont l’œuvre de l’action d’Obama depuis six ans, et de Kerry depuis qu’il est Secrétaire d’Etat. Obama et Kerry ont semé la guerre et le chaos dans tout le Proche-Orient et dans une part importante de l’Afrique. Ils ont placé les Etats-Unis dans une situation où les ennemis des Etats-Unis voient en eux des crétins à jeter après usage, et où les amis des Etats-Unis voient en eux des imbéciles dangereux et sans aucune fiabilité. Ils ne maîtrisent quasiment plus rien. Obama mériterait, si ce prix existait, un prix Nobel du désastre. (…) La doctrine Obama, que la plupart des journalistes ne veulent pas voir, aux fins de parler comme si elle n’existait pas, voulait la défaite des Etats-Unis, l’hégémonie régionale de l’Iran, l’abaissement du monde occidental en son ensemble. Elle voulait l’asphyxie d’Israël aux fins de lâcher Israël aux chiens islamistes. Elle voulait le renversement des régimes sunnites du statu quo, au profit des Frères Musulmans. Elle a tout obtenu, sauf les deux derniers points. Il lui reste moins de deux ans. Les attaques de l’administration Obama contre Israël, sur le terrain diplomatique, voire sur d’autres terrains, vont redoubler d’intensité. Guy Millière
Tout au long de sa phénoménale carrière publique, il n’aura cessé d’adopter des postures consternantes. «Homme de gauche», absolument de gauche, il aura épousé toutes les mauvaises causes de sa génération sans en manquer aucune, aura approuvé toutes les révolutions sanguinaires, de Cuba à la Chine. Toujours disposé à accabler ces fascistes d’Américains, Ronald Reagan et, bien sûr, George W. Bush (c’est sans risque), l’a-t-on en revanche entendu, ne serait-ce qu’un peu, dénoncer le fascisme de Mao Zedong ? Ou celui des islamistes ?(…) Comment s’interdire de songer à cette génération entière d’intellectuels et d’artistes en Europe, en France surtout, autoproclamée de gauche – au point que le mot ne fait plus sens –, qui n’ont cessé d’adopter des postures morales tout en illustrant des causes absolument immorales ? Comment ne pas voir surgir des spectres : ceux qui hier, ont aimé Staline et Mao et, bientôt, vont pleurer Castro ? Ceux qui n’ont rien vu à Moscou, Pékin, La Havane, Téhéran, Sarajevo, et Billancourt ? Ceux qui, maintenant, devinent dans l’islamisme une rédemption de l’0ccident ? Cette grande armée des spectres, de l’erreur absolue, dieu merci, elle n’a jamais cessé de se tromper d’avenir. (…) Par-delà ce cas singulier, on ne se méfie pas assez du grand écrivain et de la star dès qu’ils abusent de leur séduction pour propager des opinions politiques, seulement politiques, mais déguisées autrement. (…) On se garde de l’homme politique, l’élu démocratique, beaucoup trop puisqu’il avance à découvert. On ne se garde pas assez, en revanche, de l’artiste quand son talent le dissimule, surtout quand le talent est grand : des magiciens, grimés en moralistes, on ne se méfie jamais assez. Guy Sorman (sur Gunther Grass)
Combien de temps les grandes démocraties peuvent-elles survivre face à la capacité de la télévision à faire ressembler certains d’entre nous aux dieux qu’ils ne sont pas?  Peter Hitchens (2007)
The candidate is already 2007’s champion fundraiser. He has momentum. Old Clinton stalwarts desert Hillary to serve at his side. It must be a Democrat for the White House next time, they say, and this guy, this eloquent, thoughtful, handsome, black guy, is the real deal. Why, didn’t his quasi-autobiography cum manifesto, sell 1.3 million copies, top the New York Times list and win glowing reviews to boot? And didn’t he write it (rather mellifluously) himself? Look, no ghost hands here! So The Audacity of Hope invites sterner scrutiny than your average political potboiler. It is a presidential calling card. It may be all our futures. And there is fascination as the pages turn. In one sense, Barack Obama defies easy categorisation: ‘The child of a black man and white woman, born in the racial melting pot of Hawaii, with a sister who’s half-Indonesian … a brother-in-law and niece of Chinese descent, some blood relatives who resemble Margaret Thatcher and others who could pass for [black comedy actor] Bernie Mac.’ No wonder family Christmases are like the United Nations General Assembly, he writes. No wonder, either, that he can open windows to a wider world of understanding. (…) Yes … but is he a President? Does he know more about climate change than Al Gore, more about high office than Hillary Clinton, more about glad-handing and rubber-chicken dinners than John Edwards? There’s the difficulty. (…) Why The Audacity of Hope? Why not ‘The Mendacity of Despair’ or any permutation between? There’s nothing particularly daring about the prudent non-specifics he peddles most of the time. (Indeed, his middle-way title might best have been ‘The Sagacity of Further Thought’.) And his onerously repetitive chapter structure also casts a pall if you read too much, too fast. Take an event, maybe a day in the Senate, all personal achievements listed, a moment of prayer, a flying official visit to Iraq, then add anecdotes and personal conversations to taste. Obama could go hither and yonder by private jet, but he likes sweating in a coach and talking to ordinary Joes on the baggage line. Then build a brisk philosophical edifice on these emotions and encounters, opening out (as the ‘Faith’ chapter turns into the ‘Race’ chapter) into hints of what his policy might be when the time is ripe to formulate one. (…) Tired of confrontations between brutal neocons and old-style liberals locked in a time warp? Discover the joys of compromise and intelligent discussion with Obama: make positive consensus your theme for the 21st century. It is not a particularly invigorating thesis at this stage of development. It can be boiled down to the simple injunction: try to be nicer to people, wherever possible. (…) Do you sense a lurking lack of stamina, a slightly oddball compulsion to contemplation? Is the deal really real? Where’s the fine line between empathy and sanctimony? Where’s the depth of experience? The Observer (2007)
Ce qui rendait Obama unique, c’est qu’il était le politicien charismatique par excellence – le plus total inconnu à jamais accéder à la présidence aux Etats-Unis. Personne ne savait qui il était, il sortait de nulle part, il avait cette figure incroyable qui l’a catapulté au-dessus de la mêlée, il a annihilé Hillary, pris le contrôle du parti Démocrate et est devenu président. C’est vraiment sans précédent : un jeune inconnu sans histoire, dossiers, associés bien connus, auto-créé. Il y avait une bonne volonté énorme, même moi j’étais aux anges le jour de l’élection, quoique j’aie voté contre lui et me sois opposé à son élection. C’était rédempteur pour un pays qui a commencé dans le péché de l’esclavage de voir le jour, je ne croyais pas personnellement le voir jamais de mon vivant, quand un président noir serait élu. Certes, il n’était pas mon candidat. J’aurais préféré que le premier président noir soit quelqu’un d’idéologiquement plus à mon goût, comme par exemple Colin Powell (que j’ai encouragé à se présenter en 2000) ou Condoleezza Rice. Mais j’étais vraiment fier d’être Américain à la prestation de serment. Je reste fier de ce succès historique. (…) il s’avère qu’il est de gauche, non du centre-droit à la manière de Bill Clinton. L’analogie que je donne est qu’en Amérique nous jouons le jeu entre les lignes des 40 yards, en Europe vous jouez tout le terrain d’une ligne de but à l’autre. Vous avez les partis communistes, vous avez les partis fascistes, nous, on n’a pas ça, on a des partis très centristes. Alors qu’ Obama veut nous pousser aux 30 yards, ce qui pour l’Amérique est vraiment loin. Juste après son élection, il s’est adressé au Congrès et a promis en gros de refaire les piliers de la société américaine — éducation, énergie et soins de santé. Tout ceci déplacerait l’Amérique vers un Etat de type social-démocrate européen, ce qui est en dehors de la norme pour l’Amérique. (…) Obama a mal interprété son mandat. Il a été élu six semaines après un effondrement financier comme il n’y en avait jamais eu en 60 ans ; après huit ans d’une présidence qui avait fatigué le pays; au milieu de deux guerres qui ont fait que le pays s’est opposé au gouvernement républicain qui nous avait lancé dans ces guerres; et contre un adversaire complètement inepte, John McCain. Et pourtant, Obama n’a gagné que par 7 points. Mais il a cru que c’était un grand mandat général et qu’il pourrait mettre en application son ordre du jour social-démocrate. (…) sa vision du monde me semble si naïve que je ne suis même pas sûr qu’il est capable de développer une doctrine. Il a la vision d’un monde régulé par des normes internationales auto-suffisantes, où la paix est gardée par un certain genre de consensus international vague, quelque chose appelé la communauté internationale, qui pour moi est une fiction, via des agences internationales évidemment insatisfaisantes et sans valeur. Je n’éleverais pas ce genre de pensée au niveau d’ une doctrine parce que j’ai trop de respect pour le mot de doctrine. (…) Peut-être que quand il aboutira à rien sur l’Iran, rien sur la Corée du Nord, quand il n’obtiendra rien des Russes en échange de ce qu’il a fait aux Polonais et aux Tchèques, rien dans les négociations de paix au Moyen-Orient – peut-être qu’à ce moment-là, il commencera à se demander si le monde fonctionne vraiment selon des normes internationales, le consensus et la douceur et la lumière ou s’il repose sur la base de la puissance américaine et occidentale qui, au bout du compte, garantit la paix. (…) Henry Kissinger a dit une fois que la paix peut être réalisée seulement de deux manières : l’hégémonie ou l’équilibre des forces. Ca, c’est du vrai réalisme. Ce que l’administration Obama prétend être du réalisme est du non-sens naïf. Charles Krauthammer
The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama’s policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts — a year, an era — the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. He glides through crises, he knits together groups of varied, often clashing, interests. Always there is that magical moment, and its beauty, as a reference point. Mr. Obama gave voice to this sentiment in a speech on Nov. 6 in Dallas: « Sometimes I worry because everybody had such a fun experience in ’08, at least that’s how it seemed in retrospect. And, ‘yes we can,’ and the slogans and the posters, et cetera, sometimes I worry that people forget change in this country has always been hard. » It’s a pity we can’t stay in that moment, says the redeemer: The fault lies in the country itself — everywhere, that is, except in the magician’s performance. (…) Five years on, we can still recall how the Obama coalition was formed. There were the African-Americans justifiably proud of one of their own. There were upper-class white professionals who were drawn to the candidate’s « cool. » There were Latinos swayed by the promise of immigration reform. The white working class in the Rust Belt was the last bloc to embrace Mr. Obama—he wasn’t one of them, but they put their reservations aside during an economic storm and voted for the redistributive state and its protections. There were no economic or cultural bonds among this coalition. There was the new leader, all things to all people. A nemesis awaited the promise of this new presidency: Mr. Obama would turn out to be among the most polarizing of American leaders. No, it wasn’t his race, as Harry Reid would contend, that stirred up the opposition to him. It was his exalted views of himself, and his mission. The sharp lines were sharp between those who raised his banners and those who objected to his policies. (…) A leader who set out to remake the health-care system in the country, a sixth of the national economy, on a razor-thin majority with no support whatsoever from the opposition party, misunderstood the nature of democratic politics. An election victory is the beginning of things, not the culmination. With Air Force One and the other prerogatives of office come the need for compromise, and for the disputations of democracy. A president who sought consensus would have never left his agenda on Capitol Hill in the hands of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Obama has shown scant regard for precedent in American history. To him, and to the coterie around him, his presidency was a radical discontinuity in American politics. There is no evidence in the record that Mr. Obama read, with discernment and appreciation, of the ordeal and struggles of his predecessors. At best there was a willful reading of that history. Early on, he was Abraham Lincoln resurrected (the new president, who hailed from Illinois, took the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible). He had been sworn in during an economic crisis, and thus he was FDR restored to the White House. He was stylish with two young children, so the Kennedy precedent was on offer. In the oddest of twists, Mr. Obama claimed that his foreign policy was in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower’s. But Eisenhower knew war and peace, and the foreign world held him in high regard. During his first campaign, Mr. Obama had paid tribute to Ronald Reagan as a « transformational » president and hinted that he aspired to a presidency of that kind. But the Reagan presidency was about America, and never about Ronald Reagan. Reagan was never a scold or a narcissist. He stood in awe of America, and of its capacity for renewal. There was forgiveness in Reagan, right alongside the belief in the things that mattered about America—free people charting their own path. If Barack Obama seems like a man alone, with nervous Democrats up for re-election next year running for cover, and away from him, this was the world he made. No advisers of stature can question his policies; the price of access in the Obama court is quiescence before the leader’s will. The imperial presidency is in full bloom. There are no stars in the Obama cabinet today, men and women of independent stature and outlook. It was after a walk on the White House grounds with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, that Mr. Obama called off the attacks on the Syrian regime that he had threatened. If he had taken that walk with Henry Kissinger or George Shultz, one of those skilled statesmen might have explained to him the consequences of so abject a retreat. But Mr. Obama needs no sage advice, he rules through political handlers. Valerie Jarrett, the president’s most trusted, probably most powerful, aide, once said in admiration that Mr. Obama has been bored his whole life. The implication was that he is above things, a man alone, and anointed. Perhaps this moment—a presidency coming apart, the incompetent social engineering of an entire health-care system—will now claim Mr. Obama’s attention. Fouad Ajami
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)
Passage en revue des erreurs commises. En Libye, on a aidé au renversement de Mouammar Kadhafi, ce qui a entraîné l’anarchie et la guerre civile. En Égypte, on a poussé Hosni Moubarak à la démission et soutenu ensuite les Frères Musulmans, ce qui a conduit l’actuel président Sissi à se tourner vers Moscou. On s’est aliéné le gouvernement israélien qui était l’allié le plus solide dans la région. On a considéré l’EIIL comme une équipe de jeunes amateurs, jusqu’à ce qu’il s’empare de villes importantes. On a salué le Yémen comme une réussite de la lutte contre le terrorisme juste avant que son gouvernement soit renversé. On a alerté l’Arabie Saoudite au point que celle-ci a mis sur pied une coalition militaire contre l’Iran. En Turquie, on a ménagé Recep Tayyip Erdoğan au point d’encourager ses penchants dictatoriaux. On a quitté l’Irak et l’Afghanistan prématurément, condamnant ainsi l’investissement considérable des États-Unis dans ces deux pays. Et le pire de tout : on a conclu des accords dangereusement boiteux avec des mollahs iraniens aux ambitions nucléaires. Cette série d’erreurs est-elle le fruit du hasard et d’un gouvernement incompétent ou y a-t-il une grande – mais fausse – idée derrière tout cela ? Dans une certaine mesure, il s’agit d’une attitude inepte : dans un premier temps, Obama s’est incliné devant le roi saoudien et a menacé le gouvernement syrien à propos des armes chimiques avant de changer d’avis ; en outre il envoie l’armée américaine pour aider Téhéran en Irak alors qu’il combat l’Iran au Yémen. Mais il y a également derrière tout cela une grande idée qui nécessite des explications. En tant qu’homme de gauche, Obama voit les États-Unis comme un pays qui, dans l’histoire, a exercé sur le reste du monde une influence néfaste et dont les compagnies avides, l’ensemble militaro-industriel surpuissant, le nationalisme grossier, le racisme invétéré et l’impérialisme culturel ont, en fin de compte, fait de l’Amérique une force du mal. En tant qu’élève de l’organisateur communautaire Saul Alinsky, Obama n’a pas exprimé ouvertement ce point de vue, mais il s’est fait passer pour un patriote, quoiqu’il ait (lui et sa charmante épouse) manifesté occasionnellement des opinions radicales au sujet de la « transformation fondamentale des États-Unis ». Dans sa course à la présidence, Obama a changé progressivement car, soucieux d’être réélu, il était peu enclin à susciter l’inquiétude. Mais maintenant qu’il a passé six années au pouvoir et que son héritage reste désormais la seule source d’inquiétude, Obama se révèle dans toute sa splendeur. Saul Alinsky, l’organisateur communautaire par excellence (et que l’auteur de cet article à rencontré vers 1965). La Doctrine Obama est simple et universelle : relations chaleureuses avec les adversaires et distantes avec les amis. Daniel Pipes

Chaos libyen, abandon de Moubarak au profit des Frères musulmans, désaffection pro-russe de l’actuel président égyptien, rejet d’Israël, encouragement de l’autocratisme turc ou cubain, abandon au chaos djihadiste de l’Irak et bientôt de l’Afghanistan, mépris de « l’équipe junior » de l’Etat islamique, célébration du succès contre-terroriste du Yémen juste avant sa chute,  abandon de l’Arabie soaudite face à l’Iran,  blanc-seing à l’Etat terroriste iranien …

Y a-t-il une mauvaise cause que le président Obama n’aura pas épousée ?

Alors que pour ceux qui ne l’avaient pas encore compris, l’accident industriel qui sert actuellement de président à nos amis américains et de chef du Monde libre au reste d’entre nous …

Est en train, avec la cerise sur le gâteau de son dernier pré-accord avec les mollahs, de démontrer l’inépuisable ingéniosité de sa recherche des erreurs à faire pour meubler ses deux dernières années au pouvoir …

Petit décryptage croisé avec l’islamologue Daniel Pipes et le maitre-serveur de soupe du New York Times Thomas Friedman …

Sur la désormais fameuse Doctrine Obama …

Qui se révèle en fait – où avions-nous la tête ? – être tout simplement dans le titre de son premier livre …

A savoir l’audacité de l’espoir !

Ou comme aurait dit apocryphement le prédécesseur du malheureux Louis XVI ou sa Pompadour …

Après moi  le déluge !

Décryptage de la Doctrine Obama
Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
6 avril 2015

Version originale anglaise: Decoding the Obama Doctrine
Adaptation française: Johan Bourlard

James Jeffrey, ancien ambassadeur extraordinaire et plénipotentiaire de Barack Obama en Irak, a déclaré à propos des résultats enregistrés actuellement par les États-Unis au Moyen-Orient : « Nous sommes en pleine chute libre. »

Passage en revue des erreurs commises. En Libye, on a aidé au renversement de Mouammar Kadhafi, ce qui a entraîné l’anarchie et la guerre civile. En Égypte, on a poussé Hosni Moubarak à la démission et soutenu ensuite les Frères Musulmans, ce qui a conduit l’actuel président Sissi à se tourner vers Moscou. On s’est aliéné le gouvernement israélien qui était l’allié le plus solide dans la région. On a considéré l’EIIL comme une équipe de jeunes amateurs, jusqu’à ce qu’il s’empare de villes importantes. On a salué le Yémen comme une réussite de la lutte contre le terrorisme juste avant que son gouvernement soit renversé. On a alerté l’Arabie Saoudite au point que celle-ci a mis sur pied une coalition militaire contre l’Iran. En Turquie, on a ménagé Recep Tayyip Erdoğan au point d’encourager ses penchants dictatoriaux. On a quitté l’Irak et l’Afghanistan prématurément, condamnant ainsi l’investissement considérable des États-Unis dans ces deux pays.

Et le pire de tout : on a conclu des accords dangereusement boiteux avec des mollahs iraniens aux ambitions nucléaires.

 Le sort de Kadhafi en Libye est-il un succès pour Obama ?

Cette série d’erreurs est-elle le fruit du hasard et d’un gouvernement incompétent ou y a-t-il une grande – mais fausse – idée derrière tout cela ? Dans une certaine mesure, il s’agit d’une attitude inepte : dans un premier temps, Obama s’est incliné devant le roi saoudien et a menacé le gouvernement syrien à propos des armes chimiques avant de changer d’avis ; en outre il envoie l’armée américaine pour aider Téhéran en Irak alors qu’il combat l’Iran au Yémen.

Mais il y a également derrière tout cela une grande idée qui nécessite des explications. En tant qu’homme de gauche, Obama voit les États-Unis comme un pays qui, dans l’histoire, a exercé sur le reste du monde une influence néfaste et dont les compagnies avides, l’ensemble militaro-industriel surpuissant, le nationalisme grossier, le racisme invétéré et l’impérialisme culturel ont, en fin de compte, fait de l’Amérique une force du mal.

En tant qu’élève de l’organisateur communautaire Saul Alinsky, Obama n’a pas exprimé ouvertement ce point de vue, mais il s’est fait passer pour un patriote, quoiqu’il ait (lui et sa charmante épouse) manifesté occasionnellement des opinions radicales au sujet de la « transformation fondamentale des États-Unis ». Dans sa course à la présidence, Obama a changé progressivement car, soucieux d’être réélu, il était peu enclin à susciter l’inquiétude. Mais maintenant qu’il a passé six années au pouvoir et que son héritage reste désormais la seule source d’inquiétude, Obama se révèle dans toute sa splendeur.

Saul Alinsky, l’organisateur communautaire par excellence (et que l’auteur de cet article à rencontré vers 1965).

La Doctrine Obama est simple et universelle : relations chaleureuses avec les adversaires et distantes avec les amis.

Plusieurs idées préconçues sont à la base d’une telle approche : le gouvernement américain doit, sur le plan moral, compenser ses erreurs antérieures ; faire bonne figure avec des États hostiles incitera ceux-ci à en faire autant ; l’usage de la force crée plus de problèmes qu’il n’en résout ; les alliés, partenaires et soutiens historiques des États-Unis sont des complices moralement inférieurs. Au Moyen-Orient, cela signifie tendre la main à des révisionnistes (Erdoğan, les Frères Musulmans, la République islamique d’Iran) et écarter les gouvernements coopérants (Égypte, Israël, Arabie Saoudite).

Parmi tous ces acteurs, deux sortent du lot : l’Iran et Israël. L’établissement de bonnes relations avec Téhéran apparaît comme la grande préoccupation d’Obama. Comme l’a montré Michael Doran de l’Hudson Institute, Obama a travaillé pendant toute sa présidence à faire de l’Iran ce qu’il appelle « une puissance régionale qui réussit… dans le respect des normes et conventions internationales. » Par contre, les relations amicales qu’il entretenait avant sa présidence avec des antisionistes agressifs comme Ali Abunimah, Rashid Khalidi et Edward Saïd, indiquent la profondeur de son hostilité envers l’État juif.

La Doctrine Obama permet de comprendre ce qui, sans elle, serait impénétrable. Ainsi, elle explique pourquoi le gouvernement américain a joyeusement passé l’éponge sur le cri outrageant de « Mort à l’Amérique » poussé en mars dernier par le guide suprême iranien, comme s’il n’avait été lancé que pour contenter les Iraniens, et ce au moment même où Obama se rangeait à l’avis donné presque simultanément par le Premier ministre israélien en campagne électorale et selon lequel il rejetait la solution à deux États avec les Palestiniens aussi longtemps que durerait son mandat (« nous le prenons au mot »).

Le guide suprême iranien, Ali Khamenei, a beau parler, Obama n’en tient aucun compte.

La Doctrine donne également les lignes directrices qui laissent présager de quoi sera fait le reste du mandat d’Obama. À titre d’exemples, ces misérables accords des 5+1 avec l’Iran qui contraindront le gouvernement israélien à attaquer les installations nucléaires iraniennes, cette politique de modération avec Damas qui laissera la voie libre au régime d’Assad pour redéployer son pouvoir ou encore le choix d’Ankara de provoquer une crise en Méditerranée orientale à propos des réserves de gaz et de pétrole chypriotes.

La grande question qui se pose désormais est celle de savoir comment, dans leur grande sagesse, les Américains jugeront la Doctrine Obama quand ils voteront dans 19 mois pour les prochaines présidentielles. Rejetteront-ils sa politique d’atermoiements et de contrition, comme ils l’ont fait en 1980 quand ils ont élu Ronald Reagan de préférence à Jimmy Carter ? Ou vont-ils choisir de prolonger cette politique pour quatre années de plus et faire ainsi de la Doctrine Obama la nouvelle norme et des Américains, des masochistes rongés par le remords comme on en voit tant en Europe ?

Le jugement qu’ils rendront en 2016 pourrait avoir des implications historiques à l’échelle mondiale.

Voir aussi:

Iran and the Obama Doctrine
Thomas F. Friedman

The New York Times

April 5, 2015

Obama on Iran and His View of the World
In an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, President Obama says that his policy of engagement in Iran and elsewhere doesn’t mean the United States isn’t ready to defend its interests or that of its allies.

In September 1996, I visited Iran. One of my most enduring memories of that trip was that in my hotel lobby there was a sign above the door proclaiming “Down With USA.” But it wasn’t a banner or graffiti. It was tiled and plastered into the wall. I thought to myself: “Wow — that’s tiled in there! That won’t come out easily.” Nearly 20 years later, in the wake of a draft deal between the Obama administration and Iran, we have what may be the best chance to begin to pry that sign loose, to ease the U.S.-Iran cold/hot war that has roiled the region for 36 years. But it is a chance fraught with real risks to America, Israel and our Sunni Arab allies: that Iran could eventually become a nuclear-armed state.

President Obama invited me to the Oval Office Saturday afternoon to lay out exactly how he was trying to balance these risks and opportunities in the framework accord reached with Iran last week in Switzerland. What struck me most was what I’d call an “Obama doctrine” embedded in the president’s remarks. It emerged when I asked if there was a common denominator to his decisions to break free from longstanding United States policies isolating Burma, Cuba and now Iran. Obama said his view was that “engagement,” combined with meeting core strategic needs, could serve American interests vis-à-vis these three countries far better than endless sanctions and isolation. He added that America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks to open important new possibilities — like trying to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran that, while permitting it to keep some of its nuclear infrastructure, forestalls its ability to build a nuclear bomb for at least a decade, if not longer.

President Obama lays out his preference for engagement over isolation in his approach to foreign policy. This is an excerpt of an interview with Thomas L. Friedman.

“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand,” the president said. “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”

The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”

Obviously, Israel is in a different situation, he added. “Now, what you might hear from Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, which I respect, is the notion, ‘Look, Israel is more vulnerable. We don’t have the luxury of testing these propositions the way you do,’ and I completely understand that. And further, I completely understand Israel’s belief that given the tragic history of the Jewish people, they can’t be dependent solely on us for their own security. But what I would say to them is that not only am I absolutely committed to making sure that they maintain their qualitative military edge, and that they can deter any potential future attacks, but what I’m willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them. And that, I think, should be … sufficient to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.”

He added: “What I would say to the Israeli people is … that there is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward — and that’s demonstrable.”

The president gave voice, though — in a more emotional and personal way than I’ve ever heard — to his distress at being depicted in Israel and among American Jews as somehow anti-Israel, when his views on peace are shared by many center-left Israelis and his administration has been acknowledged by Israeli officials to have been as vigorous as any in maintaining Israel’s strategic edge.

With huge amounts of conservative campaign money now flowing to candidates espousing pro-Israel views, which party is more supportive of Israel is becoming a wedge issue, an arms race, with Republican candidates competing over who can be the most unreservedly supportive of Israel in any disagreement with the United States, and ordinary, pro-Israel Democrats increasingly feeling sidelined.

“This is an area that I’ve been concerned about,” the president said. “Look, Israel is a robust, rowdy democracy. … We share so much. We share blood, family. … And part of what has always made the U.S.-Israeli relationship so special is that it has transcended party, and I think that has to be preserved. There has to be the ability for me to disagree with a policy on settlements, for example, without being viewed as … opposing Israel. There has to be a way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to disagree with me on policy without being viewed as anti-Democrat, and I think the right way to do it is to recognize that as many commonalities as we have, there are going to be strategic differences. And I think that it is important for each side to respect the debate that takes place in the other country and not try to work just with one side. … But this has been as hard as anything I do because of the deep affinities that I feel for the Israeli people and for the Jewish people. It’s been a hard period.”ry

You take it personally? I asked.

“It has been personally difficult for me to hear … expressions that somehow … this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest — and the suggestion that when we have very serious policy differences, that that’s not in the context of a deep and abiding friendship and concern and understanding of the threats that the Jewish people have faced historically and continue to face.”

As for protecting our Sunni Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, the president said, they have some very real external threats, but they also have some internal threats — “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances. And so part of our job is to work with these states and say, ‘How can we build your defense capabilities against external threats, but also, how can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they’ve got something other than [the Islamic State, or ISIS] to choose from. … I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. … That’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have.”

That said, the Iran deal is far from finished. As the president cautioned: “We’re not done yet. There are a lot of details to be worked out, and you could see backtracking and slippage and real political difficulties, both in Iran and obviously here in the United States Congress.”

On Congress’s role, Obama said he insists on preserving the presidential prerogative to enter into binding agreements with foreign powers without congressional approval. However, he added, “I do think that [Tennessee Republican] Senator Corker, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, is somebody who is sincerely concerned about this issue and is a good and decent man, and my hope is that we can find something that allows Congress to express itself but does not encroach on traditional presidential prerogatives — and ensures that, if in fact we get a good deal, that we can go ahead and implement it.”

Since President Obama has had more direct and indirect dealings with Iran’s leadership — including an exchange of numerous letters with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — than any of his predecessors since Iran’s revolution in 1979, I asked what he has learned from the back and forth.

“I think that it’s important to recognize that Iran is a complicated country — just like we’re a complicated country,” the president said. “There is no doubt that, given the history between our two countries, that there is deep mistrust that is not going to fade away immediately. The activities that they engage in, the rhetoric, both anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, is deeply disturbing. There are deep trends in the country that are contrary to not only our own national security interests and views but those of our allies and friends in the region, and those divisions are real.”

But, he added, “what we’ve also seen is that there is a practical streak to the Iranian regime. I think they are concerned about self-preservation. I think they are responsive, to some degree, to their publics. I think the election of [President Hassan] Rouhani indicated that there was an appetite among the Iranian people for a rejoining with the international community, an emphasis on the economics and the desire to link up with a global economy. And so what we’ve seen over the last several years, I think, is the opportunity for those forces within Iran that want to break out of the rigid framework that they have been in for a long time to move in a different direction. It’s not a radical break, but it’s one that I think offers us the chance for a different type of relationship, and this nuclear deal, I think, is a potential expression of that.”

What about Iran’s supreme leader, who will be the ultimate decider there on whether or not Iran moves ahead? What have you learned about him?

“He’s a pretty tough read,” the president said. “I haven’t spoken to him directly. In the letters that he sends, there [are] typically a lot of reminders of what he perceives as past grievances against Iran, but what is, I think, telling is that he did give his negotiators in this deal the leeway, the capability to make important concessions, that would allow this framework agreement to come to fruition. So what that tells me is that — although he is deeply suspicious of the West [and] very insular in how he thinks about international issues as well as domestic issues, and deeply conservative — he does realize that the sanctions regime that we put together was weakening Iran over the long term, and that if in fact he wanted to see Iran re-enter the community of nations, then there were going to have to be changes.”

Since he has acknowledged Israel’s concerns, and the fact that they are widely shared there, if the president had a chance to make his case for this framework deal directly to the Israeli people, what would he say?

“Well, what I’d say to them is this,” the president answered. “You have every right to be concerned about Iran. This is a regime that at the highest levels has expressed the desire to destroy Israel, that has denied the Holocaust, that has expressed venomous anti-Semitic ideas and is a big country with a big population and has a sophisticated military. So Israel is right to be concerned about Iran, and they should be absolutely concerned that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.” But, he insisted, this framework initiative, if it can be implemented, can satisfy that Israeli strategic concern with more effectiveness and at less cost to Israel than any other approach. “We know that a military strike or a series of military strikes can set back Iran’s nuclear program for a period of time — but almost certainly will prompt Iran to rush towards a bomb, will provide an excuse for hard-liners inside of Iran to say, ‘This is what happens when you don’t have a nuclear weapon: America attacks.’

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“We know that if we do nothing, other than just maintain sanctions, that they will continue with the building of their nuclear infrastructure and we’ll have less insight into what exactly is happening,” Obama added. “So this may not be optimal. In a perfect world, Iran would say, ‘We won’t have any nuclear infrastructure at all,’ but what we know is that this has become a matter of pride and nationalism for Iran. Even those who we consider moderates and reformers are supportive of some nuclear program inside of Iran, and given that they will not capitulate completely, given that they can’t meet the threshold that Prime Minister Netanyahu sets forth, there are no Iranian leaders who will do that. And given the fact that this is a country that withstood an eight-year war and a million people dead, they’ve shown themselves willing, I think, to endure hardship when they considered a point of national pride or, in some cases, national survival.”

The president continued: “For us to examine those options and say to ourselves, ‘You know what, if we can have vigorous inspections, unprecedented, and we know at every point along their nuclear chain exactly what they’re doing and that lasts for 20 years, and for the first 10 years their program is not just frozen but effectively rolled back to a larger degree, and we know that even if they wanted to cheat we would have at least a year, which is about three times longer than we’d have right now, and we would have insights into their programs that we’ve never had before,’ in that circumstance, the notion that we wouldn’t take that deal right now and that that would not be in Israel’s interest is simply incorrect.”

Because, Obama argued, “the one thing that changes the equation is when these countries get a nuclear weapon. … Witness North Korea, which is a problem state that is rendered a lot more dangerous because of their nuclear program. If we can prevent that from happening anyplace else in the world, that’s something where it’s worth taking some risks.”

“I have to respect the fears that the Israeli people have,” he added, “and I understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu is expressing the deep-rooted concerns that a lot of the Israeli population feel about this, but what I can say to them is: Number one, this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, and number two, what we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there. And I think the combination of a diplomatic path that puts the nuclear issue to one side — while at the same time sending a clear message to the Iranians that you have to change your behavior more broadly and that we are going to protect our allies if you continue to engage in destabilizing aggressive activity — I think that’s a combination that potentially at least not only assures our friends, but starts bringing down the temperature.”

There is clearly a debate going on inside Iran as to whether the country should go ahead with this framework deal as well, so what would the president say to the Iranian people to persuade them that this deal is in their interest?

If their leaders really are telling the truth that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon, the president said, then “the notion that they would want to expend so much on a symbolic program as opposed to harnessing the incredible talents and ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the Iranian people, and be part of the world economy and see their nation excel in those terms, that should be a pretty straightforward choice for them. Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons to be a powerhouse in the region. For that matter, what I’d say to the Iranian people is: You don’t need to be anti-Semitic or anti-Israel or anti-Sunni to be a powerhouse in the region. I mean, the truth is, Iran has all these potential assets going for it where, if it was a responsible international player, if it did not engage in aggressive rhetoric against its neighbors, if it didn’t express anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment, if it maintained a military that was sufficient to protect itself, but was not engaging in a whole bunch of proxy wars around the region, by virtue of its size, its resources and its people it would be an extremely successful regional power. And so my hope is that the Iranian people begin to recognize that.”

Clearly, he added, “part of the psychology of Iran is rooted in past experiences, the sense that their country was undermined, that the United States or the West meddled in first their democracy and then in supporting the Shah and then in supporting Iraq and Saddam during that extremely brutal war. So part of what I’ve told my team is we have to distinguish between the ideologically driven, offensive Iran and the defensive Iran that feels vulnerable and sometimes may be reacting because they perceive that as the only way that they can avoid repeats of the past. … But if we’re able to get this done, then what may happen — and I’m not counting on it — but what may happen is that those forces inside of Iran that say, ‘We don’t need to view ourselves entirely through the lens of our war machine. Let’s excel in science and technology and job creation and developing our people,’ that those folks get stronger. … I say that emphasizing that the nuclear deal that we’ve put together is not based on the idea that somehow the regime changes.

“It is a good deal even if Iran doesn’t change at all,” Obama argued. “Even for somebody who believes, as I suspect Prime Minister Netanyahu believes, that there is no difference between Rouhani and the supreme leader and they’re all adamantly anti-West and anti-Israel and perennial liars and cheaters — even if you believed all that, this still would be the right thing to do. It would still be the best option for us to protect ourselves. In fact, you could argue that if they are implacably opposed to us, all the more reason for us to want to have a deal in which we know what they’re doing and that, for a long period of time, we can prevent them from having a nuclear weapon.”

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There are several very sensitive points in the framework agreement that are not clear to me, and I asked the president for his interpretation. For instance, if we suspect that Iran is cheating, is harboring a covert nuclear program outside of the declared nuclear facilities covered in this deal — say, at a military base in southeastern Iran — do we have the right to insist on that facility being examined by international inspectors?

“In the first instance, what we have agreed to is that we will be able to inspect and verify what’s happening along the entire nuclear chain from the uranium mines all the way through to the final facilities like Natanz,” the president said. “What that means is that we’re not just going to have a bunch of folks posted at two or three or five sites. We are going to be able to see what they’re doing across the board, and in fact, if they now wanted to initiate a covert program that was designed to produce a nuclear weapon, they’d have to create a whole different supply chain. That’s point number one. Point number two, we’re actually going to be setting up a procurement committee that examines what they’re importing, what they’re bringing in that they might claim as dual-use, to determine whether or not what they’re using is something that would be appropriate for a peaceful nuclear program versus a weapons program. And number three, what we’re going to be doing is setting up a mechanism whereby, yes, I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors can go anyplace.”

Anywhere in Iran? I asked.

“That we suspect,” the president answered. “Obviously, a request will have to be made. Iran could object, but what we have done is to try to design a mechanism whereby once those objections are heard, that it is not a final veto that Iran has, but in fact some sort of international mechanism will be in place that makes a fair assessment as to whether there should be an inspection, and if they determine it should be, that’s the tiebreaker, not Iran saying, ‘No, you can’t come here.’ So over all, what we’re seeing is not just the additional protocols that I.A.E.A. has imposed on countries that are suspected of in the past having had problematic nuclear programs, we’re going even beyond that, and Iran will be subject to the kinds of inspections and verification mechanisms that have never been put in place before.”

A lot of people, myself included, will want to see the fine print on that. Another issue that doesn’t seem to have been resolved yet is: When exactly do the economic sanctions on Iran get lifted? When the implementation begins? When Iran has been deemed to be complying fully?

“There are still details to be worked out,” the president said, “but I think that the basic framework calls for Iran to take the steps that it needs to around [the Fordow enrichment facility], the centrifuges, and so forth. At that point, then, the U.N. sanctions are suspended; although the sanctions related to proliferation, the sanctions related to ballistic missiles, there’s a set of sanctions that remain in place. At that point, then, we preserve the ability to snap back those sanctions, if there is a violation. If not, though, Iran, outside of the proliferation and ballistic missile issues that stay in place, they’re able to get out from under the sanctions, understanding that this constant monitoring will potentially trigger some sort of action if they’re in violation.”

There are still United States sanctions that are related to Iran’s behavior in terrorism and human rights abuse, though, the president added: “There are certain sanctions that we have that would remain in place because they’re not related to Iran’s nuclear program, and this, I think, gets to a central point that we’ve made consistently. If in fact we are able to finalize the nuclear deal, and if Iran abides by it, that’s a big piece of business that we’ve gotten done, but it does not end our problems with Iran, and we are still going to be aggressively working with our allies and friends to reduce — and hopefully at some point stop — the destabilizing activities that Iran has engaged in, the sponsorship of terrorist organizations. And that may take some time. But it’s our belief, it’s my belief, that we will be in a stronger position to do so if the nuclear issue has been put in a box. And if we can do that, it’s possible that Iran, seeing the benefits of sanctions relief, starts focusing more on the economy and its people. And investment starts coming in, and the country starts opening up. If we’ve done a good job in bolstering the sense of security and defense cooperation between us and the Sunni states, if we have made even more certain that the Israeli people are absolutely protected not just by their own capacities, but also by our commitments, then what’s possible is you start seeing an equilibrium in the region, and Sunni and Shia, Saudi and Iran start saying, ‘Maybe we should lower tensions and focus on the extremists like [ISIS] that would burn down this entire region if they could.’ ”

Regarding America’s Sunni Arab allies, Obama reiterated that while he is prepared to help increase their military capabilities they also need to increase their willingness to commit their ground troops to solving regional problems.

“The conversations I want to have with the Gulf countries is, first and foremost, how do they build more effective defense capabilities,” the president said. “I think when you look at what happens in Syria, for example, there’s been a great desire for the United States to get in there and do something. But the question is: Why is it that we can’t have Arabs fighting [against] the terrible human rights abuses that have been perpetrated, or fighting against what Assad has done? I also think that I can send a message to them about the U.S.’s commitments to work with them and ensure that they are not invaded from the outside, and that perhaps will ease some of their concerns and allow them to have a more fruitful conversation with the Iranians. What I can’t do, though, is commit to dealing with some of these internal issues that they have without them making some changes that are more responsive to their people.”

One way to think about it, Obama continued, “is [that] when it comes to external aggression, I think we’re going to be there for our [Arab] friends — and I want to see how we can formalize that a little bit more than we currently have, and also help build their capacity so that they feel more confident about their ability to protect themselves from external aggression.” But, he repeated, “The biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. Now disentangling that from real terrorist activity inside their country, how we sort that out, how we engage in the counterterrorism cooperation that’s been so important to our own security — without automatically legitimizing or validating whatever repressive tactics they may employ — I think that’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have.”

It feels lately like some traditional boundaries between the executive and legislative branches, when it comes to the conduct of American foreign policy, have been breached. For instance, there was the letter from 47 Republican senators to Iran’s supreme leader cautioning him on striking any deal with Obama not endorsed by them — coming in the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu being invited by the speaker of the House, John Boehner, to address a joint session of Congress — without consulting the White House. How is Obama taking this?

“I do worry that some traditional boundaries in how we think about foreign policy have been crossed,” the president said. “I felt the letter that was sent to the supreme leader was inappropriate. I think that you will recall there were some deep disagreements with President Bush about the Iraq war, but the notion that you would have had a whole bunch of Democrats sending letters to leaders in the region or to European leaders … trying to undermine the president’s policies I think is troubling.

“The bottom line,” he added, “is that we’re going to have serious debates, serious disagreements, and I welcome those because that’s how our democracy is supposed to work, and in today’s international environment, whatever arguments we have here, other people are hearing and reading about it. It’s not a secret that the Republicans may feel more affinity with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s views of the Iran issue than they do with mine. But [we need to be] keeping that within some formal boundaries, so that the executive branch, when it goes overseas, when it’s communicating with foreign leaders, is understood to be speaking on behalf of the United States of America, not a divided United States of America, making sure that whether that president is a Democrat or a Republican that once the debates have been had here, that he or she is the spokesperson on behalf of U.S. foreign policy. And that’s clear to every leader around the world. That’s important because without that, what you start getting is multiple foreign policies, confusion among foreign powers as to who speaks for who, and that ends up being a very dangerous — circumstances that could be exploited by our enemies and could deeply disturb our friends.”

As for the Obama doctrine — “we will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities” — the president concluded: “I’ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch, and I think they should understand that we mean it. But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement — and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations — and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbors.”

Whatever happened in the past, he said, “at this point, the U.S.’s core interests in the region are not oil, are not territorial. … Our core interests are that everybody is living in peace, that it is orderly, that our allies are not being attacked, that children are not having barrel bombs dropped on them, that massive displacements aren’t taking place. Our interests in this sense are really just making sure that the region is working. And if it’s working well, then we’ll do fine. And that’s going to be a big project, given what’s taken place, but I think this [Iran framework deal] is at least one place to start.”

Voir encore:

Opinion
The Iran Deal and Its Consequences
Mixing shrewd diplomacy with defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on its head.
Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz
The Wall Street journal

April 7, 2015

The announced framework for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program has the potential to generate a seminal national debate. Advocates exult over the nuclear constraints it would impose on Iran. Critics question the verifiability of these constraints and their longer-term impact on regional and world stability. The historic significance of the agreement and indeed its sustainability depend on whether these emotions, valid by themselves, can be reconciled.

Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications. For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.

Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a concession, the West has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new proposal. In the process, the Iranian program has reached a point officially described as being within two to three months of building a nuclear weapon. Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer.

Inspections and Enforcement

The president deserves respect for the commitment with which he has pursued the objective of reducing nuclear peril, as does Secretary of State John Kerry for the persistence, patience and ingenuity with which he has striven to impose significant constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

Progress has been made on shrinking the size of Iran’s enriched stockpile, confining the enrichment of uranium to one facility, and limiting aspects of the enrichment process. Still, the ultimate significance of the framework will depend on its verifiability and enforceability.

Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The so-called framework represents a unilateral American interpretation. Some of its clauses have been dismissed by the principal Iranian negotiator as “spin.” A joint EU-Iran statement differs in important respects, especially with regard to the lifting of sanctions and permitted research and development.

Comparable ambiguities apply to the one-year window for a presumed Iranian breakout. Emerging at a relatively late stage in the negotiation, this concept replaced the previous baseline—that Iran might be permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear program. The new approach complicates verification and makes it more political because of the vagueness of the criteria.

Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting. Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?

In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another. Any report of a violation is likely to prompt debate over its significance—or even calls for new talks with Tehran to explore the issue. The experience of Iran’s work on a heavy-water reactor during the “interim agreement” period—when suspect activity was identified but played down in the interest of a positive negotiating atmosphere—is not encouraging.

Compounding the difficulty is the unlikelihood that breakout will be a clear-cut event. More likely it will occur, if it does, via the gradual accumulation of ambiguous evasions.

When inevitable disagreements arise over the scope and intrusiveness of inspections, on what criteria are we prepared to insist and up to what point? If evidence is imperfect, who bears the burden of proof? What process will be followed to resolve the matter swiftly?

The agreement’s primary enforcement mechanism, the threat of renewed sanctions, emphasizes a broad-based asymmetry, which provides Iran permanent relief from sanctions in exchange for temporary restraints on Iranian conduct. Undertaking the “snap-back” of sanctions is unlikely to be as clear or as automatic as the phrase implies. Iran is in a position to violate the agreement by executive decision. Restoring the most effective sanctions will require coordinated international action. In countries that had reluctantly joined in previous rounds, the demands of public and commercial opinion will militate against automatic or even prompt “snap-back.” If the follow-on process does not unambiguously define the term, an attempt to reimpose sanctions risks primarily isolating America, not Iran.

The gradual expiration of the framework agreement, beginning in a decade, will enable Iran to become a significant nuclear, industrial and military power after that time—in the scope and sophistication of its nuclear program and its latent capacity to weaponize at a time of its choosing. Limits on Iran’s research and development have not been publicly disclosed (or perhaps agreed). Therefore Iran will be in a position to bolster its advanced nuclear technology during the period of the agreement and rapidly deploy more advanced centrifuges—of at least five times the capacity of the current model—after the agreement expires or is broken.

The follow-on negotiations must carefully address a number of key issues, including the mechanism for reducing Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium from 10,000 to 300 kilograms, the scale of uranium enrichment after 10 years, and the IAEA’s concerns regarding previous Iranian weapons efforts. The ability to resolve these and similar issues should determine the decision over whether or when the U.S. might still walk away from the negotiations.

The Framework Agreement and Long-Term Deterrence

Even when these issues are resolved, another set of problems emerges because the negotiating process has created its own realities. The interim agreement accepted Iranian enrichment; the new agreement makes it an integral part of the architecture. For the U.S., a decade-long restriction on Iran’s nuclear capacity is a possibly hopeful interlude. For Iran’s neighbors—who perceive their imperatives in terms of millennial rivalries—it is a dangerous prelude to an even more dangerous permanent fact of life. Some of the chief actors in the Middle East are likely to view the U.S. as willing to concede a nuclear military capability to the country they consider their principal threat. Several will insist on at least an equivalent capability. Saudi Arabia has signaled that it will enter the lists; others are likely to follow. In that sense, the implications of the negotiation are irreversible.

If the Middle East is “proliferated” and becomes host to a plethora of nuclear-threshold states, several in mortal rivalry with each other, on what concept of nuclear deterrence or strategic stability will international security be based? Traditional theories of deterrence assumed a series of bilateral equations. Do we now envision an interlocking series of rivalries, with each new nuclear program counterbalancing others in the region?

Previous thinking on nuclear strategy also assumed the existence of stable state actors. Among the original nuclear powers, geographic distances and the relatively large size of programs combined with moral revulsion to make surprise attack all but inconceivable. How will these doctrines translate into a region where sponsorship of nonstate proxies is common, the state structure is under assault, and death on behalf of jihad is a kind of fulfillment?

Some have suggested the U.S. can dissuade Iran’s neighbors from developing individual deterrent capacities by extending an American nuclear umbrella to them. But how will these guarantees be defined? What factors will govern their implementation? Are the guarantees extended against the use of nuclear weapons—or against any military attack, conventional or nuclear? Is it the domination by Iran that we oppose or the method for achieving it? What if nuclear weapons are employed as psychological blackmail? And how will such guarantees be expressed, or reconciled with public opinion and constitutional practices?

Regional Order

For some, the greatest value in an agreement lies in the prospect of an end, or at least a moderation, of Iran’s 3½ decades of militant hostility to the West and established international institutions, and an opportunity to draw Iran into an effort to stabilize the Middle East. Having both served in government during a period of American-Iranian strategic alignment and experienced its benefits for both countries as well as the Middle East, we would greatly welcome such an outcome. Iran is a significant national state with a historic culture, a fierce national identity, and a relatively youthful, educated population; its re-emergence as a partner would be a consequential event.

But partnership in what task? Cooperation is not an exercise in good feeling; it presupposes congruent definitions of stability. There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Even while combating common enemies, such as ISIS, Iran has declined to embrace common objectives. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means.

The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield, Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts.

Some have argued that these concerns are secondary, since the nuclear deal is a way station toward the eventual domestic transformation of Iran. But what gives us the confidence that we will prove more astute at predicting Iran’s domestic course than Vietnam’s, Afghanistan’s, Iraq’s, Syria’s, Egypt’s or Libya’s?

Absent the linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony. They will increasingly look to create their own nuclear balances and, if necessary, call in other powers to sustain their integrity. Does America still hope to arrest the region’s trends toward sectarian upheaval, state collapse and the disequilibrium of power tilting toward Tehran, or do we now accept this as an irremediable aspect of the regional balance?

Some advocates have suggested that the agreement can serve as a way to dissociate America from Middle East conflicts, culminating in the military retreat from the region initiated by the current administration. As Sunni states gear up to resist a new Shiite empire, the opposite is likely to be the case. The Middle East will not stabilize itself, nor will a balance of power naturally assert itself out of Iranian-Sunni competition. (Even if that were our aim, traditional balance of power theory suggests the need to bolster the weaker side, not the rising or expanding power.) Beyond stability, it is in America’s strategic interest to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war and its catastrophic consequences. Nuclear arms must not be permitted to turn into conventional weapons. The passions of the region allied with weapons of mass destruction may impel deepening

American involvement.

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order.

Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves.

Messrs. Kissinger and Shultz are former secretaries of state.

His hope springs eternal
Democrat hopeful Barack Obama looks good and writes well in The Audacity of Hope – but can his third-way politics carry him to the ultimate prize, asks Peter Preston
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
Peter Preston

The Observer

29 April 2007

The Audacity of Hope

by Barack Obama

Canongate £14.99, pp375

The candidate is already 2007’s champion fundraiser. He has momentum. Old Clinton stalwarts desert Hillary to serve at his side. It must be a Democrat for the White House next time, they say, and this guy, this eloquent, thoughtful, handsome, black guy, is the real deal. Why, didn’t his quasi-autobiography cum manifesto, sell 1.3 million copies, top the New York Times list and win glowing reviews to boot? And didn’t he write it (rather mellifluously) himself? Look, no ghost hands here! So The Audacity of Hope invites sterner scrutiny than your average political potboiler. It is a presidential calling card. It may be all our futures.

And there is fascination as the pages turn. In one sense, Barack Obama defies easy categorisation: ‘The child of a black man and white woman, born in the racial melting pot of Hawaii, with a sister who’s half-Indonesian … a brother-in-law and niece of Chinese descent, some blood relatives who resemble Margaret Thatcher and others who could pass for [black comedy actor] Bernie Mac.’ No wonder family Christmases are like the United Nations General Assembly, he writes. No wonder, either, that he can open windows to a wider world of understanding.

This isn’t some stock chaser after high American office, a standard Wasp with a standard mindset. This is a genuinely interesting man from a singular family background, who still carries its lessons, memories and baggage with him. Obama spent years of austere, troubled childhood in Jakarta when his mother was married to a young Indonesian army officer. He saw pain, distress and poverty (and marriage breakdown) close up. It encircled him. He still knows, from experience, how to relate to those in need. He’s a recognisable human being with a gift for empathy.

Yes … but is he a President? Does he know more about climate change than Al Gore, more about high office than Hillary Clinton, more about glad-handing and rubber-chicken dinners than John Edwards? There’s the difficulty.

Some of this personal credo arrives eloquent and moving. You can sense instinctively why Obama invites devotion. But then, because there’s an election pending, you can also sense formulaic caution. The Guardian has an entertaining practice of dishing up potted reads, books of the day laconically stripped to the bone. Obama often invites that kind of dissection. Why The Audacity of Hope? Why not ‘The Mendacity of Despair’ or any permutation between? There’s nothing particularly daring about the prudent non-specifics he peddles most of the time. (Indeed, his middle-way title might best have been ‘The Sagacity of Further Thought’.)

And his onerously repetitive chapter structure also casts a pall if you read too much, too fast. Take an event, maybe a day in the Senate, all personal achievements listed, a moment of prayer, a flying official visit to Iraq, then add anecdotes and personal conversations to taste. Obama could go hither and yonder by private jet, but he likes sweating in a coach and talking to ordinary Joes on the baggage line. Then build a brisk philosophical edifice on these emotions and encounters, opening out (as the ‘Faith’ chapter turns into the ‘Race’ chapter) into hints of what his policy might be when the time is ripe to formulate one.

That’s a realistic route if you want to mount a candidacy that is still standing in November 2008. But it’s a bit of tedious tease for today, little helped by the new/old brand of politics he promulgates. Tired of confrontations between brutal neocons and old-style liberals locked in a time warp? Discover the joys of compromise and intelligent discussion with Obama: make positive consensus your theme for the 21st century.

It is not a particularly invigorating thesis at this stage of development. It can be boiled down to the simple injunction: try to be nicer to people, wherever possible. And even Obama can’t keep the sermonising going indefinitely. He has to reach back into history and hail the great god FDR (also worshipped by old liberals, one seems to remember). He has to plump for less tax on the poor and hard-working Americans, not more tax cuts for the rich and rapacious. He believes in Middle East peace, not war, and spoke out against Iraqi invasion before it happened (though that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be tough in crisis). His wonderful wife and kids get a chapter of their own.

So much, perhaps, is par for the campaign course. We shouldn’t be disappointed. There are enough insights and memories to give (non-audacious) hope of something rather better if he gets in. But still the warning signs gather. Obama doesn’t always win. He challenged for Congress in 2000 and lost badly. He ‘began to harbour doubts about the path I had chosen’. He went through ‘denial and anger’ and ‘came to appreciate how the Earth rotated around the sun and the seasons came and went without any particular exertion on my part’. And then his honed profile and splendid rhetorical skills got him a starring role at the 2004 Democratic Convention. He beat off a duff rival to a Senate seat. He made it to Washington and, maybe, four years later to the doors of the Oval Office.

Do you sense a lurking lack of stamina, a slightly oddball compulsion to contemplation? Is the deal really real? Where’s the fine line between empathy and sanctimony? Where’s the depth of experience? But at least these are intriguing problems in a debate that’s pounding along. And at least, with refreshing honesty, you can begin to make your own mind up early. You can move on – or rediscover hope.

Senator Obama: man of letters

1995: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, a memoir, in which Obama confessed to having taken drugs.

2004: Signed a $1.9m contract for three books. The first was The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006). Next up, a children’s book co-written by Obama’s wife and children, with all proceeds going to charity.

2006: Wrote forewords to It Takes a Nation: How Strangers Became Family in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina and Real Men Cook: More than 100 Easy Recipes Celebrating Tradition and Family

2007: Obama’s almost universal good press may change in July with the publication of David Mendell’s Obama: The Ascent of a Politician. Mendell wrote about Obama’s sex appeal in 2004 after he saw him enthusiastically kissing the wife of his Senate opponent on the cheek (the lady in question ‘flushed and smiled broadly’).

Voir enfin:

Dossier iranien : Obama, prix Nobel du désastre

L’accord sur le nucléaire iranien n’a pas été signé le 1er avril. Il ne le sera pas le 2 ou le 3 avril.

Guy Millière –

Dreuz info

3 avril 2015

Il ne le sera vraisemblablement pas, sinon sous la forme d’un texte lamentable et sans signification qui donnera à Obama et Kerry l’allure de paillassons. Cela viendra peut-être fin juin. Ce n’est pas même certain. C’est très loin d’être certain.

Les dirigeants iraniens ont déjà obtenu toutes les concessions imaginables de la part d’une administration Obama qui est prête à tout pour qu’un accord soit signé et pour qu’au bout du processus, Obama soit sur la photo, à côté de Rouhani, mais toutes les concessions imaginables ne leur suffisent pas.

Ils veulent davantage : l’humiliation des Etats-Unis et d’Obama. Et ils ne désespèrent pas obtenir ce qu’ils veulent. Il leur suffit pour cela de demander toujours ce qu’ils savent que leurs interlocuteurs ne pourront pas accepter sans se rouler dans la fange. Ils savent qu’Obama ira jusqu’à se rouler dans la fange : c’est d’ailleurs ce qu’il a commencé à faire en tenant un discours grotesque en lequel il y a deux ou trois mensonges par phrase.

Les dirigeants iraniens sont à la tête, nombre de commentateurs l’oublient, d’un régime révolutionnaire et islamique. Ils ne veulent pas s’entendre avec les Etats-Unis : cela, ils pourraient l’obtenir aisément dans les circonstances présentes. Ils veulent la défaite des Etats-Unis.

Ils ne veulent pas se voir reconnus en tant que puissance importante : cela, ils l’ont obtenu avec le cycle de négociations qui ne s’achève pas, et qui amènent autour de la table pour des journées entières ministres et délégations. Ils veulent que leur reconnaissance comme puissance importante soit accompagnée d’un abaissement du monde occidental tout entier.

Ils ne veulent pas seulement obtenir une position de puissance hégémonique sur tout le Proche-Orient : cela, ils l’ont quasiment déjà obtenu aussi, grâce à tout ce qui leur a déjà été concédé. Ils veulent obtenir les moyens d’en finir avec Israël, et avec les régimes sunnites du statu quo (Jordanie, Egypte, Arabie Saoudite).

Et il faut le dire, hélas : ils sont en train d’obtenir la défaite des Etats-Unis. Ils ont pour cela des alliés de poids : Barack Obama, et John Kerry eux-mêmes. La guerre et le chaos qui embrasent peu à peu tout le Proche-Orient, et qui débordent sur l’Afrique sont l’œuvre de l’action d’Obama depuis six ans, et de Kerry depuis qu’il est Secrétaire d’Etat. Obama et Kerry ont semé la guerre et le chaos dans tout le Proche-Orient et dans une part importante de l’Afrique. Ils ont placé les Etats-Unis dans une situation où les ennemis des Etats-Unis voient en eux des crétins à jeter après usage, et où les amis des Etats-Unis voient en eux des imbéciles dangereux et sans aucune fiabilité. Ils ne maîtrisent quasiment plus rien. Obama mériterait, si ce prix existait, un prix Nobel du désastre.

Il faut le dire : les dirigeants iraniens sont, aussi, en train d’obtenir l’abaissement du monde occidental tout entier. L’attitude de Barack Obama et de John Kerry n’est ni désapprouvée ni dénoncée par les dirigeants européens : ceux-ci, au contraire, rivalisent de pusillanimité pour s’accrocher aux basques des méprisables duettistes de Washington. Seul Laurent Fabius essaie de faire entendre une voix un peu discordante, mais vue l’attitude de la France sur le dossier « palestinien », on voit que Laurent Fabius n’a aucune pensée cohérente et parle faux.

Il faut le dire enfin : Obama, Kerry et leurs complices européens ne donnent pas du tout l’impression qu’ils sont prêts à défendre Israël. Tout en étant prêts à s’entendre avec les mollahs de Téhéran, et tout en faisant comme s’ils n‘entendaient pas les vociférations haineuses de Khamenei, ils semblent réserver le rôle d’ennemi principal à Binyamin Netanyahou, et n’accordent aucune importance à ses avertissements concernant le danger iranien. Obama, Kerry et leurs complices européens ne donnent pas non plus l’impression d’être prêts à défendre les régimes sunnites du statu quo.

Nul ne peut prévoir avec exactitude ce qui va se passer dans les mois à venir, mais ce qui est certain est qu’ils seront les mois les plus dangereux depuis qu’Obama est arrivé à la Maison Blanche.

La doctrine Obama, que la plupart des journalistes ne veulent pas voir, aux fins de parler comme si elle n’existait pas, voulait la défaite des Etats-Unis, l’hégémonie régionale de l’Iran, l’abaissement du monde occidental en son ensemble. Elle voulait l’asphyxie d’Israël aux fins de lâcher Israël aux chiens islamistes. Elle voulait le renversement des régimes sunnites du statu quo, au profit des Frères Musulmans.

Elle a tout obtenu, sauf les deux derniers points. Il lui reste moins de deux ans. Les attaques de l’administration Obama contre Israël, sur le terrain diplomatique, voire sur d’autres terrains, vont redoubler d’intensité.

Les attaques de l’administration Obama contre les régimes sunnites du statu quo vont aussi s’accentuer.

Si vous constatez que l’Iran des mollahs est au pouvoir, outre Téhéran, à Bagdad, Damas, Beyrouth, Sanaa et tente de s’emparer d’Aden, si vous voyez un large sourire sur le visage du Ministre des affaires étrangères iranien pendant que des atrocités surviennent à proximité des villes susdites, et si vous vous demandez pourquoi il en est ainsi, regardez du côté de la Maison Blanche, vous trouverez la réponse.

Si vous constatez que l’Irak était stable et al Qaida vaincu en 2008, qu’aujourd’hui l’Irak est démembré au milieu d’un océan de cadavres, qu’al Qaida en Irak est devenu l’Etat Islamique, sur une superficie équivalente à celle de la Grande Bretagne, et que la guerre en Syrie a fait environ deux cent cinquante mille morts, et si vous vous demandez pourquoi il en est ainsi, regardez à nouveau du côté de la Maison Blanche, vous trouverez la réponse.

Si vous constatez que le Yemen est présentement plongé dans une guerre qui s’aggrave de jour en jour, que l’Arabie Saoudite est menacée et vient de mettre sur pied une alliance avec les autres régimes sunnites du statu quo, que la guerre pourrait aisément devenir une conflagration régionale, que des hordes islamiques ravagent le Sinaï et la Libye, avec débordements vers la Tunisie, que l’Iran pourrait être bientôt à même de contrôler le détroit d’Ormuz et le Bab El Mandeb, avec toutes les conséquences à même de découler, et qu’Israël, seul îlot de stabilité dans ce déferlement fait face à un réarmement du Hamas, à l’incursion de Gardiens de la Révolution sur les hauteurs du Golan, côté syrien, et est en même temps au cœur de toutes les récriminations occidentales et de manœuvres sombres qui s’amorcent aux Nations Unies et à la Cour Pénale Internationale, et si, une fois de plus, vous vous demandez pourquoi il en est ainsi, regardez encore du côté de la Maison Blanche.

Vous trouverez la réponse.

Les Républicains, au Congrès, voudraient limiter les dégâts : le peuvent-ils encore ? L’avantage est qu’ils savent, eux, ce que veut Obama. L’inconvénient est que leurs moyens d’action face au premier Président résolument anti-américain de l’histoire des Etats Unis, et face à ses porte-cotons, sont limités.

La question iranienne sera abordée dans deux semaines, à la Chambre des représentants et au Sénat : ce qui va se passer devra être suivi avec la plus grande attention.

Le sénateur Tom Cotton a résumé le contenu de l’ « accord d’étape » du 3 avril (qui n’est en rien un accord, et qui est, au mieux, une capitulation du monde occidental) :

« L’Iran va garder son stock d’uranium enrichi et des milliers de centrifugeuses, y compris celles du site souterrain et fortifié de Fordow, qui est un bunker militaire. L’Iran va aussi moderniser son réacteur de production de plutonium, à Arak. L’Iran n’aura pas à révéler les dimensions militaires de son programme nucléaire, en dépit des demandes réitérées des Nations Unies. En outre, l’Iran va bénéficier d’une levée massive de sanctions de manière immédiate, levée qui rendra le retour à des sanctions ultérieures virtuellement impossible… Les concessions accordées ne feront rien pour changer le comportement de l’Iran. L’Iran reste le pire Etat soutenant le terrorisme à l’échelle mondiale. Les agressions iraniennes vont continuer à déstabiliser le Moyen Orient. Et l’Iran continue à détenir plusieurs otages américains ».

Le sénateur Mark Kirk a ajouté que « Neville Chamberlain avait obtenu davantage d’Adolf Hitler ».


Nucléaire iranien: Plus ça change … (Surprise! Iran’s Persian statement on ‘deal’ turns out to contradict Obama’s claims)

5 avril, 2015
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Les faucons affirment (…) que le président Ahmadinejad a déclaré vouloir “rayer Israël de la carte”. Mais cet argument repose sur une mauvaise traduction de ses propos. La traduction juste est qu’Israël “devrait disparaître de la page du temps”. Cette expression (empruntée à un discours de l’ayatollah Khomeiny) n’est pas un appel à la destruction physique d’Israël. Bien que très choquant, son propos n’était pas un appel à lancer une attaque, encore moins une attaque nucléaire, contre Israël. Aucun État sensé ne peut partir en guerre sur la foi d’une mauvaise traduction. John J. Mearsheimer et Stephen M. Walt (2007)
Si des pays comme l’Iran sont prêts à desserrer le poing, ils trouveront une main tendue de notre part. Barack Hussein Obama (27.01.09)
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. Barack Hussein Obama (24.01.12)
 Aujourd’hui, les estimations indiquent que l’Iran est à seulement deux ou trois mois de l’acquisition des matières premières qui pourraient être utilisées pour produire une seule bombe nucléaire. En vertu de cet accord, l’Iran a accepté de ne pas stocker les matériaux nécessaires pour construire une arme. Même s’il violait l’accord, pour les dix prochaines années au moins, l’Iran serait à un minimum d’un an de l’acquisition d’assez de matériaux pour fabriquer une bombe. (…) L’Iran a donné son accord pour un régime de transparence et les inspections les plus approfondies jamais négociées dans l’histoire des programmes nucléaires. Si l’Iran triche, le monde le saura. (…)  C’est un bon accord qui répond à nos objectifs fondamentaux, y compris des limites strictes sur le programme de l’Iran afin de couper toutes les voies que Téhéran pourrait prendre pour développer une arme nucléaire. (…) Puisque le chef suprême de l’Iran a émis une fatwa contre le développement des armes nucléaires, ce cadre donne à l’Iran la possibilité de vérifier que son programme est bien pacifique. Barack Hussein Obama (2015)
In return for Iran’s actions, the international community, including the United States, has agreed to provide Iran with phased relief from certain sanctions. If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place (…) —even though that’s always led to Iran making more progress in its nuclear program … Barack Hussein Obama
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)
Israël doit disparaître (…) Israël est une vieille blessure sur le corps du monde musulman. Hassan Rohani (2013)
Les grandes puissances ont reconnu à l’Iran le droit à l’enrichissement (…) Certains pensent qu’il faut soit se battre avec le monde, soit se rendre face aux grandes puissances. Nous croyons à une troisième option, nous pouvons coopérer avec le monde. Hassan Rohani (2015)
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, 26.11.13)
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)
We expected that the Iranians would need to spin this for their domestic political purposes, and are not surprised they are doing just that. Senior Obama administration official (23.01.14)
La victoire résidera dans la lutte entre les différentes interprétations. Javan (journal iranien proche des Gardiens de la révolution)
Le poing que l’Iran a agité à la face du Grand Satan, n’est pas encore complètement relâché. Mais les doigts se détendent, et l’accord, bien qu’incomplet, laisse la possibilité qu’ils se transforment en poignée de main. NYT
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
It only took North Korea 12 years to get a nuclear weapon from the time we reached the agreed framework in 1994 to the time they tested their first weapon in 2006. Tom Cotton
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
Like so many things in in life, one can learn a lot from Saddam Hussein. (…) Following the war (…) The authorities that the Security Council mandated for UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors to verify Iraq’s disarmament were extraordinary and probably well beyond anything Iran will accept. In essence, inspectors could go anywhere in Iraq, interview anyone, fly their own aircraft and helicopters, install sensors or cameras anywhere, take possession of documents, etc. (…) And yet, with all of these authorities and tools, we were unable to complete the tasks given by the Security Council. UNSCOM and the IAEA after more than seven years of operations inside Iraq could not verify that Saddam had completely disarmed. Ironically, we later learned, Saddam had, eventually, pretty much given up his WMD program by 1997-98. But we could not verify his claims, and by that time no one was giving him the benefit of the doubt. Moreover, as he told us in debriefings, he retained the intent to restart the programs once conditions permitted. In practice, Saddam (…) pursued two tracks—one of grudging incremental revelations about WMD and the second track was the divide the Security Council and cause sanctions to erode. (…) Indeed, almost from the start, some members of the Security Council were in close consultation with Iraq. Some had longstanding business relations with Saddam—especially France and Russia. In manipulating the Security Council, Saddam applied the same tactics to countries as he did to individuals. He offered reward or punishment. He gave some members a stake in his survival. We know all this from debriefings of Saddam and his top lieutenants following the 2003 war as well as from the regime documents we obtained, particularly those concerning disbursement of oil allocations during the so-called Oil-for-Food program. (…) Iran will have learned from Saddam’s experience too. Tehran will know that support can be bought in the Security Council. Tehran will know that some countries have an immediate financial interest that Tehran can exploit. And some Council members will have a political incentive to build a relationship with Iran. The leaders in Iran, like Saddam in Iraq, play a long game. So do the Russians. (…) If I were John Kerry, I would not want to be defending a deal that depends upon Vladimir Putin. Charles Duelfer
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)
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. (…) In October 2002, the U.S. says North Korea has admitted it has had a secret program to enrich weapons-grade uranium. (…) 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. (…) In October, North Korea explodes a nuclear device in an underground test. (…)  NK says it is no longer “bound” by any agreements. On May 25, 2009, North Korea conducts its second underground nuclear test. (…) 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.” (…) In early 2013, a monitoring group detects activity with “explosion-like characteristics” at North Korea’s underground test site. (…) 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. Bret Stephens
Les Russes ont réagi à la vitesse de l’éclair, dès l’accord de Lausanne sur le nucléaire conclu. Puisque cet accord est conclu, puisque le nucléaire militaire iranien n’est plus considéré comme une possibilité, qu’il est en principe sur la voie d’être enterré, qu’est-ce qui justifie encore l’installation du réseau anti-missiles US en Europe (…), lequel fut officiellement lancé et développé contre une menace iranienne principalement ? (…) La rapidité de réaction de communication des Russes à peine l’accord de Lausanne bouclé pour faire ressortir l’affaire du réseau BMDE témoigne, outre leur maîtrise de la communication, de plusieurs points essentiels. Tous ces points ne sont pas que de simples constats, ils sont promis à un développement dans l’avenir et pourraient aggraver un cas ou l’autre, – une crise ou l’autre, – montrant par là qu’il est, aujourd’hui, dans le cadre de la crise d’effondrement du Système, absolument impossible de résoudre une crise seule, d’une façon indépendante, – si tant est que la crise du nucléaire iranien soit complètement et vraiment résolue, ce qui reste à voir. Justement, comme on va le voir, toutes les crises sont liées, interconnectées, dépendantes les unes des autres. (…) Le troisième point est l’attitude des Russes vis-à-vis de l’Iran à l’ombre de l’affaire du BMDE. Nul doute qu’ils vont activer, en même temps que certaines sanctions devraient être levées, leur démarche consistant à finalement livrer des S-300 de défense aérienne à l’Iran, dans le cadre du marché qu’ls avaient d’abord refuse d’honorer (à cause des sanctions, du temps de Medvedev, en 2009), et qu’ils proposeraient finalement d’honorer. Mais on devrait aller bien au-delà des S-300, et les Russes devraient effectivement proposer des S400 beaucoup plus avancés. (…) C’est une question d’abord commerciale, certes, mais, désormais, surtout stratégique. Les Russes feront tout pour renforcer la défense des Iraniens contre toute menace stratégique, à la fois pour réduire encore plus l’argument des BMDE mais aussi pour contrecarrer les menaces qui continuent à se développer d’une éventuelle frappe contre l’Iran, – des Israéliens, mais aussi des USA dans des cas extrêmes. Bref, les Russes feront tout pour renforcer la défense de l’Iran dans la balance stratégique face au bloc BAO, dans un cadre général stratégique où, à cause du réseau BMDE qui continue à se développer, ils doivent jouer à fond la carte du renforcement stratégique de l’Iran. D’autre part, certes, ils doivent tout faire pour renforcer leurs liens stratégiques avec l’Iran, et cela devrait commencer par l’admission comme membre effectif de l’Iran à l’Organisation de Coopération de Shanghai, en juillet prochain. Le paradoxe est ainsi que la résolution possible/probable de la crise iranienne pourrait conduire, sinon devrait conduire à un renforcement notable des tensions stratégiques générales du bloc BAO avec la Russie, notamment à partir de la crise ukrainienne qui en est son point de fixation central. L’Iran, “libéré” des contraintes internationales, et s’il l’est officiellement, va désormais être sollicité par les évènements eux-mêmes pour jouer un jeu important dans les grandes crises en cours. Certes, on pense naturellement et irrésistiblement à la crise générale et confuse du Moyen-Orient, mais c’est un aspect très opérationnel. Nous pensons surtout à l’aspect d’une grande stratégie diplomatique et de communication, et c’est vers le Nord et vers le Nord-Est que l’Iran va être sollicité, vers l’axe Moscou-Pékin, vers l’OCS ; et également vers des crises comme celles de l’Ukraine et les autres qui opérationnalisent le grand schisme entre le bloc BAO et les autres. L’Iran ne pourra pas observer une neutralité dans ce cas, il devra choisir son camp. On a vu (…) que ce n’est pas le camp du bloc BAO qui nous paraît le choix probable de l’Iran. Dedefensa
Les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité exigeaient l’arrêt des centrifugeuses. Aujourd’hui, on accorde à l’Iran le droit d’en conserver 6 000. Donc, petit à petit, les Iraniens, qui ne sont pas sur une même échelle du temps que les démocraties occidentales, obtiennent des concessions diplomatiques réelles et cruciales, tout en violant les lois internationales. Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier
The first thing to know about the highly hyped “historic achievement” that President Obama is trying to sell is that there has been no agreement on any of the fundamental issues that led to international concern about Iran’s secret nuclear activities and led to six mandatory resolutions by the United Nations Security Council and 13 years of diplomatic seesaw. All we have is a number of contradictory statements by various participants in the latest round of talks in Switzerland, which together amount to a diplomatic dog’s dinner. (…) It is not only in their length that the texts differ. They amount to different, at times starkly contradictory, narratives. The Mogherini and French texts are vague enough to be ultimately meaningless, even as spin. The Persian text carefully avoids words that might give the impression that anything has been agreed by the Iranian side or that the Islamic Republic has offered any concessions. The Iranian text is labelled as a press statement only. The American text, however, pretends to enumerate “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and claims key points have been “decided.” What remains to be done is work out “implementation details. » (…) Obama is playing a bizarre game that could endanger regional peace and threaten the national security of the US and its allies. He insisted that Kerry secure “something, anything” before April 14 to forestall the US Congress’ planned moves on Iran. He also wanted to stick it to Netanyahu, settle scores with Republicans, and please his faction within the Democratic Party; in other words, taking strategic risks with national security and international peace in the pursuit of dubious partisan gains. Amir Taheri

Attention: un déjà vu peut en cacher un autre !

Différences de longueur (291 en anglais pour la version irano-européenne, 512 pour la version persane, 231 pour la française, 1,318 pour l’américaine), différences de contenu (modèle de vacuité pour les versions irano-européenne ou française, « étonnantes spécificité et exhaustivité » du côté américain), différences d’étiquetage (simple « communiqué de presse » pour les Iraniens, « Paramètres d’un Plan d’action conjoint et exhaustif » pour les Américains), différences syntaxiques (réduction, dans la version persane, de tout ce que la version américaine présente comme des « décisions » à des spéculations impersonnelles pour ce qui pourrait apparaitre comme des concessions iraniennes, précision persane au contraire pour les concessions occidentales), oppositions diamétrales (arrêt contre continuation de l’utilisation de centrifugeuses avancées, démantèlement contre modernisation du réacteur d’Arak, levée progressive contre immédiate des sanctions), disparitions pures et simples (supervision sur 10, 15 ou même 25 ans annoncées par les Obama et Kerry eux-même disparaissant totalement des versions persane, italienne et française), flagrantes contre-vérités (les 800 centrifugeuses iraniennes du début du premier mandat du président américain passant mystérieusement dans sa bouche à 6 000, toutes les voies coupées pour atteindre une bombe atomique qui pourraient néanmoins permettre l’obtention de celle-ci en un an, la fausse alternative entre la reddition préemptive actuelle et la guerre) …

Au lendemain d’un prétendu accord

Que tant le prétendu chef du Monde libre que ses thuriféraires …

Nous avaient vendu comme « historique » et « modèle de succès de la diplomatie multilatérale » ayant « toutes les chances d’être encore enseigné dans trente ans au sein des universités de sciences politiques du monde entier »  …

A coup de « plus inspecté que n’importe quel autre pays dans le monde » et d’ « aucun pays au monde n’a accepté de telles restrictions en matière nucléaire » …

Avec son imparable pièce maitresse de sanctions qu’il suffit en cas de tricherie de remettre en place même si bien sûr on sait qu’elles sont inefficaces

Et contre lequel étaient censés se « déchainer » les conservateurs de tout poil alors que « les détails ne sont pas connus avant l’échéance du 30 juin »…

Alors que quelques heures à peine après ledit accord, les négociateurs iraniens accusaient déjà comme ils l’avaient fait il y a deux ans la Maison Blanche de mensonges sur la teneur exacte des termes du prétendu accord …

Et que Moscou attend son tour pour demander le démantèlement du bouclier antimissile européen et renforcer contre d’éventuelles frappes israéliennes ou occidentales la défense anti-aérienne iranienne …

Comment ne pas voir avec l’iranologue Tamer Aheri …

Derrière l’étrange impression de déjà vu munichois que les plus indécrottables des néoconservateurs avaient osé évoquer …

Comme d’un certain accord-cadre nord-coréen dont un certain président Clinton nous avait il y a onze ans dit tant de bien …

Et sans parler, concernant l’autre pièce maitresse du système, du fiasco lui aussi historique des inspections contre l’Irak de Saddam

La routine à présent bien rodée, après bientôt treize ans d’âpres négociations et pas moins de six résolutions contraignantes de l’ONU, de maitres-casuistes …

A qui on s’en souvient on devait déjà l’incomparable poésie d’un Israël …

Qui ne devait pas être « rayé de la carte » comme une traduction fautive nous l’avait un temps fait croire …

Mais tout simplement… « disparaitre de la page du temps » ?

Iran’s Persian statement on ‘deal’ contradicts Obama’s claims

Amir Taheri

April 4, 2015

“Iran Agrees to Detailed Nuclear Outline,” The New York Times headline claimed on Friday. That found an echo in the Washington Post headline of the same day: “Iran agrees to nuclear restrictions in framework deal with world powers.”

But the first thing to know about the highly hyped “historic achievement” that President Obama is trying to sell is that there has been no agreement on any of the fundamental issues that led to international concern about Iran’s secret nuclear activities and led to six mandatory resolutions by the United Nations Security Council and 13 years of diplomatic seesaw.

All we have is a number of contradictory statements by various participants in the latest round of talks in Switzerland, which together amount to a diplomatic dog’s dinner.

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

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

It is not only in their length that the texts differ.

They amount to different, at times starkly contradictory, narratives.

The Mogherini and French texts are vague enough to be ultimately meaningless, even as spin.

The Persian text carefully avoids words that might give the impression that anything has been agreed by the Iranian side or that the Islamic Republic has offered any concessions.

The Iranian text is labelled as a press statement only. The American text, however, pretends to enumerate “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and claims key points have been “decided.” What remains to be done is work out “implementation details.”

When referring to what Iran is supposed to do, the Iranian text uses a device of Persian grammar known as “nakarah,” a form of verbs in which the authorship of a deed remains open to speculation.

For example: “ It then happened that . . .” or “that is to be done.”

But when it comes to things the US and allies are supposed to do, the grammatical form used is “maerfah” which means the precise identification of the author.

This is an example of the first form: “The nuclear facilities at Fordow shall be developed into a center for nuclear research and advanced Physics.” It is not clear who is going to do those things, over what length of time, and whether that would be subject to any international supervision

An example of the second form: “The United Nations shall abrogate its previous resolutions while the United States and the European Union will immediately lift sanctions [imposed on] financial, banking, insurance, investment and all services related to oil, gas, petrochemicals and car industry.”

The Iranian text opens by insisting that it has absolutely no “legal aspect” and is intended only as “a guideline for drafting future accords.”

The American text claims that Iran has agreed to do this or that, for example reducing the number of centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,500.

The Iranian text, however, says that Iran “shall be able to . . .” or “qader khahad boud” in Farsi to do such a thing. The same is true about enrichment in Fordow. The Americans say Iran has agreed to stop enrichment there for 15 years. The Iranian text, however, refers to this as something that Iran “will be able to do,” if it so wished.

Sometimes the two texts are diametrically opposed.

The American statement claims that Iran has agreed not to use advanced centrifuges, each of which could do the work of 10 old ones. The Iranian text, however, insists that “on the basis of solutions found, work on advanced centrifuges shall continue on the basis of a 10-year plan.”

The American text claims that Iran has agreed to dismantle the core of the heavy water plutonium plant in Arak. The Iranian text says the opposite. The plant shall remain and be updated and modernized.

In the past two days Kerry and Obama and their apologists have been all over the place claiming that the Iranian nuclear project and its military-industrial offshoots would be put under a kind of international tutelage for 10, 15 or even 25 years.

However, the Persian, Italian and French texts contain no such figures.

The US talks of sanctions “ relief” while Iran claims the sanctions would be “immediately terminated.”

The American text claims Tehran has agreed to take measures to reassure the international community on military aspects of its nuclear project, an oblique reference to Iran’s development, with help from North Korea, of missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads. There is absolutely no echo of that in the Iranian and other non-American texts.

In his jubilatory remarks in the Rose Garden Thursday, Obama tried to sell the Americans a bill of goods.

He made three outrageous claims.

The first was that when he became president Iran had “ thousands of centrifuges” which would now be cut down to around 6,000. In fact, in 2008, Iran had only 800 centrifuges. It was on Obama’s watch and because of his perceived weakness that Iran speeded up its nuclear program.

The second claim was that thanks to the scheme he is peddling “all of Iran’s paths” to developing a nuclear arsenal would be blocked. And, yet, in the same remarks he admitted that even if the claimed deal is fully implemented, Iran would still be able to build a bomb in just a year, presumably jumping over the “blocked paths.”

Obama’s worst claim was that the only alternative to his attempts at surrendering to the obnoxious Khomeinist regime would be US involvement in “another ground war in the Middle East.”

He ignores the fact that forcing Iran through diplomatic action, sanctions and proximity pressures to abide by six UN resolutions could also be regarded as an alternative. In other words, preemptive surrender is not the only alternative to war.

Obama is playing a bizarre game that could endanger regional peace and threaten the national security of the US and its allies. He insisted that Kerry secure “something, anything” before April 14 to forestall the US Congress’ planned moves on Iran.

He also wanted to stick it to Netanyahu, settle scores with Republicans, and please his faction within the Democratic Party; in other words, taking strategic risks with national security and international peace in the pursuit of dubious partisan gains.

Voir aussi:

Iranian official on nuke deal: ‘We did not agree to dismantle anything’
Tom Cohen

CNN
January 23, 2014

(CNN) — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Wednesday that the Obama administration mischaracterizes concessions by his side in the six-month nuclear deal with Iran, telling CNN in an exclusive interview that « we did not agree to dismantle anything. »

Zarif told CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto that terminology used by the White House to describe the agreement differed from the text agreed to by Iran and the other countries in the talks — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

« The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments » under the agreement that took effect Monday, Zarif said in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.

As part of the accord, Iran was required to dilute its stockpile of uranium that had been enriched to 20%, well above the 5% level needed for power generation but still below the level for developing a nuclear weapon.

In addition, the deal mandated that Iran halt all enrichment above 5% and « dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%, » according to a White House fact sheet issued in November after the initial agreement was reached.

Zarif accused the Obama administration of creating a false impression with such language.

« 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 said, urging Sciutto to read the actual text of the agreement. « 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. »

He repeated that « we are not dismantling any centrifuges, we’re not dismantling any equipment, we’re simply not producing, not enriching over 5%. »

« You don’t need to over-emphasize it, » Zarif said of the White House language. A separate summary sent out by the White House last week did not use the word dismantle.

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed Zarif’s statement, saying the government will not destroy existing centrifuges. However, he added: « We are ready to provide confidence that there should be no concern about Iran’s program. »

Responding to Zarif’s comments to CNN, a senior administration official said « we expected that the Iranians would need to spin this for their domestic political purposes, and are not surprised they are doing just that. »

Iranian and U.S. officials have tried to sell the nuclear agreement to domestic opponents in their respective countries who could scuttle it.

Iranian officials have called the interim pact a victory and said it failed to halt the nation’s nuclear development program, while U.S. officials say the agreement essentially froze Iran’s nuclear program and rolled back some capabilities.

Zarif noted the political pressure facing both sides, which includes a push in Congress for more sanctions against Iran that Tehran warns would destroy any chance for success in talks on a long-range nuclear agreement intended to prevent development of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

« All of us are facing difficulties and oppositions and concerns and misgivings, » he said, noting he had been summoned Wednesday to Iran’s parliament to answer questions.

Asked about his relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, Zarif called it « very difficult because we’re both going into these negotiations with a lot of baggage. »

Progress has been made, he said, but « it’s yet too early to talk about trust. »

Zarif and Rouhani traveled to Switzerland for annual gathering of world political and business leaders in Davos as a new round of Syrian talks started in Montreux before moving to Geneva.

Iran, a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was invited to the Syrian talks by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, then disinvited under pressure from the United States because Tehran refused to endorse conditions in a previous agreement setting up the talks.

« We do not like the way Iran was treated, » he said, adding « it did not enhance the credibility of the United Nations or the office of the Secretary General. »

Zarif expressed hope that the Syrian talks could succeed, but he criticized Syrian opposition groups and their supporters that opposed Iran’s participation in the talks for what he called spreading extremism and trying to impose their will on the Syrian people.

He explained Iran’s support for the Syrian government, a longtime ally, by saying « Iran finds itself in a situation where we see the very prominent and serious danger of terrorism, extremism, sectarian tension being fed from outside and creating a very dangerous environment in Syria. »

To Zarif, an agreement among Syrians that brings a democratically elected government is the only solution, and he dismissed concerns that a free and fair vote would be impossible with al-Assad in power and running as a candidate.

Kerry said earlier Wednesday in Montreux that there was « no way » al-Assad will be part of a transitional government sought by the Geneva talks.

« Why don’t we talk about it? » Zarif asked. « And why don’t we allow the Syrians to talk about how they can conduct a free and fair election? Why do people need to set an agenda and impose their agenda on the Syrian people? »

Sciutto also asked Zarif about his visit last week to lay a wreath at the grave of Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah in Lebanon.

The United States condemned the gesture, saying Mugniyah was « responsible for heinous acts of terrorism that killed hundreds of innocent people, including Americans, » said a statement by National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.

Zarif responded that his visit should be seen in the same context as the U.S. delegation that attended the recent funeral of Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli leader who was defense minister when mass killings occurred at refugee camps under his command in 1982.

« It’s a decision based on national perceptions and national beliefs, » he said, describing Mugniyah as a revered figure for resisting Israeli occupation while calling Sharon responsible for the massacre of Palestinians and Lebanese in the Sabra and Shatila camps.

« I believe Sabra and Shatila were crimes against humanity, » Zarif said.

 Voir également:

Prominent Iranian Analyst, Author, And Columnist Amir Taheri: Nobody Has Actually Seen Khamenei’s Anti-Nuclear Fatwa, Which Obama Often Quotes
In a March 14, 2014 article in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled « Obama, the Bomb and the Fatwa, » prominent Iranian Middle East analyst, author, and columnist Amir Taheri berates U.S. President Barack Obama for citing an anti-nuclear fatwa allegedly issued by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and presenting it as proof that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.[1]

MEMRI

March 17, 2014

Taheri, who was editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan before the Islamic revolution and today resides in Europe, notes that neither Obama nor anyone else has ever seen this fatwa, and that, even if it exists, it is likely to be phrased so ambiguously as to be open to countless interpretations. Moreover, he says, Iranian clerics recently voiced opinions suggesting that the religious ban on nuclear weapons is by no means absolute. One ayatollah even implied that building a nuclear bomb is a necessary condition for the return of the Mahdi, the Shi’ite messiah.

Taheri concludes that, before touting this fatwa, Obama should at least demand to see it. He also advises him to remember that Khamenei is not considered a big religious authority in Iran, so his fatwa, if it exists, does not necessarily carry much weight.

The following is the article, as it appeared in the English edition of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:[2]

Amir Taheri

« When lobbying to prevent further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, US President Barack Obama often refers to a fatwa, an Islamic religious opinion. According to Obama, the fatwa supposedly issued by ‘Supreme Guide’ Ali Khamenei, confirms Tehran’s claims that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Obama does not quote the text of the mysterious fatwa, nor does he tell us where and when he saw it.

« The trouble is that no one has actually seen the fatwa, although many people comment on it. In a bizarre twist, some mullahs even quote Obama as the source that confirms the existence of the fatwa. ‘Our Supreme Guide has issued a fatwa against the use of nuclear weapons, as confirmed by the President of the United States,’ Ayatollah Mahmoud Yussefwand told the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) last week.

« Presented as a ‘Theological Expert of the Scientific Center,’ the ayatollah was one of more than 100 mullahs and government officials who attended a two-day conference in Tehran on ‘A Theological View of Nuclear Weapons.’ None of the speakers claimed that he had seen the text of the fatwa. Nor did anyone suggest that the fatwa—if there were such a thing—was meant to stop the Islamic Republic from securing the means of making a bomb.

« A few speakers, including Yussefwand, suggested that the use, though not the building and/or stockpiling of such weapons, might be haram, or forbidden. ‘Islam uses the term ifsad [corruption] to ban a number of weapons of mass destruction,’ Yussefwand said. ‘The term specifically designates poisoning water resources, the cutting down of forests and the use of arson as a weapon of war.’ The ayatollah then wondered whether the principle could also apply to nuclear weapons. He did not offer a definite opinion. In other words, no such ban exists at the moment.

« Another theologian, Ali-Reza Qorban-Nia, explained that adopting an ‘Islamic position’ on nuclear weapons would not be easy. On the one hand, he argued, such weapons could be banned because they ‘are blind in targeting,’ in the sense that they could ‘wipe out believers and kuffar [infidels] alike.’ On the other hand, ‘Shi’ite Islamic rules of war’ strongly recommend the use of any weapon that could accelerate the destruction of the enemies of the Umma. According to Qorban-Nia, this is indicated in the principle of ma-yarji bel-fatah, or ‘that which creates hopes of victory.’ Thus, if a nuclear bomb could ensure ultimate victory for the believers, it should not be shunned.

« To confuse matters further, Ayatollah Bahman Akbari claimed that Khamenei’s statements, though not the fatwa, which may not even exist, show that the Islamic Republic sees nuclear weapons as ‘a deterrent that assures the reciprocal destruction of the adversary.’ In other words, developing a nuclear arsenal for deterrent purposes could be licit. Akbari also suggested that the issue of a nuclear arsenal be examined ‘in the context of other weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological.’ This means that nuclear weapons should not be discussed as a special category, presumably the ultimate evil.

« During the seminar, two theologians, Mahmoud Hekmati-Nia and Hashem Zaafarani, criticized Akbari for not actually referring to Khamenei’s fatwa. The reason, of course, was that neither Akbari nor anyone else had seen the non-existent document.

« The closest reference to Khamenei’s fatwa came in a speech by the spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, Behruz Kamalvand, when he said: ‘Our Supreme Leader has fixed our slogan: ‘Nuclear weapons for no nation, nuclear energy for all nations! » In other words, the Islamic Republic would be prepared to abandon the military aspects of its nuclear program only in the context of global nuclear disarmament. And, if others had nuclear weapons, why should Iran deny itself such an instrument?

« While the conference was under way, Ayatollah Hassan Mamduhi, a member of the Assembly of (Clerical) Experts, offered an enigmatic quotation from the late Ayatollah Aziz-Allah Khoshwaqt to the effect that the Hidden Imam would conclude his Grand Occultation only when his ‘sword’ was ready. ‘The Return of the Mahdi is conditional on what our nuclear scientists are doing,’ Mamduhi said, without elaborating. The Tehran media, however, claimed that ‘The Sword of the Imam’ in the modern world could only mean a nuclear arsenal.

« A week later, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution, claimed in a Friday sermon that the return of the Hidden Imam was ‘ imminent’ thanks to ‘fantastic progress’ achieved by the Islamic Republic in Iran. Ayatollah Khoshwaqt, who died last year, was regarded as Khamenei’s teacher and ‘guru’ and a strong opponent of negotiations to limit any aspect of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. His views have found echoes among a number of Khomeinist clerics who argue that, with the US in retreat under Obama, there is no reason to make concessions to the P5+1 group.

« One prominent cleric, Ayatollah Mahmoud Nabawian, has published a 40-page essay arguing that Tehran is now in a position to tell the rest of the world to ‘get lost.’ Another critic is Muhammad-Javad Larijani, son of an ayatollah and brother of Chief Justice Sadeq Larijani. He argues that Islamic powers should only ask non-Islamic nations to ‘submit’ to God’s ‘Final Word.’ In 1988, he carried a letter from Ayatollah Khomeini to Mikhail Gorbachev, inviting him to convert to Shi’ism.

« Obama would do well to consider three points before beating the drums for the mullahs. The first is that the famous fatwa either does not exist or is couched in the style of obfuscation that would open it to countless interpretations. The least that Obama should do is demand to see the fatwa that he is defending as a text that trumps even international law. The second point is that Khamenei, though a major political figure in Tehran, is not generally regarded as a theological heavyweight. In religious terms, any of the 10 or 12 grand ayatollahs and hundreds of lower-ranked clerics could overrule Khamenei’s fatwas.

Finally, Obama should know that the Iran nuclear project is a political issue and not a religious issue to be settled with a fatwa, which is, in any case, just an opinion and in no way legally binding on any individual, let alone the Islamic Republic as a nation-state. »

Endnotes:

[1] On the fatwa and Obama’s endorsement of it, see:

Special Dispatch No. 5406, « Release Of Compilation Of Newest Fatwas By Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei – Without Alleged Fatwa About Nuclear Bomb, » August 13, 2013;

MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5461, « President Obama Endorses The Lie About Khamenei’s ‘Fatwa’ Against Nuclear Arms, » September 29, 2013;

MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1022, « The Official Iranian Version Regarding Khamenei’s Alleged Anti-Nuclear Weapons Fatwa Is A Lie, » October 4, 2013.
[2] Aawsat.net, March 14, 2014.

Fact Checker
Did Iran’s supreme leader issue a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons?
Glenn Kessler

Washington Post

November 27, 2013

A handout picture released by the official website of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shows him delivering a speech in Tehran on November 20, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/ KHAMENEI.IR)

“Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.”

– President Obama, statement regarding conversation with President Rouhani, Sept. 27, 2013

“The supreme leader of Iran has said that there is a fatwa to development of a nuclear weapon.”

– Senior administration official, background briefing, Nov. 24, 2013

“So I close by saying to all of you that the singular objective that brought us to Geneva remains our singular objective as we leave Geneva, and that is to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. In that singular object, we are resolute. Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif emphasized that they don’t intend to do this, and the supreme leader has indicated there is a fatwa, which forbids them to do this.”

– Secretary of State John F. Kerry, remarks to the media, Geneva, Nov. 24, 2013

As part of the administration’s diplomacy with Iran, senior officials have claimed that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. A fatwa is a ruling by a religious authority, often with judicial implications. As Khamenei is the ultimate authority in Iran, his statements would seem to carry significant weight.

But there is a fine line between a fatwa and mere statements made by the leader to the media. As Abbas Milani of Stanford University put it, “The issue of the fatwa is complicated. Whether it actually exists and even whether Mr. Khamenei is entitled to issue fatwas and finally how changeable are fatwas are all contested matters.”

It may not even matter if the fatwa exists. Karim Sadjadpour, an expert on Khamenei at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that it appears that Obama is referencing the fatwa in order to give the Iranians an easier route to compromise — because of their religious beliefs, not because of U.S.-led sanctions.

“I don’t think Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa reassures Obama that Iran doesn’t seek a nuclear weapons capability,” Sadjadpour said. “But if he can offer Khamenei a graceful way to stand down, that’s in his interests.”

With that in mind, let’s explore what is known about the alleged fatwa.
The Facts

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the Iranian government was the best source for information. But she added: “Many Iranian officials have spoken of the fatwa publicly, and their comments are publicly available. There are various descriptions of it in the public domain. And importantly, the Iranians have also referenced the fatwa in our negotiations.”

Indeed, the Iranian government’s slick new Web site on its nuclear program, http://www.nuclearenergy.ir, includes an entire section on the nuclear fatwa.

The Iranian Web site appears to trace the roots of Khamenei’s fatwa, which it claims was first issued in 2003, to a fatwa uttered by his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, concerning a ban on the production and use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.

But there’s one problem: Iran admitted to chemical weapons production after it ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997, and U.S. intelligence agencies suspected Iran of maintaining a chemical weapons stockpile at least until 2003. So what does it say if the origin of the supposed fatwa is based on an apparently misleading statement?

[Update: Gareth Porter, in a rebuttal to this column, says that Iran only said that it had « chemical weapons capability, while maintaining the policy not to resort to these weapons. » He argues that the distinction between production and capability had been lost through years of inaccurate reporting. He is certainly correct we should have linked to an original document, but we could not find one, and are pleased to do so now. One of the Wikileaks cables included a statement from Iran to the United States in 2004 that chemical weapons agents were produced but not weaponized.]

Khamenei also has referred to Iran not having produced chemical weapons. Here is an excerpt from a March 2003 speech, as translated from the Persian by Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

“Nuclear technology is different than producing nuclear bomb. Nuclear technology is considered to be a scientific progress in a field that has lots of benefits. Those who want nuclear bomb can pursue that field and get the bomb. We do not want bomb. We are even against chemical weapons. Even when Iraq attacked us by chemical weapons, we did not produce chemical weapons.”

Khalaji, who in 2011 collaborated with Michael Eisenstadt on an in-depth look at the supposed fatwa, notes that on many occasions, Khomeini abruptly shifted course, despite a previously issued ruling. Khalaji says this is quite common among senior Shiite religious figures. So Khomeini said the modern tax system in Iran was against Islam — until he came to power and said such laws should be obeyed. He also was against women’s suffrage when the shah was in power — and then after the revolution urged women to vote. He was also against the eating of sturgeon — until he was for it.

Oddly, the Iranian Web site does not provide the text of the original fatwa — and then mostly cites Western news reports as evidence that Khamenei has reiterated it on several occasions. The fatwa does not appear to be written, but in the Shiite tradition equal weight is given to oral and written opinions.

The most definitive written account of the fatwa appears in a statement that an Iranian official read at an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005: “The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued the fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.”

But Khalaji also documents an interesting evolution in Khamenei’s statements over time. Whereas in 2005 Khamenei said that the “production of an atomic bomb is not on our agenda,” more recent statements have focused on use of nuclear weapons, often dropping references to the “development” of such weapons.

There is also an issue of translation, often a problem when dealing with Iran. One English language account has Khamenei saying this in 2012:

“We do not pursue to build nuclear weapons. In reality, having nuclear weapons is not to our benefit. From the viewpoint of ideology, theory, and the Islamic jurisprudence, we consider this as forbidden and proliferation of nuclear weapons as a wrong decision. We consider the use of such weapons a great sin while stockpiling it is not only pointless, but also harmful and hazardous. Therefore, we will never try to acquire such weapons.”

But Khalaji looked up the actual speech, as displayed in Persian on Khamenei’s official Web site, and rendered his own translation. There’s quite a difference:

“In fact, nuclear weapon is not economically useful for us. Furthermore, intellectually, theoretically and juridically [from Sharia point of view] we consider it wrong and consider this action wrong. We believe using such weapons are a great sin and stockpiling them are futile and harmful and dangerous and never go after it. They [big powers] know this too but they pressure on this point in order to stop this action [the nuclear program].”

The Pinocchio Test

Just about every Alfred Hitchcock thriller had what he called a “MacGuffin” — a plot device that gets the action going but is unimportant to the overall story. The Iranian fatwa thus appears to be a diplomatic MacGuffin — something that gives the Americans a reason to begin to trust the Iranians and the Iranians a reason to make a deal. No one knows how this story will end, but just as in the movies, the fatwa likely will not be critical to the outcome.

Even if one believes the fatwa exists — and will not later be reversed — it clearly appears to have evolved over time. U.S. officials should be careful about saying the fatwa prohibits the development of nuclear weapons, as that is not especially clear anymore. The administration’s statements at this point do not quite rise to the level of earning Pinocchios, but we will keep an eye on this issue.

Verdict Pending

Ces non-dits de l’Iran qui plombent les pourparlers
Nucléaire Les négociations à Lausanne ont du mal à aboutir. Le passé dissimulateur de Téhéran n’y est pas pour rien.
Andrés Allemand

La Tribune de Genève

01.04.2015

Faut-il se fier à Téhéran? Peut-on vraiment être sûr qu’un accord nucléaire à Lausanne permettrait de s’assurer que l’Iran ne se dotera jamais de l’arme atomique? Le premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahou n’en croit pas un mot. La monarchie saoudienne non plus. Même parmi les puissances occidentales, le doute est permis. Mercredi, un accord nucléaire paraissait introuvable, même au lendemain de la date butoir. Difficile de lever toute sanction contre un pays qui a souvent dissimulé ses installations sensibles. Voyez plutôt.

1. Le secret de Natanz

Le premier choc a lieu en 2002. Un dissident iranien révèle l’existence de deux sites nucléaires: une installation d’enrichissement d’uranium à Natanz (en partie souterraine) et un réacteur à eau lourde à Arak, susceptible de fournir à terme du plutonium. Il s’agit des deux voies possibles pour fabriquer l’arme atomique.

En 2003, l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA) confir­me que depuis dix-huit ans l’Iran développe en secret son programme nucléaire. Téhéran jure qu’il est destiné à un usage strictement civil et qu’il était caché parce que les Etats-Unis voulaient priver la République islamique de l’accès à l’énergie nucléaire. Pour rétablir la confiance, l’Iran suspend l’enrichissement d’uranium. En 2005, le président Mahmoud Ahmadinejad le redémarre.

2. Fordo sous la montagne

En 2009, l’Iran annonce à l’AIEA qu’un autre site d’enrichissement d’uranium est en construction, sans préciser où. En fait, Téhéran limite les dégâts: les services occidentaux observaient depuis 2006 le chantier clandestin de Fordo, creusé sous la montagne près de la ville de Qom. Assez grand pour accueillir 3000 centrifugeuses et produire une tête nucléaire par an, à l’abri de frappes aériennes.

3. L’uranium très enrichi

En 2010 l’Iran, qui sait enrichir l’uranium à 3,5% (pour un usage civil), annonce qu’il est capable d’aller jusqu’à 20%, officiellement pour servir de combustible à un réacteur de recherche médicale à Téhéran. Mais techniquement, cela permet aussi de monter très vite à 90% (pour une bombe).

4. L’inquiétant Lavizan

En février dernier, des opposants iraniens en exil ont dénoncé «l’existence d’un programme nucléaire parallèle et secret» enterré sous une base militaire dans les faubourgs de Téhéran. Baptisé «Lavizan-3», ce site caché servirait depuis 2008 à développer des centrifugeuses plus sophistiquées pour l’enrichissement d’uranium. Impossible de confirmer. Mais le même groupe avait dévoilé l’existence de Natanz et de Fordo.

Accords sur le nucléaire iranien: pourquoi cette question pose problème à l’Occident depuis plus de 10 ans
Le HuffPost

Maxime Bourdeau

02/04/2015

INTERNATIONAL – Après un an et demi de marathon diplomatique et plus d’une décennie de conflit, les négociations internationales sur le nucléaire iranien ont enfin débouché sur un accord ce jeudi 2 avril. Les grandes puissances et l’Iran sont en effet parvenus à s’entendre à Lausanne sur les « paramètres clés » pour résoudre le dossier du nucléaire iranien, étape fondamentale sur la voie d’un accord final d’ici au 30 juin, ont annoncé les dirigeants occidentaux et iranien.

C’est sur twitter que les Occidentaux et Iraniens, dont le président Hassan Rohani en personne, ont tous annoncé qu’un accord cadre avait été conclu à l’issue de plusieurs journées de négociations marathon.

« Des solutions sur les paramètres clés du dossier nucléaire de l’Iran ont été trouvées. L’écriture (d’un accord final) doit commencer immédiatement, pour être terminée d’ici le 30 juin », a écrit Hassan Rohani. On a « maintenant les paramètres » pour résoudre les principales questions, a confirmé le secrétaire d’Etat américain John Kerry. « Grand jour (…) Retour au travail bientôt sur un accord final », a-t-il tweeté.

Le président Barack Obama a quant à lui salué la conclusion d’une entente « historique » et annoncé un sommet à Camp David avec les pays du Golfe au printemps.

Mais pourquoi États-Unis, Grande-Bretagne, Russie, Chine, France et Allemagne ont eu tant de mal pour trouver un accord? Quel est le problème avec le nucléaire en Iran? Le HuffPost vous propose de faire le tour de la question revenant sur 5 périodes clés depuis le début du conflit.

2002 : La découverte

Membre de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA), l’Iran a signé en 1968 le traité de non-prolifération nucléaire (TNP) des Nations unies qui a pour objectif principal d’empêcher les États dotés d’armes nucléaires d’en transférer ou d’aider ceux qui n’en ont pas à en produire tout en garantissant le droit à chaque pays de développer la recherche, la production et l’utilisation de l’énergie nucléaire à des fins pacifiques.

La différence entre ces deux types de produit (civil et militaire) et leur utilisation potentielle repose sur leur niveau d’enrichissement en uranium 235. Pour être utilisé dans des centrales nucléaires l’uranium a besoin d’être faiblement enrichi, c’est-à-dire entre 3 et 5 %. Au-delà de 20 %, l’uranium est considéré comme hautement enrichi et peut-être utilisé, en théorie, pour concevoir des bombes atomiques. En pratique, ce métal lourd radioactif est enrichi à plus de 85% lors d’utilisations militaires.

Le conflit avec l’Iran démarre en 2002, sur cette distinction. Alors que le pays se démène depuis 1975 pour terminer la construction de sa première centrale nucléaire à Bouchehr, un dissident révèle l’existence de deux sites nucléaires inconnus du reste du monde à Natanz et à Arak. Washington accuse alors Téhéran de chercher à hautement enrichir de l’uranium et de construire des armes de destruction massive et Téhéran décide d’autoriser les agents de l’AIEA à inspecter ces installations.

2003 – 2004 : Premier pas vers les négociations

Après la visite de l’AIEA — qui trouve des traces d’uranium enrichi et qui annonce que Natanz est en train de construire plus de 1000 centrifugeuses —, la Grande-Bretagne, l’Allemagne et la France demandent durant l’été 2003 à l’Iran de négocier sur le nucléaire.

Ces trois pays, surnommés « UE3″, envoient sur place chacun leur chef de la diplomatie pour une réunion historique qui débouche sur un accord: l’Iran accepte des inspections surprises de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique sur les sites nucléaires.

L’année suivante, Téhéran signe avec l’UE3 un nouvel accord et annonce au mois de novembre 2004 suspendre son programme d’enrichissement de l’uranium.

2005 – 2010 : Ahmadinejad ferme la porte aux discussions

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remporte l’élection présidentielle en juin 2005 et change radicalement la ligne diplomatique du pays sur ce dossier. Deux mois plus tard, l’Iran reprend l’enrichissement d’uranium dans son usine d’Ispahan. Le nouveau président défend devant l’ONU le droit du pays à développer un programme nucléaire civil.

Au mois de janvier 2006, l’Iran lève des scellés de l’AIEA sur plusieurs centres de recherche nucléaire ce qui déclenche le transfert de cette affaire devant le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU qui décrète quelques mois plus tard la suspension obligatoire de « toutes les activités liées à l’enrichissement » dans le pays.

Face à cette décision qu’elle juge « illégale » et aux premières sanctions économiques qui tombent, Téhéran réduit sa coopération avec l’AIEA à partir de 2007. A la fin de cette même année, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assure que le pays abrite maintenant plus de 3000 centrifugeuses. Ce qui lui permettrait en théorie d’obtenir suffisamment d’uranium hautement enrichi pour fabriquer une bombe atomique en moins d’un an.

En 2008, les cinq membres du Conseil de sécurité (États-Unis, Russie, Chine, France et Grande-Bretagne) et l’Allemagne — surnommé le groupe des 5+1 — lancent une nouvelle salve de négociations qui prend vite fin quand l’Iran inaugure à Ispahan sa première usine de combustible nucléaire.

Les discussions ne reprennent qu’en 2009 et la diplomatie internationale propose alors à l’Iran un accord prévoyant que le faible enrichissement de l’uranium iranien se fasse à l’étranger. Mais Téhéran refuse de se faire transiter ce métal lourd radioactif en dehors de ses frontières. En 2010, l’Iran commence à enrichir de l’uranium à 20 %.

2011 – 2012 : Accélération des sanctions internationales

Si en 2010 de nouvelles sanctions sont votées par l’ONU mais aussi par les États-Unis et l’Union Européenne, c’est à partir de 2011 que les répercussions prennent de l’ampleur.

Un renforcement des sanctions est décidé avant que plusieurs nouveaux rapports de l’AIEA ne soient publiés, dont un faisant mention de « sérieuses inquiétudes » sur la situation et évoquant une « possible dimension militaire du programme nucléaire » qui se développe dans le pays.

En guise de représailles, un embargo sans précédent sur le pétrole iranien décidé par l’Union Européenne entre en vigueur au 1er juillet, accompagné de suppressions de visas et de gels d’avoirs. Les négociations entre les 5+1 et l’Iran reprennent plusieurs fois mais n’avancent pas.

L’année 2012 se termine avec un nouveau rapport de l’AIEA prévenant que le site de Fordo fonctionne et permet à l’Iran d’augmenter significativement sa capacité d’enrichissement.

2013 – aujourd’hui : L’espoir d’un (difficile) accord

La situation prend un tournant nouveau en juin 2013 avec l’élection du président modéré Hassan Rohani. Ce dernier affirme être ouvert à des « négociations sérieuses ». Symbole de ce changement de ton, le coup de fil historique entre Obama et Rohani, premier contact d’un président américain avec un président iranien depuis 1979.

Les négociations reprennent à Genève quelques semaines plus tard entre l’Iran et le groupe des 5+1. Téhéran se dit alors prêt à accepter de nouveau le principe d’inspections surprises de ses sites nucléaires, comme en 2003. Un accord provisoire est enfin établi: l’arrêt du programme d’enrichissement contre la levée d’une partie des sanctions économiques.

Commence ensuite une longue série de sessions de négociations pour se mettre d’accord sur les détails du projet définitif. D’un commun accord, l’échéance fixée à juillet 2014 est repoussée car certains points clés posent problème comme la réduction du nombre de centrifugeuses et de stocks d’uranium en Iran.

La nouvelle échéance est maintenant fixée au 30 juin 2015 et les P5+1 et l’Iran étaient censés parvenir mardi 31 mars avant minuit à un premier compromis fondamental sur ce dossier inextricable pour tenir cette date butoir. Avec ce « cadre commun » décidé aujourd’hui, ce dossier a franchi une étape majeure.

Voir également:

US, Iran publicly at odds over 6 key aspects of nuke deal, Israeli expert finds
Declared differences over what was agreed in Lausanne relate to issues such as when sanctions will be lifted and how long enrichment restrictions will apply
Times of Israel

April 4, 2015

Two days after the US-led powers and Iran hailed a historic framework understanding designed to ensure Iran’s nuclear program not enable it to build nuclear weapons, a leading Israeli analyst on Saturday highlighted six gaping areas of discrepancy between American and Iranian accounts of what the agreement actually entails.

Ehud Ya’ari, Middle East analyst for Israel’s Channel 2 News and an international fellow at the Washington Institute think tank, said the six discrepancies represent “very serious gaps” at the heart of the framework accord. They relate to issues as basic as when sanctions will be lifted, and how long restrictions on uranium enrichment will remain in place.

Referring to Thursday’s American-issued “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” on the one hand, and the “fact sheet” issued Friday by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, on the other, Ya’ari noted that no deal was actually signed on Thursday, and that the leaders’ statements and the competing fact sheets were thus critical to understanding what had been agreed.

Ya’ari also highlighted the highly similar language used by President Barak Obama to hail the framework agreement as a good deal that would make the world safer, on Thursday, and president Bill Clinton in presenting the failed US framework deal aimed at thwarting North Korea’s nuclear program in 1994.

Ya’ari cited the following central gulfs between the two sides’ accounts of what was resolved at the Lausanne negotiations last week:

1. Sanctions: Ya’ari said the US has made clear that economic sanctions will be lifted in phases, whereas the Iranian fact sheet provides for the immediate lifting of all sanctions as soon as a final agreement is signed, which is set for June 30.

(In fact, the US parameters state that sanctions will be suspended only after Iran has fulfilled all its obligations: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” By contrast, the Iranian fact sheet states: “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.”)

2. Enrichment: The American parameters provide for restrictions on enrichment for 15 years, while the Iranian fact sheet speaks of 10 years.

3. Development of advanced centrifuges at Fordo: The US says the framework rules out such development, said Ya’ari, while the Iranians say they are free to continue this work.

4. Inspections: The US says that Iran has agreed to surprise inspections, while the Iranians say that such consent is only temporary, Ya’ari said.

5. Stockpile of already enriched uranium: Contrary to the US account, Iran is making clear that its stockpile of already enriched uranium — “enough for seven bombs” if sufficiently enriched, Ya’ari said — will not be shipped out of the country, although it may be converted.

6. PMD: The issue of the Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian program, central to the effort to thwart Iran, has not been resolved, Ya’ari said.

(The US parameters make two references to PMD. They state, first: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.” And they subsequently add: “All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, and transparency).” The Iranian fact sheet does not address PMD.)

The differences between the sides became apparent almost as soon as the framework agreement was presented in Lausanne on Thursday night. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a series of tweets late Thursday, for instance, that protested the US State Department’s assertion that the nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers would only see sanctions on the Islamic Republic removed “in phases.”

Nonetheless, the White House expressed optimism on Friday that the June 30 deadline for a final deal would be met, and Obama reiterated that the deal reached Thursday represented a “historic understanding.”

Israel has castigated the framework as a bad deal, and a dangerous capitulation, that paves the way to an Iranian nuclear bomb.

Voir de plus:

L’accord-cadre nucléaire suscite des interrogations en Iran
L’agence Fars a souligné les différences entre le texte présenté par la délégation iranienne et celui diffusé par les Américains
AFP

5 avril 2015

L’accord-cadre conclu entre les grandes puissances et Téhéran sur le dossier nucléaire suscitait samedi de multiples interrogations dans la presse iranienne, notamment sur le calendrier toujours vague de la levée des sanctions internationales qui étouffent l’économie.

La presse conservatrice affichait son scepticisme sur les résultats obtenus en Suisse, profitant du silence observé par le guide suprême, l’ayatollah Ali Khamenei, l’ultime décisionnaire dans ce dossier.

La presse réformatrice et modérée saluait le travail des négociateurs iraniens mené par le chef de la diplomatie Mohammad Javad Zarif, mais les journaux conservateurs pointaient les différentes interprétations possibles, au détriment de la République islamique, du document publié à Lausanne.

L’agence de presse Fars a également souligné les différences entre le texte présenté par la délégation iranienne et celui diffusé par le département d’Etat américain.

« Qui est le véritable gagnant ? » s’interrogeait en Une le quotidien anglophone Iran News. Vatan-Emrooz (conservateur) se chargeait d’apporter une réponse en affirmant qu’ »il y a une grande différence entre ce qu’on donne et ce qu’on reçoit de l’accord de Lausanne ». Pour Javan, réputé proche des Gardiens de la révolution, l’armée d’élite du régime, « la victoire résidera dans la lutte entre les différentes interprétations » du texte.

L’ultra-conservateur Kayhan reprenait avec ironie l’expression d’un « accord gagnant-gagnant: le nucléaire va partir, les sanctions vont rester ».

L’Iran veut une levée totale et immédiate des sanctions imposées par l’ONU, les Etats-Unis et l’Union européenne, contre une levée graduelle évoquée par les grandes puissances.

Le ministre français des Affaires étrangères Laurent Fabius, a souligné vendredi que cette question était « un point qui est encore très compliqué » et « pas encore tout à fait réglé ».

Les sanctions imposées les Etats-Unis seront levées « par étapes », à mesure que Téhéran respecte ses engagements dans le cadre de l’accord final censé être conclu d’ici fin juin, a affirmé jeudi soir le secrétaire d’Etat américain John Kerry.

« L’accord de Lausanne montre que les choses que l’Iran a acceptées sont claires et vérifiables, mais ce que l’autre côté a accepté est vague et sujet à interprétation », estimait samedi dans un éditorial le directeur de Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari. « L’accord parle de suspension des sanctions et pas de leur levée », ajoute le responsable, directement nommé à son poste par l’ayatollah Khamenei.

Mansour Haghighatpour, vice-président de la commission parlementaire sur la sécurité nationale et la politique étrangère, a estimé que les négociateurs avaient outrepassé leurs prérogatives.

« Nous avons offert une clé pour des inspections occidentales sur les installations militaires et le protocole additionnel (du traité de non-prolifération nucléaire), alors que les décisions sur ces questions sont la compétence du Parlement », a-t-il dit, cité par l’agence Tasnim.

Voir par ailleurs:

The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw

Nothing can work without tough inspections and enforcement. And for that we must rely on … Vladimir Putin.

Charles Duelfer

Politico

April 02, 2015

We don’t yet know all the details of the nuclear agreement that Iran, the United States and five other world powers announced Thursday they are aiming to complete by June 30. What we do know is that any acceptable final deal will depend on a strong weapons inspection element. In his remarks in the Rose Garden, President Obama declared Tehran had agreed to precisely that. “If Iran cheats, the world will know,” he said.

Yet weapons inspectors can be no tougher than the body that empowers them—in this instance the UN Security Council. And herein lies the agreement’s fundamental weakness—and perhaps its fatal flaw. Do we really want to depend on Vladimir Putin? Because Russia will be able to decide what to enforce in any deal—and what not to.

Like so many things in in life, one can learn a lot from Saddam Hussein. Certainly Tehran will have learned from Saddam’ s experience in trying to evade the scrutiny of the UN Security Council, weapons inspectors, sanctions, and individual governments.

Sanctions were imposed on Iraq when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. Washington led a response in the UN Security Council that produced a broad coalition unified around the objective of getting Saddam out of Kuwait. Ultimately this required military action—the Gulf War—despite the back-channel efforts of Russia’s special Iraq liaison, Yevgeny Primakov, to broker a deal.

Following the war, the Security Council passed a ceasefire resolution that retained the sanctions on Iraq, but linked them to additional requirements; Iraq must verifiably disclose and account for all its WMD, and Iraq must accept a monitoring system to assure they would not reconstitute their WMD programs in the future.

The Security Council created a new body of weapons inspectors (dubbed UNSCOM) who reported directly to the council. The IAEA also had a role in accounting for the extensive nuclear aspects of Saddam’s programs. This was a case of coercive disarmament as distinct from an arms control agreement like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It was akin to the disarmament provisions of the Versailles Treaty and ultimately suffered a similar fate.

The authorities that the Security Council mandated for UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors to verify Iraq’s disarmament were extraordinary and probably well beyond anything Iran will accept. In essence, inspectors could go anywhere in Iraq, interview anyone, fly their own aircraft and helicopters, install sensors or cameras anywhere, take possession of documents, etc. Moreover, the chairman or his deputy had authority to designate any location in Iraq as a site for inspection. And that included “no-notice’ inspections.

UNSCOM and the IAEA operated helicopters from a base inside Iraq. We had dedicated missions of the US U-2 aircraft (todays drones would be a cheaper more effective tool to provide aerial surveillance). UNSCOM operated a full-time monitoring center in a dedicated building in Baghdad.

Backing up the inspectors was the threat of force—at least on paper. The resolutions empowering the inspections were passed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. The key resolution, UNSCR 687, was a ceasefire resolution. If the Security Council found Iraq in material breech of its provisions, i.e. if Saddam did not comply with the inspectors, military actions could resume. On a few occasions over the ensuing years, some bombing strikes occurred.

And yet, with all of these authorities and tools, we were unable to complete the tasks given by the Security Council. UNSCOM and the IAEA after more than seven years of operations inside Iraq could not verify that Saddam had completely disarmed. Ironically, we later learned, Saddam had, eventually, pretty much given up his WMD program by 1997-98. But we could not verify his claims, and by that time no one was giving him the benefit of the doubt Moreover, as he told us in debriefings, he retained the intent to restart the programs once conditions permitted. It would be interesting to ask Saddam if he thought the IAEA inspectors given the intrusive access we had in Iraq, would be sufficient to detect and deter Iranian cheating.

Does anyone believe such access will be agreed, voluntarily, by Tehran?

In practice, Saddam regularly obstructed and delayed inspectors. He tested, from the start, the will of the Security Council. He cooperated only when he had no other option. And the only reason he cooperated at all, was to get out of sanctions. Saddam pursued two tracks—one of grudging incremental revelations about WMD and the second track was the divide the Security Council and cause sanctions to erode.

Critically, it is important to recall that as the inspection process went on, the unity of in the Security Council decayed. This is natural. As time goes on the objectives and priorities of fifteen nations will evolve and diverge. Saddam recognized and accelerated this trend. Indeed, almost from the start, some members of the Security Council were in close consultation with Iraq. Some had longstanding business relations with Saddam—especially France and Russia.

In manipulating the Security Council, Saddam applied the same tactics to countries as he did to individuals. He offered reward or punishment. He gave some members a stake in his survival. We know all this from debriefings of Saddam and his top lieutenants following the 2003 war as well as from the regime documents we obtained, particularly those concerning disbursement of oil allocations during the so-called Oil-for-Food program.

At the same time as inspectors were struggling to gain access to sites in Iraq, some members of the Security Council were strategizing with Baghdad on how to get rid of sanctions. Saddam knew that some members of the Security Council would not vote to authorize force against Iraq. His downside was thus limited. He worked to maximize his upside, i.e. get the sanctions officially removed, but alternatively cause them to collapse. The role of Russia stands out in this regard.

Russia (and to a lesser extent France), were the key advocates in the Security Council for Iraq. We now know unequivocally, that Saddam was buying influence. When I ran the Iraq Survey Group in 2004, we created a team to collect as much information about Iraq’s resources and how it expended them. The broad goal was to understand Iraq’s strategic intentions and understand where WMD fit in. We had a unique opportunity to record how his regime operated and how it managed to manipulate the international environment. As a priority, we obtained all the Iraqi records of the oil transactions.

Over some political objections, I published these records in the so-called Duelfer Report in 2004 (see “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD,” Volume 1, section 2, “Regime Finance and Procurement.” These records (and extensive debriefings of top Iraqi officials) clearly show that Iraq was compensating Russian officials, and other individuals. Included among the beneficiaries in the list of Iraqi oil allocations were “the Russian Communist Party,” “the son of the Russian ambassador,” “the Russian Foreign Ministry,” and, “the Russian Presidential Office.” Putin was also a key actor in many of the Russian commercial entities that were engaged in oil transactions and the illicit export of weapons to Iraq while sanctions were in place.

The list of benefactors is long and includes three or four Americans as well as many foreign governments. But Russia dominated the list. Ultimately the UN sponsored an investigation (chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker). Many countries conducted their own prosecutions, but notably Russia did not.

It is also worth remembering that the Russian ambassador to the UN during most of this period was Sergei Lavrov—now foreign minister and negotiating with the P-5 + 1 on the Iran deal. Lavrov, in my judgment, was by far the sharpest ambassador in the Security Council. And like Putin, he is not especially friendly toward the United States.

Iran will have learned from Saddam’s experience too. Tehran will know that support can be bought in the Security Council. Tehran will know that some countries have an immediate financial interest that Tehran can exploit. And some Council members will have a political incentive to build a relationship with Iran. The leaders in Iran, like Saddam in Iraq, play a long game. So do the Russians.

The IAEA inspectors will be reporting whatever evidence they are permitted to collect to a Council that will have competing aims. They will be pressed to make judgments that suit various members. Iran would have to do something incredibly blatant for some Council members to not be able to debate the meaning of the evidence. Council members coached Saddam; they will coach Tehran as well.

Inspectors are also subject to direct actions by interested parties—for and against the inspected country. Iraqi weapons inspectors encountered active steps being taken by Council members to warn Iraq of upcoming inspections. This is to say nothing of the measures Iraq took to penetrate UNSCOM inspection planning and actions. IAEA will also be a prime target for Iranian intelligence. In my experience in Iraq, even with all the measures UNSCOM took, I doubt there was ever a truly “surprise” inspection. The IAEA will be a similar target.

If and when a detailed verification plan is agreed for an Iran nuclear agreement, the inspectors will have less access than in Iraq. The world may point to them as credible investigators—and they are. But whatever they report will go through the kaleidoscope of the Security Council. It will not be the IAEA that decides to re-impose sanctions. It will be the Security Council.

Putin will not give up his right to a veto. Nor will other members. Russia (and others) will have a stake in sustaining access to Iran’s markets, not re-imposing sanctions. The track record of Putin and Lavrov in the Iraq case suggests that they will be working bi-lateral deals with Tehran. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will get tough questions in closed hearings, not just on whether American intelligence and IAEA inspectors can reliably detect prohibited Iranian nuclear activities, also what deals Moscow or Beijing or others may have with Tehran.

If I were John Kerry, I would not want to be defending a deal that depends upon Vladimir Putin.

Charles Duelfer served as special advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and led the Iraq Survey Group, which conducted the investigation of the scope of Iraq’s WMD. Later, at the UN, Duelfer served as the deputy executive chairman and acting chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) from 1993 until its termination in 2000.

Voir de plus:

Nucléaire iranien: Obama salue une «entente historique»
Laure Mandeville
Le Figaro

03/04/2015

VIDÉOS – Très critiqué par Israël, l’accord d’étape sur le programme nucléaire iranien est une victoire diplomatique pour le président américain, et valide toute sa stratégie de négociation avec l’Iran.

Correspondante à Washington

Moment sobre mais savouré pour Barack Obama, ce jeudi, dans le jardin aux roses de la Maison Blanche, après ce qu’il a solennellement qualifié «d’entente historique» avec l’Iran sur le nucléaire. Le président a annoncé qu’un accord cadre avait fini par être trouvé entre Téhéran et le groupe P5+1 – donnant l’espoir d’empêcher l’Iran d’obtenir l’arme nucléaire si la négociation aboutit à un accord final d’ici au 30 juin.

Ce succès inespéré, fruit de longs mois de négociations, largement supervisés par la diplomatie américaine, représente l’aboutissement d’une politique de négociation défendue par Obama depuis le début de sa présidence. «Les négociations iraniennes ont réussi, exactement comme nous l’avions prévu», a-t-il souligné, non sans satisfaction. Pour lui, ce n’est pas une mince affaire, même si de nombreux points obscurs restent problématiques, comme celui concernant le sort qui sera réservé aux stocks d’uranium enrichi dont dispose l’Iran.

«C’est toute la philosophie de politique étrangère d’Obama qui se trouve validée» – une théorie selon laquelle il est possible de parler et de trouver des compromis avec des pays adversaires, a noté le journal Politico. Dès son discours d’investiture en janvier 2009, le patron de l’Amérique avait appelé l’Iran au dialogue, se disant prêt à «tendre sa main si l’autre partie est prête à desserrer le poing». Accusé de naïveté et d’irresponsabilité, il n’a jamais vraiment dévié de cette ligne, et pourrait aujourd’hui être en passe d’engranger un vrai succès, concret, de politique étrangère. S’il est confirmé le 30 juin, l’accord pourrait ouvrir une nouvelle ère dans les relations entre l’Iran et l’Occident. C’est en tout cas, clairement, l »espoir que caresse la Maison Blanche d’Obama. «C’est un moment de vérité», a noté ce jeudi le New York Times parlant «d’un pari» qui n’est pas encore gagné. «Le poing que l’Iran a agité à la face du Grand Satan, n’est pas encore complètement relâché. Mais les doigts se détendent, et l’accord, bien qu’incomplet, laisse la possibilité qu’ils se transforment en poignée de main», ajoute le grand journal new-yorkais.

«Si l’Iran triche, le monde le saura»
Soucieux de prévenir les attaques et le scepticisme qui ont déjà commencé de fuser chez les républicains du Congrès, persuadés qu’on ne peut faire confiance aux Iraniens, Obama a affirmé qu’il s’agissait «d’un bon accord» car «si l’Iran triche, le monde le saura». «L’Iran a donné son accord pour un régime de transparence et les inspections les plus approfondies jamais négociées dans l’histoire des programmes nucléaires», a expliqué le président américain qui martèle depuis des mois sa conviction que la voie diplomatique est «de loin, la meilleure».

Les sanctions américaines et européennes seront levées en fonction du respect de ses engagements par l’Iran. Elles seront rétablies «si l’accord n’est pas appliqué». Autant d’assurances que le président Obama s’est empressé de donner au roi d’Arabie Saoudite Salman puis au Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu, lors de coups de fils successifs. Bien sûr, de nombreuses interrogations pèsent encore sur le processus. Les détails techniques devront être mis noir sur blanc. Le Congrès devra renoncer à mettre en péril les trois mois de négociations qui doivent mener à l’accord final, et l’Iran respecter ses engagements à la lettre. Autant de conditions difficiles à remplir. «Le travail n’est pas fini», a d’ailleurs souligné le président avec force. Mais un processus vient de s’engager, faisant naître un espoir.

Nucléaire iranien : les principaux points de l’accord-cadre
Le Point

02/04/2015

Voici les principaux « paramètres » de l’accord-cadre pour résoudre le dossier du nucléaire iranien, les détails de la mise en oeuvre étant « encore à négocier ».

Les grandes puissances – États-Unis, Grande-Bretagne, Chine, France, Allemagne, Russie – et l’Iran ont conclu jeudi à Lausanne, à l’issue de négociations marathons, un accord cadre pour résoudre le dossier du nucléaire iranien, étape fondamentale sur la voie d’un accord final d’ici au 30 juin. Voici les principaux « paramètres » de cet accord-cadre tels que présentés par les autorités américaines qui soulignent cependant que « les détails de leur mise en oeuvre sont encore à négocier » et que « rien n’est accepté tant que tout n’est pas accepté ».

Enrichissement

– Le nombre de centrifugeuses de l’Iran passera de 19 000 à 6 104 (réduction de deux tiers). Sur les 6 104, seules 5 060 auront le droit de produire de l’uranium enrichi pendant dix ans. Il s’agira de centrifugeuses de la première génération.

– Téhéran va réduire son stock d’uranium faiblement enrichi (LEU) de 10 000 kg à 300 kg enrichi à 3,67 % pendant quinze ans.

– L’Iran a accepté de ne pas enrichir d’uranium à plus de 3,67 % pendant au moins quinze ans.

– Le matériel excédentaire sera entreposé sous surveillance de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA) et ne pourra servir qu’à des remplacements.

– Téhéran a accepté de ne pas construire de nouvelles installations d’enrichissement d’uranium pendant quinze ans.

Breakout time

Le « breakout time » est dans le jargon des experts le temps nécessaire pour fabriquer assez d’uranium enrichi pour produire une arme atomique. Ce « breakout time », qui est actuellement de deux à trois mois, sera d’un an au moins, et ce, pendant au moins dix ans.

Fordo, Natanz

– L’Iran accepte de ne plus enrichir d’uranium pendant au moins quinze ans dans le site de Fordo, enfoui sous la montagne et de ce fait impossible à détruire par une action militaire. Il n’y aura plus de matières fissiles à Fordo pendant au moins quinze ans. Le site restera ouvert mais n’enrichira pas d’uranium. Environ deux tiers des centrifugeuses de Fordo seront retirées du site.

– Natanz : c’est la principale installation d’enrichissement iranienne, avec quelque 17 000 centrifugeuses IR-1 de la première génération, un millier d’IR-2M plus rapides et une capacité d’en accueillir au total 50 000. Téhéran a accepté que Natanz devienne son unique installation d’enrichissement. Elle devra être dotée de seulement 5 060 centrifugeuses IR-1 de la première génération pendant dix ans. Les centrifugeuses IR-2M seront enlevées et placées sous contrôle de l’AIEA.
Contrôle

– L’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA) sera chargée de contrôler régulièrement tous les sites nucléaires iraniens.

– Les inspecteurs de l’AIEA pourront accéder aux mines d’uranium et aux lieux où l’Iran produit le « yellowcake » (un concentré d’uranium) pendant vingt-cinq ans.
Arak

– Le coeur de ce réacteur à eau lourde, qui aurait pu produire du plutonium, sera détruit ou sera déplacé en dehors du territoire iranien. Le réacteur sera reconstruit pour se limiter à la recherche et à la production de radio-isotopes médicaux, sans production de plutonium à capacité militaire. Le combustible utilisé sera envoyé à l’étranger pendant toute la vie du réacteur.

– Téhéran ne pourra pas construire de nouveau réacteur à eau lourde pendant quinze ans.
Sanctions

Les sanctions américaines et européennes seront levées dès que le respect de ses engagements par l’Iran aura été certifié par l’AIEA. Elles seront rétablies si l’accord n’est pas appliqué. Les résolutions de l’ONU seront levées dès que l’Iran respectera tous les points-clés de l’accord. Une nouvelle résolution du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU maintiendra les interdictions de transfert de technologies sensibles et soutiendra l’application de cet accord.

Périodes d’application

Elles varient de dix à quinze ans selon les activités et sont valables pendant vingt-cinq ans pour les inspections de la chaîne d’approvisionnement en uranium.

Voir encore:

Lausanne et les antimissiles

Dedefensa

04/04/2015

Les Russes ont réagi à la vitesse de l’éclair, dès l’accord de Lausanne sur le nucléaire conclu. Puisque cet accord est conclu, puisque le nucléaire militaire iranien n’est plus considéré comme une possibilité, qu’il est en principe sur la voie d’être enterré, qu’est-ce qui justifie encore l’installation du réseau anti-missiles US en Europe (gardons l’appellation BMDE pour Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe), lequel fut officiellement lancé et développé contre une menace iranienne principalement ? Alors que les travaux et les initiatives en faveur du BMDE se poursuivent, avec il y a quelques jours la visite du général Breedlove, le SACEUR de l’OTAN, en Roumanie, pour convaincre les Roumains d’accepter l’installation d’un élément du BMDE sur leur sol, – toujours pour nous protéger encore mieux de la menace iranienne ?

(Les USA avaient parlé accessoirement de la menace nord-coréenne, mais le ridicule de l’argument, bien plus encore que l’argument iranien déjà proche du grotesque, fait qu’on ne l’a plus guère évoqué. Nous parlons d’argument de pure communication, c’est-à-dire pour le cas des USA de pure narrative, qui constituent des arguments aussi piètres que de circonstance pour justifier le BMDE. Il n’empêche, puisqu’ils ont toujours été avancés officiellement par les USA, il importe de les accepter comme tels, surtout au moment où la narrative se défait dangereusement. Ce cas est d’abord une affaire de communication et l’affrontement, la guerre” du bloc BAO avec la Russie est d’abord une “guerre de communication”.)

Les grands groupes russes de communication ont donc aussitôt rouvert le dossier BMDE. RT consacre un article à la question, le 4 avril 2015. La réaction de l’OTAN au premier abord est significative, du type très pavlovien “l’accord de Lausanne ne change rien à la nécessité du système BMDE parce que l’accord de Lausanne ne change rien à la nécessité du système BMDE parce que l’accord…” Si, il y a tout de même un argument, époustouflant de puissance, “la menace posée par la prolifération des missiles balistiques contre la pays de l’OTAN continue à s’accroître…” («The threat to NATO countries posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles continues to increase… the framework [of the Iran nuclear program] agreement does not change that fact.») En matière d’activités de ses porte-parole, l’OTAN a, depuis longtemps, dépassé son maître en la matière, l’URSS brejnévienne au plus haut de sa dialectique relevant d’une sorte de parler automatique.

Sputnik-français a eu l’idée intéressante d’interviewer plusieurs experts de différents pays d’Europe et de l’Iran, en évitant comme la peste les experts en fonction des pays du bloc BAO dont il n’y a rien à attendre puisque tout est dit de leur pensée profonde dans la réaction de la porte-parole de l’OTAN telle qu’on l’a lue plus haut. Ces experts travaillent en général pour des think tank, y compris et surtout européens, qui peuvent continuer leur travail si nécessaire grâce à des donations qui vont bien, essentiellement US mais pas seulement… (Sputnik-français, le 3 avril 2015).

• Miroslav Lazanski, analyste militaire, éditorialiste du journal Politika (Belgrade): «Dès le moment où le déploiement du bouclier antimissile en Europe a été évoqué pour la première fois, j’ai toujours affirmé qu’il n’était lié ni au programme nucléaire iranien, ni aux missiles nord-coréens. Son unique vocation est de neutraliser le potentiel nucléaire russe.

»Les négociations avec l’Iran constituent le meilleur test pour l’Occident. A l’heure actuelle, il n’existe plus de raisons formelles pour poursuivre la création de ce bouclier. Cependant, les Etats-Unis continuent de le faire, car cela s’inscrit dans leur politique visant à «encercler» la Russie. Le danger principal du bouclier consiste dans le fait que les missiles intercepteurs peuvent être facilement remplacés par des missiles offensifs dotés d’ogives nucléaires.»

• Orhan Gafarli, expert en matière de sécurité eurasiatique, Centre analytique d’études stratégiques (Turquie): «Suite à la conclusion de l’accord de Lausanne, la nécessité d’installer des systèmes antimissiles américains en Europe de l’Est a disparu. Si le déploiement de ces systèmes près des frontières russes se poursuit, il sera clair pour tout le monde qu’ils sont dirigés contre la Russie. Dans ce cas, les Etats-Unis ne réussiront plus à induire l’opinion mondiale en erreur concernant leurs véritables intentions.»

• Marek Toczek, contre-amiral polonais à la retraite: «L’Iran n’est plus considéré aujourd’hui comme une menace, et je ne pense pas que la Pologne ait vraiment besoin de ce prétendu bouclier antimissile. Toute décision concernant le système de ce gendre profiterait à quelqu’un d’autre, mais pas à la Pologne. Si des structures et des sites de ce type étaient mis en place en Pologne, cela provoquerait manifestement une dissonance. Il fut un temps où nous étions fiers de voir les troupes étrangères quitter le territoire de notre pays. Nous sommes accédés à l’indépendance, tout au moins dans le domaine militaire. Si soutenons ce projet, cela signifie que nous n’avons tiré aucune leçon du passé. Nous accepterons donc une dictature qui nous causera à l’avenir un préjudice beaucoup plus important.»

• Emad Abshenass, expert en géopolitique, rédacteur en chef du journal Iran Press: «L’accord de Lausanne n’a pas apporté de changements fondamentaux aux relations irano-américaines. Mais les responsables politiques du monde entier savent que dans certains cas, des ennemis politiques jurés peuvent devenir amis et vice versa. Les dirigeants iraniens et américains continuent de se haïr. Des notes négatives à l’adresse de la République islamique se sont fait entendre hier dans le discours de Barack Obama. Il y a quelques jours, l’ayatollah Khamenei a pour sa part de nouveau employé sa formule habituelle “Mort à l’Amérique!” Donc, rien n’a changé dans les relations entre les deux pays. Washington n’a pas l’intention de démanteler ses éléments de défense antimissile en Europe de l’Est. Ces systèmes sont toujours dirigés à la fois contre l’Iran et la Russie.»

La rapidité de réaction de communication des Russes à peine l’accord de Lausanne bouclé pour faire ressortir l’affaire du réseau BMDE témoigne, outre leur maîtrise de la communication, de plusieurs points essentiels. Tous ces points ne sont pas que de simples constats, ils sont promis à un développement dans l’avenir et pourraient aggraver un cas ou l’autre, – une crise ou l’autre, – montrant par là qu’il est, aujourd’hui, dans le cadre de la crise d’effondrement du Système, absolument impossible de résoudre une crise seule, d’une façon indépendante, – si tant est que la crise du nucléaire iranien soit complètement et vraiment résolue, ce qui reste à voir. Justement, comme on va le voir, toutes les crises sont liées, interconnectées, dépendantes les unes des autres.

• Le premier point est une confirmation. Il s’agit de l’importance stratégique pour les Russes du réseau antimissiles US/OTAN, d’un point de vue stratégique. Cela explique en bonne partie la rapidité de leurs réactions au niveau de la communication. Les Russes n’abandonneront jamais cette affaire et n’accepteront jamais un compromis qui laisse passer la moindre possibilité que ce réseau BMDE représente pour eux une menace stratégique non contrôlée (quitte à prendre des contre-mesures draconiennes si le BMDE est tout de même installé). L’affaire du BMDE est, du point de vue stratégique nucléaire, aussi importante que la crise ukrainienne du point de vue de la stratégie géographique. Ce sont des domaines sur lesquels les Russes ne transigeront pas…. Ils transigeront d’autant moins que la crise ukrainienne a rendu d’autant plus importante, même si l’on n’en a guère parlé, la ”crise des antimissiles”. Les deux crises s’exacerbent l’une l’autre.

• Cela nous conduit au second point, qui est, justement, celui de l’interconnectivité des crises. On ne peut, aujourd’hui, traiter la crise iranienne sans prendre en considération ses connexions avec d’autres crises, dont certaines qui nous conduisent au cœur de la crise haute qui est celle de l’affrontement entre le bloc BAO et la Russie. Le cas du BMDE en est l’exemple-type, avec dans ce cas, la connexion avec la crise ukrainienne, ce qui lie indirectement la crise iranienne avec la crise ukrainienne. De ce point de vue, on ne peut donc considérer l’accord de Lausanne comme une démarche diplomatique achevée, qui clôt un chapitre crisique important. Tout juste peut-on parle d’une étape, qui peut conduire à d’autres développements qui ne seront pas nécessairement apaisés, tant s’en faut.

• Le troisième point est l’attitude des Russes vis-à-vis de l’Iran à l’ombre de l’affaire du BMDE. Nul doute qu’ils vont activer, en même temps que certaines sanctions devraient être levées, leur démarche consistant à finalement livrer des S-300 de défense aérienne à l’Iran, dans le cadre du marché qu’ls avaient d’abord refuse d’honorer (à cause des sanctions, du temps de Medvedev, en 2009), et qu’ils proposeraient finalement d’honorer. Mais on devrait aller bien au-delà des S-300, et les Russes devraient effectivement proposer des S400 beaucoup plus avancés. (Voir le 24 février 2015.) C’est une question d’abord commerciale, certes, mais, désormais, surtout stratégique. Les Russes feront tout pour renforcer la défense des Iraniens contre toute menace stratégique, à la fois pour réduire encore plus l’argument des BMDE mais aussi pour contrecarrer les menaces qui continuent à se développer d’une éventuelle frappe contre l’Iran, – des Israéliens, mais aussi des USA dans des cas extrêmes. Bref, les Russes feront tout pour renforcer la défense de l’Iran dans la balance stratégique face au bloc BAO, dans un cadre général stratégique où, à cause du réseau BMDE qui continue à se développer, ils doivent jouer à fond la carte du renforcement stratégique de l’Iran. D’autre part, certes, ils doivent tout faire pour renforcer leurs liens stratégiques avec l’Iran, et cela devrait commencer par l’admission comme membre effectif de l’Iran à l’Organisation de Coopération de Shanghai, en juillet prochain.

• Le paradoxe est ainsi que la résolution possible/probable de la crise iranienne pourrait conduire, sinon devrait conduire à un renforcement notable des tensions stratégiques générales du bloc BAO avec la Russie, notamment à partir de la crise ukrainienne qui en est son point de fixation central. L’Iran, “libéré” des contraintes internationales, et s’il l’est officiellement, va désormais être sollicité par les évènements eux-mêmes pour jouer un jeu important dans les grandes crises en cours. Certes, on pense naturellement et irrésistiblement à la crise générale et confuse du Moyen-Orient, mais c’est un aspect très opérationnel. Nous pensons surtout à l’aspect d’une grande stratégie diplomatique et de communication, et c’est vers le Nord et vers le Nord-Est que l’Iran va être sollicité, vers l’axe Moscou-Pékin, vers l’OCS ; et également vers des crises comme celles de l’Ukraine et les autres qui opérationnalisent le grand schisme entre le bloc BAO et les autres. L’Iran ne pourra pas observer une neutralité dans ce cas, il devra choisir son camp. On a vu (le 1er avril 2015) que ce n’est pas le camp du bloc BAO qui nous paraît le choix probable de l’Iran.

Voir encore:

Statement by the President on the Framework to Prevent Iran from Obtaining a Nuclear Weapon

Rose Garden

April 02, 2015

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Today, the United States — together with our allies and partners — has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

As President and Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people.  And I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer.

This has been a long time coming.  The Islamic Republic of Iran has been advancing its nuclear program for decades.  By the time I took office, Iran was operating thousands of centrifuges, which can produce the materials for a nuclear bomb — and Iran was concealing a covert nuclear facility.  I made clear that we were prepared to resolve this issue diplomatically, but only if Iran came to the table in a serious way.  When that did not happen, we rallied the world to impose the toughest sanctions in history — sanctions which had a profound impact on the Iranian economy.

Now, sanctions alone could not stop Iran’s nuclear program. But they did help bring Iran to the negotiating table.  Because of our diplomatic efforts, the world stood with us and we were joined at the negotiating table by the world’s major powers — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.

Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.  And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, and that we could not verify their compliance and the interim agreement would fail. Instead, it has succeeded exactly as intended.  Iran has met all of its obligations.  It eliminated its stockpile of dangerous nuclear material.  Inspections of Iran’s program increased.  And we continued negotiations to see if we could achieve a more comprehensive deal.

Today, after many months of tough, principled diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal.  And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.  This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.  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.

Many key details will be finalized over the next three months, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed.  But here are the basic outlines of the deal that we are working to finalize.

First, Iran will not be able to pursue a bomb using plutonium, because it will not develop weapons-grade plutonium.  The core of its reactor at Arak will be dismantled and replaced. The spent fuel from that facility will be shipped out of Iran for the life of the reactor.  Iran will not build a new heavy-water reactor.  And Iran will not reprocess fuel from its existing reactors — ever.

Second, this deal shuts down Iran’s path to a bomb using enriched uranium. Iran has agreed that its installed centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds.  Iran will no longer enrich uranium at its Fordow facility.  Iran will not enrich uranium with its advanced centrifuges for at least the next 10 years.  The vast majority of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be neutralized.

Today, estimates indicate that Iran is only two or three months away from potentially acquiring the raw materials that could be used for a single nuclear bomb.  Under this deal, Iran has agreed that it will not stockpile the materials needed to build a weapon.  Even if it violated the deal, for the next decade at least, Iran would be a minimum of a year away from acquiring enough material for a bomb.  And the strict limitations on Iran’s stockpile will last for 15 years.

Third, this deal provides the best possible defense against Iran’s ability to pursue a nuclear weapon covertly — that is, in secret.  International inspectors will have unprecedented access not only to Iranian nuclear facilities, but 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.  If Iran cheats, the world will know it.  If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.  Iran’s past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed.  With this deal, Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world.

So this will be a long-term deal that addresses each path to a potential Iranian nuclear bomb.  There will be strict limits on Iran’s program for a decade.  Additional restrictions on building new facilities or stockpiling materials will last for 15 years.  The unprecedented transparency measures will last for 20 years or more.  Indeed, some will be permanent.  And as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon.

In return for Iran’s actions, the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions — our own sanctions, and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.  This relief will be phased as Iran takes steps to adhere to the deal.  If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.  Meanwhile, other American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced.

Now, let me reemphasize, our work is not yet done.  The deal has not been signed.  Between now and the end of June, the negotiators will continue to work through the details of how this framework will be fully implemented, and those details matter.  If there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians, if the verification and inspection mechanisms don’t meet the specifications of our nuclear and security experts, there will be no deal.  But if we can get this done, and Iran follows through on the framework that our negotiators agreed to, we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security, and to do so peacefully.

Given the importance of this issue, I have instructed my negotiators to fully brief Congress and the American people on the substance of the deal, and I welcome a robust debate in the weeks and months to come.  I am confident that we can show that this deal is good for the security of the United States, for our allies, and for the world.

For the fact is, we only have three options for addressing Iran’s nuclear program.  First, we can reach a robust and verifiable deal — like this one — and peacefully prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The second option is we can bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, thereby starting another war in the Middle East, and setting back Iran’s program by a few years — in other words, setting it back by a fraction of the time that this deal will set it back.  Meanwhile we’d ensure that Iran would race ahead to try and build a bomb.

Third, we could pull out of negotiations, try to get other countries to go along and continue sanctions that are currently in place or add additional ones, and hope for the best — knowing that every time we have done so, Iran has not capitulated but instead has advanced its program, and that in very short order, the breakout timeline would be eliminated and a nuclear arms race in the region could be triggered because of that uncertainty.  In other words, the third option leads us very quickly back to a decision about whether or not to take military action, because we’d have no idea what was going on inside of Iran.
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.  Iran has shown no willingness to eliminate those aspects of their program that they maintain are for peaceful purposes, even in the face of unprecedented sanctions.  Should negotiations collapse because we, the United States, rejected what the majority of the world considers a fair deal, what our scientists and nuclear experts suggest would give us confidence that they are not developing a nuclear weapon, it’s doubtful that we can even keep our current international sanctions in place.

So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question:  Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?  Is it worse than doing what we’ve done for almost two decades, with Iran moving forward with its nuclear program and without robust inspections?  I think the answer will be clear.

Remember, I have always insisted that I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and I will.  But I also know that a diplomatic solution is the best way to get this done, and offers a more comprehensive — and lasting — solution.  It is our best option, by far.  And while it is always a possibility that Iran may try to cheat on the deal in the future, this framework of inspections and transparency makes it far more likely that we’ll know about it if they try to cheat — and I, or future Presidents, will have preserved all of the options that are currently available to deal with it.

To the Iranian people, I want to reaffirm what I’ve said since the beginning of my presidency.  We are willing to engage you on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.  This deal offers the prospect of relief from sanctions that were imposed because of Iran’s violation of international law.  Since Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, this framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful.  It demonstrates that if Iran complies with its international obligations, then it can fully rejoin the community of nations, thereby fulfilling the extraordinary talent and aspirations of the Iranian people.  That would be good for Iran, and it would be good for the world.

Of course, this deal alone — even if fully implemented — will not end the deep divisions and mistrust between our two countries.  We have a difficult history between us, and our concerns will remain with respect to Iranian behavior so long as Iran continues its sponsorship of terrorism, its support for proxies who destabilize the Middle East, its threats against America’s friends and allies — like Israel.  So make no mistake: We will remain vigilant in countering those actions and standing with our allies.

It’s no secret that the Israeli Prime Minister and I don’t agree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue.  If, in fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option.  And I believe our nuclear experts can confirm that.

More importantly, I will be speaking with the Prime Minister today to make clear that there will be no daylight, there is no daylight, when it comes to our support for Israel’s security and our concerns about Iran’s destabilizing policies and threats toward Israel.  That’s why I’ve directed my national security team to consult closely with the new Israeli government in the coming weeks and months about how we can further strengthen our long-term security cooperation with Israel, and make clear our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s defense.

Today, I also spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia to reaffirm our commitment to the security of our partners in the Gulf.  And I’m inviting the leaders of the six countries who make up the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain — to meet me at Camp David this spring to discuss how we can further strengthen our security cooperation, while resolving the multiple conflicts that have caused so much hardship and instability throughout the Middle East.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that Congress has, on a bipartisan basis, played a critical role in our current Iran policy, helping to shape the sanctions regime that applied so much pressure on Iran and ultimately forced them to the table.  In the coming days and weeks, my administration will engage Congress once again about how we can play — how it can play a constructive oversight role.  I’ll begin that effort by speaking to the leaders of the House and Senate today.

In those conversations, I will underscore that the issues at stake here are bigger than politics.  These are matters of war and peace, and they should be evaluated based on the facts and what is ultimately best for the American people and for our national security.  For this is not simply a deal between my administration and Iran.  This is a deal between Iran, the United States of America, and the major powers in the world — including some of our closest allies.  If Congress kills this deal — not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative — then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy.  International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen.

The American people understand this, which is why solid majorities support a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue.  They understand instinctively the words of President Kennedy, who faced down the far greater threat of communism, and said:  “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  The American people remember that at the height of the Cold War, Presidents like Nixon and Reagan struck historic arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, a far more dangerous adversary — despite the fact that that adversary not only threatened to destroy our country and our way of life, but had the means to do so.  Those agreements were not perfect.  They did not end all threats.  But they made our world safer.  A good deal with Iran will do the same.

Today, I’d like to express my thanks to our international partners for their steadfastness and their cooperation.  I was able to speak earlier today with our close allies, Prime Minister Cameron and President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel, to reaffirm that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this effort.

And most of all, on behalf of our nation, I want to express my thanks to our tireless — and I mean tireless — Secretary of State John Kerry and our entire negotiating team.  They have worked so hard to make this progress.  They represent the best tradition of American diplomacy.  Their work — our work — is not yet done and success is not guaranteed.  But we have an historic opportunity to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran, and to do so peacefully, with the international community firmly behind us.  We should seize that chance.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.

Voir enfin:

La Maison Blanche sur les paramètres d’un plan d’action relatif au programme nucléaire iranien
03 avril 2015

La Maison Blanche
Bureau du secrétaire de presse
Washington, D.C.
Le 2 avril 2015

Paramètres d’un Plan d’action conjoint et exhaustif relatif au programme nucléaire de la République islamique d’Iran

Nous présentons ci-dessous les paramètres du Plan d’action conjoint et exhaustif relatif au programme nucléaire de la République islamique d’Iran, décidés à Lausanne (Suisse). Ces éléments serviront de fondation au texte définitif du Plan d’action conjoint, qui sera rédigé d’ici au 30 juin. Ils sont la manifestation des importants progrès réalisés dans le cadre des discussions entre le groupe P5+1, l’Union européenne et l’Iran. D’importants détails de mise en œuvre sont encore sujets à négociation, et rien n’est convenu tant que tout n’est pas convenu. Nous allons travailler afin de conclure le plan d’action conjoint sur la base de ces paramètres pendant les mois à venir.

Enrichissement

• L’Iran a accepté de réduire d’environ deux tiers son parc de centrifugeuses installées. L’Iran passera d’environ 19 000 centrifugeuses installées aujourd’hui à 6 104 unités dans le cadre de l’accord, dont 5 060 seulement enrichiront de l’uranium pendant les 10 années à venir. Ces 6 104 centrifugeuses seront du type IR-1, c’est-à-dire de première génération en Iran.

• L’Iran a accepté de ne pas enrichir d’uranium au-delà d’une teneur de 3,67 % pendant au minimum 15 ans.

• L’Iran a accepté de réduire son stock actuel, qui est d’environ 10 tonnes d’uranium faiblement enrichi (UFE), à 300 kilos d’UFE enrichi à 3,67 %, pendant une période de 15 années.

• Toutes les centrifugeuses et infrastructures d’enrichissement surnuméraires seront placées dans des entrepôts surveillés par l’AIEA ; elles seront affectées exclusivement au remplacement de centrifugeuses et équipements en exploitation.

• L’Iran a accepté de ne construire aucune nouvelle installation aux fins d’enrichir de l’uranium, et ce pendant 15 ans.

• Le « break-out time » de l’Iran, c’est-à-dire le temps qui lui serait nécessaire pour obtenir une quantité de matière fissile suffisante pour fabriquer une bombe nucléaire, est actuellement estimé entre deux et trois mois. Ce délai sera allongé à un an au minimum dans le cadre prévu, et cela pendant une période d’au moins dix ans.

L’Iran va reconvertir ses installations de Fordo afin qu’elles ne soient plus utilisées aux fins d’enrichir l’uranium

• L’Iran a accepté de ne pas enrichir d’uranium dans ses installations de Fordo pendant au minimum 15 ans.

• L’Iran a accepté de reconvertir ses installations de Fordo de façon à qu’elles ne soient utilisées qu’à des fins pacifiques, sous forme d’un centre de recherche sur la physique et la technologie nucléaires.

• L’Iran a accepté de ne conduire à Fordo aucune activité de recherche et développement liée à l’enrichissement de l’uranium, et ce pendant 15 ans.

• L’Iran ne détiendra aucune matière fissile à Fordo pendant 15 ans.

• Près des deux tiers des centrifugeuses et infrastructures de Fordo seront enlevées. Les centrifugeuses restantes n’enrichiront pas d’uranium. Toutes les centrifugeuses et infrastructures connexes seront soumises aux contrôles de l’AIEA.

L’Iran n’enrichira l’uranium que dans ses installations de Natanz, avec seulement 5 060 centrifugeuses IR-1 de première génération pendant dix ans.

• L’Iran a accepté de n’enrichir l’uranium qu’avec ses centrifugeuses de première génération (type IR-1) à Natanz, et ce pendant dix ans, en enlevant ses centrifugeuses de technologie plus avancée.

• L’Iran enlèvera les mille centrifugeuses de type IR-2M déjà installées à Natanz et les mettra pendant dix ans dans un entrepôt soumis aux contrôles de l’AIEA.

• Pendant dix ans au moins, l’Iran s’abstiendra d’utiliser ses centrifugeuses de type IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 ou IR-8 pour produire de l’uranium enrichi. L’Iran utilisera ses centrifugeuses de technologie avancée pour des activités de recherche et développement limitées, selon un calendrier et des paramètres convenus par le groupe P5+1.

• Pendant dix ans, l’enrichissement et les activités de recherche et développement dans le domaine de l’enrichissement seront limités de façon à assurer un break-out time d’au moins un an. Au-delà de ces dix années, l’Iran devra respecter son plan d’enrichissement et de R&D en matière d’enrichissement, tel que soumis à l’AIEA, et, conformément au Plan d’action, le Protocole additionnel induisant certaines limitations en termes de capacités d’enrichissement.

Inspections et transparence

• L’AIEA disposera d’un accès régulier à toutes les installations nucléaires d’Iran, y compris aux installations iraniennes d’enrichissement de Natanz et aux anciennes installations d’enrichissement de Fordo, et pourra utiliser les technologies modernes de contrôle les plus récentes.

• Les inspecteurs auront accès à la chaine d’approvisionnement qui alimente le programme nucléaire iranien. Les nouveaux mécanismes de transparence et d’inspection assureront un contrôle étroit des matériaux et/ou composants, afin de prévenir tout détournement au profit d’un programme secret.

• Les inspecteurs auront accès aux mines d’uranium et assureront un contrôle continu des usines de traitement où l’Iran produit ses concentrés d’uranium, et cela pendant une période de 25 ans.

• Pendant 20 ans, les inspecteurs assureront un contrôle continu des installations de production et stockage des rotors et cylindres de centrifugeuses. La filière iranienne de fabrication des centrifugeuses sera gelée et soumise à une surveillance continue.

• Toutes les centrifugeuses et infrastructures d’enrichissement retirées des installations de Fordo et de Natanz seront placées sous surveillance continue de l’AIEA.

• À titre de mesure de transparence supplémentaire, un canal d’approvisionnement dédié sera mis en place pour le programme nucléaire iranien, afin de surveiller et d’approuver au cas par cas la fourniture, la vente ou le transfert à l’Iran de certaines matières et technologies liées au nucléaire ou à double usage.

• L’Iran a accepté d’appliquer le Protocole additionnel de l’AIEA, donnant à cette dernière un bien meilleur accès au programme nucléaire iranien, et à des informations beaucoup plus développées à cet égard, au titre des installations déclarées comme non déclarées.

• L’Iran sera tenu de donner accès à l’AIEA pour lui permettre d’enquêter sur les sites suspects ou les allégations d’existence d’une installation clandestine de production de concentrés d’uranium, de conversion ou d’enrichissement d’uranium, ou de fabrication de centrifugeuses, et cela en tout lieu dans le pays.

• L’Iran a accepté d’appliquer le Code 3.1 modifié, qui impose une notification accélérée en cas de construction de nouvelles installations.

• L’Iran déploiera une série de mesures convenues pour répondre aux inquiétudes de l’AIEA en ce qui concerne le volet militaire possible du programme iranien.

Réacteurs et retraitement

• L’Iran a accepté de modifier la conception et de reconstruire un réacteur de recherche à eau lourde à Arak, sur la base d’un modèle validé par le groupe P5+1, lequel réacteur ne produira pas de plutonium de qualité militaire et contribuera à la recherche nucléaire et à la production d’isotopes à des fins pacifiques.

• Le cœur d’origine du réacteur, qui aurait permis de produire des quantités significatives de plutonium de qualité militaire, sera détruit ou retiré du pays.

• Pendant toute la durée de vie du réacteur, l’Iran expédiera à l’étranger la totalité du combustible usé du réacteur.

• L’Iran s’est engagé indéfiniment à ne conduire aucune activité de retraitement de combustible irradié ou de recherche et développement relative au combustible irradié.

• L’Iran s’interdit d’accumuler de l’eau lourde au-delà des besoins du réacteur d’Arak tel que modifié, et vendra pendant quinze ans sur le marché international toute quantité d’eau lourde résiduelle.

• L’Iran s’interdit de construire de nouveaux réacteurs à eau lourde pendant une période de 15 ans.

Sanctions

• L’Iran bénéficiera de mesures de levée des sanctions si le pays respecte ses engagements de manière vérifiable.

• Les sanctions des États-Unis et de l’Union européenne liées au nucléaire seront suspendues lorsque l’AIEA aura vérifié que l’Iran a pris toutes les mesures clés de sa responsabilité en matière nucléaire. Ces sanctions s’appliqueront à nouveau immédiatement si l’Iran manque à ses engagements à quelque moment que ce soit.

• L’architecture des sanctions américaines liées au nucléaire à l’égard de l’Iran sera maintenue pendant une grande partie de la durée de l’accord et permet le rétablissement immédiat des sanctions en cas de non-respect significatif.

• Toutes les résolutions adoptées dans le passé par le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU sur la question nucléaire iranienne seront abrogées simultanément lorsque l’Iran aura pris dans le domaine nucléaire les mesures réglant tous les principaux problèmes (enrichissement, Fordo, Arak, volet militaire possible, et transparence).

• Toutefois, les dispositions fondamentales des résolutions du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, à savoir celles traitant des transferts de technologies et d’activités à caractère sensible, seront reprises dans une nouvelle résolution du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, validant le Plan d’action conjoint et appelant à sa mise en œuvre intégrale. Elle créera également le canal d’approvisionnement mentionné ci-dessus, qui constituera une mesure de transparence essentielle. Cette nouvelle résolution intégrera également d’importantes restrictions relatives aux armes conventionnelles et aux missiles balistiques, ainsi que des dispositions permettant l’inspection des expéditions correspondantes et des gels d’actifs.

• Un mécanisme de résolution des différends sera prévu, afin de permettre à tout participant au Plan d’action conjoint de chercher une solution aux différends pouvant concerner l’exécution des engagements figurant audit Plan d’action conjoint.

• Toutes les sanctions préexistantes de l’ONU pourront être réimposées si un désaccord portant sur une non-performance significative ne peut être résolu dans le cadre de ce mécanisme.

• Les sanctions prises par les États-Unis à l’égard de l’Iran au titre du terrorisme, des missiles balistiques et des violations des droits de l’homme restent en vigueur dans le cadre de l’accord.

Calendrier

• Pendant dix ans, l’Iran limitera ses capacités d’enrichissement domestiques et ses activités de recherche et développement, de façon à assurer un break-out time d’au minimum un an. Au delà, l’Iran sera tenu par son plan à plus long terme pour l’enrichissement et la R&D dans le domaine de l’enrichissement, qui a été partagé avec le groupe P5+1.

• Pendant quinze ans, l’Iran limitera d’autres aspects de son programme. À titre d’exemple, l’Iran ne saurait construire de nouvelles installations d’enrichissement ou de nouveaux réacteurs à eau lourde, limitera ses stocks d’uranium enrichi et accepte des procédures de transparence renforcées.

• Des mesures importantes en matière d’inspection et de transparence seront maintenues bien au-delà de 15 années.

• Le respect par l’Iran du Protocole additionnel de l’AIEA est une mesure permanente, y compris en ce qui concerne les importantes obligations prévues en matière d’accès et de transparence. Les mesures vigoureuses prévues en matière d’inspection de la chaine d’approvisionnement en uranium de l’Iran s’appliqueront pendant 25 ans.

• Même après la période d’application des mesures de limitation les plus sévères à l’égard du programme nucléaire iranien, l’Iran restera partie au Traité de non-prolifération (TNP), qui interdit le développement ou l’acquisition d’armes nucléaires par l’Iran et soumet son programme nucléaire au régime de contrôle de l’AIEA.


Elections israéliennes: Attention, un racisme peut en cacher un autre ! (From America’s Social worker in chief to Israeli Arabs and Left, guess who the common enemy is ?)

25 mars, 2015
A woman walks past a Joint Arab List campaign billboard in Umm el-FahmLe plan de la nouvelle liste arabe unie en Israël : « Faire exploser l’Etat juif de l’intérieur » !https://i0.wp.com/images1.ynet.co.il/PicServer4/2015/01/03/5793204/579320101001355640360no.jpg ObasPour Obama, le terrorisme est, à la racine, un produit de la désintégration sociale. La guerre est peut-être nécessaire pour contenir l’avancée de l’Etat islamique, mais seulement une réforme sociale peut vraiment s’en débarrasser. Ajoutez à cette vision le vécu d’un parfait ‘outsider’, moitié blanc et moitié noir avec une enfance et une famille dispersée autour du monde, et on commence à voir le profil d’un homme avec une empathie automatique pour les marginaux et un sens presque instinctif que les plus importants problèmes du monde sont enracinés, non pas dans l’idéologie, mais dans des structures sociales et économiques oppressives qui renforcent la marginalisation. Cette sensibilité est plus large que n’importe quelle orthodoxie économique, et elle est enracinée dans la dure expérience du Sud de Chicago. Après avoir pris la tête de la plus importante superpuissance du monde en janvier 2009, ce travailleur social s’est mis à construire une politique étrangère qui traduisait ses impressions en actions géopolitiques.(…) Le monde était un énorme Chicago, ses problèmes essentiels pas totalement différents de ceux des Noirs du Sud de Chicago, et les solutions à ces problèmes étaient enracinées dans la même capacité humaine à surpasser les divisions sociales et les inégalités. Voilà en quoi consistait le « provincialisme » d’Obama, sa vision d’un monde qui favorisait les désavantagés et les opprimés, qui percevait les conflits idéologiques et politiques entre les gouvernements comme secondaires par rapport à des crises plus universelles et en fin de compte sociales qui troublaient un monde déjà tumultueux. (…) C’était cette vision humanitaire expansive qui a conduit Obama à faire sa première erreur stratégique majeure au sujet d’Israël. C’était, en effet, en Israël que son récit des affaires du monde s’opposait directement aux réalités impitoyables de la géopolitique. (…) Le conflit israélo-palestinien semblait avoir beaucoup en commun avec les maladies sociales américaines qu’il avait combattues toute sa vie d’adulte : un conflit entre deux communautés divisées, renforcé par l’intolérance, des récits mutuellement exclusifs de victimisation et d’absence d’empathie et d’espoir. L’engagement énergique et premier d’Obama pour la paix israélo-palestinienne n’était pas enraciné dans les calculs stratégiques habituels qui conduisent une politique étrangère, mais cela correspondait très bien à la nouvelle sensibilité qui définissait maintenant sa présidence. Mais la géopolitique n’est pas du travail social. Et ce qui est vrai à Chicago ne l’est peut-être pas à Jérusalem. La première tentative majeure d’Obama dans le conflit – obtenir un gel de 10 mois de la construction d’implantations en dehors de Jérusalem – a donné le ton pour les cinq prochaines années d’efforts. La Maison Blanche d’Obama était désorientée et frustrée quand il est apparu clairement que la mesure sans précédent de « construction de la confiance » de Netanyahu avait en réalité éloigné les Palestiniens de la table des négociations. Le conflit israélo-palestinien n’est pas un combat contre l’injustice sociale ou économique, mais entre des identités nationales. Même s’il veut un accord de paix avec Israël, comme Obama le croit sincèrement, le président de l’Autorité palestinienne Mahmoud Abbas doit manœuvrer dans les limites du récit national palestinien qui rejette la cause nationale juive comme étant irrémédiablement illégitime. Abbas ne peut tout simplement pas faire de compromis, il doit être perçu comme un vainqueur. Alors, le fait que la Maison Blanche ait demandé et obtenu un gel sans précédent des implantations d’Israël ne prouvait pas aux Palestiniens qu’Israël était prêt au compromis, mais plutôt que leurs propres dirigeants demandaient moins de l’occupant détesté que la Maison Blanche ouvertement pro-Israélienne. La Maison Blanche, un bastion de sionistes de son propre aveu, avait sans effort obtenu une concession qu’aucun dirigeant palestinien n’avait même jamais demandée. Dans son tout premier effort de renforcer la confiance entre les parties, la Maison Blanche d’Obama a désastreusement réduit la marge de manœuvre politique intérieure des dirigeants palestiniens. Cette erreur initiale a établi la dynamique qui a contrecarré les efforts les plus concertés de l’Amérique pour relancer les négociations. Chaque fois que la pression américaine sur Israël augmentait, la pression intérieure sur les dirigeants palestiniens pour élever leurs exigences et conditions préalables augmentait rapidement aussi.(…) L’aversion du président Obama pour Netanyahu est intense et … Il y a peu de doute que cette hostilité soit devenue personnelle – un dirigeant juif américain a affirmé que c’est le président Obama lui-même qui a donné l’interview à The Atlantic, dans laquelle un responsable anonyme s’est moqué de Netanyahu en le qualifiant de « chickenshit » [poule mouillée] – mais ses origines sont plus profondes qu’une antipathie personnelle. (…) Lorsque Netanyahu insiste pour parler de l’histoire juive à l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU, tout en refusant d’aborder la dépossession palestinienne, quand il rejette d’emblée et à plusieurs reprises l’idée qu’une éventuelle réadaptation de l’Iran pourrait être plus souhaitable qu’une confrontation permanente, Obama entend des échos de ces militants de Chicago dont le chauvinisme a fait plus de mal que de bien à leurs communautés. (…) Selon Netanyahu, à moins que le mouvement national palestinien n’accepte qu’il y a une certaine légitimité à la création d’une patrie juive en Israël, les dirigeants palestiniens demeureront gelés sur place et incapables de compromis pour la paix. Pendant ce temps, les concessions israéliennes à une direction palestinienne qui continue de rejeter la légitimité même d’Israël ne feront que renforcer cette impulsion de rejet en soutenant l’illusion que la victoire finale contre l’existence d’Israël est possible. Pour Netanyahou, toute la stratégie américaine qui commence par des concessions israéliennes, au lieu de chercher un changement dans la vision de base de l’autre côté, met la charrue avant les bœufs – et garantit un échec continu. Sur l’Iran, l’évaluation de Netanyahu des capacités stratégiques d’Obama est tout aussi peu flatteuse. En abandonnant les sanctions sur lesquelles les États-Unis avaient toutes les cartes et autour desquelles le monde était uni en opposition aux ambitions nucléaires iraniennes, Obama a concédé beaucoup et obtenu très peu. On ne peut faire confiance à un pays de la taille de l’Europe occidentale avec un dossier d’installations entières et qui ment à répétition aux inspecteurs de l’AIEA et au Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies. (…) Pour les deux hommes, l’écart est plus profond que la fracture démocrates-républicains, plus profond que la question palestinienne, plus profond encore que la bataille sur l’Iran. Obama a cherché à introduire une nouvelle conscience dans les affaires mondiales, une conscience qui a défini son identité politique. Netanyahu défend les anciennes méthodes – dont dépendent, selon lui, la sécurité nationale. Haviv Rettig Gur
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. (…) 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
Obama est le premier président américain élevé sans attaches culturelles, affectives ou intellectuelles avec la Grande-Bretagne ou l’Europe. Les Anglais et les Européens ont été tellement enchantés par le premier président américain noir qu’ils n’ont pu voir ce qu’il est vraiment: le premier président américain du Tiers-Monde. The Daily Mail
In early February, the Pentagon declassified a 386-page report from 1987, exposing for the first time ever the actual depth of top-secret military cooperation between the United States and Israel — including, amazingly, information about Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear program. In view of the caustic tension that has increased lately between Washington and Jerusalem, the timing of the publication’s declassification, after a long legal process, might raise a few eyebrows. I have some knowledge about the build-up process of Israel’s nuclear capacity and after reading the report in question I must express my astonishment: I have never seen an official American document disclosing such extensive revelation on subjects that until now were regarded by both administrations as unspeakable secrets.(…) The request to publish the report was initiated three years ago by the American journalist Grant Smith. His plea was based on the Freedom of Information Act and while the Pentagon had lingered Smith filed a lawsuit. A District Court judge for the District of Columbia compelled the Pentagon to address his request. Although the report reveals quite a wide compilation of new facts about Israel’s most covert defense industry, to my astonishment its declassification produced no media reverberation whatsoever, not in Israel (except on the Ynet news website), nor in the States. The mainstream Israeli media was probably busy with the dramatic election campaign and in the United States only the progressive weekly magazine, The Nation, and quite a few professional websites and blogs — some of them explicitly anti-Israel — showed any interest. In the light of Iran’s nuclear talks, the declassification’s timing could prove troublesome for Israel. It makes it much harder to maintain the policy of ambiguity about Israel’s nuclear program and, subsequently, helps Iran’s argument that it shouldn’t be denied its own ambitions. Michael Karpin
La Déclaration Balfour, le Mandat pour la Palestine, et tout ce qui a été fondé sur eux, sont déclarés nuls et non avenus. Les prétentions à des liens historiques et religieux des Juifs avec la Palestine sont incompatibles avec les faits historiques et la véritable conception de ce qui constitue une nation. Le judaïsme, étant une religion, ne constitue pas une nationalité indépendante. De même que les Juifs ne constituent pas une nation unique avec son identité propre ; ils sont citoyens des Etats auxquels ils appartiennent. (…) Le sionisme est un mouvement politique lié de façon organique à un impérialisme international et antagoniste à toute action pour la libération et à tout mouvement progressiste dans le monde. Le sioniste est raciste et fanatique dans sa nature, agressif, expansionniste, colonial dans ses buts, et fasciste dans ses méthodes. Israël est l’instrument du mouvement sioniste, et la base géographique de l’impérialisme mondial placé stratégiquement au sein du foyer arabe pour combattre les espoirs de libération, d’unité, et de progrès de la nation arabe. Charte de l’OLP (articles 20 et  22)
Je suis prêt à accepter une troisième partie qui contrôle l’exécution de l’accord, par exemple les forces de l’OTAN, mais je n’accepterai pas qu’il y ait des Juifs dans ces forces ni un Israélien sur la Terre de Palestine. Mahmoud Abbas
Vous allez dans certaines petites villes de Pennsylvanie où, comme dans beaucoup de petites villes du Middle West, les emplois ont disparu depuis maintenant 25 ans et n’ont été remplacés par rien d’autre (…) Et il n’est pas surprenant qu’ils deviennent pleins d’amertume, qu’ils s’accrochent aux armes à feu ou à la religion, ou à leur antipathie pour ceux qui ne sont pas comme eux, ou encore à un sentiment d’hostilité envers les immigrants. Barack Obama
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
Moi, je revendique la stigmatisation de Marine Le Pen. Manuel Valls
Le gouvernement de droite est en danger. Les électeurs arabes se rendent en masse aux scrutins. Les ONGs de gauche les amènent en autobus. Netanyahou
Malgré les différences et la compétition entre nous, notre ennemi direct est le sionisme. Ayman Odeh (liste arabe unie)
Quand on dit « gauche » en France, on associe cela à des idées bien précises sur l’égalité entre les citoyens, la laïcité, une redistribution des richesses… Mais, en Israël, la définition de gauche se fait à partir d’un positionnement pour ou contre une solution avec les Palestiniens. Vous pouvez donc trouver quelqu’un comme Tzipi Livni, qui est ultralibérale dans le domaine économique, mais qui veut un arrangement avec les Palestiniens. On la situe à gauche alors que sur toutes les autres valeurs, elle en est loin. Herzog est un travailliste, mais vraiment conservateur. Il n’est pas de gauche. La seule liste aujourd’hui qui a le potentiel pour devenir une alternative démocratique de gauche, c’est la Liste commune (formée de tous les partis arabes et des communistes – ndlr). Je ne sais pas si ce potentiel existant va se transformer en une véritable alternative. Herzog représente une vision plus agréable que celle de Netanyahou. Il n’y a pas d’alternative, sur aucun plan. Quand Herzog appelle sa liste « Union sioniste », ça sonne très patriotique. Mais quand vous écoutez avec des oreilles israéliennes, cela signifie « pas d’Arabes »(…) Nous sommes un pays qui adore catégoriser les gens : religieux, non religieux, ashkénazes, séfarades, ­sionistes, post-sionistes, sionistes malgré eux… Le sionisme a été un mouvement national gagnant pour les juifs qui a créé une révolution fantastique dans l’existence juive, a donné naissance à une horrible tragédie pour les Palestiniens et a expiré en 1948. Le but du sionisme a été de transformer le peuple juif d’une structure de diaspora en une structure souveraine. Cela n’a été qu’un échafaudage. À partir de 1948, nous aurions dû n’être que des Israéliens, quelle que soit l’origine. Mais si ce n’est pas suffisant et que vous avez besoin du sionisme pour définir quelque chose, cela signifie que vous discriminez quelqu’un. Oui, ­aujourd’hui, en Israël, le sionisme est un outil de discrimination. Avraham Burg (ancien président travailliste de la Knesset et ex-président de l’Agence juive mondiale)
Bien que je ne crois pas que les remarques jour de l’élection du Premier ministre aient été anti-arabe ou racistes, la déclaration de Netanyahu pose la question dans l’esprit des gens sur la façon dont la communauté arabe est considérée par les dirigeants d’Israël et de sa place dans la société israélienne. Il est important de se rappeler que sous la surveillance du Premier ministre Netanyahu, il y a eu un effort important par le gouvernement israélien pour intégrer les Arabes israéliens dans la société en général , en particulier en investissant des milliards de shekels dans l’amélioration des possibilités d’éducation et d’emploi pour les Arabes israéliens. Malheureusement, tout au long de la campagne électorale récente, il y a eu trop de déclarations extrêmes et de division. Nous réitérons notre appel aux Israéliens de toutes les affiliations politiques à travailler pour guérir ces blessures et de promouvoir l’intégration de tous en Israël. Abraham Foxman (directeur national de l’Anti-Defamation League)
The Knesset elections results present the naked truth: All of the left-wing movements, the media and many of the voters of the Zionist Union, Meretz and others are living in a bubble, and know very little – if anything – about life outside the bubble. The leftists enhance each other in conversations at cafés and restaurants, in the Tel Aviv salons, in cinematheques and different cultural clubs. The people living outside Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem Cinematheque, outside the academia and the newspaper and television’s news desks have completely different views. The facts were painfully presented on Tuesday evening to those who in the past few weeks believed the stories about the left-wing bloc’s meteoric rise and the right-wing bloc’s collapse. Those living in the bubble should spend the next few years far away from Tel Aviv, and get to know the people in the periphery, in order to believe that the State of Israel will continue to exist long after the Zionist Union leaders disappear from the political map. The left likes to withdraw into itself, to hold internal discussions, to engage in internal quarrels, and shows contempt and disregard towards the voice of « Masuda from Sderot. » But the thing is that in one day of elections, the vote of Masuda from Sderot equals the vote of the president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. (…) These many votes were collected by Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday into the right-wing bloc, the natural place for all the different deprived groups. Even if Isaac Herzog joins the government, even if he becomes a senior government member, all the good deeds he and his friends have done and have promised to do – starting from housing to supporting the needy – won’t help them. Once again, we have painfully realized that the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Tzahala completely misunderstands Sderot. Eitan Haber
Sur les 8 millions de citoyens de l’Etat juif, 1,2 millions de musulmans profitent pleinement des avantages de la démocratie dans laquelle ils vivent, y compris du droit de diffamer publiquement Israël comme un État raciste, et même de contester son existence ! Ayman Odeh, chef de la nouvelle liste arabe unie en cours de constitution pour les prochaines élections à la Knesset, a annoncé récemment que « notre ennemi direct est le sionisme » ce qui signifie tout simplement qu’Israël doit cesser d’exister en tant qu’Etat juif ! (…) La résolution de San Remo de 1920 a confirmé « qu’en vertu de la Déclaration Balfour, le gouvernement britannique avait entrepris de favoriser la création d’un foyer national juif en Palestine, sans préjudice des droits civils et religieux des communautés non-juives existantes.» Cette résolution a été réaffirmée en mai 1947 par les Nations Unies résolution 181 qui « impose la partition de la Palestine sous mandat britannique en un État juif et un Etat arabe. » La déclaration d’indépendance de l’état d’Israël en mai 1948, rédigée avec ces résolutions antérieures à l’esprit, affirme tout d’abord l’évidence que « la terre d’Israël [Palestine] a été le berceau du peuple juif » et poursuit en disant que « cette reconnaissance par les Nations Unies, du droit du peuple juif à établir son Etat, est irrévocable. Ce droit est le droit naturel du peuple juif à être maître de son destin, comme toutes les autres nations, dans leur propre État souverain. » La communauté internationale, à l’exception des ennemis d’Israël, a accepté le droit historique des Juifs de vivre sur leurs terres, mais avec des réserves concernant les frontières actuelles, étant donné qu’elles ont été établies le long des lignes d’armistice. Pour sa part, Israël essaie, tant en théorie qu’en pratique, de garantir les droits de ses minorités. En revanche, le dirigeant arabe-palestinien Mahmoud Abbas lors de la dernière convention de l’OLP le 3 mars a répété son engagement à deux principes sans compromis : Oui à une Palestine arabe « Judenrein » et non à un Etat juif ! Selon le dirigeant arabe-palestinien, s’il y a la paix dans cette région les Juifs ne sauraient être autorisés à vivre dans un futur « Etat palestinien » et Israël ne devrait pas continuer d’exister comme un État juif. Et pourtant, c’est Israël qui est étiqueté comme raciste, malgré le fait que les arabes israéliens jouissent de droits pleins et équitables. Tsvi Sadan

Gauche antisioniste, arabes islamistes, Obama, même combat !

A l’heure où derrière un Travailleur social en chef sans attaches ni racines et apparemment prêt à tout

Pour renflouer un bilan non seulement vide mais s’annonçant, de la Syrie à la Libye et de l’Irak au Yemen, chaque jour un peu plus désastreux

Et tenté devant l’impasse de ses pourparlers avec les mollahs de vouloir non seulement punir celui par qui le scandale est arrivé

Mais de lui imposer un accord avec une entité palestinienne n’ayant toujours pas renoncé à l’élimination de tout Etat juif …

L’ensemble de nos belles âmes, israéliens compris, n’ont pas de mots assez durs …

Pour dénoncer le racisme des propos du premier ministre israélien à la veille des élections de la semaine dernière …

Pendant que pour diviser la droite et se maintenir au pouvoir de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, une gauche à nouveau aux abois revendique explicitement la « stigmatisation » d’un quart des électeurs …

Devinez …

Ce qu’avaient choisi comme « ennemi direct » « malgré leurs différences et compétition » …

Tant le propre chef de file d’une Liste unifiée ouvertement ethnique …

Réunissant, avec la bénédiction de nos belles âmes, des groupes aussi hétéroclites que des Arabes nationalistes, communistes ou islamistes …

Que l’ancien président travailliste de la Knesset et soutien de ladite liste …

Dans une élection où la gauche elle-même avait senti le besoin de se qualifier de « sioniste » ?

Le plan de la nouvelle liste arabe unie en Israël : « Faire exploser l’Etat juif de l’intérieur » !
Tsvi Sadan

Europe Israël

mar 10, 2015

Sur les 8 millions de citoyens de l’Etat juif, 1,2 millions de musulmans profitent pleinement des avantages de la démocratie dans laquelle ils vivent, y compris du droit de diffamer publiquement Israël comme un État raciste, et même de contester son existence ! Ayman Odeh, chef de la nouvelle liste arabe unie en cours de constitution pour les prochaines élections à la Knesset, a annoncé récemment que « notre ennemi direct est le sionisme » ce qui signifie tout simplement qu’Israël doit cesser d’exister en tant qu’Etat juif !

Si la Cour suprême israélienne ne fait rien pour arrêter l’objectif déclaré de ce parti : Démanteler l’Etat d’Israël et le fait qu’Israël a été reconnu comme un État juif par la communauté internationale.

La résolution de San Remo de 1920 a confirmé « qu’en vertu de la Déclaration Balfour, le gouvernement britannique avait entrepris de favoriser la création d’un foyer national juif en Palestine, sans préjudice des droits civils et religieux des communautés non-juives existantes.»

Cette résolution a été réaffirmé en mai 1947 par les Nations Unies résolution 181 qui « impose la partition de la Palestine sous mandat britannique en un État juif et un Etat arabe. »

La déclaration d’indépendance de l’état d’Israël en mai 1948, rédigée avec ces résolutions antérieures à l’esprit, affirme tout d’abord l’évidence que « la terre d’Israël [Palestine] a été le berceau du peuple juif » et poursuit en disant que « cette reconnaissance par les Nations Unies, du droit du peuple juif à établir son Etat, est irrévocable.

Ce droit est le droit naturel du peuple juif à être maître de son destin, comme toutes les autres nations, dans leur propre État souverain. »

La communauté internationale, à l’exception des ennemis d’Israël, a accepté le droit historique des Juifs de vivre sur leurs terres, mais avec des réserves concernant les frontières actuelles, étant donné qu’elles ont été établies le long des lignes d’armistice. Pour sa part, Israël essaie, tant en théorie qu’en pratique, de garantir les droits de ses minorités.

En revanche, le dirigeant arabe-palestinien Mahmoud Abbas lors de la dernière convention de l’OLP le 3 mars a répété son engagement à deux principes sans compromis : Oui à une Palestine arabe « Judenrein » et non à un Etat juif !

Selon le dirigeant arabe-palestinien, s’il y a la paix dans cette région les Juifs ne sauraient être autorisés à vivre dans un futur « Etat palestinien » et Israël ne devrait pas continuer d’exister comme un État juif.

Et pourtant, c’est Israël qui est étiqueté comme raciste, malgré le fait que les arabes israéliens jouissent de droits pleins et équitables.

Bien que les fausses accusations de racisme font que beaucoup d’Israéliens se joignent au chœur des « viva Palestina » dans une vaine tentative d’apaisement, il n’en est pas moins que certains refusent d’éteindre les lumières.

Le ministre des affaires étrangères Avigdor Lieberman a raison quand il dit que la liste du nouveau parti United Arab, qui partage la vision d’Abbas et bénéficie également maintenant de sa bénédiction, expose un nouveau plan arabe-palestinien pour « faire exploser Israël de l’intérieur ».

Si habilement, cette nouvelle faction arabe qui partage le rêve d’Abbas d’une « Palestine Judenrein » et joue la carte du racisme, a incité Lieberman d’avertir que ce parti « nous prépare une intifada intérieure d’Israël. »

Malheureusement, on dira qu’avec l’expérience du passé, seuls quelques-uns prendront cet avertissement au sérieux.

Voir aussi:

Odeh: racist Israeli laws to benefit joint Arab list
Daoud Kuttab

Al Monitor

February 17, 2015

The Arab-Jewish party Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) has been a small but permanent fixture in the Israeli parliament for years. It usually won four or five of the 120 Knesset seats in elections, providing a fig leaf to Israeli democratic claims without being able to influence either internal or external policies. In 2013, Hadash won four seats. This « problem » is set to change in the coming elections, ironically, as a result of the Israeli right’s attempts to keep Palestinian Arabs out of the Knesset.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the joint list of all the Arab parties in Israel, told Al-Monitor that the combination of racist policies and changes to the election law helped produce this unprecedented list. The unification was created as a result of “raising the threshold and an increase in racist policies and practices, which appeared in racist laws as well as the unprecedented assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014.”

Although he is not sure that the unification of democratic and peace forces in Israel will succeed in removing the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Odeh says, “This new experiment is still in its early stage.” However, the Haifa lawyer hopes that “this experience succeeds and continues because of the possibility of defeating the right wing.”

While focusing on the goal of removing the ruling right-wing government in Israel, the head of the Arab list is not very excited about the existing alternatives to Netanyahu. He tells Al-Monitor, “Our fight against the occupation, racism and discrimination constitutes a democratic alternative against the nationalist camp led by Netanyahu and the Zionist Camp led by [Isaac] Herzog and [Tzipi] Livni.”

Odeh is hoping that at the very least, their efforts, along with other democratic forces in Israel, can slow or stop what he calls a “deterioration toward fascism,” which he concludes is the result of the occupation. “Ending the occupation and establishing an atmosphere of peace are the first step in ending the racial discrimination against Arab citizens as a national minority,” he says.

Odeh is aware of the challenges ahead but has focused his attention on the need to encourage Arabs to participate in the elections that will not include any competition between Arab parties. He is hoping to increase the participation of Palestinian citizens in Israel from 56% in 2013 to 70% or more in this round.

The text of the full interview follows:

Al-Monitor:  What are the most important factors for the success of the unification of Palestinian citizens in Israel in preparation for the next electoral cycle?

Odeh:  There are a number of factors. The first is an attempt to deny the Arab and democratic representation in parliament by raising the threshold, and the second is the increase in racist policies and practices, which appeared in racist laws and schemes and last summer’s war on Gaza. The joint Arab list reflects the unity of Palestinians against the Israeli ruling establishment and the partnership with the Jewish powers, which fight occupation, racism and discrimination, and thus constitutes a democratic alternative against the nationalist camp led by Netanyahu and the Zionist Camp led by Herzog and Livni.

Al-Monitor:  The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality has always emphasized the parallel process of the paths of equality and peace. Will the list continue in the same process, or will equality be a priority due to the rise in racial attacks?

Odeh:  We believe that one of the main reasons for the increase in levels of racism is the overall crisis of the Israeli rulers due to the impasse they reached on the political and socio-economic levels. The deterioration toward fascism is the result of this crisis, and therefore, our issues cannot be separated from the major cause of our people. As the poet Tawfiq Ziad said, « The tragedy that I live is but my share of your tragedies. » The parallelism of these two tracks and their connection should be highlighted. Ending the occupation and establishing an atmosphere of peace is the first step in halting the racial discrimination against Arab citizens as a national minority and not as individuals, and defeating the right-wing racial program by developing an alternative political program, based on different foundations and one that eliminates hostility to the Palestinian people under occupation and to the Arab citizens in Israel, too.

Al-Monitor:  Are voters and the Israeli political system on the verge of change in dealing with the Arab population, or do we expect very little progress?

Odeh:  All Israeli governments were bad, racist and hostile to the rights of our people, but Netanyahu and his partners have escalated in recent years the tone of incitement to the Arab population. We cannot predict the outcome today, and despite the progress of the right-wing parties in the polls, overthrowing Netanyahu is still possible. The same applies to the party of [Avigdor] Liberman, who is already in full swing due to the alleged corruption scandal that was unveiled recently, and even Meretz, which lost a lot of votes in favor of the Zionist Camp led by Herzog and Livni.

We say that the Arab population may have a decisive weight after the election, and this relates primarily to raising the participation in the vote from 56% in the last election to 70% or more in this election.

We are confident of our progress and of the increase in our representation, and we will boldly demand the reinforcing of the status of the Arab population and setting our issues in priorities, because we are tired of the government delays. We will call in the Knesset to obtain the chair of key committees and develop an action plan that includes the enactment of laws and provisions guaranteeing equality for Arab citizens.

Al-Monitor:  There are signs that many are betting on the presence of an opposition front to the extreme right in the next election. How do you see your role in the fight against the right?

Odeh:  It is premature to bet now on restoring the experience of the « blocking vote » during the Rabin era [1992-95]. But certainly we don’t depend on Herzog and Livni. At the same time, we are not neutral concerning Netanyahu’s return to power — especially after the war perpetrated in Gaza — nor concerning [Naftali] Bennett’s [Jewish Home], which openly calls for the annexation of Area C to Israel and stands behind the settlement activities in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.

We recall that to this day, any Israeli withdrawal from an inch of Palestinian land has occurred through the political weight of the Arabs in the Knesset. The equation is that any progress and any breakthrough require the political weight of the Arab population. Our battle against the right is in full force and we are determined to topple him.

Al-Monitor:  What are the main challenges that you personally see in presiding over a joint list for the first time, especially with the presence of personalities from different parties’ ideology in your list?

Odeh:  Despite the difference and competition between us, our direct enemy is Zionism. I think everyone is aware of the size of the tasks ahead of us and everyone behaves according to the required responsibility.

The biggest challenge was the formation of this list and the engagement in this partnership to overcome the increase of the threshold rate and other obstacles imposed by the right, and the bet on our existence and our representation in parliament. This new experiment is still in its early stage, and we in the front want this experience to succeed and continue because of the possibility of defeating the right.

Al-Monitor:  How do you assess Avraham Burg joining Hadash? Will his participation reduce the gap between Arabs and Jews?

Odeh:  When a Jewish man, born in the house of a Zionist leader from the Mifdal party, joins Hadash, and having presided over the Jewish Agency, then abandons Zionism and adopts the front’s positions, this is considered a critical national gain and has its impact on the Jewish community and on the progressive circles, both on the quantitative and qualitative levels. Each breakthrough we accomplish in the Zionist consensus is a net gain for the cause of justice for our people. Overall, despite the induction of the ruling establishment and its arms and horns on the joint list, it has the support of the Jewish community and a wide range of anti-Zionism fighting against the occupation, racism and fascism forces. Burg’s positive step confirms the credibility of our position and our way, because this man has previous fixed convictions.

Al-Monitor:  There is fear of indifference among Arabs in Israel. What are the practical steps to prevent it, and what percentage do you hope to achieve from the Arab participation in the elections?

Odeh:  This fear is justified, especially in the absence of the usual rivalry within the Arab community. We are aware that the main challenge is to raise the percentage of the vote to 70%, and if we succeed in this, we can raise the representation from the current 12 seats to 14 or 15 seats.

Al-Monitor:  The Palestinian issue is at a delicate stage. Is there an opportunity for the joint list to bridge the gap between the Palestinian leadership and the next government?

Odeh:  The Palestinian issue is undergoing its finest and most dangerous stage in recent decades, due to Israeli and US policies and also in light of regional developments. This requires arranging the Palestinian house and promoting national unity and popular resistance against the occupation. This is our position, and the Palestinian leadership and all factions know it. This is a prerequisite for the realization of the rights of our people and for attempts to prevent the establishment of the state of Palestine.

Overthrowing Netanyahu may change the regional atmosphere and create a new opportunity to reassess serious dialogue on the path of negotiations and peace, but Netanyahu’s staying may drag the region into a new abyss, especially with the growth of racism and fascism in Israel.

Al-Monitor:  The law declaring the Jewishness of the state failed in the past year. Will the current elections strengthen the issue or terminate the discussion? What is your role in dealing with the subject?

Odeh:  We believe that the issue of a Jewish state formed a convenient way out for Netanyahu, lest the political issue [of negotiations] and economic topics be part of the electoral agenda. From our side, we will confront each piece of legislation or action that affects our rights and legitimacy in our country, through the unification among the Palestinian minority on the one hand and strengthening the partnership with the rational forces of democracy in Israeli society on the other hand.

Al-Monitor:  There is a serious US-Israeli disagreement on Netanyahu’s invitation to the White House without any coordination. What is your take on this?

Odeh:  We believe that this dispute is in the trenches, the enemies of the Palestinian people. Therefore, it should not be overly relied upon because Israel has been and remains a tool of US dominance in the region and a front claw for the imperial interests and plans, regardless of the internal contradictions between them.

On the other hand, Israel’s international isolation may create better ground to overthrow Netanyahu, because it concerns the economic and cultural elites and the military and security as well. Perhaps the time has come for the [Barack] Obama administration to think about stopping Netanyahu’s arrogance; the failure of [US Secretary of State John] Kerry’s efforts proved to the US administration who Netanyahu is, and this crisis comes now to reconsider what is certain and sustained with this administration. The question remains whether there will be a change in the US mentality toward Netanyahu and whether there will be any intention of an actual realization of the rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state.

Voir également:

Avraham Burg : « Aujourd’hui, en Israël, le sionisme est un outil de discrimination »
Entretien réalisé par 
Perre Barbancey
L’Humanité/Reuters

Mardi, 17 Mars, 2015

Entretien L’ancien président travailliste de la Knesset et ex-président de l’Agence juive mondiale a rejoint le mouvement Haddash et appelle à voter pour la liste judéo-arabe, baptisée Liste commune.
Jérusalem, envoyé spécial.

Pensez-vous que ces élections vont marquer un changement dans la société israélienne ?

Avraham Burg Les élections ­expriment la réalité contemporaine. Mais tout est plus long que les mandats donnés par un vote. Il y a un changement profond au sein de la société israélienne. Les partis ne sont plus les mêmes. Tout bouge ici, comme un continent. Comment cela finira-t-il ? Difficile à dire. Mais, il y a encore un an, personne ne donnait la moindre chance à quelqu’un comme Isaac Herzog, de l’Union sioniste. ­Netanyahou est ­hystérique. J’ai l’impression – et que cela arrive cette fois-ci ou à la prochaine élection – que la profonde frustration de la société israélienne, fatiguée de ne pas avoir d’espoir, qui en a marre d’être désespérée, d’être sacrifiée économiquement à cause d’un Iran virtuel (allusion à la campagne de Netanyahou – ndlr), marque un fait : le temps de Netanyahou est terminé.

Vous avez vous-même été président de la Knesset, en tant que travailliste. Ce Parti travailliste est aujourd’hui allié à Tzipi Livni et n’apparaît plus sous son nom mais comme « Union sioniste ». Ce qui fait dire à certains qu’il n’y a plus de gauche en Israël. Que s’est-il passé ?

Avraham Burg Quand on dit « gauche » en France, on associe cela à des idées bien précises sur l’égalité entre les citoyens, la laïcité, une redistribution des richesses… Mais, en Israël, la définition de gauche se fait à partir d’un positionnement pour ou contre une solution avec les Palestiniens. Vous pouvez donc trouver quelqu’un comme Tzipi Livni, qui est ultralibérale dans le domaine économique, mais qui veut un arrangement avec les Palestiniens. On la situe à gauche alors que sur toutes les autres valeurs, elle en est loin. Herzog est un travailliste, mais vraiment conservateur. Il n’est pas de gauche. La seule liste aujourd’hui qui a le potentiel pour devenir une alternative démocratique de gauche, c’est la Liste commune (formée de tous les partis arabes et des communistes – ndlr). Je ne sais pas si ce potentiel existant va se transformer en une véritable alternative. Herzog représente une vision plus agréable que celle de Netanyahou. Il n’y a pas d’alternative, sur aucun plan. Quand Herzog appelle sa liste « Union sioniste », ça sonne très patriotique. Mais quand vous écoutez avec des oreilles israéliennes, cela signifie « pas d’Arabes ».

Est-ce à dire que la notion même de