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 sionisme est un problème ?

Avraham Burg 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.

Vous portez une kippa, mais vous dites maintenant ne plus croire en dieu. Cela est-il dû à votre expérience en Israël ou à une évolution philosophique de votre pensée ?

Avraham Burg Cela vient de ma vie en Israël, de moi-même et de mon engagement avec le monde. Je suis né dans un système orthodoxe en Israël. Le ­judaïsme n’est pas une religion. C’est une culture. La religion a été une partie centrale de la judaïté. Mais seulement une partie. Le fait d’être juif n’est pas un choix de dieu. Y a-t-il quelque chose au-delà de mon existence ? Je n’en sais rien et je ne le saurai jamais. Mais ça ne m’intéresse pas. Je suis intéressé par ma vie d’être humain. Je suis un juif accidentel. Si ça n’avait tenu qu’à moi, je n’aurais pas subi la circoncision ni célébré ma bar-mitsva. Mais le monde n’est pas accidentel, pas plus que l’humanité ou que les valeurs. J’essaie d’appréhender le monde à travers ma subjectivité. Comme vous. Et, tous ensemble, nous créons une mosaïque mondiale. Être juif est un profond engagement culturel. Ce n’est pas dieu qui est au centre, mais l’être humain.

Quelle est la signification de la volonté de Netanyahou de définir Israël comme un État juif ?

Avraham Burg C’est un vide théorique. En réalité, c’est impossible. Quelle est la source de l’autorité dans une société ­démocratique ? Les citoyens. Mais, pour les tenants d’un État juif, la source de l’autorité est dieu pas les hommes. ­Aucune société, aucun État ne peut vivre avec deux sources d’autorité aussi contradictoires. C’est pour cela que c’est une ­déclaration vide et dangereuse. Il faut un État d’Israël véritablement laïque.

C’est aussi pour cela que vous avez décidé de soutenir la Liste commune ?

Avraham Burg Exactement. C’est le seul comportement possible pour quelqu’un qui pense que la citoyenneté est la façon d’organiser la société.

Voir encore:

Israel’s left is living in a bubble

Op-ed: Elections results reveal the naked truth: Leftists know very little about life outside Tel Aviv, the academia and the media.

Eitan Haber

Ynet

03.18.15

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. It’s the same opportunity, it’s the same envelop – only the vote is different.

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.

Voir par ailleurs:

VIDÉO. Barack Obama répond au Huffington Post: Israël, Palestine, Netanyahu, nucléaire iranien
Le HuffPost
21/03/2015

INTERNATIONAL – « 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 ». Dans un entretien vendredi 20 mars avec Sam Stein pour The Huffington Post, Barack Obama réitère son objectif d’obtenir un accord sur le dossier du nucléaire iranien « dans les semaines à venir ».

« Il n’y aura pas d’accord tant que tout n’aura pas été résolu », a aussi indiqué le président américain, réfutant les rumeurs selon lesquelles une première ébauche de l’accord circule parmi les cercles autorisés. Les grandes puissances et Téhéran reprendront mercredi 25 mars leurs négociations, après une semaine de tractations marathon qui n’ont pas permis de sceller d’accord avant l’échéance du 31 mars.

« 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 », a aussi dit Barack Obama au Huffington Post.

Le président Obama a promis qu’il ferait tout, y compris militairement, pour empêcher Téhéran d’obtenir la bombe. Mais depuis 2013, il mise sur la diplomatie et a fait d’un rapprochement avec la puissance chiite une priorité. Ce qui met en rage Israël et le Congrès américain.

« Il est évident que beaucoup d’Israéliens se méfient, à juste titre, de leur voisin iranien, a aussi commenté le président américain. 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 ».

Autres sujets de politique étrangère évoqués durant l’entretien, la victoire de Benjamin Netanyahu aux élections législatives anticipées du mardi 17 mars et la création d’un Etat palestinien. « 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 », a dit Barack Obama au Huffington Post.

« J’ai eu l’occasion de parler hier (jeudi 19 mars, ndlr) 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, a indiqué Barack Obama. 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 ». Benjamin Netanyahu a à nouveau rejeté durant les derniers jours de sa campagne la solution à deux États.

« 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 ».

Le président américain a aussi critiqué les propos de Benjamin Netanyahu qui avait dénoncé le « danger » d’un vote massif des Arabes israéliens aux élections législatives. « 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 », a commenté Barack Obama.

Interview traduite par Bamiyan Shiff pour Fast for Word

Voir de plus:

Département d’Etat américain : Obama estime que Netanyahu n’est pas sincère
Israel-flash

mar 24, 2015

Visiblement la hargne d’Obama contre Israël ne faiblit pas.

Rappel des faits

L’administration du président américain Barack Obama a rejoint les membres arabes de la Knesset lundi et s’est interrogée quand des excuses adressées par le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu au dirigeants arabes en Israël pour sa mise en garde contre le vote arabe.

NDLR – on signale tout de même qu’avec l’aide de certaines ONG de gauche financées par l’étranger, des transports ont été organisés pour permettre à certains arabes de voter. Ce qui est une ingérence flagrante.Nous sommes d’ailleurs satisfaits que le Congrès ait demandé une enquête à ce sujet.

C’était la deuxième fois la semaine dernière que l’administration Obama et la Liste arabe unie ont publié des déclarations étonnamment similaires reprochant à Netanyahu ses propos pendant la campagne électorale. Certains députés arabes et Obama lui-même ont mis en doute la sincérité des clarifications que Netanyahu a apporté sur la question palestinienne. Netanyahu a donc tenté de faire amende honorable auprès des leaders arabes lundi en accueillant les chefs des communautés arabes et d’autres israéliens représentant des minorités à sa résidence officielle à Jérusalem.

Il a saisi cette occasion pour présenter des excuses concernant son avertissement le jour du scrutin aux électeurs de droite que les Arabes israéliens allaient voter en masse et ont utilisés des autobus financés par les organisations et des donateurs étrangers. « Je sais que mes commentaires la semaine dernière ont offensé certains citoyens israéliens et des membres de la communauté arabe d’Israël « , a t-il dit. « Cela n’a jamais été mon intention. Je m’excuse pour cela.  » a déclaré M. Netanyahu et mes actions en tant que premier ministre, y compris les investissements importants réalisés au sein des communautés minoritaires d’Israël, ont prouvé que je n’ai rien contre les Arabes.

Sa déclaration le jour du scrutin visait simplement à souligner qu’aucune entité étrangère ne devrait interférer dans le processus démocratique d’Israël.

« Je me considère comme le premier ministre de chaque citoyen d’Israël, sans préjugés fondés sur la religion, l’origine ethnique ou le sexe , « a t-il dit.

«Je considère chaque citoyen comme partenaire dans la construction d’un État plus sûr, plus prospère et une nation qui profite aux besoins et aux intérêts de tous nos citoyens. »

Obama a déclaré ce week-end qu’il prévoyait une réévaluation de sa relation avec Israël.

« Quand il dit une chose un jour et une autre chose un autre jour, il est impossible de dire si il est sincère », a déclaré la porte-parole adjointe du Département d’Etat Marie Harf aux journalistes. « Nous ne pouvons savoir ce qu’il a l’esprit. »

Quant à la tête liste arabe unie Ayman Odeh, celui-ci a considéré que la déclaration de Netanyahu était inacceptable et que des excuses sincères devraient venir sous forme d’adoption de lois visant à rendre les allocations de financement de l’Etat plus égalitaire. Il a dit qu’après la réunion avec les dirigeants arabes, Netanyahu a rencontré le dirigeant Bayit Yehudi Naftali Bennett et lui a parlé de faire avancer une législation nationaliste. « C’est juste un autre zigzag par un homme connu pour ses zigzags, » a dit Odeh. « Il doit retourner les mandats qu’il a reçus pour cette incitation. Nous attendons de véritables excuses, ce qui signifie une égalité réelle.  »  Ahmed Tibi a déclaré que les commentaires du premier ministre étaient « une expression de tristesse, pas des excuses. » Il a dit que « quand il s’agit de Juifs, Netanyahu s’excuse, mais quand il s’agit d’ arabes, il n’est que désolé.  » Dans un autre communiqué, la liste commune a dit: «Malheureusement, le racisme de Netanyahu et son gouvernement commence et se termine avec cette incitation. » « La législation raciste et d’exclusion et la discrimination politique font également partie du plan de travail de Netanyahu pour la prochaine Knesset, « . « Donc nous n’avons pas d’autres choix que de rejeter ces excuses et continuer notre lutte pour l’égalité pour la population arabe. »

L’Union sioniste, qui devrait diriger formellement l’opposition, n’a pas rejoint l’administration Obama et la liste commune sur la critique des excuses de Netanyahu .

Le directeur national de l’Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman s’est félicité de la sensibilisation et des excuses de Netanyahu à la communauté arabe israélienne. « 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 », a déclaré Foxman. « 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.  » Reuters et Ariel Ben Solomon ont contribué à ce rapport.

résumé et adapté par la rédaction d’Israël-flash source JPost

Voir de plus:

En Israël, les partis arabes forment une alliance historique
Piotr Smolar (Jérusalem, correspondant)

Le Monde

10.02.2015

Ils ont levé les bras et fait le V de la victoire, alors que la campagne a à peine commencé. Jamais encore, dans l’histoire politique d’Israël, les partis représentant les électeurs arabes (minorité constituant 20 % de la population du pays) n’étaient parvenus à présenter une liste unique aux élections législatives. Ce sera le cas le 17 mars. Le parti communiste Hadash et les trois formations arabes – le Mouvement islamique, Ta’al (Mouvement arabe pour le renouveau) et les nationalistes de Balad – ont officialisé leur alliance le 22 janvier, après de longues semaines de tractations. Les rivalités et les différends idéologiques n’ont pas disparu, une stratégie commune peine à émerger, mais voilà une rare bonne nouvelle pour cet électorat négligé.

C’était une question de survie. En 2014, la barre minimale pour entrer à la Knesset (le Parlement israélien) est passée de 2 % à 3,25 %, menaçant les petites formations. « L’union est devenue pour nous un cas de force majeur », explique Ahmed Tibi, leader du parti Ta’al. Les sondages promettent à la liste unifiée un résultat supérieur aux 11 sièges que les partis arabes détenaient séparément dans la Knesset sortante. Or, le Likoud du premier ministre Benyamin Nétanyahou et le Camp sioniste (centre gauche), composé des travaillistes et de Hatnoua, sont au coude-à-coude. Les députés arabes pourraient donc jouer un rôle déterminant lors de la formation d’une coalition, dès le lendemain du scrutin.

Soutien négocié
Pour autant, la liste unie n’est pas prête à rejoindre un gouvernement de centre gauche. « Je devrais, dans ce cas-là, porter la responsabilité pour toutes les actions du gouvernement, souligne Ahmed Tibi. Par exemple, s’il continue à détruire des maisons arabes en Israël, à confisquer nos terres, ou s’il décide de bombarder à nouveau Gaza. » En revanche, la liste arabe pourrait négocier son soutien à un tel gouvernement, pour mettre fin à l’ère Nétanyahou. « On peut discuter de cette possibilité après le vote, dit M.Tibi, dans le cadre de négociations sur le budget, les infrastructures, le logement, la question de prisonniers, la mosquée Al-Aqsa. »

Le sort de Haneen Zoabi (Balad) empêche pour le moment tout rapprochement entre le Camp sioniste et la liste arabe unie. Le Camp sioniste veut priver de mandat cette députée à la réputation sulfureuse. Elle s’est fait connaître en 2010 en montant à bord du navire turc Mavi-Marmara, qui avait tenté de briser le blocus de la bande de Gaza par Israël. Par ses outrances, Haneen Zoabi est un repoussoir parfait pour la droite nationaliste et elle permet à l’opposition de donner des gages de patriotisme à peu de frais, en la critiquant. Fin juillet 2014, le comité d’éthique de la Knesset lui avait interdit de s’adresser à ses pairs pendant six mois. Elle avait déclaré que les kidnappeurs de trois adolescents juifs en Cisjordanie, dont le sort avait ému le pays, n’étaient pas des terroristes.

Double frustration
Depuis quinze ans, une double frustration frappe les Arabes israéliens. La première vient de l’Etat, qui les exclut des emplois dans les entreprises publiques et l’administration, ne respecte pas leur mémoire et leurs droits à la propriété, et n’assure pas leur sécurité. Ces citoyens s’estiment discriminés et toujours suspectés d’un manque de loyauté vis-à-vis de la communauté nationale. Ils comprennent également que la création de plus en plus hypothétique d’un Etat palestinien ne réglerait pas leurs problèmes.

L’autre frustration émane de leurs propres élus arabes. Malgré une dynamique unitaire, leurs formations semblent condamnées à un rôle traditionnel de figurantes. Elles ne participent pas au pouvoir. La majorité juive les tolère mais ne remet pas en cause son propre monopole politique et symbolique. Le Septième Œil, site spécialisé dans l’analyse critique des médias, a ainsi noté un détail significatif. Il a fallu attendre début février pour que le visage d’Ayman Odeh, leader de la liste arabe unie, figure sur le bandeau de présentation des articles consacrés à la campagne, dans le quotidien Israel Hayom.

« Les députés arabes n’ont pas d’influence sur la politique d’Israël, souligne Amal Jamal, professeur de sciences politiques à l’université de Tel-Aviv. Ils vont aux élections pour débattre uniquement de l’allocation des ressources. Ils arrivent à la Knesset sans l’expérience des grands groupes industriels, ni celle de l’armée. Ils n’ont donc pas de réseaux et ne peuvent influer sur la politique de l’électricité, de l’eau, de la santé. C’est pour cela qu’ils se réfugient dans l’idéologie : pour masquer leur impotence. »

 Voir de même:

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Tibi says Netanyahu is inciting against Arab voters who are taking advantage of their natural and democratic right as citizens.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu delivers a statement in Har Homa. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Funding from foreign governments to get more Israeli Arabs to vote worked, which means all right-wing voters must make sure to go to the polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday.

“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses,” he said.

Netanyahu’s message, delivered in a video on Facebook, came shortly after the Joint (Arab) List announced that as of 11 a.m., 10 percent of Israeli Arabs had voted, as opposed to 3 percent at the same time in the last election. After the prime minister issued his warning, the party decided to stop releasing Arab voting numbers.

“We only have you,” a visibly tired Netanyahu pleaded. “Go to the polls, bring your friends and family, vote Mahal [Likud] to close the gap between us and Labor [Zionist Union].”

“With your help and God’s help, we will form a nationalist government that will protect the State of Israel,” he added.

MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) responded to Netanyahu’s message, saying that the prime minister is in a panic.

“He is inciting against Arab voters who are taking advantage of their natural and democratic right as citizens,” he said. “Netanyahu and [the] Likud are afraid, and therefore I call on more and more of the Arab public to go to the polls so Netanyahu will continue panicking. Change is coming.”

Netanyahu later clarified that “what’s wrong is not that Arab citizens are voting, but that massive funds from abroad from left-wing NGOs and foreign governments are bringing them en masse to the polls in an organized way, thus twisting the true will of all Israeli citizens who are voting, for the good of the Left.”

Likud sent an SMS to voters that “voting percentages tripled among the Arab population! The concern is coming true: The call by [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and American money are bringing Arabs to the polls. Go vote!” The SMS included a link to a Channel 1 news report that Abbas encouraged Arab MKs to form one party and recommend Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog as prime minister.

Other right-wing parties soon jumped on the bandwagon, with Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman writing on Facebook that “Netanyahu knows that if masses of Arabs go to the polls, only a strong Liberman can stop them.”

Bayit Yehudi sent an SMS to voters that “it is important to spread the word: There are high voter rates in the Arab population. We are worried that the Arab party of [MKs Ahmed] Tibi and [Haneen] Zoabi will surpass Bayit Yehudi as the third-biggest party and hurt the right-wing bloc. Make sure to get everyone out of the house and vote Bayit Yehudi.”

The Joint List passed Bayit Yehudi and was third-largest party in many polls in the past few months.

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) wrote on Facebook that “no Western leader would dare let such a racist text come out of his mouth.”

“Imagine if the prime minister or president of any democratic country would warn that his government is in danger because, for example, ‘black voters are going en masse to the polls.’ Horrifying, right? “It looks like what bothers Bibi [Netanyahu] is that Israeli citizens are going to vote in high numbers and simply want to replace him democratically,” she added.

Meanwhile, complaints about Netanyahu’s comments filled social media, and was even made into a meme, showing the prime minister’s head on the body of a character from the TV show Game of Thrones who is known for saying “Brace yourself, winter is coming,” with the caption: “Brace yourselves, the Arabs are voting.”

Voir enfin:

Analyse
Pourquoi Obama et Netanyahu se détestent
L’inimitié entre les deux dirigeants sur l’accord iranien atteint un sommet, mais le discours de Netanyahu à Washington n’est qu’un épisode de plus d’une relation haineuse plus longue et plus profonde qui ne s’arrêtera pas une fois la crise résolue
Haviv Rettig Gur

The Times of Israel

4 mars 2015

Haviv Rettig Gur Haviv Rettig Gur est le correspondant des affaires politiques pour le Times of Israel.

En novembre 2009, la chancellière allemande Angela Merkel a invité le président américain Barack Obama, toujours dans sa première année de fonction, à assister au 20e anniversaire de la chute du mur de Berlin.

La commémoration annuelle rappelle aux Européens la défaite finale des excès idéologiques sanglants du 20e siècle, le dépassement d’une terrible histoire, plus que tout autre chose grâce à la puissance et à l’idéalisme américain. Il est difficile de penser à une histoire plus pro-américaine que celle expérimentée et dont se souviennent autant de millions d’Européens ce jour-là.

Les dirigeants de l’Europe étaient tous présents, du Premier ministre britannique aux présidents de la France et de la Russie. Pourtant, Obama était absent.

Le président était occupé, selon la Maison Blanche, citant « des engagements pour un voyage à venir en Asie ». Les Européens ont été choqués. « Barack est trop occupé », pouvait-on lire sur la Une acerbe du quotidien allemand Der Spiegel.

L’événement ne se confrontait pas avec son emploi du temps, mais plutôt avec ses sensibilités en terme de politique étrangère. Obama avait voyagé à Copenhague un mois avant l’événement pour faire du lobby auprès du Comité Olympique International afin d’accorder les jeux d’été de 2016 à sa ville natale de Chicago, et devait ensuite retourner en Europe un mois après la commémoration pour accepter son Prix Nobel de la paix à Oslo.

Son itinéraire de voyage en tant que président signifiait quelque chose de sa vision du monde et de l’Amérique. La commémoration du sauvetage par l’Amérique de l’Europe n’avait pas une très haute place dans cette vision.

Il était tout aussi significatif que le premier voyage d’Obama au Moyen Orient, en avril 2009, ait été la Turquie. « La démocratie turque est votre propre réussite. Aucune puissance étrangère ne vous y a forcé », avait-t-il déclaré au Parlement turc dans une critique évidente de son prédécesseur à la Maison Blanche.

Sa propre expérience de vie, a-t-il dit aux législateurs, a joué dans sa décision d’aller à Istanbul. « Les Etats-Unis ont été enrichis par des Américains musulmans, a-t-il déclaré. Beaucoup d’autres Américains ont des musulmans dans leur famille ou ont vécu dans un pays à majorité musulmane. Je le sais bien puisque je suis l’un d’entre eux. »

Son deuxième voyage au Moyen Orient l’a conduit au Caire, le 4 juin 2009, où il a donné son célèbre discours aux musulmans du monde, un discours qui reconnaissait que l’Amérique avait trop souvent été une partie du problème dans le monde musulman plutôt qu’un élément de la solution.

Voyage après voyage, quelque chose d’important sur les priorités et les sensibilités d’Obama devenait clair. Et pour les Israéliens, tout comme les Allemands avant eux, il était difficile de ne pas noter que les itinéraires de voyage d’Obama, et avec eux ses priorités politiques, semblaient les ignorer.

Chicago

Lors d’une récente réunion du Conseil des Relations Etrangères avec Israël, l’ancien éminent directeur général du ministère des Affaires étrangères, le Professeur Shlomo Avireni, a qualifié la politique étrangère d’Obama de « provinciale ». C’était un choix étrange de mot pour décrire les politiques d’un président avec une apparence aussi cosmopolite et autant d’envie de s’impliquer dans le monde.

Avineri touchait pourtant quelque chose du doigt.

Les remarquables mémoires d’Obama, les « Rêves de mon père », comportent un récit puissant sur ses expériences en tant que jeune travailleur social perspicace et enthousiaste dans le Sud de Chicago qui lui ont inculqué la sensibilité qui allait ensuite définir sa présidence.

Dans ce récit autobiographique, il décrit sa réaction en entendant les enfants d’un quartier pauvre de Chicago divisés en « bons garçons et mauvais garçons, la distinction n’avait pas de sens dans ma tête ». Si un enfant en particulier « finissait dans un gang ou en prison, cela démontrerait-il quelque chose de son essence, un gêne imprévisible… ou simplement les conséquences d’un environnement difficile ? »

« Dans chaque société, les jeunes hommes vont avoir des tendances violentes », lui avait déclaré à la fin des années 1980 un éducateur dans un lycée avec des élèves majoritairement noirs de Chicago. « Soit ces tendances sont dirigées et canalisées vers des objectifs créatifs soit ces tendances détruisent les jeunes hommes, ou la société, ou les deux ».

Le livre est rempli de telles méditations qui font écho à travers la rhétorique d’Obama comme président.

Dans son dernier discours à l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies, il a affirmé que « si les jeunes vivaient dans un endroit où le seul choix se situe entre la dictature d’un Etat et l’attrait d’un extrémisme souterrain, aucune stratégie contre-terroriste ne pouvait fonctionner ».

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.

« Lui et ses conseillers sentaient qu’il était impératif non seulement d’introduire un récit post-Bush mais aussi une compréhension post-11 septembre de ce qu’il fallait faire dans le monde », a noté James Traub dans un article récent de Foreign Policy.

« Ils considéraient que les grandes questions devant les Etats-Unis n’étaient pas des questions traditionnelles d’Etat à Etat, mais de nouvelles problématiques qui cherchaient à promouvoir des biens internationaux et demandaient une coopération globale, le changement climatique, l’approvisionnement en énergie, les Etats faibles et en effondrement, la non-prolifération nucléaire. C’était précisément sur de telles questions que l’on avait besoin de rassembler le soutien des citoyens et des dirigeants. »

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.

Jérusalem

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.

Dans son discours du Caire, tout en promettant de défendre Israël et de garantir l’alliance de l’Amérique avec l’Etat juif, Obama a aussi dit au monde musulman que les implantations d’Israël étaient illégitimes et suggérait que la prétention juive envers Israël était enracinée dans la dévastation de l’Holocauste plutôt que dans l’attachement juif millénaire à la terre.

Cette insulte à la légitimité du régime politique juif en Israël, à la fois dans la rhétorique et dans l’itinéraire de voyage, était totalement inattendue. Cela a eu lieu juste quelques mois avant qu’il n’insulte involontairement les Allemands pour la commémoration de la chute du mur de Berlin.

Dans les deux cas, il y avait une même raison : un Israël prospère et puissant, comme l’Europe, ne faisait pas partie du monde qu’Obama essayait de sauver. En raison de son succès, Israël n’était pas pertinent dans sa vision de la politique étrangère.

Avec une exception : l’injustice sociale, économique et politique imposée par Israël contre les Palestiniens sans défense.

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.
Le président de l’Autorité palestinienne Mahmoud Abbas (Crédit : Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Le président de l’Autorité palestinienne Mahmoud Abbas (Crédit : Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

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’organisation sociale ne lutte pas contre ces couches idéologiques et identitaires, avec la logique impitoyable des conflits ethniques, et les Israéliens n’ont pas tardé à croire qu’Obama ne pouvait les voir.

Après 2010, Obama est resté un personnage bien vu dans la culture populaire israélienne, mais selon les sondages, il a perdu un élément plus important que sa popularité : il était considéré comme dangereusement naïf.

Les Israéliens ont confiance en ses intentions, mais pas en son jugement.

La politique étrangère d’Obama s’est développée au cours des six années de sa présidence.

Son optimisme initial a été tempéré par la réalité en Ukraine, en Syrie et dans d’autres pays en crise. Les décideurs américains peinent encore à trouver des façons de traduire la vision qui définit sa présidence en action géopolitique intelligente.

Bruyamment applaudi partout où il allait, Obama a passé ces premières années tranquillement et a brûlé accidentellement les ponts avec certains des plus proches alliés de l’Amérique.

Six ans plus tard, le lustre est parti. Le zèle optimiste pour un engagement mondial s’est fondu dans une poignée de principes minimalistes : tuer tous les terroristes qui menacent les Américains, éviter les guerres coûteuses, rester près des alliés stables.

Washington

La Maison Blanche d’Obama déteste Benjamin Netanyahu. C’est une animosité que les observateurs de longue date des relations américano-israéliennes soulignent souvent, mais tentent rarement d’expliquer.

L’aversion du président Obama pour Netanyahu est intense, et le sentiment filtre parfois dans les rangs des conseillers et des hauts fonctionnaires des deux bords.

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.

La rhétorique de Netanyahu au cours des six dernières années est dominée par des platitudes sempiternelles sur l’histoire juive et les droits des Juifs.

Même quand il offre un rameau d’olivier rhétorique, comme dans son célèbre discours en 2009 à l’université Bar-Ilan, il refuse d’adopter un langage qui accepte comme une question de principe la légitimité de visions concurrentes.
Le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu prie au mur Occidental dans la Vieille Ville de Jérusalem le 28 février 2015 (Crédit : AFP/Pool/Marc Sellem)

Le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu prie au mur Occidental dans la Vieille Ville de Jérusalem le 28 février 2015 (Crédit : AFP/Pool/Marc Sellem)

Les heures avant son décollage pour son voyage controversé cette semaine à Washington, Netanyahu a pris le temps de prier au mur Occidental à Jérusalem et de faire un pèlerinage sur la tombe de son père, expert en histoire juive et en persécution, dont l’intérêt pour la souffrance juive à travers les âges a beaucoup influencé la vision du monde de Netanyahu.

Pour Obama, Netanyahu est Rafiq al Shabazz, un ancien membre d’un gang qui s’est converti à l’islam et est devenu militant de la communauté noire du sud de Chicago dans les années 1980.

Dans « Les Rêves de mon père« , Obama rappelle comment Shabazz expliquait les problèmes communautaires : « Les gens de l’extérieur de notre communauté font de l’argent sur notre dos et sont irrespectueux envers nos frères et sœurs. Fondamentalement, ce que vous avez ici sont des Coréens et des Arabes dirigeant les magasins, des Juifs possédant encore la plupart des bâtiments. Maintenant, dans le court terme, nous sommes ici pour faire en sorte que les intérêts des personnes noires soient entendus, vous comprenez. Quand nous entendons que l’un des Coréens maltraite un client, nous sommes sur l’affaire. Nous insistons pour qu’ils nous respectent et apportent une contribution à la communauté. »

Shabazz considérait les intérêts noirs dans des termes étroitement sectoriels, ne comprenant pas ce qu’Obama savait : dans une économie interconnectée, que ce soit à Chicago ou dans le monde, la prospérité future et la vitalité sociale des Noirs, des Coréens, des Arabes et des Juifs est inextricablement liée.

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.

Les horizons sectaires de Netanyahu, son pessimisme profond sur les Palestiniens et la région, la politique pure et dure qui reflète le scepticisme de ses électeurs – pour Obama, ces attributs incarnent tous les maux du monde.

L’ « adversaire mortel » de l’Amérique et du monde, a dit Obama, n’est pas un ennemi géopolitique, mais la perte de l’espoir, le triomphe de l’apathie et le broyage des structures sociales (et, par extension, géopolitiques) qui inhibent les opportunités et soutiennent les inégalités.

Netanyahu, un allié trop proche et trop bruyant pour être ignoré, s’irrite contre la vision du monde d’Obama et fustige constamment la consciente largesse d’esprit qu’est devenue l’identité politique d’Obama.

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.

Un monde qui ne pouvait guère tolérer la perspective d’une guerre serait devenu intolérant, même vis-à-vis d’une restauration des sanctions. Le barrage avait été violé, et personne ne pouvait garantir qu’il pourrait être rétabli si l’Iran violait l’accord.

L’argument favori de la Maison Blanche pour défendre l’accord – que le choix devant les puissances occidentales était de conclure un accord ou d’aller à la guerre – prouve pour Netanyahu l’incompétence qu’il a constatée dans la stratégie de la Maison Blanche. L’argument équivalait à déclarer aux Iraniens que les Etats-Unis ont besoin d’un accord beaucoup plus qu’eux.

Obama a été le premier à se rendre dans la capitale de l’autre et à le rabrouer devant son propre peuple.

Quand Obama est finalement arrivé en Israël en tant que président, en mars 2013, il a ostensiblement refusé une invitation à s’adresser devant le Parlement israélien et a donné à la place une discours public à de jeunes Israéliens au Centre international de conférences de Jérusalem.
Le président américain Barack Obama et le président de l’Autorité palestinienne Mahmoud Abbas saluent la foule lors de la visite d’Obama à Ramallah, le 31 mars 2013 (Credit : Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Le président américain Barack Obama et le président de l’Autorité palestinienne Mahmoud Abbas saluent la foule lors de la visite d’Obama à Ramallah, le 31 mars 2013 (Credit : Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

C’était un discours « pour le peuple d’Israël », pas son leadership, a dit la Maison Blanche – un peu comme le discours du Caire a été adressé aux musulmans et non aux gouvernements. « Je peux vous promettre ceci », a déclaré Obama aux Israéliens à propos de leur Premier ministre, « les dirigeants politiques ne pourront jamais prendre des risques si le peuple ne les pousse pas à prendre des risques ».

Netanyahu a considéré la Maison Blanche d’Obama comme un échec ; aveuglée par sa pompeuse auto-assurance, on ne peut lui faire confiance pour gérer avec compétence la sécurité mondiale.

Obama a vu Netanyahu comme un obstacle, un partisan hypocrite dont la politique étroite obstrue la route de progrès significatifs sur tous les sujets où il est impliqué.

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.

Voir enfin:

US Declassifies Document Revealing Israel’s Nuclear Program
Obama revenge for Netanyahu’s Congress talk? 1987 report on Israel’s top secret nuclear program released in unprecedented move.
Ari Yashar, Matt Wanderman
Arutz Sheva 7

3/25/2015

In a development that has largely been missed by mainstream media, the Pentagon early last month quietly declassified a Department of Defense top-secret document detailing Israel’s nuclear program, a highly covert topic that Israel has never formally announced to avoid a regional nuclear arms race, and which the US until now has respected by remaining silent.

But by publishing the declassified document from 1987, the US reportedly breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel’s nuclear powers for the first time ever, detailing the nuclear program in great depth.

The timing of the revelation is highly suspect, given that it came as tensions spiraled out of control between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama ahead of Netanyahu’s March 3 address in Congress, in which he warned against the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and how the deal being formed on that program leaves the Islamic regime with nuclear breakout capabilities.

Another highly suspicious aspect of the document is that while the Pentagon saw fit to declassify sections on Israel’s sensitive nuclear program, it kept sections on Italy, France, West Germany and other NATO countries classified, with those sections blocked out in the document.

The 386-page report entitled « Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations » gives a detailed description of how Israel advanced its military technology and developed its nuclear infrastructure and research in the 1970s and 1980s.

Israel is « developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level, » reveals the report, stating that in the 1980s Israelis were reaching the ability to create bombs considered a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs.

The revelation marks a first in which the US published in a document a description of how Israel attained hydrogen bombs.

The report also notes research laboratories in Israel « are equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, » the key labs in developing America’s nuclear arsenal.

Israel’s nuclear infrastructure is « an almost exact parallel of the capability currently existing at our National Laboratories, » it adds.

« As far as nuclear technology is concerned the Israelis are roughly where the U.S. was in the fission weapon field in about 1955 to 1960, » the report reveals, noting a time frame just after America tested its first hydrogen bomb.

Institute for Defense Analysis, a federally funded agency operating under the Pentagon, penned the report back in 1987.

Aside from nuclear capabilities, the report revealed Israel at the time had « a totally integrated effort in systems development throughout the nation, » with electronic combat all in one « integrated system, not separated systems for the Army, Navy and Air Force. » It even acknowledged that in some cases, Israeli military technology « is more advanced than in the U.S. »

Declassifying the report comes at a sensitive timing as noted above, and given that the process to have it published was started three years ago, that timing is seen as having been the choice of the American government.

US journalist Grant Smith petitioned to have the report published based on the Freedom of Information Act. Initially the Pentagon took its time answering, leading Smith to sue, and a District Court judge to order the Pentagon to respond to the request.

Smith, who heads the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, reportedly said he thinks this is the first time the US government has officially confirmed that Israel is a nuclear power, a status that Israel has long been widely known to have despite being undeclared.

Voir par ailleurs:

Iran might attack American troops in Iraq, U.S. officials fear

As a March 31 deadline approaches for a nuclear deal with Iran, some worry about Iranian mischief.

Michael Crowley

Politico

3/25/15

As negotiations on a possible nuclear deal approach a March 31 deadline, U.S. officials are increasingly alarmed about Iran’s expanding military presence in Iraq — and the threat it may pose to American soldiers in the country.

Two scenarios are of particular concern, officials say. One is that a collapse of the nuclear talks could escalate tensions between Iran and the U.S., emboldening Iranian hard-liners and potentially leading to attacks on Americans in Iraq.

The other is that increased U.S. efforts to oust Syrian president Bashar Assad, a close ally of Tehran, could provoke retaliation from Iran. White House officials who oppose greater involvement in Syria’s civil war often cite concern for the safety of Americans in Iraq as a reason for caution, sources said.

In either case, U.S. officials fear, Iran could direct the Iraqi Shiite militias under its control to attack U.S. troops aiding the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Ashraf Ghani and Barack Obama are shown in the Oval Office on March 24, 2015. | Getty

“The current [nuclear] negotiations likely have a restraining effect, but there are other incentives and national interests at stake for the Iranians,” said a senior U.S. military official. “This is something that we are continually assessing. [Iran’s] history as regional provocateurs and exporters on terrorism demands it.”

President Barack Obama has dispatched 3,000 troops to Iraq as trainers and advisers to Iraqi forces battling ISIL. Many are now in close proximity to heavily armed Shiite militias with direct ties to Tehran. At times, the militias have even fought in tacit cooperation with the U.S.

But while Iran may be the enemy of America’s enemy, U.S. military officials don’t consider it a friend. They bitterly recall Iran’s role during the Iraq war, when roadside bombs sent by Tehran to Shiite militias who fought the U.S. occupation killed hundreds of American troops. Some of those same militias have now remobilized to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni Muslim group that considers Shiites apostates and that has seized vast swaths of territory in northern Syria and western Iraq.

In particular, the U.S. holds responsible Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who commands Iran’s secretive Quds Force. Suleimani and other Iranian commanders are now in Iraq directing Shiite fighters against ISIL

“We declare to the world, we have Iranian advisers, and we’re proud of them, and we thank them deeply for participating with us,” Hadi Al-Amari, leader of the Shiite paramilitary force Hashd Al-Shaabi, told CNN earlier this month.

The allegiances of many Iraqi Shiite fighters are no secret. Some openly display posters of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who recently commended a Tehran crowd for chanting “Death to America.”

The concern is that those fighters, under the direction of Suleimani, may again train their sights on American troops.

“The U.S. military is very concerned that the Iranians will come after American personnel in Iraq,” says Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and Brookings Institution scholar close to the Pentagon. “It’s clearly something that’s been on their mind for a while.”

One military official said there is no imminent Iranian threat to Americans in Iraq, who operate from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and from joint command centers with Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

But sources said the potential danger is factored into U.S. military planning. Debates about troop levels in Iraq, for instance, are shaped in part by concerns that a larger force creates a bigger potential target for Iran.

While not in front-line combat roles, the Americans could be vulnerable to attacks on their compounds. Ducking and covering from rocket and mortar fire was a routine part of life for Americans stationed in Iraq during the U.S. occupation there.

“That’s a fresh memory for people,” said Derek Chollet, who left a top Pentagon post in January and is now with the German Marshall Fund.

Iran’s ability to harm American troops in Iraq has also shaped another major Obama administration debate, sources said: whether to step up efforts to depose Syria’s Assad.

The Obama administration says its priority is to defeat ISIL — despite pressure from Arab allies who want to go after Assad more directly — and calls that the sole mission of the Sunni rebels it is training and equipping under a nascent Pentagon program based in Saudi Arabia.

“Multiple [officials] have told me they’re worried about retaliation in Iraq, which does seem to be influencing our Syria policy,” says Robert Ford, who served as Obama’s liaison to the Syrian rebels until last summer. “Basically, they’re afraid that if they provide serious help to the armed opposition against Assad, the Iranians will have their surrogates in Iraq attack us.”
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. gives a victory speech during his election party, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, at the Bell Nob Golf Course Clubhouse in Gillette, Wyo. (AP Photo/Tim Goessman)

Iran has spent billions of dollars to help the Syrian dictator, a longtime conduit for Iranian influence in the region, survive that country’s sectarian civil war.

Obama officials believe that Iran has avoided threatening American troops in Iraq because they welcome the U.S. air campaign against ISIL, which has massacred Shiites and attacked their shrines.

Iran has also avoided actions that could derail the nuclear talks, which are headed for a key deadline at the end of this month when negotiators from the U.S. and five other nations hope to reach a framework agreement with Iran limiting its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

But many Republicans in Congress want to derail what they fear will be a bad deal with Iran. Obama has warned that the collapse of the nuclear talks would increase the chance of possible U.S. military action against Iran. Such talk in Washington would increase the risk to the Americans based in Iraq.

Even if a nuclear deal is struck, Iran can tolerate an American presence in neighboring Iraq for only so long, according to Ford, who served as political counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 to 2006.

“They don’t want American troops in Iraq,” Ford said. “They’re going along with it now because they need us. But as soon as the Islamic State is contained or degraded sufficiently they will want us to leave — and they will encourage us by a variety of means, including mortar strikes and rocket strikes.”

Ominously perhaps, Amari, the Shiite militia leader, told CNN that Iraq doesn’t need America’s help in defeating ISIL.

Persistent fears that Iran may try to target Americans in Iraq underscore the difficulty of thawing relations between Washington and Tehran. So do other Iranian activities opposed by the U.S., including Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and for the Houthi rebels who recently ousted Yemen’s government.

“It does point up the fact that we have a huge problem with Iran outside of the nuclear space,” said Chollet. “And that will continue to exist even if we get a nuclear deal.”

Voir enfin:

 Arab Press Harshly Criticizes Obama Administration For Allying With Iran, Turning Its Back On Arab Friends, Leading Region To Disaster
MEMRI

March 23, 2015

Against the backdrop of the current U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations and the war on the Islamic State (ISIS), in recent weeks dozens of articles in the Arab press, and particularly in the Saudi press, have harshly criticized the Obama administration’s policy in the region – especially its Iran policy, which they term « destructive », « idiotic », « dangerous » and « narrow-minded. »

Expressing apprehension at the prospect of a U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement that would strengthen Iran at the expense of the Sunni countries, which are long-time U.S. allies, some writers stated that because President Obama seeks a nuclear agreement with Iran for his own personal glory, while the cost of such an agreement does not matter to him. They wrote that Obama disregards Iran’s actions, and is giving it and the organizations affiliated with it a free hand to operate in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain, and by doing so is allowing Iran to further expand in the region.

Some of the writers argued that the U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that had given Iran freedom to operate in those countries had given rise to ISIS, since the U.S.-Iran alliance had humiliated the Sunni Arabs and created optimal conditions for the group to emerge.

One writer even called on the Arab countries and Turkey to confront the Obama administration, thwart its policy in the region, and come out strongly against any agreement it signs with Iran that does not absolutely prevent it from possessing nuclear weapons. Another speculated that the countries of the region could be better off finding someone else to rely on rather than the U.S.

The following are translated excerpts from several articles:

Saudi Intellectual: Obama Has Allied With Shi’ite Militias Against Sunni Militias

Saudi political commentator Khaled Al-Dahil argued in the London-based daily Al-Hayat that Obama’s policy in the region is destructive, and that the Arabs must not remain silent about it. He wrote that the Obama administration is allowing Iran and its militias in Syria and Iraq a free hand, and helping it fight Sunni organizations in the region, with the aim of pacifying it in advance of the signing of the nuclear agreement. : »… The Obama administration realizes quite well that the war on ISIS as it is currently being waged has destructive sectarian repercussions, which if not dealt with will blow up in everyone’s face. But has this administration…done a thing to correct how this war is being conducted?…Certainly not! This administration has acted, and continues to act, contrary to the fears that it itself has expressed. [It does] this because of its wish to ally with Iran, as part of the war on ISIS – in an alliance that will be secret until a nuclear agreement [with Iran] is reached and [U.S.-Iran] relations are normalized.

« Obama sees several advantages in this war [against ISIS]: It reassures Iran and gives it the sense that the U.S. seeks to rescue it from an additional enemy [ISIS], after saving it from the Taliban and from Saddam Hussein. Similarly, Obama hopes that in this way he will succeed in persuading Iran to make the necessary concessions in order to arrive at the longed-for nuclear agreement.

« However, Obama has gone further than that: together with Russia, he has given Iran a free hand in Syria to support the Syrian regime and crush the local opposition. Thus, the American president’s opportunism is very clearly exposed. As a skilled attorney and politician, he knows that ISIS, as a sectarian organization, is the natural and direct outcome of the sectarian wars that began with the American invasion of Iraq. [On the other hand], President Obama himself has called the Iranian regime theocratic – that is, a sectarian regime… – because a religious political regime is by definition, and necessarily, a sectarian regime. Furthermore, it was the Iranian regime that defined itself as sectarian in its [own] constitution (see sections 12, 71, and 115 of Iran’s constitution). This means that… Obama is fighting the sectarian ISIS with a sectarian policy and sectarian tools…

« True, Obama has not allied formally with Iran for the war on ISIS, but he has allied de facto with Iran… [and] with its militias and the militias under its influence. That is why the Obama administration disregards all Iran’s military and intelligence activity in Syria and Iraq – from its dispatching of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) fighters and its financing and training of Iraqi Shi’ite militias, to the fight against ISIS, whether by means of [Iranian] airstrikes against it or by means of these [same] militias.

« It is striking that the Obama administration has deployed over 3,000 troops to train the so-called Hashd Sha’bi [Popular Mobilization] Forces – a group of Shi’ite militias that was formed after the collapse of the Iraqi army and Mosul’s fall to ISIS last year. That is, the Obama administration has allied de facto with Shi’ite militias to fight Sunni militias…

« The Houthi takeover in Yemen opens an additional front in the Sunni-Shi’ite war. Is it conceivable that the U.S. could partner with Iran in the war against the Sunnis in Yemen, as it has essentially already done in Iraq and Syria?…

« There is nothing to warrant remaining silent about this American policy, because it is the main factor that generated the terrorism in Afghanistan. This terrorism further intensified following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and it split [into several streams] as a result of the American silence in the face of the holocaust being perpetrated in Syria by means of the Russia-Iran alliance with the regime there. It is wrong [for us] to remain silent in light of a policy that is dragging the region into more destructive religious wars just because Mr. Obama aspires to reach an agreement with the Iranians… »[1]

Iran shoots at « Iraqi Sunnis » and « Syrian Sunnis » with U.S. sponsorship (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, March 18, 2015)

Obama’s Policy On Iran Nuclear Issue – « Gambling With The Future Of The Region »

In a second article, Al-Dakhil again attacked Obama, arguing that the deal that he was trying to make with Iran was based on the groundless assumption that within a few years Iran was going to change. He added that Obama was gambling with the future of the region:

« President Obama’s recklessness in reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran is manifested in the assumption on which he bases his justification of this agreement, and on the wording of the agreement that will apparently be agreed upon. The Israelis did well to expose the reckless aspect of this assumption, because with the exception of the five parties that are actually negotiating with Iran, it is they who know the most about the details of the American position on this issue. Israel is the Americans’ closest and most important ally, and the one that is the most fearful about the upsetting of the balance of power [in the region] that will result if Iran or any Arab or Islamic country possesses nuclear weapons…

« Why does Obama consider it necessary to reach such an agreement? Because the president’s objective is to tie the Iranians’ hands for 10-15 years, in hopes that by then, Iran will have a new leadership, and will become a different country – perhaps a democratic country with less of a desire for nuclear weapons. Obama seems to be basing his policy on this risky issue on hope, not on political considerations; thus, he is gambling with the future of the region…

« At the same time, the Arab countries must deal with the other aspect of the American position, which is no less idiotic and dangerous. This aspect is reflected in Obama’s response to events in the region – [a response] based on a nearly absolute belief that the danger currently threatening the world is Sunni extremism and the terrorism emanating from it, and that the only option for stabilization is through cooperation with Iran. It is nearly certain that this perception, along with the hope that Iran will change, is what is impelling Obama to reach an agreement with Iran.

« However, this perception is superficial and faulty – because it is based on dreams that are more like delusions, and it also wants to see only the Sunni side of the sectarian equation that is stirring up the region… »[2]

Iranian Journalist: Proponents Of The Deal With Iran Rely On A Fatwa By Khamenei Nobody Has Ever Seen

Amir Taheri, a Paris-based Iranian author and journalist, argued in a similar vein that American proponents of the deal with Iran base their position on groundless assumptions, including on the claim that Khamenei issued a fatwa banning nuclear weapons – a fatwa that nobody has ever seen. The following are excerpts from a translation of his article published in the English edition of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:[3] « Campaigning for a deal on the Iranian nuclear issue, the pro-mullah lobby in the West, especially in the United States, often cites three claims in support of President Barack Obama’s appeasement of Tehran. The first is that a deal will help the ‘reformist’ wing of the regime led by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—which already controls the presidency through Hassan Rouhani—to capture other levers of power and embark on a genuine program of change aimed at returning Iran to normality. Rafsanjani is cast as a moderate, a turbaned version of Deng Xiaoping, capable of closing the chapter of the revolution and forging business-like relations with the US. Much is made of Rafsanjani’s recent statements that he has always favored collective leadership and that once the Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei is shown the door, he would press for a collegial system and the end of ‘one-man rule’ in Iran.

« The first step in that direction was supposed to come last Monday when Rafsanjani sought to get himself elected president of the Assembly of Experts… Capturing [it] was supposed to be the first step in a victorious march that would enable the Rafsanjani faction to win control of the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis, the 290-member ersatz parliament. However the Assembly of Experts elected Ayatollah Muhammad Yazdi—one of Rafsanjani’s oldest foes and a close associate of Khamenei—as its new president with 47 votes to 24. The Rafsanjani faction’s hopes of winning control of the parliament next year are unlikely to prove any better. Several polls show that even if the faction manages to mobilize all those who voted for Rouhani—33 percent of those eligible to vote—it still would not be enough to secure a majority of the 230 seats on offer.

« The second claim, paradoxically, is built on a fatwa supposedly issued by Khamenei forbidding the use of nuclear weapons. Thus, while Obama hopes that Rafsanjani will eventually evict Khamenei, he is basing his policy on a fatwa issued by the latter. Since no one, and certainly not Obama, has seen the fatwa in question it is hard to assess its political importance. However in real terms the fatwa, supposing it does exist, is nothing more than an opinion and is thus devoid of legal authority.

« The third claim is that the nuclear project is popular with the Iranian people and that by accepting a nuclear Iran the US would gain popularity there. However, ultimately there is no evidence to back that claim. The issue has never been properly discussed in any public forum, not even in the Majlis. In fact, successive governments, including under the Shah, have suppressed a number of reports warning against the dangers of a nuclear project, especially with reference to the threat that earthquakes pose to nuclear installations on almost all parts of the Iranian Plateau…

« Obama’s hope is that by making a deal he will enable Rafsanjani’s ‘moderate’ faction to win the power struggle in Tehran and initiate a change of behavior by the Khomeinist regime. That, many agree, is nothing but an illusion. In his address to the US Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also seemed to share this sentiment. As Aristotle observed 25 centuries ago, character is action. In other words: You are what you do! A regime’s nature dictates its behavior. As Sa’adi Shirazi—the famous poet of Shiraz—noted almost eight centuries ago, a scorpion does not sting because it wants to be a bad boy; it does so in accordance with its nature. »

The 5+1: « We’ll give Iran another month… two months… 13 months… 14 months… » Following the explosion: « The extension has expired » (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, March 17, 2015)

Senior Saudi Journalist: Obama Leading Region To Disaster

Tariq Al-Homayed, the former editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and currently a columnist for the daily, likewise wrote that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, which was aimed at reassuring the Saudis about the imminent U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement, not only failed to reassure it but also revealed the deep disagreement between the two countries and the dangers of the agreement. Stressing that the inevitable response to an Iranian nuclear bomb will be an Arab nuclear bomb, he warned that the countries of the region could « fall victim to the naïveté of a few people in Washington » and that President Obama is not aware of the gravity of his actions that could lead the entire region into genuine disaster.

He wrote: « What is now clear is that the American president either is striving to attain personal glory, the outcome of which cannot be assessed, or he does not comprehend the implications of his actions. [The latter] possibility is more likely.

« The truth is that a bad agreement with Iran is a disaster, and constitutes international recognition of Iran’s occupation of the countries of the region and international approval of Iran’s sponsorship of terror. Therefore, the region is facing a real disaster, and we do not know how matters will develop by the end of the presidential term of Obama, who is leading the entire region to real disaster. It is inconceivable that there will be a nuclear Iran in the region while the rest of the countries of the region stand by. The response to the existence of an Iranian bomb will undoubtedly be an Arab nuclear bomb. Otherwise, our countries will appear to have welcomed the Iranian game, and will have fallen victim to the naïveté of some people in Washington. Therefore, Kerry’s Riyadh visit is worrisome and not reassuring, and all the relevant countries in the region must consider every possible option in responding to this absurd American move that can release the [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini genie – which will bring to the region nothing but destruction and civil war. »[4]

Former Jordanian Minister: U.S. Handed Iraq, Syria Over To Iranian Occupation, Leading To Rise Of ISIS

Former Jordanian information minister Saleh Al-Qallab also harshly attacked the U.S.’s regional policy and accused it of handing Syria and Iraq over to the Iranian occupation and of being responsible for the rise of ISIS. In his column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Qallab claimed that the U.S. was conspiring with Iran, enabling it to take over strategic countries and areas in the region, and kept silent in the face of the harm done to Sunnis, with the unconvincing pretext of wanting the nuclear negotiations to succeed.

Al-Qallab wrote: « …The Americans should know that their reputation in the region… is poor and that those whom they consider their friends [among the Arab countries], and who are indeed [their friends], have grown tired of them, of their policy, and of their behavior, and repeatedly say – if not loudly then with a whisper – ‘Allah save us from our friends; our enemies we can handle ourselves.’ We can assume that the decision-makers in the U.S. know that the reason for increasingly strong ties between Egypt and Russia, especially in the military field, is the consequence of the Obama administration’s betting on the MB organization in Egypt and elsewhere as the [force] capable of combating extremism and terrorism in this region. If this isn’t a foolish policy, then it is certainly… a plot meant to prevent the Arab ummah from standing on its own feet and taking the place that it deserves at this decisive historical moment…

« Barack Obama is acting strangely. Contrary to the U.S.’s interests in this region, which is… a Sunni region from Tetouan in Morocco to Saif Sa’ad in Iraq, Obama shamelessly said that he wants to work with a single decision-maker – the leader of the Iranian revolution, Ali Khamenei, and that he [only] wants to work with one country – the all-powerful Iran – to redraw the future of this region. This means that the U.S. president ‘washed his hands’ of all the U.S.’s friends and allies from the time of the Cold War and the inter-bloc struggle…

« Is the American position regarding the events in Yemen nothing less than a conspiracy and a plot [with Iran] done in broad daylight? Do Obama and his government officials not understand that by remaining silent in the face of Houthi actions they will enable Iran to rule the Straits of Hormuz, Bab El-Mandeb and the Arabian Sea – which could become the Persian Sea – and the Red Sea? …

« The U.S., whether by conspiring [with Iran] or out of political stupidity and narrow-mindedness, is the one who enabled Iran to occupy Iraq during the term of the ill-reputed Paul Bremer. Obama’s hesitancy and unstable position [also] led the U.S. to abandon the Syrian opposition, thus handing Syria to the commander of the Iranian Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani. [The U.S.] is responsible, obviously along with the Assad regime, for the appearance of all those terrorist organizations that did not exist before, at the early stages of the Syrian people’s uprising in March 2011, which started as a peaceful uprising [in demand of] just and reasonable democratic reforms.

« Truthfully, is the U.S. not responsible for the creation of ISIS and for the fact that it has managed to get so far after [the U.S.] cleared the way for it? After all, [the U.S.] is the country that invaded Iraq, cut off its limbs, and dismantled its institutions and army… in order to take vengeance on Sunni Arabs, humiliate them, and damage their honor, which forced them to become a demographic hotbed for ISIS and all these terrorist organizations, which bred like locusts.

« The U.S., which has been forced to return shame-faced to Iraq, is suspiciously silent in the face of the harm done to Sunni Arabs, and consents to the Iranian occupation of Iraq, all under the unconvincing pretext of wanting the Iranian nuclear negotiations to succeed. This, while ISIS hasn’t lost even one percent of the Iraqi and Syrian territory it conquered while the Americans watched from the sidelines… »[5]

« Iranian expansion » (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, March 6, 2015)

Bahraini Journalist: U.S. Wrong To Separate Iranian Nukes From Regional Terrorism

Bahraini journalist and writer Sawsan Al-Sha’er also criticized the fact that nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran take place while the U.S. ignores Iran’s expansionist policy, which has caused its Sunni allies to exclude themselves from the struggle against terrorism. She wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: « The U.S.’s efforts to wrap up the Iranian nuclear dossier in any way and by any means have caused it to ignore Iran’s regional expansionist policy…The American administration’s policy of separating the struggle against terrorism from the Iranian issue and Iran’s ambitions is what sabotaged the role of its Sunni allies… in the struggle against terrorism. [This policy] is what prevented the popular participation of [most of the region’s Sunnis] in the efforts to combat terrorism, and contributed to sparking sectarian sensitivity, which made the task of combating terrorism more difficult…

« The statements by the Democratic [U.S.] administration that it does not see the role Iran plays in Bahrain, Iraq, and Yemen are very much an insult to logic and intelligence and an attempt to block out the sun with a sieve, and indicate a disconnect from reality. [This,] since Iran’s support for Shi’ite militias in these countries is not confined to considerable political support, but also includes training and financing them, as well as dispatching IRGC commanders to run the battlefronts. »[6]
« The War on Terror! » (Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, March 2, 2015)

Lebanese Journalist: We Need Unified Arab Front Along With Turkey To Thwart Obama’s Regional Policy, Oppose Iran Deal

‘Ali Hamada, a journalist for the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, warned of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the superpowers and called on Arab countries, along with Turkey, to directly confront the Obama administration and work to thwart its regional policy. He wrote: « The Arab front, [which includes] the Arab Gulf states, Jordan and Egypt, and which is in conflict with Iran, must give some serious thought to the day after [Iran signs] an agreement [with the superpowers] on March 24, 2015. Turkey, whose vital political and economic interests intersect those of the Arab front… should seriously address this issue [as well], and form strategic ties with the Arab front states in order to create a balance, in light of the grand strategic turn that will happen in the region once Iran possesses an agreement regarding its nuclear [program].

« The Barak Obama administration has already proven that it is determined to continue building a strong alliance with Iran at the expense of the Arab region and Turkey. Therefore, we must confront the Americans directly and without hesitation. Honestly, we cannot [just] stand by and watch the current American strategic shift. The Arab front, which is facing the explicit Iranian occupation of the Arab east, must be firm and confront the Obama administration with resolve and explicit positions. In an understanding with Turkey, it must come out strongly against any nuclear agreement with Iran that does not completely prevent Tehran from possessing nuclear weapons and that will cause it to further attack the entire Arab east.

« We will not dwell on the stream of official and unofficial Iranian statements by high-ranking officials regarding the so-called ‘Iranian Empire.’ More important than expressing positions and making statements is to work towards a direct confrontation, starting with breaking the Obama administration’s regional strategy and circumventing it with regards to the Syrian campaign by massively arming the rebels… There is no escaping [the need to] thwart the Obama administration’s regional policy. »[7]

Saudi Journalist: Gulf States Will Consider Replacing U.S. Alliance With Russian Alliance

Saudi journalist ‘Abdallah Nasser Al-‘Otaibi criticized the U.S. in the London daily Al-Hayat, and wondered whether its regional allies should seek alternatives to it: « The big problem of the moderate countries in the region is that Russia’s local allies are currently the victors. Iran is spreading in all directions with Russia’s backing in the UN Security Council; Bashar Al-Assad is still harvesting the souls of Syria’s sons with open and direct support from the Kremlin; the Houthis act like they own Yemen under the auspices of a Russian veto [in the Security Council]; and meanwhile, the countries considered the U.S.’s regional allies are suffering defeat after defeat…

« The U.S. should know that constantly taking a neutral position and occasionally negotiating with regional powers [i.e. Iran] behind the backs of its allies will damage the historic alliance that has existed since the 1940s, and will cause its regional allies to consider shaking hands with the other global power [i.e. Russia]. At the same time, the regional allies should openly tell the Americans that the demands and conditions for renewing their alliance are to address their problems and help them solve them in an acceptable fashion. There is no alternative but to strongly push in this direction by formulating a strategy for dialogue with the U.S. on the conditions for the alliance [between it and its regional partners] and the commitments on both sides. It is not enough that from time to time, the Gulf states express their displeasure with the American partner in light of the grand achievements made by Russia’s regional allies. They must switch… to a response that penetrates all the American elites… »[8]

Saudi Government Daily: U.S. Must Stop The Deception, Be Clear On Iran Policy

« The Saudi government daily Al-Watan stated in an editorial: The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, [Ali Shamkhani,] boasted two days ago that Iran is now on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Bab Al-Mandab Straits and that it prevented the fall of Baghdad, Damascus and Erbil to the Islamic State [ISIS] organization. This proves that Iran no longer conceals its imperialist policy, and that it has found an opportunity to penetrate Arab states thanks to the chaos created by the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria and by the Houthis in Yemen, [and as happened] and is still happening in Iraq [after] the U.S. destroyed its infrastructures and allowed Iran to do as it pleased [there]…

« The extent of U.S. collusion with Tehran is apparent from the suspicious [U.S.] silence towards the unusually [extensive] deployment of Iranian forces in Iraq under the pretext of fighting the ISIS organization. If we add to this the IRGC deployment on Syrian territory to support the Assad regime, then all these things become totally clear and add up to one conclusion: that Tehran is playing its own game while exploiting the weakness of various countries in its attempt to gain time for realizing as much as possible of its Persian [Empire] dream.

« This declaration [by Ali Shamkhani] is not the first and definitely will not be the last. Four days ago, [Ali Younesi], the advisor to Iranian President [Hassan Rohani], said that Iran has now become an empire [again], as it was throughout the course of history, and that its capital is Baghdad, which is the center of our civilization, culture and identity, as it was in the past. [His statement] reveals the truth about the Iranian aspirations to restore the glory of the [Persian] Empire and take revenge on the Arabs…

« All the aforesaid shows the importance of opposing Iran’s policy and its schemes in the Arab region. To this end, there is no choice but for the GCC countries and the Arab League to begin cooperating immediately in order to pressure the international community in every possible way to limit Iranian expansion. The U.S. must choose between two options: to continue with its undeclared game with Iran, or to alter its policy and decide in favor of its interests with the Arabs. It must stop the deception and be clear about everything pertaining to Iran, for the current situation can no longer be taken lightly. »[9]

Endnotes:

[1]Al-Hayat (London), February 15, 2015.
[2]Al-Hayat (London), February 22, 2015.
[3] Aawsat.net, March 13, 2015.
[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 7, 2015.
[5]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 12, 2015.
[6]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 3, 2015.
[7]Al-Nahar (Lebanon), March 10, 2015.
[8]Al-Hayat (London), February 23, 2015.
[9]Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 13, 2015.

 

 


Nucléaire iranien: Attention, un remueur de chien peut en cacher un autre ! (Four Arab capitals plus Washington: Warning, a dog-wagger can hide another)

22 mars, 2015
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Pourquoi le chien remue-t-il la queue ? Parce que le chien est plus malin que la queue. Si la queue était plus maline, c’est qui elle remuerait le chien. Conrad Brean (Des hommes d’influence)

To ‘wag the dog’ means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. Usingenglish.com
Why did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel feel the need to wag the dog in Washington? For that was, of course, what he was doing in his anti-Iran speech to Congress. If you’re seriously trying to affect American foreign policy, you don’t insult the president and so obviously align yourself with his political opposition. No, the real purpose of that speech was to distract the Israeli electorate with saber-rattling bombast, to shift its attention away from the economic discontent that, polls suggest, may well boot Mr. Netanyahu from office in Tuesday’s election. (…) So Mr. Netanyahu tried to change the subject from internal inequality to external threats, a tactic those who remember the Bush years should find completely familiar. We’ll find out on Tuesday whether he succeeded. Paul Krugman
In my eyes, [the US administration’s comments on the two-state solution] are less related to the Palestinian issue but are much more connected to the Iranian issue. We’re having a substantial disagreement with Washington over the agreement they’re about to sign in the coming days and weeks. Dore Gold (former ambassador to the United Nations and close Netanyahu adviser)
Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. René Girard
Le problème n’est pas la sécurité d’Israël, la souveraineté du Liban ou les ingérences de la Syrie ou du Hezbollah : Le problème est centré sur l’effort de l’Iran à obtenir le Droit d’Abolir l’Exclusivité de la Dissuasion. La prolifération sauvage, le concept de «tous nucléaires» sera la fin de la Guerre Froide et le retour à la période précédant la Dissuasion. Les mollahs et leurs alliés, le Venezuela, l’Algérie, la Syrie, la Corée du Nord et la Russie…, se militarisent à une très grande échelle sachant qu’ils vont bientôt neutraliser le parapluie protecteur de la dissuasion et alors ils pourront faire parler la poudre. Chacun visera à dominer sa région et sans que les affrontements se déroulent en Europe, l’Europe sera dépouillée de ses intérêts en Afrique ou en Amérique du Sud et sans combattre, elle devra déposer les armes. Ce qui est incroyable c’est la myopie de la diplomatie française et de ses experts. (…) Aucun d’entre eux ne se doute que la république islamique a des alliés qui ont un objectif commun: mettre un terme à une discrimination qui dure depuis 50 ans, la dissuasion nucléaire ! Cette discrimination assure à la France une position que beaucoup d’états lui envient. Ils attendent avec impatience de pouvoir se mesurer avec cette ancienne puissance coloniale que beaucoup jugent arrogante, suffisante et gourmande. Iran-Resist
L’Iran aurait pu être la Corée du Sud; il est devenu la Corée du Nord. (…) Mais n’oubliez pas qu’Ahmadinejad n’est que le représentant d’un régime de nature totalitaire, qui ne peut se réformer et évoluer, quelle que soit la personne qui le représente. (…) Aujourd’hui, le problème ne vient pas de l’idée de se doter de l’énergie nucléaire ; il provient de la nature du régime islamique. (…) je ne crois pas que les mollahs soient assez fous pour penser un jour utiliser la bombe contre Israël: ils savent très bien qu’ils seraient aussitôt anéantis. Ce qu’ils veulent, c’est disposer de la bombe pour pouvoir s’institutionnaliser une fois pour toutes dans la région et étendre leurs zones d’influence. Ils rêvent de créer un califat chiite du XXIe siècle et entendent l’imposer par la bombe atomique (…) il est manifeste qu’un gouvernement paranoïaque crée des crises un peu partout pour tenter de regagner à l’extérieur la légitimité qu’il a perdue à l’intérieur. Les dérives du clan au pouvoir ne se limitent pas au soutien au Hamas, elles vont jusqu’à l’Amérique latine de Chavez. Il ne s’agit en rien d’une vision qui vise à défendre notre intérêt national. Si le régime veut survivre, il doit absolument mettre en échec le monde libre, combattre ses valeurs. La République islamique ne peut pas perdurer dans un monde où l’on parle des droits de l’homme ou de la démocratie. Tous ces principes sont du cyanure pour les islamistes. Comment voulez-vous que les successeurs de Khomeini, dont le but reste l’exportation de la révolution, puissent s’asseoir un jour à la même table que le président Sarkozy ou le président Obama? Dans les mois à venir, un jeu diplomatique peut s’engager, mais, au final, il ne faut pas se faire d’illusion. Même si Khatami revenait au pouvoir, le comportement du régime resterait identique, car le vrai décideur c’est Khamenei. Je ne vois aucune raison pour laquelle le régime islamiste accepterait un changement de comportement. Cela provoquerait, de manière certaine, sa chute. Il ne peut plus revenir en arrière. J’ai bien peur que la diplomatie ne tourne en rond une nouvelle fois et que la course à la bombe ne continue pendant ce temps. Reza Pahlavi
En tant que défenseur de la rue arabe, [l’Iran] ne peut pas avoir un dialogue apaisé avec les Etats-Unis, dialogue au cours duquel il accepterait les demandes de cet Etat qui est le protecteur par excellence d’Israël. Téhéran a le soutien de la rue arabe, talon d’Achille des Alliés Arabes des Etats-Unis, car justement il refuse tout compromis et laisse entendre qu’il pourra un jour lui offrir une bombe nucléaire qui neutralisera la dissuasion israélienne. Pour préserver cette promesse utile, Téhéran doit sans cesse exagérer ses capacités militaires ou nucléaires et des slogans anti-israéliens. Il faut cependant préciser que sur un plan concret, les actions médiatiques de Téhéran ne visent pas la sécurité d’Israël, mais celle des Alliés arabes des Etats-Unis, Etats dont les dirigeants ne peuvent satisfaire les attentes belliqueuses de la rue arabe. Ainsi Téhéran a un levier de pression extraordinaire sur Washington. Comme toute forme de dissuasion, ce système exige un entretien permanent. Téhéran doit sans cesse fouetter la colère et les frustrations de la rue arabe ! Il doit aussi garder ses milices actives, de chaînes de propagande en effervescence et son programme nucléaire le plus opaque possible, sinon il ne serait pas menaçant. C’est pourquoi, il ne peut pas accepter des compensations purement économiques offertes par les Six en échange d’un apaisement ou une suspension de ses activités nucléaires. Ce refus permanent de compromis est vital pour le régime. (…) Il n’y a rien qui fasse plus peur aux mollahs qu’un réchauffement avec les Etats-Unis : ils risquent d’y perdre la rue arabe, puis le pouvoir. C’est pourquoi, le 9 septembre, quand Téhéran a accepté une rencontre pour désactiver les sanctions promises en juillet, il s’est aussitôt mis en action pour faire capoter ce projet de dialogue apaisé qui est un véritable danger pour sa survie. Iran Resist
The Iranian government has responded more positively than the Bush Administration has to the Iraq Study Group’s proposal for talks between the two. And government sources in Tehran tell TIME that this reflects a sincere and calculated desire among the Iranian leadership for improved relations with Washington. Responding to the Baker-Hamilton report’s proposal that Washington move quickly to engage Iran on talks over stabilizing Iraq, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki dangled an offer of cooperation in a statement published by an Iranian news agency. « Iran will support any policies returning security, stability and territorial integrity to Iraq, » he said, « and considers withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and leaving security to the Iraqi government as the most suitable option. » In an interview on Al Jazeera, Mottaki added that if the U.S. needs an « honorable way out of Iraq, » and Iran « is in a position to help. » President Bush, by contrast, appeared to rebuff the suggestion, insisting that Iran would have to suspend its uranium-enrichment program before it could talk to the U.S. about Iraq. And the response from many U.S. lawmakers questioning Iran’s motives in Iraq underscored the continued taboo in Washington over dealing openly with the Islamic Republic. Three Iranian sources — a government official and two figures close to government policymakers — tell TIME that Mottaki’s statement is reflective of a solid consensus among the regime’s foreign-policy decision makers that restoring relations with the U.S. is in Iran’s best interests. « If tomorrow the U.S. seriously — and I emphasize the word seriously — tried to engage Iran, in a way that accepted the 1979 Iranian revolution and engaged Iran in a respectful atmosphere, then Iran would welcome the chance to address mutual concerns, » said one of the sources, a prominent expert on U.S.-Iranian relations. (…) Some Iranian leaders and officials, including President Ahmadinejad, also believe that Iran now has the opportunity to deal with Washington from a position of strength, for the first time since the 1979 revolution. The sources say that this assessment is based on a perception that the U.S. is stuck in quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Iran’s influence in the region and throughout the Muslim world is expanding. These officials see further evidence of Iran’s advantage in the difficulties the U.S. continues to encounter in winning support for U.N. tough sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. The sources say that Iranian officials believe that to open a serious dialogue with the U.S. in these circumstances would significantly enhance Iran’s international prestige and regional influence. Time (2006)
Sur le long terme, Obama et son entourage ont toujours fantasmé sur une réconciliation globale entre les Etats-Unis et l’islamisme, qu’il s’agisse de l’islamisme sunnite des Frères musulmans ou de l’islamisme chiite iranien. C’était le sens, dès 2009, du discours-manifeste du Caire, prononcé, il ne faut pas l’oublier, au moment même où le pouvoir des mollahs écrasait dans le sang un « printemps iranien ». Cela a été également le sens, par la suite, de la temporisation d’Obama sur la question du nucléaire iranien : Washington s’est prononcé en faveur de sanctions économiques de plus en plus lourdes, mais n’a pas envisagé sérieusement une action militaire contre l’Iran ni accordé de feu vert à une éventuelle action militaire israélienne.(…) Des négociations discrètes ont été menées au début de l’été entre Washington et Téhéran, et elles avaient suffisamment abouti dès le mois d’août – quand Rouhani a pris officiellement ses fonctions – pour que plusieurs revues américaines influentes diffusent presque immédiatement des articles préparant l’opinion à cette « détente », sinon à ce renversement d’alliance. La New York Review of Books publie dans sa livraison datée du 15 août un long article en faveur d’un « nouvelle approche envers l’Iran » cosigné, de manière significative – l’union sacrée, pourrait-on dire -, par un universitaire pro-iranien, William Luers, un ancien ambassadeur aux Nations Unies, Thomas Pickering et un homme politique républicain, Jim Walsh. Quant à Foreign Affairs, elle consacre sa couverture de septembre-octobre au chef véritable du régime iranien, l’ayatollah et Guide spirituel Ali Khamenei. Akbar Ganji, un journaliste prestigieux, souvent présenté comme le « Soljénitsyne iranien », y affirme à la fois que Rouhani ne peut se rapprocher des Etats-Unis sans l’accord préalable et l’appui de Khamenei, ce qui est vrai ; et que les Etats-Unis doivent saisir cette « chance », ce qui est plus discutable. (…) A un autre niveau, à plus court terme, Obama a sans doute vu dans un rapprochement avec l’Iran le moyen d’effacer ou de faire oublier ses échecs répétés au Moyen-Orient : en Libye, en Egypte et finalement en Syrie. Une Grande Puissance, c’est un pays qui peut faire la guerre et qui, par voie de conséquence, est en mesure d’imposer sa volonté à d’autres pays. Et « pouvoir faire la guerre », en amont, cela suppose à la fois des moyens techniques (une armée, des armements, des technologies), et des moyens politiques ou moraux (une vision du monde, des objectifs, une détermination). L’Amérique d’Obama a toujours les moyens techniques d’une Très Grande Puissance, mais elle s’est comportée en Syrie, à travers ses tergiversations et finalement sa capitulation diplomatique devant la Russie de Poutine, comme si elle n’en avait plus les moyens politiques ou moraux. Ce que les alliés traditionnels des Etats-Unis ne sont pas près de pardonner au président sur le plan international (des Etats du Golfe à la France de Hollande), ni les Américains eux-mêmes en politique intérieure.(…) Les clés d’Obama se trouvent dans son livre autobiographique, Les Rêves de mon père. Deux faits, qu’il rapporte avec beaucoup de franchise : d’abord, un drame intime : il n’a pratiquement pas connu son père ; ensuite, un drame identitaire : l’Amérique traditionnelle – anglo-saxonne, judéo-chrétienne, blanche – est pour lui une sorte de pays étranger. Il est certes né aux Etats-Unis, mais il n’y a pas passé son enfance. Il n’a pas été élevé dans la foi chrétienne, mais dans un mélange d’humanisme athée et d’islam libéral. Et bien que sa mère soit blanche, il a toujours été considéré comme un Noir. Comment surmonte-t-il ces deux drames ? A travers l’action politique en vue d’une Amérique nouvelle, multiraciale, multireligieuse, multiculturelle. En fait, il veut enfanter cette nouvelle Amérique qui lui ressemblerait, être à la fois son propre père et celui d’une nation remodelée à son image. Ce qui passe, entre autre choses, par une réconciliation – fusionnelle – avec un islam qui est le contraire même de l’Amérique traditionnelle. Ce n’est là qu’un fantasme. La politique rationnelle d’Obama se réfère à d’autres considérations, d’autres raisonnements. Mais les fantasmes sont souvent aussi puissants ou plus puissants que la rationalité. Et qui plus est, les fantasmes personnels du président actuel recoupent ceux d’une bonne partie de la société américaine : les Noirs, les non-Blancs en général, mais aussi les milieux blancs d’extrême-gauche, une partie des élites intellectuelles… (…) Qui peut encore soutenir sérieusement qu’Israël est au cœur de tous les problèmes du Proche Orient et que tout passe, dans cette région, par la « résolution » du « problème palestinien » ? Depuis près de quatre ans, le monde arabe et islamique n’en finit pas de se décomposer et de se recomposer sous nos yeux, entraîné par ses pesanteurs propres. Une analyste géopolitique, Robin Wright, vient même de prédire dans le New York Times, le quotidien le plus pro-Obama des Etats-Unis, le remplacement de cinq Etats moyen-orientaux (la Syrie, l’Irak, l’Arabie Saoudite, la Libye, le Yemen) par quinze nouveaux Etats à caractère ethnoreligieux. Voilà qui merite au moins autant d’attention que les articles promouvant le « nouvel Iran » du président Rouhani. Et qui relativise le « processus de paix » Jérusalem-Ramallah. Michel Gurfinkiel
The military planners’ scorecard made one thing perfectly clear: by 2011, enough information was available to conclude that absent a significant U.S. military presence, within a few years, the situation in Iraq was likely to deteriorate — perhaps irreversibly. The Iraqi military, for example, was still three to five years away from being able to independently sustain the gains made during the past four years.(…) Had a residual U.S. force stayed in Iraq after 2011, the United States would have had far greater insight into the growing threat posed by ISIS and could have helped the Iraqis stop the group from taking so much territory. Instead, ISIS’ march across northern Iraq took Washington almost completely by surprise. (…)     In April (2011), Obama directed (U.S. forces in Iraq commander General Lloyd) Austin to develop a plan that would result in a residual force of just 8,000 to 10,000 troops and to identify the missions that a force of that size could realistically accomplish. In August, according to (then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq James) Jeffrey, Obama informed him that he was free to start negotiations with the Iraqis to keep 5,000 U.S. service members in Iraq: 3,500 combat troops who would be stationed on yearlong tours of duty and 1,500 special operations forces who would rotate in and out every four months. (…)     Washington had to drop its insistence that U.S. forces enjoy complete immunity from Iraqi law. Instead, in somewhat ambiguous terms, the agreement gave Iraqi authorities legal jurisdiction over cases in which U.S. service members were accused of committing serious, premeditated felonies while off duty and away from U.S. facilities. In his memoir, Duty, published earlier this year, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that Pentagon lawyers (during Bush’s negotiations with Iraq) strongly opposed the compromise. But Gates explains that he believed it was worth the risk if it meant that U.S. forces could stay in Iraq past 2008. Commanders in the field were also comfortable with the compromise; after all, since members of the U.S. armed forces are on duty 24 hours a day and are not permitted to leave their bases unless on a mission, there was little chance that an American marine or soldier would ever wind up in the hands of Iraqi authorities. (…)     In early September (2011), U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns visited Iraq to press Maliki on both those issues. According to a former administration official familiar with what happened during the meeting, Maliki told Burns that although he could likely persuade Iraq’s parliament to request a residual force, anyone who believed that the parliament would approve a status-of-forces agreement that included complete immunity did not understand Iraqi politics. Instead, Maliki proposed signing an executive memorandum granting immunity without the need to gain parliamentary approval. White House lawyers rejected that offer, arguing that for any such agreement to be legally binding, it would have to be formally ratified by the Iraqi parliament. In early October, as Maliki had predicted, the parliament approved the request for an extended U.S. military presence but declined to grant legal immunity to U.S. military personnel. Later that month, Obama told Maliki that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, in fulfillment of the terms of the agreement signed by the Bush administration in 2008. (…) In the nearly three years since Bush had agreed to a similar compromise, no U.S. service member or civilian official stationed in Iraq had been charged with violating an Iraqi law. (…) It is also worth pointing out that the U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq today count on a promise of immunity backed only by a diplomatic note signed by the Iraqi foreign minister — an assurance even less solid than the one Maliki offered (and Obama rejected) in 2011.  Rick Brennan (senior civilian adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq, 2006-2011)
Ok, so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb, but shouldn’t we at least bomb the Islamic State to smithereens and help destroy this head-chopping menace? Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran? In 2002, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad. ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism — mixing old pro-Saddam Baathists with medieval Sunni religious fanatics with a collection of ideologues, misfits and adventure-seekers from around the Sunni Muslim world. Obviously, I abhor ISIS and don’t want to see it spread or take over Iraq. I simply raise this question rhetorically because no one else is: Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really? If it seems as though we have only bad choices in the Middle East today and nothing seems to work, there is a reason: Because past is prologue, and the past has carved so much scar tissue into that landscape that it’s hard to see anything healthy or beautiful growing out of it anytime soon. Sorry to be so grim. Thomas Friedman (NYT)
The foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran. (…) The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. (…) Our withdrawal from Iraq in late 2011 contributed to a perception that the U.S. was pulling back from the Middle East. This perception has complicated our ability to shape developments in the region and thus to further our interests. These perceptions have also shaken many of our allies and, for a period at least, made it harder to persuade them to support our approaches. (…) Neither the Iranians nor Daesh are ten feet tall, but the perception in the region for the past few years has been that of the U.S. on the wane, and our adversaries on the rise. I hope that we can begin to reverse that now. David Petraeus
French leaders think the U.S. president is dangerously naïve on Iran’s ambitions, and that his notion of making Iran an « objective ally » in the war against ISIS, or even a partner, together with Putin’s Russia, to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, is both far-fetched and « amateurish. » When Claude Angéli says that both France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, and its President, François Hollande, have told friends that they rely on « the support of the US Congress » to prevent Obama from giving in to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it is the kind of quote you can take to the bank. French diplomats worry that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, every other local Middle East power will want them. Among their worst nightmares is a situation in which Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia join the Dr. Strangelove club. French diplomats may not like Israel, but they do not believe that the Israelis would use a nuclear device except in a truly Armageddon situation for Israel. As for Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Turkey going nuclear, however, they see terrifying possibilities: irresponsible leaders, or some ISIS-type terrorist outfit, could actually use them. In other words, even if they would never express it as clearly as that, they see Israelis as « like us, » but others potentially as madmen. The Quai d’Orsay (the French Foreign Ministry) may loathe, on principle, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: any briefing by French diplomats will, as a matter of course, explain how very wrong Israel is to alienate its « American ally. » All the same, France’s political stance on the projected U.S.-Iran deal is astonishingly close to that of the Israeli PM, as he outlined to the U.S. Congress on March 3. Laurent Fabius — once François Mitterrand’s youngest Prime Minister; today’s François Hollande’s seasoned Foreign Minister — is « fed up with Barack Obama’s nuclear laxity » regarding Iran, a Quai senior diplomat told Le Canard Enchaîné’s usually well-informed Claude Angéli, who can be relied on to give the unvarnished French view on matters foreign. « Just as in 2013, France will oppose any agreement too favorable to Iran if this turns out to be necessary. Fabius made this very clear to John Kerry when they met on Saturday March 7th. » This, Angéli points out, is far from the « soothing communiqué » issued at the end of the Kerry-Fabius meeting in which both men supposedly « shared » the same view of the Iran negotiations. The communiqué itself may have come as a surprise to a number of French MPs and Senators from their respective Foreign Affairs Committees. Fabius himself, in a meeting last week, made extremely clear his deep distrust (« contempt, really, » one MP says) of both John Kerry and Barack Obama. Another of the group quotes Fabius as saying: « The United States was really ready to sign just about anything with the Iranians, » before explaining that he himself had sent out, mid-February, a number of French ‘counter-proposals’ to the State Department and White House, in order to prevent an agreement too imbalanced in favor of Iran. Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
Une intéressante alliance des «faucons» se dessine de facto entre Paris, Jérusalem, le Congrès et les monarchies du Golfe, ­anxieuses d’un accord avec la Perse qui se ferait sur leur dos. Le Figaro (11.11.13)
We are not exactly impotent little babies. They [Israelis] have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? (…) Well, we have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse. [Israeli jet fighters and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, off the Sinai Peninsula, during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel later claimed the ship was the object of friendly fire.] (…)  Obama has been very impressive in refining our policy toward the world on a lot of issues, very impressive. But he has been relatively much less impressive in the follow-through. (…) Not as precise, clear-cut, and forthcoming as would be desirable. (…) By now we should have been able to formulate a clearer posture on what we are prepared to do to promote a Palestinian-Israeli peace. Simply giving a frequent-traveler ticket to George Mitchell is not the same thing as policy. It took a long time to get going on Iran, but there is an excuse there, the Iranian domestic mess. And we are now eight months into the administration, and I would have thought by now we could have formulated a strategy that we would have considered “our” strategy for dealing with Iran and Pakistan. For example, the Carter administration, which is sometimes mocked, by now had in motion a policy of disarmament with the Russians, which the Russians didn’t like, but eventually bought; it had started a policy of normalization with the Chinese; it rammed through the Panama Canal treaty; and it was moving very, very openly toward an Israeli-Arab political peace initiative. (…) There was a closer connection between desire and execution. Also the president was not as deeply embroiled, and buffeted, by a very broad, and commendable and ambitious domestic program as President Obama is. I think the Republican onslaught to the president, the wavering of some Democrats, has vastly complicated not only his choices in foreign affairs, but even limited the amount of attention he can give to them. (…) I don’t think it’s the number of issues; it’s how decisively a president acts. A president, in his first year, is at the peak of his popularity, and if he acts decisively, even if some oppose him, most will rally around him, out of patriotism, out of opportunism, out of loyalty, out of the crowd instinct, just a variety of human motives. (…)  The first year is decisive. How much you can set in motion the first year sets the tone for much of the rest of the term. In part, that’s because all these things take more than one year to complete. But the point is you want to have a dynamic start that carries momentum with it. Zbigniew Brzezinski (2009)
A l’époque, pendant que nous étions en train de discuter avec les Européens à Téhéran, nous installions des équipements dans certaines parties d’Ispahan, et le projet était sur le point d’être complété. En réalité, c’est en créant un climat de sérénité, que nous avons pu achever Ispahan. Hassan Rohani (03.11.03)
What has been released by the website of the White House as a fact sheet is a one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action (the title of the Iran-powers deal), and this fact sheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true. Marziyeh Afkham (Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman)
Iran is already in violation of a number of Security Council resolutions demanding it cease all uranium enrichment and heavy water activity – a process used to create weapons-grade plutonium. Furthermore, none of this activity is even remotely necessary if Iran, as it claims, only wants a peaceful nuclear program. There are many countries that have nuclear power that do not have the capability to enrich their own fuel. They buy it from abroad and that’s what Iran could do. And that’s what the media are neglecting to tell you. There are over thirty countries around the world that have nuclear power programs but according to the World Nuclear Association, only eleven have the capacity to enrich their own fuel. Here are some of the countries that have nuclear energy but don’t enrich their own nuclear fuel: Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine. The fact is that, of countries that have enrichment capabilities, the majority also possess nuclear weapons. Countries that enrich nuclear materials but do not have nuclear weapons include Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Countries that enrich and do have nuclear weapons include Pakistan, Russia and China. When you think of Iran, do you think it fits in with Germany, Japan and the Netherlands? Or, does it fit better with Pakistan, Russia and China? If that isn’t enough to make you uncomfortable, in a speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council in 2005, Rouhani himself said: A country that could enrich uranium to about 3.5 percent will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90 percent. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons. Since Argentina, Armenia, Sweden and Spain can buy nuclear fuel from abroad, why can’t Iran? Since our neighbors Canada and Mexico can pursue this policy, why can’t Iran? Camera
La Corée du Nord a appris au monde qu’au poker nucléaire la folie feinte vous vaut de l’aide étrangère ou l’attention planétaire — du fait que même la certitude qu’on a affaire à un bluff à 99% reste suffisante pour effrayer les opinions publiques occidentales. La Corée du nord est le proverbial envieux psychopathe du quartier qui agresse constamment ses voisins prospères d’à côté, en partant du principe que les voisins ne pourront manquer de prendre en compte ses menaces aussi sauvages qu’absurdes parce qu’il n’a rien et qu’ils ont tout à perdre. (…) L’Iran pourrait reprendre à l’infini le modèle de Kim — menaçant une semaine de rayer Israël de la carte, faisant machine arrière la semaine d’après sous prétexte de problèmes de traduction. L’objectif ne serait pas nécessairement de détruire Israël (ce qui vaudrait à l’Iran la destruction de la culture persane pour un siècle), mais d’imposer une telle atmosphère d’inquiétude et de pessimisme à l’Etat juif que son économie en serait affaiblie, son émigration en serait encouragée et sa réputation géostratégique en serait érodée. La Corée du nord est passée maître dans de telles tactiques de chantage nucléaire. A certains moments, Pyongyang a même réussi à réduire les deux géants asiatiques – Japon et Corée du Sud – à la quasi-paralysie.(…) Un Iran nucléaire n’aurait à s’inquiéter ni d’un ennemi existentiel avec une population d’un milliard d’habitants à côté tel que l’Inde ni d’un mécène tout aussi peuplé comme la Chine susceptible d’imposer des lignes rouges à ses crises de folie périodiques. Téhéran serait libre au contraire de faire et de dire ce qu’il veut. Et son statut de puissance nucléaire deviendrait un multiplicateur de force pour son énorme richesse pétrolière et son statut auto-proclamé de leader mondial des musulmans chiites. Si la Corée du Nord est un danger, alors un Iran nucléaire plus gros, plus riche et sans dissuasion serait un cauchemar. Victor Davis Hanson
If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us. Obama
 What we intended as caution, the Iranians saw as weakness. Obama’s aide
On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important . . . to give me space. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility. Obama (to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev)
At our urging, over months, Russia and Iran repeatedly reinforced our warning to Assad. We all sent the same message again and again: don’t do it. Susan Rice
I threatened [sic] kinetic strikes on Syria unless they got rid of their chemical weapons. Obama (March 2014)
The “good news is that Assad’s allies, both Russia and Iran, recognize that this [use of sarin] was—this was a breach, that this was a problem. And for them to potentially put pressure on Assad to say, ‘Let’s figure out a way that the international community gets control of . . . these weapons in a verifiable and forcible way’—I think it’s something that we will run to ground. Obama
 “[I]f as a consequence of a deal on their nuclear program, those voices and trends inside of Iran are strengthened, and their economy becomes more integrated into the international community, and there’s more travel and greater openness, even if that takes a decade or 15 years or 20 years, then that’s very much an outcome we should desire. Obama
The White House version both underplays the [American] concessions and overplays Iranian commitments. The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again. Javad Zarif (Iranian foreign minister)
Nous avons rappelé que ce genre de discours était contraire aux traditions d’Israël. Bien que ce pays soit fondé sur une terre historiquement juive, et sur le besoin de créer une nation juive, la démocratie israélienne repose sur la notion que tous ses citoyens sont égaux en droits. C’est ce qui fait la grandeur de cette démocratie. Si cela venait à changer, je pense que cela donnerait des arguments à ceux qui ne veulent pas d’un Etat juif, et que cela affaiblirait la démocratie israélienne (…) Disons que nous lui faisons confiance quand il dit que cela n’arrivera pas tant qu’il sera Premier ministre. C’est pourquoi nous devons explorer d’autres options afin d’empêcher que la région ne sombre dans le chaos. J’ai eu l’occasion de parler hier à M. Netanyahu. Je l’ai félicité pour sa victoire, et je lui ai réaffirmé mon attachement  à une solution à deux États qui est, de notre point de vue, la seule garantie sur le long terme de la sécurité d’Israël, en tant qu’État juif et démocratique. Je lui ai également rappelé qu’après ses récentes déclarations, il serait difficile de croire qu’Israël est sérieusement attaché à la poursuite des négociations. Cependant, nous continuerons d’insister sur le fait que, du point de vue des États-Unis, le statu quo est intenable, a poursuivi le président américain. Nous sommes attachés à la sécurité d’Israël, mais il n’est pas possible de poursuivre cette voie éternellement, avec l’implantation de nouvelles colonies. C’est un facteur d’instabilité dans la région. (…) Il faut tout d’abord que les Iraniens démontrent clairement qu’ils ne fabriquent pas de bombes nucléaires, et qu’ils nous laissent toute latitude pour nous en assurer. (…) Il n’y aura pas d’accord tant que tout n’aura pas été résolu. (…) Je dois avouer que les Iraniens n’ont pas fait jusqu’ici les compromis que j’estime indispensables pour parvenir à cet accord. Mais ils se sont montrés ouverts, ce qui laisse la porte ouverte à la recherche d’une solution (…). Je vais devoir démontrer au peuple américain, mais aussi aux Israéliens et au reste du monde, que nous avons mis en place des mécanismes qui empêcheront l’Iran d’accéder à la bombe atomique (…) Il est évident que beaucoup d’Israéliens se méfient, à juste titre, de leur voisin iranien. L’Iran a tenu des propos ignobles et antisémites, et menacé Israël d’annihilation. C’est précisément pour cela que j’ai dit, avant même de devenir président, que l’Iran ne devait pas disposer de l’arme nucléaire. Barack Obama
There was a free and fair democratic election, the only nation in the region that will have such a thing.  The president should get over it.  Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President.  It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of ISIS and Iranian movement throughout the region, which is threatening the very fabric of the region.  The least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign.  If every politician were held to everything they say in a political campaign, obviously, that would be a topic of long discussion. But the point is, is the J.V., as the president described them, is just moving over into Yemen.  We see this horrible situation in Libya. We see ISIS everywhere in the world.  We see the Iranians now backing the Shia militias in Tikrit, where they’re going to – where they’re going to massacre a number of Sunnis. And it is – the guy in charge is a guy named Suleimani, who – who imported – excuse me – I will catch up here – Suleimani moved thousands of copper-tipped IEDs into Iraq and killed hundreds of American soldiers and Marines.  And the president of the United States is praising the mullahs and their behavior in the region. (…) I wish he had spoken to the people of Iran in 2009, when they rose up against a corrupt election and he refused to speak out on their behalf while they were chanting ‘Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you with them?’ Again, does anyone – does he believe that anyone in Iran is able to speak up?  Are they able to speak up for anything that the mullahs disagree with?  They’re either jailed or killed.  Again, this is a view, a world view the president has which is totally divorced from reality. John McCain
What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu. There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu. (…) an effort to oust Netanyahu was guided by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird and that V15, or Victory 15, ads hurt Netanyahu in the polls. John McLaughlin (Republican strategist)
Un premier avion iranien est arrivé dimanche à Sanaa, au lendemain de la signature d’un accord entre Téhéran et des responsables de l’aviation de la capitale yéménite, contrôlée par la milice chiite des Houthis, a constaté un photographe de l’AFP. L’appareil de la compagnie Mahan Air est arrivé à Sanaa avec à son bord une équipe du Croissant rouge iranien et des caisses de médicaments, a précisé à l’AFP un responsable de l’aviation yéménite. Il a ajouté que des diplomates iraniens étaient présents pour accueillir ce vol, le premier entre les deux pays depuis des années. AFP (01.03.15)
Des photos et des vidéos amateur prouvent que Qassem Soleimani, le commandant des forces d’élites iraniennes, est en Irak et se bat au côté des forces irakiennes – soutenues et armées par les États-unis – contre les jihadistes de l’organisation de l’État islamique. (…) Les preuves de la présence de ce commandant iranien en Irak se multiplient donc alors même que l’Iran refuse d’admettre sa participation dans la guerre en Irak contre l’organisation de l’État islamique, ce qui reviendrait à officialiser sa collaboration militaire de fait avec les États-Unis. France 24 (04.09.14)
Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon as a popular force like Basij (Iran’s militia). Similarly popular forces were also formed in Syria and Iraq, and today we are watching the formation of Ansarollah in Yemen. Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi (representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force)
Ansarollah is a similar copy of Hezbollah in a strategic area. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami
We witness today that our revolution is exported to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Ali Akbar Nategh-Nuri (former speaker of Iran’s Majles and head of the Office of Inspection of the House of the Supreme Leader)
The Islamic Republic’s borders … are now transferred to the farthest points in the Middle East. Today, the strategic depth of Iran stretches to Mediterranean coasts and Bab al-Mandab Strait [southwest of Yemen]. Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Said (supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC)
Mort à l’Amérique, parce que l’Amérique est la source d’origine de cette pression. Ils insistent à mettre la pression sur l’économie de nos chères personnes. Quel est leur objectif ? Leur objectif est de monter les gens contre le système. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  (20.03.15)
In the giddy aftermath of Obama’s electoral victory in 2008, anything seemed possible. The president saw himself as a transformational leader, not just in domestic politics but also in the international arena, where, as he believed, he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. To say that Obama regarded Bush’s foreign policy as anachronistic is an understatement. To him it was a caricature of yesteryear, the foreign-policy equivalent of Leave It to Beaver. Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland, an arena in which the United States assembled global military coalitions to defeat enemies whom it depicted in terms like “Axis of Evil,” and into Obamaworld, a place more attuned to the nuances, complexities, and contradictions—and opportunities—of the 21st century. In today’s globalized environment, Obama told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, “our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. . . . No balance of power among nations will hold.” If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation. For the new president, nothing revealed the conceptual inadequacies of Bushland more clearly than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Before coming to Washington, Obama had opposed the toppling of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; once in the U.S. Senate, he rejected Bush’s “surge” and introduced legislation to end the war. Shortly after his inauguration in January 2009, he pledged to bring the troops home quickly—a commitment that he would indeed honor. But if calling for withdrawal from Iraq had been a relatively easy position to take for a senator, for a president it raised a key practical question: beyond abstract nostrums like “no nation can . . . dominate another nation,” what new order should replace the American-led system that Bush had been building? This was, and remains, the fundamental strategic question that Obama has faced in the Middle East, though one would search his speeches in vain for an answer to it. But Obama does have a relatively concrete vision. When he arrived in Washington in 2006, he absorbed a set of ideas that had incubated on Capitol Hill during the previous three years—ideas that had received widespread attention thanks to the final report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan congressional commission whose co-chairs, former secretary of state James Baker and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, interpreted their mission broadly, offering advice on all key aspects of Middle East policy. (…) Expressing the ethos of an influential segment of the foreign-policy elite, the Baker-Hamilton report became the blueprint for the foreign policy of the Obama administration, and its spirit continues to pervade Obama’s inner circle. Denis McDonough, now the president’s chief of staff, once worked as an aide to Lee Hamilton; so did Benjamin Rhodes, who helped write the Iraq Study Group’s report. Obama not only adopted the blueprint but took it one step further, recruiting Vladimir Putin’s Russia as another candidate for membership in the new club. The administration’s early “reset” with Russia and its policy of reaching out to Iran and Syria formed two parts of a single vision. If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse (“a coalition of the willing”) to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation. To rid the world of rogues and tyrants, one must embrace and soften them. (…) The same desire to accommodate Iran has tailored Obama’s strategy toward the terrorist group Islamic State. (…) The administration has indeed subtly exploited the rise of terrorist enclaves to elevate Obama’s outreach to Iran. Behind the scenes, coordination and consultation have reached new heights. (…) With American acquiescence, Iran is steadily taking control of the security sector of the Iraqi state. Soon it will dominate the energy sector as well, giving it effective control over the fifth largest oil reserves in the world. When the announced goal of the United States is to build up a moderate Sunni bloc capable of driving a wedge between Islamic State and the Sunni communities, aligning with Iran is politically self-defeating. In both Iraq and Syria, Iran projects its power through sectarian militias that slaughter Sunni Muslims with abandon. Are there any Sunni powers in the region that see American outreach to Tehran as a good thing? Are there any military-aged Sunni men in Iraq and Syria who now see the United States as a friendly power? There are none. (…) Over the last three years, Obama has given Iran a free hand in Syria and Iraq, on the simplistic assumption that Tehran would combat al-Qaeda and like-minded groups in a manner serving American interests. The result, in both countries, has been the near-total alienation of all Sunnis and the development of an extremist safe haven that now stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Damascus. America is now applying to the disease a larger dose of the snake oil that helped cause the malady in the first place. The approach is detrimental to American interests in other arenas as well. We received a portent of things to come on January 18 of this year, when the Israel Defense Forces struck a convoy of senior Hizballah and Iranian officers, including a general in the Revolutionary Guards, in the Golan Heights. Ten days later, Hizballah and Iran retaliated. In other words, by treating Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest, Obama is allowing the shock troops of Iran to dig in on the border of Israel—not to mention the border of Jordan. (…) In November 2013, when Obama purchased the participation of Iran in the Joint Plan of Action, he established a basic asymmetry that has remained a key feature of the negotiations ever since. He traded permanent American concessions for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint. (…)  The most significant such gestures by Iran were to dilute its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 percent; to refrain from installing new centrifuges; and to place a hold on further construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. All three, however, can be easily reversed. By contrast, the Americans recognized the Iranian right to enrich and agreed to the principle that all restrictions on Iran’s program would be of a limited character and for a defined period of time. These two concessions are major, and because they are not just the policy of the United States government but now the collective position of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, they will likely never be reversed. (…) We can say with certainty that Obama has had no illusions about this asymmetry—that he conducted the negotiations with his eyes wide open—because the White House took pains to hide the truth from the American public. In 2013, instead of publishing the text of the JPOA, it issued a highly misleading fact sheet. Peppered with terms like “halt,” “roll back,” and “dismantle,” the document left the impression that the Iranians had agreed to destroy their nuclear program. (…) Over the last year, Obama has reportedly allowed Iran to retain, in one form or another, its facilities at Natanz, Fordow, and Arak—sites that Iran built in flagrant violation of the NPT to which it is a signatory. This is the same Obama who declared at the outset of negotiations that the Iranians “don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. . . . And so the question ultimately is going to be, are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements that they’ve made.” The answer to his question, by now, is clear: the Iranians will not roll back anything. The president believes that globalization and economic integration will induce Tehran to forgo its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile Iran’s rulers are growing stronger, bolder, and ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity. (…) In making his personal rift with Netanyahu the subject of intense public debate, the White House means to direct attention away from the strategic rift between them—and from the fact that the entire Israeli elite, regardless of political orientation, as well as much of the U.S. Congress, regards the president’s conciliatory approach to Iran as profoundly misguided. Meanwhile, the president is depicting his congressional critics as irresponsible warmongers. He would have us believe that there are only two options: his undeclared détente with Iran and yet another war in the Middle East. This is a false choice. It ignores the one policy that every president since Jimmy Carter has pursued till now: vigorous containment on all fronts, not just in the nuclear arena. Obama, however, is intent on obscuring this option, and for a simple reason: an honest debate about it would force him to come clean with the American people and admit the depth of his commitment to the strategy whose grim results are multiplying by the day. Michael Doran
Given all we know, I would argue that Obama’s mission is to guide America not only out of Bushland (as Doran puts it) but out of Rooseveltland, Kennedyland, and Clintonland—and indeed to reverse most of the foreign-policy legacy of his own party, with the exception of that of Wallace and its 1972 candidate for the presidency, George McGovern. The ideas espoused by Obama “incubated” decades ago, and were most likely adopted back at Columbia University or in the Chicago kitchen of his friends of Weathermen fame, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. (…) The enduring hold of that ideology is visible not only in his Iran policy but also, most recently, with respect to Cuba. There, too, he has reversed decades of American foreign policy, and has done so, as in the case of Iran, without seeking any deep concessions from the Castro regime. In concluding the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action with Iran, Doran notes, Obama accepted a “basic asymmetry,” trading permanent American concessions [in exchange] for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint.” Similarly, in Cuba, Obama’s recent deal—call it another “Joint Plan of Action”—abandons previous American demands for real political change on the island prior to any lifting of the embargo. And just as he has offered his regrets to Tehran for the (long exaggerated) American role in the 1953 overthrow of the Mossadegh government, so too has he expressed apologies—in this case, in a telephone call with Raul Castro—“for taking such a long time” to change U.S. policy. In both instances, Obama has acted not to advance American national interests but to make amends for U.S. policies and actions that he views as the immoral and retrograde detritus of the “cold-war mentality.” (…) One need only look at the success of the Reagan administration in dealing with the Soviet Union to know that military power, strong alliances, and ideological clarity—what Doran refers to as “vigorous containment on all fronts”—do not lead to war. They lead to success. Elliott Abrams
In Dueck’s judgment, Obama’s approach to the world is predicated first and foremost on his bedrock intention to be a “transformational” president. The transformation in question is largely domestic—hence his preoccupation with the Affordable Care Act, which remakes a rather large swath of the American economy. Abroad, and in aid of the main focus on his domestic agenda (“nation-building at home”), the president’s overwhelming objective has been to keep international affairs at bay. But when world events do inevitably impose themselves, Obama is no less confident of his unique ability to exert a transformational impact.  (…) As Dueck sees it, the strategy is twofold: retrenchment, and accommodation. Retrenchment means liquidating some of what Obama construes to be overinvestments the U.S. has made around the world, particularly in the Middle East, while also reducing the strength of the U.S. military—since, in his view, our temptation to resort to military force has itself been responsible for many of the world’s ills. Accommodation, in turn, means reaching out and “engaging” America’s adversaries, thereby turning them, in the common phrase, from part of the problem into part of the solution. Understanding this strategy of retrenchment and accommodation is a useful vehicle for explaining many apparently discrete episodes in Obama’s tenure, from the early “strategic reassurance” of China, to the “reset” of relations with Russia, and of course to the “open hand” approach to Tehran that Michael Doran dissects so well. It also clarifies the chronic neglect of allies, and it illuminates, as Abrams rightly underlines, the president’s chronic need—the political equivalent of Tourette syndrome—to express regret and apologize publicly for past exercises of American power in pursuit of our national interests. (…) What distinguishes Obama is the ideological aversion to American power and the formulation of a strategy whose overriding impetus is to constrain that power. The scandal is not that the administration has kept this a secret but that a supine press and intellectual class have failed—“declined” may be the better (if much too polite) word—to explain it to the American people. Eric Edelman
As former George W. Bush White House aide Michael Doran meticulously lays out in his recently published tour-de-force “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” the U.S.-Iran partnership that is reshaping the Middle East has been in the making since Obama first came to office. The most salient point then about the current P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran isn’t the nuclear issue, but the fact that they create a channel to allow both sides to keep talking—which means that all sorts of subjects are going to come up, from Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon to Yemen and maybe even other thorny issues, like Argentina and the Nisman investigation into Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in 1994. U.S. response to everything in the region is now tied to the fate of the Iranian nuclear program, which in turn is simply the linchpin of Obama’s larger vision of a partnership between Washington and Tehran. (…) From Iran’s perspective, then, it controls not only four Arab capitals, but it also holds Washington captive. (…)  First of all, it’s not clear how Iran can accept any permanent agreement with the White House about the nuclear program, or anything else, for that matter. From Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ perspective, a deal might empower President Hassan Rouhani at their expense. From Rouhani’s perspective, a deal might make him, a so-called moderate, superfluous as someone who’s already played his role. Most important, there is the point of view of Khamenei, which partakes of the historic rationale of the Islamic Republic. Its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini promised one thing—not to raise the standard of living or educate women, nor even to hasten the return of the Mahdi, but rather that the life of a genuine Muslim rested on the pillar of resistance against the godless, the arrogant West, especially America. Signing an accord with the Great Satan would undermine the fundamental legitimacy of the regime. Obama wants a deal with Iran so much in large part because he doesn’t think the United States should be the world’s policeman—and he’s right. Our oil and natural gas industry won’t make us energy independent but it makes us less dependent and we simply don’t need that high a profile in a part of the world that has seldom returned our love. So, why keep shedding blood and spending money—as well as domestic political capital—in the Middle East? The answer is not that we need to look out for the world’s interests, but that we need to continue protecting our own. A nuclear weapon in the hands of an expansionist regime doesn’t get the United States out of the Middle East. It puts Iran on our doorstep, by turning the clerical regime into an aggressive global nuclear-armed power. There can’t be much question by now about what Iran has in mind for the Middle East, or for other countries that it enlists in its schemes, like Argentina. What Iran wants makes the world a more dangerous place for Americans. The question is not whether there’s a deal to be had with Iran, but if it’s too late to crash the comprehensive agreement the White House has already struck with our new regional partner—whose sickening consequences are plain to see. Lee Smith

Et si la queue se révélait plus maline que le chien ?

Refus de bombarder la Syrie, hostilité contre ses alliés israéliens et égyptiens ou à présent français, abandon de l’Irak, de la Libye et maintenant, sans armes ni bagages, du Yemen, fourniture de renseignement au Hezbollah …

A l’heure où le monde se gratte la tête devant une politique étrangère américaine de plus en plus déroutante

Qui, après Baghdad, Damas et Beirut, vient de livrer avec Sanaa pas moins de quatre capitales arabes à son prétendu pire ennemi

Et réussit l’exploit, comme l’expliquait le Figaro il y a deux ans, de réunir à nouveau contre elle « une intéressante alliance des «faucons» de facto entre Paris, Jérusalem, le Congrès et les monarchies du Golfe » …

Pendant que pour avoir tenté d’alerter le monde sur le danger nucléaire iranien, le Premier ministre sortant israélien se voyait accuser de « remuer le chien »

Comment ne pas repenser …

A la lecture de la brillante déconstruction de la doctrine Obama sur l’Iran par l’ancien conseiller de George Bush Michael Doran …

A cette excellente comédie de Barry Levinson de la fin des années 90 (Wag the dog – titre français: Des hommes d’influence) …

Où, selon l’expression anglaise du titre, un président américain n’était pas loin de lancer une guerre pour détourner l’attention médiatique d’une histoire de moeurs risquant de menacer sa réélection ?

Sauf que le chien dont il faudrait cette fois détourner l’attention (graal de la diplomatie américaine depuis plus de 40 ans) ne serait autre que l’entente avec un régime …

Qui ne peut tout simplement pas renoncer, sans signer son arrêt de mort immédiat, à sa vitale capacité de nuisance …

Et que la queue censée servir de diversion ne serait rien de moins que la discussion sur l’acquisition par ce dernier…

De l’arme nucléaire ?

Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy
The president has long been criticized for his lack of strategic vision. But what if a strategy, centered on Iran, has been in place from the start and consistently followed to this day?
Michael Doran
Mosc
Feb. 2 2015

About the author
Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council. He is finishing a book on President Eisenhower and the Middle East. He tweets @doranimated.

President Barack Obama wishes the Islamic Republic of Iran every success. Its leaders, he explained in a recent interview, stand at a crossroads. They can choose to press ahead with their nuclear program, thereby continuing to flout the will of the international community and further isolate their country; or they can accept limitations on their nuclear ambitions and enter an era of harmonious relations with the rest of the world. “They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it,” the president urged—because “if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication . . . inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power.”

How eager is the president to see Iran break through its isolation and become a very successful regional power? Very eager. A year ago, Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national-security adviser for strategic communication and a key member of the president’s inner circle, shared some good news with a friendly group of Democratic-party activists. The November 2013 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the “P5+1”—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—represented, he said, not only “the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian [nuclear] issue,” but “probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.” For the administration, Rhodes emphasized, “this is healthcare . . . , just to put it in context.” Unaware that he was being recorded, he then confided to his guests that Obama was planning to keep Congress in the dark and out of the picture: “We’re already kind of thinking through, how do we structure a deal so we don’t necessarily require legislative action right away.”

Why the need to bypass Congress? Rhodes had little need to elaborate. As the president himself once noted balefully, “[T]here is hostility and suspicion toward Iran, not just among members of Congress but the American people”—and besides, “members of Congress are very attentive to what Israel says on its security issues.” And that “hostility and suspicion” still persist, prompting the president in his latest State of the Union address to repeat his oft-stated warning that he will veto “any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo [the] progress” made so far toward a “comprehensive agreement” with the Islamic Republic.

As far as the president is concerned, the less we know about his Iran plans, the better. Yet those plans, as Rhodes stressed, are not a minor or incidental component of his foreign policy. To the contrary, they are central to his administration’s strategic thinking about the role of the United States in the world, and especially in the Middle East.

Moreover, that has been true from the beginning. In the first year of Obama’s first term, a senior administration official would later tell David Sanger of the New York Times, “There were more [White House] meetings on Iran than there were on Iraq, Afghanistan, and China. It was the thing we spent the most time on and talked about the least in public [emphasis added].” All along, Obama has regarded his hoped-for “comprehensive agreement” with Iran as an urgent priority, and, with rare exceptions, has consistently wrapped his approach to that priority in exceptional layers of secrecy.

From time to time, critics and even friends of the president have complained vocally about the seeming disarray or fecklessness of the administration’s handling of foreign policy. Words like amateurish, immature, and incompetent are bandied about; what’s needed, we’re told, is less ad-hoc fumbling, more of a guiding strategic vision. Most recently, Leslie Gelb, a former government official and past president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has charged that “the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national-security policy,” and has urged the president to replace the entire inner core of his advisers with “strong and strategic people of proven . . . experience.”

One sympathizes with Gelb’s sense of alarm, but his premises are mistaken. Inexperience is a problem in this administration, but there is no lack of strategic vision. Quite the contrary: a strategy has been in place from the start, and however clumsily it may on occasion have been implemented, and whatever resistance it has generated abroad or at home, Obama has doggedly adhered to the policies that have flowed from it.

In what follows, we’ll trace the course of the most important of those policies and their contribution to the president’s announced determination to encourage and augment Iran’s potential as a successful regional power and as a friend and partner to the United States.

2009-2010: Round One, Part I

In the giddy aftermath of Obama’s electoral victory in 2008, anything seemed possible. The president saw himself as a transformational leader, not just in domestic politics but also in the international arena, where, as he believed, he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. To say that Obama regarded Bush’s foreign policy as anachronistic is an understatement. To him it was a caricature of yesteryear, the foreign-policy equivalent of Leave It to Beaver. Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland, an arena in which the United States assembled global military coalitions to defeat enemies whom it depicted in terms like “Axis of Evil,” and into Obamaworld, a place more attuned to the nuances, complexities, and contradictions—and opportunities—of the 21st century. In today’s globalized environment, Obama told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, “our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. . . . No balance of power among nations will hold.”

If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation.
For the new president, nothing revealed the conceptual inadequacies of Bushland more clearly than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Before coming to Washington, Obama had opposed the toppling of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; once in the U.S. Senate, he rejected Bush’s “surge” and introduced legislation to end the war. Shortly after his inauguration in January 2009, he pledged to bring the troops home quickly—a commitment that he would indeed honor. But if calling for withdrawal from Iraq had been a relatively easy position to take for a senator, for a president it raised a key practical question: beyond abstract nostrums like “no nation can . . . dominate another nation,” what new order should replace the American-led system that Bush had been building?

This was, and remains, the fundamental strategic question that Obama has faced in the Middle East, though one would search his speeches in vain for an answer to it. But Obama does have a relatively concrete vision. When he arrived in Washington in 2006, he absorbed a set of ideas that had incubated on Capitol Hill during the previous three years—ideas that had received widespread attention thanks to the final report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan congressional commission whose co-chairs, former secretary of state James Baker and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, interpreted their mission broadly, offering advice on all key aspects of Middle East policy.

The report, published in December 2006, urged then-President Bush to take four major steps: withdraw American troops from Iraq; surge American troops in Afghanistan; reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli “peace process”; and, last but far from least, launch a diplomatic engagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its junior partner, the Assad regime in Syria. Baker and Hamilton believed that Bush stood in thrall to Israel and was therefore insufficiently alive to the benefits of cooperating with Iran and Syria. Those two regimes, supposedly, shared with Washington the twin goals of stabilizing Iraq and defeating al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadi groups. In turn, this shared interest would provide a foundation for building a concert system of states—a club of stable powers that could work together to contain the worst pathologies of the Middle East and lead the way to a sunnier future.

Expressing the ethos of an influential segment of the foreign-policy elite, the Baker-Hamilton report became the blueprint for the foreign policy of the Obama administration, and its spirit continues to pervade Obama’s inner circle. Denis McDonough, now the president’s chief of staff, once worked as an aide to Lee Hamilton; so did Benjamin Rhodes, who helped write the Iraq Study Group’s report. Obama not only adopted the blueprint but took it one step further, recruiting Vladimir Putin’s Russia as another candidate for membership in the new club. The administration’s early “reset” with Russia and its policy of reaching out to Iran and Syria formed two parts of a single vision. If, in Bushland, America had behaved like a sheriff, assembling a posse (“a coalition of the willing”) to go in search of monsters, in Obamaworld America would disarm its rivals by ensnaring them in a web of cooperation. To rid the world of rogues and tyrants, one must embrace and soften them.

How would this work in the case of Iran? During the Bush years, an elaborate myth had developed according to which the mullahs in Tehran had themselves reached out in friendship to Washington, offering a “grand bargain”: a deal on everything from regional security to nuclear weapons. The swaggering Bush, however, had slapped away the outstretched Iranian hand, squandering the opportunity of a lifetime to normalize U.S.-Iranian relations and thereby bring order to the entire Middle East.

Obama based his policy of outreach to Tehran on two key assumptions of the grand-bargain myth: that Tehran and Washington were natural allies, and that Washington itself was the primary cause of the enmity between the two. If only the United States were to adopt a less belligerent posture, so the thinking went, Iran would reciprocate. In his very first television interview from the White House, Obama announced his desire to talk to the Iranians, to see “where there are potential avenues for progress.” Echoing his inaugural address, he said, “[I]f countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”

Unfortunately, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, ignored the president’s invitation. Five months later, in June 2009, when the Green Movement was born, his autocratic fist was still clenched. As the streets of Tehran exploded in the largest anti-government demonstrations the country had seen since the revolution of 1979, he used that fist to beat down the protesters. For their part, the protesters, hungry for democratic reform and enraged by government rigging of the recent presidential election, appealed to Obama for help. He responded meekly, issuing tepid statements of support while maintaining a steady posture of neutrality. To alienate Khamenei, after all, might kill the dream of a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations.

If this show of deference was calculated to warm the dictator’s heart, it failed. “What we intended as caution,” one of Obama’s aides would later tell a reporter, “the Iranians saw as weakness.” Indeed, the president’s studied “caution” may even have emboldened Tehran to push forward, in yet another in the long series of blatant violations of its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), with its construction of a secret uranium enrichment facility in an underground bunker at Fordow, near Qom.

When members of Iran’s Green Movement appealed to Obama for help in 2009, he responded meekly—after all, to alienate Khamenei might kill the dream of a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations.
This time, Obama reacted. Revealing the bunker’s existence, he placed Khamenei in a tough spot. The Russians, who had been habitually more lenient toward the Iranian nuclear program than the Americans, were irritated by the disclosure of this clandestine activity; the French were moved to demand a strong Western response.

But when Khamenei finessed the situation by adopting a seemingly more flexible attitude toward negotiations, Obama quickly obliged. Delighted to find a receptive Iranian across the table, he dismissed the French call for toughness, instead volunteering a plan that would meet Iran’s desire to keep most of its nuclear infrastructure intact while proving to the world that it was not stockpiling fissile material for a bomb. In keeping with his larger aspirations, the president also placed Moscow at the center of the action, proposing that the Iranians transfer their enriched uranium to Russia in exchange for fuel rods capable of powering a nuclear reactor but not of being used in a bomb. The Iranian negotiators, displaying their new spirit of compromise, accepted the terms. Even President Ahmadinejad, the notorious hardliner, pronounced himself on board.

Obama, it seemed to some, had pulled off a major coup. Less than a year after taking office, he was turning his vision of a new Middle East order into a reality. Or was he? Once the heat was off, Khamenei reneged on the deal, throwing the president back to square one and in the process weakening him politically at home, where congressional skeptics of his engagement policy now began lobbying for more stringent economic sanctions on Tehran. To protect his flank, Obama tacked rightward, appropriating, if with visible reluctance, some of his opponents’ rhetoric and bits of their playbook as well. In 2010, he signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), which eventually would prove more painful to Iran than any previous measure of its kind.

In later years, whenever Obama would stand accused of being soft on Iran, he would invariably point to CISADA as evidence to the contrary. “[O]ver the course of several years,” he stated in March 2014, “we were able to enforce an unprecedented sanctions regime that so crippled the Iranian economy that they were willing to come to the table.” The “table” in question was the negotiation resulting in the November 2013 agreement, known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), which we shall come to in due course. But masked in the president’s boast was the fact that he had actually opposed CISADA, which was rammed down his throat by a Senate vote of 99 to zero.

Once the bill became law, a cadre of talented and dedicated professionals in the Treasury Department set to work implementing it. But the moment of presumed “convergence” between Obama and his congressional skeptics proved temporary and tactical; their fundamental difference in outlook would become much more apparent in the president’s second term. For the skeptics, the way to change Khamenei’s behavior was to place him before a stark choice: dismantle Iran’s nuclear program—period—or face catastrophic consequences. For Obama, to force a confrontation with Khamenei would destroy any chance of reaching an accommodation on the nuclear front and put paid to his grand vision of a new Middle East order.

2011-2012: Round One, Part II

“The hardest cross I have to bear is the Cross of Lorraine,” Winston Churchill supposedly cracked about managing his wartime relations with Charles de Gaulle. As Obama sees it, his hardest cross to bear has been the Star of David, represented by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

To the Israelis, who have long regarded Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, Obama’s engagement policy was misguided from the start. Their assessment mattered, because influential Americans listened to them. What was more, American Jews constituted an important segment of the Democratic party’s popular base and an even more important segment of its donors. In the election year of 2012, for Obama to be perceived as indifferent to Israeli security would jeopardize his prospects of a second term—and hardly among Jews alone.

When the Israelis threatened to attack Iran, Obama responded by putting Israel in a bear hug. From one angle, it looked like an expression of friendship. From another, like an effort to break Netanyahu’s ribs.
The Israelis did more than just criticize Obama; they also threatened to take action against Iran that would place the president in an intolerable dilemma. In 2011, Ehud Barak, the defense minister at the time, announced that Iran was quickly approaching a “zone of immunity,” meaning that its nuclear program would henceforth be impervious to Israeli attack. As Iran approached that zone, Israel would have no choice but to strike. And what would America do then? The Israeli warnings grew ever starker as the presidential election season heated up. Netanyahu, it seemed, was using the threat of Israeli action as a way of prodding Washington itself to take a harder line.

To this challenge, Obama responded by putting Israel in a bear hug. From one angle, it looked like an expression of profound friendship: the president significantly increased military and intelligence cooperation, and he insisted, fervently and loudly, that his policy was to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by all means possible. With the aid of influential American Jews and Israelis who testified to his sincerity, Obama successfully blunted the force of the charge that he was hostile to Israel.

From another angle, however, the bear hug looked like an effort to break Netanyahu’s ribs. Even while expressing affection for Israel, Obama found ways to signal his loathing for its prime minister. During one tense meeting at the White House, for example, the president abruptly broke off to join his family for dinner, leaving Netanyahu to wait for him alone. In mitigation, Obama supporters would adduce ongoing friction between the two countries over West Bank settlements and peace negotiations with the Palestinians. This was true enough, but the two men differed on quite a number of issues, among which Iran held by far the greatest strategic significance. In managing the anxieties of his liberal Jewish supporters, Obama found it useful to explain the bad atmosphere as a function of Netanyahu’s “extremism” rather than of his own outreach to Iran—to suggest, in effect, that if only the hothead in the room would sit down and shut up, the grownups could proceed to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem along reasonable lines.

The tactic proved effective. At least for the duration, Obama prevented Israel from attacking Iran; preserved American freedom of action with regard to Iran’s nuclear program; and kept his disagreements with the Israeli government within the comfort zone of American Jewish Democrats.

If, however, Netanyahu was Obama’s biggest regional headache, there was no lack of others. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was certainly the most consequential. Obama had assumed that the king would welcome his approach to the Middle East as a breath of fresh air. After all, the Baker-Hamilton crowd regarded the Arab-Israeli conflict as the major irritant in relations between the United States and the Arabs. Bush’s close alignment with Israel, so the thinking went, had damaged those relations; by contrast, Obama, the moment he took office, announced his goal of solving the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all, and followed up by picking a fight with Netanyahu over Jewish settlements in the West Bank. How could the Saudis react with anything but pleasure?

In fact, they distanced themselves—bluntly and publicly. While meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the end of July 2009, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal announced that Obama’s approach to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict “has not and, we believe, will not lead to peace.” Behind that statement lay a complex of attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, but much more than that. At the end of the Bush administration, King Abdullah had made his top regional priority abundantly clear when, according to leaked State Department documents, he repeatedly urged the United States to destroy Iran’s nuclear program and thereby “cut off the head of the snake” in the Middle East.

When Obama strode into office and announced his desire to kiss the snake, the Saudis lost no time in making their displeasure felt. Three months later, the king responded gruffly to an extensive presentation on Obama’s outreach program by Dennis Ross, then a senior official in the State Department with responsibility for Iran. “I am a man of action,” Abdullah said according to a New York Times report. “Unlike you, I prefer not to talk a lot.” He then posed a series of pointed questions that Ross could not answer. “What is your goal? What will you do if this does not work? What will you do if the Chinese and the Russians are not with you? How will you deal with Iran’s nuclear program if there is not a united response?” The questions added up to a simple point: your Iran policy is based on wishful thinking.

As it happens, one traditional American ally in the region was—at least at first—untroubled by Obama’s policy of Iran engagement: the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Indeed, Erdoğan found much to extol in the new American initiative, which dovetailed perfectly with his own foreign policy of “zero problems with [Arab and Muslim] neighbors.” Among other things, Erdoğan meant to establish Ankara as the middleman between the United States and Iran and Syria, Turkey’s traditional adversaries. This vision nested so comfortably within Obama’s planned concert system that Erdoğan quickly became one of the few international personalities with whom Obama developed a close personal rapport.

Contrary to what observers have long assumed, Obama does connect his Iran policy and his Syria policy: just as he showed deference to Iran on the nuclear front, he has deferred to the Iranian interest in Syria.
Soon, however, serious tensions arose. By the summer of 2012, one problem overshadowed all others: Syria—and behind Syria, Iran. Erdoğan watched in horror as the Iranians together with their proxies, Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite militias, intervened in the Syrian civil war. Iranian-directed units were not only training and equipping Bashar Assad’s forces in his battle for survival, but also engaging in direct combat. At the same time, within the Syrian opposition to Assad, a radical Sunni jihadi element was growing at an alarming rate. In short order, the Turks were adding their voice to a powerful chorus—including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf sheikhdoms, and the Jordanians—urgently requesting that Washington take action to build up the moderate Sunni opposition to both Assad and Iran.

The director of the CIA, David Petraeus, responded to this request by America’s regional allies with a plan to train and equip Syrian rebels in Jordan and to assist them once back in Syria. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all supported the Petraeus plan. But Obama rejected it.

Why? Undoubtedly the president had a mix of reasons and possible motives, which were the objects of extensive speculation in the media. But one motive was never included in the list: namely, his fear of antagonizing Iran. For the longest time, it was simply assumed that Obama drew no connection between his Iran policy and his Syria policy. This, however, was not the case. In fact—as we shall see below—just as, from the beginning, he showed deference to Iran on the nuclear front, he showed the same deference to the Iranian interest in Syria.

2013-2014: Round Two, The Secret Backchannel

An ostensible thaw in American-Iranian relations occurred early in the president’s second term. To hear him tell it today, what precipitated the thaw was a strategic shift by Tehran on the nuclear front. In his version of the story—let’s call it the “official version”—two factors account for the Iranian change of heart. One of them was American coercive diplomacy; the other was a new spirit of reform in Tehran. And the two were interrelated. The first, as Obama himself explained in the March 2014 interview cited earlier, had taken the form of “an unprecedented sanctions regime that so crippled the Iranian economy that [the Iranians] were willing to come to the table.” The second was a corollary of the first. The same sanctions regime had also helped bring to power the new government of Hassan Rouhani, whose moderate approach would in turn culminate in the November 2013 signing of the interim nuclear deal, which “for the first time in a decade halts their nuclear program.”

Obama’s version is an after-the-fact cocktail of misdirection and half-truths, stirred by him and his aides and served up with a clear goal in mind: to conceal Round Two of his Iran outreach.

The turning point in the American-Iranian relationship was not, as the official version would have it, the election of Hassan Rouhani in June 2013. It was the reelection of Barack Obama in November 2012.
In early 2013, at the outset of his second term, Obama developed a secret bilateral channel to Ahmadinejad’s regime. When the full impact of this is taken into account, a surprising fact comes to light. The turning point in the American-Iranian relationship was not, as the official version would have it, the election of Hassan Rouhani in June 2013. It was the reelection of Barack Obama in November 2012.

Indeed, the first secret meeting with the Iranians (that is, the first we know of) took place even earlier, in early July 2012, eleven months before Rouhani came to power. Jake Sullivan, who at the time was the director of policy planning in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, traveled secretly to Oman to meet with Iranian officials. The Obama administration has told us next to nothing about Sullivan’s meeting, so we are forced to speculate about the message that he delivered.

Most pertinent is the timing. At that moment, pressure was mounting on the president to intervene in Syria. Sullivan probably briefed the Iranians on Obama’s strong desire to stay out of that conflict, and may have sought Tehran’s help in moderating Assad’s behavior. But summer 2012 was also the height of the American presidential campaign. Perhaps Sullivan told the Iranians that the president was keen to restart serious nuclear negotiations after the election. Recall that this meeting took place shortly after a hot microphone had caught Obama saying to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important . . . to give me space. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Did Sullivan give the Iranians a similar message? Did he tell Ahmadinejad’s officials that Obama’s need to secure the pro-Israel vote had forced him to take a deceptively belligerent line toward Iran? That Iran had nothing to fear from an Israeli attack? That after the election Obama would demonstrate even greater flexibility on the nuclear issue?

Whatever the answers to these questions, it is a matter of record that Obama opened his second term with a campaign of outreach to Tehran—a campaign that was as intensive as it was secret. By February 2013, a month after his inauguration, the backchannel was crowded with American officials. Not just Sullivan, but Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, National Security Council staffer Puneet Talwar, State Department non-proliferation adviser Robert Einhorn, and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice were all engaging their Iranian counterparts.

According to the official version, this stampede toward Tehran had no impact on Iranian-American relations. Nothing notable occurred in that realm, we are told, until the arrival on the scene of Rouhani. In fact, however, it was during this earlier period that Obama laid the basis for the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action. And that agreement was the product of three American concessions—two of which, and possibly the third as well, were made long before Rouhani ever came to power.

In April 2013, the Americans and their P5+1 partners met with Iranian negotiators in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they offered to relieve the sanctions regime in exchange for the elimination of Iran’s stockpiles of uranium that had already been enriched to 20 percent. This was concession number one, bowing to the longstanding Iranian demand for economic compensation immediately, before a final agreement could be reached. Even more important was concession number two, which permitted the Iranians to continue enriching uranium to levels of 5 percent—this, despite the fact that six United Nations Security Council resolutions had ordered Iran to cease all enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Iranian negotiators rejected these two gifts—or, rather, they pocketed them and demanded a third, the one they coveted the most. Hailing the proposals by their counterparts as a step in the right direction, they criticized them for failing to stipulate the Iranian “right to enrich.” There was a difference, they argued, between temporarily permitting Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent and recognizing its inalienable right to do so. If Obama wanted a deal, he would have to agree to shred the Security Council resolutions by offering, up front, an arrangement that would end the economic sanctions on Iran entirely and that would allow the Iranians to enrich uranium in perpetuity.

By exaggerating the spirit of reform in Tehran, the White House was able to suggest that Iran, and not America, had compromised.
Obama’s acceptance of this condition, the third and most important American gift, is what made the Joint Plan of Action possible. The American negotiators transmitted the president’s acceptance to the Iranians in the backchannel, and then John Kerry sprang it on his hapless negotiating partners in November. We do not know when, precisely, Obama made this offer, but the Iranians set their three conditions before Rouhani took office.

In brief, the Iranian election was hardly the key factor that made the interim deal possible. But it did supply window dressing at home when it came to selling the deal to Congress and the American public. By exaggerating the spirit of reform in Tehran, the White House was able to suggest that Rouhani’s embrace of the deal represented an Iranian, not an American, compromise. In truth, Obama neither coerced nor manipulated; he capitulated, and he acquiesced.

Round Two: Iran, Syria, and Islamic State

The nuclear issue wasn’t the only tender spot in U.S.-Iran relations in this period. Before returning to it, let’s look briefly at two other regional fronts.

Obama’s second term has also included efforts to accommodate Iran over Syria. Susan Rice, by now the president’s national-security adviser, inadvertently admitted as much in an address she delivered on September 9, 2013, a few weeks after Bashar Assad had conducted a sarin-gas attack on Ghouta, a suburb outside Damascus, that killed approximately 1,500 civilians. Reviewing past American efforts to restrain the Syrian dictator, Rice blithely depicted Tehran as Washington’s partner. “At our urging, over months, Russia and Iran repeatedly reinforced our warning to Assad,” she explained. “We all sent the same message again and again: don’t do it.”

Why did Obama back off on strikes against Syria? Could it have been fear of scuttling the biggest—and still secret—foreign-policy initiative of his entire presidency?
Rice’s remarks were disingenuous. In reality, the Islamic Republic was then precisely what it remains today, namely, the prime enabler of Assad’s murder machine. But Rice’s intention was not to describe Iranian behavior accurately. In addition to accustoming the American press and foreign-policy elite to the idea that Iran was at least a potential partner, her speech was aimed at influencing Congress’s deliberation of air strikes against Syria—strikes that Obama had abruptly delayed a week and a half earlier in what will certainly be remembered as one of the oddest moments of his presidency.

The oddity began shortly after Obama sent Secretary of State John Kerry out to deliver a Churchillian exhortation on the theme of an impending American attack. While that speech was still reverberating, the president convened a meeting of his inner circle in the Oval Office, where he expressed misgivings about the policy that his Secretary of State had just announced. Curiously, the meeting did not include either Kerry or Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the principal members of his senior national-security staff. Obama then invited Denis McDonough to break away from the others and join him for a private walk around the White House grounds. On his return, Obama stunned the waiting group with the news that he had decided to delay the strikes on Assad in order to seek congressional approval.

What thoughts did Obama share with McDonough? We can dispense with the official explanation, which stresses the president’s principled belief in the need to consult the legislative branch on matters of war and peace. That belief had played no part in previous decisions, like the one to intervene in Libya. Clearly, Obama was hiding behind Congress in order either to delay action or to kill it altogether. The true reasons for the delay were evidently too sensitive even for the ears of his closest national-security aides. Could they have included fear of scuttling the biggest—and still secret—foreign-policy initiative of his second term, possibly of his entire presidency?

In the event, the punt to Congress bought Obama some time, but at a significant political cost. At home the decision made him appear dithering and weak; on Capitol Hill, Democrats quietly fumed over the way the White House was abruptly ordering them out on a limb. In Syria, Assad crowed with delight as his opponents crumpled in despair. Elsewhere, American allies felt exposed and vulnerable, wondering whether Obama would ever truly come to their aid in a pinch.

As we know, Obama’s quandary would become Moscow’s opportunity. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered the president a way to regain his balance. Russia and the United States, Lavrov proposed, would cooperate to strip Assad of his sarin gas. From the sidelines, the Iranians publicly applauded the proposal, and Obama jumped to accept it.

But the deal was a quid pro quo. In return for a minor (though highly visible) concession from Assad, Obama tacitly agreed not to enter the Syrian battlefield. In effect, the Russians, Assad, and the Iranians were offering him, and he was accepting, surrender with honor, enabling him to say later, with a straight face, that the episode was a successful example of his coercive diplomacy. “Let’s be very clear about what happened,” he bragged in his March 2014 interview. “I threatened [sic] kinetic strikes on Syria unless they got rid of their chemical weapons.” In reality, Assad only gained—and gained big. Obama immediately muted his calls for Assad to step down from power, and his behavior thoroughly demoralized the Syrian opposition. Nor did the deal stop Assad from launching further chemical attacks. Once deprived of his sarin stockpiles, he simply switched to chlorine.

During an interview on primetime television shortly after Lavrov offered his country’s help, Obama pointed to Russian and Iranian cooperation with Washington as one of the bargain’s greatest benefits. The “good news,” he said, “is that Assad’s allies, both Russia and Iran, recognize that this [use of sarin] was—this was a breach, that this was a problem. And for them to potentially put pressure on Assad to say, ‘Let’s figure out a way that the international community gets control of . . . these weapons in a verifiable and forcible way’—I think it’s something that we will run to ground.”

This was fictive. Obama made it sound as if Tehran was eager to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. Even as he was speaking, Iran was publicly blaming the Syrian rebels, not Assad, for the Ghouta attack. Nor was stopping the slaughter ever the president’s true goal. From his perspective, he did not have the power to prevent Assad’s atrocities. He did, however, have the sense to recognize a good thing when he saw it. The opportunity to join with Iran in an ostensibly cooperative venture was too good to let slip away—and so he seized it.

That Obama has treated Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest all along has been brought home in a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. In August 2014, according to the Journal, the president wrote a letter to Ali Khamenei, acknowledging the obstacle to their cooperation presented by the nuclear impasse but taking pains to reassure Khamenei regarding the fate of Assad, his closest ally. American military operations inside Syria, he wrote, would target neither the Syrian dictator nor his forces.

This element of the president’s thinking has received remarkably little attention, even though Obama himself pointed to it directly in a January 2014 interview with David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker. The Arab states and Israel, Obama said then, wanted Washington to be their proxy in the contest with Iran; but he adamantly refused to play that role. Instead, he envisioned, in Remnick’s words, “a new geostrategic equilibrium, one less turbulent than the current landscape of civil war, terror, and sectarian battle.” Who would help him develop the strategy to achieve this equilibrium? “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” the president responded, alluding to the acknowledged godfather of the cold-war strategy of containment. What he truly needed instead were strategic partners, and a prime candidate for that role was—he explained—Iran.

Obama was here revealing his main rationale in 2012 for rejecting the Petraeus plan to arm the Syrian opposition that we examined earlier. Clearly, the president viewed the anti-Assad movement in Syria just as he had viewed the Green Movement in Iran three years earlier: as an impediment to realizing the strategic priority of guiding Iran to the path of success. Was the Middle East in fact polarized between the Iranian-led alliance and just about everyone else? Yes. Were all traditional allies of the United States calling for him to stand up to Iran? Yes. Did the principal members of his National Security Council recommend as one that the United States heed the call of the allies? Again, yes. But Obama’s eyes were still locked on the main prize: the grand bargain with Tehran.

The same desire to accommodate Iran has tailored Obama’s strategy toward the terrorist group Islamic State. That, too, has not received the attention it deserves.

Last June, when Islamic State warriors captured Mosul in northern Iraq, the foreign-policy approval ratings of the president plummeted, and Obama’s critics claimed, not for the first time, that he had no strategy at all. Ben Rhodes sprang to his defense, suggesting that despite appearances to the contrary, the administration actually had a plan, if a hitherto unannounced one. “We have longer-run plays that we’re running,” he said. “Part of this is keeping your eye on the long game even as you go through tumultuous periods.”

The administration has subtly exploited the rise of the Islamic State to elevate Obama’s outreach to Iran. Behind the scenes, coordination and consultation have reached new heights.
Rhodes offered no details, and subsequent events seemed to confirm the impression that Obama actually had no long game. In addition to being caught flat-footed by Islamic State, moreover, he was reversing himself on other major issues: sending troops back to Iraq after having celebrated their homecoming, ordering military operations in Syria that he had opposed for years. How could such reversals be consistent with a long game?

The answer is that the reversals, although real, involved much less than met the eye, and the long game remained in place. In August, it seemed as if the American military was preparing to mount a sustained intervention in both Iraq and Syria; today, however, it is increasingly apparent that Obama has at best a semi-coherent containment plan for Iraq and no plan at all for Syria—a deficiency that was obvious from the start. At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Senator Marco Rubio pointed to the obvious weaknesses in the administration’s approach, and asked John Kerry how to fix them. Kerry stunningly suggested that the gaps would be filled by . . . Iran and Assad. “[Y]ou’re presuming that Iran and Syria don’t have any capacity to take on” Islamic State, Kerry said. “If we are failing and failing miserably, who knows what choice they might make.”

Here, giving the game away, Kerry provided a glimpse at the mental map of the president and his top advisers. The administration has indeed subtly exploited the rise of terrorist enclaves to elevate Obama’s outreach to Iran. Behind the scenes, coordination and consultation have reached new heights.

Meanwhile, so have expressions of dissatisfaction with traditional allies for taking positions hostile to Iran. Our “biggest problem” in Syria is our own regional allies, Vice President Joseph Biden complained to students at Harvard University in early October. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were “so determined to take down Assad” that they were pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons” into the Syrian opposition. A few weeks later, a senior Obama administration official cuttingly described another ally, Israel’s prime minister, as “a chickenshit,” and a second official, similarly on the record, bragged about the success of the United States in shielding the Islamic Republic from Israel. “[U]ltimately [Netanyahu] couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”

Of course, administration officials routinely insist that the United States is not working with Tehran. The coordination, however, is impossible to disguise. Thus, when Iranian jets recently appeared in Iraqi skies, they professed ignorance. Reporters, noting that the jets were flying sorties in the same air space as American jets and striking related targets, asked the Pentagon spokesman how the American and Iranian air forces could work in the same space without colliding. “We are flying missions over Iraq, [and] we coordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those,” said the spokesman. “It’s up to the Iraqi government to de-conflict that airspace.” When Kerry was asked about the news that the Iranian air force was operating in Iraq, he responded that this was a “net positive.”

A positive? With American acquiescence, Iran is steadily taking control of the security sector of the Iraqi state. Soon it will dominate the energy sector as well, giving it effective control over the fifth largest oil reserves in the world. When the announced goal of the United States is to build up a moderate Sunni bloc capable of driving a wedge between Islamic State and the Sunni communities, aligning with Iran is politically self-defeating. In both Iraq and Syria, Iran projects its power through sectarian militias that slaughter Sunni Muslims with abandon. Are there any Sunni powers in the region that see American outreach to Tehran as a good thing? Are there any military-aged Sunni men in Iraq and Syria who now see the United States as a friendly power? There are none.

In theory, one might argue that although an association with Iran is politically toxic and militarily dangerous, the capabilities it brings to the fight against the Islamic State more than compensate. But they don’t. Over the last three years, Obama has given Iran a free hand in Syria and Iraq, on the simplistic assumption that Tehran would combat al-Qaeda and like-minded groups in a manner serving American interests. The result, in both countries, has been the near-total alienation of all Sunnis and the development of an extremist safe haven that now stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Damascus. America is now applying to the disease a larger dose of the snake oil that helped cause the malady in the first place.

The approach is detrimental to American interests in other arenas as well. We received a portent of things to come on January 18 of this year, when the Israel Defense Forces struck a convoy of senior Hizballah and Iranian officers, including a general in the Revolutionary Guards, in the Golan Heights. Ten days later, Hizballah and Iran retaliated. In other words, by treating Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest, Obama is allowing the shock troops of Iran to dig in on the border of Israel—not to mention the border of Jordan. The president’s policy assumes that Israel and America’s other allies will hang back quietly while Iran takes southern Syria firmly in its grip. They will not; to assume otherwise is folly.

Round Three: 2015-

In November 2013, when Obama purchased the participation of Iran in the Joint Plan of Action, he established a basic asymmetry that has remained a key feature of the negotiations ever since. He traded permanent American concessions for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint.

The most significant such gestures by Iran were to dilute its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 percent; to refrain from installing new centrifuges; and to place a hold on further construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. All three, however, can be easily reversed. By contrast, the Americans recognized the Iranian right to enrich and agreed to the principle that all restrictions on Iran’s program would be of a limited character and for a defined period of time. These two concessions are major, and because they are not just the policy of the United States government but now the collective position of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, they will likely never be reversed.

In his negotiations with Iran, the president has traded major American concessions for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint. These concessions will likely never be reversed.
Obama has repeatedly stated, most recently in his 2015 State of the Union address, that the interim agreement “halted” the Iranian nuclear program. Or, as he put it in his March 2014 interview, the “logic” of the JPOA was “to freeze the situation for a certain period of time to allow the negotiators to work.” But the agreement froze only American actions; it hardly stopped the Iranians from moving forward.

For one thing, the JPOA restricts the program only with respect to enrichment capacity and stockpiles; it is entirely silent about the military components: ballistic missiles, procurement, warhead production. For another, to call what the JPOA achieved even in these limited domains “a freeze” is a gross exaggeration. Iranian nuclear scientists have continued to perfect their craft. They are learning how to operate old centrifuges with greater efficiency. And thanks to a loophole in the JPOA permitting work on “research and development,” they are also mastering the use of new, more effective centrifuges.

Therefore, the Iranian nuclear program is poised to surge ahead. The moment the JPOA lapses—a date first scheduled for July 2014, then rescheduled to November 2014, then re-rescheduled to June 30 of this year, possibly to be re-re-rescheduled yet again—Iran will be in a stronger position than before the negotiations began. This fact gives Tehran considerable leverage over Washington during the next rounds.

We can say with certainty that Obama has had no illusions about this asymmetry—that he conducted the negotiations with his eyes wide open—because the White House took pains to hide the truth from the American public. In 2013, instead of publishing the text of the JPOA, it issued a highly misleading fact sheet. Peppered with terms like “halt,” “roll back,” and “dismantle,” the document left the impression that the Iranians had agreed to destroy their nuclear program.

The Iranian foreign minister, however, refused to play along. He protested—loudly and publicly. “The White House version both underplays the [American] concessions and overplays Iranian commitments,” Javad Zarif correctly told a television interviewer. “The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again.” He defied the interviewer to “find a . . . single word that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text.”

President Rouhani went even further. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, he emphasized not just that Iran had refused to destroy centrifuges within the terms of the JPOA, but that it would never destroy them “under any circumstances.” Currently Iran has approximately 9,000 centrifuges installed and spinning, and roughly 10,000 more installed but inactive. Until Rouhani made his statement, the Obama administration had led journalists to believe that the final agreement would force the Iranians to dismantle some 15,000 centrifuges.Rouhani disabused the world of those expectations.

“This strikes me as a train wreck,” a distraught Zakaria exclaimed after the interview. “This strikes me as potentially a huge obstacle because the Iranian conception of what the deal is going to look like and the American conception now look like they are miles apart.” Not long thereafter, as if to confirm the point, Ali Khamenei called for an outcome that will permit the development of an industrial-sized nuclear program over the next decade.

Khamenei’s hard line no doubt came as a surprise to Obama. When the president first approved the JPOA, he failed to recognize a key fact: his twin goals of liberating Iran from its international isolation and stripping the Islamic Republic of its nuclear capabilities were completely at odds with each other. From Obama’s perspective, he was offering Khamenei an irresistible deal: a strategic accommodation with the United States. Iran analysts had led the president to believe that Khamenei was desperate for just such an accommodation, and to achieve that prize he was searching only for a “face-saving” nuclear program—one that would give him a symbolic enrichment capability, nothing more. What soon became clear, however, was that Khamenei was betting that Obama would accommodate Iran even if it insisted on, and aggressively pursued, an industrial-scale program.

In theory, Khamenei’s intransigence could have handed Obama an opportunity. He could admit the “train wreck”—namely, that Round Two of his Iran engagement had followed the disastrous pattern set by Round One—and begin working with Congress and our despairing allies to regain lost leverage. This he obviously declined to do. Instead, he has chosen to keep the negotiating process alive by retreating further. Rather than leaving the table, he has paid Iran to keep negotiating—paid literally, in the form of sanctions relief, which provides Iran with $700,000,000 per month in revenue; and figuratively, with further concessions on the nuclear front.

Over the last year, Obama has reportedly allowed Iran to retain, in one form or another, its facilities at Natanz, Fordow, and Arak—sites that Iran built in flagrant violation of the NPT to which it is a signatory. This is the same Obama who declared at the outset of negotiations that the Iranians “don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. . . . And so the question ultimately is going to be, are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements that they’ve made.” The answer to his question, by now, is clear: the Iranians will not roll back anything.

The president believes that globalization and economic integration will induce Tehran to forgo its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile Iran’s rulers are growing stronger, bolder, and ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity.
For a majority in Congress, and for all of America’s allies in the Middle East, this fact is obvious, and it leads to an equally obvious conclusion: the only way to salvage the West’s position in the nuclear negotiations is to regain the leverage that the president’s deferential approach has ceded to Iran. With this thought in mind, a large group of Senators is currently supporting legislation that will make the re-imposition of sanctions mandatory and immediate if the Iranians fail to make a deal by the time the current term of the JPOA lapses.

In an effort to bolster that initiative, Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington to address Congress on Iran. Netanyahu accepted the invitation without first consulting the White House, which reacted in a storm of indignation, describing the move as an egregious break in protocol and an insult to the president. Instead of trying to paper over the disagreement, Obama has done everything in his power to advertise it. In making his personal rift with Netanyahu the subject of intense public debate, the White House means to direct attention away from the strategic rift between them—and from the fact that the entire Israeli elite, regardless of political orientation, as well as much of the U.S. Congress, regards the president’s conciliatory approach to Iran as profoundly misguided.

Meanwhile, the president is depicting his congressional critics as irresponsible warmongers. He would have us believe that there are only two options: his undeclared détente with Iran and yet another war in the Middle East. This is a false choice. It ignores the one policy that every president since Jimmy Carter has pursued till now: vigorous containment on all fronts, not just in the nuclear arena. Obama, however, is intent on obscuring this option, and for a simple reason: an honest debate about it would force him to come clean with the American people and admit the depth of his commitment to the strategy whose grim results are multiplying by the day.

As a matter of ideology as much as strategy, Obama believes that integrating Iran into the international diplomatic and economic system is a much more effective method of moderating its aggressive behavior than applying more pressure. Contrary to logic, and to all the accumulated evidence before and since the November 2013 interim agreement, he appears also to believe that his method is working. In his March 2014 interview, he argued that his approach was actually strengthening reformers and reformist trends in Tehran: “[I]f as a consequence of a deal on their nuclear program,” he said, “those voices and trends inside of Iran are strengthened, and their economy becomes more integrated into the international community, and there’s more travel and greater openness, even if that takes a decade or 15 years or 20 years, then that’s very much an outcome we should desire.”

Perhaps the president is correct. Perhaps globalization will remove the roughness from the Islamic Republic just as ocean waves polish the jagged edges of shells. If so, however, it will happen on much the same, oceanic schedule. In the meantime, the seasoned thugs in Tehran whom the president has appointed as his strategic partners in a new world order grow stronger and bolder: ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity, ever more confident in their hegemonic objectives. On condition that they forgo their nuclear ambitions, the president has offered them “a path to break through [their] isolation” and become “a very successful regional power.” They, for their part, at minuscule and temporary inconvenience to themselves, have not only reaped the economic and diplomatic rewards pursuant to participation in the JPOA but also fully preserved those nuclear ambitions and the means of achieving them. Having bested the most powerful country on earth in their drive for success on their terms, they have good reason to be confident.

Voir aussi:

What the President Thinks He’s Doing
The ideological roots of his disastrous Iran strategy.
Response
Elliott Abrams
Feb. 9 2015

About the author
Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he maintains a blog, Pressure Points. He is the author of, most recently, Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

President Obama’s foreign policy cannot be understood or defended as an effort to advance American national interests as they are normally understood.  By any usual definition—strengthening of allies, defeat of enemies, military advances, nuclear nonproliferation—his administration’s policies have been disastrous. That leads logically to the question: “Well, what does the president think he’s doing?”

In “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” Michael Doran has tried to answer this question, and has offered a superb analysis. No one has more persuasively explained the connections between that strategy’s various parts, such as the president’s inaction in Syria and his hostility toward Israel, and the primary Obama goal of a rapprochement with Iran. Doran is especially effective in analyzing policy toward the Assad regime: “Obama has treated Syria as an Iranian sphere of interest all along,” and in his August 2014 letter to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei took “pains to reassure Khamenei regarding the fate of Assad, [the latter’s] closest ally. American military operations inside Syria . . . would target neither the Syrian dictator nor his forces.”

If I have one disagreement with Doran, it is over the origins of Obama’s approach to foreign policy. According to Doran, Obama “believed he had been elected to reverse the legacy of his predecessor, George W. Bush,” and “Obama’s mission was to guide America out of Bushland.” What was the origin of these beliefs and this mission? In arguing that “Obama does have a relatively concrete vision,” Doran points out that on joining the Senate in 2006, “he absorbed a set of ideas that had incubated on Capitol Hill during the previous three years—ideas that had received widespread attention thanks to the final report of the Iraq Study Group.”

In fact, Obama came to Washington with his beliefs about American foreign policy and our role in the world already well set in his mind, and needed no guidance from the Iraq Study Group. We were given some insight into those basic beliefs early in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. While in Iowa in 2007, as Politico reported at the time, he visited Adair County,

making a stop in the hometown of one of the saints of the American left, one-time vice president and Progressive-party presidential candidate Henry Wallace. “We’ve got some progressives here in Adair. I’m feeling really good now,” Obama said. . . . “That’s quite a lineage there. . . . It’s a blessing.”

This, about the man whom FDR dumped from the 1944 ticket for his espousal of leftist causes, the man who ran against Truman and the Democratic party in 1948, and who argued that peace with the Soviet Union only required more American understanding and outreach in place of militarism and cold-war hostility.

Given all we know, I would argue that Obama’s mission is to guide America not only out of Bushland (as Doran puts it) but out of Rooseveltland, Kennedyland, and Clintonland—and indeed to reverse most of the foreign-policy legacy of his own party, with the exception of that of Wallace and its 1972 candidate for the presidency, George McGovern. The ideas espoused by Obama “incubated” decades ago, and were most likely adopted back at Columbia University or in the Chicago kitchen of his friends of Weathermen fame, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.

Doran refers several times to Obama’s “strategic vision.” I would prefer the term “ideology.” The enduring hold of that ideology is visible not only in his Iran policy but also, most recently, with respect to Cuba. There, too, he has reversed decades of American foreign policy, and has done so, as in the case of Iran, without seeking any deep concessions from the Castro regime.

In concluding the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action with Iran, Doran notes, Obama accepted a “basic asymmetry,” trading permanent American concessions [in exchange] for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint.” Similarly, in Cuba, Obama’s recent deal—call it another “Joint Plan of Action”—abandons previous American demands for real political change on the island prior to any lifting of the embargo. And just as he has offered his regrets to Tehran for the (long exaggerated) American role in the 1953 overthrow of the Mossadegh government, so too has he expressed apologies—in this case, in a telephone call with Raul Castro—“for taking such a long time” to change U.S. policy. In both instances, Obama has acted not to advance American national interests but to make amends for U.S. policies and actions that he views as the immoral and retrograde detritus of the “cold-war mentality.”

Of course, Obama’s defenders acknowledge none of this. Instead, they invoke his putatively superior understanding of reality.  As Doran paraphrases it, the president believes that, over time, “integrating Iran [and, I would add, Cuba] into the international diplomatic and economic system is a much more effective method of moderating its aggressive behavior than applying more pressure.” Obama and his supporters also assert that, in any event, the only alternative to his approach is war. Doran rightly dismisses both arguments. One need only look at the success of the Reagan administration in dealing with the Soviet Union to know that military power, strong alliances, and ideological clarity—what Doran refers to as “vigorous containment on all fronts”—do not lead to war. They lead to success.

Doran concludes his essay on a very pessimistic note: “Having bested the most powerful country on earth in their drive for success on their terms, [the Iranians] have good reason to be confident.” Allow me to conclude on a more optimistic note: they have reason to be confident for now, but current policy may not outlast Obama. It remains to be seen whether, after January 20, 2017, the American people and their leaders in Washington will really permit a nation of 70 million, with a third-rate military and a damaged economy, to dominate the Middle East and threaten all of our allies and interests there.

Voir de même:

The Obama Doctrine
An ideological aversion to American power is at the core of the president’s foreign policy.
Response
Eric Edelman
Feb. 16 2015

About the author
Eric Edelman, a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, is Hertog distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Michael Doran’s long essay in Mosaic, “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” and Elliott Abrams’s response to it, “What the President Thinks He’s Doing,” command the attention of anyone seriously interested in the administration’s policies and plans for the Middle East. I agree with Abrams that Doran’s analysis is superb, and that “no one has more persuasively explained the connections” among the various parts of the Iran policy being pursued by the White House.

I’m also in broad agreement with Doran’s conclusion: namely, that “the only way to salvage the West’s position in the nuclear negotiations is to regain the leverage that the president’s deferential approach has ceded to Iran.” As I testified in late January before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, rather than actively seeking Iran’s partnership, the United States must be willing to compete with it:

On one level, this requires a change in tone. The administration must emphasize its readiness to exert more pressure on Iran instead of exerting pressure on Congress with talking points that come “straight out of Tehran,” according to a ranking member of the Senate. On another level, the United States must respond more robustly to Tehran’s ongoing efforts to shift the balance of power in the Middle East. Rather than asking its cooperation and blessing—especially in Iraq and Syria—the United States should undertake every possible effort to isolate Iran in its own backyard.

Concerning one point, the origins of Obama’s “secret” strategy, Abrams takes issue with Doran, suggesting that they can be found less in the work of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, whose report was issued in 2006, than in Obama’s overarching, “progressive” aversion to American power and its uses in the world, an ideological stance that connects many points of reference in the president’s life from Henry Wallace to George McGovern to Reverend Jeremiah Wright to Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn. That both Doran and Abrams are correct, each in his own way, emerges from an examination of the White House’s larger global strategy. This, as it happens, is the subject of an excellent new study, The Obama Doctrine, by Colin Dueck, forthcoming from Oxford in May.

In Dueck’s judgment, Obama’s approach to the world is predicated first and foremost on his bedrock intention to be a “transformational” president. The transformation in question is largely domestic—hence his preoccupation with the Affordable Care Act, which remakes a rather large swath of the American economy. Abroad, and in aid of the main focus on his domestic agenda (“nation-building at home”), the president’s overwhelming objective has been to keep international affairs at bay. But when world events do inevitably impose themselves, Obama is no less confident of his unique ability to exert a transformational impact. “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” Doran quotes him as saying, an attitude fully in keeping with his expressed view that “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

How, then, does the president mean to execute his global transformation? As Dueck sees it, the strategy is twofold: retrenchment, and accommodation. Retrenchment means liquidating some of what Obama construes to be overinvestments the U.S. has made around the world, particularly in the Middle East, while also reducing the strength of the U.S. military—since, in his view, our temptation to resort to military force has itself been responsible for many of the world’s ills. Accommodation, in turn, means reaching out and “engaging” America’s adversaries, thereby turning them, in the common phrase, from part of the problem into part of the solution.

Understanding this strategy of retrenchment and accommodation is a useful vehicle for explaining many apparently discrete episodes in Obama’s tenure, from the early “strategic reassurance” of China, to the “reset” of relations with Russia, and of course to the “open hand” approach to Tehran that Michael Doran dissects so well. It also clarifies the chronic neglect of allies, and it illuminates, as Abrams rightly underlines, the president’s chronic need—the political equivalent of Tourette syndrome—to express regret and apologize publicly for past exercises of American power in pursuit of our national interests.

As for the tactical implementation of the strategy in individual cases, that has been delegated to individuals like Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes, who helped write the Iraq Study Group report. Doran, it seems to me, is correct to see that document as key to grasping the administration’s Iran policy, and to the coherent, step-by-step unfolding of that policy, though perhaps less so to understanding the larger strategy as a whole.

Is any of this a “secret,” as Doran suggests? When it comes to the ultimate sources of Obama’s views and his conduct in national-security affairs, the evidence has been hiding in plain sight since before he was elected. As Abrams points out in his response to Doran, and more extensively in a profound essay, “The Citizen of the World Presidency,” in Commentary (September 2013), those sources were implicit in the president’s personal history and in his various mentors and associates as he came to political maturity. Moreover, he and his acolytes have continued to articulate his ideas in public documents and, usually without attribution, in comments to the press. Doran’s essay itself is replete with such quotations from Obama and his staff.

In the case of Iran, the veil of secrecy has descended not over the conception or expression of Obama’s strategy but over his diplomacy, which Doran masterfully untangles. But that, in and of itself, does little to distinguish him from other presidents. Nor, in itself, is the outreach to Iran a new thing in our politics. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates used to say, every administration since Jimmy Carter’s has come a cropper in the vain search for Iranian moderates.

What distinguishes Obama is the ideological aversion to American power and the formulation of a strategy whose overriding impetus is to constrain that power. The scandal is not that the administration has kept this a secret but that a supine press and intellectual class have failed—“declined” may be the better (if much too polite) word—to explain it to the American people.

Voir encore:

What They’re Saying about « Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy »
Michael Doran’s essay provoked a “firestorm in the policy world.” Here’s a roundup of arguments for and against his thesis.

Official White House photo, Pete Souza.
Response
The Editors
Feb. 19 2015

In the week-and-a-half since it’s been published, Michael Doran’s “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy” has provoked an extraordinary degree of public debate, from Washington, D.C. to Jerusalem to, perhaps, Tehran. In addition to the invited responses from, so far, Elliott Abrams and Eric Edelman, we’ve collected some of the more notable public comments for the benefit of readers who may have missed them. Clips from each and links are below.

Next week, Doran, per Mosaic custom, will have the last word. For those who can’t wait to hear more from him, he can be caught discussing his essay on radio. You can listen to him on the Hugh Hewitt Show here (along with an appearance by Lee Smith) or on Voice of Israel’s Yishai Fleisher Show here or in the player at the bottom of this post.

“Who to Believe on Iran: Obama or Netanyahu?” by David Horovitz, Times of Israel

“Either, as asserted in articles such as Michael Doran’s ‘Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,’ the Obama administration is in the grip of a blinding ideological fog. . . . Or, as asserted by the prime minister’s critics, Benjamin Netanyahu is misrepresenting the dangers and those around him are mischaracterizing the terms being negotiated.”
“Why the White House Is Getting Lonelier on Iran” by Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

As my colleague Michael Doran has recently pointed out in an article that contributed to the rising disquiet about the administration’s Iran strategy, the approach to Iran has been the centerpiece of the administration’s Middle East strategy from 2009 to the present day.
“This Is the Best Explanation of What Conservatives Don’t like about Obama’s Foreign Policy” by Zack Beauchamp, Vox

Though Doran’s argument “relies on a real degree of unevidenced speculation about what happened within closed-door administration meetings to guide these policies,” it’s “an essential window into the politically salient mainline conservative criticism of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy.”
“Why Obama Won’t Talk About Islamic Terrorism” by David Frum, The Atlantic

Michael Doran “reminds us of a revealing line from a profile of the Obama administration’s foreign policy decision making: ‘The thing we spent the most time on’ was also the thing ‘we talked least about in public.’ In that case, the ‘thing’ was the project to achieve détente with Iran. But other projects also signal their importance by going undiscussed, and near the top of that list is the Obama administration’s distinctive counter-terrorism policy.”
“A Return to the Middle Eastern Great Game” by Martin Indyk, Brookings

“Without [a nuclear] agreement, it is impossible to imagine cooperation with Iran on regional issues; with an agreement, collaboration on issues of common interest becomes possible, much as Obama is reported to have suggested in his November 2014 letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader and much as some conservative commentators mistakenly believe is already taking place.”
“Lack of Clarity,” by the editorial staff of the Jerusalem Post

“Doran and others may or may not be right. There is very little to go on. What we do know is that during negotiations with Iran, the P5+1, led by America, has shown a worrying willingness to accommodate the Iranians.”
“Losing the Forest of Iran Policy for the Trees of a Nuclear Deal” by Michael Koplow, Ottomans and Zionists

“There has been tons of discussion over the past week about Mike Doran’s recent voluminous piece in Mosaic. . . . I have quibbles with some of his details and sub-arguments, but I find the overarching thesis convincing: that the White House’s ultimate goal is to turn Iran into an ally based on the view that the U.S. and Iran are natural partners with a set of common interests.”
“Obama’s Party Line: Radical Islam Denial” by Jamie Kirchick, The Daily Beast

“Downplaying global anti-Semitism fits in with the president’s broader Middle East strategy, which consists of distancing the United States from its traditional ally in the region, Israel, while opening its doors to historic enemy, Iran. The history and reasoning behind this policy is explained in a new, magisterial essay in the online magazine Mosaic by Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran.”
“Worse than No Strategy” by Clifford D. May, Washington Times

“Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has not just speculated about Mr. Obama’s ‘secret strategy.’ He has painstakingly combed through the record and produced a 9,000-word report persuasively establishing that Mr. Obama, since early in his presidency, has been in pursuit of a “comprehensive agreement” that would allow Iran to become what the president has called ‘a very successful regional power.’”
“Obama’s Quest for a Grand Bargain with Iran Seems Unwise” by Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

Doran makes “a powerful case” that “‘a grand bargain with Iran’ has been and remains the central goal of Obama’s foreign policy. . . . Just as George W. Bush thought Iraqis were yearning for American-style democracy and capitalism, so Obama seems to be assuming that Iran seeks to be an American-style power, prosperous and generous-minded.”
“Why Does Obama Crave a Grand Bargain with Iran?” by Paul Mirengoff, Powerline

“Important commentators have come around to the view that [I] have long expressed — that President Obama is in thrall to Iran and that the nuclear negotiations aren’t really about curbing Iran’s nuclear capacity, but rather about striking a grand bargain with the mullahs. Michael Doran’s excellent essay in Mosaic, which was one of our Power Line “picks,” is a good example of recent commentary to this effect.
“The ‘New York Times’ Violates My Protocol” by Liel Liebovitz, Tablet

As Doran shows “in his factually grounded analysis of Obama’s Iran policy, when it comes to negotiating with the Islamic Republic, the Obama Administration is committed to keeping everyone in the dark.”
“Nuclear Dreams: Iran Now Controls Four Arab Capitals, Plus Washington, D.C.” by Lee Smith, Tablet

As Michael Doran “meticulously lays out in his recently published tour-de-force ‘Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,’ the U.S.-Iran partnership that is reshaping the Middle East has been in the making since Obama first came to office.”
“Imad Mughniyeh and Obama’s Covert War” by Max Boot, Commentary

“As Michael Doran argues in Mosaic, President Obama is carrying out a secret strategy to court Iran.”
“Relax, Iran Is Not Taking Over the Middle East” by Alireza Nader, The National Interest

“The conflicts in the Middle East are much more complex than ‘Iran on the march’ theories would have us believe. A diplomatic resolution of the nuclear issue can allow Washington more room to deal with Iran’s regional influence.”

The Reform Delusion
Bright people in Washington have long dreamed about the possibility of a reformed Iran. Barack Obama is just the latest.

Response
Reuel Marc Gerecht
Feb. 23 2015
About the author
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former case officer in the CIA with responsibility for Iranian recruitments.

Barack Obama has been eager for an Iranian diplomatic breakthrough since the beginning of his presidency, and Michael Doran, in “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” has trenchantly laid out a chronology of the president’s aspirations. It’s hard, however, to find anything particularly secret about them.

A perdurable myth among much of the American left and American “realists” alike is that the United States and the Islamic Republic ought to be able to find a strategic modus vivendi. Remember the attempt by Bill Clinton and his secretary of state Madeleine Albright to engage Mohammad Khatami, the mild-mannered, sincerely cheerful “dialogue-of-civilizations” mullah who unexpectedly won the Iranian presidency in 1997. Arming his diplomacy with contrition, Clinton not only apologized for the CIA-supported 1953 coup against prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, he apologized for the West’s untoward actions against Persia for the last 150 years.

Recurringly optimistic, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman often writes about the logic behind improving Iranian-American relations. For his part, the indefatigable, gimlet-eyed traveler Robert Kaplan is another dogged believer that behind the mullahs’ anti-American religious rants lies a geostrategic reality that must, sooner and not later, bind the Americans and Iranians again in common cause. The informal Track II diplomacy, so-called, which for years has revolved around former American ambassadors Thomas Pickering and William Luers and the New York-based Asia Society, is a fascinating experiment by American “pragmatists” socializing with pleasant, usually powerless, and sometimes mendacious Iranians. As Doran points out, such “realist” sentiments, amplified by an acute desire to run away from Mesopotamia, were also behind the Iraq Study Group’s 2006 recommendations for a renewed American outreach to the Islamic Republic.

There was obviously nothing secret in President Obama treading this well-worn path. It would have been shocking if he, who is allergic to machtpolitik, American hegemony, and the antagonisms that have defined American foreign policy since World War II, did not try to solve the primary strategic enmity in the region.

True, there may be something secret in the mechanics of how the president has consistently sought to extend an olive branch. We don’t know, for instance, what he wrote in his letters to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. We don’t know whether he promised to back away from any aggressive action against Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic Republic’s principal Arab client, as a means to entice the Supreme Leader into a direct, more friendly dialogue with the United States. But it’s not necessary to posit that his do-nothing policy in Syria flowed more from Iranian calculations than from his overall determination to disengage the United States militarily from the region. There may be an overlap in the president’s mind, but odds are good that when he ran away from his own red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, he did so without much Persian daydreaming.

Doran assumes and accentuates calculations and ulterior motives behind Obama’s actions. Concerning the nuclear negotiations, he writes: “[B]y exaggerating the spirit of reform in Tehran, the White House was able to suggest that Iran, not America, had compromised.” I am not so sure. In Washington people are usually well-intentioned, and, when it comes to the Islamic Republic, often just dumb. An impressive number of bright people in Washington have repeatedly gone gaga over the possibility of reform in Iran since 1979.

There are many reasons for this behavior: an inability of Westerners to deal with—treat seriously—religion and religious regimes; lingering guilt over American support for the shah; the left’s tendency to side with Third Worlders; and the undeniable warmth, hospitality, and wit that Iranians often show to visiting Americans. The Western media regularly conflate the anger at theocratic rule displayed by young, college-educated Iranians with the real, though hardly pro-Western, dissent among some clerics and lay revolutionaries from the camp around Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the former major domo of political clerics and the formative force behind the nuclear-weapons program.

Moreover, this hopeful but errant analysis is often unintentionally reinforced by American right-wingers who draw caricatures of Iranian theocrats and Iran’s religious culture that strip the former of their Persian sensibilities and the latter of its rampant, oh-so-human hypocrisies. Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, isn’t a Persian-speaking Osama bin Laden, and when right-wingers suggest that he is, sensible people can get a little nervous.

It is entirely possible for President Obama and intelligent, dedicated, patriotic, senior Democratic officials to have sincerely believed that President Hassan Rouhani possibly signaled a new age in U.S.-Iran relations. If well-meaning and Persian-speaking academics can ignore the mountain of primary material about Ali Khamenei’s ferocious hatred of the United States and the West, or about Rouhani’s pivotal role in Iran’s nuclear-weapons quest and in the regime’s unrivaled use of terrorism and assassination abroad, then it’s easy for extremely busy government officials, who don’t have much time to read boring English translations of Iranian speeches, to ignore the historical record. Hope springs eternal in Washington, especially during Democratic administrations.

And let us be clear: Hassan Rouhani and his American-educated foreign minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, are talented, at least compared with former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s crowd. They know how to speak to Westerners without setting off civilizational alarm bells. Unlike Ahmadinejad, they don’t talk about their glowing visions of the Mahdi, or explicitly deny the Holocaust. In his interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Rouhani prevaricated about the Holocaust, but he did it in such a way (he said he would let “historians” decide the truth, as if they hadn’t done so already) that his naughtiness slid right by his host.

Above all else, the Washington foreign-policy establishment, both Democratic and Republican, fears military conflict with Tehran over its nuclear program. This omnipresent fear bends analysis. It encourages self-deception. President Obama’s fear of war is palpable and omnipresent—it’s not just a tactic that he regularly deploys to intimidate Democratic members of Congress who fear he is caving in the nuclear negotiations. Although parading one’s anxieties is a self-defeating approach to take with a revolutionary regime built on power politics, it is at least honest.

It’s a very good bet that in all the “secret” letters that Mr. Obama has sent the Supreme Leader, he’s been similarly open about his hopes and anxieties. Since 2009, Khamenei’s quotient for anti-American derision has grown. We don’t have to peer behind the curtain to see why.

Last Word
Michael Doran
Feb. 24 2015
About the author
Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council. He is finishing a book on President Eisenhower and the Middle East. He tweets @doranimated.

I’ve been stunned by the reception of “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy.” In this, the era of the 140-character tweet, I’d assumed that a 9,500-word article would have scant appeal beyond a professional audience. Yet, to date, it has attracted 220,000 unique visitors; journalists from several different countries have called to interview me; I’ve done my share of talk radio; and senior political figures, including presidential hopefuls, have expressed their appreciation.

What accounts for the essay’s reach? Timing is certainly one factor. The Iranian nuclear question is coming to a head—dramatically so. But above all I believe that, for many readers, the essay proved useful in solving the enigma of Barack Obama. In his foreign policy, the president has displayed a mix of initiative and passivity that has confounded efforts at categorization. The framework constructed in “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy” may have helped make sense of a bundle of apparent contradictions; at least I hope so.

In his response to my essay, ” What the President Thinks He’s Doing,” Elliott Abrams graciously accepts most of my analysis but differs with my locating the president’s worldview within the “realist” tradition of American foreign policy. Instead, Abrams sees him as a Henry Wallace radical. In his own response, “The Obama Doctrine,” Eric Edelman observes that Abrams’s view and mine are not mutually exclusive. True enough; it is also entirely possible that Obama finds the realist perspective attractive precisely because it provides him with a politically acceptable cover for his radical commitments. There’s no way of deciding the issue definitively.

Still, I’m not so persuaded as is Abrams that the radical commitments and associations in the president’s past provide the key to understanding his policy in the present. His attitudes, however ingrained, are idiosyncratic, at least in Washington; but in moving the United States substantially closer to the Islamic Republic, he has had the support of an influential segment of the nation’s foreign-policy elite. The list of those sharing the assumptions behind his administration’s Iran agenda is both distinguished and bipartisan, including as it does former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, former Secretary of State James Baker, and former Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering—to name just four prominent individuals. If the president’s approach is to be countered, we must first discredit the arguments of these foreign-policy realists, none of whom has a foot in the Henry Wallace tradition.

Indeed, as Edelman points out, all of Obama’s predecessors in the White House since Jimmy Carter have, in one way or another, succumbed to an Iran delusion. This same point was also made by Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution in a February 19 debate with me over my Mosaic essay. Obama’s diplomacy, she argued, has followed a very well-worn path, and in pursuing it he has adopted the same carrot-and-stick approach, and the resort to back-channel diplomacy, typical of presidents before him.

These surface similarities are real enough, but to focus on them is to turn a blind eye to the ways in which Obama has broken with the past. He has entirely jettisoned the policy of containing Iranian expansionism; made massive and irreversible concessions on the nuclear issue; and, most important of all, placed reconciliation with Tehran at the top of his foreign-policy agenda. No other president has advanced such overtures to Tehran. If Obama’s break with the past is less than total, it has not been for want of effort on his part.

Suzanne Maloney also charged me with exaggerating the element of secrecy in Obama’s actions—and in “The Reform Delusion,” my respondent Reuel Marc Gerecht strongly agrees. Here, however, the facts speak for themselves. Obama was able to reach the November 2013 interim nuclear agreement with Iran only by working behind the back of both Congress and America’s major allies. When he finally made the deal public, he disingenuously claimed that it had “halted” the Iranian nuclear program. To that particular claim, the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column awarded three (out of a possible four) “Pinocchios”: that is to say, it contained “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

Similarly deceptive has been Obama’s stated policy toward Iran’s client Syria. For years, the president has repeatedly insisted that he is working to remove Bashar Assad from power. Amid much fanfare, he has approved programs ostensibly designed to build up the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime. In practice, however, these programs have amounted to very little. Meanwhile, the president has privately assured the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, that the United States will do nothing to weaken Assad. What word if not “secret” better describes the deliberate pursuit of a private policy that nullifies publicly stated aims?

Gerecht also rejects my suggestion that Obama is operating on the basis of an actual strategic plan. In his view, the policy has been much more haphazard than that. On this point he is joined (somewhat incongruously, given their other differences) by Martin Indyk, the director of foreign policy at Brookings. In “A Return to the Middle Eastern Great Game,” Indyk contends that Obama has taken a holiday from any attempt at organizing a consistent American approach to the region. Citing my essay in order to dismiss it, Indyk paints a portrait of Obama as a law professor who treats the issues of Syria, Iraq, and Iran’s nuclear program as separate cases, devising policy toward each without reference to the others. The president, he writes, refuses “to connect the dots.”

As it happens, in “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy” I produced many examples of Obama doing nothing but connecting the dots, and additional evidence to that effect continues to accumulate. For example, a recent Wall Street Journal report quotes senior American officials fearful that any effort to build up the opposition to Assad in Syria would provoke retaliation by Iran to take American lives in Iraq. “You cross a red line in Syria, you start to infringe on what Iran sees as its long-term interest, and those [Tehran-controlled] Shiite militias [in Iraq] could turn in the other direction,” one official says. It is precisely such reasoning that, I argued in my essay, has led Obama to coordinate with Iran behind the scenes.

Indyk emphatically rejects the notion of any such linkage. Indeed, should we fail to reach an agreement with Tehran on its nuclear program, he writes, “it is impossible to imagine cooperation with Iran on regional issues.” Yet no sooner does he assert this than he contradicts it by providing a fresh example of Iranian-American coordination: “Iran’s tacit cooperation with the United States to remove Nouri al-Maliki from power in Baghdad,” Indyk informs us, “proved critical to the viability of America’s strategy against ISIS in Iraq.”

But let’s suppose for a moment that I did exaggerate the extent to which Obama has recognized an Iranian sphere of interest in Syria. What’s striking to me is that Indyk’s analysis still concedes the most important point of all—namely, that Obama’s policies have indeed facilitated the rise of Iran across the Middle East. In the chaos that now engulfs the region, he writes grimly, the United States stands at a crossroads. It must choose immediately between two distinct and opposite strategies: conceding Iran’s dominance and building a condominium with it, or supporting America’s traditional allies against it. In Indyk’s telling, Obama’s mistake lies in his refusal to choose. But why are we standing in front of such a choice if not because we have, willy-nilly, empowered the revolutionary regime in Tehran to its position of dominance?

It seems, then, that on the central issue, Martin Indyk and I are in complete agreement: whether or not on the basis of a strategic plan, the president has placed the United States on a disastrously wrong track. And Indyk and I are again in agreement on what must be done, for, as he convincingly shows, by far the sensible and necessary option is to support America’s traditional allies in a great effort to begin undoing the damage and restoring regional order.

I would like to believe that Indyk’s urgency is a symptom of a growing awareness of the challenge before us in other influential quarters as well. If “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy” has helped foster that awareness, it has performed its primary duty.

Voir encore:

Middle East
Nuclear Dreams: Iran Now Controls Four Arab Capitals, Plus Washington, D.C.
What the burning of a Jordanian pilot reveals about Obama’s flawed Middle East game

Lee Smith

Mosaic

February 5, 2015

The point of burning alive Jordanian pilot First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh was to outrage onlookers, including his family—but especially the members of his large tribe, the Bararsheh, in southern Jordan. The Jordanian tribes form the core of support for the Hashemite kingdom against the Palestinian West Bankers, who may constitute the country’s majority. The East Bankers are also the bulwarks of Jordan’s internal and external security, with both the armed forces and security services made up almost exclusively of tribal members.

To be sure, Kasasbeh’s clansmen are going to be very angry with the Islamic State for killing him in such a gruesome manner. What IS seems to betting on is that Kasasbeh’s death was so gruesome, and so evocative of the hellfire that awaits false believers, that the dead pilot’s tribe, a pillar of the Hashemite monarchy, is likely going to be shocked into wondering whether King Abdullah has pulled them into the wrong war, on behalf of a frivolous and potentially treacherous ally—the United States.

Right now, the Obama Administration sees the Islamic State as a major threat to U.S. national security—and to the political fortunes of President Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party. An episode like the Charlie Hebdo/Hyper Cacher attack played out on the streets of Chicago, say, or New York, would be a catastrophe for the administration, which is why it has enlisted allies like Jordan in its campaign against the deranged jihadists of the fertile crescent.

However, it’s worth understanding how the Hashemites and their loyal tribal subjects understand the new threat. From their perspective, the Islamic State is only one part of a larger regional movement, a Sunni rebellion trying to beat back the Iranian security apparatus that now represses them mercilessly throughout the Levant while controlling four historic Arab capitals—Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sana’a. The wider Sunni rebellion against Persian domination comprises not only lunatic foreign fighters (Chechens, Saudis, Swedes, etc.) but also former elements of Saddam Hussein’s regime as well as—and this is the central fact of the Sunni rebellion—Sunni Arab tribes. In other words, Jordan’s Arab tribes have been enlisted to fight Arab tribes who are fighting against Iran and its allies—who are coordinating their anti-Sunni campaign with the United States.

Jordan’s tribes are hardly alone at this moment in their torment and confusion. The United States has alienated its former Sunni tribal allies in Anbar province and throughout Iraq by conducting air strikes on behalf of sectarian Shiite militias loyal to Iran, which murder Sunni tribesmen with seeming impunity whether they are associated with IS or not. Saudi Arabia is aghast at U.S. support for Iran’s role in Yemen, where the Shia Houtha tribesmen backed by Iran now control the country. Israel nearly got into a shooting war last week because of Hezbollah’s ongoing attempt to implant itself on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, where the Iranian-backed sectarian Lebanese Shia militia operates under cover of U.S. airstrikes and implicit political backing that support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian client. While Egypt fights a war against IS and al-Qaida-backed tribes in Sinai, the White House shuns the country’s leader Gen. al-Sisi in favor of meeting in Washington with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have sworn to overthrow his regime.

That’s a lot of turmoil for America to be stirring up for its erstwhile allies, at a moment where our larger national goal is supposedly a clean exit from the region. So, why is the White House turning the Middle East upside down? Obama is willing to throw away a U.S. framework built by American statesmen, soldiers, businessmen, and educators over the last century because he sees a really big prize out there for the taking—an agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program that will be the linchpin of a new Middle Eastern order, in which Iran will play a major stabilizing role.

The Dream: An agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program will be the linchpin of a new Middle Eastern order, in which Iran will play a major stabilizing role.
The Iran deal that Obama has in mind is going to be so awesomely epic and world-changing that it will easily be worth all the chaos the region is now undergoing—from broken alliances and promises, to the high and rising death toll, massive population transfers, the destruction of ancient cities, and the trauma of an entire generation for whom beheadings and human barbeques have become a normal part of life. The United States is on its way out of the Middle East, which is why we need a reliable regional partner like Iran, with the muscle to make its dictates stick. Yes, the dominant partner in that arrangement will obviously be Iran—especially once the Iranians are free of the sanctions that have crippled their oil industry, and can control the oil resources of their client state in Iraq, as well as provide security in the once-and-future Persian Gulf. But Obama would always have the photographs of his triumphant visit to Tehran to remember his role in crafting a new world order from the tribal mayhem of a region in which Americans once fought and died.

***

But, wait a minute. It seems like it was just yesterday that the government of the United States, its armed forces and clandestine service, had an entirely different set of goals in mind—namely, defending American troops and our allies in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf, and Israel from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, of late the American intelligence community has been reminding us of our recent past through leaks to the Washington Post and Newsweek saying that not all that long ago, in 2008, the agency teamed with the Mossad to kill Hezbollah’s head of operations, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus. The point seems to be that, if the U.S. intelligence community now shares intelligence with Hezbollah and leaks the details of Israeli strikes on Hezbollah convoys, we were once proud to collaborate with our Israeli allies to kill Hezbollah terrorists.

Why does the U.S. intelligence community care about this ancient history? Mughniyeh didn’t just plot the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, among other spectacular terrorist attacks targeting Americans, he also directed the campaign against U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq waged by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

Today, however, Shiite militias like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, and Badr Corps get indirect air support from U.S. warplanes. Before the White House launched its campaign against ISIS in Syria, it told Iran it wasn’t going to attack its ally Bashar al-Assad there—even though Obama called for the Syrian dictator to step down in August 2011. By going after ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other Syrian rebel units, the White House freed up Assad to use his forces elsewhere.

As former George W. Bush White House aide Michael Doran meticulously lays out in his recently published tour-de-force “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” the U.S.-Iran partnership that is reshaping the Middle East has been in the making since Obama first came to office. The most salient point then about the current P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran isn’t the nuclear issue, but the fact that they create a channel to allow both sides to keep talking—which means that all sorts of subjects are going to come up, from Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon to Yemen and maybe even other thorny issues, like Argentina and the Nisman investigation into Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in 1994. U.S. response to everything in the region is now tied to the fate of the Iranian nuclear program, which in turn is simply the linchpin of Obama’s larger vision of a partnership between Washington and Tehran.

Obama may dream of a U.S.-Iran partnership and going skiing in the mountains above Tehran. But what does Obama’s grand vision look like these days from the Iranian side? From Iran’s perspective, then, it controls not only four Arab capitals, but it also holds Washington captive. If Obama pushes back, the Iranians walk away from the table, confounding the U.S. president’s dreams of achieving a historic reconciliation—and maybe worse, leaving him vulnerable to Republican majorities in the House and Senate ready to pounce on an epochal diplomatic failure.

But why does Obama’s vision have to fail? First of all, it’s not clear how Iran can accept any permanent agreement with the White House about the nuclear program, or anything else, for that matter. From Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ perspective, a deal might empower President Hassan Rouhani at their expense. From Rouhani’s perspective, a deal might make him, a so-called moderate, superfluous as someone who’s already played his role. Most important, there is the point of view of Khamenei, which partakes of the historic rationale of the Islamic Republic. Its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini promised one thing—not to raise the standard of living or educate women, nor even to hasten the return of the Mahdi, but rather that the life of a genuine Muslim rested on the pillar of resistance against the godless, the arrogant West, especially America. Signing an accord with the Great Satan would undermine the fundamental legitimacy of the regime.

Obama wants a deal with Iran so much in large part because he doesn’t think the United States should be the world’s policeman—and he’s right. Our oil and natural gas industry won’t make us energy independent but it makes us less dependent and we simply don’t need that high a profile in a part of the world that has seldom returned our love. So, why keep shedding blood and spending money—as well as domestic political capital—in the Middle East?

The answer is not that we need to look out for the world’s interests, but that we need to continue protecting our own. A nuclear weapon in the hands of an expansionist regime doesn’t get the United States out of the Middle East. It puts Iran on our doorstep, by turning the clerical regime into an aggressive global nuclear-armed power. There can’t be much question by now about what Iran has in mind for the Middle East, or for other countries that it enlists in its schemes, like Argentina. What Iran wants makes the world a more dangerous place for Americans. The question is not whether there’s a deal to be had with Iran, but if it’s too late to crash the comprehensive agreement the White House has already struck with our new regional partner—whose sickening consequences are plain to see.

***

Lee Smith is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is also the author of the recently published The Consequences of Syria.

Voir aussi:

VIDÉO. Barack Obama répond au Huffington Post: Israël, Palestine, Netanyahu, nucléaire iranien
Le HuffPost
21/03/2015

INTERNATIONAL – « 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 ». Dans un entretien vendredi 20 mars avec Sam Stein pour The Huffington Post, Barack Obama réitère son objectif d’obtenir un accord sur le dossier du nucléaire iranien « dans les semaines à venir ».

« Il n’y aura pas d’accord tant que tout n’aura pas été résolu », a aussi indiqué le président américain, réfutant les rumeurs selon lesquelles une première ébauche de l’accord circule parmi les cercles autorisés. Les grandes puissances et Téhéran reprendront mercredi 25 mars leurs négociations, après une semaine de tractations marathon qui n’ont pas permis de sceller d’accord avant l’échéance du 31 mars.

« 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 », a aussi dit Barack Obama au Huffington Post.

Le président Obama a promis qu’il ferait tout, y compris militairement, pour empêcher Téhéran d’obtenir la bombe. Mais depuis 2013, il mise sur la diplomatie et a fait d’un rapprochement avec la puissance chiite une priorité. Ce qui met en rage Israël et le Congrès américain.

« Il est évident que beaucoup d’Israéliens se méfient, à juste titre, de leur voisin iranien, a aussi commenté le président américain. 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 ».

Autres sujets de politique étrangère évoqués durant l’entretien, la victoire de Benjamin Netanyahu aux élections législatives anticipées du mardi 17 mars et la création d’un Etat palestinien. « 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 », a dit Barack Obama au Huffington Post.

« J’ai eu l’occasion de parler hier (jeudi 19 mars, ndlr) 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, a indiqué Barack Obama. 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 ». Benjamin Netanyahu a à nouveau rejeté durant les derniers jours de sa campagne la solution à deux États.

« 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 ».

Le président américain a aussi critiqué les propos de Benjamin Netanyahu qui avait dénoncé le « danger » d’un vote massif des Arabes israéliens aux élections législatives. « 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 », a commenté Barack Obama.

Interview traduite par Bamiyan Shiff pour Fast for Word

Voir par ailleurs:

Withdrawal Symptoms
The Bungling of the Iraq Exit

Rick Brennan
Foreign affairs

November/December 2014 Issue

In a speech at Fort Bragg on December 14, 2011, President Barack Obama declared that the U.S. military would soon depart Iraq, ending one of the longest wars in American history. The United States, Obama said, would leave behind “a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” Four days later, the last U.S. military unit crossed from Iraq into Kuwait, and American armed forces transferred all their responsibilities to either the central government of Iraq, U.S. Central Command, or the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, completing the most complex handoff from military to civilian authorities in U.S. history.

The next day, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — who since 2006 had sought to enhance his personal interests and those of Shiite religious parties at the expense of Iraq’s Kurds and Sunni Arabs — secured an arrest warrant for Iraq’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, accusing him of supporting terrorism. A crisis erupted when Hashimi’s Sunni-dominated political bloc boycotted the national unity government that Obama had so recently touted as inclusive and responsive to the Iraqi people.

That same week, 17 explosions rocked Baghdad, killing at least 65 people and wounding more than 200; al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) later claimed responsibility. With Iranian encouragement, Maliki’s government began to systematically target Sunni elites on the basis of trumped-up charges of terrorism or alleged affiliation with the outlawed Baath Party. Sectarian violence soon erupted, and by May 2013, it had reached levels not seen since the waning days of the civil war that engulfed Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Meanwhile, Maliki firmed up his grip on the Iraqi intelligence and security forces, replacing competent Sunni and Kurdish officers whom he mistrusted with Shiites personally loyal to him. He refused to appoint permanent ministers for defense, the interior, and Iraq’s National Security Council, instead controlling those ministries himself through an extraconstitutional organization called the Office of the Commander in Chief. In April 2012, the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani warned that Iraq was moving back toward dictatorship — the one thing, he said, that might lead him to seek Kurdish independence.

Obama had declared an end to the war in Iraq, but the Iraqis hadn’t gotten the memo. By mid-2013, the country appeared to be coming apart at the seams — and the worst was yet to come. By the summer of 2014, Maliki’s misrule had hollowed out the country’s security forces and deeply alienated Iraq’s Sunnis, which made it much easier for the Sunni jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or the Islamic State), the successor to AQI, to cross the border from its strongholds in war-torn Syria and capture a number of major Iraqi cities. ISIS has wantonly slaughtered religious minorities, Shiites, and any Sunnis who have stood in its way; imposed its brutal version of Islamic law on those unlucky enough to live in the swath of territory the group now holds; and released gruesome videos of militants murdering American and other Western hostages.

By any measure, the course of post-American Iraq has been tragic. But the tragedy is deepened by the fact that almost everything that has happened since 2011 was foreseeable — and, in fact, was foreseen by U.S. military planners and commanders, who years earlier cautioned against the complete withdrawal of the nearly 50,000 U.S. troops that still remained in Iraq in 2011. As a senior civilian adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq from 2006 through the end of 2011, I witnessed Obama and senior members of his national security team fail to reach an agreement with the government of Iraq that would have allowed a residual U.S. force to remain there temporarily, and also fail to establish a strategy for how to leave Iraq in a manner that would secure the gains made there during those years. Iraq, its neighbors, the United States, and the rest of the world are now paying the price of those failures.

Whatever lessons can be learned from that mistake won’t be of much help in Obama’s current effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. But those lessons might be applied directly to the question of how to wind down the United States’ even longer-running post-9/11 war, that in Afghanistan. There, Obama still has the chance to avoid making some of the same mistakes and miscalculations that have come back to haunt him in Iraq and that, if current policies remain unchanged, the United States is poised to commit all over again. To do so, Obama will have to summon the political courage to recognize his earlier errors and try not to repeat them. His administration must undertake a complete reassessment of the NATO mission in Afghanistan and the plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2016, long before most experts believe the Afghan government has any chance of maintaining security and stability on its own. At the moment, the final acts of the U.S. war in Afghanistan are following a script remarkably similar to the one that played out in Iraq; Obama must do all he can to arrive at a different ending this time around.

TELL ME HOW THIS ENDS

Making the decision to go to war requires a profound sense of caution and a tremendous amount of planning. Wars often change countries’ internal political and social dynamics and affect both regional and international security. The way a war is fought shapes the postwar security environment. And long before the fighting begins, leaders must consider how it might conclude. As then Major General David Petraeus famously put it in March 2003, as U.S. forces battled their way to Baghdad: “Tell me how this ends.”

It soon became clear that the Bush administration and the U.S. military had failed to properly consider that question. Within 42 days of the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq, American forces had achieved all their combat objectives. But the Pentagon had done very little planning for postconflict stability and support operations, and U.S. forces were unprepared for the lawlessness that followed the collapse of the Iraqi government. Washington’s decisions to pursue a policy of de-Baathification, disband the Iraqi army, and back Shiite politicians with little interest in national reconciliation soon fed a ferocious Sunni insurgency.

Meanwhile, the determination of extremist Shiite militias to exact vengeance for decades of repression at the hands of Sunnis — along with the emergence of a brutal new Sunni jihadist group, AQI — led to extraordinary levels of bloodshed. By 2006, Iraq had descended into a full-blown sectarian civil war. Bush was left with two bad options: withdraw U.S. forces and allow the civil war to rage, or adopt a new strategy to restore basic security in Iraq, committing whatever resources it would take to get the job done.

Bush opted to double down, embracing a counterinsurgency strategy and a temporary “surge” of 30,000 additional U.S. forces. The additional U.S. troops, diplomats, and funding, along with a number of other factors — including the so-called Sunni Awakening, which saw Sunni tribes turn on AQI — pulled Iraq back from the brink of disintegration. By December 2008, the new U.S. strategy had yielded enough security to make political stability seem like a real possibility. Iraq was still a dangerous and dysfunctional place, but by the time Bush left office, he could credibly claim that the new approach had reversed Iraq’s slide into chaos and created the conditions necessary for the country’s survival and potential political, social, and economic development.

Still, two major obstacles stood in the way of a more definitive success. First was the sectarian divide. Maliki had failed to take any serious actions leading toward genuine Shiite-Sunni reconciliation. Instead, he used the success of the surge to solidify his power in Baghdad, all the while enjoying Washington’s firm support. But he mostly ignored American pleas to govern in a less divisive manner and find ways to bring the Sunni minority into the political process. Maliki had also failed to bridge the Arab-Kurdish divide and instead sought to weaken the Kurdistan Regional Government and its security forces. Finally, Maliki allowed Iran to use Iraqi territory to arm, train, and equip hard-line Iraqi Shiite militias. All of this set the stage for the rapid advance of ISIS this past summer and the potential disintegration of the country.

Second, the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement and an associated security agreement between Iraq and the United States — which allowed U.S. forces to stay in Iraq beyond the end of that year, when the un resolution that sanctioned their presence would expire — set a timetable for the eventual withdrawal of all U.S. troops, but it failed to conclude with a permanent status-of-forces agreement to govern U.S. military activities. The temporary security agreement stipulated that the United States would withdraw its forces from all population centers by the end of 2009 and from the entire country by the end of 2011. To secure those terms, Washington had to drop its insistence that U.S. forces enjoy complete immunity from Iraqi law. Instead, in somewhat ambiguous terms, the agreement gave Iraqi authorities legal jurisdiction over cases in which U.S. service members were accused of committing serious, premeditated felonies while off duty and away from U.S. facilities.

In his memoir, Duty, published earlier this year, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that Pentagon lawyers strongly opposed the compromise. But Gates explains that he believed it was worth the risk if it meant that U.S. forces could stay in Iraq past 2008. Commanders in the field were also comfortable with the compromise; after all, since members of the U.S. armed forces are on duty 24 hours a day and are not permitted to leave their bases unless on a mission, there was little chance that an American marine or soldier would ever wind up in the hands of Iraqi authorities.

According to Gates, both Washington and Baghdad believed the 2008 agreement represented an interim step that would be modified before the 2011 withdrawal deadline in ways that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Iraq to advise and assist their Iraqi counterparts. But in the years that followed, uncertainty about the Obama administration’s willingness to leave a residual force in Iraq, the turbulent Iraqi political system, and the sensitive issue of legal immunity for U.S. service members created serious stumbling blocks to developing a longer-term arrangement.

WE CAN’T GO ON, WE’LL GO ON

Just over a month after taking office in 2009, Obama delivered a major speech at Camp Lejeune reaffirming his campaign pledge to end the U.S. war in Iraq and laying out a timetable for withdrawal consistent with Bush’s agreement to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011. At the same time, however, Pentagon officials were telling U.S. military leaders in Iraq that the president remained open to the idea of keeping troops there beyond 2011 for noncombat missions if doing so were necessary to secure the gains made in recent years. As a result, the military had to plan to strictly abide by Bush’s 2008 agreement (and thus also fulfill Obama’s campaign promise to end the U.S. war) while quietly developing other options just in case the president chose to modify his policy and renegotiate the agreement.

By late 2009, General Raymond Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, concluded that the goals of U.S. policy in Iraq could not be achieved by the end of 2011. He shared this assessment with officials at U.S. Central Command and the Pentagon and with the staff of the National Security Council. He and his staff also provided candid reports and briefings, classified and unclassified, to members of Congress. Despite the efforts of Odierno and others, however, a large gap had opened up between the strategic goals articulated by the Obama administration and the resources and time the White House was willing to commit to achieving them.

Domestic politics in Iraq also complicated the picture: parliamentary elections were set to take place in March 2010, and the Obama administration decided to postpone discussions with Iraqi officials about keeping any U.S. forces in the country until after a new government had taken shape. But the elections did not prove to be the clarifying moment the administration had hoped for: instead, they devolved into a divisive legal and political battle that took nine months to resolve. Finally, in November 2010, Iraq’s parliament appointed Maliki to a second term as prime minister. But the political fight had fostered animosity and a lack of trust throughout the Iraqi political system, aggravating deep sectarian divisions within the parliament. Soon after forming a government, Maliki broke many of the promises he had made to secure his election. The result was political paralysis, a condition that would later undermine the prospects of resolving the question of a post-2011 U.S. presence in Iraq.

IF YOU LEAVE ME NOW

In September 2010, as the squabbling continued in Baghdad, I helped a group of U.S. military planners conduct an internal assessment of the political, economic, and security situation in the country. Their report painted a fairly grim picture of a country that had emerged from chaos in 2008 only to find itself extremely vulnerable to many enduring threats and pressures. The assessment noted that most Iraqi leaders continued to pursue their agendas through politics and had resisted a return to violence. But the divisive 2010 elections and Maliki’s marginalization of his political opponents and abuse of power raised serious concerns about whether Maliki would place sectarian interests aside and lead an inclusive government. The report warned that in the absence of sectarian reconciliation, Sunni-controlled portions of Iraq and Syria could emerge as a safe haven for terrorists and serve as a breeding ground for a revived Sunni insurgency.

Iraq had made substantial economic progress, but public expectations continued to outpace the central government’s ability to deliver essential services and foster economic stability and growth. The Iraqi economy remained overly dependent on oil revenue, the report said, and Baghdad was planning future spending based on unrealistic projections of future growth. Although the oil industry was a major source of funding for the government, and thus financed public-sector employment, it directly employed only two percent of the Iraqi work force, leaving somewhere between 45 and 60 percent of the work force either underemployed or unemployed. The lack of employment created a major source of social discontent and unrest, especially among young men of military age.

The analysis deemed Iraq’s security environment to be stable but fragile, a judgment that was broadly shared by both military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon. Although AQI had been all but defeated in Iraq, by the end of 2009, it had established a safe haven in Syria and was beginning to rebuild and rebrand itself. (It is important to note that the military planners, although deeply concerned about AQI, did not anticipate the group’s transformation into the jihadist army known today as ISIS — a change that took place between 2012 and 2014 as a result, in part, of the Syrian civil war.)

Meanwhile, Shiite militias — armed, trained, and equipped by Iran — enjoyed strong ties to Iraqi Shiite political parties and constituted a shadow government of sorts that “could one day pose an existential threat to the government of Iraq,” the assessment stated. U.S. military planners also worried about the potential for violence between Arabs and Kurds in the disputed territory that the Kurds consider their historic homeland and where they enjoy a great deal of autonomy; a struggle for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk would be the most likely trigger for a conflict.

Even after years of assistance and training from U.S. advisers, the Iraqi government and security forces were hardly prepared to face such threats. Between 2005 and 2011, the U.S. military provided quarterly reports to Congress warning that the Iraqi military suffered from significant shortfalls that would hinder its ability to defend the country against external threats. The Iraqi security forces were plagued by weak intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing; an inability to sustain combat operations; poor maintenance of equipment and weapons; the lack of a well-developed training program, or even a culture of training; poor command and control of its forces; a lack of sufficient intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets; and a very limited ability to conduct counterterrorism operations without direct support from U.S. Special Forces. The Iraqi air force was even worse off. It had no ability to provide lethal support to Iraqi ground forces in combat; it couldn’t do much besides transport forces from one air base to another.

All this evidence led U.S. military planners in Iraq to one clear conclusion: if U.S. forces completely withdrew by the end of 2011, it would be very difficult for the Iraqis to maintain the fragile gains made since 2007. Strategic failure had been delayed but was “still possible,” the 2010 internal assessment concluded. In the absence of U.S. forces and concerted political pressure from Washington, the central government in Baghdad would become ever more corrupt, sectarian, and acquiescent to Tehran, setting the stage for a revival of the Sunni insurgency, a resurgence of AQI, and the end of the relative stability that the United States had worked so hard to foster.

If that sounds familiar, that is because it is an accurate description of the current situation in Iraq. Put bluntly, U.S. military planners anticipated with eerie accuracy the dreadful state of affairs that exists there today.

A MODERATE RISK

According to numerous reports, including accounts published by former Obama administration officials, U.S. military planners believed that to prevent the disaster they feared would engulf Iraq if the central government had to stand on its own after 2011, a significant number of American forces — around 24,000 — would have to remain in Iraq past 2011. The proposed plan called for the military to reassess the situation sometime between 2014 and 2016 to determine whether a continuing presence was necessary to achieve the goals approved by both Bush and Obama. The planners judged that this course presented a “moderate risk” of harm to U.S. forces and of mission failure — a level of uncertainty they deemed acceptable given the importance of the objectives.

The planners were requesting a continued investment in a place that most Americans, including political elites across the ideological spectrum, hoped would never again consume much of Washington’s time, energy, or money. But the planners believed that the wide range of challenges facing Iraq — and the terrible nature of the worst-case scenario — justified the expense.

For Iraq to sustain the progress made in the security sector, they argued, U.S. forces would need to continue to advise, train, and assist all elements of Iraq’s security forces. The planners also argued that the United States needed to keep its forces in Iraq to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to Baghdad; to help counter what the 2010 assessment described as “Iran’s malign influence”; and to have a moderating effect on Maliki’s sectarian inclinations.

The U.S. military would also need to help Iraq maintain control of its airspace until it was capable of doing so on its own. Since 2003, the United States had protected Iraqi airspace, and the planners believed that U.S. forces should continue to do so with an F-16 squadron stationed at Al Asad Air Base, in Anbar Province. Although U.S. planners considered the Iraqi Special Operations Forces to be high performing by regional standards, they concluded that their counterterrorism missions still required U.S. assistance in intelligence and aviation support, especially for night operations.

U.S. military planners also believed that American forces would have to remain on the border of the Kurdish region to help prevent conflict between the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish forces known as the Pesh Merga. The planners further noted that al Qaeda militants often traveled through the corridor that runs between the city of Mosul, in northern Iraq, and Diyala Province, in the country’s east. To secure the area, the military planners recommended that U.S. forces continue to work alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces to jointly man 22 checkpoints along that route.

RUNNING THE NUMBERS

In January 2011, Gates met with James Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq; Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and General Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. As Gates recounts in his memoir, Austin argued that he would need at least 20,000 troops to remain in Iraq after 2011 for a transitional period that would last between three and five years. Anticipating resistance from the White House to the idea of such a large residual force, Gates directed Austin to prepare options below 20,000 troops. And indeed, in April, Obama directed Austin to develop a plan that would result in a residual force of just 8,000 to 10,000 troops and to identify the missions that a force of that size could realistically accomplish.

In early June, Obama participated in a secure videoconference with Maliki — his first conversation with the Iraqi prime minister in over a year. According to an administration official, Obama conveyed the U.S. desire to maintain a partnership with Iraq but did not discuss any specific force numbers. Meanwhile, Maliki was discussing with other Iraqi leaders the idea of allowing 8,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, according to remarks made in August 2011 by Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States at the time, in an interview with Foreign Policy. Most of those leaders understood that Iraq was not yet ready for the U.S. military to totally disengage, but they were determined to avoid any infringement, real or perceived, on the country’s sovereignty. A recurring theme in the discussions between Maliki and U.S. negotiators was the Iraqis’ desire for their American “guests” to be subject to Iraqi law — the same issue that had dogged negotiations between Maliki and Bush in 2008.

In August, according to Jeffrey, Obama informed him that he was free to start negotiations with the Iraqis to keep 5,000 U.S. service members in Iraq: 3,500 combat troops who would be stationed on yearlong tours of duty and 1,500 special operations forces who would rotate in and out every four months. This residual force would include support personnel for half a squadron of F-16s that would be stationed at Al Asad Air Base. Obama rejected the military’s call for a large-scale presence to continue training the Iraqi army and to secure the Arab-Kurdish border area near Kirkuk. Obama believed that the number of troops he proposed would allow the United States to continue collecting intelligence, cooperating with the Iraqis on counterterrorism, training elements of the Iraqi army, and periodically monitoring the checkpoints established three years earlier in the Kurdish border region.

But Obama also made it clear that his plan would require the Iraqi parliament to formally request that the U.S. military stay in Iraq and to agree to a status-of-forces agreement that would grant legal immunity to all U.S. troops remaining in Iraq beyond 2011. In early September, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns visited Iraq to press Maliki on both those issues. According to a former administration official familiar with what happened during the meeting, Maliki told Burns that although he could likely persuade Iraq’s parliament to request a residual force, anyone who believed that the parliament would approve a status-of-forces agreement that included complete immunity did not understand Iraqi politics. Instead, Maliki proposed signing an executive memorandum granting immunity without the need to gain parliamentary approval. White House lawyers rejected that offer, arguing that for any such agreement to be legally binding, it would have to be formally ratified by the Iraqi parliament.

In early October, as Maliki had predicted, the parliament approved the request for an extended U.S. military presence but declined to grant legal immunity to U.S. military personnel. Later that month, Obama told Maliki that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, in fulfillment of the terms of the agreement signed by the Bush administration in 2008.

A number of commentators have concluded that the Obama administration was negotiating in bad faith, making an offer that it knew would be politically toxic in Iraq. Had Obama wanted to maintain a residual force in Iraq, he could have accepted Maliki’s compromise proposal. This compromise would have incurred some risk, since Iraqi law clearly required parliamentary approval. However, in the nearly three years since Bush had agreed to a similar compromise, no U.S. service member or civilian official stationed in Iraq had been charged with violating an Iraqi law. It is also worth pointing out that the U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq today count on a promise of immunity backed only by a diplomatic note signed by the Iraqi foreign minister — an assurance even less solid than the one Maliki offered (and Obama rejected) in 2011.

DEGRADE AND DESTROY

After Obama announced his decision, U.S. commanders in Iraq conducted what they called a “war termination assessment,” to measure the degree to which the military had achieved its objectives. According to military planners who worked on the assessment, the large majority of those goals could best be described as incomplete, and some of them would take many years — even a generation — to achieve. The Iraqi military, for example, was still three to five years away from being able to independently sustain the gains made during the past four years.

Many of the goals remained unfulfilled thanks to Iraq’s internal divisions and the poor performance of Iraqi leaders; others were stymied by neighboring countries such as Iran. But the military planners’ scorecard made one thing perfectly clear: by 2011, enough information was available to conclude that absent a significant U.S. military presence, within a few years, the situation in Iraq was likely to deteriorate — perhaps irreversibly.

Of course, at that point, few foresaw the significant negative effect that the Syrian civil war would soon have on the security situation in Iraq. However, had a residual U.S. force stayed in Iraq after 2011, the United States would have had far greater insight into the growing threat posed by ISIS and could have helped the Iraqis stop the group from taking so much territory. Instead, ISIS’ march across northern Iraq took Washington almost completely by surprise.

Iraq now presents Obama with no good options — as it did Bush before him. Obama’s plan is for the United States to lead an international coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. The U.S. military will provide intelligence, a limited number of U.S. advisers, and air support to ground forces that will come from other countries. This plan is unlikely to succeed, not least because it creates few incentives for the other partners in the coalition to accept the costs and risks that the United States is unwilling to take on itself. Unless the United States decides to take more direct action, including the deployment of some U.S. combat troops and special operations forces, the rebooted “coalition of the willing” in Iraq will likely prove to be little more than a coalition of the uncommitted.

DÉJÀ VU

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the administration still has a chance to avoid a repeat of its Iraq experience. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the appropriate lessons have yet been learned.

For example, there is a growing mismatch between the United States’ objectives in Afghanistan and the resources and time that Washington has given its military forces and diplomats to achieve them. The stated goal of the NATO mission is “to create the conditions whereby the Government of Afghanistan is able to exercise its authority throughout the country, including the development of professional and capable Afghan National Security Forces.” But little evidence exists to suggest that NATO will be able to achieve that goal by the end of 2016, when all U.S. and NATO forces are scheduled to depart. In fact, a congressionally mandated independent assessment of the Afghan security forces completed in January 2014 by the Center for Naval Analyses identified the same types of capability gaps that existed in the Iraqi security forces in 2011. Most credible estimates suggest that those gaps cannot be filled until at least 2018.

After the planned departure of NATO and U.S. forces in 2016, the security situation in Afghanistan will likely deteriorate and could ultimately pose an existential threat to the government in Kabul. Unless something changes, the disaster that has unfolded in Iraq in recent months is on track to repeat itself — and in a few years, Washington might face yet another wrenching decision about whether to reengage militarily in a combat zone that Americans thought they had left behind for good.

Before heading down that route, the Obama administration should conduct a comprehensive strategic assessment that includes a detailed analysis of how the Afghan security environment will likely develop between 2014 and 2018. Meanwhile, the Pentagon should weigh which of Washington’s objectives in Afghanistan have been achieved and measure the risks of withdrawing U.S. forces before the remaining objectives have been met, developing a new strategy for Afghanistan and the region to mitigate the costs and risks. The United States should lead the same type of strategic review within NATO to determine the extent to which it is necessary and feasible to maintain a NATO training mission in the country beyond 2016.

If Obama decides to stick with his current plan to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, his administration must develop a clearer strategy for how to maintain the gains made there without U.S. and NATO forces on the ground. At the moment, it is unclear how the United States or its allies intend to help the Afghan government maintain security on its own. The plan to withdraw completely seems blind to the transformational — and almost certainly negative — impact that the exit of U.S. and NATO forces and capabilities will have on Afghanistan’s internal political and security dynamics.

Even without pursuing a major strategic overhaul, the administration should at the very least take the crucial step of creating a so-called transitional embassy in Kabul. After U.S. forces withdraw, the U.S. embassy should house a “dual-hatted” chief of security assistance: a military officer who would manage the State Department’s role in facilitating arms sales to Afghanistan and also advise, train, and assist Afghan security forces. (In 2011, U.S. military officials recommended creating such a position within the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in the wake of the American withdrawal, but that idea was rejected by the State Department and the White House.) Creating this position would allow some U.S. military infrastructure to remain in place, not only to aid Afghan security forces but also to allow for a more rapid redeployment of U.S. forces should the transition go badly.

In critical respects, Afghanistan today looks quite a lot like Iraq did in 2011. The United States prepares to withdraw its forces while a weak, divided, corrupt central government sputters and flails. Meanwhile, an extremist insurgent group grows stronger in safe havens across the border in a fractious, unstable state. Just substitute Kabul for Baghdad, the Taliban for ISIS, and Pakistan for Syria, and the pictures line up quite well. And without a dramatic shift in strategy and policy, a few years after U.S. and NATO forces leave Afghanistan, the country will look quite a lot like Iraq does today. The Obama administration must act swiftly, or else it risks losing a second war by once again departing before the job is done.

Voir également:

Alors qu’Obama le courtise, Khamenei répond par « mort à l’Amérique »
Juif.org
22.03.15

Deux jours seulement après que président américain Barack Obama ait exhorté le peuple iranien à profiter d’une « occasion unique » pour résoudre la question nucléaire, une foule iranienne a scandé samedi « mort à l’Amérique », avec le « guide suprême » tout à fait d’accord avec ce slogan.

Selon Reuters, l’ayatollah Ali Khamenei a fait un discours dans le nord de l’Iran, où il a accusé les Etats-Unis d’utiliser la pression économique et l’intimidation pour essayer de tourner ses compatriotes contre le régime islamique.

Khamenei, qui a le dernier mot sur toutes les questions de l’état iranien, a rappelé dans son discours que Téhéran ne pliera pas face aux pressions pour céder aux exigences des pays occidentaux sur son nucléaire.

Khamenei a dénoncé les sanctions et ce qu’il décrit comme les puissances occidentales « arrogantes », les blâmant ainsi que les acteurs régionaux pour la réduction de moitié du prix du pétrole depuis juin dernier, ce qui a encore plus mis sous pression l’économie iranienne.

A ce moment, selon Reuters, un homme dans le public a crié « mort à l’Amérique », ce à quoi le dictateur islamiste a répondu : « bien entendu, 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. »

Khamenei a contesté le message fait par Obama aux Iraniens, dans lequel le président a déclaré que les pourparlers nucléaires représentaient la meilleure occasion depuis des décennies de poursuivre une relation différente entre les deux pays.

Il a rejeté l’affirmation d’Obama qu’il y avait des gens en Iran qui se tenaient contre une solution diplomatique à la question nucléaire.

« C’est un mensonge. Il n’y a pas une personne en Iran qui ne veuille pas une solution à la question nucléaire, résolution par des négociations. Ce que le peuple iranien ne veut pas c’est l’imposition et l’intimidation de l’Amérique, » a-t-il dit, selon Reuters.

« L’autre partie dit ‘allons négocier et vous acceptez tous les détails de ce que nous disons’… Ni nos dirigeants, ni notre équipe de négociation, ni le peuple d’Iran qui est derrière eux ne vont accepter cela, » a ajouté Khamenei.

« Mort à l’Amérique » est souvent chanté par les foules lors des rassemblements en Iran. En fait, le slogan est scandé depuis plus de trois décennies à tous les événements publics, y compris la prière du vendredi.

Alors qu’il y a eu des appels à s’abstenir de ces chants, au vu des tentatives de l’Iran de convaincre le monde qu’il est devenu plus modéré, les chefs religieux de l’Iran ont rejeté ces appels, affirmant que le slogan « reflète la doctrine islamique de la résistance à l’impérialisme, et symbolise également la force de l’Iran. »

Les Gardiens de la Révolution ont récemment dit clairement que les Etats-Unis « sont toujours le grand Satan et l’ennemi numéro un de la révolution (islamique), et la république islamique et la nation iranienne… ne permettront jamais que la dignité et l’indépendance de la patrie islamique soient menacées et lésées par la volonté des ennemis. »

Voir aussi:

Israeli officials say US anger aims to distract from Iran deal
Jerusalem downplays Obama’s dismay with the apparent Netanyahu rejection of 2-state solution, says Washington knows the Palestinians, not Israel, sank peace talks
Raphael Ahren
The Times of Israel
March 22, 2015

The US administration’s comments calling into question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution are intended to divert the public’s attention from the prospective nuclear deal with Iran, senior officials in Jerusalem said Sunday.

Ties between Jerusalem and Washington appeared to hit a new low over the last week, with US officials speaking of supporting Palestinian overtures at the UN after Netanyahu appealed for right-wing support ahead of election day by saying he would not allow a Palestinian state.

But sources in Jerusalem indicated that Sunday that they believed the US was using the issue to distract from a controversial deal being hammered out with Iran over its nuclear program, which Netanyahu has lobbied against.

“In my eyes, [the US administration’s comments on the two-state solution] are less related to the Palestinian issue but are much more connected to the Iranian issue,” Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the United Nations and close Netanyahu adviser, told Army Radio Sunday. “We’re having a substantial disagreement with Washington over the agreement they’re about to sign in the coming days and weeks.”

Over the weekend, US President Barack Obama issued thinly veiled threats of allowing the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian side.

He said his government would have to “evaluate” again its stance on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts in light of Netanyahu’s pre-election rejection of Palestinian statehood.

Although Netanyahu later backtracked in interviews with four American television networks, reiterating a commitment in principle to a “sustainable, peaceful two-state solution,” Obama said in an interview published Saturday that his administration is now operating under the assumption that Netanyahu does not envision the creation of a Palestinian state.

In Jerusalem, the president’s comments were interpreted as an American ploy to place the Palestinian issue on the agenda to draw interest away from a prospective agreement between six world powers — led by the US — and Iran over the latter’s rogue nuclear program. Netanyahu is openly critical of the deal, arguing that it would pave the way toward a nuclear-armed Iran.

The Americans know that the Palestinian Authority was the key obstacle to a peace agreement during last year’s negotiations, Gold argued. Therefore, he suggested, Obama’s comments on the peace process and on Netanyahu’s ostensible repudiation of the two-state solution could be seen as motivated by a desire to distract from the Iran deal, he suggested.

The US is a serious country that doesn’t play political games, Gold said. “But we need to understand that there are tensions [with Israel] on these two issues. Regarding the Palestinian issue — the prime minister himself clarified his positions. But the tensions persist, in my view, in light of our disagreement about key aspects of the Iranian nuclear issue.”

Another senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office told The Times of Israel on Sunday that Netanyahu gave interviews to four American television station in order to clarify his position on the Palestinian statehood. “The prime minister reiterated that there’s no change to his commitment to the principle of two states for two peoples,” the senior official said. “We thought that would be enough to put that issue aside.”

The fact that Obama nevertheless opted to focus on the Palestinian issue indicates that he wants to deflect Israeli criticism on the prospective Iran deal, the senior official added.

He did not comment on whether or how the prime minister intends to satisfy the president’s demand for clarification on Jerusalem’s stance toward Palestinian statehood.

In his interview with The Huffington Post, Obama promised to maintain cooperation with the Israeli government on military and intelligence operations, but would not say whether the US would continue to block Palestinian efforts to secure statehood via the United Nations. He said he had told the Likud leader when they spoke on Thursday that it would be difficult to find a way to restart peace talks when people are seriously doubting that negotiations are possible.

“We take him at his word when he said that [the creation of a Palestinian state] wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership,” Obama said, “and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Annals of the Presidency
Going the Distance
On and off the road with Barack Obama.
David Remnick

The New Yorker

January 27, 2014

Obama’s Presidency is on the clock. Hard as it has been to pass legislation, the coming year is a marker, the final interval before the fight for succession becomes politically all-consuming. Obama’s Presidency is on the clock. Hard as it has been to pass legislation, the coming year is a marker, the final interval before the fight for succession becomes politically all-consuming. Credit Photographs by Pari Dukovic

On the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, Barack Obama sat in the office cabin of Air Force One wearing a look of heavy-lidded annoyance. The Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement and, for all its limitations, the most ambitious social legislation since the Great Society, half a century ago, was in jeopardy. His approval rating was down to forty per cent—lower than George W. Bush’s in December of 2005, when Bush admitted that the decision to invade Iraq had been based on intelligence that “turned out to be wrong.” Also, Obama said thickly, “I’ve got a fat lip.”

That morning, while playing basketball at F.B.I. headquarters, Obama went up for a rebound and came down empty-handed; he got, instead, the sort of humbling reserved for middle-aged men who stubbornly refuse the transition to the elliptical machine and Gentle Healing Yoga. This had happened before. In 2010, after taking a self-described “shellacking” in the midterm elections, Obama caught an elbow in the mouth while playing ball at Fort McNair. He wound up with a dozen stitches. The culprit then was one Reynaldo Decerega, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Decerega wasn’t invited to play again, though Obama sent him a photograph inscribed “For Rey, the only guy that ever hit the President and didn’t get arrested. Barack.”

This time, the injury was slighter and no assailant was named—“I think it was the ball,” Obama said—but the President needed little assistance in divining the metaphor in this latest insult to his person. The pundits were declaring 2013 the worst year of his Presidency. The Republicans had been sniping at Obamacare since its passage, nearly four years earlier, and HealthCare.gov, a Web site that was undertested and overmatched, was a gift to them. There were other beribboned boxes under the tree: Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency; the failure to get anything passed on gun control or immigration reform; the unseemly waffling over whether the Egyptian coup was a coup; the solidifying wisdom in Washington that the President was “disengaged,” allergic to the forensic and seductive arts of political persuasion. The congressional Republicans quashed nearly all legislation as a matter of principle and shut down the government for sixteen days, before relenting out of sheer tactical confusion and embarrassment—and yet it was the President’s miseries that dominated the year-end summations.

Obama worried his lip with his tongue and the tip of his index finger. He sighed, slumping in his chair. The night before, Iran had agreed to freeze its nuclear program for six months. A final pact, if one could be arrived at, would end the prospect of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and the hell that could follow: terror attacks, proxy battles, regional war—take your pick. An agreement could even help normalize relations between the United States and Iran for the first time since the Islamic Revolution, in 1979. Obama put the odds of a final accord at less than even, but, still, how was this not good news?

The answer had arrived with breakfast. The Saudis, the Israelis, and the Republican leadership made their opposition known on the Sunday-morning shows and through diplomatic channels. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, called the agreement a “historic mistake.” Even a putative ally like New York Senator Chuck Schumer could go on “Meet the Press” and, fearing no retribution from the White House, hint that he might help bollix up the deal. Obama hadn’t tuned in. “I don’t watch Sunday-morning shows,” he said. “That’s been a well-established rule.” Instead, he went out to play ball.

Usually, Obama spends Sundays with his family. Now he was headed for a three-day fund-raising trip to Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, rattling the cup in one preposterous mansion after another. The prospect was dispiriting. Obama had already run his last race, and the chances that the Democratic Party will win back the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections are slight. The Democrats could, in fact, lose the Senate.

For an important trip abroad, Air Force One is crowded with advisers, military aides, Secret Service people, support staff, the press pool. This trip was smaller, and I was along for the ride, sitting in a guest cabin with a couple of aides and a staffer who was tasked with keeping watch over a dark suit bag with a tag reading “The President.”

Obama spent his flight time in the private quarters in the nose of the plane, in his office compartment, or in a conference room. At one point on the trip from Andrews Air Force Base to Seattle, I was invited up front for a conversation. Obama was sitting at his desk watching the Miami Dolphins–Carolina Panthers game. Slender as a switch, he wore a white shirt and dark slacks; a flight jacket was slung over his high-backed leather chair. As we talked, mainly about the Middle East, his eyes wandered to the game. Reports of multiple concussions and retired players with early-onset dementia had been in the news all year, and so, before I left, I asked if he didn’t feel at all ambivalent about following the sport. He didn’t.

“I would not let my son play pro football,” he conceded. “But, I mean, you wrote a lot about boxing, right? We’re sort of in the same realm.”

The Miami defense was taking on a Keystone Kops quality, and Obama, who had lost hope on a Bears contest, was starting to lose interest in the Dolphins. “At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor,” he went on. “These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”
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Obama chewed furtively on a piece of Nicorette. His carriage and the cadence of his conversation are usually so measured that I was thrown by the lingering habit, the trace of indiscipline. “I’m not a purist,” he said.
I—ON THE CLOCK

When Obama leaves the White House, on January 20, 2017, he will write a memoir. “Now, that’s a slam dunk,” the former Obama adviser David Axelrod told me. Andrew Wylie, a leading literary agent, said he thought that publishers would pay between seventeen and twenty million dollars for the book—the most ever for a work of nonfiction—and around twelve million for Michelle Obama’s memoirs. (The First Lady has already started work on hers.) Obama’s best friend, Marty Nesbitt, a Chicago businessman, told me that, important as the memoir might be to Obama’s legacy and to his finances, “I don’t see him locked up in a room writing all the time. His capacity to crank stuff out is amazing. When he was writing his second book, he would say, ‘I’m gonna get up at seven and write this chapter—and at nine we’ll play golf.’ I would think no, it’s going to be a lot later, but he would knock on my door at nine and say, ‘Let’s go.’ ” Nesbitt thinks that Obama will work on issues such as human rights, education, and “health and wellness.” “He was a local community organizer when he was young,” he said. “At the back end of his career, I see him as an international and national community organizer.”

Yet no post-Presidential project—even one as worthy as Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs or Jimmy Carter’s efforts to eradicate the Guinea worm in Africa—can overshadow what can be accomplished in the White House with the stroke of a pen or a phone call. And, after a miserable year, Obama’s Presidency is on the clock. Hard as it has been to pass legislation since the Republicans took the House, in 2010, the coming year is a marker, the final interval before the fight for succession becomes politically all-consuming.

“The conventional wisdom is that a President’s second term is a matter of minimizing the damage and playing defense rather than playing offense,” Obama said in one of our conversations on the trip and at the White House. “But, as I’ve reminded my team, the day after I was inaugurated for a second term, we’re in charge of the largest organization on earth, and our capacity to do some good, both domestically and around the world, is unsurpassed, even if nobody is paying attention.”

In 2007, at the start of Obama’s Presidential campaign, the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her husband, Richard Goodwin, who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, visited him in his Senate office. “I have no desire to be one of those Presidents who are just on the list—you see their pictures lined up on the wall,” Obama told them. “I really want to be a President who makes a difference.” As she put it to me then, “There was the sense that he wanted to be big. He didn’t want to be Millard Fillmore or Franklin Pierce.”

The question is whether Obama will satisfy the standard he set for himself. His biggest early disappointment as President was being forced to recognize that his romantic vision of a post-partisan era, in which there are no red states or blue states, only the United States, was, in practical terms, a fantasy. It was a difficult fantasy to relinquish. The spirit of national conciliation was more than the rhetorical pixie dust of Obama’s 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, in Boston, which had brought him to delirious national attention. It was also an elemental component of his self-conception, his sense that he was uniquely suited to transcend ideology and the grubby battles of the day. Obama is defensive about this now. “My speech in Boston was an aspirational speech,” he said. “It was not a description of our politics. It was a description of what I saw in the American people.”

The structures of American division came into high relief once he was in office. The debate over the proper scale and scope of the federal government dates to the Founders, but it has intensified since the Reagan revolution. Both Bill Clinton and Obama have spent as much time defending progressive advances—from Social Security and Medicare to voting rights and abortion rights—as they have trying to extend them. The Republican Party is living through the late-mannerist phase of that revolution, fuelled less by ideas than by resentments. The moderate Republican tradition is all but gone, and the reactionaries who claim Reagan’s banner display none of his ideological finesse. Rejection is all. Obama can never be opposed vehemently enough.

The dream of bipartisan coöperation glimmered again after Obama won reëlection against Mitt Romney with fifty-one per cent of the popular vote. The President talked of the election breaking the “fever” in Washington. “We didn’t expect the floodgates would open and Boehner would be Tip O’Neill to our Reagan,” Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the President, said. But reëlection, he thought, had “liberated” Obama. The second Inaugural Address was the most liberal since the nineteen-sixties. Obama pledged to take ambitious action on climate change, immigration, gun control, voting rights, infrastructure, tax reform. He warned of a nation at “perpetual war.” He celebrated the Seneca Falls Convention, the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and the Stonewall riots as events in a narrative of righteous struggle. He pledged “collective action” on economic fairness, and declared that the legacy of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid does “not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” Pfeiffer said, “His point was that Congress won’t set the limits of what I will do. I won’t trim my vision. And, even if I can’t get it done, I will set the stage so it does get done” in the years ahead. Then came 2013, annus horribilis.
Cartoon“To make it more sporting, I’ve also blindfolded the men.”Buy the print »

Obama’s election was one of the great markers in the black freedom struggle. In the electoral realm, ironically, the country may be more racially divided than it has been in a generation. Obama lost among white voters in 2012 by a margin greater than any victor in American history. The popular opposition to the Administration comes largely from older whites who feel threatened, underemployed, overlooked, and disdained in a globalized economy and in an increasingly diverse country. Obama’s drop in the polls in 2013 was especially grave among white voters. “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.” The latter group has been less in evidence of late.

“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues,” he went on. “You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government—that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable—and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments. But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun. There’s a pretty long history there. And so I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy.”

Obama’s advisers are convinced that if the Republicans don’t find a way to attract non-white voters, particularly Hispanics and Asians, they may lose the White House for two or three more election cycles. And yet Obama still makes every effort to maintain his careful, balancing tone, as if the unifying moment were still out there somewhere in the middle distance. “There were times in our history where Democrats didn’t seem to be paying enough attention to the concerns of middle-class folks or working-class folks, black or white,” he said. “And this was one of the great gifts of Bill Clinton to the Party—to say, you know what, it’s entirely legitimate for folks to be concerned about getting mugged, and you can’t just talk about police abuse. How about folks not feeling safe outside their homes? It’s all fine and good for you to want to do something about poverty, but if the only mechanism you have is raising taxes on folks who are already feeling strapped, then maybe you need to widen your lens a little bit. And I think that the Democratic Party is better for it. But that was a process. And I am confident that the Republicans will go through that same process.”

For the moment, though, the opposition party is content to define itself, precisely, by its opposition. As Obama, a fan of the “Godfather” movies, has put it, “It turns out Marlon Brando had it easy, because, when it comes to Congress, there is no such thing as an offer they can’t refuse.”
II—THE LONG VIEW

At dusk, Air Force One touched down at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Obama and his adviser Valerie Jarrett stood for a moment on the tarmac gazing at Mt. Rainier, the snow a candied pink. Then Obama nodded. Moment over. They got in the car and headed for town. Obama’s limousine, a Cadillac said to weigh as much as fifteen thousand pounds, is known as the Beast. It is armored with ceramic, titanium, aluminum, and steel to withstand bomb blasts, and it is sealed in case of biochemical attack. The doors are as heavy as those on a Boeing 757. The tires are gigantic “run-flats,” reinforced with Kevlar. A supply of blood matching the President’s type is kept in the trunk.

The Beast ascended the driveway of Jon Shirley, in the Seattle suburb of Medina, on Lake Washington. (Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates live in town, too.) Shirley earned his pile during the early days of high tech, first at Tandy and then, in the eighties, at Microsoft, where he served as president. Shirley’s lawn is littered with gargantuan modern sculptures. A Claes Oldenburg safety pin loomed in the dark. The Beast pulled up to Shirley’s front door.

One of the enduring mysteries of the Obama years is that so many members of the hyper-deluxe economy—corporate C.E.O.s and Wall Street bankers—have abandoned him. The Dow is more than twice what it was when Obama took office, in 2009; corporate profits are higher than they have been since the end of the Second World War; the financial crisis of 2008-09 vaporized more than nine trillion dollars in real-estate value, and no major purveyor of bogus mortgages or dodgy derivatives went to jail. Obama bruised some feelings once or twice with remarks about “fat-cat bankers” and “reckless behavior and unchecked excess,” but, in general, he dares not offend. In 2011, at an annual dinner he holds at the White House with American historians, he asked the group to help him find a language in which he could address the problem of growing inequality without being accused of class warfare.

Inside Shirley’s house, blue-chip works of modern art—paintings, sculpture, installations—were on every wall, in every corner: Katz, Kline, Klein, Pollock, Zhang Huan, Richter, Arp, Rothko, Close, Calder. The house measures more than twenty-seven thousand square feet. There are only two bedrooms. In the library, the President went through a familiar fund-raiser routine: a pre-event private “clutch,” where he shakes hands, makes small talk, and poses for pictures with an inner group—the host, the governor, the chosen.
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Down the hall, in a room scaled like an airplane hangar, about seventy guests, having paid sixteen thousand dollars each to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kitty, ate dinner and waited. Near some very artistic furniture, I stood with Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s most intimate consigliere. To admirers, Jarrett is known as “the third Obama”; to wary aides, who envy her long history with the Obamas and her easy access to the living quarters of the White House, she is the Night Stalker. Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, David Plouffe, and many others in the Administration have clashed with her. They are gone. She remains—a constant presence, at meetings, at meals, in the Beast. While we were waiting for Obama to speak to the group, I asked Jarrett whether the health-care rollout had been the worst political fiasco Obama had confronted so far.

“I really don’t think so,” she said. Like all Obama advisers, she was convinced that the problems would get “fixed”—just as Social Security was fixed after a balky start, in 1937—and the memory of the botched rollout would recede. That was the hope and that was the spin. And then she said something that I’ve come to think of as the Administration’s mantra: “The President always takes the long view.”

That appeal to patience and historical reckoning, an appeal that risks a maddening high-mindedness, is something that everyone around Obama trots out to combat the hysterias of any given moment. “He has learned through those vicissitudes that every day is Election Day in Washington and everyone is writing history in ten-minute intervals,” Axelrod told me. “But the truth is that history is written over a long period of time—and he will be judged in the long term.”

Obama stepped up to a platform and went to work. First ingratiation, then gratitude, then answers. He expressed awe at the sight of Mt. Rainier. Being in Seattle, he said, made him “feel the spirit of my mom,” the late Ann Dunham, who went to high school nearby, on Mercer Island. He praised his host’s hospitality. (“The only problem when I come to Jon’s house is I want to just kind of roam around and check stuff out, and instead I’ve got to talk.”) Then came a version of the long-game riff: “One thing that I always try to emphasize is that, if you look at American history, there have been frequent occasions in which it looked like we had insoluble problems—either economic, political, security—and, as long as there were those who stayed steady and clear-eyed and persistent, eventually we came up with an answer.”

As Obama ticked off a list of first-term achievements—the economic rescue, the forty-four straight months of job growth, a reduction in carbon emissions, a spike in clean-energy technology—he seemed efficient but contained, running at three-quarters speed, like an athlete playing a midseason road game of modest consequence; he was performing just hard enough to leave a decent impression, get paid, and avoid injury. Even in front of West Coast liberals, he is always careful to disavow liberalism—the word, anyway. “I’m not a particularly ideological person,” Obama told Jon Shirley and his guests. “There’s things, some values I feel passionately about.” He said that these included making sure that everybody is “being treated with dignity or respect regardless of what they look like or what their last name is or who they love,” providing a strong defense, and “leaving a planet that is as spectacular as the one we inherited from our parents and our grandparents.” He continued, “So there are values I’m passionate about, but I’m pretty pragmatic when it comes to how we get there.”

Obama said he’d take some questions—in “boy, girl, boy, girl” order. He tried to rally the Democrats and expressed dismay with the opposition. (“There are reasonable conservatives and there are those who just want to burn down the house.”) He played both sides of the environment issues, rehearsing the arguments for and against the Keystone pipeline and sympathizing with the desire of China and India to lift millions out of poverty—but if they consume energy the way the United States has “we’ll be four feet under water.” This is the archetypal Obama habit of mind and politics, the calm, professorial immersion in complexity played out in front of ardent supporters who crave a rallying cry. It’s what compelled him to declare himself a non-pacifist as he was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, in Oslo, and praise Ronald Reagan in a Democratic primary debate.

And that was the end of the performance. A few minutes later, the motorcade was snaking through the streets of suburban Seattle—kids in pajamas holding signs and sparklers, the occasional protester, Obama secured in the back seat of the Beast. He could hear nothing. The windows of his car are five inches thick.
III—PRESIDENTIAL M&M’S

The next morning, a Monday, I woke early and turned on CNN. Senator Lindsey Graham, who is facing a primary challenge from four Tea Party candidates in South Carolina, was saying with utter confidence that Iran had hoodwinked the Administration in Geneva. Next came a poll showing that the majority of the country now believed that the President was neither truthful nor honest. The announcer added with a smile that GQ had put Obama at No. 17 on its “least influential” list—right up there with Pope Benedict XVI in his retirement, the cicadas that never showed up last summer, and Manti Te’o’s fake dead girlfriend.

In the hotel lobby, I met Jeff Tiller, who works for the White House press operation. In college, he became interested in politics and later joined Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign. From there, he volunteered at the White House, which led to a string of staff jobs, and eventually he was doing advance work all over the world for the White House. The aides on the plane were like Tiller—committed members of a cheerful, overworked microculture who could barely conceal their pleasure in Presidential propinquity. I’m twenty-seven and this is my thirty-second time on Air Force One. “I pinch myself sometimes,” Tiller said. Dan Pfeiffer, who has been with Obama since 2007, was so overworked last year that he suffered a series of mini-strokes. “But no worries,” he told me. “I’m good!”
“The things you start may not come to full fruition on your timetable,” Obama says. “But you can move things forward. And sometimes the things that start small may turn out to be fairly significant.”“The things you start may not come to full fruition on your timetable,” Obama says. “But you can move things forward. And sometimes the things that start small may turn out to be fairly significant.”

We arrived in San Francisco, and the motorcade raced along, free of traffic and red lights, from the airport to a community center in Chinatown named after Betty Ong, a flight attendant who perished when American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center. Obama was to give a speech on immigration. Out the window, you could see people waving, people hoisting their babies as if to witness history, people holding signs protesting one issue or another—the Keystone pipeline, especially—and, everywhere, the iPhone clickers, the Samsung snappers.

The Beast pulled under a makeshift security tent. Obama gets to events like these through underground hallways, industrial kitchens, holding rooms—all of which have been checked for bombs. At the Ong Center, he met with his hosts and their children. (“I think I have some Presidential M&M’s for you!”) People get goggle-eyed when it’s their turn for a picture. Obama tries to put them at ease: “C’mon in here! Let’s do this!” Sometimes there is teasing of the mildest sort: “Chuck Taylor All-Stars! Old style, baby!” A woman told the President that she was six months pregnant. She didn’t look it. “Whoa! Don’t tell that to Michelle. She’ll be all . . .” The woman said she was having a girl. Obama was delighted: “Daughters! You can’t beat ’em!” He pulled her in for the photo. From long experience, Obama has learned what works for him in pictures: a broad, toothy smile. A millisecond after the flash, the sash releases, the smile drops, a curtain falling.

A little later, Betty Ong’s mother and siblings arrived. Obama drew them into a huddle. I heard him saying that Betty was a hero, though “obviously, the heartache never goes away.” Obama really is skilled at this kind of thing, the kibbitzing and the expressions of sympathy, the hugging and the eulogizing and the celebrating, the sheer animal activity of human politics—but he suffers an anxiety of comparison. Bill Clinton was, and is, the master, a hyper-extrovert whose freakish memory for names and faces, and whose indomitable will to enfold and charm everyone in his path, remains unmatched. Obama can be a dynamic speaker before large audiences and charming in very small groups, but, like a normal human being and unlike the near-pathological personalities who have so often held the office, he is depleted by the act of schmoozing a group of a hundred as if it were an intimate gathering. At fund-raisers, he would rather eat privately with a couple of aides before going out to perform. According to the Wall Street Journal, when Jeffrey Katzenberg threw a multi-million-dollar fund-raiser in Los Angeles two years ago, he told the President’s staff that he expected Obama to stop at each of the fourteen tables and talk for a while. No one would have had to ask Clinton. Obama’s staffers were alarmed. When you talk about this with people in Obamaland, they let on that Clinton borders on the obsessive—as if the appetite for connection were related to what got him in such deep trouble.

“Obama is a genuinely respectful person, but he doesn’t try to seduce everyone,” Axelrod said. “It’s never going to be who he’ll be.” Obama doesn’t love fund-raising, he went on, “and, if you don’t love it in the first place, you’re not likely to grow fonder of it over time.”

Obama has other talents that serve him well in public. Like a seasoned standup comedian, he has learned that a well-timed heckler can be his ally. It allows him to dramatize his open-mindedness, even his own philosophical ambivalences about a particularly difficult political or moral question. Last May, at the National Defense University, where he was giving a speech on counter-terrorism, a woman named Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of the group Code Pink, interrupted him, loudly and at length, to talk about drone strikes and about closing the American prison at Guantánamo Bay. While some in the audience tried to drown her out with applause, and security people proceeded to drag her away, Obama asserted Benjamin’s right to “free speech,” and declared, “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to.”

At the Ong Center, an undocumented immigrant from South Korea named Ju Hong was in the crowd lined up behind the President. Toward the end of Obama’s speech, Ju Hong, a Berkeley graduate, broke in, demanding that the President use his executive powers to stop deportations.

Obama wheeled around. “If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so, but we’re also a nation of laws,” he said, making his case to a wash of applause.

At the next event, a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee at a music venue, the SFJAZZ Center, Obama met the host’s family (“Hold on, we got some White House M&M’s”) and then made his way to the backstage holding area. You could hear the murmur of security communications: “Renegade with greeters”—Renegade being Obama’s Secret Service handle.

Obama worked with more enthusiasm than at the midday event. He did the polite handshake; the full pull-in; the hug and double backslap; the slap-shake; the solicitous arm-around-the-older woman. (“And you stand here. . . . Perfect!”)

The clutch over, the crowd cleared away, Obama turned to his aides and said, “How many we got out there?”

“Five hundred. Five-fifty.”

“Five-fifty?” Obama said, walking toward the wings of the stage. “What are we talking about? Politics? Can’t we talk about something else? Sports?”

The aides were, as ever, staring down at their iPhones, scrolling, tapping, mentally occupying a psychic space somewhere between where they were and the unspooling news cycle back in Washington.

“We’re off the cuff,” Pfeiffer said. No prepared speech.

“Off the cuff? Sounds good. Let’s go do it.”

Obama walked toward the stage and, as he was announced, he mouthed the words: “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.”
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Then it happened again: another heckler broke into Obama’s speech. A man in the balcony repeatedly shouted out, “Executive order!,” demanding that the President bypass Congress with more unilateral actions. Obama listened with odd indulgence. Finally, he said, “I’m going to actually pause on this issue, because a lot of people have been saying this lately on every problem, which is just, ‘Sign an executive order and we can pretty much do anything and basically nullify Congress.’ ”

Many in the crowd applauded their approval. Yes! Nullify it! Although Obama has infuriated the right with relatively modest executive orders on gun control and some stronger ones on climate change, he has issued the fewest of any modern President, except George H. W. Bush.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Obama said. “Before everybody starts clapping, that’s not how it works. We’ve got this Constitution, we’ve got this whole thing about separation of powers. So there is no shortcut to politics, and there’s no shortcut to democracy.” The applause was hardly ecstatic. Everyone knew what he meant. The promises in the second inaugural could be a long time coming.
IV—THE WELCOME TABLE

For every flight aboard Air Force One, there is a new name card at each seat; a catalogue of the Presidential Entertainment Library, with its hiply curated choices of movies and music; baskets of fruit and candy; a menu. Obama is generally a spare eater; the Air Force One menu seems designed for William Howard Taft. Breakfast one morning was “pumpkin spiced French toast drizzled with caramel syrup and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Served with scrambled eggs and maple sausage links.” Plus juice, coffee, and, on the side, a “creamy vanilla yogurt layered with blackberries and cinnamon graham crackers.”

The most curious character on the plane was Marvin Nicholson, a tall, rangy man in his early forties who works as the President’s trip director and ubiquitous factotum. He is six feet eight. Nicholson is the guy who is always around, who carries the bag and the jacket, who squeezes Purell onto the Presidential palms after a rope line or a clutch; he is the one who has the pens, the briefing books, the Nicorette, the Sharpies, the Advil, the throat lozenges, the iPad, the iPod, the protein bars, the bottle of Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. He and the President toss a football around, they shoot baskets, they shoot the shit. In his twenties, Nicholson was living in Boston and working as a bartender and as a clerk in a windsurfing-equipment shop, where he met John Kerry. He moved to Nantucket and worked as a caddie. He carried the Senator’s clubs and Kerry invited him to come to D.C. Since taking the job with Obama, in 2009, Nicholson has played golf with the President well over a hundred times. The Speaker of the House has played with him once.

A fact like this can seem to chime with the sort of complaints you hear all the time about Obama, particularly along the Acela Corridor. He is said to be a reluctant politician: aloof, insular, diffident, arrogant, inert, unwilling to jolly his allies along the fairway and take a 9-iron to his enemies. He doesn’t know anyone in Congress. No one in the House or in the Senate, no one in foreign capitals fears him. He gives a great speech, but he doesn’t understand power. He is a poor executive. Doesn’t it seem as if he hates the job? And so on. This is the knowing talk on Wall Street, on K Street, on Capitol Hill, in green rooms—the “Morning Joe” consensus.

There are other ways to assess the political skills of a President who won two terms, as only seventeen of forty-four Presidents have, and did so as a black man, with an African father and a peculiar name, one consonant away from that of the world’s most notorious terrorist. From the start, however, the political operatives who opposed him did what they are paid to do—they drew a cartoon of him. “Even if you never met him, you know this guy,” Karl Rove said, in 2008. “He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a Martini and a cigarette, that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.” The less malign version is of a President who is bafflingly serene, as committed to his duties as a husband and father—six-thirty family dinner upstairs in the private residence is considered “sacrosanct,” aides say—as he is to his duties as Cajoler-in-Chief.

Still, Obama’s reluctance to break bread on a regular basis with his congressional allies is real, and a source of tribal mystification in Washington. “Politics was a strange career choice for Obama,” David Frum, a conservative columnist, told me. “Most politicians are not the kind of people you would choose to have as friends. Or they are the kind who, like John Edwards, seem to be one thing but then turn out to have a monster in the attic; the friendship is contingent on something you can’t see. Obama is exactly like all my friends. He would rather read a book than spend time with people he doesn’t know or like.” Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who was elected to the Senate three years ago, said recently that Obama’s distance from members of Congress has hurt his ability to pass legislation. “When you don’t build those personal relationships,” Manchin told CNN, “it’s pretty easy for a person to say, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ ”

Harry Truman once called the White House “the great white jail,” but few Presidents seem to have felt as oppressed by Washington as Obama does. At one stop on the West Coast trip, Marta Kauffman, a Democratic bundler who was one of the creators of “Friends,” said that she asked him what had surprised him most when he first became President. “The bubble,” Obama said. He said he hoped that one day he might be able to take a walk in the park, drop by a bookstore, chat with people in a coffee shop. “After all this is done,” he said, “how can I find that again?”

“Have you considered a wig?” she asked.

“Maybe fake dreads,” her son added.

The President smiled. “I never thought of that,” he said.
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Obama’s circle of intimates is limited; it has been since his days at Columbia and Harvard Law. In 2008, Obama called on John Podesta, who had worked extensively for Bill Clinton, to run his transition process. When Clinton took office, there was a huge list of people who needed to be taken care of with jobs; the “friends of Bill” is a wide network. After Podesta talked to Obama and realized how few favors had to be distributed, he told a colleague, “He travels light.”

Obama’s favorite company is a small ensemble of Chicago friends—Valerie Jarrett, Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Anita Blanchard, an obstetrician, and Eric and Cheryl Whitaker, prominent doctors on the South Side. During the first Presidential campaign, the Obamas took a vow of “no new friends.”

“There have been times where I’ve been constrained by the fact that I had two young daughters who I wanted to spend time with—and that I wasn’t in a position to work the social scene in Washington,” Obama told me. But, as Malia and Sasha have grown older, the Obamas have taken to hosting occasional off-the-record dinners in the residence upstairs at the White House. The guests ordinarily include a friendly political figure, a business leader, a journalist. Obama drinks a Martini or two (Rove was right about that), and he and the First Lady are welcoming, funny, and warm. The dinners start at six. At around ten-thirty at one dinner last spring, the guests assumed the evening was winding down. But when Obama was asked whether they should leave, he laughed and said, “Hey, don’t go! I’m a night owl! Have another drink.” The party went on past 1 A.M.

At the dinners with historians, Obama sometimes asks his guests to talk about their latest work. On one occasion, Doris Kearns Goodwin talked about what became “The Bully Pulpit,” which is a study, in part, of the way that Theodore Roosevelt deployed his relentlessly gregarious personality and his close relations with crusading journalists to political advantage. The portrait of T.R. muscling obstreperous foes on the issue of inequality—particularly the laissez-faire dinosaurs in his own party, the G.O.P.—couldn’t fail to summon a contrasting portrait.

The biographer Robert Caro has also been a guest. Caro’s ongoing volumes about Lyndon Johnson portray a President who used everything from the promise of appointment to bald-faced political threats to win passage of the legislative agenda that had languished under John Kennedy, including Medicare, a tax cut, and a civil-rights bill. Publicly, Johnson said of Kennedy, “I had to take the dead man’s program and turn it into a martyr’s cause.” Privately, he disdained Kennedy’s inability to get his program through Congress, cracking, according to Caro, that Kennedy’s men knew less about politics on the Hill “than an old maid does about fucking.” Senator Richard Russell, Jr., of Georgia, admitted that he and his Dixiecrat colleagues in the Senate could resist Kennedy “but not Lyndon”: “That man will twist your arm off at the shoulder and beat your head in with it.”

Obama delivers no such beatings. Last April, when, in the wake of the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, eighty-three per cent of Americans declared themselves in favor of background checks for gun purchases, the Times ran a prominent article making the case that the Senate failed to follow the President’s lead at least partly because of his passivity as a tactical politician. It described how Mark Begich, a Democratic senator from Alaska, had asked for, and received, a crucial favor from the White House, but then, four weeks later, when Begich voted against the bill on background checks, he paid no price. No one shut down any highway lanes in Anchorage; no Presidential fury was felt in Juneau or the Brooks Range. The historian Robert Dallek, another guest at the President’s table, told the Times that Obama was “inclined to believe that sweet reason is what you need to use with people in high office.”

Yet Obama and his aides regard all such talk of breaking bread and breaking legs as wishful fantasy. They maintain that they could invite every Republican in Congress to play golf until the end of time, could deliver punishments with ruthless regularity—and never cut the Gordian knot of contemporary Washington. They have a point. An Alaska Democrat like Begich would never last in office had he voted with Obama. L.B.J., elected in a landslide victory in 1964, drew on whopping majorities in both houses of Congress. He could exploit ideological diversity within the parties and the lax regulations on earmarks and pork-barrel spending. “When he lost that historic majority, and the glow of that landslide victory faded, he had the same problems with Congress that most Presidents at one point or another have,” Obama told me. “I say that not to suggest that I’m a master wheeler-dealer but, rather, to suggest that there are some structural institutional realities to our political system that don’t have much to do with schmoozing.”

Dallek said, “Johnson could sit with Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, kneecap to kneecap, drinking bourbon and branch water, and Dirksen would mention that there was a fine young man in his state who would be a fine judge, and the deal would be cut. Nowadays, the media would know in an instant and rightly yell ‘Corruption!’ ”

Caro finds the L.B.J.-B.H.O. comparison ludicrous. “Johnson was unique,” he said. “We have never had anyone like him, as a legislative genius. I’m working on his Presidency now. Wait till you see what he does to get Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act through. But is Obama a poor practitioner of power? I have a different opinion. No matter what the problems with the rollout of Obamacare, it’s a major advance in the history of social justice to provide access to health care for thirty-one million people.”
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At the most recent dinner he attended at the White House, Caro had the distinct impression that Obama was cool to him, annoyed, perhaps, at the notion appearing in the press that his latest Johnson volume was an implicit rebuke to him. “As we were leaving, I said to Obama, ‘You know, my book wasn’t an unspoken attack on you, it’s a book about Lyndon Johnson,’ ” Caro recalled. L.B.J. was, after all, also the President who made the catastrophic decision to deepen America’s involvement in the quagmire of Vietnam. “Obama seems interested in winding down our foreign wars,” Caro said approvingly.

When Obama does ask Republicans to a social occasion, he is sometimes rebuffed. In the fall of 2012, he organized a screening at the White House of Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln.” Spielberg, the cast, and the Democratic leadership found the time to come. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and three other Republicans declined their invitations, pleading the press of congressional business. In the current climate, a Republican, especially one facing challenges at home from the right, risks more than he gains by socializing or doing business with Obama. Boehner may be prepared to compromise on certain issues, but it looks better for him if he is seen to be making a deal with Harry Reid, in the Senate, than with Barack Obama. Obama’s people say that the President’s attitude is, Fine, so long as we get there. Help me to help you.

When I asked Obama if he had read or seen anything that fully captured the experience of being in his office, he laughed, as if to say, You just have no idea. “The truth is, in popular culture the President is usually a side character and a lot of times is pretty dull,” he said. “If it’s a paranoid conspiracy-theory movie, then there’s an evil aide who is carrying something out. If it’s a good President, then he is all-wise and all-knowing”—like the characters played by Martin Sheen in “The West Wing,” and Michael Douglas in “The American President.” Obama says that he is neither. “I’ll tell you that watching ‘Lincoln’ was interesting, in part because you watched what obviously was a fictionalized account of the President I most admire, and there was such a gap between him and me that it made you want to be better.” He spoke about envying Lincoln’s “capacity to speak to and move the country without simplifying, and at the most fundamental of levels.” But what struck him most, he said, was precisely what his critics think he most avoids—“the messiness of getting something done.”

He went on, “The real politics resonated with me, because I have yet to see something that we’ve done, or any President has done, that was really important and good, that did not involve some mess and some strong-arming and some shading of how it was initially talked about to a particular member of the legislature who you needed a vote from. Because, if you’re doing big, hard things, then there is going to be some hair on it—there’s going to be some aspects of it that aren’t clean and neat and immediately elicit applause from everybody. And so the nature of not only politics but, I think, social change of any sort is that it doesn’t move in a straight line, and that those who are most successful typically are tacking like a sailor toward a particular direction but have to take into account winds and currents and occasionally the lack of any wind, so that you’re just sitting there for a while, and sometimes you’re being blown all over the place.”

The politician sensitive to winds and currents was visible in Obama’s coy talk of his “evolving” position on gay marriage. Obama conceded in one of our later conversations only that it’s “fair to say that I may have come to that realization slightly before I actually made the announcement” favoring gay marriage, in May of 2012. “But this was not a situation where I kind of did a wink and a nod and a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn.” The turn may not have been a sudden one-eighty; to say that your views are “evolving,” though, is to say there is a position that you consider to be more advanced than the one you officially hold. And he held the “evolved” position in 1996, when, as a candidate for the Illinois state senate, he filled out a questionnaire from Outlines, a local gay and lesbian newspaper, saying, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages.”

When I asked Obama about another area of shifting public opinion—the legalization of marijuana—he seemed even less eager to evolve with any dispatch and get in front of the issue. “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Is it less dangerous? I asked.

Obama leaned back and let a moment go by. That’s one of his moves. When he is interviewed, particularly for print, he has the habit of slowing himself down, and the result is a spool of cautious lucidity. He speaks in paragraphs and with moments of revision. Sometimes he will stop in the middle of a sentence and say, “Scratch that,” or, “I think the grammar was all screwed up in that sentence, so let me start again.”
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Less dangerous, he said, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.” What clearly does trouble him is the radically disproportionate arrests and incarcerations for marijuana among minorities. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.” But, he said, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.” Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

As is his habit, he nimbly argued the other side. “Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge.” He noted the slippery-slope arguments that might arise. “I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”
V—MAGIC KINGDOMS

By Monday night, Obama was in Los Angeles, headed for Beverly Park, a gated community of private-equity barons, Saudi princes, and movie people. It was a night of fund-raisers—the first hosted by Magic Johnson, who led the Lakers to five N.B.A. championships, in the eighties. In the Beast, on the way to Johnson’s house, Obama told me, “Magic has become a good friend. I always tease him—I think he supported Hillary the first time around, in ’08.”

“He campaigned for her in Iowa!” Josh Earnest, a press spokesman, said, still sounding chagrined.

“Yeah, but we have developed a great relationship,” Obama said. “I wasn’t a Lakers fan. I was a Philadelphia 76ers fan, because I loved Doctor J.”—Julius Erving—“and then became a Jordan fan, because I moved to Chicago. But, in my mind, at least, what has made Magic heroic was not simply the joy of his playing.” Obama said that the way Johnson handled his H.I.V. diagnosis changed “how the culture thought about that—which, actually, I think, ultimately had an impact about how the culture thought about the gay community.” He also talked about Johnson’s business success as something that was “deeply admired” among African-Americans—“the notion that here’s somebody who would leverage fame and fortune in sports into a pretty remarkable business career.”

“Do you not see that often enough, by your lights?” I asked.

“I don’t,” Obama said.

The Obamas are able to speak to people of color in a way that none of their predecessors could. And the President is quick to bring into the public realm the fact that, for all his personal cool, he is a foursquare family man. He has plenty of hip-hop on his iPod, but he also worries about the moments of misogyny. Once, I mentioned to him that I knew that while Malia Obama, an aspiring filmmaker, was a fan of “Girls,” he and Michelle Obama were, at first, wary of the show.

“I’m at the very young end of the Baby Boom generation, which meant that I did not come of age in the sixties—took for granted certain freedoms, certain attitudes about gender, sexuality, equality for women, but didn’t feel as if I was having to rebel against something,” Obama said. “Precisely because I didn’t have a father in the home and moved around a lot as a kid and had a wonderfully loving mom and grandparents, but not a lot of structure growing up, I emerged on the other side of that with an appreciation for family and marriage and structure for the kids. I’m sure that’s part of why Michelle and her family held such appeal to me in the first place, because she did grow up with that kind of structure. And now, as parents, I don’t think we’re being particularly conservative—we’re actually not prudes. . . . But, as parents, what we have seen, both in our own family and among our friends, is that kids with structure have an easier time of it.”

He talked about a visit that he made last year to Hyde Park Academy, a public high school on Chicago’s South Side, where he met with a group of about twenty boys in a program called Becoming a Man. “They’re in this program because they’re fundamentally good kids who could tip in the wrong direction if they didn’t get some guidance and some structure,” Obama recalled. “We went around the room and started telling each other stories. And one of the young men asked me about me growing up, and I explained, You know what? I’m just like you guys. I didn’t have a dad. There were times where I was angry and wasn’t sure why I was angry. I engaged in a bunch of anti-social behavior. I did drugs. I got drunk. Didn’t take school seriously. The only difference between me and you is that I was in a more forgiving environment, and if I made a mistake I wasn’t going to get shot. And, even if I didn’t apply myself in school, I was at a good enough school that just through osmosis I’d have the opportunity to go to college.
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“And, as I’m speaking, the kid next to me looks over and he says, ‘Are you talking about you?’ And there was a benefit for them hearing that, because when I then said, You guys have to take yourselves more seriously, or you need to have a backup plan in case you don’t end up being LeBron or Jay Z . . . they might listen. Now, that’s not a liberal or a conservative thing. There have been times where some thoughtful and sometimes not so thoughtful African-American commentators have gotten on both Michelle and me, suggesting that we are not addressing enough sort of institutional barriers and racism, and we’re engaging in sort of up-by-the-bootstraps, Booker T. Washington messages that let the larger society off the hook.” Obama thought that this reaction was sometimes knee-jerk. “I always tell people to go read some of Dr. King’s writings about the African-American community. For that matter, read Malcolm X. . . . There’s no contradiction to say that there are issues of personal responsibility that have to be addressed, while still acknowledging that some of the specific pathologies in the African-American community are a direct result of our history.”

The higher we went up into Beverly Hills, the grander the houses were. This was where the big donors lived. But Obama’s thoughts have been down in the city. The drama of racial inequality, in his mind, has come to presage a larger, transracial form of economic disparity, a deepening of the class divide. Indeed, if there is a theme for the remaining days of his term, it is inequality. In 2011, he went to Osawatomie, Kansas, the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 New Nationalism speech—a signal moment in the history of Progressivism—and declared inequality the “defining issue of our time.” He repeated the message at length, late last year, in Anacostia, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., this time noting that the gap between the rich and the poor in America now resembled that in Argentina and Jamaica, rather than that in France, Germany, or Canada. American C.E.O.s once made, on average, thirty times as much as workers; now they make about two hundred and seventy times as much. The wealthy hire lobbyists; they try to secure their interests with campaign donations. Even as Obama travels for campaign alms and is as entangled in the funding system at least as much as any other politician, he insists that his commitment is to the middle class and the disadvantaged. Last summer, he received a letter from a single mother struggling to support herself and her daughter on a minimal income. She was drowning: “I need help. I can’t imagine being out in the streets with my daughter and if I don’t get some type of relief soon, I’m afraid that’s what may happen.” “Copy to Senior Advisers,” Obama wrote at the bottom of the letter. “This is the person we are working for.”

In one of our conversations, I asked him what he felt he must get done before leaving office. He was silent for a while and then broke into a pained grin. “You mean, now that the Web site is working?” Yes, after that. “It’s hard to anticipate events over the next three years,” he said. “If you had asked F.D.R. what he had to accomplish in 1937, he would have told you, ‘I’ve got to stabilize the economy and reduce the deficit.’ Turned out there were a few more things on his plate.” He went on, “I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or F.D.R. faced. So I think it’s unrealistic to suggest that I can narrow my focus the way those two Presidents did. But I can tell you that I will measure myself at the end of my Presidency in large part by whether I began the process of rebuilding the middle class and the ladders into the middle class, and reversing the trend toward economic bifurcation in this society.”

Obama met last summer with Robert Putnam, a Harvard political scientist who became famous for a book he wrote on social atomization, “Bowling Alone.” For the past several years, Putnam and some colleagues have been working on a book about the growing opportunity gap between rich and poor kids. Putnam, who led a Kennedy School seminar on civic engagement that Obama was in, sent the President a memo about his findings. More and more, Putnam found, the crucial issue is class, and he believes that a black President might have an easier time explaining this trend to the American people and setting an agenda to combat it. Other prominent politicians—including Hillary Clinton, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush—have also consulted Putnam. Putnam told me that, even if legislation combatting the widening class divide eludes Obama, “I am hoping he can be John the Baptist on this.” And Obama, for his part, seems eager to take on that evangelizing role.

“You have an economy,” Obama told me, “that is ruthlessly squeezing workers and imposing efficiencies that make our flat-screen TVs really cheap but also puts enormous downward pressure on wages and salaries. That’s making it more and more difficult not only for African-Americans or Latinos to get a foothold into the middle class but for everybody—large majorities of people—to get a foothold in the middle class or to feel secure there. You’ve got folks like Bob Putnam, who’s doing some really interesting studies indicating the degree to which some of those ‘pathologies’ that used to be attributed to the African-American community in particular—single-parent households, and drug abuse, and men dropping out of the labor force, and an underground economy—you’re now starting to see in larger numbers in white working-class communities as well, which would tend to vindicate what I think a lot of us always felt.”
VI—A NEW EQUILIBRIUM

After the event at Magic Johnson’s place—the highlight was a tour of an immense basement trophy room, where Johnson had installed a gleaming hardwood basketball floor and piped in the sound of crowds cheering and announcers declaring the glories of the Lakers—the Beast made its way to the compound that the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers built. Haim Saban, who made his billions as a self-described “cartoon schlepper,” was born in Egypt, came of age in Israel, and started his show-business career as the bass player in the Lions of Judah. His politics are not ambiguous. “I am a one-issue guy,” he once said, “and my issue is Israel.” His closest political relationship is with Bill and Hillary Clinton, and he was crushed when she lost to Obama, in 2008. Saban publicly expressed doubts about whether Obama was sufficiently ardent about Israel, but he has come around.
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The main house on Saban’s property is less of an art museum than Jon Shirley’s, though it features a Warhol diptych of Golda Meir and Albert Einstein over the fireplace. The fund-raiser was held in back of the main house, under a tent. Addressing a hundred and twenty guests, and being peppered with questions about the Middle East, Obama trotted around all the usual bases—the hope for peace, the still strong alliance with Israel, the danger of “lone wolf” terror threats. But, while a man who funds the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution may have warmed to Obama, there is no question that, in certain professional foreign-policy circles, Obama is often regarded with mistrust. His Syria policy—with its dubious “red line” and threats to get rid of Bashar al-Assad; with John Kerry’s improvised press-conference gambit on chemical weapons—has inspired little confidence. Neither did the decision to accelerate troop levels in Afghanistan and, at the same time, schedule a withdrawal.

Obama came to power without foreign-policy experience; but he won the election, in part, by advocating a foreign-policy sensibility that was wary of American overreach. If George W. Bush’s foreign policy was largely a reaction to 9/11, Obama’s has been a reaction to the reaction. He withdrew American forces from Iraq. He went to Cairo in 2009, in an attempt to forge “a new beginning” between the United States and the Muslim world. American troops will come home from Afghanistan this year. As he promised in his first Presidential campaign—to the outraged protests of Hillary Clinton and John McCain alike—he has extended a hand to traditional enemies, from Iran to Cuba. And he has not hesitated in his public rhetoric to acknowledge, however subtly, the abuses, as well as the triumphs, of American power. He remembers going with his mother to live in Indonesia, in 1967—shortly after a military coup, engineered with American help, led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. This event, and the fact that so few Americans know much about it, made a lasting impression on Obama. He is convinced that an essential component of diplomacy is the public recognition of historical facts—not only the taking of American hostages in Iran, in 1979, but also the American role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, in 1953.

The right’s response has been to accuse Obama of conducting a foreign policy of apology. Last year, Republican senators on the Foreign Affairs Committee, including Marco Rubio, of Florida, demanded to know if Samantha Power, Obama’s nominee for U.N. Ambassador and the author of “A Problem from Hell,” a historical indictment of American passivity in the face of various genocides around the world, would ever “apologize” for the United States. (In a depressing Kabuki drama, Power seemed forced to prove her patriotic bona fides by insisting repeatedly that the U.S. was “the greatest country on earth” and that, no, she would “never apologize” for it.) Obama’s conservative critics, both at home and abroad, paint him as a President out to diminish American power. Josef Joffe, the hawkish editor of Die Zeit, the highbrow German weekly, told me, “There is certainly consistency and coherence in his attempt to retract from the troubles of the world, to get the U.S. out of harm’s way, in order to do ‘a little nation-building at home,’ as he has so often put it. If you want to be harsh about it, he wants to turn the U.S. into a very large medium power, into an XXL France or Germany.”

Obama’s “long game” on foreign policy calls for traditional categories of American power and ideology to be reordered. Ben Rhodes, the deputy national-security adviser for strategic communications, told me that Washington was “trapped in very stale narratives.”

“In the foreign-policy establishment, to be an idealist you have to be for military intervention,” Rhodes went on. “In the Democratic Party, these debates were defined in the nineties, and the idealists lined up for military intervention. For the President, Iraq was the defining issue, and now Syria is viewed through that lens, as was Libya—to be an idealist, you have to be a military interventionist. We spent a trillion dollars in Iraq and had troops there for a decade, and you can’t say it wielded positive influence. Just the opposite. We can’t seem to get out of these boxes.”

Obama may resist the idealism of a previous generation of interventionists, but his realism, if that’s what it is, diverges from the realism of Henry Kissinger or Brent Scowcroft. “It comes from the idea that change is organic and change comes to countries in its own way, modernization comes in its own way, rather than through liberation narratives coming from the West,” Fareed Zakaria, a writer on foreign policy whom Obama reads and consults, says. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who worked at the State Department as Hillary Clinton’s director of policy planning, says, “Obama has a real understanding of the limits of our power. It’s not that the United States is in decline; it’s that sometimes the world has problems without the tools to fix them.” Members of Obama’s foreign-policy circle say that when he is criticized for his reaction to situations like Iran’s Green Revolution, in 2009, or the last days of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, in 2011, he complains that people imagine him to have a “joystick” that allows him to manipulate precise outcomes.

Obama told me that what he needs isn’t any new grand strategy—“I don’t really even need George Kennan right now”—but, rather, the right strategic partners. “There are currents in history and you have to figure out how to move them in one direction or another,” Rhodes said. “You can’t necessarily determine the final destination. . . . The President subscribes less to a great-man theory of history and more to a great-movement theory of history—that change happens when people force it or circumstances do.” (Later, Obama told me, “I’m not sure Ben is right about that. I believe in both.”)

The President may scorn the joystick fantasy, but he does believe that his words—at microphones from Cairo to Yangon—can encourage positive change abroad, even if only in the long run. In Israel last March, he told university students that “political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.” Obama, who has pressed Netanyahu to muster the political will to take risks on his own, thinks he can help “create a space”—that is the term around the White House—for forward movement on the Palestinian issue, whether he is around to see the result or not.
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Administration officials are convinced that their efforts to toughen the sanctions on Iran caused tremendous economic pain and helped Hassan Rouhani win popular support in the Iranian Presidential elections last year. Although Rouhani is no liberal—he has revolutionary and religious credentials, which is why he was able to run—he was not Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s favored candidate. Khamenei is an opaque, cautious figure, Administration officials say, but he clearly acceded to Rouhani as he saw the political demands of the population shift.

The nuclear negotiations in Geneva, which were preceded by secret contacts with the Iranians in Oman and New York, were, from Obama’s side, based on a series of strategic calculations that, he acknowledges, may not work out. As the Administration sees it, an Iranian nuclear weapon would be a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and a threat to the entire region; it could spark a nuclear arms race reaching Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. (Israel has had nukes since 1967.) But the White House is prepared to accept a civilian nuclear capacity in Iran, with strict oversight, while the Israelis and the Gulf states regard any Iranian nuclear technology at all as unacceptable. Obama has told Netanyahu and Republican senators that the absolutist benchmark is not achievable. Members of Obama’s team believe that the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states, who are now allied as never before, want the U.S. to be their proxy in a struggle not merely for de-nuclearization in Iran but for regime change—and that is not on the Administration’s agenda, except, perhaps, as a hope.

Republican and Democratic senators have expressed doubts about even the interim agreement with Iran, and have threatened to tighten sanctions still further. “Historically, there is hostility and suspicion toward Iran, not just among members of Congress but the American people,” Obama said, adding that “members of Congress are very attentive to what Israel says on its security issues.” He went on, “I don’t think a new sanctions bill will reach my desk during this period, but, if it did, I would veto it and expect it to be sustained.”

Ultimately, he envisages a new geopolitical equilibrium, one less turbulent than the current landscape of civil war, terror, and sectarian battle. “It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” he told me. “And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.

“With respect to Israel, the interests of Israel in stability and security are actually very closely aligned with the interests of the Sunni states.” As Saudi and Israeli diplomats berate Obama in unison, his reaction is, essentially, Use that. “What’s preventing them from entering into even an informal alliance with at least normalized diplomatic relations is not that their interests are profoundly in conflict but the Palestinian issue, as well as a long history of anti-Semitism that’s developed over the course of decades there, and anti-Arab sentiment that’s increased inside of Israel based on seeing buses being blown up,” Obama said. “If you can start unwinding some of that, that creates a new equilibrium. And so I think each individual piece of the puzzle is meant to paint a picture in which conflicts and competition still exist in the region but that it is contained, it is expressed in ways that don’t exact such an enormous toll on the countries involved, and that allow us to work with functioning states to prevent extremists from emerging there.”

During Obama’s performance under Saban’s tent, there was no talk of a Sunni-Israeli alignment, or of any failures of vision on Netanyahu’s part. Obama did allow himself to be testy about the criticism he has received over his handling of the carnage in Syria. “You’ll recall that that was the previous end of my Presidency, until it turned out that we are actually getting all the chemical weapons. And no one reports on that anymore.”
VII—HAMMERS AND PLIERS

Obama’s lowest moments in the Middle East have involved his handling of Syria. Last summer, when I visited Za’atari, the biggest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, one displaced person after another expressed anger and dismay at American inaction. In a later conversation, I asked Obama if he was haunted by Syria, and, though the mask of his equipoise rarely slips, an indignant expression crossed his face. “I am haunted by what’s happened,” he said. “I am not haunted by my decision not to engage in another Middle Eastern war. It is very difficult to imagine a scenario in which our involvement in Syria would have led to a better outcome, short of us being willing to undertake an effort in size and scope similar to what we did in Iraq. And when I hear people suggesting that somehow if we had just financed and armed the opposition earlier, that somehow Assad would be gone by now and we’d have a peaceful transition, it’s magical thinking.
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“It’s not as if we didn’t discuss this extensively down in the Situation Room. It’s not as if we did not solicit—and continue to solicit—opinions from a wide range of folks. Very early in this process, I actually asked the C.I.A. to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much. We have looked at this from every angle. And the truth is that the challenge there has been, and continues to be, that you have an authoritarian, brutal government who is willing to do anything to hang on to power, and you have an opposition that is disorganized, ill-equipped, ill-trained, and is self-divided. All of that is on top of some of the sectarian divisions. . . . And, in that environment, our best chance of seeing a decent outcome at this point is to work the state actors who have invested so much in keeping Assad in power—mainly the Iranians and the Russians—as well as working with those who have been financing the opposition to make sure that they’re not creating the kind of extremist force that we saw emerge out of Afghanistan when we were financing the mujahideen.”

At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”

He went on, “You have a schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the region that is profound. Some of it is directed or abetted by states who are in contests for power there. You have failed states that are just dysfunctional, and various warlords and thugs and criminals are trying to gain leverage or a foothold so that they can control resources, populations, territory. . . . And failed states, conflict, refugees, displacement—all that stuff has an impact on our long-term security. But how we approach those problems and the resources that we direct toward those problems is not going to be exactly the same as how we think about a transnational network of operatives who want to blow up the World Trade Center. We have to be able to distinguish between these problems analytically, so that we’re not using a pliers where we need a hammer, or we’re not using a battalion when what we should be doing is partnering with the local government to train their police force more effectively, improve their intelligence capacities.”

This wasn’t realism or idealism; it was something closer to policy particularism (this thing is different from that thing; Syria is not Libya; Iran is not North Korea). Yet Obama’s regular deployment of drones has been criticized as a one-size-fits-all recourse, in which the prospect of destroying an individual enemy too easily trumps broader strategic and diplomatic considerations, to say nothing of moral ones. A few weeks before Obama left Washington to scour the West Coast for money, he invited to the White House Malala Yousafzai, the remarkable Pakistani teen-ager who campaigned for women’s education and was shot in the head by the Taliban. Yousafzai thanked Obama for the material support that the U.S. government provided for education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and among Syrian refugees, but she also told him that drone strikes were “fuelling terrorism” and resentment in her country.

“I think any President should be troubled by any war or any kinetic action that leads to death,” Obama told me when I brought up Yousafzai’s remarks. “The way I’ve thought about this issue is, I have a solemn duty and responsibility to keep the American people safe. That’s my most important obligation as President and Commander-in-Chief. And there are individuals and groups out there that are intent on killing Americans—killing American civilians, killing American children, blowing up American planes. That’s not speculation. It’s their explicit agenda.”

Obama said that, if terrorists can be captured and prosecuted, “that’s always my preference. If we can’t, I cannot stand by and do nothing. They operate in places where oftentimes we cannot reach them, or the countries are either unwilling or unable to capture them in partnership with us. And that then narrows my options: we can simply be on defense and try to harden our defense. But in this day and age that’s of limited—well, that’s insufficient. We can say to those countries, as my predecessor did, if you are harboring terrorists, we will hold you accountable—in which case, we could be fighting a lot of wars around the world. And, statistically, it is indisputable that the costs in terms of not only our men and women in uniform but also innocent civilians would be much higher. Or, where possible, we can take targeted strikes, understanding that anytime you take a military strike there are risks involved. What I’ve tried to do is to tighten the process so much and limit the risks of civilian casualties so much that we have the least fallout from those actions. But it’s not perfect.”
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It is far from that. In December, an American drone flying above Al Bayda province, in Yemen, fired on what U.S. intelligence believed was a column of Al Qaeda fighters. The “column” was in fact a wedding party; twelve people were killed, and fifteen were seriously injured. Some of the victims, if not all, were civilians. This was no aberration. In Yemen and Pakistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, American drones have killed between some four hundred and a thousand civilians—a civilian-to-combatant ratio that could be as high as one to three. Obama has never made it clear how the vast populations outraged and perhaps radicalized by such remote-control mayhem might figure into his calculations about American security.

“Look, you wrestle with it,” Obama said. “And those who have questioned our drone policy are doing exactly what should be done in a democracy—asking some tough questions. The only time I get frustrated is when folks act like it’s not complicated and there aren’t some real tough decisions, and are sanctimonious, as if somehow these aren’t complicated questions. Listen, as I have often said to my national-security team, I didn’t run for office so that I could go around blowing things up.”

Obama told me that in all three of his main initiatives in the region—with Iran, with Israel and the Palestinians, with Syria—the odds of completing final treaties are less than fifty-fifty. “On the other hand,” he said, “in all three circumstances we may be able to push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us. And all three are connected. I do believe that the region is going through rapid change and inexorable change. Some of it is demographics; some of it is technology; some of it is economics. And the old order, the old equilibrium, is no longer tenable. The question then becomes, What’s next?”
VIII—AMONG THE ALIENS

On his last day in Los Angeles, Obama romanced Hollywood, taking a helicopter to visit the DreamWorks studio, in Glendale. Jeffrey Katzenberg, Obama’s host and the head of DreamWorks Animation, is one of the Democrats’ most successful fund-raisers. But it is never a good idea for the White House to admit to any quid pro quo. When one of the pool reporters asked why the President was going to Katzenberg’s studio and not, say, Universal, a travelling spokesman replied, “DreamWorks obviously is a thriving business and is creating lots of jobs in Southern California. And the fact of the matter is Mr. Katzenberg’s support for the President’s policies has no bearing on our decision to visit there.”

That’s pretty rich. Katzenberg has been a supporter from the start of Obama’s national career, raising millions of dollars for him and for the Party’s Super PACs. Nor has he been hurt by his political associations. Joe Biden helped pave the way with Xi Jinping and other officials so that DreamWorks and other Hollywood companies could build studios in China. (In an awkward postscript, the S.E.C. reportedly began investigating, in 2012, whether DreamWorks, Twentieth Century Fox, and the Walt Disney Company paid bribes to Chinese officials, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.)

A flock of military helicopters brought the Obama party to Glendale, and, after a short ride to DreamWorks Animation, Katzenberg greeted the President and gave him a tour. They stopped in a basement recording studio to watch a voice-over session for a new animated picture called “Home,” starring the voice of Steve Martin. Greeting Martin, Obama recalled that the last time they saw each other must have been when Martin played banjo with his band at the White House.

Martin nodded. “I always say the fact that I played banjo at the White House was the biggest thrill of his life.”

Katzenberg explained that “Home” was the story of the Boov, an alien race that has taken over the planet. Martin is the voice of Captain Smek, the leader of the Boov.

“Where did we go?” Obama asked Tim Johnson, the director. “Do they feed us?”

“Mostly ice cream.”

Katzenberg said that, unlike dramatic films with live actors, nineteen out of twenty of DreamWorks’ animated pictures succeed.

“My kids have aged out,” Obama said. “They used to be my excuse to watch them all.”

Katzenberg led Obama to a conference room, where the heads of most of the major movie and television studios were waiting. There would be touchy questions about business—particularly about the “North versus South” civil war in progress between the high-tech libertarians in Silicon Valley and the “content producers” in Los Angeles. The war was over intellectual-property rights, and Obama showed little desire to get in the middle of these two constituencies. If anything, he knows that Silicon Valley is ascendant, younger, more able to mobilize active voters, and he was not about to offer the studio heads his unqualified muscle.

Finally, the subject switched to global matters. Alan Horn, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, raised his hand. “First,” he said, “I do recommend that you and your family see ‘Frozen,’ which is coming to a theatre near you. ”

Then he asked about climate change.
IX—LISTENING IN

On the flight back to Washington, Obama read and played spades with some aides to pass the time. (He and his former body man Reggie Love took a break to play spades at one point during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.) After a while, one of the aides led me to the front cabin to talk with the President some more. The week before, Obama had given out the annual Presidential Medals of Freedom. One went to Benjamin C. Bradlee, the editor who built the Washington Post by joining the Times in publishing the Pentagon Papers, in 1971, and who stood behind Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they began publishing the Watergate exposés that led to the fall of the Nixon Presidency. I asked Obama how he could reconcile such an award with his Administration’s aggressive leak investigations, which have ensnared journalists and sources, and its hostility to Edward Snowden’s exposure of the N.S.A.’s blanket surveillance of American and foreign communications.
Cartoon“Use your inside voice.”April 18, 2011Buy the print »

After a long pause, Obama began to speak of how his first awareness of politics came when, as an eleven-year-old, he went on a cross-country bus trip with his mother and grandmother and, at the end of each day, watched the Watergate hearings on television. “I remember being fascinated by these figures and what was at stake, and the notion that even the President of the United States isn’t above the law,” he said. “And Sam Ervin with his eyebrows, and Inouye, this guy from Hawaii—it left a powerful impression on me. And so, as I got older, when I saw ‘All the President’s Men,’ that was the iconic vision of journalism telling truth to power, and making sure our democracy worked. And I still believe that. And so a lot of the tensions that have existed between my White House and the press are inherent in the institution. The press always wants more, and every White House, including ours, is trying to make sure that the things that we care most about are what’s being reported on, and that we’re not on any given day chasing after fifteen story lines.”

Then Obama insisted that what Snowden did was “not akin to Watergate or some scandal in which there were coverups involved.” The leaks, he said, had “put people at risk” but revealed nothing illegal. And though the leaks raised “legitimate policy questions” about N.S.A. operations, “the issue then is: Is the only way to do that by giving some twenty-nine-year-old free rein to basically dump a mountain of information, much of which is definitely legal, definitely necessary for national security, and should properly be classified?” In Obama’s view, “the benefit of the debate he generated was not worth the damage done, because there was another way of doing it.” Once again, it was the President as Professor-in-Chief, assessing all sides, and observing the tilt of the scales. (The day before his speech last week on reforming the N.S.A., he told me, “I do not have a yes/no answer on clemency for Edward Snowden. This is an active case, where charges have been brought.”)

The coverage of the leaks, Obama complained, paints “a picture of a rogue agency out there running around and breaking a whole bunch of laws and engaging in a ‘domestic spying program’ that isn’t accurate. But what that does is it synchs up with a public imagination that sees Big Brother looming everywhere.” The greater damage, in his view, was the way the leaks heightened suspicions among foreign leaders. Obama enjoyed a good relationship with Angela Merkel, but he admitted that it was undermined by reports alleging that the U.S. tapped her cell phone. This, he said, felt “like a breach of trust and I can’t argue with her being aggravated about that.”

But, he said, “there are European governments that we know spy on us, and there is a little bit of Claude Rains in ‘Casablanca’—shocked that gambling is going on.” He added, “Now, I will say that I automatically assume that there are a whole bunch of folks out there trying to spy on me, which is why I don’t have a phone. I do not send out anything on my BlackBerry that I don’t assume at some point will be on the front page of a newspaper, so it’s pretty boring reading for the most part.”

Obama admitted that the N.S.A. has had “too much leeway to do whatever it wanted or could.” But he didn’t feel “any ambivalence” about the decisions he has made. “I actually feel confident that the way the N.S.A. operates does not threaten the privacy and constitutional rights of Americans and that the laws that are in place are sound, and, because we’ve got three branches of government involved and a culture that has internalized that domestic spying is against the law, it actually works pretty well,” he said. “Over all, five years from now, when I’m a private citizen, I’m going to feel pretty confident that my government is not spying on me.”

Obama has three years left, but it’s not difficult to sense a politician with an acute sense of time, a politician devising ways to widen his legacy without the benefit of any support from Congress. The State of the Union speech next week will be a catalogue of things hoped for, a resumption of the second inaugural, with an added emphasis on the theme of inequality. But Obama knows that major legislation—with the possible exception of immigration—is unlikely. And so there is in him a certain degree of reduced ambition, a sense that even well before the commentariat starts calling him a lame duck he will spend much of his time setting an agenda that can be resolved only after he has retired to the life of a writer and post-President.

“One of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate more as President is you are essentially a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history,” he later told me. “You don’t start with a clean slate, and the things you start may not come to full fruition on your timetable. But you can move things forward. And sometimes the things that start small may turn out to be fairly significant. I suspect that Ronald Reagan, if you’d asked him, would not have considered the earned-income-tax-credit provision in tax reform to be at the top of his list of accomplishments. On the other hand, what the E.I.T.C. has done, starting with him, being added to by Clinton, being used by me during the Recovery Act, has probably kept more people out of poverty than a whole lot of other government programs that are currently in place.”

Johnson’s Great Society will be fifty years old in 2014, but no Republican wants a repeat of that scale of government ambition. Obama acknowledges this, saying, “The appetite for tax-and-transfer strategies, even among Democrats, much less among independents or Republicans, is probably somewhat limited, because people are seeing their incomes haven’t gone up, their wages haven’t gone up. It’s natural for them to think any new taxes may be going to somebody else, I’m not confident in terms of how it’s going to be spent, I’d much rather hang on to what I’ve got.” He will try to do things like set up partnerships with selected cities and citizens’ groups, sign some executive orders, but a “Marshall Plan for the inner city is not going to get through Congress anytime soon.”
Cartoon“The striptease I like! The clothes on the floor I’m not wild about.”September 13, 2010Buy the print »

Indeed, Obama is quick to show a measure of sympathy with the Reagan-era conservative analysis of government. “This is where sometimes progressives get frustrated with me,” he said, “because I actually think there was a legitimate critique of the welfare state getting bloated, and relying too much on command and control, top-down government programs to address it back in the seventies. It’s also why it’s ironic when I’m accused of being this raging socialist who wants to amass more and more power for their own government. . . . But I do think that some of the anti-government rhetoric, anti-tax rhetoric, anti-spending rhetoric that began before Reagan but fully flowered with the Reagan Presidency accelerated trends that were already existing, or at least robbed us of some tools to deal with the downsides of globalization and technology, and that with just some modest modification we could grow this economy faster and benefit more people and provide more opportunity.

“After we did all that, there would still be poverty and there would still be some inequality and there would still be a lot of work to do for the forty-fifth through fiftieth Presidents,” he went on, “but I’d like to give voice to an impression I think a lot of Americans have, which is it’s harder to make it now if you are just the average citizen who’s willing to work hard and has good values, and wasn’t born with huge advantages or having enjoyed extraordinary luck—that the ground is less secure under your feet.”

In the White House, advisers are resigned by now to the idea that some liberal voters, dismayed by a range of issues—drones, the N.S.A., the half measures of health care and financial reform—have turned away from Obama and to newer figures like Elizabeth Warren or Bill de Blasio. “Well, look, we live in a very fast-moving culture,” Obama said. “And, by definition, the President of the United States is overexposed, and it is natural, after six, seven years of me being on the national stage, that people start wanting to see . . .”

“Other flavors?”

“Yes,” he said. “ ‘Is there somebody else out there who can give me that spark of inspiration or excitement?’ I don’t spend too much time worrying about that. I think the things that are exciting people are the same things that excite me and excited me back then. I might have given fresh voice to them, but the values are essentially the same.”
X—WHAT TIME ALLOWS

Obama came home from Los Angeles in a dark, freezing downpour. The weather was too rotten even for Marine One. He hustled down the steps of Air Force One and ducked into his car.

A few weeks later, I was able to see him for a last conversation in the Oval Office. The Obamas had just had a long vacation in Hawaii—sun, golf, family, and not much else. The President was sitting behind his desk—the Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to Rutherford B. Hayes—and he was reading from a folder marked “Secret.” He closed it, walked across the room, and settled into an armchair near the fireplace. “I got some rest,” he said. “But time to get to work.”

Obama has every right to claim a long list of victories since he took office: ending two wars; an economic rescue, no matter how imperfect; strong Supreme Court nominations; a lack of major scandal; essential support for an epochal advance in the civil rights of gays and lesbians; more progressive executive orders on climate change, gun control, and the end of torture; and, yes, health-care reform. But, no matter what one’s politics, and however one weighs the arguments of his critics, both partisan and principled, one has to wonder about any President’s capacity to make these decisions amid a thousand uncertainties, so many of which are matters of life and death, survival and extinction.

“I have strengths and I have weaknesses, like every President, like every person,” Obama said. “I do think one of my strengths is temperament. I am comfortable with complexity, and I think I’m pretty good at keeping my moral compass while recognizing that I am a product of original sin. And every morning and every night I’m taking measure of my actions against the options and possibilities available to me, understanding that there are going to be mistakes that I make and my team makes and that America makes; understanding that there are going to be limits to the good we can do and the bad that we can prevent, and that there’s going to be tragedy out there and, by occupying this office, I am part of that tragedy occasionally, but that if I am doing my very best and basing my decisions on the core values and ideals that I was brought up with and that I think are pretty consistent with those of most Americans, that at the end of the day things will be better rather than worse.”

The cheering crowds and hecklers from the West Coast trip seemed far away now. In the preternaturally quiet office, you could hear, between every long pause that Obama took, the ticking of a grandfather clock just to his left.

“I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,” he said. “But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have.” The long view again. “But I think our decisions matter,” he went on. “And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”

A little while later, as we were leaving the Oval Office and walking under the colonnade, Obama said, “I just wanted to add one thing to that business about the great-man theory of history. The President of the United States cannot remake our society, and that’s probably a good thing.” He paused yet again, always self-editing. “Not ‘probably,’ ” he said. “It’s definitely a good thing.” ♦

 Voir de plus:

Checkpoint
U.S. walks fine, awkward line when addressing Iranian airstrikes in Iraq
Dan Lamothe

The Washington Post

December 3, 2014

Iranian fighter jets are now said to be bombing the Islamic State militant group in Iraq. It’s an escalation in Tehran’s presence there — and a development that has forced U.S. officials to walk a fine line while addressing it.

The latest example came Wednesday, when Secretary of State John F. Kerry was asked if he was aware of any Iranian airstrikes in Iraq, and whether he thought they were helpful in the fight against the militants. He declined to confirm whether any occurred and said Tehran and Washington are not coordinating military actions, a standing talking point for U.S. officials in recent days. But the secretary went a step further, saying Iranian airstrikes wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

“I think it’s self-evident that if Iran is taking on ISIL in some particular place and it’s confined to taking on ISIL and it has an impact … the net effect is positive,” Kerry said, using one of the acronyms for the group. “But that’s not something that we’re coordinating. The Iraqis have the overall responsibility for their own ground and air operations, and what they choose to do is up to them.”

That’s a noteworthy reaction after decades in which Iran and the United States have been on the opposite of national security issues. From the Iranian hostage crisis that ended in 1981, to the support the U.S. gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in a war against Iran in the 1980s, to the ongoing tensions of Iran’s nuclear program, Washington and Tehran have long been at odds with one another.

During the Iraq war, U.S. officials accused Tehran of supplying weapons to Shiite militia groups that attacked American troops. And in Afghanistan, Iran has exerted influence by providing support to Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. and coalition troops, while at the same time cultivating relationships in the Afghan central government, according to a 2011 analysis prepared by the Rand National Defense Research Institute for Marine Corps intelligence officials.

Iran spurned an American request for cooperation against the Islamic State in September, with its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling the coalition formed “empty, shallow & biased” on Twitter. President Obama wrote a letter to Khamenei afterward to tell him Tehran and Washington had shared interests in Iraq, but Iran is believed to exert its military influence there on its own without any American involvement.

Several Iraqi military victories against the militants this fall have come with Iranian involvement, and the commander of Iran’s Quds force, Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, has paid a visit to Iraq, according to the Associated Press. Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia group — long backed by Iran — also may have been involved.

The Pentagon press secretary, Adm. John Kirby, said Tuesday that he had seen the media reports about Iran launching airstrikes on the Islamic State, and had no reason to doubt them. But he declined to take any position on them.

“Our message to Iran is the same today as it was when it started, and as it is to any neighbor in the region that is involved in the anti-ISIL activities,” Kirby said. “And that’s that we want nothing to be done that further inflames sectarian tensions in the country.”

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.

Voir aussi:

Opposition United
Captain Obama and the Great White Whale

President Obama perseveres, convinced that everyone will thank him when the Great White Whale of Middle East policy—a lasting nuclear deal with Iran—is finally harpooned. But as the endgame draws nigh, a unified chorus of naysayers is rising in volume.

Walter Russell Mead

The American interest

20/03/15

With the House nearly united against him, can Obama still stand? Today, 360 Representatives (including more than half of the House’s Democrats) sent a letter to the President warning that permanent sanctions relief for Iran must entail new legislation from Congress. More from The Hill:

“In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief,” [the letter] adds.

The letter stops short of supporting legislation pursued by the Senate that would allow Congress 60 days to weigh in on any final deal before its implementation.

However, it adds, “We are prepared to evaluate any agreement to determine its long-term impact on the United States and our allies.”
Taken on its face, this letter would apparently doom the Iran deal in the form it is being presented through leaks from the negotiators. Iran is insisting on a time limit for the deal; the House appears to be saying that no such time limit will be acceptable to the U.S. Congress. If House Democrats stick to this message, the President’s Iran policy looks doomed to veto-proof rebukes from both branches of Congress.

This is probably not what President Obama meant when he promised to fight the partisanship in American politics, but he seems to be creating a strong bipartisan consensus on the Middle East. (He’s also been something of a uniter in the Middle East as well; Israel and the Sunni Arab countries have never been closer than they are now.)

The Dem-supported House letter isn’t the only high-profile rebuke to emerge today from the President’s camp. President Obama’s old CIA director is saying that the Iran-backed Shia militias are worse news than ISIS. In an interview with the Washington Post, General Petraeus was blunt:

The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. While the U.S. and Iran may have convergent interests in the defeat of Daesh, our interests generally diverge.  The Iranian response to the open hand offered by the U.S. has not been encouraging.

Iranian power in the Middle East is thus a double problem. It is foremost problematic because it is deeply hostile to us and our friends. But it is also dangerous because, the more it is felt, the more it sets off reactions that are also harmful to our interests — Sunni radicalism and, if we aren’t careful, the prospect of nuclear proliferation as well.

The Petraeus interview and the mass defections of House Dems highlight the degree to which Obama is going out on a limb on Iran policy. But this isn’t just a matter of Beltway elites jumping ship. John Kraushaar analyzed the Iran poll numbers in the National Journal and made a convincing argument that the public, while it supports negotiating with Iran as a general proposition, doesn’t think President Obama has gotten it right. A recent NBC/WSJ poll finds that 71% of respondents think the deal won’t do what it’s supposed to and keep Tehran from getting the bomb. This is why so many members of the President’s own party are jumping ship. Nobody wants to be on this boat, but Ahab is still at the wheel, pursuing the Great White Whale at all costs.Ahab is still at the wheel, pursuing the Great White Whale at all costs.

One has to think back almost 100 years to Wilson chasing his Treaty of Versailles in the face of growing public skepticism and Congressional dissent to see this many omens of a car crash. The more the opposition mounts, the more grimly determined the President becomes to hold his course. The more determined the President looks, the more disquieting the doubts that circulate among Democrats—and the more Republicans smell the opportunity to land a crippling blow against a policy they despise.

There seem to be four leading scenarios on the horizon. One is that the President gets his deal, somehow steers it past (or around) Congress, and the deal works: Iran becomes our friend and the Middle East gets better. At that point he looks like a genius and the doubts are forgotten. The critics look bad as the United States sails into a bright new day, and President Obama goes down in history as a courageous and visionary peacemaker who stuck to his guns when the going got tough. This seems unlikely, but it can’t be ruled out.

The second is uglier, but more probable. In this scenario, Iran signs a deal, and after an ugly fight, Congress gives it a grudging and perhaps partial OK. Then pundits and policymakers argue for years about whether it was a success or not, the public mostly dislikes it, and the Iran deal, like Obamacare, becomes a pyrrhic victory. The President notches up a win but his party stumbles under the weight of the baggage.

The third possibility is uglier and, based on today’s news from Congress, more probable still. In this scenario, Iran and the President strike a deal, but Congress succeeds in crippling it. Perhaps it passes a bill and then overrides his veto; perhaps it refuses to pass enabling legislation that the Iranians say is necessary. At that point, the deal breaks down, some of the P-5 begin to circumvent the sanctions, and the President will have a big mess on his hands as Iran, perhaps, accelerates its march toward a bomb.

The final possibility is that the Iranians walk away from the deal. That is not a worst case scenario for the President; if there isn’t any deal he doesn’t have to consume the next several months of his presidency in an all-out effort to protect it from Congress. The biggest downside: He will then have to start from close to zero on Middle East policy, and presumably head back to some angry, jilted allies for help even as relations with Iran grow worse.

The President himself gives 50-50 odds for a deal at this point; if he’s right, and if we assume that the other scenarios are equally probable, he has about a 17 percent chance of emerging from this process with a clear win, a 17 percent chance of a pyrrhic victory, and a 67 percent chance of an outcome that will be considered a defeat.

The President’s biggest remaining advantage is that a significant part of the pro-Obama wing of the Democratic press and pundit establishment are still looking at the Middle East in a compartmentalized way. They don’t get the causal connection between the quest for an Iran deal and regional disorder. So caught up are they in the “Negotiations always good, confrontation always bad” worldview that they haven’t come to grips with the reality that in the Middle East, Obama’s regional strategy of withdrawal and accommodation to Iran undermines rather than supports the goal of a nuclear deal.

Thus, instead of criticizing Obama’s policy incoherence and the way in which his chosen strategies undercut his stated goals, such observers frame the whole issue as whether it’s better to try to reach a nuclear deal with Iran than to just let hostility fester while the Islamic Republic comes closer to its nuclear goals. Stated this way, it’s easy to make a case for the White House approach even as the shadows deepen and the region burns — and this is the line that the remaining loyalists take.

But more and more people in the center are beginning to see beyond the pretty packaging and to ask questions the White House doesn’t seem to be able to answer about its overall plan. Thomas Friedman looked askance at the President this week, asking “Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?” Henry Kissinger’s most recent book contains a long warning against the course we are on. Jeffrey Goldberg, anything but a knee-jerk opponent of the President, has been voicing his growing worries over the cost of the deal—most recently declaring that there’s “no solution” when it comes to Iran, very much including a nuclear deal. Former Administration officials are aghast; like Martin Indyk before him, what David Petraeus is really saying is that President’s strategy doesn’t cohere.

Yet Ahab sails on, convinced that the crew will thank him when the Great White Whale is finally harpooned. The crew hopes he is right, but faith is ebbing as the endgame draws nigh.

Voir de plus:

Israel’s Gilded Age
Paul Krugman

The New York times

March 16, 2015

Why did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel feel the need to wag the dog in Washington? For that was, of course, what he was doing in his anti-Iran speech to Congress. If you’re seriously trying to affect American foreign policy, you don’t insult the president and so obviously align yourself with his political opposition. No, the real purpose of that speech was to distract the Israeli electorate with saber-rattling bombast, to shift its attention away from the economic discontent that, polls suggest, may well boot Mr. Netanyahu from office in Tuesday’s election.

But wait: Why are Israelis discontented? After all, Israel’s economy has performed well by the usual measures. It weathered the financial crisis with minimal damage. Over the longer term, it has grown more rapidly than most other advanced economies, and has developed into a high-technology powerhouse. What is there to complain about?

The answer, which I don’t think is widely appreciated here, is that while Israel’s economy has grown, this growth has been accompanied by a disturbing transformation in the country’s income distribution and society. Once upon a time, Israel was a country of egalitarian ideals — the kibbutz population was always a small minority, but it had a large impact on the nation’s self-perception. And it was a fairly equal society in reality, too, right up to the early 1990s.

Since then, however, Israel has experienced a dramatic widening of income disparities. Key measures of inequality have soared; Israel is now right up there with America as one of the most unequal societies in the advanced world. And Israel’s experience shows that this matters, that extreme inequality has a corrosive effect on social and political life.

Consider what has happened at either end of the spectrum — the growth in poverty, on one side, and extreme wealth, on the other.

According to Luxembourg Income Study data, the share of Israel’s population living on less than half the country’s median income — a widely accepted definition of relative poverty — more than doubled, to 20.5 percent from 10.2 percent, between 1992 and 2010. The share of children in poverty almost quadrupled, to 27.4 percent from 7.8 percent. Both numbers are the worst in the advanced world, by a large margin.

And when it comes to children, in particular, relative poverty is the right concept. Families that live on much lower incomes than those of their fellow citizens will, in important ways, be alienated from the society around them, unable to participate fully in the life of the nation. Children growing up in such families will surely be placed at a permanent disadvantage.

At the other end, while the available data — puzzlingly — don’t show an especially large share of income going to the top 1 percent, there is an extreme concentration of wealth and power among a tiny group of people at the top. And I mean tiny. According to the Bank of Israel, roughly 20 families control companies that account for half the total value of Israel’s stock market. The nature of that control is convoluted and obscure, working through “pyramids” in which a family controls a firm that in turn controls other firms and so on. Although the Bank of Israel is circumspect in its language, it is clearly worried about the potential this concentration of control creates for self-dealing.

Still, why is Israeli inequality a political issue? Because it didn’t have to be this extreme.

I think it’s more likely Netanyahu simply doesn’t give the economy as much thought as someone like Krugman may think. Netanyahu is like…

You might think that Israeli inequality is a natural outcome of a high-tech economy that generates strong demand for skilled labor — or, perhaps, reflects the importance of minority populations with low incomes, namely Arabs and ultrareligious Jews. It turns out, however, that those high poverty rates largely reflect policy choices: Israel does less to lift people out of poverty than any other advanced country — yes, even less than the United States.

Meanwhile, Israel’s oligarchs owe their position not to innovation and entrepreneurship but to their families’ success in gaining control of businesses that the government privatized in the 1980s — and they arguably retain that position partly by having undue influence over government policy, combined with control of major banks.

In short, the political economy of the promised land is now characterized by harshness at the bottom and at least soft corruption at the top. And many Israelis see Mr. Netanyahu as part of the problem. He’s an advocate of free-market policies; he has a Chris Christie-like penchant for living large at taxpayers’ expense, while clumsily pretending otherwise.

So Mr. Netanyahu tried to change the subject from internal inequality to external threats, a tactic those who remember the Bush years should find completely familiar. We’ll find out on Tuesday whether he succeeded.

Voir par ailleurs:

Yémen: un premier avion iranien atterrit à Sanaa, contrôlée par des miliciens chiites

Romandie.com

01.03.15

Sanaa – Un premier avion iranien est arrivé dimanche à Sanaa, au lendemain de la signature d’un accord entre Téhéran et des responsables de l’aviation de la capitale yéménite, contrôlée par la milice chiite des Houthis, a constaté un photographe de l’AFP.

L’appareil de la compagnie Mahan Air est arrivé à Sanaa avec à son bord une équipe du Croissant rouge iranien et des caisses de médicaments, a précisé à l’AFP un responsable de l’aviation yéménite.

Il a ajouté que des diplomates iraniens étaient présents pour accueillir ce vol, le premier entre les deux pays depuis des années.

L’agence officielle Saba, contrôlée par les Houthis qui sont entrés dans Sanaa en septembre et ont renforcé leur emprise sur la capitale en janvier, a indiqué que le Yémen et l’Iran ont signé samedi un accord de coopération aéronautique.

Signé à Téhéran entre l’Autorité de l’aviation civile yéménite et son homologue iranienne, cet accord autorise Mahan Air et la compagnie Yemenia à assurer 14 vols chacune par semaine.

Selon Saba, une délégation houthie menée par un membre de son conseil politique, Saleh al-Sammad, devait en outre se rendre dimanche à Téhéran pour une visite qualifiée d’officielle et destinée à renforcer la coopération, notamment économique et politique, entre les deux pays.

Le président yéménite Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi a qualifié l’accord avec l’Iran d’illégal et promis de demander des comptes à ceux qui l’avaient signé, a indiqué un membre de son entourage. Il a tenu ces propos en recevant des dizaines de dignitaires des différentes provinces.

Assigné à résidence par les Houthis pendant un mois, M. Hadi s’est enfui de Sanaa le 21 février et s’est réfugié à Aden, la grande ville du sud.

Nous avons choisi de venir à Aden après que les Houthis ont occupé la capitale Sanaa. Venir à Aden ne signifie pas revenir à la partition du pays comme le prétendent certains, mais préserver la sécurité et stabilité du Yémen, a ajouté le président, qui a accusé à plusieurs reprises l’Iran de soutenir les Houthis.

M. Hadi a également réaffirmé son rejet de tout ce qui s’est passé à Sanaa en disant qu’il s’agit d’un coup d’Etat dans tous les sens du terme. Il a annoncé son intention de faire face aux Houthis, a indiqué un participant Naji Hanichi, représentant du Parti socialiste de la province de Marib (centre).

Le secrétaire d’Etat américain John Kerry avait affirmé le 24 février que le soutien apporté par l’Iran aux miliciens chiites a contribué à leur avènement et à la chute du gouvernement à Sanaa. Des accusations catégoriquement rejetées par l’Iran.

Voir encore:

Does Iran really control Yemen?
On Jan. 22, the embattled Western- and Saudi-backed president of Yemen, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and his Cabinet resigned. Immediately afterward, the Houthi Shiite rebels, who have controlled the capital Sanaa since September and are officially organized under the banner of Ansarollah (God’s Partisans), announced that they seek “a peaceful transfer of power.”

Shahir ShahidSaless

Iran pulse

Al-Monitor

February 12, 2015

Despite some differences in their religious beliefs, when it comes to foreign policy, very little separates the Iranian Twelver Shiites from Houthis, who are Zaidi Shiites. The political narrative that Houthis have propagated is “Death to America, Death to Israel,” which is modeled on revolutionary Iran’s motto.

Houthis adhere to a branch of Shiite Islam known as Zaidism. Their name is derived from Badr al-Din al-Houthi, the group’s leader during the uprising in 2004 that sought autonomy for their heartland, Saada province, and protection for their tradition against Sunni domination. Saada province is in Yemen’s northwest and sits adjacent to the southwest border of Saudi Arabia. According to some estimates, Zaidis make up one-third of Yemen’s 25 million population.

A series of statements by Iranian officials shed light on Iran’s point of view: Yemen is now within Iran’s sphere of influence and is viewed as a new member of the “axis of resistance,” which encompasses Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militants. This axis is an Iran-led alliance of state and non-state actors in the Middle East that seeks to primarily confront Western interests and Israel.

Aside from shared regional objectives, another pillar of the axis is Iran’s extensive material, financial, training and logistical assistance to the members of the grouping.

On Jan. 25, Hojatoleslam (a Shiite clerical rank just below that of ayatollah) Ali Shirazi, representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, said, “Hezbollah was formed in Lebanon as a popular force like Basij (Iran’s militia). Similarly popular forces were also formed in Syria and Iraq, and today we are watching the formation of Ansarollah in Yemen.”

A few days earlier, IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami said, “Ansarollah is a similar copy of [Lebanese] Hezbollah in a strategic area.”

In both statements, the likening of Ansarollah to Hezbollah could be interpreted as Iran’s involvement in financing and weaponizing Ansarollah as it does for Hezbollah.

The former speaker of Iran’s Majles, Ali Akbar Nategh-Nuri, who heads the Office of Inspection of the House of the Supreme Leader, has also added Yemen to Iran’s new sphere of influence, maintaining on Jan. 31, “We witness today that our revolution is exported to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.”

On Dec. 16, Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign affairs adviser to Khamenei, asserted that Iran’s influence stretches now “from Yemen to Lebanon.”

In October, Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Said, the supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC, touted Iran’s growing influence by saying, “The Islamic Republic’s borders … are now transferred to the farthest points in the Middle East. Today, the strategic depth of Iran stretches to Mediterranean coasts and Bab al-Mandab Strait [southwest of Yemen].”

In addition, there are claims that Iran is directly involved in sponsoring the Ansarollah (Houthi) movement.

In September, according to Reuters, the Yemeni government freed “at least three suspected Iranian Revolutionary Guard members … who had been held for months over alleged ties to” Ansarollah.

Hussein Al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi activist who is familiar with the inner workings of the group, has denied the story as “false claims about the involvement of Iran” in Yemen’s developments.

Despite some reports about Iran’s material support and training to Ansarollah, Houthis have continually denied allegations that they are proxies for Iranian foreign policy objectives but have admitted Iranian backing due to a shared vision in confronting “the American project. »

Former Yemeni officials continually complained about Iran’s intervention. As a glaring example, they stressed the “Jihan 1” affair as evidence. Allegedly the ship Jihan 1 was seized by Yemen in 2013 and was smuggling weapons from Iran to Yemeni insurgents. Iran denied any connection to the incident.

Meanwhile, Ali Al-Bukhaiti, a prominent member of the group’s political arm, said, “Iran is not so stupid so as to send this big quantity of weapons to easily provide evidence about itself. Iran could have sent money to Houthis, who would then buy any weapons they want from local markets or from African smugglers.”

Given these circumstances, why do several Iranian officials depict Yemen as a new Islamic Republic stronghold and part of the “resistance”?

There could be two explanations.

The first is that Iran has not materially assisted and supported the Houthis, and that Iranian statements of the opposite are simply targeting several audiences domestically and regionally. Iranian officials who do insist on Yemen’s place in the “resistance” depict the rise of revolutionary Shiite Houthis in Yemen as yet another victory for Iran and against the West, and particularly their Sunni rival, Saudi Arabia.

Iran, then, is exaggerating its regional power and military reach to create a mystical stature aimed at solidifying the confidence of its grassroots supporters within and outside its borders — in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon — while muscle-flexing, and discouraging and pushing its domestic and international opponents onto the defensive.

Many observers maintain that the developments in Yemen are likely to set off alarms in the West and Israel, but most seriously in neighboring Sunni Saudi Arabia, which backed Hadi’s government with billions of dollars and is locked in a proxy cold war with Shiite Iran over regional hegemony.

The presence of an Iran ally at the borders of Saudi Arabia is not only a serious threat militarily but could also destabilize the country from within. The victory of Houthis may inspire the Shiites in Eastern Province, an estimated 10% to 15% of the Saudi population who are already in a tense relationship with the establishment, to rise.

The weakness of this explanation is that while Saudis have poured billions of dollars into supporting the Yemeni establishment, it is hard to believe that Houthis succeeded in organizing such a massive movement and fought a victorious war, as one analysts maintained, just by selling “pomegranates and grapes,” Saada’s major source of income.

The second explanation is that there is truth in the former Yemeni president’s claims and accusations that Iran meddles in Yemen’s affairs as well as Iranians’ statements implying that Ansarollah is a new member of the “axis of resistance.” But if so, why do Zaidi Houthis reject such a connection?

There is a near consensus among Yemen experts that no single tribe or political current can individually govern the country. Although pictures of ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah have been carried by Houthi supporters during demonstrations, in the last year or so, no member of the Houthi political bureau has made any statement praising Iran.

The Houthis’ position might be explained by pointing to their lack of desire to stir up unnecessary resistance from inside and outside of the country against them, and that they do not seek to become the sole holder of power in Yemen. Hussein Al-Bukhaiti explains Houthis’ realistic view of Yemen as follows:

“We cannot apply this [Iranian system] in Yemen because the followers of the Shafi [Sunni] doctrine are bigger in number than [us], the Zaidis [Shiite].”

Voir de même:

Iran Reacts Favorably to the Baker-Hamilton Plan
Scott Macleod/Tehran

Time

Dec. 09, 2006

The Iranian government has responded more positively than the Bush Administration has to the Iraq Study Group’s proposal for talks between the two. And government sources in Tehran tell TIME that this reflects a sincere and calculated desire among the Iranian leadership for improved relations with Washington.Responding to the Baker-Hamilton report’s proposal that Washington move quickly to engage Iran on talks over stabilizing Iraq, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki dangled an offer of cooperation in a statement published by an Iranian news agency. « Iran will support any policies returning security, stability and territorial integrity to Iraq, » he said, « and considers withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and leaving security to the Iraqi government as the most suitable option. » In an interview on Al Jazeera, Mottaki added that if the U.S. needs an « honorable way out of Iraq, » and Iran « is in a position to help. »

President Bush, by contrast, appeared to rebuff the suggestion, insisting that Iran would have to suspend its uranium-enrichment program before it could talk to the U.S. about Iraq. And the response from many U.S. lawmakers questioning Iran’s motives in Iraq underscored the continued taboo in Washington over dealing openly with the Islamic Republic.

Three Iranian sources — a government official and two figures close to government policymakers — tell TIME that Mottaki’s statement is reflective of a solid consensus among the regime’s foreign-policy decision makers that restoring relations with the U.S. is in Iran’s best interests. « If tomorrow the U.S. seriously — and I emphasize the word seriously — tried to engage Iran, in a way that accepted the 1979 Iranian revolution and engaged Iran in a respectful atmosphere, then Iran would welcome the chance to address mutual concerns, » said one of the sources, a prominent expert on U.S.-Iranian relations.

TIME’s sources offered a glimpse into the internal Iranian debate on the issue, which involves Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Supreme National Security Council headed by Ali Larijani, as well as other senior Iranian officials. While radical elements inside the regime remain adamantly opposed to dealing with the « Great Satan, » the sources said, a strong consensus has nonetheless developed among Iran’s ruling conservatives in favor of talks with the U.S. The basis of this consensus is a belief that improved relations with the U.S. would serve Iranian interests on a variety of fronts, including Iraq, Afghanistan, oil production, foreign investment and Iran’s nuclear energy program. Iran’s definition of talks, the sources emphasize, is not simply an American harangue about Iran’s policies, but discussions that include Iranian concerns about the U.S., including sanctions, frozen Iranian assets, future American military plans for the region and Washington’s support for anti-government groups.

Some Iranian leaders and officials, including President Ahmadinejad, also believe that Iran now has the opportunity to deal with Washington from a position of strength, for the first time since the 1979 revolution. The sources say that this assessment is based on a perception that the U.S. is stuck in quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Iran’s influence in the region and throughout the Muslim world is expanding. These officials see further evidence of Iran’s advantage in the difficulties the U.S. continues to encounter in winning support for U.N. tough sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. The sources say that Iranian officials believe that to open a serious dialogue with the U.S. in these circumstances would significantly enhance Iran’s international prestige and regional influence.

Iran is also increasingly concerned about the need to stabilize Iraq, say TIME’s sources, in contrast to U.S. charges that Tehran is fueling instability there. The sources indicate that Iranian officials essentially agree with the Baker-Hamilton conclusion that while Iran gains an advantage from having the U.S. mired in Iraq, its long-term interests are not served by Iraqi chaos and territorial disintegration. « Iran would love to see the situation stabilized in Iraq, » says a source. « That is a very important concern for Iran. But Iran doesn’t want to see the U.S. declare victory, in case the Americans would like to attack Iran next. » The sources say that among the ways Iran could be helpful is to try to persuade groups representing the Shi’ite majority and Kurds in Iraq to be more conciliatory to the Sunni minority whose grievances fuel the insurgency.

As evidence of Iran’s readiness, the sources say, Larijani earlier this year publicly accepted an offer made by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to hold talks with Iranian officials in Baghdad. But in Iran’s view, the U.S. withdrew the offer and that undercut Larijani’s standing inside the regime, strengthening the position of more hard-line elements, including Ahmadinejad. « It was a missed opportunity, » contends the expert on U.S.-Iranian relations.

And, in light of the debates that continue to swirl both in Tehran and Washington over whether to talk to each other, it may not have been the last one.

Voir encore:

How Obama Flubbed His Missile Message
Scrapping missile defense was the right thing to do, says former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski—but how the U.S. conveyed the decision to its Eastern European allies couldn’t have been worse.

Gerald Posner

The Daily beast

09.17.09

President Obama’s decision Thursday to scrap the Bush administration’s missile-defense umbrella for Europe is being bemoaned by Republicans at home and top diplomats from Poland, which was slated to be the main staging ground for the missile system.

But Zbigniew Brzezinski—who as Jimmy Carter’s Polish-born national security adviser confronted problems in Iran, Afghanistan, and the Middle East—says that dropping the missile-shield program gives the U.S. more defense options in Europe. At 81, Brzezinski, an early and enthusiastic Obama supporter, is as opinionated as ever about what America is doing right and wrong when it comes to the key foreign-policy issues.

“The Bush missile-shield proposal was based on a nonexistent defense technology, designed against a nonexistent threat, and designed to protect West Europeans, who weren’t asking for the protection.”

Brzezinski, who was considered a hawk in the Carter administration and was often touted by Democratic politicians as the party’s response to Henry Kissinger, spoke to The Daily Beast about how Obama flubbed the delivery of his decision to the Czechs and the Poles, why dropping the program won’t convince Russia to help us on Iran, and the effect of a possible Israeli preemptive strike on Tehran.

Is the Obama administration decision to end the missile-defense program the right one?
Well, let me first of all say that my view on this subject for the last two years has been that the Bush missile-shield proposal was based on a nonexistent defense technology, designed against a nonexistent threat, and designed to protect West Europeans, who weren’t asking for the protection.

Does scrapping the missile program weaken our defense options in Europe vis-à-vis the Russians?
Not at all. What is left is militarily sounder. It gives the U.S. more options while still enhancing America’s ability to develop more effective defense systems, which is what the Russians really dislike. But now they have less of an excuse to bitch about it.

What about the way we informed our allies of our decision?
The way it was conveyed to the Czechs and Poles could not have been worse. It involved [laughs] waking up the Czech prime minster after midnight with a sudden phone call from President Obama. The Polish prime minister was at least allowed to sleep late. But as far as Poland was concerned, unfortunately, poor staff work did not alert the United States that today, September 17, is a particularly painful anniversary for Poland. In 1939, the Poles were still fighting the Germans when on September 17 the Russians stabbed them in the back. To the Poles, that is something very painful. And since they misconstrued—and I emphasize the word “misconstrue”—that the missile shield somehow strengthened their relationship with the U.S. when it comes to Russia, it was immediately suggestive of the notion of a sellout. It’s the wrong conclusion, but in politics, even wrong conclusions have to be anticipated.

How is it possible that the State Department did not bring up the sensitivity of this day to the Poles?
Lousy staff work. Period. I don’t know who precisely to point the finger at. It was obviously not anticipated in this case.

There are some pundits who believe that by abandoning the missile-defense program, we will gain the help of Russia when it comes to arm-twisting Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Anything to that?
I doubt it. The Russians have their own interests in Iran, which are far more complex than the simplistic notion that the Russians want to help us with Iran. The Russians have a complicated agenda with Iran. They also know in the back of their heads that if worse came to worse—and I am not saying they are deliberately promoting the worst—but if worse came to worse, which is an American-Iranian military collision, who would pay the highest price for that? First, America, whose success in ending the Cold War the Russians still bitterly resent. And we would also pay a high price in Iraq, Afghanistan, and massively so with regards to the price of oil. Second, who would suffer the most? The Chinese, who the Russians view as a long-range threat and of whom they are very envious, because the Chinese get much more of their oil from the Middle East than we do, and the skyrocketing price would hurt them even more than us. Third, who would then be totally dependent on the Russians? The West Europeans. And fourth, who would cash in like crazy? The Kremlin.

Is the fallout as bad if Israel preemptively strikes Iran?
Absolutely. That is the way, more importantly, how the Iranians would view it. They really can’t do much to the Israelis, despite all their bluster. The only thing they can do is unify themselves, especially nationalistically, to rally against us, and the mullahs might even think of it as a blessing.

How aggressive can Obama be in insisting to the Israelis that a military strike might be in America’s worst interest?
We are not exactly impotent little babies. They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?

What if they fly over anyway?
Well, we have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse. [Israeli jet fighters and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, off the Sinai Peninsula, during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel later claimed the ship was the object of friendly fire.]

Did it surprise you that it took the Obama administration so long to do away with the missile-defense program? Is he setting firm lines that can’t be crossed, such as with Iran and Israel?
Well, Obama has been very impressive in refining our policy toward the world on a lot of issues, very impressive. But he has been relatively much less impressive in the follow-through.

You mean his policy sounds ideal but the follow-up isn’t good?
Not as precise, clear-cut, and forthcoming as would be desirable.

What would you like have seen already from this administration?
By now we should have been able to formulate a clearer posture on what we are prepared to do to promote a Palestinian-Israeli peace. Simply giving a frequent-traveler ticket to George Mitchell is not the same thing as policy. It took a long time to get going on Iran, but there is an excuse there, the Iranian domestic mess. And we are now eight months into the administration, and I would have thought by now we could have formulated a strategy that we would have considered “our” strategy for dealing with Iran and Pakistan. For example, the Carter administration, which is sometimes mocked, by now had in motion a policy of disarmament with the Russians, which the Russians didn’t like, but eventually bought; it had started a policy of normalization with the Chinese; it rammed through the Panama Canal treaty; and it was moving very, very openly toward an Israeli-Arab political peace initiative.

Where did the impetus come from in the Carter administration, and why aren’t we seeing it with Obama?
There was a closer connection between desire and execution. Also the president was not as deeply embroiled, and buffeted, by a very broad, and commendable and ambitious domestic program as President Obama is. I think the Republican onslaught to the president, the wavering of some Democrats, has vastly complicated not only his choices in foreign affairs, but even limited the amount of attention he can give to them.

Is there truth that the more issues he is embroiled in, the less he can act?
I don’t think it’s the number of issues; it’s how decisively a president acts. A president, in his first year, is at the peak of his popularity, and if he acts decisively, even if some oppose him, most will rally around him, out of patriotism, out of opportunism, out of loyalty, out of the crowd instinct, just a variety of human motives.

Some in the Obama administration have told me that it’s only just over half a year, and we are jumping to too early conclusions about anything. Are the early months more critical than other times in an administration?
The first year is decisive. How much you can set in motion the first year sets the tone for much of the rest of the term. In part, that’s because all these things take more than one year to complete. But the point is you want to have a dynamic start that carries momentum with it.

President Carter early on ran into strong opposition from American-based pro-Israeli lobbying groups that opposed the administration’s ideas for a peace initiative in the Middle East. What lesson should the Obama administration learn in formulating its own approach to an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue?
The lesson is if you are forthright in what you are seeking, you tend to mobilize support within the Jewish community. Because a majority of American Jews are liberal, and in the long run they know that peace in the Middle East is absolutely essential to Israel’s long-term survival.

Are you concerned about Afghanistan?
Quite unintentionally, but potentially and tragically, we are sliding into a posture which is beginning—and I emphasize the word “beginning”—to be reminiscent of what happened to the Soviets.

We have plenty of time to reverse course?
There is some time to reverse course. But time flies.

Gerald Posner is The Daily Beast’s chief investigative reporter. He’s the award-winning author of 10 investigative nonfiction bestsellers, ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism. His latest book, Miami Babylon: Crime, Wealth and Power—A Dispatch from the Beach , will be published in October. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.

Voir de plus:

Go Ahead, Ruin My Day
Thomas L. Friedman

The NYT

March 18, 2015

As the saying goes, “to err is human, to forgive is divine,” to which I’d add: “to ignore” is even more human, and the results rarely divine. None of us would be human if we didn’t occasionally get so wedded to our wishes that we failed to notice — or outright ignored — the facts on the ground that make a laughingstock of our hopes. Only when the gap gets too wide to ignore does policy change. This is where a lot of U.S. policy is heading these days in the Middle East. Mind the gaps — on Iran, Israel and Iraq. We’re talking about our choices in these countries with words that strike me as about 10 years out of date. Alas, we are not dealing anymore with your grandfather’s Israel, your father’s Iran or the Iraq your son or daughter went off to liberate.

Let’s start with Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party pretty well trounced the Labor Party leader, Isaac Herzog, in the race to form Israel’s next government. Netanyahu clearly made an impressive 11th-hour surge since the pre-election polls of last week. It is hard to know what is more depressing: that Netanyahu went for the gutter in the last few days in order to salvage his campaign — renouncing his own commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians and race-baiting Israeli Jews to get out and vote because, he said, too many Israeli Arabs were going to the polls —  or the fact that this seemed to work.

To be sure, Netanyahu could reverse himself tomorrow. As the Yediot Ahronot columnist Nahum Barnea wrote: Netanyahu’s promises are like something “written on ice on a very hot day.” But the fact is a good half of Israel identifies with the paranoid, everyone-is-against-us, and religious-nationalist tropes Netanyahu deployed in this campaign. That, along with the fact that some 350,000 settlers are now living in the West Bank, makes it hard to see how a viable two-state solution is possible anymore no matter who would have won.

It would be wrong, though, to put all of this on Netanyahu. The insane, worthless Gaza war that Hamas initiated last summer that brought rockets to the edge of Israel’s main international airport and the Palestinians’ spurning of two-state offers of previous Israeli prime ministers (Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert) built Netanyahu’s base as much as he did.

On Iran, there’s an assumption among critics of President Obama’s approach to negotiating limits on Iran’s nuclear program that if Obama were ready to impose more sanctions then the Iranians would fold. It’s not only the history of the last 20 years that mocks that notion. It is a more simple fact: In the brutal Middle East, the only thing that gets anyone’s attention is the threat of regime-toppling force. Obama has no such leverage on Iran.

It was used up in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars that have left our military and country so exhausted that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big U.S. land army into the Middle East “should have his head examined.” Had those wars succeeded, the public today might feel differently. But they didn’t. Geopolitics is all about leverage, and we are negotiating with Iran without the leverage of a credible threat of force. The ayatollahs know it. Under those circumstances, I am sure the Obama team will try to get the best deal it can. But a really good deal isn’t on the menu.

Have I ruined your morning yet? No? Give me a couple more paragraphs.

O.K., so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb, but shouldn’t we at least bomb the Islamic State to smithereens and help destroy this head-chopping menace? Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?

In 2002, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in Afghanistan (the Taliban regime). In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad.

ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism — mixing old pro-Saddam Baathists with medieval Sunni religious fanatics with a collection of ideologues, misfits and adventure-seekers from around the Sunni Muslim world. Obviously, I abhor ISIS and don’t want to see it spread or take over Iraq. I simply raise this question rhetorically because no one else is: Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really?

If it seems as though we have only bad choices in the Middle East today and nothing seems to work, there is a reason: Because past is prologue, and the past has carved so much scar tissue into that landscape that it’s hard to see anything healthy or beautiful growing out of it anytime soon. Sorry to be so grim.

Voir également:

IRAK Un commandant iranien en première ligne contre l’EI en Irak

France 24

04/09/2014

Des photos et des vidéos amateur prouvent que Qassem Soleimani, le commandant des forces d’élites iraniennes, est en Irak et se bat au côté des forces irakiennes – soutenues et armées par les États-unis – contre les jihadistes de l’organisation de l’État islamique.

La ville d’Amerli, tenue depuis le 18 juin par les jihadistes de l’organisation de l’EI, a été libérée le 31 août après une contre-attaque de l’armée irakienne appuyée par des miliciens chiites et des raids aériens américains. Mais d’autres acteurs étaient de la partie : une vidéo publiée jeudi par des activistes chiites sur Facebook et récupérée par France 24 montre le commandant Soleimani, au milieu de soldats, en train de célébrer la prise d’Amerli par les combattants et l’armée irakienne.  A la troisième seconde, un homme portant une écharpe noire et blanche est visible en train de se congratuler.

Mercredi, une autre photo circulait sur les réseaux sociaux sur laquelle le commandant Soleimani, portant les mêmes vêtements et la même écharpe que sur la vidéo, apparaît cette fois à côté d’un soldat irakien vêtu d’un uniforme fourni par les États-unis et tenant une arme de fabrication américaine.

Le commandant Qassem Soleimani est en charge du commandement militaire de la Force Qods, une unité d’élite de l’armée qui intervient en dehors du territoire iranien. Plusieurs rumeurs faisaient état de sa présence sur le territoire irakien mais sans avoir pu être confirmées. Il y a trois mois déjà, le militaire était déjà apparu sur une photo au côté du député irakien Qasem Alarji, ce dernier commentant « maintenant que le commandant Soleimani est là, je n’ai plus peur ».

La photo était selon des médias iraniens accompagnée d’une légende : « Maintenant que le commandant Soleimani est là, je n’ai plus peur ».

Les preuves de la présence de ce commandant iranien en Irak se multiplient donc alors même que l’Iran refuse d’admettre sa participation dans la guerre en Irak contre l’organisation de l’État islamique, ce qui reviendrait à officialiser sa collaboration militaire de fait avec les États-Unis.

Le commandant Soleimani a entrainé pendant une décennie des milices irakiennes qui se sont opposées et ont tué des centaines de soldats américains lors de la guerre d’Irak en 2003. Ses unités seraient également intervenues en Syrie en 2013 en appui au régime de Bachar el-Assad. Il a pour cela été sanctionné par le département du Trésor américain.

Ce n’est pas la première fois que la participation de l’Iran à l’intervention militaire en Irak est dévoilée : en juillet, des avions iraniens camouflés avaient été aperçus sur le sol irakien.

Voir enfin:

Face à l’Iran, les républicains saluent la fermeté de la France
Laure Mandeville
Le Figaro

11/11/2013

L’alliance de fait entre la France, le Congrès américain et Israël met Obama et les colombes de la Maison-Blanche sous pression.

«Vive la France!» a tweeté le sénateur républicain John McCain ce week-end après la fermeté de Paris sur le dossier du nucléaire iranien. Les Français ont eu «le courage d’empêcher un mauvais accord avec l’Iran», a-t-il ajouté. Son vieux complice Lindsay Graham est tout aussi positif sur la volonté de Laurent Fabius de ne pas accepter «un accord de dupes» avec Téhéran. «Dieu merci pour la France…», a lancé l’élu de Caroline du Sud sur CNN, qui ne veut pas «d’une Corée du Nord au Proche-Orient!».

Cette francophilie en dit long sur les profondes réticences que suscite au Congrès la négociation engagée par l’Administration Obama avec Téhéran. Beaucoup d’élus, démocrates comme républicains, ont peur que les colombes de la Maison-Blanche, soucieuses d’éviter une confrontation armée, ne soient prêtes à accepter un accord mal ficelé, qui ne ferait que donner du temps à Téhéran pour construire la bombe, comme il y a dix ans. En ce sens, «ils sont en phase avec les préoccupations de la France, qui ne veut pas d’un accord au rabais», note une source diplomatique française. Une intéressante alliance des «faucons» se dessine de facto entre Paris, Jérusalem, le Congrès et les monarchies du Golfe, ­anxieuses d’un accord avec la Perse qui se ferait sur leur dos.

C’est donc sur ces multiples fronts extérieurs et intérieurs que la diplomatie américaine va devoir se mobiliser d’ici au 20 novembre, après un week-end qui a vu capoter l’accord espéré à Genève. L’Iran et le groupe 5 + 1 (qui comprend les États-Unis, la France, la Grande-Bretagne, la Russie, la Chine + l’Allemagne) continuent de parier sur un succès – Paris y compris. Mais le secrétaire d’État John Kerry, qui rentrait ce lundi à Washington avant d’être entendu sur la colline du ­Capitole, va devoir convaincre le Congrès de laisser du temps à la négociation, alors que les élus veulent voter dès cette semaine un nouveau train de sanctions.

Arrivée tardive
Aux États-Unis, divisés sur le dossier, certains sont tentés de taper sur la France et de lui faire porter la responsabilité de l’échec du week-end. Le blog de Josh Rogin, The Cable, s’est fait l’écho de propos de diplomates qui dénoncent l’immixtion supposément tardive de Paris dans la négociation et affirment que la fermeté française a pris Kerry par surprise. Mais cette description ne semble pas tenir la route, vu le dialogue étroit que Paris entretient avec Washington et les parte­naires du groupe 5 + 1 depuis des mois. «Sous-entendre que la France s’est pointée au dernier moment, alors que nous sommes depuis dix ans en première ligne, c’est très étonnant», note une source française. Les diplomates de l’Hexagone balaient aussi les arguments des mau­vaises langues washingtoniennes qui affirment que Paris a voulu se placer auprès des Saoudiens dans l’espoir de leur vendre armes et centrales. «Il faut être sérieux, le nucléaire iranien est un sujet trop important pour qu’on raisonne à ce niveau: notre position est de principe, note la même source. La France ne voulait pas d’un accord précipité sans mécanismes clairs de vérification et a posé des conditions de bon sens, notamment sur l’arrêt de la construction de la centrale d’Arak et sur les limites du droit à l’enrichissement de l’Iran.» Nombre d’experts à Washington, comme Mark Dubowitz, de la Fondation de la défense des démocraties, font d’ailleurs l’éloge des «compétences techniques» uniques des négociateurs français sur le nucléaire iranien, jugeant qu’ils sont les seuls à faire le poids face aux roués négociateurs persans.

Les Français sont d’ailleurs persuadés que la Maison-Blanche est finalement plutôt contente du partage des rôles (entre bons flics américains et méchants flics français). Même si la fermeté française embarrasse l’Administration Obama, la faisant implicitement passer pour une équipe de mollassons imprévoyants. John Kerry a d’ailleurs évité tout coup de griffe à Paris, remerciant au contraire les Français et soulignant que les négociateurs du 5 + 1 avaient présenté une position unifiée aux Iraniens, qui avaient pris la responsabilité de la rejeter. «Nous ne sommes pas aveugles et je ne pense pas que nous soyons stupides», a-t-il dit sur NBC, précisant qu’il préférerait une absence d’accord à un mauvais accord.

Plus que les Français, ce sont les Israéliens et le Congrès qui réclament son attention. Prolongeant l’action déployée par le premier ministre Nétanyahou, son ministre de l’Économie, Naftali Bennett, arrive ce mardi aux États-Unis pour «mener campagne au Congrès» contre un «mauvais accord». Kerry va donc devoir convaincre le lobby pro-Israël omniprésent sur la Colline de geler tout vote sur les sanctions, le temps de la négociation.

Les inspecteurs de l’ONU vont avoir accès à l’usine iranienne d’Arak
L’Iran et l’Agence nucléaire de l’ONU se sont accordés lundi sur les vérifications que pourront conduire les inspecteurs de l’AIEA, lors de la visite à Téhéran du chef de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique, Yukiya Amano. Cette feuille de route prévoit une inspection de l’usine de production d’eau lourde d’Arak, à laquelle l’agence onusienne tente d’accéder depuis 2011. Yukiya Amano a affirmé qu’une visite de la base militaire iranienne de Parchin, soupçonnée d’avoir abrité des essais nucléaires, serait discutée après la finalisation de cet accord préliminaire. Téhéran refuse depuis 2012 à l’AIEA l’accès à des bâtiments suspects de cette base, en raison de sa nature militaire et parce que l’agence y a déjà conduit des inspections en 2005, qui n’avaient rien donné.


Etats-Unis: Comment le lac Reagan a viré au rouge (Red states vs. blue states: How the election that wouldn’t end gave us a new political shorthand)

8 mars, 2015


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Le drapeau rouge est un pavillon de terreur qui n’a jamais fait que le tour du Champ-de-Mars, tandis que le drapeau tricolore a fait le tour du monde, avec le nom, la gloire et la liberté de la patrie! Lamartine
Dans la Rome antique, les yeux bleus étaient une disgrâce, voire, pour une femme, un signe de débauche. Au Moyen Age, la mariée était en rouge, mais aussi les prostituées. On le devine déjà : les couleurs en disent long sur nos ambivalences. Elles sont de formidables révélateurs de l’évolution de nos mentalité. Dominique Simmonet
Au XIIe siècle, la Vierge devient le principal agent de promotion du bleu Depuis que l’on dispose d’enquêtes d’opinion, depuis 1890 environ, le bleu est en effet placé au premier rang partout en Occident, en France comme en Sicile, aux Etats-Unis comme en Nouvelle-Zélande, par les hommes comme par les femmes, quel que soit leur milieu social et professionnel. C’est toute la civilisation occidentale qui donne la primauté au bleu, ce qui est différent dans les autres cultures: les Japonais, par exemple, plébiscitent le rouge. Pourtant, cela n’a pas toujours été le cas. Longtemps, le bleu a été mal aimé. Il n’est présent ni dans les grottes paléolithiques ni au néolithique, lorsque apparaissent les premières techniques de teinture. Dans l’Antiquité, il n’est pas vraiment considéré comme une couleur; seuls le blanc, le rouge et le noir ont ce statut. A l’exception de l’Egypte pharaonique, où il est censé porter bonheur dans l’au-delà, d’où ces magnifiques objets bleu-vert, fabriqués selon une recette à base de cuivre qui s’est perdue par la suite, le bleu est même l’objet d’un véritable désintérêt. (…) mais la couleur bleue est difficile à fabriquer et à maîtriser, et c’est sans doute la raison pour laquelle elle n’a pas joué de rôle dans la vie sociale, religieuse ou symbolique de l’époque. A Rome, c’est la couleur des barbares, de l’étranger (les peuples du Nord, comme les Germains, aiment le bleu). De nombreux témoignages l’affirment: avoir les yeux bleus pour une femme, c’est un signe de mauvaise vie. Pour les hommes, une marque de ridicule. On retrouve cet état d’esprit dans le vocabulaire: en latin classique, le lexique des bleus est instable, imprécis. Lorsque les langues romanes ont forgé leur vocabulaire des couleurs, elles ont dû aller chercher ailleurs, dans les mots germanique (blau) et arabe (azraq). Chez les Grecs aussi, on relève des confusions de vocabulaire entre le bleu, le gris et le vert. L’absence du bleu dans les textes anciens a d’ailleurs tellement intrigué que certains philologues du XIXe siècle ont cru sérieusement que les yeux des Grecs ne pouvaient le voir! (…) à l’exception du saphir, pierre préférée des peuples de la Bible, il y a peu de place pour le bleu. Cette situation perdure au haut Moyen Age: les couleurs liturgiques, par exemple, qui se forment à l’ère carolingienne, l’ignorent (elles se constituent autour du blanc, du rouge, du noir et du vert). Ce qui laisse des traces encore aujourd’hui: le bleu est toujours absent du culte catholique… Et puis, soudain, tout change. Les XIIe et XIIIe siècles vont réhabiliter et promouvoir le bleu. (…) Il n’y a pas à ce moment-là de progrès particulier dans la fabrication des colorants ou des pigments. Ce qui se produit, c’est un changement profond des idées religieuses. Le Dieu des chrétiens devient en effet un dieu de lumière. Et la lumière est… bleue! Pour la première fois en Occident, on peint les ciels en bleu – auparavant, ils étaient noirs, rouges, blancs ou dorés. Plus encore, on est alors en pleine expansion du culte marial. Or la Vierge habite le ciel… Dans les images, à partir du XIIe siècle, on la revêt donc d’un manteau ou d’une robe bleus. La Vierge devient le principal agent de promotion du bleu. (…) Il y a une seconde raison à ce renversement: à cette époque, on est pris d’une vraie soif de classification, on veut hiérarchiser les individus, leur donner des signes d’identité, des codes de reconnaissance. Apparaissent les noms de famille, les armoiries, les insignes de fonction… Or, avec les trois couleurs traditionnelles de base (blanc, rouge, noir), les combinaisons sont limitées. Il en faut davantage pour refléter la diversité de la société. Le bleu, mais aussi le vert et le jaune, va en profiter. On passe ainsi d’un système à trois couleurs de base à un système à six couleurs. C’est ainsi que le bleu devient en quelque sorte le contraire du rouge. Si on avait dit ça à Aristote, cela l’aurait fait sourire! Vers 1140, quand l’abbé Suger fait reconstruire l’église abbatiale de Saint-Denis, il veut mettre partout des couleurs pour dissiper les ténèbres, et notamment du bleu. On utilisera pour les vitraux un produit fort cher, le cafre (que l’on appellera bien plus tard le bleu de cobalt). De Saint-Denis ce bleu va se diffuser au Mans, puis à Vendôme et à Chartres, où il deviendra le célèbre bleu de Chartres. Omniprésent, consensuel, le bleu est devenu une couleur raisonnable (…) le bleu, divinisé, s’est répandu non seulement dans les vitraux et les oeuvres d’art, mais aussi dans toute la société: puisque la Vierge s’habille de bleu, le roi de France le fait aussi. Philippe Auguste, puis son petit-fils Saint Louis seront les premiers à l’adopter (Charlemagne ne l’aurait pas fait pour un empire!). Les seigneurs, bien sûr, s’empressent de les imiter… En trois générations, le bleu devient à la mode aristocratique. La technique suit: stimulés, sollicités, les teinturiers rivalisent en matière de nouveaux procédés et parviennent à fabriquer des bleus magnifiques. (…) Les conséquences économiques sont énormes: la demande de guède, cette plante mi-herbe, mi-arbuste que l’on utilisait dans les villages comme colorant artisanal, explose. Sa culture devient soudain industrielle, et fait la fortune de régions comme la Thuringe, la Toscane, la Picardie ou encore la région de Toulouse. On la cultive intensément pour produire ces boules appelées «coques», d’où le nom de pays de cocagne. C’est un véritable or bleu! On a calculé que 80% de la cathédrale d’Amiens, bâtie au XIIIe siècle, avait été payée par les marchands de guède! A Strasbourg, les marchands de garance, la plante qui donne le colorant rouge, étaient furieux. Ils ont même soudoyé le maître verrier chargé de représenter le diable sur les vitraux pour qu’il le colorie en bleu, afin de dévaloriser leur rival. [la guerre entre le bleu et le rouge] durera jusqu’au XVIIIe siècle. A la fin du Moyen Age, la vague moraliste, qui va provoquer la Réforme, se porte aussi sur les couleurs, en désignant des couleurs dignes et d’autres qui ne le sont pas. La palette protestante s’articule autour du blanc, du noir, du gris, du brun… et du bleu. (…) Comparez Rembrandt, peintre calviniste qui a une palette très retenue, faite de camaïeux, et Rubens, peintre catholique à la palette très colorée… Regardez les toiles de Philippe de Champaigne, qui sont colorées tant qu’il est catholique et se font plus austères, plus bleutées, quand il se rapproche des jansénistes… Ce discours moral, partiellement repris par la Contre-Réforme, promeut également le noir, le gris et le bleu dans le vêtement masculin. Il s’applique encore de nos jours. Sur ce plan, nous vivons toujours sous le régime de la Réforme. (…) Au XVIIIe siècle, il devient la couleur préférée des Européens. La technique en rajoute une couche: dans les années 1720, un pharmacien de Berlin invente par accident le fameux bleu de Prusse, qui va permettre aux peintres et aux teinturiers de diversifier la gamme des nuances foncées. De plus, on importe massivement l’indigo des Antilles et d’Amérique centrale, dont le pouvoir colorant est plus fort que l’ancien pastel et le prix de revient, plus faible que celui d’Asie, car il est fabriqué par des esclaves. Toutes les lois protectionnistes s’écroulent. L’indigo d’Amérique provoque la crise dans les anciennes régions de cocagne, Toulouse et Amiens sont ruinés, Nantes et Bordeaux s’enrichissent. Le bleu devient à la mode dans tous les domaines. Le romantisme accentue la tendance: comme leur héros, Werther de Goethe, les jeunes Européens s’habillent en bleu, et la poésie romantique allemande célèbre le culte de cette couleur si mélancolique – on en a peut-être gardé l’écho dans le vocabulaire, avec le blues… En 1850, un vêtement lui donne encore un coup de pouce: c’est le jean, inventé à San Francisco par un tailleur juif, Levi-Strauss, le pantalon idéal, avec sa grosse toile teinte à l’indigo, le premier bleu de travail. (…) Les valeurs protestantes édictent qu’un vêtement doit être sobre, digne et discret. En outre, teindre à l’indigo est facile, on peut même le faire à froid, car la couleur pénètre bien les fibres du tissu, d’où l’aspect délavé des jeans. Il faut attendre les années 1930 pour que, aux Etats-Unis, le jean devienne un vêtement de loisir, puis un signe de rébellion, dans les années 1960, mais pour un court moment seulement, car un vêtement bleu ne peut pas être vraiment rebelle. Aujourd’hui, regardez les groupes d’adolescents dans la rue, en France: ils forment une masse uniforme et… bleue. (…) En France, il fut la couleur des républicains, s’opposant au blanc des monarchistes et au noir du parti clérical. Mais, petit à petit, il a glissé vers le centre, se laissant déborder sur sa gauche par le rouge socialiste puis communiste. Il a été chassé vers la droite en quelque sorte. Après la Première Guerre mondiale, il est devenu conservateur (c’est la Chambre bleu horizon). Il l’est encore aujourd’hui. (…) En matière de couleurs, les choses changent lentement. Je suis persuadé que, dans trente ans, le bleu sera toujours le premier, la couleur préférée. Tout simplement parce que c’est une couleur consensuelle, pour les personnes physiques comme pour les personnes morales: les organismes internationaux, l’ONU, l’Unesco, le Conseil de l’Europe, l’Union européenne, tous ont choisi un emblème bleu. On le sélectionne par soustraction, après avoir éliminé les autres. C’est une couleur qui ne fait pas de vague, ne choque pas et emporte l’adhésion de tous. Par là même, elle a perdu sa force symbolique. Même la musique du mot est calme, atténuée: bleu, blue, en anglais, blu, en italien… C’est liquide et doux. On peut en faire un usage immodéré. (…) Aujourd’hui, quand les gens affirment aimer le bleu, cela signifie au fond qu’ils veulent être rangés parmi les gens sages, conservateurs, ceux qui ne veulent rien révéler d’eux-mêmes. D’une certaine manière, nous sommes revenus à une situation proche de l’Antiquité: à force d’être omniprésent et consensuel, le bleu est de nouveau une couleur discrète, la plus raisonnable de toutes les couleurs. Michel Pastoureau
Parler de «couleur rouge», c’est presque un pléonasme en effet! D’ailleurs, certains mots, tels coloratus en latin ou colorado en espagnol, signifient à la fois «rouge» et «coloré». En russe, krasnoï veut dire «rouge» mais aussi «beau» (étymologiquement, la place Rouge est la «belle place»). Dans le système symbolique de l’Antiquité, qui tournait autour de trois pôles, le blanc représentait l’incolore, le noir était grosso modo le sale, et le rouge était la couleur, la seule digne de ce nom. La suprématie du rouge s’est imposée à tout l’Occident. (…) On a évidemment mis en valeur ce qui tranchait le plus avec l’environnement. Mais il y a une autre raison: très tôt, on a maîtrisé les pigments rouges et on a pu les utiliser en peinture et en teinture. Dès – 30 000 ans, l’art paléolithique utilise le rouge, obtenu notamment à partir de la terre ocre-rouge: voyez le bestiaire de la grotte Chauvet. Au néolithique, on a exploité la garance, cette herbe aux racines tinctoriales présente sous les climats les plus variés, puis on s’est servi de certains métaux, comme l’oxyde de fer ou le sulfure de mercure… La chimie du rouge a donc été très précoce, et très efficace. D’où le succès de cette couleur. (…) Dans l’Antiquité déjà, on l’admire et on lui confie les attributs du pouvoir, c’est-à-dire ceux de la religion et de la guerre. Le dieu Mars, les centurions romains, certains prêtres… tous sont vêtus de rouge. Cette couleur va s’imposer parce qu’elle renvoie à deux éléments, omniprésents dans toute son histoire: le feu et le sang. On peut les considérer soit positivement soit négativement, ce qui nous donne quatre pôles autour desquels le christianisme primitif a formalisé une symbolique si forte qu’elle perdure aujourd’hui. Le rouge feu, c’est la vie, l’Esprit saint de la Pentecôte, les langues de feu régénératrices qui descendent sur les apôtres; mais c’est aussi la mort, l’enfer, les flammes de Satan qui consument et anéantissent. Le rouge sang, c’est celui versé par le Christ, la force du sauveur qui purifie et sanctifie; mais c’est aussi la chair souillée, les crimes (de sang), le péché et les impuretés des tabous bibliques. (…) Tout est ambivalent dans le monde des symboles, et particulièrement des couleurs! Chacune d’elles se dédouble en deux identités opposées. Ce qui est étonnant, c’est que, sur la longue durée, les deux faces tendent à se confondre. Les tableaux qui représentent la scène du baiser, par exemple, montrent souvent Judas et Jésus comme deux personnages presque identiques, avec les mêmes vêtements, les mêmes couleurs, comme s’ils étaient les deux pôles d’un aimant. Lisez de même l’Ancien Testament: le rouge y est associé tantôt à la faute et à l’interdit, tantôt à la puissance et à l’amour. La dualité symbolique est déjà en place. (…) Dans la Rome impériale, celui que l’on fabrique avec la substance colorante du murex, un coquillage rare récolté en Méditerranée, est réservé à l’empereur et aux chefs de guerre. Au Moyen Age, cette recette de la pourpre romaine s’étant perdue (les gisements de murex sur les côtes de Palestine et d’Egypte sont de plus épuisés), on se rabat sur le kermès, ces oufs de cochenilles qui parasitent les feuilles de chênes. Au Moyen-Age, le rouge est masculin, puis il devient féminin. (…) La récolte est laborieuse et la fabrication très coûteuse. Mais le rouge obtenu est splendide, lumineux, solide. Les seigneurs bénéficient donc toujours d’une couleur de luxe. Les paysans, eux, peuvent recourir à la vulgaire garance, qui donne une teinte moins éclatante. Peu importe si on ne fait pas bien la différence à l’oeil nu: l’essentiel est dans la matière et dans le prix. Socialement, il y a rouge et rouge! D’ailleurs, pour l’oeil médiéval, l’éclat d’un objet (son aspect mat ou brillant) prime sur sa coloration: un rouge franc sera perçu comme plus proche d’un bleu lumineux que d’un rouge délavé. Un rouge bien vif est toujours une marque de puissance, chez les laïcs comme chez les ecclésiastiques. A partir des XIIIe et XIVe siècles, le pape, jusque-là voué au blanc, se met au rouge. Les cardinaux, également. Cela signifie que ces considérables personnages sont prêts à verser leur sang pour le Christ… Au même moment, on peint des diables rouges sur les tableaux et, dans les romans, il y a souvent un chevalier démoniaque et rouge, des armoiries à la housse de son cheval, qui défie le héros. On s’accommode très bien de cette ambivalence. [le petit chaperon rouge] Dans toutes les versions du conte (la plus ancienne date de l’an mille), la fillette est en rouge. Est-ce parce qu’on habillait ainsi les enfants pour mieux les repérer de loin, comme des historiens l’ont affirmé? Ou parce que, comme le disent certains textes anciens, l’histoire est située le jour de la Pentecôte et de la fête de l’Esprit saint, dont la couleur liturgique est le rouge? Ou encore parce que la jeune fille allait se retrouver au lit avec le loup et que le sang allait couler, thèse fournie par des psychanalystes? Je préfère pour ma part l’explication sémiologique: un enfant rouge porte un petit pot de beurre blanc à une grand-mère habillée de noir… Nous avons là les trois couleurs de base du système ancien. On les retrouve dans d’autres contes: Blanche-Neige reçoit une pomme rouge d’une sorcière noire. Le corbeau noir lâche son fromage – blanc – dont se saisit un renard rouge… C’est toujours le même code symbolique. (…) Les codes symboliques ont des conséquences très pratiques. Prenez les teinturiers: en ville, certains d’entre eux ont une licence pour le rouge (avec l’autorisation de teindre aussi en jaune et en blanc), d’autres ont une licence pour le bleu (ils ont le droit de teindre également en vert et en noir). A Venise, Milan ou Nuremberg, les spécialistes du rouge garance ne peuvent même pas travailler le rouge kermès. On ne sort pas de sa couleur, sous peine de procès! Ceux du rouge et ceux du bleu vivent dans des rues séparées, cantonnés dans les faubourgs parce que leurs officines empuantissent tout, et ils entrent souvent en conflit violent, s’accusant réciproquement de polluer les rivières. Il faut dire que le textile est alors la seule vraie industrie de l’Europe, un enjeu majeur. Au fil des siècles, le rouge de l’interdit s’est affirmé. (…) D’autant plus qu’il est la couleur des «papistes»! Pour les réformateurs protestants, le rouge est immoral. Ils se réfèrent à un passage de l’Apocalypse où saint Jean raconte comment, sur une bête venue de la mer, chevauchait la grande prostituée de Babylone vêtue d’une robe rouge. Pour Luther, Babylone, c’est Rome! Il faut donc chasser le rouge du temple – et des habits de tout bon chrétien. Cette «fuite» du rouge n’est pas sans conséquence: à partir du XVIe siècle, les hommes ne s’habillent plus en rouge (à l’exception des cardinaux et des membres de certains ordres de chevalerie). Dans les milieux catholiques, les femmes peuvent le faire. On va assister aussi à un drôle de chassé-croisé: alors qu’au Moyen Age le bleu était plutôt féminin (à cause de la Vierge) et le rouge, masculin (signe du pouvoir et de la guerre), les choses s’inversent. Désormais, le bleu devient masculin (car plus discret), le rouge part vers le féminin. On en a gardé la trace: bleu pour les bébés garçons, rose pour les filles… Le rouge restera aussi la couleur de la robe de mariée jusqu’au XIXe siècle. (…) Surtout chez les paysans, c’est-à-dire la grande majorité de la population d’alors. Pourquoi? Parce que, le jour du mariage, on revêt son plus beau vêtement et qu’une robe belle et riche est forcément rouge (c’est dans cette couleur que les teinturiers sont les plus performants). Dans ce domaine-là, on retrouve notre ambivalence: longtemps, les prostituées ont eu l’obligation de porter une pièce de vêtement rouge, pour que, dans la rue, les choses soient bien claires (pour la même raison, on mettra une lanterne rouge à la porte des maisons closes). Le rouge décrit les deux versants de l’amour: le divin et le péché de chair. Au fil des siècles, le rouge de l’interdit s’est aussi affirmé. Il était déjà là, dans la robe des juges et dans les gants et le capuchon du bourreau, celui qui verse le sang. Dès le XVIIIe siècle, un chiffon rouge signifie danger. (…) En octobre 1789, l’Assemblée constituante décrète qu’en cas de trouble un drapeau rouge sera placé aux carrefours pour signifier l’interdiction d’attroupement et avertir que la force publique est susceptible d’intervenir. Le 17 juillet 1791, de nombreux Parisiens se rassemblent au Champ-de-Mars pour demander la destitution de Louis XVI, qui vient d’être arrêté à Varennes. Comme l’émeute menace, Bailly, le maire de Paris, fait hisser à la hâte un grand drapeau rouge. Mais les gardes nationaux tirent sans sommation: on comptera une cinquantaine de morts, dont on fera des «martyrs de la révolution». Par une étonnante inversion, c’est ce fameux drapeau rouge, «teint du sang de ces martyrs», qui devient l’emblème du peuple opprimé et de la révolution en marche. Un peu plus tard, il a même bien failli devenir celui de la France. (…) En février 1848, les insurgés le brandissent de nouveau devant l’Hôtel de Ville. Jusque-là, le drapeau tricolore était devenu le symbole de la Révolution (ces trois couleurs ne sont d’ailleurs pas, contrairement à ce que l’on prétend, une association des couleurs royales et de celles de la ville de Paris, qui étaient en réalité le rouge et le marron: elles ont été reprises de la révolution américaine). Mais, à ce moment-là, le drapeau tricolore est discrédité, car le roi Louis-Philippe s’y est rallié. L’un des manifestants demande que l’on fasse du drapeau rouge, «symbole de la misère du peuple et signe de la rupture avec le passé», l’emblème officiel de la République. C’est Lamartine, membre du gouvernement provisoire, qui va sauver nos trois couleurs: «Le drapeau rouge, clame-t-il, est un pavillon de terreur qui n’a jamais fait que le tour du Champ-de-Mars, tandis que le drapeau tricolore a fait le tour du monde, avec le nom, la gloire et la liberté de la patrie!» Le drapeau rouge aura quand même un bel avenir. La Russie soviétique l’adoptera en 1918, la Chine communiste en 1949… Nous avons gardé des restes amusants de cette histoire: dans l’armée, quand on plie le drapeau français après avoir descendu les couleurs, il est d’usage de cacher la bande rouge pour qu’elle ne soit plus visible. Comme s’il fallait se garder du vieux démon révolutionnaire. (…) Dans le domaine des symboles, rien ne disparaît jamais vraiment. Le rouge du pouvoir et de l’aristocratie (du moins en Occident, car c’est le jaune qui tient ce rôle dans les cultures asiatiques) a traversé les siècles, tout comme l’autre rouge, révolutionnaire et prolétarien. Chez nous, en outre, le rouge indique toujours la fête, Noël, le luxe, le spectacle: les théâtres et les opéras en sont ornés. Dans le vocabulaire, il nous est resté de nombreuses expressions («rouge de colère», «voir rouge») qui rappellent les vieux symboles. Et on associe toujours le rouge à l’érotisme et à la passion. (…) Plus le bleu a progressé dans notre environnement, plus le rouge a reculé. Nos objets sont rarement rouges. On n’imagine pas un ordinateur rouge par exemple (cela ne ferait pas sérieux), ni un réfrigérateur (on aurait l’impression qu’il chauffe). Mais la symbolique a perduré: les panneaux d’interdiction, les feux rouges, le téléphone rouge, l’alerte rouge, le carton rouge, la Croix-Rouge (en Italie, les croix des pharmacies sont aussi rouges) … Tout cela dérive de la même histoire, celle du feu et du sang… Michel Pastoureau
Avec le fait de jouer en rouge, tout de suite, je pense qu’on aura un sentiment de combat, d’agressivité. Wesley Fofana (joueur de rugby français)
Ce samedi au Stade de France, il faudra crier «Allez les Rouges !» pour encourager les joueurs du XV de France, contre l’Ecosse, lors du match d’ouverture du Tournoi des Six nations. Adidas, l’équipementier de l’équipe de France, a en effet décidé de faire renaître la tunique portée en 1958 contre l’Australie, puis contre l’Ecosse l’année suivante : un maillot d’un rouge ardent, «symbole d’honneur, de passion et d’émotion», précise la marque aux trois bandes. Cette tunique sera la nouvelle référence pour les matchs à l’extérieur du XV de France jusqu’à la Coupe du monde, au côté du maillot domicile, bleu incandescent, lancé en novembre dernier. A l’image de ce dernier, les bandes situées sur les épaules font écho à celles présentes sur le maillot de 1995. «L’inscription allbleus cousue à l’intérieur du col symbolise quant à elle l’unité derrière ce maillot bleu», précise l’équipementier dans un communiqué. Ces deux maillots auront nécessité plus de deux années de recherche et de développement. Adidas met en avant «une coupe adaptée à la position de jeu, une meilleure respirabilité, ainsi qu’une résistance et une flexibilité limitant les risques de déchirure». Les joueurs de Philippe Saint-André n’ont plus qu’à faire le reste pour briller sur la route menant à la Coupe du monde.  Le Parisien
Les Bleus voient rouge L’équipe de France de football a déjà perdu son âme depuis longtemps, certains joueurs refusant même de chanter « La Marseillaise » ; voilà que le rugby semble lui emboîter le pas. L’équipe de France de rugby, ou plutôt son équipementier, a choisi dorénavant la couleur rouge et non plus bleue comme maillot à l’extérieur, après avoir choisi la couleur « allbleue » pour les matchs à domicile. Le blanc a disparu. Le maillot tricolore (maillot bleu, culotte blanche et bas rouges) était porté depuis le 22 mars 1906, match disputé contre l’Angleterre. Comme moi amoureux du rugby, Roger Couderc doit se retourner dans sa tombe. On ne pourra plus dire « Allez les Bleus » au risque de soutenir l’équipe adverse comme ces Écossais le 7 février. Lui qui disait « Allez les petits », peut-être faudra-t-il aussi crier maintenant « Allez les grands » pour faire moderne. L’équipe de France de football a déjà perdu son âme depuis longtemps, certains joueurs refusant même de chanter « La Marseillaise » ; voilà que le rugby semble lui emboîter le pas, car quand on vend son maillot, on n’est pas loin de commencer à perdre son âme. Il faut innover, dit-on. Tu parles… surtout faire de l’argent par la vente d’un nouveau maillot à 79 euros pièce, tout de même. Les éléments de langage sont soignés, argument massue : il y a trois couleurs dans notre drapeau, donc le rouge est permis. Un peu court. Même les entraîneurs de notre équipe nationale reprennent cette consigne de parole, faisant semblant d’adhérer à cette nouveauté. Or, l’attachement à la nation France, aux trois couleurs, est dans les gènes du « peuple » du rugby qui, lui, n’apprécie pas. Mais qui se soucie de l’avis des supporters ? Pas la Fédération française de rugby, sans nul doute, qui a vendu le maillot. Pourtant, cela me paraît plus significatif qu’une simple innovation. Car, dans cette même veine du renoncement, on a ouvert l’équipe de France à des étrangers naturalisés, Rory Kockott et Scott Spedding, deux joueurs sud-africains naturalisés en 2014, qui évoluent en Top 14. La logique du système est poussée jusqu’au bout. Nous avons de plus en plus d’étrangers dans notre championnat national, laissant moins de chance à de jeunes joueurs français d’éclore, et voilà que maintenant on leur barre aussi la route pour le XV de France. (…) La vie, c’est aussi respecter son maillot et ses couleurs bleu, blanc et rouge. S’il s’agit d’innover pour innover, on pourrait aussi appeler la tour Eiffel tour du Champ-de-Mars, ou l’Arc de Triomphe Arc de l’Étoile (qu’on enlève donc le triomphe, c’est ringard et réac), et le palais de l’Élysée palais normal… Les touristes pourront ainsi constater notre esprit d’innovation. Philippe Franceschi
Régulièrement, les chaînes de télévision organisent une campagne publicitaire afin de se mettre en valeur. Cette année, TF1 a décidé de mettre en valeur ses animateurs phares au travers plusieurs scènes du quotidien. Mais l’originalité de cette campagne 2011 repose sur la thématique de la dualité, merveilleusement incarnée par le Rouge et le Bleu de son propre logo. Ainsi, on découvre successivement Vincent Lagaf’ opposer juilletistes et aoûtiens, Sandrine Quétier affirmer que nous sommes jamais d’accord avec d’un côté les bleus et de l’autre les rouges ou encore Christian Jeanpierre soulignant que, dès l’enfance, nous voulons être pompier ou pilote d’avion. Il convient de souligner que les protagonistes de chaque scène sont exclusivement en rouge et en bleu. Enfin, les deux spots terminent avec Laurence Ferrari et Claire Chazal, entourées de supporters bleus et rouges dans un gradin avant que le slogan de TF1, « On se retrouve tous sur TF1″, vienne « mettre tout le monde d’accord ». Fan2t
Un homme et d’une femme à la recherche de l’amour, se rencontrant dans le plus simple appareil, sur une île paradisiaque et totalement déserte, peut-on lire sur le site de l’émission. Sans vêtement ni maquillage, au coeur de ce jardin d’Eden, nos célibataires intrépides n’auront plus rien à cacher et ne pourront plus prétendre être quelqu’un d’autre… Juste la vérité nue ! D8
Ca commence à ressembler à une grande piscine. David Brinkley (1980)
One network map of the United States was entirely blue for the Republicans. On another network, the color motif was a blanket of red. Geraldine A. Ferraro (1985)
Here’s my solution to the election. Bush will be the president of the red states and Gore will be president of the blue states. It’s over, that’s all! »  David Letterman (2000)
Les commentateurs aiment à découper notre pays entre états rouges et états bleus ; les états rouges pour les Républicains, les États bleus pour les démocrates mais j’ai une nouvelle pour eux, moi aussi. Nous prions un Dieu magnifique dans les états bleus et nous n’aimons pas les agents fédéraux qui farfouillent dans nos bibliothèques dans les états rouges. On apprend le base-ball à nos enfants dans les États bleus et, oui, on a des amis homosexuels dans les états rouges. Il y a des patriotes qui se sont opposés à la guerre en Irak et il y des patriotes qui l’ont soutenue. Nous formons un seul peuple, chacun d’entre nous prêtant serment à la bannière étoilée, chacun d’entre nous défendant les États-Unis d’Amérique. Barack Obama (2004)
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. Obama (2008)
Nous qui vivons dans les régions côtières des villes bleues, nous lisons plus de livres et nous allons plus souvent au théâtre que ceux qui vivent au fin fond du pays. Nous sommes à la fois plus sophistiqués et plus cosmopolites – parlez-nous de nos voyages scolaires en Chine et en Provence ou, par exemple, de notre intérêt pour le bouddhisme. Mais par pitié, ne nous demandez pas à quoi ressemble la vie dans l’Amérique rouge. Nous n’en savons rien. Nous ne savons pas qui sont Tim LaHaye et Jerry B. Jenkins. […] Nous ne savons pas ce que peut bien dire James Dobson dans son émission de radio écoutée par des millions d’auditeurs. Nous ne savons rien de Reba et Travis. […] Nous sommes très peu nombreux à savoir ce qu’il se passe à Branson dans le Missouri, même si cette ville reçoit quelque sept millions de touristes par an; pas plus que nous ne pouvons nommer ne serait-ce que cinq pilotes de stock-car. […] Nous ne savons pas tirer au fusil ni même en nettoyer un, ni reconnaître le grade d’un officier rien qu’à son insigne. Quant à savoir à quoi ressemble une graine de soja poussée dans un champ… David Brooks
How, I wondered, could anyone who had just lived through the 2000 presidential election, and its endless maps of America by state and county, still associate the color “red” with the Left? Particularly when, nearly four years later, after another presidential election and after exposure to another endless succession of maps, the association of “red” and “Republican” seems to have become firmly rooted in our discourse, embraced by both parties. Now we are even treated to learned disquisitions by intrepid reporters from our major daily papers who have donned their pith helmets and ventured out into the far hinterlands, trying to find and comprehend the inner essence of that exotic thing, Red America. Someday the precise story will be told, by a historian more patient than I, of how the Republican party came to be assigned the color “red” in the mapping of the 2000 electoral results. From what little I have been able to determine, the change seems to have happened gradually, and with no visible conscious intent, and considerable inconsistency along the way. As recently as the 1980 election, the late David Brinkley, then still an anchor at NBC News, was drolly comparing the map representing Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory to a suburban swimming pool — solid blue, in other words. Time magazine somewhat more generously referred to the 1980 map as “Lake Reagan,” and stuck with a blue-Republican and red-Democratic scheme all through the 1990s. Other networks and news outlets used different color schemes during those years, sometimes replacing blue with white, and even reversing the coloration more or less at will. (I distinctly remember watching the 1980 returns on ABC, and hearing Frank Reynolds turn to Ted Koppel and say, “The country’s going Red, Ted!”) How and why most of the major media outlets (with the exception of Time) fixed upon the red-Republican and blue-Democratic schema in 2000 remains somewhat mysterious. When a New York Times graphics editor was asked for his paper’s rationale, he responded simply that “both Republican and red start with the letter R.” So chalk one up for Sesame Street. Of course, for anyone who knows even a smattering of modern European history, this is a truly an astonishing turn of events, whose significance is only barely hinted at by Frank Reynolds’s wisecrack. It’s amazing how willing the democratic Left has been to acquiesce in the loss of one of its most permanent, most universal, and most beloved symbols — the color Red — without serious protest. (…) We Americans tend to think, in our own times, of Red in this sense referring exclusively to the history of Communism, but that is a vast oversimplification. Let me be clear in what I’m saying here. I don’t want to be associated with the view that Communism was merely “liberalism in a hurry.” But by the same token, I do want to insist that the range of historical referents to Red would be better described as different expressions of an energetic and idea-driven commitment to systemic progressive reform, expressions that can and do vary widely in the extent of their liberalism or illiberalism, but that have in common a commitment to the general cause of human freedom and human liberation. Those political meanings of Red emerged fully in the French Revolution of 1848, when socialists and radical republicans adopted the red flag as a symbol of their cause, in contrast to the white flag of the Bourbon monarchists and the more moderate tricolor flag of the liberal Second Republic. From then on, the red flag became firmly associated in French political culture with the progressive socialist cause. Later the softer and more humane image of the red rose would be adopted as a symbol of the French Socialist Party (…)  Similarly, the British Labor Party used a red flag, followed by a red rose, as its symbols. The party early on adopted as its anthem the song “The Red Flag,” which describes the “scarlet standard” as “the people’s flag,” “the hope of peace,” the banner and symbol of “human right and human gain.” Similarly, the color Red (and usually also the red rose) is strongly associated with the Australian Labor Party, the Canadian Liberal Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Dutch Socialist Party, the Party of European Socialists (located in Brussels) and the Socialist International. (…) So there is a strong and enduring historical association, at least within modern European political culture, between the color Red and the most strongly progressivist, activist, reformist movements in European political life. (…) The mutation in the political meaning assigned to the color Red in America seems to have come about largely by chance and careless inattention. Nobody — not even the devious, all-knowing, and all-powerful Karl Rove — sought to induce or manipulate this change. But I believe one can make a very strong and suggestive argument that, in fact, this shift in symbolic meaning, even if entirely unintended, is extraordinarily meaningful, and fits in utterly unexpected ways with the historical situation in which we find ourselves. Hegel spoke of the “cunning of reason” in history, a term that indicated the ways in which the concatenation of seeming coincidences and random irrational events in history ends up furthering the cause of great, consequential, and intelligible change. Just such cunning may in fact be in evidence in this instance. What I am saying, then, is that there is a sense — a limited sense, but a real sense — in which the Republican Party of George W. Bush has indeed “become Red” — if by “being Red” one means, rather than being the standard bearer for the specific agenda of socialism, instead standing for a grand commitment to the furtherance of certain high ideals and goals, an agenda of progressive reform meant not merely for the sake of the nation, but for the general good of humanity. Such are precisely the sort of larger causes that socialism nearly always has championed. But they can no longer be regarded as the exclusive property of socialism, or more generally of the Left. Bush’s administration may well represent the culmination of a change that has been in the works for a quarter-century or so — perhaps dating back to the days of Reagan, who loved to quote one of the quintessential Red thinkers, Thomas Paine — an effort to capture the mantle of progressive change for the benefit of the conservative party. (…) As a result, it entirely plausible, I think, for Republicans to assert that the conservative party in America today is the party of progress, of human liberation, of national and international purpose. And Democrats who snicker at such an assertion do so at their own risk, for it is even more plausible to state that the liberal party is the party of opposition to change — the party of entrenched interests, of public bureaucracies and public-employee unions and identity-politics lobbies, the party that opposes tax reform, opposes tort reform, opposes educational reform, opposes Social Security reform, opposes military reform, opposes the revisiting of Supreme Court rulings, opposes the projection of American power overseas, opposes the work of Christian missionaries, opposes public accountability for the work of the scientific research community, opposes anything that offends the sensibilities of the European Union and the United Nations, and so on. Indeed, there are times when it seems they are on the verge of adopting the National Review’s famous slogan, about standing athwart history and yelling “Stop.” (…) But to stress these things is to leave out the key element driving Bush’s moral agenda, which has taken on growing saliency in his administration since 9/11, but was there to see all along for those with eyes to see, going back to his days as governor of Texas. And that is its grounding in Bush’s evangelical Protestantism. It is his evangelicalism that has broadened and softened his younger tendencies toward harder-edged oil-and-gas business conservatism, fired his moral concerns, given him a sense of political mission, and given him the energy, force, and staying power to pursue it. Many of the very positions that make some of his fellow conservatives suspicious of Bush — his “compassionate conservatism,” his relatively favorable view of many Federal social and educational programs, his sensitivity to issues of racial injustice and reconciliation, his softness on immigration issues, his promotion of the faith-based initiative, his concern with issues of international religious liberty, his African AIDS initiative, and above all, his enormously ambitious, even seemingly utopian, foreign-policy objectives — are positions that are best explained by the effects of his evangelical Christian convictions, and by his willingness to allow those convictions to trump more conventional conservative positions. It is strange that, of all the things liberals loathe about Bush, his religion seems to be at the top of the list. For it is precisely the seriousness of Bush’s commitment to his evangelical faith that has made him more “liberal,” in a certain sense, than many of his party brethren. [but] the Republicans have become Red less because of their strengths than because of the Democrats’ weaknesses. Something like that analysis is put forward, in the most compelling form I’ve yet seen, by Martin Peretz in the current issue of the New Republic, in an extremely intelligent article titled “Not Much Left.” Liberals, he argues, find themselves today where conservatives were a half-century ago, without ideas, without a vision of the good society, bookless, forced to feed on stale ideas from the 60s, and therefore, dying. I think there is considerable merit in Peretz’s analysis, and I think the appalling situation currently unfolding at Harvard is a window onto why the absence of fresh ideas on the Left may be a much more difficult problem to solve than even he posits. Conservatives had the benefit, in retrospect, of being in the wilderness, and having to invent and sustain their own institutions. The Left might be far better off, in the long run, if it didn’t have the Harvards of the world in its pocket, because it might be less inclined to control discourse rather than stimulate it. (…) But conservatism will be like the salt that has lost its savor, if it abandons its most fundamental mission — which is to remind us of what Thomas Sowell called “the constrained vision” of human existence, which sees life as a struggle, with invariably mixed outcomes, full of unintended consequences and tragic dilemmas involving hopelessly fallible people, a world in which the legacy of the past is usually more reliable than the projections of the future. As the example of Niebuhr suggests, such a vision need not reject the possibility of human progress altogether — which, by the way, has never been characteristic of traditional conservatism either, from Edmund Burke on. But it does suggest that it is sometimes wise to adopt, so to speak, a darker shade of red, one that sees the hand of Providence in our reversals as well as our triumphs. To do so is as needful for American evangelicalism as for American politics. Wilfred McClay (University of Tennessee, 2005)
As we know, the color red is more “eye-catching” and perhaps it made graphic sense for the networks to color-in the vast Republican expanse of the country in red to create a more dramatic background map. However, the problem has now transformed itself into a shorthand notation whereby the color is not used solely to visually differentiate states or counties. It is on the verge of becoming a part of the political lexicon as commentators refer to the “red states” and the “blue states”. This is, to me, as a longstanding political operative, not only confusing but a disturbing trend of how the political paradigm has shifted. There are two general reasons why blue for Republican and Red for Democrat make the most sense: connotation and practice. First, there has been a generally understood meaning to the two colors inasmuch as they relate to politics. That is, the cooler color blue more closely represented the rational thinker and cold-hearted and the hotter red more closely represented the passionate and hot-blooded. This would translate into blue for Republicans and red for Democrats. Put another way, red was also the color most associated with socialism and the party of the Democrats was clearly the more socialistic of the two major parties. The second reason why blue for Republicans makes sense is that traditional political mapmakers have used blue for the modern-day Republicans, and the Federalists before that, throughout the 20th century3. Perhaps this was a holdover from the days of the Civil War when the predominantly Republican North was “Blue”. While not a unanimous practice4, there is significant printed evidence of tradition in favor of the blue for Republican and red for Democrat color scheme. Nevertheless, the networks appear to be making this change full-bore during 2004. Even some conservative commentators5 have begun to use the “red state/blue state” break as a shorthand to “Republican state/Democrat state” as part of their terminology. Moreover, some younger political observers have been exposed only to the red for Republican scheme6. Of course, while this just shrieks of inside-the-beltway elitism, it also tends to confuse the debate for many average Americans, especially those over 30. The sole premise for this short-hand is the color-coding of the maps, most of which have not been seen since the 2000 election night/recount coverage. The political parties have invested untold millions in brand recognition for their party labels. Now the media are poised to turn this around for the sake of inside Washington jargon. Clark Bensen (2004)
Without giving it a second thought, we said blue for conservatives, because that’s what the parliamentary system in London is, red for the more liberal party. Roy Wetzel (NBC)
I just decided red begins with ‘r,’ Republican begins with ‘r.’ It was a more natural association. There wasn’t much discussion about it. Archie Tse (graphics editor for the Times
For years, both parties would do red and blue maps, but they always made the other guys red. During the Cold War, who wanted to be red? Chuck Todd (NBC)
Red was a term of derision. There’s a movie named Reds. You’d see red in tabloid headlines, particularly in right wing tabloids like the Daily Mirror in New York and the New York Daily News. Mitchell Stephens (New York University)
There are two general reasons why blue for Republican and Red for Democrat make the most sense: connotation and practice. First, there has been a generally understood meaning to the two colors inasmuch as they relate to politics. That is, the cooler color blue more closely represented the rational thinker and cold-hearted and the hotter red more closely represented the passionate and hot-blooded. This would translate into blue for Republicans and red for Democrats. Put another way, red was also the color most associated with socialism and the party of the Democrats was clearly the more socialistic of the two major parties. The second reason why blue for Republicans makes sense is that traditional political mapmakers have used blue for the modern-day Republicans, and the Federalists before that, throughout the 20th century. Perhaps this was a holdover from the days of the Civil War when the predominantly Republican North was ‘Blue’. Clark Bensen (Republican operative)
Si chacun de nous obtenait la société de ses rêves, les Etats bleus pourraient autoriser le mariage homosexuel et les Etats rouges faire broder les Dix Commandements sur la toge de tous les juges. Les bleus pourraient conserver le Premier amendement et se débarrasser du Deuxième. Les rouges pourraient garder le Deuxième et se débarrasser du Premier. Steve Hartmann (CBS)
Yes, Barnicle is right when he notes that tens of millions of good people in Middle America voted Republican. But if you look closely at that map you see a more complex picture. You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart — it’s red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay — it’s red. You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees — it’s red. The state where an Army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African-Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: they’re all red too. But that’s not the whole story, either. Cultural warriors like House impeachment managers Bill McCollum and James Rogan and ultra-conservatives like Sen. John Ashcroft were defeated. A gun control measure passed in Colorado and Oregon, and school vouchers were rejected in Michigan and California. Democrats gained seats in the House, the Senate and state legislatures — and Gore carried the popular vote. My point is that Middle America is a far more complicated place than even a gifted commentator like Mike Barnicle gives us credit for. It’s not all just red and blue — or black and white. Paul Begala
The state where left-wing extremist, Muslim terrorists blew up the World Trade Center – that’s blue. The county where a race riot following a jury verdict destroyed 2,000 Korean businesses and caused the deaths of 58 people – that’s blue. The states where Colin Ferguson and Ronald Taylor killed 8 whites and Asians because leftwing race baiters convinced them they were victims of a racial conspiracy – are blue. The counties, nationwide, where the vast majority of murderers, rapists and child molesters live and operate – those are blue, too. David Horowitz
During the 2000 election, the media began using maps showing liberal states as blue and conservative states as red. The obvious reason was to avoid the implication that liberals are related to socialists or communists, who throughout the world for over a century have been associated with the color red. Prior to 2000, the color scheme varied, with the more common − and more logical − practice being to use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans. For example, NBC’s David Brinkley referred to Ronald Reagan’s 49-state landslide victory in 1984 as a “sea of blue.” But since 2000, the current usage has become so ingrained that it would be very difficult to change. There may be a lesson here. We should be careful of the habits we develop. Changing them later can be difficult or impossible, no matter how illogical or destructive they may be. This is true for a drug habit, but it is equally − if less obviously − true for habits of thought. Refusing to associate big-government candidates and parties with socialism may seem innocent. But such thinking is hardly innocent if it encourages us to overlook the failing socialist states in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. (…) Then we have the notion that Democrats are more “compassionate” than Republicans. This is true only if we define “compassionate” as voting Democratic − a circular argument if there ever was one. In fact, conservatives on average give more to charity than liberals, both as individuals and by state. And Americans give more to charity than Europeans who live in socialist nations. (…) When we call conservative states red and liberal states blue, it is more than a mere confusion of colors. We are being manipulated to muddle our thinking until we can no longer draw logical conclusions. Socialism isn’t a novel idea worth trying. It is an old idea that has been tried in many forms and many places by many people, and to a significant extent it doesn’t work. We need to take from socialism the idea of a social safety net into which the unfortunate can fall without serious injury. But at the same time, we need to encourage individual initiative and responsibility, because they are necessary for progress – and even more important, because they are essential for human dignity. We can call red blue and blue red all day long, but the true colors remain the same. David C. Stolinsky
Newspapers, in those days, were largely black and white. But two days after voters went to the polls in 2000, both the New York Times and USA Today published their first color-coded, county-by-county maps detailing the showdown between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Both papers used red for the Republican Bush, blue for the Democrat Gore. (…) The 2000 election dragged on until mid-December, until the Supreme Court declared Bush the victor. For weeks, the maps were ubiquitous. Perhaps that’s why the 2000 colors stuck. Along with images of Florida elections officials eyeballing tiny ballot chads, the maps were there constantly, reminding us of the vast, nearly even divide between, well, red and blue voters(…)  In the beginning, blue was red and red was blue and they changed back and forth from election to election and network to network in what appears, in hindsight, to be a flight of whimsy. The notion that there were “red states” and “blue states”—and that the former were Republican and the latter Democratic—wasn’t cemented on the national psyche until the year 2000. Chalk up another one to Bush v. Gore. Not only did it give us “hanging chads” and a crash course in the Electoral College, not only did it lead to a controversial Supreme Court ruling and a heightened level of polarization that has intensified ever since, the Election That Wouldn’t End gave us a new political shorthand. (…)  Before the epic election of 2000, there was no uniformity in the maps that television stations, newspapers or magazines used to illustrate presidential elections. Pretty much everyone embraced red and blue, but which color represented which party varied, sometimes by organization, sometimes by election cycle. There are theories, some likely, some just plain weird, to explain the shifting palette. Jodi Enda (NPR)
The use of “red” and “blue” as color codes on maps of electoral results actually dates back to at least 1908, when the Washington Post printed a special supplement in which Republican states were colored red and Democratic blue The colors were apparently arbitrarily assigned in that case, although in later years both parties strove to claim blue (as in “true blue Americans”) and avoid red, with its connotations of radicalism. Finally, in 1976, the TV networks agreed to a formula to avoid any implication of favoritism in color selections. The color of the incumbent party, initially set as blue for Gerald Ford’s Republican ticket in that year, would flip every four years. Consequently, a successful challenger runs again in four years, as the incumbent, under the same color. So in 1992, the challenger Clinton was red on the maps, and in 1996, incumbent Clinton was also red. Challenger Bush, red in 2000, was red again as an incumbent in 2004. But perhaps because the pundits decreed 2000 to be a watershed election, the “red/blue” divide has assumed a broader political significance (at least to pundits), and although the formula dictates that the Republicans should be carrying the blue flag in 2008, it will be interesting to see how the networks color their maps. Word detective
Entre partisans d’une morale religieuse et tenants d’une nation laïque, les États-Unis connaissent actuellement une profonde division culturelle et idéologique. S’il faut nuancer les tableaux catastrophistes d’une Amérique déchirée en bastions rouges et bleus, la polarisation de la vie politique aux États-Unis est loin d’être un mythe et une véritable guerre culturelle a vu le jour, prônée par la droite chrétienne qui se targue d’un poids sans précédent dans la vie politique américaine. Depuis 2000, la religion joue en effet un rôle décisif dans les élections. La réélection de Bush en 2004, point culminant des tentatives de la droite chrétienne pour influencer le cours de la politique américaine, en témoigne. En 2004, des tendances importantes ont modifié de façon significative la nature de la vie politique américaine. Le choix des électeurs ne s’est plus fait en fonction de questions politiques ou socio-économiques mais bien en fonction des valeurs. Être démocrate ou républicain est devenu affaire de choix culturel voire émotionnel autour de questions comme l’avortement, le mariage gay, le rôle de la famille ou la place de la religion dans la vie publique. À l’aube de l’élection présidentielle de 2008, Hans-Georg Betz revient sur les élections de 2000 et 2004 qui ont porté George W. Bush au pouvoir. Un décryptage du conflit entre deux visions du monde irréconciliables. Autrement (2008)
Le système électoral américain explique également les stratégies de campagne qu’adoptent les candidats. Ceux-ci ont bien sûr intérêt à concentrer leurs efforts sur les Etats qui permettent de gagner le plus de grands électeurs. En théorie, il est possible d’être élu président des Etats-Unis en n’ayant la majorité que dans les onze Etats désignant le plus d’électeurs : Californie (55), Texas (34), New York (31), Floride (27), Illinois (21), Pennsylvanie (21), Ohio (20), Michigan (17), Georgie (15), New Jersey (15), caroline du Nord (15), ce qui permet d’obtenir 271 grands électeurs sur les 269 nécessaires. En outre, les candidats tendent à délaisser les Etats qui ont une longue tradition de vote en faveur de leur camp (la Californie, l’Etat de New York, et les Etats du nord-est pour les Démocrates), (le Texas et les Etats du Sud et Mid-West pour les Républicains). Ils focalisent leurs activités de campagne sur les Etats dont le vote est incertain. En 2004, ils ont ainsi consacré 54% de leurs investissements en publicité télévisée et 45% de leurs déplacements à trois Etats (Floride, Ohio, Pennsylvanie) qui ne représentent pourtant que 14% de la population totale (…). Depuis le milieu des années 1990, le nombre des Etats considérés comme incertains et où se déroule en conséquence l’essentiel de la campagne (dits battleground, toss up ou swing States) s’est réduit et est passé d’une vingtaine à une douzaine (…) Il semble donc qu’au cours des deux dernières décennies, les Etats-Unis se soient davantage polarisés avec d’un côté des Etats fortement démocrates (Blue States) et d’un autre côté des Etats fortement républicains (Red States). Ce clivage géographique (opposant les régions industrielles démocrates et les zones rurales républicaines) reflèterait les différences sociales, religieuses ou raciales des populations concernées. Cette polarisation croissante peut apparaître surprenante dans la mesure où de nombreuses études ont montré que les électeurs américains tendent à devenir plus modérés et être moins attachés aux partis républicain et démocrate. Dans Culture War ? The myth of a Polarized America (…), Morris Fiorina a d’ailleurs remis en cause l’idée d’une polarisation croissante. Je ne peux détailler toutes ses analyses ici, mais pour l’essentiel Fiorina nous dit qu’en termes de valeurs et d’attitudes politiques (mais pas religieuses) les Américains sont moins divisés qu’on ne le dit et que les clivages partisans ne s’observent véritablement que parmi les élites politiques et les citoyens engagés. Si l’on a l’impression d’une polarisation, ce serait surtout un effet du découpage des circonscriptions électorales (le gerrymandering) qui accentue artificiellement la séparation entre électorats démocrates et républicain. Incidemment, le mythe de la polarisation aurait été soutenu par les médias en ce qu’il simplifie et dramatise la couverture de la vie politique, présentée comme un affrontement entre les deux grands partis. L’ouvrage de Fiorina a suscité de vifs débats et de nombreuses études sur le même thème. Comme il arrive souvent dans les recherches en sciences politiques, certaines enquêtes ont abouti à des conclusions sensiblement différentes et confirmé au contraire la tendance à une polarisation politique croissante des Etats-Unis (en termes géographiques, sociaux, et même religieux). Thierry Vedel

Attention: un conservatisme peut en cacher un autre !

Couleur du feu et du sang, signal de danger ou d’interdiction (chiffon rouge, feux rouges, téléphone rouge, alerte rouge, carton rouge, Croix-Rouge), couleur de l’insurrection et du communisme (drapeaux soviétique et chinois) …

Couleur mariale, du roi, de la raison, de la modération, de la sobriété, de la dignité, de la discrétion, des républicains, des conservateurs, du consensus (organismes internationaux: ONU, Unesco, Conseil de l’Europe, Union européenne) …

Religion, armes à feu, chapeaux de cowboy, blancs, moindre instruction, ruralité, peine capitale, guerre d’Irak, courses de stock cars, musique country, pickups, Wall Street Journal …

Laïcité, relativisme, internationalisme, mutliculturalisme, féminisme, diplômes, urbanité, cosmopolitisme, avortement, écologie, tennis, musique classique, Toyota Prius, NYT, café latte, quiches …

En ces temps étranges où, innovation et sens des affaires obligent, il faudra désormais crier « Allez les rouges ! » pour soutenir les Bleus …

Et où, pour les mêmes raisons, les divisions entre bleus et rouges le temps d’une campagne de pub pour une chaine se voulant fédératrice en année préélectorale se voient aujourd’hui  réduites, prétendue tyrannie de la transparence oblige mais avec floutés stratégiques de rigueur pour que ça reste un « spectacle quasi-familial » s’il vous plait, à leur plus simple expression

Pendant que l’autre côté de l’Atlantique et via les réseaux sociaux, la fracture blancs-noirs qu’était censé réduire le premier président prétendument post-racial vire à une véritable guerre idéologique et culturelle des bleus et des rouges

Et qu’une génération qui, entre appel démagogique aux jeunes diplômés et aux immigrés de la part d’un président largement discrédité croyait avoir définitivement fait main basse sur le pouvoir se voit à son tour prise de doute

Qui se souvient …

Que la polarisation politique aujourd’hui apparemment si forte et si ancrée dans le langage politique américain …

Mais aussi si opposée à la tradition européenne …

D’un pays divisé entre Etats bleus supposément progressistes (en fait principalement urbains) et Etats rouges dits conservateurs (en fait principalement ruraux) …

N’a en fait pas plus de 15 ans ?

Et qui comprend …

Qu’imposé au départ par le souci peut-être de ne pas stigmatiser le même camp ou, plus vraisemblablement, par le choix largement graphique de médias américains en mal de dramatisation (et pour cause, l’écart Bush-Gore de la présidentielle de 2000 s’étant alors réduit, derrière l’effet de loupe du sytème winner take all et du vote indirect des grands électeurs, à justement quelques centaines de voix) …

Puis fixé dans les mémoires par la longue bataille juridique de ladite élection (36 jours !) …

Le bleu du « lac de Reagan« , autrement dit du libéralisme et de l’attachement aux valeurs communes (patriotisme, sécurité, famille) …

Ait pu quasiment du jour au lendemain finir par perdre toute signification idéologique …

Au point de s’inverser pour signifier son contraire et se réduire à la défense de groupes d’intérêt (minorités, jeunes, femmes, homosexuels) ?

A moins que, devant le nouveau conservatisme desdits groupes d’intérêt, le camp de la raison et de la conservation des valeurs se soit vu contraint de reprendre le rouge flambeau du véritable libéralisme et progressisme ?

Etats rouges et Etats bleus : la polarisation politique aux Etats-Unis

Thierry Vedel

31 août 2008

Le vote populaire ne dit pas qui va gagner
Cela peut apparaitre étonnant, mais par rapport à leurs homologues français, les médias américains publient assez peu de sondages sur les intentions de vote à la présidentielle (ceux qui sont accros aux sondages pourront néanmoins trouver leur bonheur dans la presse, par exemple ici sur le site du New York Times). La raison tient sans doute au système électoral américain. Un sondage national n’a qu’un intérêt relatif pour anticiper l’issue de la présidentielle. Le président américain est en effet élu non pas directement par les citoyens américains, mais par un collège de 538 « grands électeurs ». Ceux-ci désignés dans chaque Etat suivant le principe du winner-take-all (le candidat arrivé en tête rafle toutes les voix des grands électeurs). De ce fait, il peut arriver qu’un candidat ayant recueilli la majorité des suffrages au plan national (ce que les Américains appellent « le vote populaire ») ne soit pas élu car il n’a pas la majorité des voix des « grands électeurs ». Cela s’est produit quatre fois jusqu’à présent en 1824, 1876, 1888 et surtout 2000 (où Bush l’a emporté avec 5 voix d’avance chez les grands électeurs alors que Gore avait obtenu plus de 500 000 voix que lui dans « le vote populaire »).
Un champ de bataille qui se rétrécit

Le système électoral américain explique également les stratégies de campagne qu’adoptent les candidats. Ceux-ci ont bien sûr intérêt à concentrer leurs efforts sur les Etats qui permettent de gagner le plus de grands électeurs. En théorie, il est possible d’être élu président des Etats-Unis en n’ayant la majorité que dans les onze Etats désignant le plus d’électeurs : Californie (55), Texas (34), New York (31), Floride (27), Illinois (21), Pennsylvanie (21), Ohio (20), Michigan (17), Georgie (15), New Jersey (15), caroline du Nord (15), ce qui permet d’obtenir 271 grands électeurs sur les 269 nécessaires.
En outre, les candidats tendent à délaisser les Etats qui ont une longue tradition de vote en faveur de leur camp (la Californie, l’Etat de New York, et les Etats du nord-est pour les Démocrates), (le Texas et les Etats du Sud et Mid-West pour les Républicains). Ils focalisent leurs activités de campagne sur les Etats dont le vote est incertain. En 2004, ils ont ainsi consacré 54% de leurs investissements en publicité télévisée et 45% de leurs déplacements à trois Etats (Floride, Ohio, Pennsylvanie) qui ne représentent pourtant que 14% de la population totale (Source : Who picks the President ? A report by FairVote – The Center for Voting and Democracy’s). Depuis le milieu des années 1990, le nombre des Etats considérés comme incertains et où se déroule en conséquence l’essentiel de la campagne (dits battleground, toss up ou swing States) s’est réduit et est passé d’une vingtaine à une douzaine ( Source : Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections, 4th edition). Carte montrant les Etats où les dépenses en publicité ont été les plus fortes lors de la campagne 2004. Source: FairVote.

La polarisation entre Etats rouges et Etats bleus : un mythe ?
Il semble donc qu’au cours des deux dernières décennies, les Etats-Unis se soient davantage polarisés avec d’un côté des Etats fortement démocrates (Blue States) et d’un autre côté des Etats fortement républicains (Red States). Ce clivage géographique (opposant les régions industrielles démocrates et les zones rurales républicaines) reflèterait les différences sociales, religieuses ou raciales des populations concernées. Cette polarisation croissante peut apparaître surprenante dans la mesure où de nombreuses études ont montré que les électeurs américains tendent à devenir plus modérés et être moins attachés aux partis républicain et démocrate. Dans Culture War ? The myth of a Polarized America (New York: Pearson Longman, 2005), Morris Fiorina a d’ailleurs remis en cause l’idée d’une polarisation croissante. Je ne peux détailler toutes ses analyses ici, mais pour l’essentiel Fiorina nous dit qu’en termes de valeurs et d’attitudes politiques (mais pas religieuses) les Américains sont moins divisés qu’on ne le dit et que les clivages partisans ne s’observent véritablement que parmi les élites politiques et les citoyens engagés. Si l’on a l’impression d’une polarisation, ce serait surtout un effet du découpage des circonscriptions électorales (le gerrymandering) qui accentue artificiellement la séparation entre électorats démocrates et républicain. Incidemment, le mythe de la polarisation aurait été soutenu par les médias en ce qu’il simplifie et dramatise la couverture de la vie politique, présentée comme un affrontement entre les deux grands partis.
L’ouvrage de Fiorina a suscité de vifs débats et de nombreuses études sur le même thème. Comme il arrive souvent dans les recherches en sciences politiques, certaines enquêtes ont abouti à des conclusions sensiblement différentes et confirmé au contraire la tendance à une polarisation politique croissante des Etats-Unis (en termes géographiques, sociaux, et même religieux). Pour un bon point sur la question, on pourra consulter le numéro spécial de The Forum, A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, Vol. 3, Issue 2, (July 2005) dont le sommaire est consultable ICI. (Voir en particulier l’article de Alan Abramowitz et Kyle Saunders, l’un des meilleurs à mes yeux).

Voir aussi:

Seeing Red

Gary Andres

March 2, 2005

Democrats, the progressive party no more. Is President George W. Bush the new face of progressive reform in American politics and do Democrats now don the mask of the status quo? Some observers, particularly liberals, scoff at this idea, but growing evidence suggests Bush’s platform has a long pedigree in the morally based progressive tradition in American politics.

The media have largely missed this developing reversal, largely because it refuses to acknowledge Bush’s motivation to help people by dismantling the traditional welfare state, replacing it with programs that fall under the rhetorical rubric of “compassionate conservatism” and the “ownership society.” Bush’s new “progressivism,” however, also creates some tensions with elements of the conservative community–challenges the Republicans must manage if they hope to solidify their position as the majority party in America.

One person who astutely recognizes this subtle shift in the political tectonic plates is Wilfred McClay, of the University of Tennessee–Chattanooga. Last week Professor McClay gave an insightful lecture at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington D.C., titled George W. Bush’s Evangelical Conservatism: Or How The Republicans Become Red. McClay begins with a symbol: The media’s use of the color red to depict states in the Republican victory column. This hasn’t always been the case: The sea of blue on the map depicting the 1980 GOP landslide was called “Lake Reagan” by Time magazine. But since 2000, Republicans have been the crimson party.

McClay highlights the irony of the changing color scheme. “It’s amazing how willing the democratic Left has been to acquiesce in the loss of one of the most permanent, most universal, and most beloved symbols–the color Red–without serious protest.”

“Red,” he notes, has long been associated with progressive, liberal, energetic, idea-driven reform causes (as well as Communism in the former Soviet Union and China)–including the 1848 revolution in France, and a host of labor parties throughout Europe in the last 200 years.

And just as the GOP has co-opted the progressive party’s color scheme, McClay says the “conservative (Republican) party in America today is the party of progress, of human liberation, of national and international purpose.” The Democrats, on the other hand, are the political Luddites–”the party of entrenched interests, of public bureaucracies and public-employee unions and identity-politics lobbies, the party that opposes tax reform, opposes tort reform, opposes educational reform, opposes Social Security reform, opposes military reform, opposes the projection of American power overseas . . . ” Democrats, he impishly notes, have all but adopted National Review’s famous slogan from its inaugural edition about “standing athwart history yelling [stop]!’”

President Bush’s progressive domestic and international vision is tethered by twin goals–freedom and responsibility. It is a worldview McClay calls “evangelical conservatism.” “Self-government is not possible under the yoke of political or religious tyranny. But neither is it possible in a world in which the formation of character is ignored, and the linkage between our efforts and our results is erased,” he said.

The twin appendages of the “self-governing individual” (freedom) and the “self-governing soul” (responsibility) were the handmaidens of abolitionism and other progressive social reforms of the 19th century. The same intellectual lineage animates the president’s support of American power to promote freedom internationally and his compassionate-conservative ideas domestically. Rather than a new philosophy, McClay argues Bush’s approach “may represent the recovery of a well established and distinctively American approach to social and political reform.”

But McClay concludes his lecture with a warning. Even if “conservative” government pursues policies to strengthen the “self-governing individual” and the “self-governing soul,” it’s still government. And however noble these ends, they may sometimes trump more conventional conservative positions. While sympathetic to the president’s general thrust, McClay argues conservatism cannot abandon its most fundamental mission, “what Thomas Sowell called the ‘constrained vision’ of human existence, which sees life as a struggle, with invariable mixed outcomes, full of unintended consequences and tragic dilemmas involving hopelessly fallible people.”

Indeed, President Bush deserves credit as a progressive reformer. So the new color scheme is probably justified. But as McClay argues, as these ideas evolve, “a darker shade of red, one that sees the hand of Providence in our reversals as well as our triumphs,” may be in order. The president’s palate, while promising and much needed, is a work in progress.

–Gary Andres is vice chairman of research and policy at the Dutko Group Companies and a frequent NRO contributor.

Voir aussi:

Ethics & Public Policy Center

American Culture and the Presidency

Wilfred M. McClay

American Culture and the Presidency
George W. Bush’s Evangelical Conservatism:

Or, How the Republicans Became Red

February, 23, 2005

American Culture and Democracy: Fall 2004 Lecture Series

Wilfred McClay: Thank you very much, Ed, and good evening to all of you. I am glad that we were finally able to hold this lecture, after being defeated twice in our earlier attempts. The delay probably has worked to my advantage, since the more distance that’s put between me and the other speakers in this series, the less I will suffer by comparison to them. It is indeed a daunting matter to have to follow on after Justice Scalia, Richard Neuhaus, Hadley Arkes, Bill Kristol, Eric Cohen, and so on. At least this way, I don’t have to follow them in close-order drill, but more as a straggler bringing up the rear.

One other advantage of delay — though a mixed advantage to be sure — is that I was able to keep on gathering material and rethinking this talk. That has meant its becoming transmuted into something a little different from what I set out to do at first. I was initially drawn to think about the role played by the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son — which is, in my opinion, one of the deepest and most thoroughly ingrained moral patternings in our redemption-haunted culture — with particular reference to the personae and public perceptions not only of President Bush and his opponent in the 2004 presidential campaign, but of Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and the whole succession of modern, highly personalized American presidencies. For what it is worth, I planned to argue that John Kerry would likely lose the election because he — unlike Bush, and unlike Clinton before him — did not know how to join the story of his own life, with its twists and turns, to that deeply American, and deeply Biblical, story of the Prodigal Son — a story that, in a sense, can be said to encapsulate many of the essentials of the Christian faith, particularly in its evangelical Protestant form. Since it is no great achievement to predict an event that has already happened, I obviously won’t pursue that same line of inquiry. But the larger question of the role of certain deep stories in providing our culture with an enduring account of itself, an account that structures our political and moral imaginations, remains central to what I want to talk about tonight.

There is always a temptation to be entirely topical and present-minded in approaching such a subject, finding dramatic changes in the flow of current events. Certainly President Bush’s extraordinary Second Inaugural Address and subsequent State of the Union Address, both barely a month ago, continue to reverberate in Washington and the country, and their contents and effects form a natural part of my subject. But the matters I want to address are longer-term in their gestation and development, and in no way dependent on these two remarkable speeches and their after-effects. In fact, I’d contend that anyone who has been paying attention to the public words of George W. Bush already knew that these speeches did not contain a great deal that was entirely new. I say that not to be dismissive, but simply to emphasize the consistency in the President’s long-term direction. Take for example the National Security Strategy of the United States, promulgated in September 2002. Judging from the reporting on it, you would think there was nothing much of interest about it, aside from the section on preemptive warfare. But it is absolutely clear, from the start, in basing itself on “a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests,” that aims to “make the world not just safer but better” by promoting political and economic freedom, and that insists “America must stand firmly for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity.” All these rather sweeping and significant statements went largely unnoticed amid the frenzy over the document’s discussion of preemption. But they were there, and very prominently so.

What I want to look at is, specifically, how the administration of George W. Bush seems to have marked a sea change in the evolution of Republican politics, in conservatism, in the present and future alignment of our political parties and ideologies, and the role of religion in our public discourse and public action. In addition, however, I want to talk about the ways that, taking a longer-range historical view, what looks like a sea change may in fact merely be the process of this administration and the political party it leads rejoining itself, consciously or not, to certain longer traditions of American political and social reform. And I will also want to ask, in the end, whether these changes or reorientations are entirely a good thing, or whether there are aspects of them that should give pause to Americans in general, and to conservative Americans and evangelical Americans in particular.

*****

Let me ease into the subject with an anecdote, meant to illuminate the meaning of my subtitle. Toward the end of April in 2001, I found myself on a business trip to New York, and thought that I would use the occasion to have lunch with a friend, one of those people one deals with for years by phone and email without ever having met in the flesh. I should add, too, that this was and is someone with her feet planted firmly and intransigently on the political Left, with the most dismissive and contemptuous attitude imaginable toward Republicans in general and George W. Bush in particular — but an otherwise charming and intelligent person who tolerates me as a harmless eccentric. We arranged to meet for lunch at a little place off Union Square. After we’d firmed up the arrangements by phone, she concluded with the following instruction: “Now remember, it’ll be May Day, so be sure to wear a red tie.”

Not wishing to offend, I obliged. But I wondered at the request, which struck me as a bit absurd. I thought I detected in it the scent of nostalgia for a bygone era. It was as if we were still living in those heady days when a May Day visit to Union Square might mean an encounter with fiery labor organizers, or German-speaking radical anarchists, or a garment-workers’ rally — or maybe an earnest, rousing speech by Eugene Debs or Emma Goldman or Norman Thomas — instead of an encounter with a swarming beehive of commercial activity, around a Square which now offers the full array of franchise outlets that one would likely find anyplace else in America — Staples, Barnes and Noble, CVS pharmacy, and so on — all accompanied by the deafening noise of seemingly incessant construction. And I somehow doubt that “Red Emma,” were she to show up, would regard my red tie as a very impressive sign of my solidarity with the workers of the world.

I can understand a certain nostalgia for the Left’s glory days — for a time when there was still a plausible sense that it was the Left that stood for the common man and the human prospect, over against the dehumanizing forces of industrialism and finance capitalism and murderous nation-state rivalries and militarism and racial subordination and class arrogance and massive economic inequality, and all the other evils in the long parade of human folly. I’m far from immune to the pull of such concerns myself, as I think many decent people find themselves. It seems to be an especially bitter experience for those who have experienced such glory days to realize that times change and one can’t draw on their moral and intellectual capital forever, which may explain why that realization has been so slow in coming to the aging leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, or the Vietnam-era boomers who currently dominate the major media and the universities.

But how, I wondered, could anyone who had just lived through the 2000 presidential election, and its endless maps of America by state and county, still associate the color “red” with the Left? Particularly when, nearly four years later, after another presidential election and after exposure to another endless succession of maps, the association of “red” and “Republican” seems to have become firmly rooted in our discourse, embraced by both parties. Now we are even treated to learned disquisitions by intrepid reporters from our major daily papers who have donned their pith helmets and ventured out into the far hinterlands, trying to find and comprehend the inner essence of that exotic thing, Red America.

Someday the precise story will be told, by a historian more patient than I, of how the Republican party came to be assigned the color “red” in the mapping of the 2000 electoral results. From what little I have been able to determine, the change seems to have happened gradually, and with no visible conscious intent, and considerable inconsistency along the way. As recently as the 1980 election, the late David Brinkley, then still an anchor at NBC News, was drolly comparing the map representing Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory to a suburban swimming pool — solid blue, in other words. Time magazine somewhat more generously referred to the 1980 map as “Lake Reagan,” and stuck with a blue-Republican and red-Democratic scheme all through the 1990s. Other networks and news outlets used different color schemes during those years, sometimes replacing blue with white, and even reversing the coloration more or less at will. (I distinctly remember watching the 1980 returns on ABC, and hearing Frank Reynolds turn to Ted Koppel and say, “The country’s going Red, Ted!”)

How and why most of the major media outlets (with the exception of Time) fixed upon the red-Republican and blue-Democratic schema in 2000 remains somewhat mysterious. When a New York Times graphics editor was asked for his paper’s rationale, he responded simply that “both Republican and red start with the letter R.” So chalk one up for Sesame Street.

Of course, for anyone who knows even a smattering of modern European history, this is a truly an astonishing turn of events, whose significance is only barely hinted at by Frank Reynolds’s wisecrack. It’s amazing how willing the democratic Left has been to acquiesce in the loss of one of its most permanent, most universal, and most beloved symbols — the color Red — without serious protest. I am not talking here about yielding some of the more or less primordial symbolic meanings ascribed to Red, though those too would seem to be worth hanging on to. Red is the color of life, of love and fidelity, of warmth, of emotional intensity, of power and grandeur. Any political movement or party worth its salt would like to lay claim to such things. But I am thinking more specifically of the political meanings of Red, which may draw upon these more primordial meanings, but also link them to specific historical events and causes and traditions and aspirations. We Americans tend to think, in our own times, of Red in this sense referring exclusively to the history of Communism, but that is a vast oversimplification. Let me be clear in what I’m saying here. I don’t want to be associated with the view that Communism was merely “liberalism in a hurry.” But by the same token, I do want to insist that the range of historical referents to Red would be better described as different expressions of an energetic and idea-driven commitment to systemic progressive reform, expressions that can and do vary widely in the extent of their liberalism or illiberalism, but that have in common a commitment to the general cause of human freedom and human liberation.

Those political meanings of Red emerged fully in the French Revolution of 1848, when socialists and radical republicans adopted the red flag as a symbol of their cause, in contrast to the white flag of the Bourbon monarchists and the more moderate tricolor flag of the liberal Second Republic. From then on, the red flag became firmly associated in French political culture with the progressive socialist cause. Later the softer and more humane image of the red rose would be adopted as a symbol of the French Socialist Party, and was used to especially good public effect in recent memory by Francois Mitterrand. Its enduring power was manifest at Mitterrand’s funeral nine years ago, when throngs of mourners arrived at the Notre Dame Cathedral bearing red roses in their hands.

Similarly, the British Labor Party used a red flag, followed by a red rose, as its symbols. The party early on adopted as its anthem the song “The Red Flag,” which describes the “scarlet standard” as “the people’s flag,” “the hope of peace,” the banner and symbol of “human right and human gain.” Similarly, the color Red (and usually also the red rose) is strongly associated with the Australian Labor Party, the Canadian Liberal Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Dutch Socialist Party, the Party of European Socialists (located in Brussels) and the Socialist International. Just out of curiosity, I paid a visit to the current websites of each of these organizations, and believe me, you have never seen so much red, and especially so many red roses, outside of the city of Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

So there is a strong and enduring historical association, at least within modern European political culture, between the color Red and the most strongly progressivist, activist, reformist movements in European political life. But, you may well be asking, so what? This is all very interesting, I suppose, but what earthly difference does it make, so far as the United States and the Republican Party are concerned? Isn’t it possible, for example, that American disregard for European color rules is precisely a sign of our superiority, and our exceptionalism?

A reasonable question. My answer would be this. The mutation in the political meaning assigned to the color Red in America seems to have come about largely by chance and careless inattention. Nobody — not even the devious, all-knowing, and all-powerful Karl Rove — sought to induce or manipulate this change. But I believe one can make a very strong and suggestive argument that, in fact, this shift in symbolic meaning, even if entirely unintended, is extraordinarily meaningful, and fits in utterly unexpected ways with the historical situation in which we find ourselves. Hegel spoke of the “cunning of reason” in history, a term that indicated the ways in which the concatenation of seeming coincidences and random irrational events in history ends up furthering the cause of great, consequential, and intelligible change. Just such cunning may in fact be in evidence in this instance.

What I am saying, then, is that there is a sense — a limited sense, but a real sense — in which the Republican Party of George W. Bush has indeed “become Red” — if by “being Red” one means, rather than being the standard bearer for the specific agenda of socialism, instead standing for a grand commitment to the furtherance of certain high ideals and goals, an agenda of progressive reform meant not merely for the sake of the nation, but for the general good of humanity. Such are precisely the sort of larger causes that socialism nearly always has championed. But they can no longer be regarded as the exclusive property of socialism, or more generally of the Left. Bush’s administration may well represent the culmination of a change that has been in the works for a quarter-century or so — perhaps dating back to the days of Reagan, who loved to quote one of the quintessential Red thinkers, Thomas Paine — an effort to capture the mantle of progressive change for the benefit of the conservative party. These efforts have not been a notable success in the past, and even the most plausible of them, Newt Gingrich’s notion of a “conservative opportunity society,” foundered on the rocks of its creator’s problematic persona. Yet it may be clear to future historians that events of the past quarter-century have slowly been weaving a possible new guiding narrative for the Republican party.

As a result, it entirely plausible, I think, for Republicans to assert that the conservative party in America today is the party of progress, of human liberation, of national and international purpose. And Democrats who snicker at such an assertion do so at their own risk, for it is even more plausible to state that the liberal party is the party of opposition to change — the party of entrenched interests, of public bureaucracies and public-employee unions and identity-politics lobbies, the party that opposes tax reform, opposes tort reform, opposes educational reform, opposes Social Security reform, opposes military reform, opposes the revisiting of Supreme Court rulings, opposes the projection of American power overseas, opposes the work of Christian missionaries, opposes public accountability for the work of the scientific research community, opposes anything that offends the sensibilities of the European Union and the United Nations, and so on. Indeed, there are times when it seems they are on the verge of adopting the National Review’s famous slogan, about standing athwart history and yelling “Stop.”

Now some of these things may be worth opposing, and I am not here this evening to endorse or condemn the whole slate of either party. But it seems clear that such a shift of party identities may now be upon us, and that the shift of the color Red to the Republican side may provide an interesting symbolic representation of it.

Clearly, too, as a corollary to the above, one would want to point out that Bush came to this position from a route entirely distinct from the route taken by European socialists. The influences on his thinking are various, of course. As an American, he is heir to the traditional American commitment to the concept of universal natural rights that permeates certain documents of the nation’s founding, and the struggles and travails of its subsequent history. Such sentiments are not unheard of in the party of Lincoln, and Bush, though a proud Texan, seems to have had almost no attraction to the vestiges of traditionalist Southern conservatism. And I don’t doubt for a minute that Bush has been greatly influenced by the neoconservative advisors and theorists in his administration, whose advocacy for the preemptive use of force, democratic nation-building, and the active use of American power in pursuit of a universal human-rights agenda dovetails so well with many of his own instincts (even if they also represent a departure from avowed positions of the 2000 campaign).

But to stress these things is to leave out the key element driving Bush’s moral agenda, which has taken on growing saliency in his administration since 9/11, but was there to see all along for those with eyes to see, going back to his days as governor of Texas. And that is its grounding in Bush’s evangelical Protestantism. It is his evangelicalism that has broadened and softened his younger tendencies toward harder-edged oil-and-gas business conservatism, fired his moral concerns, given him a sense of political mission, and given him the energy, force, and staying power to pursue it. Many of the very positions that make some of his fellow conservatives suspicious of Bush — his “compassionate conservatism,” his relatively favorable view of many Federal social and educational programs, his sensitivity to issues of racial injustice and reconciliation, his softness on immigration issues, his promotion of the faith-based initiative, his concern with issues of international religious liberty, his African AIDS initiative, and above all, his enormously ambitious, even seemingly utopian, foreign-policy objectives — are positions that are best explained by the effects of his evangelical Christian convictions, and by his willingness to allow those convictions to trump more conventional conservative positions. It is strange that, of all the things liberals loathe about Bush, his religion seems to be at the top of the list. For it is precisely the seriousness of Bush’s commitment to his evangelical faith that has made him more “liberal,” in a certain sense, than many of his party brethren.

It is, then, quite legitimate to ask whether Bush is even rightly understood as a conservative. Clearly, this question can involve us in an endless semantic game, and I don’t want to spend our time doing that. But the fundamental dynamic at work is, I think, pretty clear. Although many secular observers seem not to understand this, evangelicalism, by its very nature, has an uneasy relationship with conservatism. To call someone both an evangelical and a conservative, then, while it is not to utter a contradiction, is to call him something slightly more problematic than one may think. Of course this is, or should be, true of all Christians, who have transcendental loyalties that must sometimes override their political commitments, even very fundamental ones. But it is especially true of evangelicalism. As a faith that revolves around the experience of individual transformation, it inevitably exists in tension with settled ways, established social hierarchies, customary usages, and entrenched institutional forms. Because evangelicalism places such powerful emphasis upon the individual act of conversion, and insists upon the individual’s ability to have a personal and unmediated relationship to the Deity and to the Holy Scriptures, it fits well with the American tendency to treat all existing institutions, even the church itself, as if their existence and authority were provisional and subordinate, merely serving as a vehicle for the proclamation of the Gospel and the achievement of a richer and more vibrant individual faith. As such, then, evangelicalism, at least in its most high-octane form, may not always be very friendly to any settled institutional status quo. In the great revivals of earlier American history, it nearly always served to divide churches and undermine established hierarchies, a powerful force for what Nathan Hatch called “the democratization of American Christianity.”

True, evangelicalism can also be a force of moral conservatism, in insisting upon the permanence of certain moral and ethical desiderata, particularly if those are clearly stated in the Bible. But it can also be a force of profound moral radicalism, calling into question the justice and equity of the most fundamental structures of social life, and doing so from a firm vantage point outside those structures. David Chappell’s excellent recent book on the Civil Rights Movement, A Stone of Hope, very effectively made the point that it was the power of prophetic evangelical Christianity that energized the Civil Rights Movement and gave southern blacks the courage and fortitude to challenge the existing segregationist social order. And one could say similar things about many of the great nineteenth-century American movements for social reform, notably abolitionism, a rather unpopular cause in its day which would have made little headway without the fervent commitment of evangelical Protestants who believed the country was being polluted and degraded by the continued existence of slavery.

I am not claiming that Bush is a radical reformer. I don’t think anyone, other than an opponent straining for partisan advantage, would do that. But I am pointing out that the religious vision that energizes him is not always compatible with conservatism as conventionally understood, and may not, in the long run, be easily contained or constrained by it. Yes, Bush is a conservative, but he is a conservative whose conservatism has been continuously informed, leavened, challenged, reshaped, and reoriented by his religious convictions; and many of his closest aides and advisors have undergone a similar process. To capture this distinctive, I’m going to use the term “evangelical conservatism” to describe his position. I should hasten to add that there is a very great difference between “evangelical conservatism” and “conservative evangelicalism,” the latter of which refers to a theologically conservative position which may or may not translate into conservative political views. What I’m calling “evangelical conservatism” is better understood as a form of conservatism, then, and not as a form of evangelicalism — a political, rather than a theological, term.

The question remains as to whether or not Bush’s evangelical conservatism is still conservatism at all, or rather a departure from conservatism, and if so, whether it is a wise, coherent, or justifiable one. That is an interesting question. But it might be better first to ask whether what I am calling “evangelical conservatism” amount to little more than a strange little blip on the screen of American history, the latest flavor in reformism, a mere passing reflection of the idiosyncrasies of one man — or whether instead it finds echoes, in the form of antecedents and precedents, in the American past. As the historian Ronald G. Walters sadly observes in his history of reform movements in antebellum America, nothing so characterizes the history of American reform as its discontinuities, its inability to build traditions and institutions that can stretch across the generations. But this need not be the case. The historical record itself suggests that Bush’s evangelical conservatism, rather than being a radical innovation, may represent the recovery of a once well-established, and distinctively American, approach to social and political reform.

*****

The specifically evangelical tinge to Bush’s conservatism is equally visible in both his domestic and foreign policy. Indeed, one could argue that — within the limits that political prudence and expediency always place upon ideological consistency — these two aspects of policy form something of a seamless web. And the principle that unifies them is the characteristically evangelical emphasis upon the ultimate value of the self-governing individual. The administration’s zeal for the promotion of freedom, and particularly for the causes of global human rights and religious liberty, clearly owes a great deal to the moral influence of evangelical Christians (and also certain very committed secular Jews, such as Abe Rosenthal and Michael Horowitz, who have taken a powerful interest in the cause of religious liberty). And its domestic conception of the “ownership society,” which is a further elaboration of ideas that were already adumbrated in the “compassionate conservatism” that Bush advanced as governor of Texas and in his 2000 campaign, is also aimed at the formation and empowerment of self-governing individuals. Both depend upon a certain anthropology of the human person, a constrained individualism which understands human flourishing as requiring both the political and social freedom to pursue the good, and the moral discipline to live responsibly within the constraints that reflect the highest properties of human nature. Self-government is not possible under the yoke of political or religious tyranny. But neither is it possible in a world in which the formation of character is ignored, and the linkage between our efforts and our results is erased. Hence the two facets of the Bush agenda are conjoined.

Such a formulation bears a strong resemblance to the outlook of so much nineteenth-century American reform, which held up as a social ideal the freely choosing individual who was constrained (and thereby made genuinely free) by the disciplining influences of education, religion, and formative moral training. From the time of the Founding up to the end of the 19thcentury, the ultimate goal of social reform was the creation of the optimal conditions for what historian Daniel Walker Howe calls “the construction of the self.”. It was an era that still unabashedly extolled the “self-made” man, in which “self-improvement” was regarded as a moral imperative, and in which the concept of “individualism” was not understood as a synonym for narcissism or footloose irresponsibility, but rather as a highly desirable condition — a condition, though, which could NOT be properly understood or sustained apart from the existence of an objective moral order. And it was not enough for those constraints to be applied externally, like so many fences and leashes. They needed to be completely internalized as well. The responsible democratic self would need the help of institutions — family, church, neighborhood, and polity — with an interest in character formation. But the goal was not to remain in a state of tutelage, but to become transformed internally in the direction of self-sufficency, and thereby become more or less autonomous or self-constrained.

The relationship between the self-governing polity and the self-governing soul appears again and again — for example, in the thought of public-education pioneer Horace Mann, who saw the role of education as that of implanting the tools of self-regulation, so that naturally anarchic individuals would be fit for the task of self-control and self-direction. The clergyman William Ellery Channing, whose 1838 lecture “Self-Culture” became a classic brief for the endless human capacity for self-improvement, argued that God had endowed the human race with the extraordinary power “of acting on, determining, and forming ourselves.” One could argue that neither of these men was, in the strictest sense, an evangelical. But in this respect, there was little difference between them and their contemporaries, such as the arch-evangelical Charles Grandison Finney. As historian Daniel Walker Howe has put it, the essence of the evangelical commitment was that it was “undertaken voluntarily, consciously, and responsibly, by the individual for himself or herself,” by those “who have consciously decided to take charge of their own lives and identities,” and who are willing to embrace a discipline that is “at one and the same time liberating and restrictive.”

This ideal of the self-governing individual stands behind many of the great reform movements of pre-Civil War America — temperance, women’s rights, health faddism, and of course, antislavery. That ideal is at the heart of the evangelical-Protestant moral critique of slavery. Slavery was a systemic affront to the ideal of self-governance. It not only prevented slaves from being self-governing and fully realized individuals. It just as surely prevented masters from achieving that same status. It corrupted both, and in the process had a corrupting effect upon all that came into contact with them, a contention that the economically backward state of the South seem to prove. This was a critique that, of course, went back as far as Thomas Jefferson’sNotes on the State of Virginia, but it took a religious movement to provide the energy to act on it.

It would take a lecture longer than this already over-long one to trace the ways that this 19th-century Whig-evangelical model of social reform through individual transformation under the tutelage of morally authoritative institutions came to be supplanted by philosophies of reform that dealt in the behavior of social aggregates rather than the reformation of individual hearts and minds. But it is certainly seemed clear, by the end of the 1970s or so, those approaches had fallen far short of unambiguous success; and with the sweeping welfare-reform measures of a decade ago, Federal social policy has begun to reject approaches to social reform that fail to take into account the dynamics of individual character formation. This is clearly where Bush’s heart is, and in that sense, his approach picks back up where the reformers of the 19th century left off. Here too, one can see how his own perspective dovetails so nicely with that of neoconservative critics of the welfare state, but even so is different, given its roots in a certain religious anthropology.

*****

It may be that I’m failing to give adequate attention to the other side of the story here. Which is to say that the Republicans have become Red less because of their strengths than because of the Democrats’ weaknesses. Something like that analysis is put forward, in the most compelling form I’ve yet seen, by Martin Peretz in the current issue of the New Republic, in an extremely intelligent article titled “Not Much Left.” Liberals, he argues, find themselves today where conservatives were a half-century ago, without ideas, without a vision of the good society, bookless, forced to feed on stale ideas from the 60s, and therefore, dying.

I think there is considerable merit in Peretz’s analysis, and I think the appalling situation currently unfolding at Harvard is a window onto why the absence of fresh ideas on the Left may be a much more difficult problem to solve than even he posits. Conservatives had the benefit, in retrospect, of being in the wilderness, and having to invent and sustain their own institutions. The Left might be far better off, in the long run, if it didn’t have the Harvards of the world in its pocket, because it might be less inclined to control discourse rather than stimulate it.

But there’s one thing that Peretz mentions in passing that also summarizes what makes me uneasy about the Bush agenda, and it’s packed into one sentence: “The most penetrating thinker of the old liberalism, the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is virtually unknown in the circles within which he once spoke and listened, perhaps because he held a gloomy view of human nature.” One could say the same about the older conservatism, which also once found Niebuhr a compelling figure but now finds it easy to dismiss him.

There is not much of Niebuhr, or original sin, or any other form of Calvinist severity, in the current outlook of the Bush administration. That too is a reflection of the optimistic character of American evangelicalism, and therefore of evangelical conservatism. It certainly reflects the preference of the American electorate, which does not like to hear bad news, a fact that is surely one of the deep and eternal challenges to democratic statesmanship. And it is, by and large, an appropriate way for good leaders to behave. It is, in some respects, a political strength.

But conservatism will be like the salt that has lost its savor, if it abandons its most fundamental mission — which is to remind us of what Thomas Sowell called “the constrained vision” of human existence, which sees life as a struggle, with invariably mixed outcomes, full of unintended consequences and tragic dilemmas involving hopelessly fallible people, a world in which the legacy of the past is usually more reliable than the projections of the future. As the example of Niebuhr suggests, such a vision need not reject the possibility of human progress altogether — which, by the way, has never been characteristic of traditional conservatism either, from Edmund Burke on. But it does suggest that it is sometimes wise to adopt, so to speak, a darker shade of red, one that sees the hand of Providence in our reversals as well as our triumphs. To do so is as needful for American evangelicalism as for American politics.

 Voir de plus:

Red States, Blue States, Confusional States
David C. Stolinsky
November 13, 2014

Some states are red
Some states are blue
The blue states are redder
But what can you do?

During the 2000 election, the media began using maps showing liberal states as blue and conservative states as red. The obvious reason was to avoid the implication that liberals are related to socialists or communists, who throughout the world for over a century have been associated with the color red.

Prior to 2000, the color scheme varied, with the more common − and more logical − practice being to use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans. For example, NBC’s David Brinkley referred to Ronald Reagan’s 49-state landslide victory in 1984 as a “sea of blue.” But since 2000, the current usage has become so ingrained that it would be very difficult to change. There may be a lesson here.

We should be careful of the habits we develop. Changing them later can be difficult or impossible, no matter how illogical or destructive they may be. This is true for a drug habit, but it is equally − if less obviously − true for habits of thought. Refusing to associate big-government candidates and parties with socialism may seem innocent. But such thinking is hardly innocent if it encourages us to overlook the failing socialist states in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.
– Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Barack Obama proposed a variation on the theme of “one size fits all” health-care plans. We refused to see the similarities between this plan and the socialized Canadian system with its long delays, the British system with its rationing of care, and the French system with its inability to react to emergencies. So unless we amend or repeal ObamaCare, we will face similar problems. Erroneous terminology leads to erroneous thinking. We heard promises of “excellent care for everyone at less cost” and reacted with cheers and applause, rather than the hoots and whistles such baloney deserved.

Then we have the notion that Democrats are more “compassionate” than Republicans. This is true only if we define “compassionate” as voting Democratic − a circular argument if there ever was one. In fact, conservatives on average give more to charity than liberals, both as individuals and by state. And Americans give more to charity than Europeans who live in socialist nations.

I believe that socialism is deficient not only on economic grounds, but also on moral grounds. It encourages us to leave the well-being of fellow citizens and even family to the government. For example, in 2003 France was stuck by a heat wave in which over 11,000 died. Those who could do so took their usual August vacation to the seashore, leaving elderly relatives and neighbors to swelter in non-air-conditioned apartments. Even health-care personnel went on vacation, while those who remained were limited by law to a 35-hour work week. There’s “compassion” for you.

Some time ago I was talking to a colleague. I mentioned the evils of the Soviet Union. As if on cue, he said, “True communism hasn’t been tried.” Really? In 74 years of “building socialism,” the Soviet Union just couldn’t get it right? And Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania, and East Germany didn’t do it right, either? What about China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – not to mention the liberals’ favorite, Cuba? What about the failed African regimes that rejected Western ideas of democracy and free enterprise, but unwisely chose Marxism to emulate?

In fact, true communism was tried by the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Colony in 1620. After a few years of near starvation, they gave it up and allowed private ownership of land. This experience was duplicated by communists in the Soviet Union and China, where millions died in famines. But unlike the Pilgrims, it took the Russians and Chinese many years to admit their error.

After centuries of attempts of various sorts by various peoples of various racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, nobody could get socialism “right.” But many liberals still believe that they could get it “right,” if only we nasty old conservatives got out of the way and let them try.

As G. K. Chesterton observed, when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything. First it was global cooling and nuclear winter. Now it is global warming. First it was removing mercury from tuna fish, childhood vaccines, and even thermometers. Now it is mandating compact fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury. Yet no matter what other beliefs come and go, one liberal belief remains constant − the belief that they are smarter than all other people and can finally get socialism “right.”

But what does it mean to get socialism “right”?

● Can a system that is inefficient be made to work efficiently?

● Can a system that creates disincentives to productivity be made productive?

● Can a system that rewards conformity be made innovative?

● Can a system that discourages individual responsibility be made to encourage it?

● Can a system that enforces compliance be made to encourage political freedom?

● Can a system that punishes “incorrect” speech be made to encourage free expression?

● Can a system that takes more of our money and makes spending decisions for us be made to encourage economic freedom?

● Can a system based on Marx’s 19th-century notions cope with 21st-century problems?

● Can a system based on lies ever succeed? Note the admission that ObamaCare could not have been passed without lying to Congress and the American people.

We can’t get socialism “right” any more than we can get wife-beating “right” or perpetual motion “right.” If something is wrong, both morally and practically, we can never get it “right.” The best we can hope for is to get it less wrong − that is, to compare it with something that seems even worse.

Thus when I criticized his hero, Fidel Castro, my liberal colleague replied, “He got rid of Batista.” Yes, but so what? John Gotti got rid of Paul Castellano − did that excuse Gotti’s Mafia career? And Lenin got rid of the czar. But what if he hadn’t? Despite the oppression and inefficiency of the czarist regime, things in Russia were slowly improving. It is illogical to compare conditions in the Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991 with conditions in the czarist Russia of 1917. Nothing in the world is the same as it was in 1917.

Similarly, apologists for Castro compare education and health care in Cuba now with conditions when Batista fell in 1959. Liberals fall into the trap of assuming that if the Left hadn’t seized power, conditions in the country in question would have remained frozen in time. This is similar to claiming that if the American Revolution hadn’t occurred, we would still be going around on horseback wearing three-cornered hats and wigs.

Things change whether our guy or the other guy is in charge. The question is how they change. Does freedom increase or decrease? Is the value of the individual enhanced or diminished? Does society come to resemble a community of human beings or an anthill? Are productivity and innovation encouraged or discouraged? Are we motivated to take care of ourselves, our family, and our neighbors, or are we tempted to slough off our responsibilities onto Big Brother?

When we call conservative states red and liberal states blue, it is more than a mere confusion of colors. We are being manipulated to muddle our thinking until we can no longer draw logical conclusions.

Socialism isn’t a novel idea worth trying. It is an old idea that has been tried in many forms and many places by many people, and to a significant extent it doesn’t work. We need to take from socialism the idea of a social safety net into which the unfortunate can fall without serious injury. But at the same time, we need to encourage individual initiative and responsibility, because they are necessary for progress – and even more important, because they are essential for human dignity.

We can call red blue and blue red all day long, but the true colors remain the same.

Voir également:

BETWEEN THE LINES
How red states turned blue and vice versa
Exclusive: Joseph Farah vows not to use media-manipulated color narrative
WND
05/09/2012

Joseph Farah is founder, editor and CEO of WND and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators News Service.. He is the author or co-author of 13 books, including his latest, « The Tea Party Manifesto, » and his classic, « Taking America Back, » now in its third edition and 14th printing. Farah is the former editor of the legendary Sacramento Union and other major-market dailies.

It’s been four years since I made this point heading into another presidential election.

But it’s a point worth making again and again. It illustrates how the Democrats have their way with the media – every time.

Folks like me, old enough to remember when red states meant Democrat and blue states meant Republican, probably still get confused from time to time about the terminology.

All one has to do is take a trip down memory lane to look at the way the media uniformly showed the Ronald Reagan landslide of 1984. Look at the map. The blue states belonged to Reagan. The red states were those won by Walter Mondale.

Why did that perfectly sensible system suddenly change in the presidential election of 2000?

The story goes that the current use of Republican red and Democrat blue began when the late Tim Russert, a respected television interviewer, but one who worked formerly for Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, decided to use this new color scheme 12 years ago, according to the Washington Post, and it took.

I’m not surprised it did, given the political complexion of the national press corps.

The former system made more sense and was deliberately changed by media partisans who didn’t like to suggest Democrats should be associated with the color red.

I’m not making this up. In fact, even the predictably leeward-tilting Wikipedia acknowledges the newly adopted U.S. hue standard stands in stark contrast to the system of political colors in most other countries that bother to hold elections: “This unofficial system of political colors used in the United States is the reverse of that in most other long-established democracies, where blue represents right-wing and conservative parties, and red represents left-wing and social democratic parties.”

For once, Wikipedia has it right.

What’s a little more surprising, however, is how easily Republicans fell in line, apparently without realizing the reason they went from blue to red overnight. There’s even a Republican-leaning opinion site called RedState.com. How shortsighted and gullible can you get?

To understand the history behind this change, let’s take a look at what was happening on television before 1980. Again, according to the usually unreliable Wikipedia, “In 1976, John Chancellor, the anchorman for the ‘NBC Nightly News,’ asked his network’s engineers to construct a large electronic map of the USA. The map was placed in the network’s election-night news studio. If Jimmy Carter, the Democratic candidate that year, won a state, it would light up in red; if Gerald Ford, the Republican, carried a state, it would light up in blue.”

Made sense. Jimmy Carter was a progenitor of Barack Obama. And even though Gerald Ford was too dumb to understand that Eastern Europe and specifically Poland was, at the time, under Soviet domination, no one would ever accuse him of being a commie.

The next election cycle, famous for Ronald Reagan’s Republican landslide, was also memorable for David Brinkley’s observation that the election board looked like a “sea of blue.”

That made even more sense because Reagan’s convictions were decidedly and unabashedly anti-red.

There were deviations at some other networks, but the standard remained Democrat-red and Republican-blue for three more presidential elections. It was understandable. There was little confusion about it. It all made sense.

Democrats were at least soft on communism and socialism in the post JFK-LBJ world. Republicans tended to be anti-communist. It was all perfectly understandable, accurate and had both historical precedent to support it as well as contemporary parallels in other countries.

I propose to you it’s time we – real Americans, the rest of us – stopped being manipulated like this.

I would like to announce today, as I did on 2008, that my news organization, WND, will stand apart and refuse to use the “red-state-blue-state” paradigm in news coverage because it will not be a part of the obvious manipulation behind it. We won’t use the reverse, either, because it is certain only to cause confusion among our readers.

But I further propose that you start lobbying other news organizations to reconsider their use of the currently accepted “red state-blue state” labeling system based on the historical precedents you have learned about in this column and because it was launched and inspired by a former Democratic Party activist cum newsman and was adopted enthusiastically because it was so welcomed by the press’ overwhelming party of choice.

Words mean things. Symbols, too, have meaning. Why is it that I get confused about what someone means when they say, for instance, “California is a blue state and Texas is red.” I get confused because it makes no sense! I don’t think I’m alone. I would propose to you that most people my age or older feel the same way. We all know California is red and Texas is blue. That makes sense.

It’s a very simple concept. Some Democrats, perhaps those not belonging openly to the Progressive Caucus, might be a little self-conscious about being red. Republicans are not. But the fact remains that today’s Democrats are pushing a political agenda that is traditionally, historically and practically red all over.

It’s time for them – and their cheerleaders in the press – to just be honest about it.

Voir encore:

RED STATE BLUES Did I Miss That Memo?
Clark Bensen
POLIDATA/Political Data Analysis
May 27, 2004

Over the past quarter of a century I have generated hundreds, nay thousands, of colorcoded (thematic) maps illustrating political behavior for the nation. These maps have used election results as the source information and show the geographic distribution of voter preferences at various levels of political geography, state, county, town/city, precinct and congressional or legislative districts2. In every one of these maps that indicate a political dichotomy of Republican vs. Democrat, the traditional color-coding scheme has been used:

BLUE FOR REPUBLICAN, RED FOR DEMOCRAT.

When I first came to Washington following the 1980 elections to join the staff of the Republican National Committee, it was already a given that color-coded maps were generated in this fashion. In fact, having watched network news election night coverage over the years, this seemed to be a generally-accepted standard. As the elections ticked away, however, the networks started to change and one-by-one the new election night standard generally became just the reverse.

As we know, the color red is more “eye-catching” and perhaps it made graphic sense for the networks to color-in the vast Republican expanse of the country in red to create a more dramatic background map. However, the problem has now transformed itself into a shorthand notation whereby the color is not used solely to visually differentiate states or counties. It is on the verge of becoming a part of the political lexicon as commentators refer to the “red states” and the “blue states”. This is, to me, as a longstanding political operative, not only confusing but a disturbing trend of how the political paradigm has shifted.

There are two general reasons why blue for Republican and Red for Democrat make the most sense: connotation and practice. First, there has been a generally understood meaning to the two colors inasmuch as they relate to politics. That is, the cooler color blue more closely represented the rational thinker and cold-hearted and the hotter red more closely represented the passionate and hot-blooded. This would translate into blue for Republicans and red for Democrats. Put another way, red was also the color most associated with socialism and the party of the Democrats was clearly the more socialistic of the two major parties.

The second reason why blue for Republicans makes sense is that traditional political mapmakers have used blue for the modern-day Republicans, and the Federalists before that, throughout the 20th century3. Perhaps this was a holdover from the days of the Civil War when the predominantly Republican North was “Blue”.

While not a unanimous practice4, there is significant printed evidence of tradition in favor of the blue for Republican and red for Democrat color scheme.

Nevertheless, the networks appear to be making this change full-bore during 2004. Even some conservative commentators5 have begun to use the “red state/blue state” break as a shorthand to “Republican state/Democrat state” as part of their terminology. Moreover, some younger political observers have been exposed only to the red for Republican scheme6.

Of course, while this just shrieks of inside-the-beltway elitism, it also tends to confuse the debate for many average Americans, especially those over 30. The sole premise for this short-hand is the color-coding of the maps, most of which have not been seen since the 2000 election night/recount coverage. The political parties have invested untold millions in brand recognition for their party labels. Now the media are poised to turn this around for the sake of inside Washington jargon.

The key issue here is not the color chosen for the maps. The key issue is how states, or areas, are described. What is needed is a return to clarity. Texas is not a “red state”, it is (at least now) a generically Republican state. New York is not a “blue state”, it is a generically Democrat state. There are no reds or blues living in America; only Republicans, Democrats and “Others”.

1 Clark H. Bensen, B.A., J.D., consulting data analyst and attorney doing business as POLIDATA ® Polidata Data Analysis and a publisher of data volumes operating as POLIDATA ® Demographic and Political Guides. POLIDATA is a demographic and political research firm located outside Washington, D.C.

2 Numerous examples of these maps may be found online at www.polidata.org. Distillers of Official Data ™ since 1974

3 Notable examples include: a) Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright, Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, (Washington, D.C., Carnegie Institution of Washington and the American Geographical Society of New York, 1932); b) Kenneth C. Martis and Ruth Anderson Rowles, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989, (New York, MacMillan, 1989); c) See also the National Atlas of the United States at nationalatlas.gov (a web update of Gerlach, Arch C., editor, National Atlas of the United States of America, (Washington, U.S. Geological Survey, 1970)).

4 My analyst counterpart, Kim Brace, of Election Data Services, who serves the Democrat side of the aisle, has been using red for Republican for as long as Polidata has been using blue for Republican.

5 Observed in a column by Bob Novak in Spring 2004. 6 Observed in a column in GOPUSA.com in a travel letter from a current college student

Voir de plus:

When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red
The era of color-coded political parties is more recent than you might think
Jodi Enda
smithsonian.com
October 31, 2012

Television’s first dynamic, color-coded presidential map, standing two stories high in the studio best known as the home to “Saturday Night Live,” was melting.

It was early October, 1976, the month before the map was to debut—live—on election night. At the urging of anchor John Chancellor, NBC had constructed the behemoth map to illustrate, in vivid blue and red, which states supported Republican incumbent Gerald Ford and which backed Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter.

The test run didn’t go well. Although the map was buttressed by a sturdy wood frame, the front of each state was plastic.

“There were thousands of bulbs,” recalled Roy Wetzel, then the newly minted general manager of NBC’s election unit. “The thing started to melt when we turned all the lights on. We then had to bring in gigantic interior air conditioning and fans to put behind the thing to cool it.”

That solved the problem. And when election results flowed in Tuesday night, Nov. 2, Studio 8-H at 30 Rockefeller Center lit up. Light bulbs on each state changed from undecided white to Republican blue and Democratic red. NBC declared Carter the winner at 3:30 a.m. EST, when Mississippi turned red.

That’s right: In the beginning, blue was red and red was blue and they changed back and forth from election to election and network to network in what appears, in hindsight, to be a flight of whimsy. The notion that there were “red states” and “blue states”—and that the former were Republican and the latter Democratic—wasn’t cemented on the national psyche until the year 2000.

Chalk up another one to Bush v. Gore. Not only did it give us “hanging chads” and a crash course in the Electoral College, not only did it lead to a controversial Supreme Court ruling and a heightened level of polarization that has intensified ever since, the Election That Wouldn’t End gave us a new political shorthand.

Twelve years later, in the final days of a presidential race deemed too close to call, we know this much about election night Nov. 6: The West Coast, the Northeast and much of the upper Midwest will be bathed in blue. With some notable exceptions, the geographic center of the country will be awash in red. So will the South. And ultimately, it is a handful of states—which will start the evening in shades of neutral and shift, one by one, to red or blue—that will determine who wins.

If enough of those swing states turn blue, President Barack Obama remains in the White House four more years. If enough become red, Gov. Mitt Romney moves in January 20, 2013. For now, they are considered “purple.”

Here’s something else we know: All the maps—on TV stations and Web sites election night and in newspapers the next morning—will look alike. We won’t have to switch our thinking as we switch channels, wondering which candidate is blue and which is red. Before the epic election of 2000, there was no uniformity in the maps that television stations, newspapers or magazines used to illustrate presidential elections. Pretty much everyone embraced red and blue, but which color represented which party varied, sometimes by organization, sometimes by election cycle.

There are theories, some likely, some just plain weird, to explain the shifting palette.

“For years, both parties would do red and blue maps, but they always made the other guys red,” said Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News. “During the Cold War, who wanted to be red?”

Indeed, prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union little more than two decades ago, “red was a term of derision,” noted Mitchell Stephens, a New York University professor of journalism and author of A History of News.

“There’s a movie named Reds, ” he said. “You’d see red in tabloid headlines, particularly in right wing tabloids like the Daily Mirror in New York and the New York Daily News.”

Perhaps the stigma of red in those days explains why some networks changed colors— in what appeared to be random fashion—over the years. Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly wrote in 2004 that the networks alternated colors based on the party of the White House incumbent, but YouTube reveals that to be a myth.

Still, there were reversals and deviations. In 1976, when NBC debuted its mammoth electronic map, ABC News employed a small, rudimentary version that used yellow for Ford, blue for Carter and red for states in which votes had yet to be tallied. In 1980, NBC once again used red for Carter and blue for the Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan, and CBS followed suit. But ABC flipped the colors and promised to use orange for states won by John Anderson, the third-party candidate who received 6.6% of the popular vote. (Anderson carried no states, and orange seems to have gone by the wayside.) Four years later, ABC and CBS used red for Republicans and blue for Democrats, but the combination wouldn’t stick for another 16 years. During the four presidential elections Wetzel oversaw for NBC, from 1976 through 1988, the network never switched colors. Republicans were cool blue, Democrats hot red.

The reasoning was simple, he said: Great Britain.

“Without giving it a second thought, we said blue for conservatives, because that’s what the parliamentary system in London is, red for the more liberal party. And that settled it. We just did it,” said Wetzel, now retired.

Forget all that communist red stuff, he said. “It didn’t occur to us. When I first heard it, I thought, ‘Oh, that’s really silly.’ ”

When ABC produced its first large electronic map in 1980, it used red for Republicans and blue for Democrats, while CBS did the reverse, according to Wetzel. NBC stuck with its original color scheme, prompting anchor David Brinkley to say that Reagan’s victory looked like “a suburban swimming pool.”

Newspapers, in those days, were largely black and white. But two days after voters went to the polls in 2000, both the New York Times and USA Today published their first color-coded, county-by-county maps detailing the showdown between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Both papers used red for the Republican Bush, blue for the Democrat Gore.

Why?

“I just decided red begins with ‘r,’ Republican begins with ‘r.’ It was a more natural association,” said Archie Tse, senior graphics editor for the Times. “There wasn’t much discussion about it.”

Paul Overberg, a database editor who designed the map for USA Today, said he was following a trend: “The reason I did it was because everybody was already doing it that way at that point.”

And everybody had to continue doing it for a long time. The 2000 election dragged on until mid-December, until the Supreme Court declared Bush the victor. For weeks, the maps were ubiquitous.

Perhaps that’s why the 2000 colors stuck. Along with images of Florida elections officials eyeballing tiny ballot chads, the maps were there constantly, reminding us of the vast, nearly even divide between, well, red and blue voters.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Overberg said, the current color scheme fits with the political landscape. Republicans typically dominate in larger, less populated states in the Plains and Mountain West, meaning the center of the United States is very red. “If it had been flipped, the map would have been too dark,” he said. “The blue would have been swamping the red. Red is a lighter color.”

But not everyone liked the shift. Republican operative Clark Bensen wrote an analysis in 2004 titled “RED STATE BLUES: Did I Miss That Memo?”

“There are two general reasons why blue for Republican and Red for Democrat make the most sense: connotation and practice,” Bensen wrote. “First, there has been a generally understood meaning to the two colors inasmuch as they relate to politics. That is, the cooler color blue more closely represented the rational thinker and cold-hearted and the hotter red more closely represented the passionate and hot-blooded. This would translate into blue for Republicans and red for Democrats. Put another way, red was also the color most associated with socialism and the party of the Democrats was clearly the more socialistic of the two major parties.

“The second reason why blue for Republicans makes sense is that traditional political mapmakers have used blue for the modern-day Republicans, and the Federalists before that, throughout the 20th century. Perhaps this was a holdover from the days of the Civil War when the predominantly Republican North was ‘Blue’.”

At this point—three presidential elections after Bush v. Gore—the color arrangement seems unlikely to reverse any time soon. Not only have “red states” and “blue states” entered the lexicon, partisans on both sides have taken ownership of them. For instance, RedState is a conservative blog; Blue State Digital, which grew out of Democrat Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, helps candidates and organizations use technology to raise money, advocate their positions and connect with constituents. In 2008, a Republican and a Democrat even joined forces to create Purple Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs firm.

Sara Quinn, a visual journalist now at the Poynter Institute in Florida, said she sees no particular advantage to either color.

“Red is usually very warm and it comes forward to the eye. Blue tends to be a recessive color, but a calming color,” she said.

Not that anyone thought of those things when assigning colors in 2000. Not that they think about it at all today.

“After that election the colors became part of the national discourse,” said Tse. “You couldn’t do it any other way.”

Voir aussi:

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State
Tom Zeller
The New York Times
February 8, 2004

ON Dec. 19, the online magazine Slate corrected an installment of « Moneybox, » a recurring column by Daniel Gross . The article had « reversed the states’ electoral colors, » the correction stated. « It’s the blue coastal states that opposed Bush, and the red states that supported him. »

The arbitrary, it seemed, had become axiomatic. Neither Mr. Gross’s column, nor the correction, referred to a particular map. Instead, they both alluded to what has become, in the four years since the Bush-Gore showdown, something of a Platonic political tableau – one from which this simple, harmonic maxim now emanates: Democratic states are blue, and Republican states are red.

« I didn’t realize it had become so official, » said Mr. Gross, who also writes periodically for The New York Times. « I must have missed the memo. »

There wasn’t one, of course, but it is testament to the visual onslaught of the 2000 election – those endlessly repeated images of the electoral United States – that the Red State/Blue State dichotomy has become entrenched in the political lexicon.

« The red states have turned redder, » the Bush campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, said recently, « while the blue states have turned purple. »

To many, this palette represents an ignorant (or perhaps intentional) reversal of international tradition, which often associates red with left-leaning parties and blue with the right. « It’s weird, is all, » wrote a blogger at dailykos.com, a political Web journal. « I’d like some accountability if people are going to start messing with cultural symbolism willy-nilly. »

Mark Monmonier, a professor of geography at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and an expert in the use of maps as analytical and persuasive tools, found himself automatically reversing the current color code. « I remember talking in a class about the red states and blue states, » he said, « and a student actually corrected me. »

Online political discussion groups buzz with conspiracy theories about the maps, suggesting that Republican states were made red because that color typically represents the enemy on military combat maps, or because red has more negative psychological baggage (fiery, dangerous) than friendly, pacific blue.

Others have thought it simply a naïve attempt to avoid trafficking in stereotypes (Democrats are Reds, or socialists). Professor Monmonier suggested – jokingly – that the red-left, blue-right association more rightly follows the conventional ordering of visible light (red, yellow, green, blue, and so forth).

But in the United States, at least, the color coding has rarely been static.

An early marriage of red and blue with the two major parties is noted in the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas History Online , which describes a color-coding system developed in the 1870’s to help illiterate and Spanish-speaking voters navigate English-language ballots in South Texas. Local Democratic leaders called their party the Blues; Republicans chose to be the Reds.

By late in the next century, however, few were guided by that historical tidbit – or any other convention.

« It’s beginning to look like a suburban swimming pool, » the television anchor David Brinkley noted on election night 1980, as hundreds of Republican-blue light bulbs illuminated NBC’s studio map, signaling a landslide victory for Ronald Regan over the Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter. Other staffers, Time magazine wrote, called it « Lake Reagan. »

Mr. Carter’s bulbs were red.

Five years later, in her book « My Story, » Geraldine A. Ferraro recalled watching her 1984 vice presidential bid founder on the television screen. Mr. Reagan’s victory this time around was rendered in both flavors. « One network map of the United States was entirely blue for the Republicans, » she wrote. « On another network, the color motif was a blanket of red. »

By the 1990’s, the color scheme was becoming a bit more formalized – at least on network and cable television. But other news outlets continued to vary.

Time magazine had favored Democratic red and Republican white in the 1976 election between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, then reversed those colors for Reagan and Carter in 1980. By 1988, the magazine was using Republican blue and Democratic red, and it stayed with that motif even through the 2000 election, which has colorized the nation’s political language in precisely the opposite way.

The Times, which published its first color presidential election map in 2000, followed the networks, although Archie Tse, a graphics editor who made the choice, provided a different rationale: « Both Republican and red start with the letter R, » he said.

The National Atlas of the United States, published online under the auspices of the United States Geological Survey at nationalatlas.gov , still resists that trend: Bush counties are blue; Gore counties red.

Does it matter? Can swaths of cartographic-crimson or seas of ballot-blue tickle the rods and cones of the voting public and trigger deep-seated associations? The field of color psychology is uncertain on the matter.

Robert F. Simons, a professor of psychology at the University of Delaware and a co-author of a recent study titled « The Emotional Significance of Color in Television Presentations, » published in the journal Media Psychology, says it is difficult to link colors directly with how much people like or dislike something.

« People still associate color with all sorts of things – red is hot, blue is cold, » Professor Simons said. « But when all is said and done, these are semantic associations that probably have little to do with color per se. »

But Leatrice Eiseman, the director of the Pantone Color Institute , says those semantic associations are fairly entrenched – at least in the West. Blue, Ms. Eiseman says, is cool and calming, and typically represents « those things in nature that are always there for us, like water and the sky, » she said. Red, in contrast is « exciting, dynamic, high-energy. »

« It can also be a symbol of danger and bloodshed, » she added, although Republicans who find themselves uncomfortable at the hot-and-twitchy end of the spectrum may take comfort at the ascension of their color on Valentine’s Day. « Red is also a very sensual color, » Ms. Eiseman said.

She suggests that maps would do better to mimic the flag, with states bearing either stars on a blue field, or red-and-white stripes. « That would provide a symbolism that is familiar to everyone, » Ms. Eiseman said.

Whatever the subliminal debris, the 2000 election, which kept the nation staring at tinted maps for weeks as the outcome remained uncertain, appears to have cemented a decision that once could be safely governed by whimsy. The Geospatial and Statistical Data Center at the University of Virginia , for example, once chose shades of green and turquoise for its election maps. « I suspect it was just what the mapmaker liked at the time, » said Michael J. Furlough, the director of the data center.

But the center’s maps for the 2000 election were made red and blue. « We made that decision so that the colors would match those that we thought viewers naturally associated with each party, » Mr. Furlough said.

« A critical part of Dean . . . truly reflects much of the culture of the Blue States of America, » wrote Andrew Sullivan in Time magazine last week. That’s probably reason enough for the publication to cede to convention and render the Democrats blue this year. The magazine’s managing editor, James Kelly, says it’s already been decided. « We’re getting with the program, » he said.

Voir encore:

Elephants Are Red, Donkeys Are Blue
Color Is Sweet, So Their States We Hue
Paul Farhi
The Washington Post
November 2, 2004

Tonight, as the results of this too-close-to-call election trickle in, voters will find out not just who they’ve chosen to lead them, but where they live — in « red » or « blue » America.

The TV networks’ electoral maps will turn red once again when President Bush wins a state, and blue when John Kerry claims one. The evening’s talk will likely break along red and blue lines. DanPeterTom will discuss which states might go red, which are trending blue, and which, depending on their ultimate chromatic disposition, could decide the election.

Red and blue, of course, have become more than just the conveniently contrasting colors of TV graphics. They’ve become shorthand for an entire sociopolitical worldview. A « red state » bespeaks not just a Republican majority but an entire geography (rectangular borders in the country’s midsection), an iconography (Bush in a cowboy hat), and a series of cultural cliches (churches and NASCAR). « Blue states » suggest something on, and of, the coastal extremes, urban and latte-drinking. Red states — to reduce the stereotypes to an even more vulgar level — are a little bit country, blues are a little more rock-and-roll.

How has it come to this? What cosmic decorator did the states’ colors, reducing a continental nation’s complicated political and cultural realities to a two-tone palette?

The answers are somewhat murky — we may have to wait for a recount to be sure — but it appears the 2000 election, NBC’s graphics department and David Letterman all played critical roles.

Before Bush’s disputed victory over Al Gore four years ago, there was no consensus on the color of liberalism or conservatism. Indeed the scheme was often reversed, reflecting traditional European associations (red being not just the color of communism but of Great Britain’s Labor Party, too).

In 1976, NBC identified states won by Gerald Ford in blue and Jimmy Carter’s states in red. On election night in 1980, ABC News showed Ronald Reagan’s march to the White House as a series of blue lights on a map, with Carter’s states in red. Time magazine assigned red to the Democrats and blue to the Republicans in its election graphics in every election from 1988 to 2000. The Washington Post’s election graphics for the 2000 election were Republican-blue, Democrat-red.

The first reference to « red states » and « blue states, » according to a database search of newspapers, magazines and TV news transcripts since 1980, occurred on NBC’s « Today » show about a week before the 2000 election. Matt Lauer and Tim Russert discussed the projected alignment of the states, using a map and a color scheme that had first shown up a few days earlier on NBC’s sister cable network, MSNBC. « So how does [Bush] get those remaining 61 electoral red states, if you will? » Russert asked at one point.

In an interview yesterday, Russert disclaimed credit for coining the red-state, blue-state distinction. « I’m sure I wasn’t the first to come up with it, » he said. « But I will take credit for the white board, » Russert’s signature, hands-on electoral vote tracker.

As the 2000 election became a 36-day recount debacle, the commentariat magically reached consensus on the proper colors. Newspapers began discussing the race in the larger, abstract context of red vs. blue. The deal may have been sealed when Letterman suggested a week after the vote that a compromise would « make George W. Bush president of the red states and Al Gore head of the blue ones. »

All of this doesn’t answer two fundamental questions: Why red? Why blue?

Stephen Hess, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, points to the obvious association with the American flag. He adds that those colors look good on a TV screen, too.

Besides, other combinations wouldn’t work. We’ve already tried blue and gray, and we know how that ended up. It would be wrong, for obvious reasons, to divide the country into « black » states and « white » states. And it just wouldn’t look right to pick a more out-there palette, such as taupe-teal or puce-mauve.

Some conspiracy-mind Republicans resent being colored red because that hue tends to be associated with negative traits (fiery, bloody, hot, red-in-the-face), although red is also associated with love. Blue, meanwhile, is peaceful and tranquil, the color of sky and water, but it’s also the color of cold and depression.

The real problem may lie in the superficial caricatures that the colors conjure. Is it really accurate, after all, to describe New Mexico as a « blue » state when Gore won it by just 366 votes in 2000? In California — a state so blue that neither of the two leading candidates bothered campaigning much there this year — voters have in recent years approved initiatives repealing racial preferences and bilingual education, and have ousted a Democratic governor in favor of a Republican. Ohio — historically a red state — is close enough that Kerry might eke out a narrow victory, but it is also poised to pass overwhelmingly a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The whole red-blue division got an eloquent rebuke at the Democratic National Convention this summer, when Senate candidate Barack Obama told the cheering crowd, « We coach Little League in blue states and we have gay friends in red states. We pray to an awesome God in blue states and we don’t like federal agents sniffing around our libraries in red states. »

Red? Blue? In roses and violets maybe, but politics and culture come in many hues, and many of them clash.

Voir de même:

Banana Republicans
MSNBC

Paul Begala

November 13, 2000

The Bushies are desperate — desperate to stop a manual recount of disputed Florida votes. And as so often happens when one is desperate, they’re saying some really stupid things. Former Secretary of State and Bush fixer James A. Baker III even went on national television to say that manual recounts are not as reliable as machine counts.

The Bush camp craves power more than it respects democracy. ‘Trusting the people’ is just a slogan to them.

WHILE BAKER has a right to his opinion, his opinion does not trump Florida election law, which calls for a manual recount if there are anomalies in the machine count.

And apparently George W. Bush does not share his lawyer’s suspicion of manual recounts, since in 1997 he signed a law saying a manual recount was preferable if a machine count yielded a result that was too close to call. Having voted in Texas — as recently as the last presidential election — I know firsthand that many Texans vote on the same controversial punch-card machines as were used in Palm Beach County.

The Bushies are so desperate to stop the manual recount they’ve devised a two-tiered strategy :

First, they’ve gone into federal court to ask that the Florida election law, which clearly allows a manual recount, is unconstitutional. This is legal lunacy and political hypocrisy. Legally, Florida’s recount law is like most states,’ in that it allows recounts in close races or where some discrepancy is shown. Before any county can grant a Gore campaign request for a recount, the county must first demonstrate — by examining 1 percent of the ballots by hand — that there is some cause for concern that the machine might have missed some ballots. Such a regime is common and fair, hardly the abridgement of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and the First Amendment’s free speech clause, as the Bushies’ stunning legal brief argues.

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Politically, this is the most blatant hypocrisy since another Bush got elected by asking us to read his lips and then raised our taxes. Bush Jr. campaigned on a commitment to return more power to states and localities. Now, where a state (run by his own brother) is exercising control of its own electoral process, Bush wants the feds to come in and take it over.

The man whose slogan was “I trust the people,” now says he trusts machines more. The man who campaigned for tort reform and against lawyers, is now trying to use lawyers to stop a legal and valid recount — apparently because he fears that if the real will of the people is known, he’d lose.

Fortunately, a federal judge has denied the request for an injunction. Score one for democracy.

But the Bushies aren’t through yet. The other prong of the Bush anti-recount strategy is even more chilling :

The Florida secretary of state — a partisan Republican who campaigned for Bush in New Hampshire and who the Tampa Tribune says spent $100,000 of taxpayers’ money on a world tour to boost her credentials for a Bush ambassadorial appointment – has ruled that the deadline for all certified county results is 5 p.m. ET Tuesday. Such a deadline would make many of the hand recounts impossible to complete. What’s the rush? The overseas absentee ballots will be coming in until Friday, so there’s no need to rush the process to a close. Besides, Florida law clearly allows for a manual recount. It seems unfair — and unconstitutional — for a state official to set such a tight time limit that the recount becomes a practical impossibility.

HEAVY-HANDED STRATEGIES
Such heavy-handed, anti-democratic strategies qualify them to be Banana Republicans. They seem to care more about their preferred outcome than an honest and fair process.

Al Gore has already demonstrated his willingness to accept an unfavorable result by conceding the election when he thought Bush had won Florida by a fairly wide margin of 50,000 votes. Gore’s campaign spokesman made it clear that if a fair and accurate count yields a Bush victory, the Democrats will recognize it. Have we ever heard a single Bush spokesman make such a comment? No. In fact, thanks to the reporting of Michael Kramer of the New York Daily News and Andy Miga of the Boston Herald, we know the Banana Republicans had a secret strategy for undermining a Gore victory if Bush had won the popular vote. Now that the result is the other way, we’ve seen no Democratic strategy for de-legitimizing Bush. In fact, Gore has made it clear that although he won the popular vote nationwide, he will respect the result of the electoral vote as determinative. I have yet to hear a single Banana Republican say the same thing. They crave power more than they respect democracy.

“Trusting the people” is just a slogan to them.
As they did during the right-wing lynch mob’s attempt to impeach our president, the American people are showing their usual good judgment. According to a Newsweek poll released Monday, 72 percent of Americans feel that making certain the count is fair and accurate is more important than getting matters resolved as quickly as possible. Almost 70 percent say that the recount and the delay are proof that the U.S. electoral system is working, not a sign of weakness. And two-thirds (66 percent) of all Americans, and a majority (54 percent) of Bush voters think Gore did the right thing in withdrawing his concession to Bush. So pay no attention to the hot-air boys who are trying to railroad this election for their man Bush. Let’s settle down, slow down and get the most accurate count possible. It’s more important to get this right than to get it right away.

PERPLEXED, BUT NOT DIVIDED
Finally, I feel compelled to respond to something that was said on MSNBC cable last week. Mike Barnicle is one of the great voices of American commentary, and last week he held up the USA Today map of how every county in America voted. There was a sea of Bush red across the South, Midwest and Rocky Mountains with Gore blue hugging the coasts. Barnicle said this was proof of a cultural divide in America: “Wal-Mart versus Martha Stewart,” he said. “Family values versus a sense of entitlement.” I’ve been thinking about that ever since. And while I appreciate a guy from the Northeast opining about the cultural superiority of the Deep South, let me offer my own perspective: I was raised in that ocean of red. I grew up in Sugar Land, Texas — a place so conservative our Congressman is Tom “the Hammer” DeLay, the leader of the right-wing forces in the GOP Congress. There is no doubt that Barnicle’s observations have merit: There are different cultural mores on the coasts than there are in the middle of the country. But I don’t think that’s the only thing going on here.

Why would my beloved South vote so heavily Republican when just a generation ago it was heavily (no, totally) Democratic? LBJ knew. When he signed the Civil Rights Act he put his head in his hands and told his press secretary, Bill Moyers, “I’ve just given the South to the Republicans for a generation.” LBJ’s pessimism was prescient.

In the next presidential election, George Wallace stormed across the South with a message that cloaked racism in anti-government, anti-federal rhetoric. Richard Nixon’s infamous “Southern Strategy” was aimed at co-opting the votes of Southern Democratic racists who were disillusioned with their party’s support of civil rights. And by 1980, Ronald Reagan could stand in Neshoba County, Miss. — where Goodman and Chaney and Schwerner were murdered by racist thugs for registering black voters — and call for “states’ rights.”

The only two men from my party who won the White House since LBJ were moderate Southerners who knew the ins and outs of racial politics: Jimmy Carter of Georgia and Bill Clinton of Arkansas. If we were in a recession or a war, you could understand the unanimous verdict of my fellow Southerners. What is it about peace and prosperity that has them so angry? Could it be that the Clinton administration was the first in history to take on the extremists at the NRA, by pushing through the Brady Law and the assault weapon ban? Could it be that this administration saved affirmative action from a right-wing assault in the courts, the ballot box and the Congress? Could it be that this administration stood courageously for the simple proposition that no American should be fired from his job because of who he fall in love with?

NO EASY ANSWERS
Vice President Gore tells reporters that democracy, not the election, is at stake.

Yes, Barnicle is right when he notes that tens of millions of good people in Middle America voted Republican. But if you look closely at that map you see a more complex picture.

You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart — it’s red.

You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay — it’s red.

You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees — it’s red.

The state where an Army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African-Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry : they’re all red too.

But that’s not the whole story, either. Cultural warriors like House impeachment managers Bill McCollum and James Rogan and ultra-conservatives like Sen. John Ashcroft were defeated.

A gun control measure passed in Colorado and Oregon.

School vouchers were rejected in Michigan and California.

Democrats gained seats in the House, the Senate and state legislatures

And Gore carried the popular vote.

My point is that Middle America is a far more complicated place than even a gifted commentator like Mike Barnicle gives us credit for. It’s not all just red and blue — or black and white.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala is the co-host, with Oliver North, of MSNBC’s “Equal Time.” Begala is also the author of “Is Our Children Learning? The Case Against George W. Bush.”

Florida Recount …

PAUL BEGALA

Just when the Fat Lady was two-thirds through her aria, the Florida Supreme Court has stuffed a big-ol’ sock in her mouth. The Court has ordered, finally, that the disputed ballots from Miami-Dade County — and any other undervotes from any other county — be counted.

This is only fair. And fairness should count for something. I spoke to a high school civics class this morning, and had a hard time trying to explain why, since I believe any fair and full counting will show that Gore won Florida and with it the White House, The System may not give us that full and fair counting. The best I could come up with is to remind the students of what President Kennedy said, « Life is not fair. »

JFK had been, as he memorably said of his generation, « tested in war, (and) tempered by a hard and bitter peace. » He had seen his brother killed in combat, his sister killed in a plane crash, his boat shot out from under him in the Pacific. And yet he knew others who’d emerged from the war unscathed — and others still who were never called to serve at all.

His conclusion : life is not fair.

For someone like me who has, thank God, never been asked to serve in combat, I lack JFK’s tough, but accurate, perspective. And, Lord knows, an election is not a war. No one will die. No one will be injured. No one will have their lives shattered. So, while this is definitely the biggest political story of my lifetime, Kennedy’s lesson has helped me put it into perspective.

Still, I am thrilled that the Florida Supreme Court has ordered a careful count of the disputed ballots. It would be even more fair to have, as Gore has suggested, a full recount of the entire state of Florida. But absent that, counting the disputed ballots may yield a victory for Gore — or it may yield a victory for Bush. But more fundamentally, the count will confer legitimacy. After all, when 6,000,000 votes are cast but only 537 separate the winner from the loser, and tens of thousands of ballots have never been accurately read, it seems only fair to give those ballots a look-see.

I know The System is not always fair. But it ought to be unfair to both parties in the same way. That is, if the GOP is going to tell hundreds of voters in Palm Beach County that their votes don’t count because their local canvassing board submitted the paperwork 127 minutes late (when the Supreme Court had said the Secretary of State could receive them the next morning); if we’re going to tell 20,000 citizens whose votes were invalidated by a flawed ballot, and thousands more whose votes were never counted because of flawed machines, and untold more whose votes were excluded because of a lack of translators for Haitian immigrants or because the needlessly complicated ballot confused a lot of first-time voters — if the Republicans’ answer to all of those people is, « Life is unfair, » why do they appeal to fundamental fairness to include thousands of ballots whose applications were tampered with by party operatives?

The twin-killing of the Seminole and Martin County cases makes sense when you consider the radical — and unfair — nature of the remedy. Nobody wants to throw out the votes of thousands of citizens who did nothing wrong. Nobody but the Republicans, if those votes happen to be for Al Gore. By the same token, the Florida Supreme Court ruling makes sense. If every vote counts in Seminole and Martin Counties, they ought to count in the state’s other counties as well.

Watch for the Banana Republicans to attack the Court, just as Bush lawyer (and the man who ran the Wilie Horton campaign for Poppy) James Baker called the last Supreme Court ruling with which he disagreed, « unacceptable. » The Bushies will resort to the US Supreme Court, the Florida Legislature, Tom DeLay and the right-wingers who run the GOP Congress. All Al Gore has on his side are the people, the votes and the law. It’s going to be one helluva fight.

The drumbeat from the Know-Nothing Class continues

PAUL BEGALA

Why, the pundidiots ask, won’t Al Gore simply concede defeat and let us get about the important business of sucking up to the Bushies? I can hardly blame them. The Clinton Era has been a long, lonely walk in the wilderness for most of the chattering class. The Clintons didn’t like them. Didn’t like their arrogance or their condescension. Couldn’t stand their ruthlessness. And they let it show.

Worse, the Clinton Era proved the absolute and total lack of power in the punditocracy. From inside the White House it seemed to me as if 90 percent of the talking heads were calling for Clinton’s head. And he wouldn’t offer it up. Day after day they told the American people that Clinton had to go. The American people followed it carefully, studied it judiciously and told the pundidiots to pound sand. Obviously what Clinton did in his private life was wrong, and lying about it was terribly wrong. All of that made him a bad husband, perhaps, but it didn’t change the reality that he was, in the eyes of the American people, a terrific president. And so they hung in there with him. The pundidiots acted like two-year-olds who weren’t getting enough attention, « But our opinions matter! » they screamed. « We get the best tables at the finest Georgetown restaurants. When we say he has to go, he has to go. »

But he would not go. And the American people would not let him go. And so he stayed. He survived, he succeeded, he triumphed. He is seen as more successful in his job than Eisenhower or Reagan were at this stage of their presidencies. He has become the most successful president since FDR, accomplishing more of the goals he set at the beginning of his presidency than anyone since.

And in so doing he pissed-off the pundidiots mightily.

Perhaps that’s why they’re so cranky, so angry, so nasty to Al Gore. Good Lord, the man won the election. He got more votes than the other guy. More Americans wanted him to be President than George W. Bush. I know that’s not constitutionally dispositive, but it’s pretty damned important. But only if you think the will of the people matters.

George W. Bush may capture the White House. But somewhere in the pea-brain of his is the knowledge, the fact, the certainty that most Americans did not want him in that job — that more Americans wanted the other guy. What’s worse, his supporters can draw no comfort from the argument that they won the electoral vote, since we know Bush’s only hope to « win » Florida lies in legal technicalities, deadlines and the trump card of the Tallahassee Taliban setting aside the will of the voters and giving W 25 electoral votes by legislative fiat.

Independent, nonpartisan analyses of the Florida vote conducted by both the Miami Herald and the Orlando Sentinel concluded that Gore won Florida by a comparatively comfortable margin — as much as 23,000 votes.

Not ready for prime time

PAUL BEGALA

January 8, 2001

Chavez flap is one more sign of Bushies’ arrogance.

So now we learn that Labor Secretary-designate Linda Chavez housed — and may have employed — an illegal alien. We don’t have enough information yet to discern whether this was a commendable act of charity or a criminal violation of the labor laws. And until more facts are in I’m not interested in passing judgment on Chavez.

But this revelation does allow us to make some important judgments about Team Bush :

THEY LIE : I know that sounds harsh, but what else do you call it? The New York Times reports that Bush spokesman Tucker Eskew “said Ms. Chavez was unaware of the woman’s legal status at the time she was sheltering her and only realized after she had departed from her home that she was here illegally.” But that’s not what the woman in question says. Marta Mercado told The Washington Post that she informed Chavez of her illegal status about three months after moving into her home. And Chavez’s close friend, Abigail Thernstrom, told the Times, “I’m pretty confident that Linda did know” that Mercado was not legally in this country.

Why would the Bushies lie about such a thing? For the same reason George W. Bush lied about failing to report to the Alabama National Guard and for the same reason the president-elect lied about his arrest for drunk driving. It’s the same reason the Bushies lied about Dick Cheney’s post-election heart attack. And the same reason Bush lied to a court in Texas about whether he’d discussed with state regulators a controversial investigation of a funeral home company run by a gubernatorial campaign contributor. Because that’s what they do.

CLINTON LIES V. BUSH LIES

Yes, Bill Clinton denied having an affair. I don’t excuse that, but what straying husband wants his family, much less the world, to know? And (except for Hillary) whose dadgum business is it anyway?

As they never tire of telling us, the Bushies don’t have extramarital affairs. They save their lies for public affairs.

Remember : “Read my lips.”

Remember : “I was out of the loop on Iran-Contra.”

And who can forget : “Clarence Thomas is the most qualified person in America for the Supreme Court.”

So spare us the lectures about “restoring honor and dignity” to the White House. Bush hasn’t even gotten there yet, and he’s already left a trail of mendacity from here to Waco. The only thing the Bushies ever wanted to restore was themselves — to power.

But the lack of candor from Bush and his minions is not the only lesson from this mess.

We’ve also learned — horrors :

They’re hypocrites.
When Attorney General-designate Zoe Baird was being pilloried for failing to pay Social Security taxes on an illegal immigrant she’d hired as a nanny, Linda Chavez was one of the loudest voices in the hypocrites’ choir. “I think most of the American people were upset during the Zoe Baird nomination that she’d hired an illegal alien. That was what upset them more than the fact that she did not pay Social Security taxes,” Chavez told PBS in 1993, according to the Post.

And Chavez was far from alone. During the Baird case, and all the way through impeachment, Republicans argued for a strict, unforgiving reading of the law, invoking in pompous, pious tones, “The Rule of Law.” Let’s see the same people who argued for Bill Clinton because he was reluctant to admit an affair turn around and argue for leniency in the Chavez case.

A strict reading of the law says it’s a violation to harbor someone who is illegally in this country — irrespective of whether you actually employed her (which would be another violation). But suddenly, the same people who trashed the Constitution to impeach President Clinton because they wanted to make a constitutional crisis out of an affair, are now, in the words of the Bush transition spokesman, appealing for “a common-sense standard : government should not punish you for trying to help somebody else out in life.”

Only a Bushie could produce this whiplash-inducing spin. Only a Bushie could convince himself that the rules don’t apply to him and his cronies. And only a Bushie could argue that when “they” break the rules, the act is a manifestation of their good intentions and moral superiority, while if a Democrat makes a mistake it is, literally, a federal case and proof of that person’s moral sleaziness.

ENUMERATING ACTS OF COMPASSION

Finally, we’ve learned something more surprising :

Not ready for prime time. Who would’ve thought that Cheney-Bush, Inc. would stumble so badly on something so obvious? Spokesfibber Eskew was coy when asked if Chavez’s illegal immigrant problem had surfaced in the pre-nomination vetting. “The vetters ask a range of serious questions,” he told the Post, “including things about domestic employees and paying taxes. They don’t, however, ask potential nominees to enumerate every act of compassion.”

Sounds like they missed this. They missed Dick Cheney’s EKG, which looks like 40 miles of bad Oklahoma farm road, and his congressional voting record, which looks like Jesse Helms’ greatest hits. They missed John Ashcroft’s remark that the cause of the Confederacy — slavery — was not “perverted.” If people owning people ain’t perverted, I don’t know what is.

The Bushies promised competence more than ideology. So far we’ve gotten mendacity and hypocrisy — all in service of a right-wing ideology.

No wonder they lost the election.

Voir encore:

Racial Witch-Hunt The Left is Guilty of Racial McCarthyism
David Horowitz
Front page magazine

January 22, 2001

ON DECEMBER 14TH, as the Holiday Season was getting into full swing, five young men and women, all professionals with bright careers ahead of them, were accosted at gunpoint in a townhouse belonging to one of them, sexually tortured and then shot in the head. The sadistic criminals who perpetrated this atrocity were brothers. Only one young woman survived.
ON DECEMBER 14TH, as the Holiday Season was getting into full swing, five young men and women, all professionals with bright careers ahead of them, were accosted at gunpoint in a townhouse belonging to one of them, sexually tortured and then shot in the head. The sadistic criminals who perpetrated this atrocity were brothers. Only one young woman survived. In a poignant footnote to the tragedy, she had discovered, when one of the criminals stole a diamond ring from a drawer in the apartment where her companions were killed, that her now dead boyfriend intended to propose to her. Naked and bleeding from her head wound, the young woman staggered a mile through the snow to safety.Despite the story’s horror, despite its drama, despite its “human interest” dimension, not a single national news outlet reported the case. The reason: the monsters who committed this horror were black, the victims white. The reason: The national media is infected with anti-white racism, and the infection is of epidemic proportions. The reason: The story did not fit the politically correct national melodrama of black victimhood, white oppression.

The same epidemic of politically correct, anti-white attitudes pervades local governments and law enforcement authorities. The official position over the killings in the editorial rooms of the Wichita Eagle and the local District Attorney’s office is that the December 14th hate crime was not a hate crime at all. Why? Because the victims were robbed and the motive therefore was not racial, but robbery.

Matthew Shepherd was robbed.

Neither the crime nor the silence surrounding it, are isolated incidents. Last February, 6-year-old Jake Robel was dragged five miles to his death in Missouri because a black car-jacker was deaf to a white child’s screams for help. The nation was not informed. Last April, eight-year-old Kevin Shifflett, had his throat slit by a racist in broad daylight in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of the nation’s capital. No one reported Kevin’s assassination as a hate crime and the crime itself was smothered in a politically correct news blackout. The reason? Kevin was white, his racist attacker black. These crimes of the last year remain invisible. But a two-year-old hate crime, familiar to every citizen through endless repetition in the news media, congressional keenings, and presidential pronouncements because it was committed against a black man, did become a central feature of the Democrats’ campaign against presidential candidate George Bush, whom they found guilty of association to the incident because it took place in Texas.Why should these facts surprise anyone, when everyone knows that it is politically correct to hate white people in America? Hatred of whites is a well-developed intellectual doctrine at our nation’s most prestigious universities and law schools – whole faculties are devoted to it. Hatred of whites is widely taught in our nation’s schools, where they are portrayed as history’s racists and oppressors. It is inscribed in our nation’s laws, which provide racial privileges and racial protections for those whose skin color is any shade but white. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party campaigns to ensure that hate crimes are identified in the public mind exclusively with straight white males. Its surrogate in this campaign is the nation’s leading so-called civil rights organization, the NAACP, which ran a multi-million dollar TV effort during the presidential race insinuating that George W. Bush hates black people and is in league with lynchers because he did not think extending a hate crimes law to include special protections for gays was a prudent idea. No Democrat has condemned this racial McCarthyism let alone the offensive outbursts of party extremists like Maxine Waters.

In a calculated cynicism, the Democratic Party has whipped up racial paranoia in the African-American community by lending credibility to the lunatic charge that there was systematic disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida by racists who remain invisible. The U.S. Civil Rights Commission has even staged a show trial to demonstrate the indemonstrable. Witness after witness appeared before the Commission to claim racial intimidation, and then was forced to admit under questioning that they had actually been able to vote. Not a shred of evidence exists that there was a conspiracy to deprive African-Americans in Florida of the right to vote. Yet the NAACP has filed lawsuits making just that accusation. And millions of black people have been persuaded by racial demagogues and their liberal abettors that such a conspiracy exists, that the election was “stolen” from them in order that Republicans could appoint racists to government.

The witch-hunting mentality that has seized the Democratic Party is on full display in a notorious Internet column written by Clinton strategist and Gore advisor Paul Begala during the Florida brawl:

Yes… tens of millions of good people in Middle America voted Republican. But if you look closely at that [electoral] map [showing counties that voted Republican in red] you see a more complex picture. You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart – it’s red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay – it’s red. You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees – it’s red. The state where an army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skin-heads murdered two African Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: they’re all red too.
One could respond to Begala in Begala fashion: “The state where left-wing extremist, Muslim terrorists blew up the World Trade Center – that’s blue. The county where a race riot following a jury verdict destroyed 2,000 Korean businesses and caused the deaths of 58 people – that’s blue. The states where Colin Ferguson and Ronald Taylor killed 8 whites and Asians because leftwing race baiters convinced them they were victims of a racial conspiracy – are blue. The counties, nationwide, where the vast majority of murderers, rapists and child molesters live and operate – those are blue, too.”

But far more important is how Begala’s outburst reveals the casual way in which a mainstream political strategist on the left can smear an entire political party – routinely identified by his political comrades as a “white party” – as a den of racial killers.

Not since the heyday of Senator Joe McCarthy has there been a demonization of whole categories of Americans or a national witch-hunt on a scale like this.

And this witch-hunt is now the focus of the nomination process for the new president’s cabinet. Nor do Democrats betray any embarrassment at the fact that leading their attack from the left is a Senator who killed a woman while driving under the influence, left the scene of the accident, and avoided a manslaughter charge only by massing all his legendary family’s political muscle to fix the judicial process in a backwater county of his own state. Democrats had previously politicized and debased the process by which Supreme Court nominees are vetted. Now they are turning what used to be a pro forma confirmation ritual of a new Administration into an orgy of character assassination.

Consider the spectacle. George Bush has nominated the most diverse cabinet in American history. He has appointed African-Americans to the highest positions on record. He has appointed a Chinese-American and an Arab-American to cabinet positions for the first time. He has appointed Hispanic Americans and African Americans and a Japenese American, and of course women. Yet his nominations are the targets of a Democrat campaign to portray his nominees as racists, homophobes and even, in one frenzied historical leap – Torquemadas.

All this has had a predictable effect on a reliably uninformed public. Does a national icon of the popular culture, Ricky Martin, have the temerity to accept an invitation to sing at the new President’s Inauguration? In normal times, this would routinely be seen as a high honor – in this case an honor to the entire Puerto Rican community to have one of its sons assume such a nationally visible role. But in the atmosphere the left has poisoned, Ricky Martin must be prepared to have his life and career torn apart. On hearing of his decision, Martin’s childhood friend and professional partner, the man who produces and writes his songs, told the nation’s press that the singing gig was “a betrayal of everything that every Puerto Rican should stand for.” “This is a president,” according to Robi Rosa, “who would have people in his Cabinet who would obstruct the exercise of civil rights, human rights, consumer rights, the right to choose, the right to be free of gun violence and the right to a clean environment.”

This pathetic extremist screed – far from being unexpected — sounds very much like the tune the whole Democratic choir is singing. Mario Cuomo may have sung it first at the 1996 Democrat Convention: “Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the Republicans are the real threat. They are the real threat to our women. They are the real threat to our children. They are the real threat to clean water, clean air and the rich landscape of America.” Give me a break.

What are the actual charges the Democrats have brought against Bush’s nominee for Attorney General? John Ashcroft is accused of the crime of opposing racial preferences (along with 70% of all Americans). According to the witch-hunters, this makes him a closet racist. He is accused of opposing a failed program — forced busing as a means of integration — which has been rejected even in liberal Democrat cities like Los Angeles and Boston, and even among blacks. For this he is accused of “racism.” He is accused of sympathies for the Confederacy because he didn’t condemn the Confederate flag and thought the Confederate cause may have embraced other issues besides slavery (normally the left argues it was about anything but slavery) – yet it was Democrat Senator Fritz Hollings who raised the Confederate flag over South Carolina’s capitol and Bill Clinton who signed official proclamations commemorating the Confederacy while governor of Arkansas — with no such backlash effects. Ashcroft is accused of opposing one black judicial nomination out of a total 26 such nominations because Ronnie White, the black judge in question, overturned the death penalty of a cold-blooded killer who had murdered the wife of a sheriff in front of her children at a Christmas Party, arousing the passionate interest of Missouri sheriffs. For this – for all this – a man with two decades of unimpeachable public service, a supporter of integration, a proponent of Martin Luther King’s vision — is pilloried as a “racist.”

In the atmosphere of hysteria whipped up by left-wing McCarthyites, one news channel even billed a program on the nominee for Attorney General this way: “Bush calls him a man of integrity; critics call him frightening.” Begalism uber alles.

The time has come to pose to Democrats and the left the same question the hero of America’s most famous witch-hunt finally put to the Senator himself: Have you no decency, sir (and madam)? Have you no shame?

David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.

Voir encore:

Ferguson : sur Twitter, les Etats-Unis se divisent entre «rouges» et «bleus»
Hugo Pascua

Libération

26 novembre 2014

LU SUR LE WEBLa statisticienne Emma Pierson a modélisé les discussions autour de Ferguson en analysant les tweets sur l’affaire, laissant clairement apparaître deux camps qui s’ignorent mutuellement.

Les bleus contre les rouges. Et si tout était aussi simple ? C’est la vision des émeutes de Ferguson que propose Emma Pierson, statisticienne-blogueuse diplômée de Stanford, sur le site Quartz. Une modélisation rendue possible grâce à l’analyse de près de 200 000 tweets concernant l’affaire Brown, et qui dessine deux camps très opposés dans leur façon de voir les événements.

En août Michael Brown, jeune afro-américain de 18 ans, est abattu en pleine rue de six balles par Darren Wilson, un policier blanc. Pendant plus de 10 jours de violentes émeutes raciales éclatent dans la ville de Ferguson, poussant le gouverneur du Missouri à demander l’intervention de la garde nationale. La ville reprend son calme jusqu’au 24 novembre dernier, quand le grand jury du comté de Saint Louis décide de ne pas poursuivre Darren Wilson, entraînant de nouvelles émeutes.

Emma Pierson décide d’étudier ce conflit par le prisme de Twitter, plateforme qui a joué un rôle majeur dans les événements de Ferguson. «Twitter a permis de faire circuler des informations (pas toujours exactes) en live, d’organiser les manifestations, et même de lancer des cyberattaques contre le Ku Klux Klan» explique-t-elle. Dans les jours précédents le verdict du grand jury et la seconde vague d’émeutes, celle-ci a donc récolté plus de 200 000 tweets en rapport avec Ferguson et a produit une représentation graphique.

Le résultat de l’analyse «peint réellement un sombre tableau de la division entre les gens», dit-elle. Sur l’image ci-dessus, chaque point représente un compte Twitter influent et deux points sont reliés entre eux si l’un mentionne l’autre. «En substance, l’image représente le réseau social de qui parle à qui. Et il montre deux groupes clairement divisés», poursuit la statisticienne.

Emma Pierson s’est ensuite lancée dans l’étude de chaque mouvance, établissant que l’appartenance à un groupe était fortement liée au rattachement à un parti politique. «Ceux qui se décrivent comme «conservateur» (ou en utilisant des adjectifs similaires) sont beaucoup plus susceptibles d’être dans le groupe rouge alors que ceux qui se décrivent comme «libéral» [au sens anglosaxon, plutôt de gauche, ndlr] sont beaucoup plus susceptibles d’être dans le groupe bleu». Une appartenance au groupe qui est, selon elle, aussi liée à la couleur de peau : «Les comptes Twitter contenant les qualificatifs « Afro-Américain » dans leurs profils sont quasiment systématiquement dans le groupe bleu».

«Les deux groupes s’ignorent complètement»
Le conflit actuel à Ferguson voit donc s’affronter deux groupes politiquement opposés, aux origines différentes. Et si l’on regarde la modélisation des tweets, il est frappant de voir qu’aucun tweet rouge n’est repris par le groupe bleu et inversement. «Les deux groupes s’ignorent complètement», constate Emma Pierson, «ils pensent de manière radicalement opposée». Une affirmation qui se vérifie lorsque l’on regarde les plus gros retweets de chaque clan.

Dans le groupe rouge on se sentirait bien plus en sécurité dans la rue si l’on venait à croiser Darren Wilson plutôt que Michael Brown. On pense aussi que Brown était armé au moment ou il a été abattu, justifiant ainsi le geste du policier. A l’inverse, le groupe bleu ironise sur Darren Wilson tirant 12 coups de feu pour abattre un homme désarmé. En rouge on parle de justice populaire et de chasse raciale, en bleu on parle d’abattre le système. Les premiers pensent qu’Obama ne fait qu’envenimer la situation forçant le gouverneur du Missouri à déclarer l’état d’urgence. Les autres estiment que l’état d’urgence ne doit en aucun cas être utilisé pour enfreindre les droits de l’homme.

Des divergences d’opinions qui poussent les deux mouvances à l’affrontement, «quand les deux groupes décident d’arrêter de s’ignorer c’est rarement joli» explique Emma Pierson. Pour cela il suffit de voir la façon dont le groupe rouge s’en est pris à l’un des leaders du groupe bleu, DeRay Mckesson, chef d’établissement scolaire qui a joué un rôle central dans l’organisation des manifestations. Le qualifiant de «communiste» qui diffuse la haine comme «les démocrates, les noirs», qui voit de «la valeur dans le radotage raciste», «armé de fusil et de cocktails Molotov» et qui devrait très rapidement «prendre ses médocs».

La théorie des chambres d’écho
Ce mélange d’opposition, d’affrontements sporadiques, et d’ignorance quasi constante est le reflet d’une théorie sur les réseaux sociaux bien connue, celle des «echos chambers». Une théorie qui veut qu’à mesure que le monde se détache des modes d’informations traditionnels pour se diriger vers d’autres médias, comme Twitter, le champ de vision de tout un chacun diminue.

Une étude de 2012, sur la diffusion des informations politiques via les réseaux sociaux menée par deux universitaires de Brown, démontre que les utilisateurs sont presque exclusivement confrontés à des posts alignés sur leurs propres opinions. «Deux utilisateurs de Twitter peuvent être exposés a des contenus radicalement différents autour d’une même histoire, en fonction de qui ils décident de suivre (comme c’est le cas pour Ferguson). Alors que deux personnes qui lisent le journal local, liront peut-être des histoires différentes mais à la fin de la journée ils auront été exposés au même contenu», explique Brian Knight, professeur d’économie à l’université de Brown. Cette théorie continue à faire débat, et elle été contestée tout récemment par le chercheur de l’université de New York Pablo Barbera.

«Internet nous offre un large éventail de choix quant à l’information que nous lisons, conclut Claire Cain Miller, journaliste au New York Times. Mais la responsabilité de la variété de cette information reste, semble-t-il, une affaire personnelle».

Voir aussi:

American Focus: le Kentucky, l’Etat qui vire rouge, contre les verts, tout en restant bleu

Le Kentucky, paradoxe d’un carrefour qui vire au rouge et contre les verts

tout en restant bleu

Laurent Sierro

America Polyphony

26 novembre 2014

Le « Ballot Bomb » de la jeunesse n’aura pas suffi pour les démocrates de l’Etat du Kentucky. Les 15-29 ans, devenus le groupe électoral le plus important des Etats-Unis, n’ont manifestement pas plébiscité la candidate démocrate Alison Grimes, 36 ans, adversaire malheureuse du sénateur républicain sortant Mitch McConnell, 72 ans, lors des récentes élections législatives américaines de mi-mandat. Au début de la « Bible Belt », avec une majorité de baptistes, le Kentucky est un peu un Etat intermédiaire.

Réélu donc, Mitch McConnell sera en plus désormais le chef de la majorité républicaine au Sénat. Il incarnera dans les deux prochaines années l’opposition au président Barack Obama. Et ce notamment sur un thème qui lui a permis de séduire l’électorat pauvre de l’est de son Etat: le changement climatique.

« Les gens dans cette région votaient plutôt démocrate, mais ils n’apprécient pas Barack Obama et surtout pas sa lutte contre le changement climatique », explique Al Cross, professeur à l’Université du Kentucky et spécialiste politique de l' »Etat du Bluegrass ». Il évoque d’ailleurs un Etat de plus en plus rouge aux couleurs des républicains. Une évolution également observée dans l’ouest du Kentucky.

Discours anti-Obama efficace

Comme dans d’autres Etats américains, le discours anti-Obama a été efficace. Alison Grimes a bien tenté de se distancer du président, mais trop tardivement ou alors sans effet. Son manque de dynamisme a parfois aussi été critiqué. Et au final, l’argent à disposition de Mitch McConnell a fait la différence dans la dernière semaine avant ces élections du 4 novembre, selon le directeur de campagne de la candidate démocrate.

Les dix millions de dollars de décalage au départ de la campagne avec l’un des poids lourds du Sénat depuis 30 ans ont certes pu être comblé, mais pas intégralement. Sans compter qu’il a fallu faire face à un troisième candidat libertarien et à des « Super PAC » (super comités d’action politique, groupes d’intérêt, pour aider un candidat ou un élu indépendamment de son parti), largement favorables à l’expérimenté Mitch McConnell.

Un seul gouverneur GOP en plus de 40 ans

Toutefois, la direction politique que prend l’Etat du Kentucky est en fait plus compliquée. L’identité locale est assez forte. Si Barack Obama a été largement battu ici et si les républicains remportent toutes les élections à dimension nationale (présidentielle ou représentants fédéraux), le paysage politique de l’Etat reste bleu.

Le parti démocrate a en effet conservé sa majorité qu’il possède depuis 1921 à la Chambre des représentants de l’Etat. Les républicains contrôlent en revanche le Sénat au Capitole de la capitale Frankfort. D’autre part, un seul gouverneur républicain a été élu dans le Kentucky depuis plus de 40 ans.

Paradoxe dans un Etat qui constitue le lien entre les régions du nord-est et le sud profond des Etats-Unis. Premier Etat de la conquête vers l’Ouest au 19e siècle, le Kentucky est désormais clairement à l’Est. Culturellement sudiste, il est économiquement nordiste. L’Etat n’avait pas fait Sécession lors de la Guerre civile, mais s’était tourné vers le Sud. « Nous avons rejoint les perdants après la guerre », relève le professeur Al Cross.

Aujourd’hui, très diversifié, le Kentucky est au contact de sept Etats, autant de manières différentes de s’identifier par rapport à ses voisins. Voilà un Etat probablement intéressant à suivre et sans doute important dans la perspective des futures élections nationales.

Ainsi se termine cette excellente série « American Focus » du journaliste suisse Laurent Sierro, invité sur ce blog durant plus de deux mois. Mille mercis à lui pour tous ces passionnants et éclairants reportages, décryptages et analyses de la société américaine et de ses diversités.

Pour rappel, Laurent Sierro a été Transatlantic Media Fellow au Centre d’études stratégiques et internationales (CSIS) de Washington D.C de début septembre à fin novembre 2014. Dans le cadre de ce programme pour les journalistes européens, il a approfondi pendant ces trois mois plusieurs thèmes en voyageant dans une vingtaine d’Etats américains. Il a multiplié les rencontres et les visites sur le terrain, se focalisant notamment sur trois thèmes: l’immigration, les relations entre religion et société ainsi que l’évolution du fédéralisme. Les analyses ou comptes-rendus publiés tout le long sur ce blog représentent ses conclusions et non celles du CSIS. Ils figurent tous dans la catégorie « American Focus ».

Voir par ailleurs:

Il était une fois les couleurs
1 : Le bleu – La couleur qui ne fait pas de vagues
Dominique Simonnet
L’Epress
05/07/2004

A force de les avoir sous les yeux, on finit par ne plus les voir. En somme, on ne les prend pas au sérieux. Erreur! les couleurs sont tout sauf anodines. Elles véhiculent des sens cachés, des codes, des tabous, des préjugés auxquels nous obéissons sans le savoir et qui pèsent sur nos modes, notre environnement, notre vie quotidienne, nos comportements, notre langage et même notre imaginaire. Les couleurs ne sont ni immuables ni universelles. Elles ont une histoire, mouvementée, qui remonte à la nuit des temps. C’est cette étonnante aventure que nous allons conter, au fil de l’été, avec l’historien anthropologue Michel Pastoureau, spécialiste mondial de cette question (lire absolument son passionnant Bleu, histoire d’une couleur, au Seuil, et Les Couleurs de notre temps, Bonneton). A chaque semaine, sa couleur. Et d’abord le bleu, la préférée des Occidentaux. Une chose, déjà, est sûre: avec un guide affable et érudit comme Michel Pastoureau, on verra le monde autrement!

1 Le bleu La couleur qui ne fait pas de vagues

Les historiens ont toujours dédaigné les couleurs, comme si elles n’avaient pas d’histoire, comme si elles avaient toujours été là. Toute votre oeuvre montre le contraire…
Lorsque, il y a vingt-cinq ans, j’ai commencé à travailler sur ce sujet, mes collègues ont été, c’est vrai, intrigués. Jusque-là, les historiens, y compris ceux de l’art, ne s’intéressaient pas vraiment aux couleurs. Pourquoi une telle lacune? Probablement parce qu’il n’est pas facile de les étudier! D’abord, nous les voyons telles que le temps les a transformées et non dans leur état d’origine, avec des conditions d’éclairage très différentes: la lumière électrique ne rend pas par exemple les clairs-obscurs d’un tableau, que révélaient autrefois la bougie ou la lampe à huile. Ensuite, nos ancêtres avaient d’autres conceptions et d’autres visions des couleurs que les nôtres. Ce n’est pas notre appareil sensoriel qui a changé, mais notre perception de la réalité, qui met en jeu nos connaissances, notre vocabulaire, notre imagination, et même nos sentiments, toutes choses qui ont évolué au fil du temps. Au XIIe siècle, la Vierge devient le principal agent de promotion du bleu

Il nous faut donc admettre cette évidence: les couleurs ont une histoire. Commençons donc cette semaine par la préférée des Occidentaux, le bleu.
Depuis que l’on dispose d’enquêtes d’opinion, depuis 1890 environ, le bleu est en effet placé au premier rang partout en Occident, en France comme en Sicile, aux Etats-Unis comme en Nouvelle-Zélande, par les hommes comme par les femmes, quel que soit leur milieu social et professionnel. C’est toute la civilisation occidentale qui donne la primauté au bleu, ce qui est différent dans les autres cultures: les Japonais, par exemple, plébiscitent le rouge. Pourtant, cela n’a pas toujours été le cas. Longtemps, le bleu a été mal aimé. Il n’est présent ni dans les grottes paléolithiques ni au néolithique, lorsque apparaissent les premières techniques de teinture. Dans l’Antiquité, il n’est pas vraiment considéré comme une couleur; seuls le blanc, le rouge et le noir ont ce statut. A l’exception de l’Egypte pharaonique, où il est censé porter bonheur dans l’au-delà, d’où ces magnifiques objets bleu-vert, fabriqués selon une recette à base de cuivre qui s’est perdue par la suite, le bleu est même l’objet d’un véritable désintérêt.

Il est pourtant omniprésent dans la nature, et particulièrement en Méditerranée.
Oui, mais la couleur bleue est difficile à fabriquer et à maîtriser, et c’est sans doute la raison pour laquelle elle n’a pas joué de rôle dans la vie sociale, religieuse ou symbolique de l’époque. A Rome, c’est la couleur des barbares, de l’étranger (les peuples du Nord, comme les Germains, aiment le bleu). De nombreux témoignages l’affirment: avoir les yeux bleus pour une femme, c’est un signe de mauvaise vie. Pour les hommes, une marque de ridicule. On retrouve cet état d’esprit dans le vocabulaire: en latin classique, le lexique des bleus est instable, imprécis. Lorsque les langues romanes ont forgé leur vocabulaire des couleurs, elles ont dû aller chercher ailleurs, dans les mots germanique (blau) et arabe (azraq). Chez les Grecs aussi, on relève des confusions de vocabulaire entre le bleu, le gris et le vert. L’absence du bleu dans les textes anciens a d’ailleurs tellement intrigué que certains philologues du XIXe siècle ont cru sérieusement que les yeux des Grecs ne pouvaient le voir!

Pas de bleu dans la Bible non plus?
Les textes bibliques anciens en hébreu, en araméen et en grec utilisent peu de mots pour les couleurs: ce seront les traductions en latin puis en langue moderne qui les ajouteront. Là où l’hébreu dit «riche», le latin traduira «rouge». Pour «sale», il dira «gris» ou «noir»; «éclatant» deviendra «pourpre» … Mais, à l’exception du saphir, pierre préférée des peuples de la Bible, il y a peu de place pour le bleu. Cette situation perdure au haut Moyen Age: les couleurs liturgiques, par exemple, qui se forment à l’ère carolingienne, l’ignorent (elles se constituent autour du blanc, du rouge, du noir et du vert). Ce qui laisse des traces encore aujourd’hui: le bleu est toujours absent du culte catholique… Et puis, soudain, tout change. Les XIIe et XIIIe siècles vont réhabiliter et promouvoir le bleu.

Est-ce parce qu’on a appris à mieux le fabriquer?
Non. Il n’y a pas à ce moment-là de progrès particulier dans la fabrication des colorants ou des pigments. Ce qui se produit, c’est un changement profond des idées religieuses. Le Dieu des chrétiens devient en effet un dieu de lumière. Et la lumière est… bleue! Pour la première fois en Occident, on peint les ciels en bleu – auparavant, ils étaient noirs, rouges, blancs ou dorés. Plus encore, on est alors en pleine expansion du culte marial. Or la Vierge habite le ciel… Dans les images, à partir du XIIe siècle, on la revêt donc d’un manteau ou d’une robe bleus. La Vierge devient le principal agent de promotion du bleu.

Etrange renversement! La couleur si longtemps barbare devient divine.
Oui. Il y a une seconde raison à ce renversement: à cette époque, on est pris d’une vraie soif de classification, on veut hiérarchiser les individus, leur donner des signes d’identité, des codes de reconnaissance. Apparaissent les noms de famille, les armoiries, les insignes de fonction… Or, avec les trois couleurs traditionnelles de base (blanc, rouge, noir), les combinaisons sont limitées. Il en faut davantage pour refléter la diversité de la société. Le bleu, mais aussi le vert et le jaune, va en profiter. On passe ainsi d’un système à trois couleurs de base à un système à six couleurs. C’est ainsi que le bleu devient en quelque sorte le contraire du rouge. Si on avait dit ça à Aristote, cela l’aurait fait sourire! Vers 1140, quand l’abbé Suger fait reconstruire l’église abbatiale de Saint-Denis, il veut mettre partout des couleurs pour dissiper les ténèbres, et notamment du bleu. On utilisera pour les vitraux un produit fort cher, le cafre (que l’on appellera bien plus tard le bleu de cobalt). De Saint-Denis ce bleu va se diffuser au Mans, puis à Vendôme et à Chartres, où il deviendra le célèbre bleu de Chartres. Omniprésent, consensuel, le bleu est devenu une couleur raisonnable

La couleur, et particulièrement le bleu, est donc devenue un enjeu religieux.
Tout à fait. Les hommes d’Eglise sont de grands coloristes, avant les peintres et les teinturiers. Certains d’entre eux sont aussi des hommes de science, qui dissertent sur la couleur, font des expériences d’optique, s’interrogent sur le phénomène de l’arc-en-ciel… Ils sont profondément divisés sur ces questions: il y a des prélats «chromophiles», comme Suger, qui pense que la couleur est lumière, donc relevant du divin, et qui veut en mettre partout. Et des prélats «chromophobes», comme saint Bernard, abbé de Clairvaux, qui estime, lui, que la couleur est matière, donc vile et abominable, et qu’il faut en préserver l’Eglise, car elle pollue le lien que les moines et les fidèles entretiennent avec Dieu.

La physique moderne nous dit que la lumière est à la fois une onde et une particule. On n’en était pas si loin au XIIIe siècle…
Lumière ou matière… On le pressentait, en effet. La première assertion l’a largement emporté et, du coup, le bleu, divinisé, s’est répandu non seulement dans les vitraux et les oeuvres d’art, mais aussi dans toute la société: puisque la Vierge s’habille de bleu, le roi de France le fait aussi. Philippe Auguste, puis son petit-fils Saint Louis seront les premiers à l’adopter (Charlemagne ne l’aurait pas fait pour un empire!). Les seigneurs, bien sûr, s’empressent de les imiter… En trois générations, le bleu devient à la mode aristocratique. La technique suit: stimulés, sollicités, les teinturiers rivalisent en matière de nouveaux procédés et parviennent à fabriquer des bleus magnifiques.

En somme, le bleu divin stimule l’économie.
Vous ne croyez pas si bien dire. Les conséquences économiques sont énormes: la demande de guède, cette plante mi-herbe, mi-arbuste que l’on utilisait dans les villages comme colorant artisanal, explose. Sa culture devient soudain industrielle, et fait la fortune de régions comme la Thuringe, la Toscane, la Picardie ou encore la région de Toulouse. On la cultive intensément pour produire ces boules appelées «coques», d’où le nom de pays de cocagne. C’est un véritable or bleu! On a calculé que 80% de la cathédrale d’Amiens, bâtie au XIIIe siècle, avait été payée par les marchands de guède! A Strasbourg, les marchands de garance, la plante qui donne le colorant rouge, étaient furieux. Ils ont même soudoyé le maître verrier chargé de représenter le diable sur les vitraux pour qu’il le colorie en bleu, afin de dévaloriser leur rival.

C’est carrément la guerre entre le bleu et le rouge!
Oui. Elle durera jusqu’au XVIIIe siècle. A la fin du Moyen Age, la vague moraliste, qui va provoquer la Réforme, se porte aussi sur les couleurs, en désignant des couleurs dignes et d’autres qui ne le sont pas. La palette protestante s’articule autour du blanc, du noir, du gris, du brun… et du bleu.

Sauvé de justesse!
Oui. Comparez Rembrandt, peintre calviniste qui a une palette très retenue, faite de camaïeux, et Rubens, peintre catholique à la palette très colorée… Regardez les toiles de Philippe de Champaigne, qui sont colorées tant qu’il est catholique et se font plus austères, plus bleutées, quand il se rapproche des jansénistes… Ce discours moral, partiellement repris par la Contre-Réforme, promeut également le noir, le gris et le bleu dans le vêtement masculin. Il s’applique encore de nos jours. Sur ce plan, nous vivons toujours sous le régime de la Réforme.

A partir de ce moment-là, notre bleu, si mal parti à l’origine, triomphe.
Oui. Au XVIIIe siècle, il devient la couleur préférée des Européens. La technique en rajoute une couche: dans les années 1720, un pharmacien de Berlin invente par accident le fameux bleu de Prusse, qui va permettre aux peintres et aux teinturiers de diversifier la gamme des nuances foncées. De plus, on importe massivement l’indigo des Antilles et d’Amérique centrale, dont le pouvoir colorant est plus fort que l’ancien pastel et le prix de revient, plus faible que celui d’Asie, car il est fabriqué par des esclaves. Toutes les lois protectionnistes s’écroulent. L’indigo d’Amérique provoque la crise dans les anciennes régions de cocagne, Toulouse et Amiens sont ruinés, Nantes et Bordeaux s’enrichissent. Le bleu devient à la mode dans tous les domaines. Le romantisme accentue la tendance: comme leur héros, Werther de Goethe, les jeunes Européens s’habillent en bleu, et la poésie romantique allemande célèbre le culte de cette couleur si mélancolique – on en a peut-être gardé l’écho dans le vocabulaire, avec le blues… En 1850, un vêtement lui donne encore un coup de pouce: c’est le jean, inventé à San Francisco par un tailleur juif, Levi-Strauss, le pantalon idéal, avec sa grosse toile teinte à l’indigo, le premier bleu de travail.

Il aurait très bien pu être rouge…
Impensable! Les valeurs protestantes édictent qu’un vêtement doit être sobre, digne et discret. En outre, teindre à l’indigo est facile, on peut même le faire à froid, car la couleur pénètre bien les fibres du tissu, d’où l’aspect délavé des jeans. Il faut attendre les années 1930 pour que, aux Etats-Unis, le jean devienne un vêtement de loisir, puis un signe de rébellion, dans les années 1960, mais pour un court moment seulement, car un vêtement bleu ne peut pas être vraiment rebelle. Aujourd’hui, regardez les groupes d’adolescents dans la rue, en France: ils forment une masse uniforme et… bleue.

Et on sait combien ils sont conformistes… Simultanément, le bleu a acquis une signification politique.
Qui a évolué, elle aussi. En France, il fut la couleur des républicains, s’opposant au blanc des monarchistes et au noir du parti clérical. Mais, petit à petit, il a glissé vers le centre, se laissant déborder sur sa gauche par le rouge socialiste puis communiste. Il a été chassé vers la droite en quelque sorte. Après la Première Guerre mondiale, il est devenu conservateur (c’est la Chambre bleu horizon). Il l’est encore aujourd’hui.

Après des siècles plutôt agités, le voici donc sur le trône des couleurs. Va-t-il le rester?
En matière de couleurs, les choses changent lentement. Je suis persuadé que, dans trente ans, le bleu sera toujours le premier, la couleur préférée. Tout simplement parce que c’est une couleur consensuelle, pour les personnes physiques comme pour les personnes morales: les organismes internationaux, l’ONU, l’Unesco, le Conseil de l’Europe, l’Union européenne, tous ont choisi un emblème bleu. On le sélectionne par soustraction, après avoir éliminé les autres. C’est une couleur qui ne fait pas de vague, ne choque pas et emporte l’adhésion de tous. Par là même, elle a perdu sa force symbolique. Même la musique du mot est calme, atténuée: bleu, blue, en anglais, blu, en italien… C’est liquide et doux. On peut en faire un usage immodéré.

On dirait qu’elle vous énerve un peu, cette couleur.
Non, elle n’est justement pas assez forte pour cela. Aujourd’hui, quand les gens affirment aimer le bleu, cela signifie au fond qu’ils veulent être rangés parmi les gens sages, conservateurs, ceux qui ne veulent rien révéler d’eux-mêmes. D’une certaine manière, nous sommes revenus à une situation proche de l’Antiquité: à force d’être omniprésent et consensuel, le bleu est de nouveau une couleur discrète, la plus raisonnable de toutes les couleurs.

Il était une fois les couleurs
2 : Le rouge – C’est le feu et le sang, l’amour et l’enfer
Dominique Simonnet
L’Express
12/07/2004

Avec lui, on ne fait pas vraiment dans la nuance. Contrairement à ce timoré de bleu dont nous avons raconté l’histoire ambiguë la semaine dernière, le rouge est une couleur orgueilleuse, pétrie d’ambitions et assoiffée de pouvoir, une couleur qui veut se faire voir et qui est bien décidée à en imposer à toutes les autres. En dépit de cette insolence, son passé, pourtant, n’a pas toujours été glorieux. Il y a une face cachée du rouge, un mauvais rouge (comme on dit d’un mauvais sang) qui a fait des ravages au fil du temps, un méchant héritage plein de violences et de fureurs, de crimes et de péchés. C’est cette double personnalité du rouge que décrit ici l’historien du symbolisme Michel Pastoureau, notre guide tout au long de cet été bigarré: une identité fascinante, mais brûlante comme les flammes de Satan.

2 – Le rouge – C’est le feu et le sang, l’amour et l’enfer

S’il est une couleur qui vaut d’être nommée comme telle, c’est bien elle! On dirait que le rouge représente à lui seul toutes les autres couleurs, qu’il est la couleur.
Parler de «couleur rouge», c’est presque un pléonasme en effet! D’ailleurs, certains mots, tels coloratus en latin ou colorado en espagnol, signifient à la fois «rouge» et «coloré». En russe, krasnoï veut dire «rouge» mais aussi «beau» (étymologiquement, la place Rouge est la «belle place»). Dans le système symbolique de l’Antiquité, qui tournait autour de trois pôles, le blanc représentait l’incolore, le noir était grosso modo le sale, et le rouge était la couleur, la seule digne de ce nom. La suprématie du rouge s’est imposée à tout l’Occident.

Est-ce tout simplement parce qu’il attire l’?il, d’autant qu’il est peu présent dans la nature?
On a évidemment mis en valeur ce qui tranchait le plus avec l’environnement. Mais il y a une autre raison: très tôt, on a maîtrisé les pigments rouges et on a pu les utiliser en peinture et en teinture. Dès – 30 000 ans, l’art paléolithique utilise le rouge, obtenu notamment à partir de la terre ocre-rouge: voyez le bestiaire de la grotte Chauvet. Au néolithique, on a exploité la garance, cette herbe aux racines tinctoriales présente sous les climats les plus variés, puis on s’est servi de certains métaux, comme l’oxyde de fer ou le sulfure de mercure… La chimie du rouge a donc été très précoce, et très efficace. D’où le succès de cette couleur.

J’imagine alors que, contrairement au bleu dont vous nous avez raconté l’infortune la semaine dernière, le rouge, lui, a un passé plus glorieux.
Oui. Dans l’Antiquité déjà, on l’admire et on lui confie les attributs du pouvoir, c’est-à-dire ceux de la religion et de la guerre. Le dieu Mars, les centurions romains, certains prêtres… tous sont vêtus de rouge. Cette couleur va s’imposer parce qu’elle renvoie à deux éléments, omniprésents dans toute son histoire: le feu et le sang. On peut les considérer soit positivement soit négativement, ce qui nous donne quatre pôles autour desquels le christianisme primitif a formalisé une symbolique si forte qu’elle perdure aujourd’hui. Le rouge feu, c’est la vie, l’Esprit saint de la Pentecôte, les langues de feu régénératrices qui descendent sur les apôtres; mais c’est aussi la mort, l’enfer, les flammes de Satan qui consument et anéantissent. Le rouge sang, c’est celui versé par le Christ, la force du sauveur qui purifie et sanctifie; mais c’est aussi la chair souillée, les crimes (de sang), le péché et les impuretés des tabous bibliques.

Un système plutôt ambivalent…
Tout est ambivalent dans le monde des symboles, et particulièrement des couleurs! Chacune d’elles se dédouble en deux identités opposées. Ce qui est étonnant, c’est que, sur la longue durée, les deux faces tendent à se confondre. Les tableaux qui représentent la scène du baiser, par exemple, montrent souvent Judas et Jésus comme deux personnages presque identiques, avec les mêmes vêtements, les mêmes couleurs, comme s’ils étaient les deux pôles d’un aimant. Lisez de même l’Ancien Testament: le rouge y est associé tantôt à la faute et à l’interdit, tantôt à la puissance et à l’amour. La dualité symbolique est déjà en place.

C’est surtout aux signes du pouvoir que le rouge va s’identifier.
Certains rouges! Dans la Rome impériale, celui que l’on fabrique avec la substance colorante du murex, un coquillage rare récolté en Méditerranée, est réservé à l’empereur et aux chefs de guerre. Au Moyen Age, cette recette de la pourpre romaine s’étant perdue (les gisements de murex sur les côtes de Palestine et d’Egypte sont de plus épuisés), on se rabat sur le kermès, ces ?ufs de cochenilles qui parasitent les feuilles de chênes. Au Moyen-Age, le rouge est masculin, puis il devient féminin

Il fallait le trouver!
En effet. La récolte est laborieuse et la fabrication très coûteuse. Mais le rouge obtenu est splendide, lumineux, solide. Les seigneurs bénéficient donc toujours d’une couleur de luxe. Les paysans, eux, peuvent recourir à la vulgaire garance, qui donne une teinte moins éclatante. Peu importe si on ne fait pas bien la différence à l’?il nu: l’essentiel est dans la matière et dans le prix. Socialement, il y a rouge et rouge! D’ailleurs, pour l’?il médiéval, l’éclat d’un objet (son aspect mat ou brillant) prime sur sa coloration: un rouge franc sera perçu comme plus proche d’un bleu lumineux que d’un rouge délavé. Un rouge bien vif est toujours une marque de puissance, chez les laïcs comme chez les ecclésiastiques. A partir des XIIIe et XIVe siècles, le pape, jusque-là voué au blanc, se met au rouge. Les cardinaux, également. Cela signifie que ces considérables personnages sont prêts à verser leur sang pour le Christ… Au même moment, on peint des diables rouges sur les tableaux et, dans les romans, il y a souvent un chevalier démoniaque et rouge, des armoiries à la housse de son cheval, qui défie le héros. On s’accommode très bien de cette ambivalence.

Et le Petit Chaperon… rouge qui s’aventure lui aussi dans la forêt du Moyen Age? Il entre dans ce jeu de symboles?
Bien sûr. Dans toutes les versions du conte (la plus ancienne date de l’an mille), la fillette est en rouge. Est-ce parce qu’on habillait ainsi les enfants pour mieux les repérer de loin, comme des historiens l’ont affirmé? Ou parce que, comme le disent certains textes anciens, l’histoire est située le jour de la Pentecôte et de la fête de l’Esprit saint, dont la couleur liturgique est le rouge? Ou encore parce que la jeune fille allait se retrouver au lit avec le loup et que le sang allait couler, thèse fournie par des psychanalystes? Je préfère pour ma part l’explication sémiologique: un enfant rouge porte un petit pot de beurre blanc à une grand-mère habillée de noir… Nous avons là les trois couleurs de base du système ancien. On les retrouve dans d’autres contes: Blanche-Neige reçoit une pomme rouge d’une sorcière noire. Le corbeau noir lâche son fromage – blanc – dont se saisit un renard rouge… C’est toujours le même code symbolique.

Au Moyen Age, ces codes dont vous parlez se manifestent à travers les vêtements et l’imaginaire. Pas dans la vie quotidienne, quand même!
Mais si! Les codes symboliques ont des conséquences très pratiques. Prenez les teinturiers: en ville, certains d’entre eux ont une licence pour le rouge (avec l’autorisation de teindre aussi en jaune et en blanc), d’autres ont une licence pour le bleu (ils ont le droit de teindre également en vert et en noir). A Venise, Milan ou Nuremberg, les spécialistes du rouge garance ne peuvent même pas travailler le rouge kermès. On ne sort pas de sa couleur, sous peine de procès! Ceux du rouge et ceux du bleu vivent dans des rues séparées, cantonnés dans les faubourgs parce que leurs officines empuantissent tout, et ils entrent souvent en conflit violent, s’accusant réciproquement de polluer les rivières. Il faut dire que le textile est alors la seule vraie industrie de l’Europe, un enjeu majeur. Au fil des siècles, le rouge de l’interdit s’est affirmé

Je parie que notre rouge, décidément insolent, ne va pas plaire aux collets montés de la Réforme.
D’autant plus qu’il est la couleur des «papistes»! Pour les réformateurs protestants, le rouge est immoral. Ils se réfèrent à un passage de l’Apocalypse où saint Jean raconte comment, sur une bête venue de la mer, chevauchait la grande prostituée de Babylone vêtue d’une robe rouge. Pour Luther, Babylone, c’est Rome! Il faut donc chasser le rouge du temple – et des habits de tout bon chrétien. Cette «fuite» du rouge n’est pas sans conséquence: à partir du XVIe siècle, les hommes ne s’habillent plus en rouge (à l’exception des cardinaux et des membres de certains ordres de chevalerie). Dans les milieux catholiques, les femmes peuvent le faire. On va assister aussi à un drôle de chassé-croisé: alors qu’au Moyen Age le bleu était plutôt féminin (à cause de la Vierge) et le rouge, masculin (signe du pouvoir et de la guerre), les choses s’inversent. Désormais, le bleu devient masculin (car plus discret), le rouge part vers le féminin. On en a gardé la trace: bleu pour les bébés garçons, rose pour les filles… Le rouge restera aussi la couleur de la robe de mariée jusqu’au XIXe siècle.

La mariée était en rouge!
Bien sûr! Surtout chez les paysans, c’est-à-dire la grande majorité de la population d’alors. Pourquoi? Parce que, le jour du mariage, on revêt son plus beau vêtement et qu’une robe belle et riche est forcément rouge (c’est dans cette couleur que les teinturiers sont les plus performants). Dans ce domaine-là, on retrouve notre ambivalence: longtemps, les prostituées ont eu l’obligation de porter une pièce de vêtement rouge, pour que, dans la rue, les choses soient bien claires (pour la même raison, on mettra une lanterne rouge à la porte des maisons closes). Le rouge décrit les deux versants de l’amour: le divin et le péché de chair. Au fil des siècles, le rouge de l’interdit s’est aussi affirmé. Il était déjà là, dans la robe des juges et dans les gants et le capuchon du bourreau, celui qui verse le sang. Dès le XVIIIe siècle, un chiffon rouge signifie danger.

Y a-t-il un rapport avec le drapeau rouge des communistes?
Oui. En octobre 1789, l’Assemblée constituante décrète qu’en cas de trouble un drapeau rouge sera placé aux carrefours pour signifier l’interdiction d’attroupement et avertir que la force publique est susceptible d’intervenir. Le 17 juillet 1791, de nombreux Parisiens se rassemblent au Champ-de-Mars pour demander la destitution de Louis XVI, qui vient d’être arrêté à Varennes. Comme l’émeute menace, Bailly, le maire de Paris, fait hisser à la hâte un grand drapeau rouge. Mais les gardes nationaux tirent sans sommation: on comptera une cinquantaine de morts, dont on fera des «martyrs de la révolution». Par une étonnante inversion, c’est ce fameux drapeau rouge, «teint du sang de ces martyrs», qui devient l’emblème du peuple opprimé et de la révolution en marche. Un peu plus tard, il a même bien failli devenir celui de la France.

De la France!
Mais oui! En février 1848, les insurgés le brandissent de nouveau devant l’Hôtel de Ville. Jusque-là, le drapeau tricolore était devenu le symbole de la Révolution (ces trois couleurs ne sont d’ailleurs pas, contrairement à ce que l’on prétend, une association des couleurs royales et de celles de la ville de Paris, qui étaient en réalité le rouge et le marron: elles ont été reprises de la révolution américaine). Mais, à ce moment-là, le drapeau tricolore est discrédité, car le roi Louis-Philippe s’y est rallié. L’un des manifestants demande que l’on fasse du drapeau rouge, «symbole de la misère du peuple et signe de la rupture avec le passé», l’emblème officiel de la République. C’est Lamartine, membre du gouvernement provisoire, qui va sauver nos trois couleurs: «Le drapeau rouge, clame-t-il, est un pavillon de terreur qui n’a jamais fait que le tour du Champ-de-Mars, tandis que le drapeau tricolore a fait le tour du monde, avec le nom, la gloire et la liberté de la patrie!» Le drapeau rouge aura quand même un bel avenir. La Russie soviétique l’adoptera en 1918, la Chine communiste en 1949… Nous avons gardé des restes amusants de cette histoire: dans l’armée, quand on plie le drapeau français après avoir descendu les couleurs, il est d’usage de cacher la bande rouge pour qu’elle ne soit plus visible. Comme s’il fallait se garder du vieux démon révolutionnaire.

Nous obéirions donc toujours à l’ancienne symbolique.
Dans le domaine des symboles, rien ne disparaît jamais vraiment. Le rouge du pouvoir et de l’aristocratie (du moins en Occident, car c’est le jaune qui tient ce rôle dans les cultures asiatiques) a traversé les siècles, tout comme l’autre rouge, révolutionnaire et prolétarien. Chez nous, en outre, le rouge indique toujours la fête, Noël, le luxe, le spectacle: les théâtres et les opéras en sont ornés. Dans le vocabulaire, il nous est resté de nombreuses expressions («rouge de colère», «voir rouge») qui rappellent les vieux symboles. Et on associe toujours le rouge à l’érotisme et à la passion.

Mais, dans notre vie quotidienne, il est pourtant discret.
Plus le bleu a progressé dans notre environnement, plus le rouge a reculé. Nos objets sont rarement rouges. On n’imagine pas un ordinateur rouge par exemple (cela ne ferait pas sérieux), ni un réfrigérateur (on aurait l’impression qu’il chauffe). Mais la symbolique a perduré: les panneaux d’interdiction, les feux rouges, le téléphone rouge, l’alerte rouge, le carton rouge, la Croix-Rouge (en Italie, les croix des pharmacies sont aussi rouges) … Tout cela dérive de la même histoire, celle du feu et du sang… Je vais vous raconter une anecdote personnelle. Jeune marié, j’ai un jour acheté une voiture d’occasion: un modèle pour père de famille, mais rouge! Autant dire que la couleur et le véhicule n’allaient pas ensemble. Personne n’en avait voulu, ni les conducteurs sages qui le trouvaient trop transgressif, ni les amateurs de vitesse qui le trouvaient trop sage. On m’en avait donc fait un bon rabais. Mais ma voiture n’a pas fait long feu, si je puis dire: la grille d’un parking est tombée sur le capot et l’a totalement anéantie. Je me suis dit que les symboles avaient raison: c’était vraiment une voiture dangereuse

Voir enfin:

Discours d’ouverture de la Convention nationale démocratique de 2004
Barack Obama
27 juillet 2004
Traduction Wikisource en français de Democratic National Convention/Keynote address.

Merci beaucoup. Merci beaucoup. Merci. Merci. Merci beaucoup. Merci beaucoup. Merci. Merci. Merci, Dick Durbin. Nous sommes tous fiers de vous.

Au nom de ce grand État de l’Illinois, carrefour d’une nation, terre de Lincoln, permettez moi d’exprimer ma plus profonde gratitude d’avoir le privilège de faire un discours à cette convention

Ce soir, c’est un honneur particulier pour moi parce que, soyons réaliste, ma présence ici n’était pas très probable. Mon père était un étudiant étranger, né et élevé dans un petit village du Kenya. Il a grandi en gardant des chèvres et a été à l’école dans une cabane couverte d’une tôle ondulée. Son père, mon grand-père, était cuisinier, domestique des Britanniques mais mon grand-père avait des grands rêves pour son fils. En travaillant dur et en persévérant, mon père a obtenu une bourse pour venir étudier dans un endroit magique, l’Amérique, qui brillait comme un phare de liberté et d’opportunité à tout ceux qui étaient venus auparavant.

En étudiant ici, mon père a rencontré ma mère. Elle est née dans une ville de l’autre coté de la Terre, dans le Kansas. Son père a travaillé sur des plates-formes pétrolières et dans des fermes pendant presque toute la Grande Dépression. Le lendemain de l’attaque de Pearl Harbour, mon grand-père s’est engagé, à rejoint l’armée de Patton, a marché à travers l’Europe. À la maison, ma grand-mère élevait leur enfant et est allé travailler sur une chaine d’assemblage de bombardiers. Après la guerre, il ont étudié grâce au Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, on acheté une maison grâce à la Federal Housing Administration et ont plus tard déménagé vers l’est, jusqu’à Hawaï, à la recherche d’opportunités.

Et eux aussi avaient de grands rêves pour leur fille. Un rêve commun, né sur deux continents.

Mes parents ne partageaient pas seulement un amour improbable, ils partageaient une foi durable dans les possibilités de cette nation. Ils m’ont donné un nom africain, Barack ou « le béni », croyant que dans une Amérique tolérante, votre nom n’est pas un obstacle au succès. Ils m’ont imaginé rejoindre les meilleures écoles du pays, même s’ils n’étaient pas riches, car dans une Amérique généreuse, on n’a pas besoin être riche pour exploiter son potentiel.

Tous deux sont morts maintenant et pourtant je sais que ce soir, ils me regardent avec une grande fierté.

Je suis ici aujourd’hui, reconnaissant envers la diversité de mon héritage, conscient que les rêves de mes parents se perpétuent à travers mes deux filles. Je suis ici tout en sachant que mon histoire fait partie de la grande histoire américaine, que j’ai une dette envers tous ceux qui sont venus avant moi et quand dans n’importe quel autre pays au monde, mon histoire n’aurait été possible.

Ce soir, nous nous rassemblons pour affirmer la grandeur de notre nation — pas seulement à cause de la taille de nos gratte-ciel, de la puissance de notre armée ou de la taille de notre économie. Notre fierté est basée sur une prémisse très simple, résumée dans une déclaration faite il y a plus de 200 ans : « Nous tenons pour évidentes pour elles-mêmes les vérités suivantes : tous les hommes sont créés égaux ; ils sont doués par le Créateur de certains droits inaliénables ; parmi ces droits se trouvent la vie, la liberté et la recherche du bonheur. »

C’est ça le vrai génie de l’Amérique — une foi dans des rêves simples, une insistance sur de petits miracles, que l’on peut mettre nos enfants au lit le soir tout en sachant qu’ils sont nourris, habillés et protégés du mal, que l’on puisse dire ce que l’on pense, écrire ce que l’on pense, sans entendre quelqu’un soudainement frapper à sa porte, que l’on puisse avoir une idée et bâtir sa propre entreprise sans avoir à verser des pots de vin, que l’ont peut faire son devoir électoral sans crainte de représailles et que nos voix seront comptées — du moins, la plupart du temps.

Cette année, pour cette élection, nous sommes appelés à réaffirmer nos valeurs et nos engagement, à les confronter à la dure réalité et voir si nous sommes à la hauteur de l’héritage de nos aïeux et la promesse des générations futures.

Et, mes chers compatriotes, démocrates, républicains, indépendants, je vous dis ce soir: nous avons encore beaucoup à faire.

Beaucoup à faire pour les ouvriers que j’ai rencontrés à Galeburg dans l’Illinois, qui perdent leur emploi à l’usine Maytag, délocalisée au Mexique et qui doivent se battre contre leurs propres enfants pour des emplois à 7 dollars de l’heure; beaucoup à faire pour le père que j’ai rencontré et qui avait perdu son travail et se demandait, en retenant ses larmes, comment il allait payer les 4 500 dollars par mois pour payer les médicaments de son fils sans les aides financières sur lesquelles il comptait; beaucoup à faire pour la jeune femme de la banlieue est de Saint-Louis, et des milliers comme elle, qui a les notes, la volonté et l’envie mais pas l’argent pour aller à l’université.

Mais ne vous méprenez pas ! Les personnes que j’ai rencontrées, dans des petites et des grandes villes, à des diners ou dans des parcs, n’attendent pas du gouvernement qu’il résolve tous leurs problèmes. Ils savent qu’ils devront travailler dur pour s’en sortir… et ils le veulent.

Allez dans les comtés autour du Comté de Cook à Chicago et les gens vous diront qu’ils ne veulent pas que leurs impôts soient gaspillés par l’assistance sociale ou par le Pentagone.

Allez dans n’importe quel centre ville et les habitants vous diront que le gouvernement ne peut pas tout seul apprendre à nos enfants à apprendre — ils savent que les parents doivent leur apprendre, que les enfants ne peuvent pas y arriver sauf si on a de grands espoirs pour eux , qu’on coupe la télévision et qu’on taise les rumeurs disant qu’un jeune noir avec un livre joue au blanc. Ils savent ces choses là.

Les gens n’attendent pas du gouvernement qu’il résolve tous leurs problèmes mais ils ressentent, au plus profond d’eux même, qu’avec un petit changement dans les priorités, nous pouvons être sûr que chaque enfant américain a un bon départ dans la vie et que toutes les opportunités lui restent ouvertes

Ils savent que nous pouvons faire mieux et ils veulent ce choix.

Dans cette élection, nous offrons cette possibilité. Notre partie a choisi pour nous mener un homme qui incarne le mieux ce que ce pays a à offrir. Et cet homme, c’est John Kerry. John Kerry comprend les idéaux de la communauté, de la foi et du service parce que ceux-ci ont façonné sa vie. De ses années héroïques au Viet Nam à celles de procureur et lieutenant gouverneur, durant deux décennies au Sénat des États-Unis, il s’est dévoué pour son pays. Encore et encore, nous l’avons vu prendre des décision difficiles quand des plus aisées étaient possibles.

Ses valeurs, et ce qu’il a réalisé, illustre ce qu’il y a de meilleur en nous. John Kerry croit en une Amérique où le travail est récompensé. Alors, au lieu d’offrir des réductions d’impôts aux entreprises qui délocalisent à l’étranger, il en offre à des entreprises qui créent des emplois ici.

John Kerry croit en une Amérique où tous les Américains peuvent se payer la même couverture maladie que les hommes politiques de Washington.

John Kerry croit en l’indépendance énergétique pour que nous ne soyons plus les otages des profits des compagnies pétrolières ou de sabotages de champs pétrolifères à l’étranger.

John Kerry croit en la liberté constitutionnelle qui fait que notre pays est jalousé dans le monde entier et il ne sacrifiera jamais nos libertés de base, ni n’utilisera la foi pour nous diviser.

Et John Kerry croit que dans un monde dangereux, la guerre doit parfois être une option mais ne doit jamais être la première option.

Vous savez, il y a quelques temps, j’ai rencontré un jeune homme nommé Seamus dans une réunion de vétérans à East Moine dans l’Illinois. C’était un gamin avec une belle allure, 1m80 — 1m85, les yeux clairs et un grand sourire. Il m’a dit qu’il avait rejoint les Marines et allait aller en Irak la semaine suivante. En l’écoutant parler de la raison pour laquelle il s’était enrôlé, de la foi absolue qu’il avait en notre pays et ses dirigeants, de son attachement au devoir et au service, j’ai pensé que ce jeune homme avait tout ce qu’aucun d’entre nous ne pouvait espérer pour un enfant mais je me suis alors demandé : est-ce que l’on sert Seamus aussi bien qu’il nous sert ?

J’ai pensé à ces 900 hommes et femmes — fils et filles, maris et femmes, amis et voisins, qui ne reviendront pas chez eux. J’ai pensé à ces familles que j’ai rencontrées et qui doivent se battre pour continuer à vivre sans les revenus d’un être cher ou dont un membre est revenu amputé ou paralysé mais qui n’aura pas d’aide médical à long terme parce qu’il est réserviste.

Quand on envoie nos jeunes hommes et femmes vers le danger, nous avons l’obligation solennelle de ne pas falsifier les chiffres ou cacher la vérité sur la raison pour laquelle on les envoie. Nous avons l’obligation de nous occuper de leur famille lorsqu’ils sont absents, de prendre soin des soldats lorsqu’ils sont de retour et de ne jamais aller à la guerre sans avoir suffisamment de troupes pour la gagner, assurer la paix et gagner le respect du monde.

Maintenant, laissez moi mettre les choses au clair. Nous avons de vrais ennemis dans le monde. Nous devons les trouver. Nous devons les poursuivre et nous devons les vaincre.

John Kerry le sait. Et tout comme le lieutenant Kerry n’a pas hésité à risquer sa vie pour protéger les hommes qui ont servi avec lui au Viet Nam. Le président Kerry n’hésitera pas un instant à utiliser notre puissance militaire pour garder l’Amérique saine et sauve.

John Kerry croit en l’Amérique et il sait que ça n’est pas suffisant pou certains d’entre nous de simplement prospérer. A coté de notre célèbre individualisme, il y a un autre ingrédient dans la saga de l’Amérique: une croyance que l’on est tous unis pour former un seul peuple.

S’il y a un enfant du sud de Chicago qui ne sait pas lire, ça me regarde, même si ce n’est pas mon enfant. S’il y a une personne âgée quelque part qui ne peut pas payer ses médicaments et qui doit se choisir entre se loger ou se soigner, ça affecte ma vie même si ce n’est pas un de mes grands parents. S’il y a un famille américaine d’origine arabe rassemblée sans bénéficier d’un avocat ou d’un procès en bonne et due forme, ça menace mes libertés publiques.

C’est cette croyance fondamentale — je suis le gardien de mon frère, je suis le gardien de ma sœur — qui fait que notre pays fonctionne. C’est ce qui nous permet de poursuivre nos rêves individuels tout en formant une seule famille américaine.

E pluribus unum. « Out of many, one. » E pluribus Unum; « De la diversité, un seul ».

Maintenant, alors même que nous parlons, il y a ceux qui se préparent à nous diviser : les diffuseurs de publicité négative, qui adopte la politique du n’importe quoi. Alors ce soir, je leur dis, il n’y a pas une Amérique libérale et une Amérique conservatrice — il y a les États-Unis d’Amérique. Il n’y a pas une Amérique noire, une Amérique blanche, une Amérique latino et une Amérique asiatique, il y a les États-Unis d’Amérique.

Les érudits aiment à découper notre pays entre états rouges et états bleus ; les états rouges pour les Républicains, les États bleus pour les démocrates mais j’ai une nouvelle pour eux, moi aussi. Nous prions un Dieu magnifique dans les états bleus et nous n’aimons pas les agents fédéraux qui farfouillent dans nos bibliothèques dans les états rouges. On apprend le base-ball à nos enfants dans les États bleus et, oui, on a des amis homos dans les états rouges. Il y a des patriotes qui se sont opposés à la guerre en Irak et il y des patriotes qui l’ont soutenue.

Nous formons un seul peuple, chacun d’entre nous prêtant serment à la bannière étoilée, chacun d’entre nous défendant les États-Unis d’Amérique.

Au final, c’est à ça que revient cette élection. Participons-nous à une politique du cynisme ou participons-nous à une politique de l’espoir.

John Kerry nous demande d’espérer. John Edwards nous demande d’espérer.

Je ne suis pas en train de parler d’un optimisme aveugle ici, l’ignorance pleine de bonne volonté qui pense que le chômage disparaitra si on y pense pas ou que la crise de l’assurance médicale se résoudra d’elle même si nous l’ignorons. Ce n’est pas de ça que je parle. Je parle de quelque chose de plus important.

C’est l’espoir des esclaves s’asseyant autour d’un feu et chantant des chansons à propos de la liberté. L’espoir d’émigrants partant pour des contrées lointaines. L’espoir d’un jeune lieutenant de la Navy patrouillant dans le Delta du Mékong. L’espoir du fils d’un meunier qui ose envers et contre tout. L’espoir d’un gamin maigre avec un nom bizarre qui pense que l’Amérique a une place pour lui, aussi.

L’espoir. L’espoir face à la difficulté ! L’espoir face à l’incertitude ! L’audace de l’espoir. Au final, c’est le plus grand don que Dieu nous a fait, le fondement de cette nation. Une croyance en des choses invisibles. Une croyance en des jours meilleurs devant nous.

Je crois qu’on peut donner à nos classes moyennes un peu de soulagement et offrir aux familles qui travaillent de nombreuses opportunités. Je crois qu’on peut offrir un emploi aux chômeurs, un toit aux sans domicile fixe et sauver de la violence et du désespoir les jeunes des villes à travers l’Amérique. Je crois que le bon vent nous pousse et que l’on se trouve à un carrefour de notre histoire. Nous pouvons faire les bons choix et affronter les défis qui nous attendent.

Amérique ! Ce soir, si tu ressens la même énergie que moi, si tu sens la même urgence que moi, si tu sens la même passion que moi, si tu sens la même espérance que moi — et si nous faisons ce que nous avons à faire, alors je n’ai pas de doute qu’à travers le pays, de la Floride à l’Orégon, de l’Etat de Washington au Maine, le peuple se lèvera en novembre et John Kerry sera président, et John Edwards sera vice-président et ce pays réclamera son dû et un jour meilleur suivra ce long processus politique.

Merci beaucoup à vous tous. Que Dieu vous bénisse. Merci.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19751-2004Jul27.html

washingtonpost.com
Transcript: Illinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama

FDCH E-Media
Tuesday, July 27, 2004; 11:09 PM

Candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, Barack Obama, delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston Tuesday night. Here is a transcript of his remarks.

OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, Dick Durbin. You make us all proud.

On behalf of the great state of Illinois…

(APPLAUSE)

… crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely.

My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin- roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

OBAMA: But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that’s shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him.

(APPLAUSE)

While studying here my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas.

(APPLAUSE)

Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton’s army, marched across Europe. Back home my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA and later moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity.

(APPLAUSE)

And they too had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream born of two continents.

OBAMA: My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or « blessed, » believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success.

(APPLAUSE)

They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.

(APPLAUSE)

They’re both passed away now. And yet I know that, on this night, they look down on me with great pride.

And I stand here today grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters.

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: « We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…

(APPLAUSE)

… that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. »

That is the true genius of America, a faith…

(APPLAUSE)

… a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes will be counted — or at least, most of the time.

(APPLAUSE)

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of future generations.

OBAMA: And fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents, I say to you, tonight, we have more work to do…

(APPLAUSE)

… more work to do, for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that’s moving to Mexico, and now they’re having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay 7 bucks an hour; more to do for the father I met who was losing his job and chocking back the tears wondering how he would pay $4,500 a months for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits that he counted on; more to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her who have the grades, have the drive, have the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and office parks, they don’t expect government to solves all of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And they want to.

Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you: They don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.

(APPLAUSE)

Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn.

OBAMA: They know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.

(APPLAUSE)

People don’t expect — people don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry.

(APPLAUSE)

John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith and service because they’ve defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we’ve seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.

John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers them to companies creating jobs here at home.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren’t held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.

(APPLAUSE)

John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us.

(APPLAUSE)

And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, a while back, I met a young man named Seamus (ph) in a VFW hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, 6’2″, 6’3″, clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he’d joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week.

OBAMA: And as I listened to him explain why he had enlisted — the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service — I thought, this young man was all that any of us might ever hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Seamus (ph) as well as he’s serving us?

I thought of the 900 men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors who won’t be returning to their own hometowns. I thought of the families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but still lacked long-term health benefits because they were Reservists.

(APPLAUSE)

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they are going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return and to never, ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued. And they must be defeated.

John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure.

(APPLAUSE)

John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.

If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child.

(APPLAUSE)

If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent.

(APPLAUSE)

If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

(APPLAUSE)

It is that fundamental belief — it is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper — that makes this country work.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: « E pluribus unum, » out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.

(APPLAUSE)

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?

John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it.

That’s not what I’m talking. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.

I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.

I believe we can provide jobs for the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.

I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us.

America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. And John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president. And this country will reclaim it’s promise. And out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.

Thank you very much, everybody.

God bless you.

Thank you.

Voir par ailleurs:

Les Bleus voient rouge
L’équipe de France de football a déjà perdu son âme depuis longtemps, certains joueurs refusant même de chanter « La Marseillaise » ; voilà que le rugby semble lui emboîter le pas.
Philippe Franceschi
Consultant en sécurité

Boulevard voltaire

L’équipe de France de rugby, ou plutôt son équipementier, a choisi dorénavant la couleur rouge et non plus bleue comme maillot à l’extérieur, après avoir choisi la couleur « allbleue » pour les matchs à domicile. Le blanc a disparu. Le maillot tricolore (maillot bleu, culotte blanche et bas rouges) était porté depuis le 22 mars 1906, match disputé contre l’Angleterre. Comme moi amoureux du rugby, Roger Couderc doit se retourner dans sa tombe. On ne pourra plus dire « Allez les Bleus » au risque de soutenir l’équipe adverse comme ces Écossais le 7 février. Lui qui disait « Allez les petits », peut-être faudra-t-il aussi crier maintenant « Allez les grands » pour faire moderne.

L’équipe de France de football a déjà perdu son âme depuis longtemps, certains joueurs refusant même de chanter « La Marseillaise » ; voilà que le rugby semble lui emboîter le pas, car quand on vend son maillot, on n’est pas loin de commencer à perdre son âme.

Il faut innover, dit-on. Tu parles… surtout faire de l’argent par la vente d’un nouveau maillot à 79 euros pièce, tout de même. Les éléments de langage sont soignés, argument massue : il y a trois couleurs dans notre drapeau, donc le rouge est permis. Un peu court. Même les entraîneurs de notre équipe nationale reprennent cette consigne de parole, faisant semblant d’adhérer à cette nouveauté. Or, l’attachement à la nation France, aux trois couleurs, est dans les gènes du « peuple » du rugby qui, lui, n’apprécie pas. Mais qui se soucie de l’avis des supporters ? Pas la Fédération française de rugby, sans nul doute, qui a vendu le maillot.

Pourtant, cela me paraît plus significatif qu’une simple innovation. Car, dans cette même veine du renoncement, on a ouvert l’équipe de France à des étrangers naturalisés, Rory Kockott et Scott Spedding, deux joueurs sud-africains naturalisés en 2014, qui évoluent en Top 14. La logique du système est poussée jusqu’au bout. Nous avons de plus en plus d’étrangers dans notre championnat national, laissant moins de chance à de jeunes joueurs français d’éclore, et voilà que maintenant on leur barre aussi la route pour le XV de France. Je n’aime pas cette mondialisation de l’Ovalie. Mais où sont les nouveaux Lux, Trillo, Maso, Dourthe, grands joueurs français des années 1970 formés par de petits clubs, et qui avaient pourtant le « french flair » que nous envient tant les Anglo-Saxons? École du rugby, école de la vie, notre rugby, sport viril mais correct, se veut promouvoir une action éducatrice et d’épanouissement de l’enfant au travers du respect des valeurs du sport, dans les opérations « Rugby Cup des Quartiers ». La vie, c’est aussi respecter son maillot et ses couleurs bleu, blanc et rouge. S’il s’agit d’innover pour innover, on pourrait aussi appeler la tour Eiffel tour du Champ-de-Mars, ou l’Arc de Triomphe Arc de l’Étoile (qu’on enlève donc le triomphe, c’est ringard et réac), et le palais de l’Élysée palais normal… Les touristes pourront ainsi constater notre esprit d’innovation.

Rugby : contre l’Ecosse, il faudra crier « Allez les Rouges ! »
Adrien Pécout
Le Monde
06.02.2015

Les supporteurs du XV de France vont devoir réviser leurs classiques. Haranguer les Tricolores à grand renfort d’« Allez les Bleus ! » sonnera un peu faux, samedi 7 février, au Stade de France. Car pour la première fois depuis plus d’un demi-siècle, les Français affronteront l’Ecosse, en ouverture du Tournoi des six nations, vêtus d’un maillot qui ne sera ni bleu ni blanc, comme cela leur arrive parfois, mais rouge.

Et il va falloir s’y habituer. Les hommes de Philippe Saint-André arboreront cette tenue pour tous leurs matchs à l’extérieur jusqu’à la fin de l’année 2015, y compris durant la prochaine Coupe du monde (septembre-octobre). Mais ce sera donc également le cas dès ce week-end, à Saint-Denis. Contre l’Ecosse, la France ne pourra pas revêtir le maillot bleu qu’elle utilise d’ordinaire à domicile, ce privilège étant traditionnellement accordé à l’équipe visiteuse.

L’équipementier du XV de France, Adidas, avait émis l’idée de virer au rouge dès 2013. Un sacrilège ? A la Fédération française de rugby, on indique que ce changement de couleur a fait débat, puis a été soumis à l’approbation du président Pierre Camou, du sélectionneur Philippe Saint-André et de plusieurs membres du bureau fédéral.

Loin de s’en émouvoir, les joueurs jurent apprécier la nouveauté. Surtout quand leur équipementier les sollicite pour une vidéo de promotion… Au micro, le centre Wesley Fofana déclare : « Avec le fait de jouer en rouge, tout de suite, je pense qu’on aura un sentiment de combat, d’agressivité. » Le talonneur Benjamin Kayser, lui, voit en cette nouvelle couleur rien de moins que « la passion, la victoire et le feu ».

EN 1959, UNE VICTOIRE 9-0 CONTRE L’ÉCOSSE… EN ROUGE

Là-dessus, difficile de lui donner tort. Le 10 janvier 1959, à Colombes, la France avait déjà joué en rouge : à la clé, une victoire 9-0, déjà contre l’Ecosse. Cette année-là, lancés par cette victoire inaugurale, les Bleus remporteront dans la foulée leur premier Tournoi des cinq nations sans être ex æquo avec un autre pays.

« Contre l’Ecosse, si je me souviens, on avait appris seulement le jour du match, une fois dans les vestiaires, qu’on porterait des maillots rouges », raconte au Monde Michel Celaya, le capitaine des Bleus et troisième-ligne de Biarritz à l’époque. Aujourd’hui octogénaire, l’ancien joueur ignore les raisons qui avaient conduit les Bleus à devenir rouges.

« Et je ne sais pas non plus pourquoi, ensuite, cette tenue rouge n’a pas été conservée plus longtemps. Pour moi, le principal, c’était le coq qu’on avait sur le maillot et sur les blazers d’après-match. Et de toute façon, sur le terrain, nous, les troisièmes-lignes, on n’avait pas le temps de s’attarder sur le maillot, on était concentrés sur les guiboles adverses ! »

En marge du match, Michel Celaya et ses compères François Moncla et Jean Barthe avaient tout de même tenu à immortaliser l’événement : « Cette couleur rouge, quand même, ça nous étonnait. On avait demandé à des journalistes de venir nous prendre en photo avec », ajoute l’international (50 sélections entre 1953 et 1961).

Selon des témoignages oraux rapportés à la Fédération française de rugby, la France aurait également revêtu un maillot rouge en 1958 lors d’une tournée contre l’Australie, pour un match également synonyme de victoire (19-0). Elle le portera donc de nouveau jusqu’à la fin de l’année 2015, date à laquelle Adidas choisira ou non de rétablir le maillot blanc pour les matchs à l’extérieur.

« Pour moi qui suis du Sud, ça ne me déplairait pas que le rouge reste la couleur de notre deuxième maillot, s’amuse Celaya, Biarrot de naissance. Pour plaisanter, je dirais que ça nous fait ressembler à des toréadors. Quand des taureaux vous foncent desssus, vous ne portez pas une cape blanche, vous portez une cape rouge. »


Discours de Netanyahou: Attention, une violation de protocole peut en cacher une autre ! (Purim on the Potomac: will the real leader of the Free world stand up ?)

4 mars, 2015
https://i2.wp.com/www.metmuseum.org/media/3599/natm_gentileschi_69.281.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/www.mrdrybones.com/blog/D15304_1.gifhttps://scontent-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/11018791_1043887128971546_2976276497768221024_n.jpg?oh=35b1b7fe71996c2f26716bf809d47256&oe=5591EDC2https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xfp1/v/t1.0-9/11034190_1043885642305028_2789026816451313212_n.jpg?oh=08cb212b36b5b604bb4927dcc1c1eabb&oe=5592DBB0&__gda__=1433698528_17b29523095b941c8db12ddb13906cb2Ne t’imagine pas que tu échapperas seule d’entre tous les Juifs, parce que tu es dans la maison du roi; car, si tu te tais maintenant, le secours et la délivrance surgiront d’autre part pour les Juifs, et toi et la maison de ton père vous périrez. Et qui sait si ce n’est pas pour un temps comme celui-ci que tu es parvenue à la royauté? Esther 4: 13-14
L’affrontement entre la modernité et le médiévalisme ne doit pas être un affrontement entre modernité et tradition. Les traditions du peuple juif remontent à des milliers d’années. Elles sont la source de nos valeurs collectives et le fondement de notre force nationale. Dans le même temps, le peuple juif a toujours regardé vers l’avenir. Tout au long de l’histoire, nous avons été à l’avant-garde des efforts visant à étendre la liberté, à promouvoir l’égalité, et à faire progresser les droits de l’homme. Nous défendons ces principes non pas en dépit de nos traditions, mais à cause d’elles. Nous écoutons les paroles des prophètes juifs Isaïe, Amos, Jérémie, traitons tout le monde avec dignité et compassion, recherchons la justice, chérissons la vie et prions pour la paix. Ce sont les valeurs intemporelles de mon peuple et celles-ci sont le plus grand don du peuple juif à l’humanité. Engageons-nous aujourd’hui pour défendre ces valeurs afin que nous puissions défendre notre liberté et la protection de notre civilisation commune. Benjamin Netanyahou (ONU, 27/09/2012)
Parce que l’Amérique et Israël partagent un destin commun, le destin de terres promises qui chérissent la liberté et offrent de l’espoir. Israël est reconnaissant du soutien de l’Amérique – de la population de l’Amérique et des présidents de l’Amérique, de Harry Truman à Barack Obama.(…) Mes amis, je suis venu ici aujourd’hui parce que, en tant que Premier ministre d’Israël, je me sens une obligation profonde de vous parler d’une question qui pourrait bien menacer la survie de mon pays et l’avenir de mon peuple: la quête iranienne pour obtenir des armes nucléaires. Nous sommes un peuple ancien. Dans nos près de 4000 ans d’histoire, beaucoup ont essayé à plusieurs reprises de détruire le peuple juif. Demain soir, lors de la fête juive de Pourim, nous allons lire le Livre d’Esther. Nous lisons le récit d’un vice-roi de Perse puissant nommé Haman, qui complotait pour détruire le peuple juif il y a quelque 2500 ans. Mais une femme juive courageuse, reine Esther, a démontré ce complot et a donné au peuple juif le droit de se défendre contre ses ennemis. Le complot a été déjoué. Notre peuple a été sauvé. Aujourd’hui le peuple juif fait face à une autre tentative, d’un autre potentat perse, de nous détruire. Le Guide suprême l’ayatollah Khamenei crache sa haine la plus ancienne, la haine de l’antisémitisme, avec les nouvelles technologies. Il tweete qu’Israël doit être anéanti – il tweete ! Vous savez, en Iran, Internet n’est pas vraiment ce qu’on peut appeler livre. Mais il tweet en anglais qu’Israël doit être détruit. Pour ceux qui croient que l’Iran menace l’Etat juif, mais pas le peuple juif, écoutez Hassan Nasrallah, le chef du Hezbollah, chef mandataire terroriste de l’Iran. Il a dit: Si tous les Juifs se rassemblent en Israël, cela va nous épargner la fatigue de les pourchasser dans le monde entier. Mais le régime iranien n’est pas seulement un problème juif, pas plus que le régime nazi n’était qu’un problème juif. Les 6 millions de juifs assassinés par les nazis n’étaient qu’une fraction des 60 millions de personnes tuées dans la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Donc, si le régime de l’Iran constitue une grave menace non seulement pour Israël, c’est aussi le cas pour la paix du monde entier. Pour comprendre à quel point l’Iran serait dangereux avec des armes nucléaires, nous devons comprendre pleinement la nature du régime. Le peuple d’Iran est composé de gens très talentueux. Ils sont les héritiers d’une des plus grandes civilisations du monde. Mais en 1979, ils ont été détournés de leur histoire par des fanatiques religieux, des fanatiques religieux – qui ont imposé une dictature sombre et brutale. Cette année là, les fanatiques ont rédigé une constitution nouvelle pour l’Iran. Elle ordonne aux gardiens de la révolution de ne pas seulement protéger les frontières de l’Iran, mais aussi de remplir la mission idéologique du jihad. Le fondateur du régime, l’ayatollah Khomeini, a exhorté ses partisans à « exporter la révolution dans le monde entier. » Je suis ici à Washington, et la différence est tellement frappante. Le document fondateur de l’Amérique promet la vie, la liberté et la poursuite du bonheur. Le document fondateur de l’Iran s’engage dans la mort, la tyrannie, et la poursuite du djihad. Et alors que les États s’effondrent à travers le Moyen-Orient, l’Iran se charge d’occuper le vide pour faire exactement cela. Les hommes de main de l’Iran à Gaza, ses laquais au Liban, ses gardiens de la révolution sur le plateau du Golan entourent Israël avec trois tentacules de terreur. Soutenu par l’Iran, Assad massacre Syriens. Soutenu par l’Iran, les milices chiites sont lâchées en Irak. Soutenu par l’Iran, les Houthis prennent le contrôle du Yémen, menaçant les détroits stratégiques à l’embouchure de la mer Rouge. Avec le détroit d’Ormuz, ce serait donner à l’Iran une seconde point d’approvisionnement en pétrole du monde. (…) L’Iran a pris des dizaines d’Américains en otage à Téhéran, a assassiné des centaines de soldats américains, des Marines à Beyrouth, et est responsable de la mort et de mutilations des milliers d’hommes et de femmes, de militaires américains en Irak et en Afghanistan. Au-delà du Moyen-Orient, l’Iran attaque l’Amérique et ses alliés à travers son réseau mondial de terrorisme. Il a fait sauter le centre de la communauté juive et l’ambassade israélienne à Buenos Aires. Il a aidé Al Qaida à attaquer les ambassades américaines en Afrique. Il a même tenté d’assassiner l’ambassadeur saoudien, ici à Washington DC. Au Moyen-Orient, l’Iran domine désormais quatre capitales arabes, Bagdad, Damas, Beyrouth et Sanaa. Et si l’agression de l’Iran n’est pas défaite, d’autres suivront sûrement. Donc, à un moment où beaucoup espèrent que l’Iran se joindra à la communauté des nations, l’Iran est occupé engloutir les nations.(…) Ne soyez pas dupe. La bataille entre l’Iran et l’ISIS ne fait pas l’Iran dans un ami de l’Amérique. L’Iran et l’ISIS sont en compétition pour le trône de l’Islam militant. Le premier se nomme République Islamique, le second Etat Islamique. les deux veulent imposer un empire islamique militant, d’abord sur la région, puis sur le reste du monde. Ils sont simplement en désaccord sur celui qui sera le chef de cet empire. Dans cette lutte mortelle pour un trône, il n’y a pas de place pour l’Amérique ou pour Israël, pas de paix pour les chrétiens, les juifs ou les musulmans qui ne partagent pas la croyance médiévale islamiste, pas de droits pour les femmes, pas de libertés pour les peuples.(…) La différence est que l’ISIS est armé avec des couteaux de boucher, des armes saisies et YouTube, alors que l’Iran pourrait bientôt être armé avec des missiles balistiques intercontinentaux et des bombes nucléaires. Nous devons toujours nous rappeler – je vais le dire une fois de plus – que le plus grand danger auquel notre monde doit faire face, est le mariage de l’Islam militant avec des armes nucléaires. Vaincre l’Etat Islamique et laisser l’Iran obtenir des armes nucléaires serait comme gagner la bataille, mais perdre la guerre. (…) Vous n’avez pas à lire Robert Frost pour le savoir. Vous devez vivre votre vie afin de savoir que le chemin difficile est habituellement le moins fréquenté, mais il faudra savoir faire toute la différence pour l’avenir de mon pays, la sécurité du Moyen-Orient et la paix du monde, paix que nous avons tous pour désir.(…) Mes amis, se tenir debout face à l’Iran n’est pas simple. Etre debout face à des régimes sombres et meurtriers n’est jamais simple. Il y a parmi nous aujourd’hui un survivant de la Shoah et lauréat du prix Nobel, Elie Wiesel. Elie, votre vie et votre travail nous inspirent pour donner un sens aux mots, « plus jamais ça. » Et je souhaite pouvoir vous promettre, Elie, que les leçons de l’histoire ont été tirées. Je ne peux qu’encourager les dirigeants du monde à ne pas répéter les erreurs du passé. (…) Mais je ne peux vous garantir cela. Les jours où le peuple juif sont restés passifs face à des ennemis génocidaires, ces jours sont révolus. Nous ne sommes plus dispersé parmi les nations, impuissants pour nous défendre. Nous avons restauré notre souveraineté dans notre ancienne maison. Et les soldats qui défendent notre maison ont un courage sans bornes. Pour la première fois en 100 générations, nous, le peuple juif, pouvons nous défendre. Mais je sais qu’Israël n’est pas seul. Je sais que l’Amérique se tient avec Israël (…) parce que vous savez que l’histoire d’Israël n’est pas seulement l’histoire du peuple juif, mais de l’esprit humain qui refuse encore et encore de succomber à des horreurs de l’histoire. Face à moi, juste là dans cette galerie, on voit l’image de Moïse. Moïse a conduit notre peuple de l’esclavage aux portes de la terre promise. Et avant que le peuple d’Israël n’entre sur la terre d’Israël, Moïse nous a donné un message qui a endurci notre détermination depuis des milliers d’années. Je vous laisse avec son message aujourd’hui, « Soyez forts et déterminés, sans peurs ni craintes à leurs égards. » (…) Que Dieu bénisse l’Etat d’Israël et que Dieu bénisse les Etats-Unis d’Amérique. Benjamin Netanyahou
Nous essayons de rendre la décision d’attaquer l’Iran la plus dure possible pour Israël. Responsable de l’Administration Obama (au Washington Post, 02.03.12)
Aucun gouvernement israélien ne peut tolérer une arme nucléaire dans les mains d’un régime qui nie l’Holocauste, menace de rayer Israël de la carte et parraine des groupes terroristes engagés à la destruction d’Israël. Barak Obama (devant le groupe de pression pro-israélien AIPAC, 05.03.12)
Le droit du peuple palestinien à l’autodétermination, leur droit à la justice, doit également être reconnu. Mettez-vous dans leurs souliers.  Regardez le monde à travers leurs yeux.  Il n’est pas juste qu’un enfant palestinien ne puisse pas grandir dans son propre état sa vie entière avec la présence d’une armée étrangère qui contrôle les mouvements non seulement des jeunes, mais de leurs parents, leurs grands-parents, chaque jour.  Ce n’est pas seulement quand la violence des colons contre les Palestiniens reste impunie.  Ce n’est pas juste d’empêcher les Palestiniens de cultiver leurs terres agricoles ou de restreindre la capacité d’un élève à se déplacer en Cisjordanie, ou de déplacer des familles palestiniennes de leurs maisons.  L’occupation et l’expulsion ne sont pas la réponse.  Tout comme les Israéliens ont construit un état dans leur patrie, les Palestiniens ont le droit d’être un peuple libre dans leur propre terre.  (…) Comme homme politique, je peux vous dire que je peux vous promettre ceci : Les dirigeants politiques ne prendront jamais de risques si le peuple ne les pousse pas à prendre certains risques.  Vous devez créer le changement que vous voulez voir. Obama (devant étudiants israéliens, mars 2013)
Ce que nous pouvons dire avec certitude, c’est que l’administration qui supporte les Frères musulmans « démocratiquement élus » en Égypte et qui a tant fait pour éliminer tous les obstacles de leur élection, snobe le gouvernement israélien démocratiquement élu, et même, tous les officiels élus d’Israël en général.  « Barack Obama a invité les Frères musulmans à la Maison Blanche.  Il s’est rendu au Caire pour s’adresser à toute l’Égypte et a insisté sur le fait que les Frères musulmans résistent contre la volonté du président d’alors, Hosni Moubarak.  Pourtant, il n’a pas visité la Knesset en Israël !  N’est-ce pas étrange ?  Cela prouve certainement que nous ne pouvons pas prendre ce que cet homme dit à sa valeur nominale. Caroline Glick
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
Culturellement, Obama déteste la Grande-Bretagne. Il a renvoyé le buste de Churchill sans la moindre feuille de vigne d’une excuse. Il a insulté la Reine et le Premier ministre en leur offrant les plus insignifiants des cadeaux. A un moment, il a même refusé de rencontrer le Premier ministre. Dr James Lucier (ancien directeur du comité des Affaires étrangères du sénat américain)
Je sais que c’est horrible à dire, mais je ne pense pas que le président aime l’Amérique. Il ne vous aime pas, il ne m’aime pas. Il n’a pas été élevé comme vous et moi dans l’amour de ce pays. Il critique l’Amérique. Il parle des croisades en disant que les chrétiens étaient des barbares, oubliant de finir sa phrase en disant que les musulmans étaient aussi des barbares. Rudolph Giuliani
Je ne remets pas en cause son patriotisme, je suis sûr qu’il est patriote. Mais dans sa rhétorique, je l’entends très rarement dire les choses que j’avais l’habitude d’entendre chez Ronald Reagan ou Bill Clinton concernant leur amour pour l’Amérique. Je l’entends critiquer l’Amérique beaucoup plus que d’autres présidents américains. Rudolph Giuliani
Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress was notable in two respects. Queen Esther got her first standing O in 2,500 years. And President Obama came up empty in his campaign to preemptively undermine Netanyahu before the Israeli prime minister could present his case on the Iran negotiations. On the contrary. The steady stream of slights and insults turned an irritant into an international event and vastly increased the speech’s audience and reach. Instead of dramatically unveiling an Iranian nuclear deal as a fait accompli, Obama must now first defend his Iranian diplomacy. In particular, argues The Post, he must defend its fundamental premise. It had been the policy of every president since 1979 that Islamist Iran must be sanctioned and contained. Obama, however, is betting instead on detente to tame Iran’s aggressive behavior and nuclear ambitions. For six years, Obama has offered the mullahs an extended hand. He has imagined that with Kissingerian brilliance he would turn the Khamenei regime into a de facto U.S. ally in pacifying the Middle East. For his pains, Obama has been rewarded with an Iran that has ramped up its aggressiveness in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, and brazenly defied the world on uranium enrichment. He did the same with Russia. He offered Vladimir Putin a new detente. “Reset,” he called it. Putin responded by decimating his domestic opposition, unleashing a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign, ravaging Ukraine and shaking the post-Cold War European order to its foundations. Like the Bourbons, however, Obama learns nothing. He persists in believing that Iran’s radical Islamist regime can be turned by sweet reason and fine parchment into a force for stability. It’s akin to his refusal to face the true nature of the Islamic State, Iran’s Sunni counterpart. He simply can’t believe that such people actually believe what they say. That’s what made Netanyahu’s critique of the U.S.-Iran deal so powerful. Especially his dissection of the sunset clause. In about 10 years, the deal expires. Sanctions are lifted and Iran is permitted unlimited uranium enrichment with an unlimited number of centrifuges of unlimited sophistication. As the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens points out, we don’t even allow that for democratic South Korea. The prime minister offered a concrete alternative. Sunset? Yes, but only after Iran changes its behavior, giving up its regional aggression and worldwide support for terror. Netanyahu’s veiled suggestion was that such a modification — plus a significant reduction in Iran’s current nuclear infrastructure, which the Obama deal leaves intact — could produce a deal that “Israel and its [Arab] neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally.” (…) Netanyahu offered a different path in his clear, bold and often moving address, Churchillian in its appeal to resist appeasement. This was not Churchill of the 1940s, but Churchill of the 1930s, the wilderness prophet. Which is why for all its sonorous strength, Netanyahu’s speech had a terrible poignancy. After all, Churchill was ignored. Charles Krauthammer
The leader of the free world will be addressing Congress on Tuesday. (…) in a world where the Oval Office is manned by someone openly apologetic for most American exercises of power; and where Western Europe’s economy is enervated, its people largely faithless, and its leadership feckless; and where Freedom House has found “an overall drop in [global] freedom for the ninth consecutive year,” the safeguarding of our civilization might rely more on leaders who possess uncommon moral courage than on those who possess the most nukes or biggest armies. Right now, nobody on the world stage speaks for civilization the way Netanyahu does. While Barack Obama babbles about the supposedly “legitimate grievances” of those who turn to jihad (…) Netanyahu — who spent far more of his formative years on the American mainland than Obama did, and who took enemy fire at the age when Obama was openly pushing Marxist theory, and who learned and practiced free enterprise at the same age when Obama was practicing and teaching Alinskyism — has spoken eloquently for decades in praise of the Western heritage of freedom and human rights. (…) The ayatollahs have never backed down from their stated aim of destroying Christendom. They have never wavered from their depiction of the United States as the “Great Satan.” Just last week, Iran bragged about its recent test-firing of “new strategic weapons” that it says will “play a key role” in any future battle against the “Great Satan U.S.” Iran also continues developing, while trying to keep them secret, new missiles and launch sites with devastatingly long-range capability. It continues to enrich uranium, including an allegedly secret program, to a level that’s a short jump-step from bomb strength. It has a lengthy record of lying and cheating about its military activities, its compliance with U.N. mandates (not that the U.N. is worth much anyway), and its protections of even the limited human rights it actually recognizes as such. About the only thing Iran never lies about is its absolute, unyielding determination to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It was only a few months ago, for example, that the “revolutionary” regime’s “Supreme Leader,” the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, released a nine-point plan for how to “annihilate” the Jewish state. Yet Obama not only begrudges the Israeli prime minister the opportunity to make his case against this existential threat to his nation, but he conducts a diplomatic and political assault against Netanyahu of a ferocity rarely seen in the annals of American foreign policy. Obama’s actions aren’t just wrongheaded; they are malignant. They pervert American tradition and American interests, and they attempt to deprive the entire free world of its single most clarion voice for enlightenment values. Benjamin Netanyahu of course speaks first for Israel, but he speaks also for you and for me, for decency and humaneness, and for vigilance and strength against truly evil adversaries. Congress, by inviting him, is wise. Obama, by opposing him, is horribly wrong. And the civilized world, if it ignores him, will be well-nigh suicidal. Quin Hillyer
Selon un sondage Gallup publié lundi (…)  45 % des Américains voient Netanyahu de manière positive – le record était en 1998 avec 46% d’opinions positives. 45% en 2015, c’est 10 points de plus qu’en 2012. A l’inverse, seulement 24% des américains voient Netanyahu de manière négative (et parmi eux de nombreux latinos et musulmans). Les républicains apprécient beaucoup plus Netanyahu (60%) que négativement (18%), tandis que les démocrates sont divisés: 31% favorables et 31% défavorables. Parmi les indépendants, 45% ont une opinion favorable de Netanyahu, tandis que 23% le considèrent défavorablement. Par comparaison avec les chiffres de Netanyahu, un sondage publié le 23 février par the Economist / YouGov, a révélé que 45% des Américains ont un avis favorable d’Obama, contre 50% ayant une mauvaise opinion négative. JSSnews
Le discours de Netanyahou au Congrès américain fut un moment grandiose. En mettant en garde le monde occidental contre la menace qui pèse sur lui, en l’exhortant à ne pas pratiquer de politique d’apaisement envers l’Iran, il constitue un événement d’importance mondiale. Aucun homme politique occidental, a fortiori israélien, n’est capable d’une telle audace. En privilégiant la sauvegarde du lien à Obama, le tandem Livni-Herzog ne propose qu’une politique de démission nationale sur tous les enjeux vitaux d’Israël. Le « camp sioniste » qu’ils représentent est dans l’orbite de la démission munichoise qui les fait ressembler à l’Union Européenne. Ce discours prend aussi une résonnance américaine ou un président qui n’a plus de majorité gouverne par ukases et coups de force. En se dressant contre sa politique démissionnaire, il invite aussi les élus américains à résister au dévoiement de la démocratie américaine. La présidence Obama a ruiné les intérêts et les défenses du monde libre. Elle a ouvert la voie à une multitude de conflits locaux et notamment à la décomposition du monde arabe. Elle a acculé Israël à un affaiblissement dans sa puissance qu’il n’a jamais connu, l’obligeant à réitérer la même guerre tous les deux ans. Elle a réveillé un climat de guerre froide avec la Russie. Mais ce qui est le plus important, c’est que Netanyahou a eu l’audace de nommer l’ennemi, ce dont les leaders juifs du monde entier n’ont plus la force. Il a eu l’audace d’affirmer que le « peuple juif » – c’est le terme employé – saura se tenir debout pour faire face à l’ennemi et n’hésitera pas à défendre son existence. En évoquant la leçon de la Shoah, il a clairement défini l’enjeu vital et total qui se joue pour le peuple juif aujourd’hui et qui nécessite une levée en masse des Juifs pour défendre le sanctuaire de leur existence comme peuple. Enfin, la touche juive de son propos est capitale. (…) Netanyahou a évoqué la figure d’Aman, un autre perse, et il a terminé sur la figure de Moïse. C’est là la tonalité d’un vrai leader du peuple juif, capable d’intégrer l’histoire éternelle d’Israël aux enjeux les plus contemporains. Shmuel Trigano
Pourquoi tant d’animosité envers le dirigeant d’un allié de longue date, la seule et unique démocratie du Moyen-Orient, et auquel Obama a juré de sa loyauté indéfectible ? Eh bien parce que la Maison Blanche s’est déclarée exaspérée par cette visite dont elle n’a pas été informée par Israël, et qu’elle a donc perçue comme une « violation au protocole ». Laquelle l’emporte sur les bénéfices que le Congrès pourrait retirer de la présence – et du point de vue – du leader du pays le plus immédiatement concerné par les négociations actuellement menées avec l’Iran. Remarquablement, ce n’est guère la première fois que la question du protocole se situe au cœur d’une menace de destruction du peuple juif posée par l’Iran. On en trouve un précédent biblique. Sinistre écho de l’histoire contemporaine, le Livre d’Esther relate la toute première occurrence d’une tentative de génocide visant les Juifs dans l’empire antique de Perse, actuellement connu comme l’Iran. Quand, plus de deux millénaires en arrière, Mardochée apprend qu’Aman complote de « détruire, tuer, et exterminer tous les Juifs, jeunes et vieux, petits enfants et femmes, en un seul jour » (Esther 3,13), il persuade sa fille adoptive, devenue reine, d’intercéder en leur faveur. Mais Esther a peur. Si elle se présentait devant son mari pour faire appel contre le décret d’Aman, ce serait rompre avec le protocole royal. « Tous les serviteurs du roi et la population des provinces du roi savent bien, réplique-t-elle à Mardochée, que toute personne, homme ou femme, qui pénètre chez le roi, dans la cour intérieure, sans avoir été convoquée, une loi égale pour tous, la rend passible de la peine de mort; celui-là seul à qui le roi tend son sceptre d’or a la vie sauve. Or, moi, je n’ai pas été invitée à venir chez le roi voilà trente jours. » (Esther 4,11) Néanmoins, le Livre d’Esther nous raconte qu’après avoir supplié les Juifs de prier et de jeûner en sa faveur, Esther choisit de faire fi du protocole face à la menace d’extermination qui plane sur son peuple. Et elle parvient à abroger ce funeste décret. En conséquence, les Juifs, à ce jour, célèbrent la fête de Pourim. Dans la tradition juive, le récit de Pourim marque la commémoration d’un autre type de miracle. Le scénario du Livre d’Esther est fait d’une série de coïncidences si statistiquement improbables qu’il témoigne de la main divine cachée derrière la nature. C’est la raison pour laquelle c’est le seul livre de tout le canon biblique qui ne comporte pas la moindre mention du nom de Dieu. Dans ce monde, Dieu cache Sa face, mais Il est tout aussi impliqué dans la direction du monde que lorsqu’Il sépara la mer devant les Hébreux qui fuyaient les Égyptiens. Pour les commentateurs juifs, Pourim incarne donc cet adage célèbre – et ironiquement anonyme – affirmant que « la coïncidence est le moyen que Dieu choisit pour conserver Son anonymat. » Et dans cette optique, il est tout à fait remarquable que le discours du Premier ministre Benyamin Netanyahou « coïncide » avec la veille du jeûne d’Esther, lequel commémore l’héroïsme d’une reine qui décida que la survie de son peuple avait préséance sur le respect du protocole. Rabbin Benjamin Blech

Attention: un chef du Monde libre peut en cacher un autre !

Citations du poète national (Robert Frost), références bibliques (Esther, Mardochée, Haman), analogies historiques (l’Iran comme nouveau régime nazi), hommage au plus respecté des prix Nobel de la paix et survivants de la Shoah (Elie Wiesel), slogans digne de « Game of Thrones » …

Au lendemain d’un nouveau discours aussi attendu que controversé de Benjamin Netanyahou sur le dossier nucléaire iranien au sein même cette fois, alors qu’il n’est plus ou pas encore premier ministre, du Congrès américain  …

Alors que du Liban à Gaza et à présent de la Syrie à l’Irak et au Yemen et tout en préparant sa Solution finale, la Révolution islamique n’en finit pas de faire ce qu’elle a toujours fait depuis 35 ans, à savoir mettre le Moyen-Orient à feu et à sang …

Pendant qu’à la tête du Monde libre et face à un Congrès où il a perdu tout appui, le Tergiverseur-en-chef qui n’arrive toujours pas à nommer l’ennemi tente de sauver sa place dans l’histoire en s’accrochant désespérement à ses rêves de rapprochement avec, de Cuba à l’Iran, tout ce que la planète peut contenir de régimes renégats …

Et qu’un mois à peine après le prétendu « sursaut républicain » de Paris, le déni politiquement correct a repris comme de plus belle et nos belles âmes n’ont pas de mots assez durs pour dénoncer le « complexe d’Auschwitz » et la « diplomatie du bulldozer » du dirigeant israélien …

Mais que face aux horreurs si longtemps tolérées et même subventionnées de nos nouveaux damnés de la terre et trois décennies à peine après les faits, la Belle au bois des bois de la justice commence à peine tant en France qu’aux Etats-Unis à se réveiller …

Comment en cette vieille de la fête juive des Sorts dite de Pourim …

Ne pas voir avec nombre de juifs, d’Israéliens et de simples connaisseurs de la Bible …

L’étrange parallèle avec une autre tentative d’interférence dans les affaires de la superpuissance de l’époque …

A savoir celle d’Esther dont Pourim est justement la fête ?

Et comment ne pas saluer, avec  Shmuel Trigano, l’incroyable audace et la magistrale leçon d’histoire …

D’un des descendants, plus populaire et peut-être plus « américain » que ce moins américain des présidents des Etats-Unis, de cette même courageuse reine juive …

Qui devant une énième tentative d’annihilation par les ancêtres, de surcroit, des dirigeants iraniens actuels …

Osa elle aussi pour sauver son peuple …

Défier la bien-pensance et le protocole du moment ?

Quand Bibi Netanyahou viole le protocole
Échos de la reine Esther qui fit entorse au protocole royal pour défendre son peuple face à la menace de destruction posée par l’Iran d’antan…
rabbin Benjamin Blech
Aish.com
24/2/2015

La prochaine apparition du Premier ministre israélien sur la colline du Capitole se retrouve au centre d’une véritable tempête diplomatique.

Convié par le président républicain de la Chambre des représentants, John Boehner, à s’exprimer devant le Congrès sur les menaces posées par les ambitions nucléaires de l’Iran, Benyamin Netanyahou a saisi cette occasion rêvée de partager l’inquiétude existentielle de son pays à l’heure où le régime des Mollahs s’apprête plus que jamais à atteindre son objectif avoué de l’annihilation totale d’Israël. Mais la Maison Blanche a fait part de son irritation. Un nombre croissant de législateurs démocrates ont annoncé qu’ils boycotteraient son discours. Le vice président américain Joe Biden qui, en sa qualité de président du Sénat, devrait traditionnellement superviser l’allocution de Netanyahou, a fait savoir qu’il serait « en déplacement à l’étranger » à ce moment-là. Quant à Nancy Pelosi, chef de la minorité démocrate, elle a carrément déclaré qu’elle espérait que le « discours n’aurait pas lieu. »

Pourquoi tant d’animosité envers le dirigeant d’un allié de longue date, la seule et unique démocratie du Moyen-Orient, et auquel Obama a juré de sa loyauté indéfectible ? Eh bien parce que la Maison Blanche s’est déclarée exaspérée par cette visite dont elle n’a pas été informée par Israël, et qu’elle a donc perçue comme une « violation au protocole ». Laquelle l’emporte sur les bénéfices que le Congrès pourrait retirer de la présence – et du point de vue – du leader du pays le plus immédiatement concerné par les négociations actuellement menées avec l’Iran.

Remarquablement, ce n’est guère la première fois que la question du protocole se situe au cœur d’une menace de destruction du peuple juif posée par l’Iran. On en trouve un précédent biblique. Sinistre écho de l’histoire contemporaine, le Livre d’Esther relate la toute première occurrence d’une tentative de génocide visant les Juifs dans l’empire antique de Perse, actuellement connu comme l’Iran. Quand, plus de deux millénaires en arrière, Mardochée apprend qu’Aman complote de « détruire, tuer, et exterminer tous les Juifs, jeunes et vieux, petits enfants et femmes, en un seul jour » (Esther 3,13), il persuade sa fille adoptive, devenue reine, d’intercéder en leur faveur.

Mais Esther a peur. Si elle se présentait devant son mari pour faire appel contre le décret d’Aman, ce serait rompre avec le protocole royal. « Tous les serviteurs du roi et la population des provinces du roi savent bien, réplique-t-elle à Mardochée, que toute personne, homme ou femme, qui pénètre chez le roi, dans la cour intérieure, sans avoir été convoquée, une loi égale pour tous, la rend passible de la peine de mort; celui-là seul à qui le roi tend son sceptre d’or a la vie sauve. Or, moi, je n’ai pas été invitée à venir chez le roi voilà trente jours. » (Esther 4,11)

Néanmoins, le Livre d’Esther nous raconte qu’après avoir supplié les Juifs de prier et de jeûner en sa faveur, Esther choisit de faire fi du protocole face à la menace d’extermination qui plane sur son peuple. Et elle parvient à abroger ce funeste décret. En conséquence, les Juifs, à ce jour, célèbrent la fête de Pourim.

Dans la tradition juive, le récit de Pourim marque la commémoration d’un autre type de miracle. Le scénario du Livre d’Esther est fait d’une série de coïncidences si statistiquement improbables qu’il témoigne de la main divine cachée derrière la nature. C’est la raison pour laquelle c’est le seul livre de tout le canon biblique qui ne comporte pas la moindre mention du nom de Dieu. Dans ce monde, Dieu cache Sa face, mais Il est tout aussi impliqué dans la direction du monde que lorsqu’Il sépara la mer devant les Hébreux qui fuyaient les Égyptiens. Pour les commentateurs juifs, Pourim incarne donc cet adage célèbre – et ironiquement anonyme – affirmant que « la coïncidence est le moyen que Dieu choisit pour conserver Son anonymat. »

Et dans cette optique, il est tout à fait remarquable que le discours du Premier ministre Benyamin Netanyahou « coïncide » avec la veille du jeûne d’Esther, lequel commémore l’héroïsme d’une reine qui décida que la survie de son peuple avait préséance sur le respect du protocole.

Voir aussi:

Le discours de Netanyahou : Enfin !
Shmuel Trigano
Desinfos
3 mars 2015

Le discours de Netanyahou au Congrès américain fut un moment grandiose. En mettant en garde le monde occidental contre la menace qui pèse sur lui, en l’exhortant à ne pas pratiquer de politique d’apaisement envers l’Iran, il constitue un événement d’importance mondiale. Aucun homme politique occidental, a fortiori israélien, n’est capable d’une telle audace. En privilégiant la sauvegarde du lien à Obama, le tandem Livni-Herzog ne propose qu’une politique de démission nationale sur tous les enjeux vitaux d’Israël. Le « camp sioniste » qu’ils représentent est dans l’orbite de la démission munichoise qui les fait ressembler à l’Union Européenne.

Ce discours prend aussi une résonnance américaine ou un président qui n’a plus de majorité gouverne par ukases et coups de force. En se dressant contre sa politique démissionnaire, il invite aussi les élus américains à résister au dévoiement de la démocratie américaine.

La présidence Obama a ruiné les intérêts et les défenses du monde libre.

Elle a ouvert la voie à une multitude de conflits locaux et notamment à la décomposition du monde arabe.

Elle a acculé Israël à un affaiblissement dans sa puissance qu’il n’a jamais connu, l’obligeant à réitérer la même guerre tous les deux ans.

Elle a réveillé un climat de guerre froide avec la Russie.

Mais ce qui est le plus important, c’est que Netanyahou a eu l’audace de nommer l’ennemi, ce dont les leaders juifs du monde entier n’ont plus la force.

Il a eu l’audace d’affirmer que le « peuple juif » – c’est le terme employé – saura se tenir debout pour faire face à l’ennemi et n’hésitera pas à défendre son existence.

En évoquant la leçon de la Shoah, il a clairement défini l’enjeu vital et total qui se joue pour le peuple juif aujourd’hui et qui nécessite une levée en masse des Juifs pour défendre le sanctuaire de leur existence comme peuple.

Enfin, la touche juive de son propos est capitale.

On est loin des discours insipides et bureaucratiques à la Livni !

Netanyahou a évoqué la figure d’Aman, un autre perse, et il a terminé sur la figure de Moïse.

C’est là la tonalité d’un vrai leader du peuple juif, capable d’intégrer l’histoire éternelle d’Israël aux enjeux les plus contemporains.

Nous devons y trouver la force d’un sursaut !

Voir également:

Netanyahu’s Churchillian warning

Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post
March 5, 2005

Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress was notable in two respects. Queen Esther got her first standing O in 2,500 years. And President Obama came up empty in his campaign to preemptively undermine Netanyahu before the Israeli prime minister could present his case on the Iran negotiations.

On the contrary. The steady stream of slights and insults turned an irritant into an international event and vastly increased the speech’s audience and reach. Instead of dramatically unveiling an Iranian nuclear deal as a fait accompli, Obama must now first defend his Iranian diplomacy.

In particular, argues The Post, he must defend its fundamental premise. It had been the policy of every president since 1979 that Islamist Iran must be sanctioned and contained. Obama, however, is betting instead on detente to tame Iran’s aggressive behavior and nuclear ambitions.

For six years, Obama has offered the mullahs an extended hand. He has imagined that with Kissingerian brilliance he would turn the Khamenei regime into a de facto U.S. ally in pacifying the Middle East. For his pains, Obama has been rewarded with an Iran that has ramped up its aggressiveness in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, and brazenly defied the world on uranium enrichment.

He did the same with Russia. He offered Vladimir Putin a new detente. “Reset,” he called it. Putin responded by decimating his domestic opposition, unleashing a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign, ravaging Ukraine and shaking the post-Cold War European order to its foundations.

Like the Bourbons, however, Obama learns nothing. He persists in believing that Iran’s radical Islamist regime can be turned by sweet reason and fine parchment into a force for stability. It’s akin to his refusal to face the true nature of the Islamic State, Iran’s Sunni counterpart. He simply can’t believe that such people actually believe what they say.

That’s what made Netanyahu’s critique of the U.S.-Iran deal so powerful. Especially his dissection of the sunset clause. In about 10 years, the deal expires. Sanctions are lifted and Iran is permitted unlimited uranium enrichment with an unlimited number of centrifuges of unlimited sophistication. As the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens points out, we don’t even allow that for democratic South Korea.

The prime minister offered a concrete alternative. Sunset? Yes, but only after Iran changes its behavior, giving up its regional aggression and worldwide support for terror.

Netanyahu’s veiled suggestion was that such a modification — plus a significant reduction in Iran’s current nuclear infrastructure, which the Obama deal leaves intact — could produce a deal that “Israel and its [Arab] neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally.”

Obama’s petulant response was: “The prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.” But he just did: conditional sunset, smaller infrastructure. And if the Iranians walk away, then you ratchet up sanctions, as Congress is urging, which, with collapsed oil prices, would render the regime extremely vulnerable.

And if that doesn’t work? Hence Netanyahu’s final point: Israel is prepared to stand alone, a declaration that was met with enthusiastic applause reflecting widespread popular support.

It was an important moment, especially because of the libel being perpetrated by some that Netanyahu is trying to get America to go to war with Iran. This is as malicious a calumny as Charles Lindbergh’s charge on Sept. 11, 1941, that “the three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”

In its near-70 year history, Israel has never once asked America to fight for it. Not in 1948 when 650,000 Jews faced 40 million Arabs. Not in 1967 when Israel was being encircled and strangled by three Arab armies. Not in 1973 when Israel was on the brink of destruction. Not in the three Gaza wars or the two Lebanon wars.

Compare that to a very partial list of nations for which America has fought and for which so many Americans have fallen: Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Vietnam, Korea, and every West European country beginning with France (twice).

Change the deal, strengthen the sanctions, give Israel a free hand. Netanyahu offered a different path in his clear, bold and often moving address, Churchillian in its appeal to resist appeasement. This was not Churchill of the 1940s, but Churchill of the 1930s, the wilderness prophet. Which is why for all its sonorous strength, Netanyahu’s speech had a terrible poignancy. After all, Churchill was ignored.

Voir encore:

Right Turn
Our Arab allies understand what Obama doesn’t
Jennifer Rubin
Washington Post
February 16

Were President Obama to acknowledge forthrightly that “extremists” are out to kill Jews (whether in Europe or in genocidal fashion once nuclear weapons are obtained) and then Christians and other “nonbelievers,” he would be obliged, in turn, to recognize the ideological underpinnings of the Islamic jihadists. It is unsurprising, then, that he is in a political and rhetorical fight with the Jewish state’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who will not ignore the deliberate targeting of Jews; will not minimize the threat (unlike Obama, Netanyahu is quite clear this is an existential threat); will not go along with the charade in the P5+1 talks that will, if Obama has his way, result in a North Korea-like deal that allows the mullahs to go nuclear; will not accept (like Obama) Iranian gains throughout the region; and worst of all, will not shut up and let Obama enjoy his denial in peace. But what is even more intriguing is the degree to which Obama ignores the concerns of our Arab allies.

Jordanians participate in a mass demonstration after Friday prayers near Al Hussein Mosque to express their solidarity with the pilot murdered by the Islamic State group earlier this month. (Jordan Pix/Getty Images)

A conservative Middle East scholar recently commented to me, “Notice how Obama never says ‘Iran threatens Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.’ It’s always just about Israel.” Indeed, if one really wanted to mount a robust opposition militarily, politically and rhetorically, one would not portray the Iranian problem as “merely” a threat to Israel; one would have to concede it is an existential threat to all of our Arab allies. If one wanted to stop treading water and throw everything we have against the Islamic State, one might follow the example of Jordan and Egypt, which conducted bombing runs when their people were slaughtered by jihadists. If Obama actually appreciated the threat Iran poses to its Sunni neighbors, he would be horrified instead of copacetic about Iran’s efforts to dominate Iraq. (“Shiite militias backed by Iran are increasingly taking the lead in Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State, threatening to undermine U.S. strategies intended to bolster the central government, rebuild the Iraqi army and promote reconciliation with the country’s embittered Sunni minority.”)

While he might imagine he can shut up Netanyahu or make it nearly impossible for the Jewish state to object to a done-deal with Iran on its nukes, Obama will not be able to dissuade Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia from ordering up their own nuclear weapons, thereby setting off a regional nuclear arms race. He might try to bully Israel, as his secretary of state did in truce talks to end the latest Gaza War, but Egypt won’t abide by a deal that strengthens the hand of Iranian-backed Hamas. (Nor will Egypt desist from attacking Hamas forces in the Sinai.)

In short, Obama’s vision for reconciliation with Iran and for slow-walking the battle with the Islamic State is doomed to fail, not just because the jihadists will continue to strike out against the West and not just because Israel won’t allow a nuclear-armed Iran. It is destined to fail because Sunni Arab states won’t abide by an Iran-dominated Middle East or by jihadists who slaughter their people. In a very real sense, on the threat posed by Islamic terrorists, Obama is far behind our Arab allies and Israel, neither of which have the luxury of self-delusion.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

Voir de plus:

Bad News, Democrats: Netanyahu’s popularity rivals Obama’s
Noah Rothman
Hot air

March 2, 2015

For weeks, those trapped within the Beltway echo chamber have reassured themselves that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to accept an invitation from congressional Republicans to address a joint session of the federal legislature was a significant strategic blunder of the first order.

They insisted that Netanyahu’s determination to take advantage of a GOP offer made without consulting the president would only further isolate the Israeli prime minister, politicize the Israeli-American relationship, and create a controversy in Israel that could result in a backlash against the prime minister and his party ahead of an upcoming general election. These were always more assertions of faith than examples of objective political analysis. The commentary class might have hoped that providence would punish Netanyahu for this brazen display of defiance in opposition to the president’s preferences, but the fates’ wrath has not yet materialized.

Ahead of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday, Gallup found the Israeli Prime Minister’s popularity rating in the United States was nearing an all-time high. 45 percent of the public views Netanyahu positively compared to just 24 percent of the public who views the Israeli leader unfavorably. That’s a 10-point increase from just 2012 when 35 percent of American survey respondents viewed Netanyahu positively and 23 percent had a negative opinion about the Israeli prime minister.

While Netanyahu’s favorable score has varied slightly over the years, his unfavorable score has been relatively stable, ranging from 20% to 28%. Notably, even while his favorable score increased since 2012, his unfavorable score stayed about the same. Meanwhile, fewer Americans have no opinion of Netanyahu today than did so in 2012, with 31% vs. 41%, respectively, either saying they are unsure or have never heard of him.
The survey found that six in ten Republicans are predisposed to view Netanyahu favorably and self-described independents are more likely to align with Republicans in their view of the Israeli leader. Democrats, however, are split. 31 percent have a favorable opinion of the prime minister and another 31 percent have an unfavorable view.

By contrast, Barack Obama’s favorability rating with the American public is largely equal to Netanyahu’s. The most recent Economist/YouGov poll finds 45 percent of the American public views Obama’ favorably while 50 percent view him unfavorably. Gallup, meanwhile, pegs Obama’s favorability rating at 51 percent – the highest it has been in that survey in months and a dramatic rebound from his 42 percent rating in November of last year – while 48 percent have a negative opinion of the president. Only 44 percent, however, have a favorable view of the job Obama has done in office according to Gallup’s rolling three-day polling average.

Given these conditions, it has become increasingly clear that Obama is forcing his fellow Democrats into a trap. The White House tacitly invited a Democratic boycott of Netanyahu’s address to Congress by refusing to make the president, the vice president, or any high-level Cabinet official available to him during his visit. The president has not urged his fellow Democrats to avoid boycotting Netanyahu, and an ever-increasing number of Democratic officeholders have revealed their intention to engage in a display of fealty to Obama and his wounded ego by disrespecting Netanyahu.

Perhaps these Democrats are emboldened to walk out on Netanyahu by polls, like a recent NBC News/Marist survey, which show a plurality of Americans think it was bad form for Republicans to invite Netanyahu to speak, as is their privilege, without first consulting with the White House. But even that survey, which also found Israel and Netanyahu are generally viewed positively by a plurality of Americans, suggests that this “controversy” will not have long-lasting implications and the ramifications associated with Netanyahu’s speech will be short lived.

The New York Times warned on Monday that a tipping point in Israeli-American relations had been reached. The piece warned that Democrats who are shunning Netanyahu are the vanguard of a larger movement that could threaten Israel’s position as a preferred U.S. ally.

So far, 30 Democrats — four senators and 26 representatives — have said they will not attend the speech. Nearly half are African-Americans, who say they feel deeply that Mr. Netanyahu is disrespecting the president by challenging his foreign policy. But a half-dozen of those Democrats planning to stay away are Jewish, and represent 21 percent of Congress’s Jewish members.
It is just as logical to read this paragraph and conclude that the anti-Netanyahu movement on the far-left is an ideologically homogenous one. When taken in consideration with public polling, it is clear that the boycott movement represents a fraction of a fraction of the Democratic Party and is utterly unrepresentative of the American people.

What’s more, the public polling on Israel contrast sharply with a Gallup survey that discovered that only 11 percent of the American public has a favorable opinion of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 84 percent of the public has an unfavorable opinion of the Islamic Republic, results that call into question the administration’s ability to sell a nuclear accord to the American public. As the administration works tirelessly toward securing a deal, any deal, with Iran that would forestall its ability to construct a nuclear weapon, White House officials cannot be encouraged by these numbers.

Democrats have been put in an awkward position by this administration’s naked hostility toward the Israeli leader. Last week, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a committed Democrat, warned his fellow party members in Congress to avoid making support for Israel a partisan issue. For most Americans, it isn’t. Between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, the president is in the most danger of alienating the American people.

Voir de plus:

Analyse: discours de Netanyahou, une belle entrée mais un final décevant
L’impact de l’intervention du PM israélien ne sera mesurable qu’au terme des négociations avec l’Iran

Tal Shalev

i24news

04 Mars 2015

 « Tellement de choses ont été écrites sur un discours qui n’a pas encore été prononcé », a déclaré le Premier ministre israélien lundi soir, avec un sourire fier.

Netanyahou a pu observer les drames que l’annonce de son allocution a provoqués des deux côtés de l’océan Atlantique dans les semaines et les jours qui ont précédé sa venue à Washington.

Ce même sourire s’affichait à nouveau sur son visage mardi soir, après plus d’une vingtaine d’ovations, prouvant, à ses yeux, que toutes les paroles prononcées visant à provoquer le président américain face aux centaines d’élus présents dans l’assistance en valaient la peine.

Aux yeux de Netanyahou, ce discours au Congrès restera dans l’histoire comme une brillante allocution de plus de l’orateur acclamé.

Comme prévu, Netanyahou a fait preuve de ses talents d’orateur.

Après une entrée grandiose et de chaleureux applaudissements, il a entamé son discours avec quelques paroles bienveillantes pour le président américain. S’il a admis les tensions provoquées par sa collaboration avec le président républicain de la Chambre des représentants John Bohner, il a salué l’engagement d’Obama en faveur de la sécurité d’Israël et a été acclamé lorsqu’il a souligné la force de l’alliance américano-israélienne.

Mais le Premier ministre a fait son exposé, et c’en était alors fini des ovations bipartisanes – des deux côtés de l’hémicycle.

Les observateurs ont relevé l’expression sur le visage de Nancy Pelosi, représentante des démocrates à la Chambre. Après le discours, Pelosi, qui soutient avec force Israël, a déclaré par la suite qu’elle avait presque pleuré pendant le discours, blessée par « l’insulte faite aux renseignements des États-Unis ».

Netanyahou avait de nombreux atouts en poche pour renforcer son message, sans attaquer directement la Maison Blanche : les citations de Robert Frost sur le chemin qui n’a pas été pris, les références aux personnages de Pourim Esther et Haman, l’analogie incontestable entre l’Iran et le régime nazi, ses slogans digne de « Game of Thrones », et l’hommage au prix Nobel de la paix et survivant de la Shoah Elie Wiesel, invité pour apporter un appui moral dans l’assistance.

Il a également fait des déclarations fortes et convaincantes sur la menace nucléaire iranienne, et lancé un avertissement au monde face devant la pression iranienne et sur la nécessité de parvenir à un meilleur accord plutôt qu’en accepter un mauvais.

Mais sans le nommer, il a continué ses attaques détournées contre Obama, sous-entendant que celui-ci est naïf, qu’il ne fait pas son travail, et qu’il restera dans l’histoire comme quelqu’un qui a mis l’Etat juif et peut-être même le monde entier en danger.

Le président lui-même n’a pas pris la peine d’assister au discours et a programmé une conférence téléphonique internationale exactement à la même heure. Cinquante députés démocrates ont fait de même, étant absents du Congrès pour montrer leur soutien au président et protester contre l’invité israélien.

Toutefois, le “lobby Netanyahou” au Congrès a réalisé un travail incroyable en effaçant l’absence des démocrates et les sièges vides ont été remplis par de fervents partisans. Quand les démocrates ont cessé d’applaudir, les applaudissements du milliardaire Sheldon Adelson, du leader conservateur Newt Gringrinch, de Elie Wiesel et de la délégation israélienne ont résonné de plus fort.

Réagissant à ce discours, l’administration a marqué un autre point, en minimisant son importance, le qualifiant de simple rhétorique, notant qu’ « il n’y avait rien de nouveau ». Simplement exiger de l’Iran qu’il capitule complètement n’est pas un projet ou une idée nouvelle, comme l’a relevé un haut fonctionnaire. Après que tant de choses ont été écrites sur le “Congress Gate” et après les applaudissements, il y avait au final un sentiment de déception.

Netanyahou a fait son show, mais le résultat de son intervention ne sera connu qu’après la tentative américaine de parvenir à un accord sur le programme nucléaire de Téhéran. Pendant ce temps, les relations toxiques entre Jérusalem et Washington ne vont pas disparaître, et le choc des intérêts sur la question iranienne continuera de déranger les partisans de la précieuse alliance américano-israélienne.

Netanyahou, de son côté, peut envisager les choses à plus court terme. Deux semaines avant les élections, son spectacle de deux jours à Washington lui a procuré le public parfait pour reprendre la main sur l’agenda, et distraire l’attention d’Israël des récents scandales et de la crise du logement qui se profile.

Selon les prochains sondages, Netanyahou aurait entre 2 et 3 points de moins que ses rivaux de l’Union Sioniste. Avant de quitter Washington dimanche, Netanyahou s’est rendu au Mur des Lamentations à Jérusalem pour y trouver de l’inspiration. Sur le chemin du retour, il priera pour que son discours au Congrès lui permette d’obtenir au moins quelques voix supplémentaires.

Tal Shalev est la correspondante diplomatique de la chaîne i24news.

Voir de plus:

Netanyahu, Not Obama, Speaks for Us

While under fierce attack from President Obama, the Israeli prime minister defends Western values and speaks the truth about Iran.

Quin Hillyer

National review on line

March 2, 2015

The leader of the free world will be addressing Congress on Tuesday. The American president is doing everything possible to undermine him.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a nation surrounded by enemies, a nation so small that it narrows at one point to just 9.3 miles. Yet, in a world where the Oval Office is manned by someone openly apologetic for most American exercises of power; and where Western Europe’s economy is enervated, its people largely faithless, and its leadership feckless; and where Freedom House has found “an overall drop in [global] freedom for the ninth consecutive year,” the safeguarding of our civilization might rely more on leaders who possess uncommon moral courage than on those who possess the most nukes or biggest armies.

Right now, nobody on the world stage speaks for civilization the way Netanyahu does. While Barack Obama babbles about the supposedly “legitimate grievances” of those who turn to jihad, Netanyahu talks like this (from his speech to the United Nations on September 27, 2012):

The clash between modernity and medievalism need not be a clash between progress and tradition. The traditions of the Jewish people go back thousands of years. They are the source of our collective values and the foundation of our national strength.

At the same time, the Jewish people have always looked towards the future. Throughout history, we have been at the forefront of efforts to expand liberty, promote equality, and advance human rights. We champion these principles not despite of our traditions but because of them.

We heed the words of the Jewish prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah to treat all with dignity and compassion, to pursue justice and cherish life and to pray and strive for peace. These are the timeless values of my people and these are the Jewish people’s greatest gift to mankind.

Let us commit ourselves today to defend these values so that we can defend our freedom and protect our common civilization.

When Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel last year, Netanyahu, in his necessary military response, did something almost unprecedented in the history of warfare. As he accurately described in his U.N. speech last year, on September 29:

Israel was doing everything to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television, always to enable Palestinian civilians to evacuate targeted areas.

No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies

As Barack Obama complains (with scant grasp of the historical context) about how Christians were such gosh-darn meanies a thousand years ago in the Crusades, Netanyahu protects the ability of Muslims today to have free access to the Old City of Jerusalem, even as Jews and Christians are prohibited from visiting the Temple Mount. At the beginning of his first term, in his first trip overseas as president, Obama delivered a speech to Turkey’s parliament, under the thumb of the repressive Tayyip Erdogan. “The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history,” he confessed, sounding like America’s therapist-in-chief. “Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.”

Netanyahu, in contrast, in a 2011 Meet the Press interview, offered unabashed words of praise for the United States: “Israel is the one country in which everyone is pro-American, opposition and coalition alike. And I represent the entire people of Israel who say, ‘Thank you, America.’ And we’re friends of America, and we’re the only reliable allies of America in the Middle East.” (Netanyahu was accurate in his description of how much Israelis appreciate Americans, as I saw last summer during a visit to the country.)

In thanking America, Netanyahu was not posturing for political advantage. Netanyahu — who spent far more of his formative years on the American mainland than Obama did, and who took enemy fire at the age when Obama was openly pushing Marxist theory, and who learned and practiced free enterprise at the same age when Obama was practicing and teaching Alinskyism — has spoken eloquently for decades in praise of the Western heritage of freedom and human rights. He also speaks and acts, quite obviously, to preserve security — for Israel, of course, but more broadly for the civilized world. On Tuesday, as he has done for more than 30 years, Netanyahu will talk about the threat to humanity posed by Iran.

It’s mind-boggling to imagine that any national leader in the free world would fail to understand the danger. The ayatollahs have never backed down from their stated aim of destroying Christendom. They have never wavered from their depiction of the United States as the “Great Satan.” Just last week, Iran bragged about its recent test-firing of “new strategic weapons” that it says will “play a key role” in any future battle against the “Great Satan U.S.”

Iran also continues developing, while trying to keep them secret, new missiles and launch sites with devastatingly long-range capability. It continues to enrich uranium, including an allegedly secret program, to a level that’s a short jump-step from bomb strength. It has a lengthy record of lying and cheating about its military activities, its compliance with U.N. mandates (not that the U.N. is worth much anyway), and its protections of even the limited human rights it actually recognizes as such.

About the only thing Iran never lies about is its absolute, unyielding determination to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It was only a few months ago, for example, that the “revolutionary” regime’s “Supreme Leader,” the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, released a nine-point plan for how to “annihilate” the Jewish state.

Yet Obama not only begrudges the Israeli prime minister the opportunity to make his case against this existential threat to his nation, but he conducts a diplomatic and political assault against Netanyahu of a ferocity rarely seen in the annals of American foreign policy. Obama’s actions aren’t just wrongheaded; they are malignant. They pervert American tradition and American interests, and they attempt to deprive the entire free world of its single most clarion voice for enlightenment values.

Benjamin Netanyahu of course speaks first for Israel, but he speaks also for you and for me, for decency and humaneness, and for vigilance and strength against truly evil adversaries. Congress, by inviting him, is wise. Obama, by opposing him, is horribly wrong. And the civilized world, if it ignores him, will be well-nigh suicidal.

— Quin Hillyer is a contributing editor for National Review Online.

Voir aussi:

Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
03/02/2015

Netanyahu views that his destiny is to protect the Jewish state, and — by extension — the future of the Jews. In his mind, this is why he was fated to come to power. Nothing less.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress on Tuesday, he will likely make reference to Purim, that holiday that will begin Wednesday night commemorating the Jews’ salvation from the hands of Haman and the Persians thousands of years ago.

How could he not; it’s a slam dunk.

Then the Persians wanted to destroy the Jews; today the Persians want to destroy the state of the Jews. Same peoples, same tired story line.

And in this modern day version of the Biblical Book of Esther that many of the US legislators he will be speaking to are familiar with from their Sunday school days, Netanyahu — at least judging from his rhetoric over the last few weeks — sees himself cast as a combination of Mordechai and Esther.

Mordechai was the character in the Book of Esther who recognized the threats to his people in real time; Esther the one who — through the right words, at the right time, in the right situation — took action to thwart them. Netanyahu sees himself playing both roles.

In his mind he is the one who, going back to his first speech to Congress in 1996 where he already identified the danger of a nuclear Iran as the biggest threat facing Israel, is the Mordechai character. He is also the one lobbying the King, in this case US President Barack Obama in the role of King Ahashverush, to get him to squelch the Persian plot against the Jews.

One of the most poignant moments in the Book of Esther comes toward the end of Chapter 4, when Mordechai has alerted Esther to the dangers hovering above the Jews, and entreats her to plead her people’s case before the King. Her answer was to hem-and-haw a bit and say she was not invited to meet the King, and those who approach him without being invited face death.

Mordechai’s reply: « If you remain silent at such a time as this, relief and deliverance for the Jews will appear from some other quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. Who knows, perhaps it is for such a time as this that you have come to your royal position. »

Netanyahu’s critics say this speech is all about the elections. But Judging from everything that Netanyahu has said over the years, not just for this election cycle, he views that this — protecting his people and his country from destruction — is the reason he came to power.

Other prime ministers, such as Yitzhak Rabin or Shimon Peres, viewed their reason for rule as becoming The Peacemaker. Netanyahu never cast himself in that role. He views that his destiny is to protect the Jewish state, and — by extension — the future of the Jews. In his mind, this is why he was fated to come to power. Nothing less.

Netanyahu, the best English orator Israel has ever had at its helm, also believes — much like Obama — in the power of words. That he is going forward with a speech that he obviously knows will severely complicate his life with Obama until the end of the President’s term, indicates that he — as sources close to him have said — believes in the possibility that words can convince key policy makers that the concessions being offered to Iran are much too much.

Esther saved the Jewish people not through a great military achievement, but with daring to speak to the King. Netanyahu seems to see himself playing a similar role.

It is worth noting that in recent days Netanyahu, including Monday in his address to AIPAC, has noted other Israeli Prime Ministers who at key crossroads have been willing to take action even when it ran contrary to US policy.

Netanyahu has mentioned David Ben-Gurion, who declared statehood in 1948, even though the US State Department was adamantly opposed. He has mentioned Levi Eshkol, who took preemptive action in June 1967 against the Egyptians, even though the US president at the time, Lyndon Baines Johnson, was firmly against. He mentioned Menachem Begin, who took out the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 even though then president Ronald Reagan was so incensed at the move that he temporarily halted the delivery of fighter planes to Israel. And he cited Ariel Sharon, who continued with Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, even when president George W. Bush called on him to stop.

(Netanyahu also could have mentioned Ehud Olmert, who — according to foreign reports — issued the order in 2007 to take out a Syrian nuclear facility, even though the US preferred to deal with the matter at the UN).

By raising these cases, Netanyhau is saying that the prime minister is joining the ranks of other Israeli premiers who took brave action even if it risked a rocky patch in the relationship with the US.

But the parallels are far from perfect. Ben-Gurion, Eshkol, Begin and Sharon all took concrete actions to further what they viewed as vital Israeli interests, even if these ran up against American wishes. What Netanyahu is doing is giving a speech — not ordering a military strike.

But Netanyahu has shown over his long career that he believes in the efficacy of the speech, and how the right words, at the right time, delivered in the right way, can change history. One precedent he is leaning on is the Book of Esther.

Some are likening Netanyahu’s speech to Congress as a duel with Obama and calling it High Noon. Considering the season, however, it may be more apt to call it Purim on the Potomac.

Voir aussi:

Why Religious Jews See a Parallel Between the Netanyahu-Obama Rift on Iran and the Bible’s Book of Esther
Sharona Schwartz
The Blaze
Feb. 25, 2015

Religious Jews are drawing parallels between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address next week to Congress, which has earned the ire of the Obama administration, and the experiences of the biblical Esther who made the case to Persia’s king on behalf of the Jewish people to halt the designs of a hate-consumed official to annihilate the Jews.

The faithful have been sharing their thoughts on social media and have pointed to the the timing of Netanyahu’s speech, March 3, which happens to fall of the eve of the Fast of Esther, when Jews commemorate the three-day fast Queen Esther asked the Jews to undertake while they repented and prayed she would succeed in her mission to convince King Ahasuerus to scuttle the evil Haman’s genocidal plans.

The Obama administration has lambasted Israel over Netanyahu’s accepting an invitation from House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) to speak to Congress, which it described as a break in diplomatic protocol.

Some religious leaders have noted that the same kind of break in protocol was key to the Jews’ redemption in the Book of Esther. The Jewish holiday of Purim, which this year is celebrated March 5, marks Esther’s success in her mission to thwart Haman’s destructive plan.

“Remarkably, this is not the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people,” Yeshiva University Professor Rabbi Benjamin Blech wrote in an article for the Jewish educational organization Aish Hatorah. “There is biblical precedent. Eerily echoing today’s story, the Book of Esther recounts the first recorded instance of attempted genocide against Jews in the ancient empire of Persia, today known as Iran.”

In the Book of Esther, Mordechai learns of Haman’s plot to exterminate all the Jews “in a single day.” Mordechai urges his adopted daughter Esther to intercede with her husband, the king.

“But Esther is afraid. If she were to approach her husband to appeal Haman’s decree, she would be breaking royal protocol” by approaching the king when she had not been summoned, which could lead to a death penalty for her, Blech explained.

After begging the Jews to fast and pray, “Esther chose to disregard protocol in the face of possible extermination of her people. Esther succeeded in averting the evil decree. As a result, Jews to this day around the world celebrate the Festival of Purim,” Blech wrote.

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of the Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida also likened Mordechai and Esther to Netanyahu.

“Why did we ultimately triumph over Haman such that we are here today and he is a distant memory? The answer is simple: Mordechai and Esther, two heroes stood up and, like an alarm, rang and rang until they woke up our people from their practically comatose sleep,” Goldberg wrote. “Like Mordechai and Esther before him, on the eve of Ta’anis Esther [Fast of Esther] this year, the Prime Minister of Israel will speak before a joint a session of Congress and seek to sound the alarm, to awaken from their sleep the decision-makers who can stop the wicked plans of modern day Persia.”

Goldberg recalled a lesson shared by the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, considered one of the leading rabbinical figures of Orthodox Judaism.

Purim is often celebrated as commemorating a miracle, but Soloveitchik offered a unique view on what the real miracle was.

“A madman rose and articulated his intentions to destroy the Jewish people. The miracle was that we didn’t ignore him, we didn’t excuse him, and we didn’t seek to reinterpret him. The miracle was that we actually believed him and sought to do something about it,” Goldberg wrote, citing Soloveitchik’s lesson.

Rabbi Benzion “Benny” Hershcovich, an emissary of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement who directs the Cabo Jewish Center, pointed out that the redemption of the Jews as told in the Book of Esther was described as occurring by natural means, with no overt divine miracle recounted.

Indeed, God is never mentioned in the Book of Esther, though religious Jews note the improbable string of coincidences that led to the Jews’ salvation, suggesting God’s invisible hand was at work.

Hershcovich told TheBlaze Wednesday that like Esther, “here Netanyahu is trying to go about ensuring Israel’s survival through political means” and is not “depending on a miracle.”

The rabbi explained that the current Jewish month of Adar in which Purim is celebrated is considered to be a joyous month.

“Adar is the month where the Jewish people are victorious against Persia so the timing of Netanyahu’s speech – not only in political sense – but from a religious point of view, there’s probabaly no better time for him to speak out against the modern day Haman than in the proximity to Purim,” Hershcovich said.

He noted that the 1991 Gulf War even ended on the Purim holiday.

“So in general, Purim is a good day for Jews,” Hershcovich said.

Voir également:

Netanyahu gives Obama the Book of Esther. Biblical parable for nuclear Iran?
Esther tells of a Persian plot against the Jews that was thwarted through cunning and the intercession of a gentile king. Purim, the holiday that celebrates the story, starts tonight.
Dan Murphy
The Christian Science Monitor
March 7, 2012

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave President Obama the Book of Esther as a gift a few days ago, the message was only slightly less subtle than if he had constructed a massive neon billboard across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the message « Mr. President, please help me destroy Iran before they destroy us. »

The Book of Esther is from the Old Testament, and it’s a story that Jews across the world will celebrate tonight and tomorrow with the holiday of Purim. Unlike much of the good book, there are hardly any mentions of God. Instead it’s a tale of backroom maneuvering ending in victory for the Jews and destruction of their enemies, with a woman in the rare role of hero. Did this 2,500-year-old tale of double-dealing and deceit, set in the old Persian Empire, really happen? Well, your mileage may vary. Does it contain lessons for today? Bibi certainly thinks so.

One of his aides told a reporter that gift was meant to provide “background reading” on Iran for Obama. In a speech to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying group, Netanyahu described Haman, the villain of the tale, as « a Persian anti-Semite [who] tried to annihilate the Jewish people. » The context of his speech was that Iran, the modern successor to Persia, presents the greatest danger to peace and security on the planet.

While I’m not sure foreign policy is well-crafted with ancient biblical texts as a guide, the lessons of the Esther story are taken seriously by Netanyahu and millions of Jews. Some Jewish traditions say Hitler is not a historical aberration, but a descendent of Haman (who, in turn, was a descendant of the Jews’ enemies in Egypt). The story of a proposed genocide of the Jews in ancient Persia? Evidence for why the modern state of Israel had to be established – there could be no guaranteed security or safety for Jews living in a Gentile-majority state.

What happened? The Persian king Ahasuerus is displeased with his wife and casts her aside, ordering his men to scour the country for a new bride. The beautiful orphan Esther, being fostered by her cousin Mordechai, is brought before Ahasuerus and he takes her as his wife. Mordechai tells her to keep her Jewish identity a secret.

Some time later, Mordechai overhears a plot against the king and transmits the warning through Esther. But Mordechai’s role is unknown and he runs into trouble when some time after that, Haman is elevated to vizier – the king’s prime minister and right-hand man. Haman is not a nice man. After Mordechai refuses to bow down before the vain and bullying Haman, the vizier decides to eradicate all Jews in Persia in revenge. With a honeyed tongue in the king’s ear warning that Jews are disloyal and dangerous, he wins approval. On a set date, all the Jews in the empire will be slaughtered.

Mordechai learns of the plot, and sends word to Esther that she must intercede with the king. He beseeches her: « If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this. » (As quoted in the New International Version of the Bible.)

So she arrays herself in finery and presents herself to Ahasuerus, who promises to give her anything she wants. She finally reveals she’s a Jew and that Haman’s plan means the destruction of her own people, and Mordechai – whose role in uncovering the assassination plot against the king has by now been revealed.

The furious king shifts positions, and gives the Jews permission to destroy their enemies. The story ends with Haman, his brothers, and 75,000 other Persians put to the sword. Mordechai is elevated to vizier, and given wide latitude to make policy.

It appears that in a modern context, Netanyahu sees himself as Mordechai, Iran’s leaders as Haman, and Obama perhaps as Ahasuerus, the powerful but easily influenced king who almost led to the Jews’ downfall but saved them in the nick of time. There isn’t an obvious Esther figure at the moment (though fans of the evangelical Christian politician Sarah Palin often compared her to Queen Esther, come to save her people « at a time such as this, » during her vice presidential run). But I think that’s enough of the plot to get the point.

The holiday itself, though very Jewish, is really a celebration of man (and woman) taking action to save themselves rather than waiting for divine intervention. There are no miracles but human ingenuity and intelligence, no great lessons beyond a reminder that the Jews have enemies, and when the chips are down they’d better look to themselves first (as Netanyahu told AIPAC, « The purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future. Never again will we not be masters of the fate of our very survival. Never again. That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. »)

The holiday has evolved down the centuries into a cross between Halloween and Hogmanay. There will be readings from Esther in synagogues tonight, but also kids running around in costumes gobbling sweet Hamantaschen (« Haman’s hats, » though in modern Hebrew they’re called « Haman’s ears »). Their elders generally indulge in the harder stuff. It’s a celebration of victory and survival.

In the modern tale being told by Netanyahu, with his frequent warnings that Iran’s nuclear program is the gathering storm of a new Holocaust, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the one « trying to kill us. » War talk has been quieted slightly by Obama’s skillful handling of his own meetings with Netanyahu and AIPAC this week. But the biblical underpinnings of Netanyahu’s and many others Jews fears promise to, eventually, ratchet up the heat again.

Voir par ailleurs:

Nétanyahou agite une menace imminente du nucléaire iranien… depuis 20 ans
Elvire Camus

Le Monde

03.03.2015

Depuis plus de vingt ans, les interventions de Benyamin Nétanyahou sur le nucléaire iranien se suivent et se ressemblent. A quinze jours des élections législatives anticipées en Israël, le premier ministre prononce, mardi 3 mars, un discours devant le Congrès américain, afin de dissuader une nouvelle fois le groupe P5 + 1 (Etats-Unis, Russie, Chine, France, Royaume-Uni et Allemagne) de parvenir à un accord sur le nucléaire iranien.

« Mes amis, pendant plus d’un an on nous a dit qu’aucun accord était préférable à un mauvais accord. C’est un mauvais accord, le monde se portera mieux sans lui », a déclaré le premier ministre israélien mardi. Selon lui, cet accord, qui vise à limiter le programme nucléaire de l’Iran mais dont les contours ne sont pas connus, y compris d’Israël, permettrait à la République islamique de « s’empresser de fabriquer une bombe » atomique. « Le régime iranien représente une grande menace pour Israël, mais aussi pour la paix du monde entier », a encore lancé M. Netanyahu, mardi, très applaudi par les élus américains présents.

Ce n’est pas la première fois que Benyamin Nétanyahou alerte sur l’imminence de la nucléarisation de l’Iran – et il oublie parfois que ses anciennes prédictions ne se sont pas vérifiées.

En 1996 : « Le temps nous est compté »

Comme le relève le site d’information The Intercept, dès 1992, alors qu’il n’est pas encore premier ministre, le député Nétanyahou avertit le Parlement israélien, que l’Iran sera capable de fabriquer une arme nucléaire dans « trois à cinq ans ».

Quatre ans plus tard, la République islamique n’est pas en capacité de se doter de l’arme atomique. Le premier ministre israélien se contente de répéter, lors de son premier discours devant le Congrès américain, au mois de juillet 1996, qu’il faut tout faire pour empêcher, sans tarder, « la nucléarisation d’Etats terroristes », en l’occurrence l’Iran et l’Irak. « Mais la date limite pour atteindre cet objectif se rapproche fortement », prévient-il alors, avant de poursuivre :

« Mesdames et Messieurs, le temps nous est compté. […] Il ne s’agit pas de dramatiser la situation plus qu’elle ne l’est déjà. »
En 2011, soit quinze ans plus tard, Nétanyahou s’adresse une deuxième fois à la Chambre des représentants américains et répète la même formule, sans tenir compte de ses calculs de 1992 ou de 1996 :

« Maintenant, le temps nous est compté […]. Car le plus grand de tous les dangers pourrait bientôt s’abattre sur nous : un régime islamique militant doté de l’arme nucléaire. de la bombe nucléaire. »
En 2012 : « quelques mois, peut-être quelques semaines »

En 2012, Benyamin Nétanyahou brandit, lors d’un célèbre discours aux Nations unies, une pancarte représentant schématiquement une bombe. Il assure que la République islamique a atteint le seuil dangereux de 70 % d’enrichissement de son uranium et qu’aux alentours du printemps, voire de l’été 2013 « au plus tard », le pays pourrait passer à « l’étape finale », soit un enrichissement à 90 %, seuil minimum pour pouvoir fabriquer une bombe.

« Ils n’ont besoin que de quelques mois, peut-être quelques semaines, avant d’avoir suffisamment d’uranium enrichi pour la première bombe. »
Or, un câble diplomatique obtenu par Al-Jazira révèle que les services secrets israéliens étaient à l’époque parvenus à des conclusions opposées : l’Iran ne « fournit pas l’activité nécessaire à la production d’armes » nucléaires, affirmait le Mossad.

En 2013 : à nouveau « une question de semaines »

Un an plus tard, dans un entretien accordé au Monde en octobre 2013, peu avant la reprise des discussions entre l’Iran et le groupe P 5+1, le premier ministre israélien tient encore le même discours, mais en changeant l’échéance :

« Si on laisse aux Iraniens la capacité d’enrichir à un faible degré, ils seront capables d’enrichir rapidement l’uranium à haute dose, c’est une question de semaines. »
Lire l’entretien : « L’Iran veut développer 200 bombes nucléaires »

Après un accord préliminaire conclu en novembre 2013 entre le groupe P5+1 et l’Iran, qui prévoyait que la République islamique accepte de limiter son programme nucléaire, en échange d’un allégement des sanctions économiques, M. Nétanyahou dénonce une « erreur historique » et son ministre de l’économie met en garde contre la possibilité pour l’Iran de fabriquer une bombe nucléaire dans un délai très court :

« L’accord laisse intacte la machine nucléaire iranienne et pourrait permettre à l’Iran de produire une bombe dans une période de six à sept semaines. »
Cette rhétorique récurrente peut expliquer pourquoi Barack Obama a minimisé la portée des derniers propos de Benyamin Nétanyahou, quelques heures avant le discours de ce dernier au Congrès américain. Le président américain a ainsi tenu à souligner que le premier ministre israélien s’était déjà « trompé par le passé » en présentant l’accord de novembre 2013 comme un « mauvais accord » que l’Iran ne respecterait pas.

Netanyahou, président de la droite américaine ?
Serge Halimi

Le Monde diplomatique

4 mars 2015

Il y a une vingtaine d’années, un ancien candidat républicain à l’élection présidentielle américaine avait comparé le Congrès des Etats-Unis à un « territoire israélien occupé ». En 2015, il est devenu inimaginable qu’un dirigeant républicain s’exprime avec autant de perfidie. M. Benyamin Netanyahou et ses idées s’imposent en effet sans résistance et sans effort dans le cénacle des parlementaires de Washington. Ils rencontrent davantage d’opposition… à la Knesset israélienne.

La chose ne s’explique pas uniquement par une majorité républicaine dans les deux chambres du Congrès, car les démocrates — et M. Barack Obama lui-même — ne refusent presque jamais rien à la droite israélienne et à son puissant lobby, l’AIPAC (1). Défendant devant celui-ci la cause du président des Etats-Unis et de son administration, Mme Samantha Powers, ambassadrice des Etats-Unis auprès des Nations unies, vient de rappeler que, ces six dernières années, le président Obama avait consacré 20 milliards de dollars à la sécurité d’Israël (2).

Néanmoins, en partie pour des raisons religieuses liées à la prégnance chez les évangélistes les plus conservateurs de théories fumeuses sur l’Apocalypse (3), en partie parce que le Parti républicain, comme l’actuel premier ministre israélien, adore décrire un Occident encerclé d’ennemis (en général musulmans) afin de justifier des interventions armées plus nombreuses et des dépenses militaires plus plantureuses, M. Netanyahou est devenu le héros de la droite américaine, son Winston Churchill. Celui qu’elle aimerait avoir comme chef d’Etat plutôt que l’actuel locataire de la Maison Blanche, un homme qu’elle exècre au point de douter sans cesse de son patriotisme, voire de la nationalité américaine inscrite sur son passeport (4).

Lors de la dernière expédition meurtrière d’Israël à Gaza, enthousiasmée par les moyens employés à cette occasion, l’une des vedettes de Fox News, Ann Coulter, avait avoué : « J’aimerais que Netanyahou soit notre président. Oui, bien sûr, parfois des enfants palestiniens sont tués. Mais c’est parce qu’ils sont associés à une organisation terroriste qui fait du mal à Israël. Et Netanyahou se moque bien de ce que des responsables religieux lui disent en pleurnichant à propos des enfants palestiniens. Il se moque bien de ce que lui disent les Nations unies. Il se moque bien de ce que lui disent les médias. Nous sommes un pays, nous avons des frontières. Netanyahou, lui, fait respecter les siennes. Pourquoi ne pouvons-nous pas en faire autant ? (5) »

M. John Boehner, président républicain de la Chambre des Représentants, a donc, sans prévenir M. Obama, invité cet homme à poigne afin qu’il explique aux parlementaires américains que la politique iranienne de la Maison Blanche menace l’existence même d’Israël. Spécialiste de la communication et ayant une longue expérience des Etats-Unis, où il fut ambassadeur de son pays auprès des Nations unies (ce qui lui valut des centaines d’invitations dans les médias), le premier ministre israélien n’a pas manqué de se recueillir devant le mur des Lamentations (et quelques caméras) avant de s’envoler pour Washington. Et d’y assimiler sans relâche le régime iranien avec celui du IIIe Reich.

Lire Trita Parsi, « Le temps de la haine entre les Etats-Unis et l’Iran est-il révolu ? », Le Monde diplomatique, mars 2015, en kiosques.Devant le caractère grossier — pour ne pas dire la grossièreté — de la démarche, M. Obama s’est montré plus audacieux qu’il n’en a l’habitude : il a fait savoir aussitôt qu’il ne recevrait pas le premier ministre israélien. Et même que ni son vice-président Joseph Biden ni son secrétaire d’Etat John Kerry n’assisteraient au discours solennel du chef du Likoud, destiné à pourfendre la politique étrangère de leur administration sous un tonnerre d’applaudissements parlementaires. Il y a près de trois ans, pour expliquer l’engagement inhabituellement voyant de M. Netanyahou dans la campagne présidentielle de M. Mitt Romney contre M. Obama, le quotidien israélien Haaretz soulignait déjà que le premier ministre israélien « ne parle pas seulement anglais, ou même américain, il parle couramment le républicain. »

Sa fastidieuse diatribe devant le Congrès des Etats-Unis permettra-t-elle à M. Netanyahou de rendre politiquement impossible tout accord entre Washington et Téhéran en présentant celui-ci comme un nouveau Munich, et M. Obama comme un Chamberlain nouvelle manière ? Lui assurera-t-elle un avantage électoral grâce auquel il l’emportera une nouvelle fois lors du scrutin du 17 mars prochain (lire Marius Schattner, « Le coup de poker de M. Netanyahou ») ? En tout cas, cette fois, « Bibi l’Américain » semble avoir réalisé l’impossible aux Etats-Unis : il a indisposé une partie de l’opinion publique, qui lui était jusqu’alors largement acquise quoi qu’il fasse et quoi qu’il dise.
(1) Sur le rôle de ce lobby, lire Serge Halimi, « Le poids du lobby pro-israélien aux Etats-Unis », « Israël, plus que jamais enfant chéri de l’Amérique » et « Aux Etats-Unis, M. Sharon n’a que des amis », Le Monde diplomatique, respectivement août 1989, mai 1991 et juillet 2003.
(2) L’administration Obama a par ailleurs opposé son veto à toutes les résolutions des Nations unies critiquant Israël, y compris quand elles se contentaient de reprendre des formulations américaines… Et les Etats-Unis ont quitté l’Unesco lorsque, en 2011, la Palestine y a été admise.
(3) Lire Ibrahim Warde, « Il ne peut y avoir de paix avant l’avènement du Messie », Le Monde diplomatique, septembre 2002.
(4) Le 18 février dernier, l’ancien maire de New York et ancien candidat républicain à la Maison Blanche M. Rudolph Giuliani a déclaré : « Je ne crois pas, et je sais que c’est terrible à dire, que ce président aime l’Amérique. Il ne vous aime pas et il ne m’aime pas. Il n’a pas été élevé comme vous et moi dans l’amour de ce pays. »
(5) Fox News, 31 juillet 2014.

Selon l’institut Gallup, Netanyahu est plus populaire qu’Obama aux Etats-Unis !
Jack Philip

JSSNews

3 mars 2015

Malgré les attaques violentes lancées par une certaine presse américaine, la côte de popularité du Premier Ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu est quasiment à un niveau record, selon un sondage Gallup publié lundi.

Les résultats du sondage montrent que les tensions avec l’administration du président Barack Obama sur son discours prévu au Congrès mardi n’ont pas nui à son image auprès du public américain, et les Américains le voient à peu près aussi favorablement aujourd’hui que depuis 1996 et sa prise de pouvoir en Israël.

Dans ce sondage, on apprend que 45 % des américains voient Netanyahu de manière positive – le record était en 1998 avec 46% d’opinions positives. 45% en 2015, c’est 10 points de plus qu’en 2012.

A l’inverse, seulement 24% des américains voient Netanyahu de manière négative (et parmi eux de nombreux latinos et musulmans).

Les républicains apprécient beaucoup plus Netanyahu (60%) que négativement (18%), tandis que les démocrates sont divisés: 31% favorables et 31% défavorables. Parmi les indépendants, 45% ont une opinion favorable de Netanyahu, tandis que 23% le considèrent défavorablement.

Par comparaison avec les chiffres de Netanyahu, un sondage publié le 23 février par the Economist / YouGov, a révélé que 45% des américains ont un avis favorable d’Obama, contre 50% ayant une mauvaise opinion négative.

Voir encore:

The Hidden Message in Netanyahu’s Speech
Rick Richman

Commentary

03.08.2015

In “Echoes of Churchill Pervade Netanyahu’s Speech,” Belladonna Rogers notes that the address included a subtle reference to Churchill’s “Chicken Speech”–one of the British leader’s most eloquent war speeches, delivered December 30, 1941 to the Canadian Parliament. She argues persuasively that Netanyahu’s allusion conveyed a powerful message about a particular historical parallel.

Ms. Rogers writes that, three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Churchill braved the perils of wartime travel to meet with FDR and address Congress, and then spoke to the Canadian Parliament four days later. In Canada, he reminded his listeners that in 1940 the Nazis had conquered four nations–Norway, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium–and then the “great French catastrophe” took place: France fell into “utter confusion” and the French abandoned their pledge “in which [they had] solemnly bound themselves with us not to make a separate peace.” Churchill told the Canadians that if France had stood with England, instead of capitulating to Germany, the war could already have been won. Then he said:

When I warned [the French] that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, ‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck!” [Laughter and applause].

In Netanyahu’s address this week to Congress, as Ms. Rogers wrote, he noted that Iran “now dominates four Arab capitals–Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sana’a”–and that “at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations.” Netanyahu then borrowed Churchill’s cadence from 1941:

Now, two years ago, we were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran. Some change! Some moderation!

Rouhani’s government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before. … Iran’s regime is as radical as ever, its cries of “Death to America” — that same America that it calls the “Great Satan” — as loud as ever … and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America.

Michael Doran, Bret Stephens, Lee Smith, and others have noted that President Obama appears to be implementing a grand strategy to re-align America with Iran, establishing a de facto alliance in which America recognizes Iran as a “very successful regional power,” in the President’s words in his year-end NPR interview. It is a shift that worries not only Israel but also America’s moderate Arab allies, with the Saudi press now openly editorializing about it. Ms. Rogers writes that the situation parallels what Churchill saw as the utter confusion of the French in 1940:

Not only from the Israeli perspective, but also that of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other American allies in the Middle East, the deal under consideration appears to be a what Churchill called “a separate peace” with a terrorist state the U.S. is on the brink of recognizing as the new hegemonic power in the region. … In his subtle but unmistakable reference to Churchill’s “Chicken Speech,” the Israeli prime minister sought to persuade the United States to stand with its allies in the Middle East …

The day after the 1941 address, the New York Times editorialized that Churchill had spoken “magnificently” in a speech with “no shrillness … as it [moved] from impassioned eloquence to its contagious chuckle” that would give the speech its popular title. This week, Netanyahu spoke similarly, without shrillness, moving from eloquence to a subtle allusion to Churchill’s speech, ending with an assertion that if Israel had to stand alone, it would stand–a final echo from Churchill’s 1941 address.

Echoes of Churchill Pervade Netanyahu Speech
Belladonna Rogers

Real Clear Politics

March 7, 2015

If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded Churchillian in his speech to the Congress on Tuesday, one reason is that he echoed several of the most memorable phrases in Winston Churchill’s 1941 address to the Canadian House of Commons, a speech still celebrated by Canadians as rallying their nation at a crucial moment in World War II.

Those phrases deserve attention because of the message they convey to the United States in 2015. Alas, most members of Congress are insufficiently aware of one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century to have taken notice. A line that should have had them on their feet left them in their seats.

Only three weeks after the Dec. 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had drawn the United States into World War II, the British prime minister braved the cold and the perils of wartime travel to visit Washington to speak to the Congress on Dec. 26. He then left for Canada.

His speech there contains two lines that have become part of the Churchill canon. The first, although it does not have an echo in the Netanyahu speech, is worth repeating because it evokes what Edward R. Murrow called Sir Winston’s gift for mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle:

I should like to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that we have not at any time asked for any mitigation in the fury or malice of the enemy. The peoples of the British Empire may love peace. They do not seek the lands or wealth of any country, but they are a tough and hardy lot. We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.

The second notable line in Churchill’s address concerned the Nazi conquest of four sovereign nations — Norway, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium — followed by the « great French catastrophe » when the French army collapsed. Churchill proclaimed that if France had remained loyal to Britain, the two allies might have already won the war. Then he said this:

When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their prime minister and his divided cabinet, “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” Some chicken; some neck.

The Canadian Parliament responded with a spontaneous burst of laughter and sustained applause.

In Natanyahu’s address to Congress, he echoed Churchill’s mention of the four neutral European countries overrun by the Nazis when he said:

In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana’a. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow. So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations.

Then he paraphrased the line that had provoked a warm response 73 years earlier:

We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror. Now, two years ago, we were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran. Some change! Some moderation!

In 1941, Churchill did not have to persuade his listeners of the evil of the Nazi regime: Canada and the United States were then at war with Germany. By contrast, one of the Israeli prime minister’s main purposes was to warn his American audience of the malevolent and untrustworthy nature of the Iranian regime with which the Obama administration is negotiating. Not only from the Israeli perspective, but also that of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other American allies in the Middle East, the deal under consideration appears to be a what Churchill called “a separate peace” with a terrorist state the U.S. is on the brink of recognizing as the new hegemonic power in the region:

Rouhani’s government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before … Iran’s regime is as radical as ever, its cries of « Death to America, » that same America that it calls the « Great Satan, » as loud as ever … and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America.

Churchill only had to rally his listeners; Netanyahu had to educate his. The address to the Canadian Parliament was one of the greatest in the history of western civilization, and one of the most consequential in World War II. In his unmistakable reference to it, Netanyahu sought to urge America to stand by its allies in the Middle East.

In a speech that included allusions to the Robert Frost poem President Kennedy quoted in his inaugural address – “The Road Not Taken” — and intimations of one of the most consequential of World War II, Netanyahu was sending a message that his speech focused on a threat as ominous as Nazi Germany of 1941 and the nuclear-armed Soviet Union of 1961.

In his subtle but unmistakable reference to Churchill’s “Chicken Speech,” the Israeli prime minister sought to persuade the United States to stand with its allies in the Middle East and demand from their common foe that it dismantle its illegal – under multiple, binding United Nations resolutions—nuclear enrichment program. Churchill’s address to the Canadian Parliament was a crucial part of the message he so urgently conveyed.

Belladonna Rogers is a writer, editor, lawyer and former advice columnist at PJ Media.

Voir enfin:

Le discours intégral et en français de Benjamin Netanyahu devant le Congrès américain
JSSnews

3 mars 2015

Voici l’adaptation en français de la transcription intégrale de l’allocution du Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu devant le Congrès américain, le 3 Mars 2015.

Merci.

(Applaudissements)

Merci …

(Applaudissements)

… Le Président de la Chambre John Boehner, le président Pro Tem sénateur Orrin Hatch, sénateur de la minorité – leader de la majorité Mitch McConnell, leader de la minorité Nancy Pelosi, chef de la majorité et de la Chambre Kevin McCarthy.

Je tiens également à remercier le sénateur, leader démocrate Harry Reid. Harry, il est bon de vous voir revenir sur vos pieds.

(Applaudissements)

Je suppose que ce qu’ils disent est vrai, vous ne pouvez pas garder un homme bon en mauvais état.

(Rires)

Mes amis, je suis profondément honoré par la possibilité de parler pour la troisième fois devant le corps législatif le plus important au monde, le Congrès américain.

(Applaudissements)

Je tiens à vous remercier tous d’être ici aujourd’hui. Je sais que mon discours a fait l’objet de nombreuses controverses. Je regrette profondément que certains perçoivent ma présence ici comme politique. Cela n’a jamais été mon intention.

Je tiens à vous remercier, démocrates et républicains, pour votre soutien commun à Israël, année après année, décennie après décennie.

(Applaudissements)

Je sais que peu importe de quel côté de l’allée vous vous asseyez, vous vous tenez avec Israël.

(Applaudissements)

L’alliance remarquable entre Israël et les Etats-Unis a toujours été au-dessus de la politique. Elle doit toujours rester dessus de la politique.

(Applaudissements)

Parce que l’Amérique et Israël partagent un destin commun, le destin de terres promises qui chérissent la liberté et offrent de l’espoir. Israël est reconnaissant du soutien de l’Amérique – de la population de l’Amérique et des présidents de l’Amérique, de Harry Truman à Barack Obama.
(Applaudissements)

Nous apprécions tout ce que le président Obama a fait pour Israël.

Mais vous savez déjà tout cela.

(Applaudissements)

Vous savez que nous apprécions le renforcement de la coopération sécuritaire et le partage des renseignements, nous apprécions que vous vous opposez aux résolutions anti-israélienne à l’ONU.

Mais il y a certaines choses que le Président Obama a fait, qui sont moins connues…

Je l’ai appelé en 2010, lorsque nous avons eu l’incendie de la forêt Carmel, et il a immédiatement accepté de répondre à ma demande d’aide urgente.

En 2011, nous avons eu notre ambassade au Caire en état de siège, et de nouveau, il a fourni une aide vitale en ce moment crucial.

Il a également soutenu nos demandes pour notre défense anti-missile au cours de l’été dernier, lorsque nous étions face aux terroristes du Hamas.

(Applaudissements)

Dans chacun de ces moments, j’ai appelé le président, et il était là.

Et certaines choses de ce que le président a fait pour Israël ne peuvent pas être dites, parce que cela touche aux questions sensibles et stratégiques qui ne peuvent être dites qu’entre un Président américain et un Premier Ministre israélien.

Mais je sais cela, et je serai toujours reconnaissant au président Obama pour ce soutien.

(Applaudissements)

Et Israël vous est reconnaissant, reconnaissant le Congrès américain, pour votre soutien, pour nous soutenir à bien des égards, en particulier dans l’aide militaire généreuse et la défense antimissile, y compris le Dôme de Fer.

(Applaudissements)

L’été dernier, des millions d’Israéliens ont été protégée contre les milliers de roquettes du Hamas, grâce à ce Dôme construit avec vous.

(Applaudissements)

Merci, l’Amérique. Merci pour tout ce que vous avez fait pour Israël.

Mes amis, je suis venu ici aujourd’hui parce que, en tant que Premier ministre d’Israël, je me sens une obligation profonde de vous parler d’une question qui pourrait bien menacer la survie de mon pays et l’avenir de mon peuple: la quête iranienne pour obtenir des armes nucléaires .

Nous sommes un peuple ancien. Dans nos près de 4000 ans d’histoire, beaucoup ont essayé à plusieurs reprises de détruire le peuple juif. Demain soir, lors de la fête juive de Pourim, nous allons lire le Livre d’Esther. Nous lisons le récit d’un vice-roi de Perse puissant nommé Haman, qui complotait pour détruire le peuple juif il y a quelque 2500 ans. Mais une femme juive courageuse, reine Esther, a démontré ce complot et a donné au peuple juif le droit de se défendre contre ses ennemis

Le complot a été déjoué. Notre peuple a été sauvé.

(Applaudissements)

Aujourd’hui le peuple juif fait face à une autre tentative, d’un autre potentat perse, de nous détruire. Le Guide suprême l’ayatollah Khamenei crache sa haine la plus ancienne, la haine de l’antisémitisme, avec les nouvelles technologies. Il tweete qu’Israël doit être anéanti – il tweete ! Vous savez, en Iran, Internet n’est pas vraiment ce qu’on peut appeler livre. Mais il tweet en anglais qu’Israël doit être détruit.

Pour ceux qui croient que l’Iran menace l’Etat juif, mais pas le peuple juif, écoutez Hassan Nasrallah, le chef du Hezbollah, chef mandataire terroriste de l’Iran. Il a dit: Si tous les Juifs se rassemblent en Israël, cela va nous épargner la fatigue de les pourchasser dans le monde entier.
Mais le régime iranien n’est pas seulement un problème juif, pas plus que le régime nazi n’était qu’un problème juif. Les 6 millions de juifs assassinés par les nazis n’étaient qu’une fraction des 60 millions de personnes tuées dans la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Donc, si le régime de l’Iran constitue une grave menace non seulement pour Israël, c’est aussi le cas pour la paix du monde entier. Pour comprendre à quel point l’Iran serait dangereux avec des armes nucléaires, nous devons comprendre pleinement la nature du régime.

Le peuple d’Iran est composé de gens très talentueux. Ils sont les héritiers d’une des plus grandes civilisations du monde. Mais en 1979, ils ont été détournés de leur histoire par des fanatiques religieux, des fanatiques religieux – qui ont imposé une dictature sombre et brutale.

Cette année là, les fanatiques ont rédigé une constitution nouvelle pour l’Iran. Elle ordonne aux gardiens de la révolution de ne pas seulement protéger les frontières de l’Iran, mais aussi de remplir la mission idéologique du jihad. Le fondateur du régime, l’ayatollah Khomeini, a exhorté ses partisans à « exporter la révolution dans le monde entier. »

Je suis ici à Washington, et la différence est tellement frappante. Le document fondateur de l’Amérique promet la vie, la liberté et la poursuite du bonheur. Le document fondateur de l’Iran s’engage dans la mort, la tyrannie, et la poursuite du djihad. Et alors que les États s’effondrent à travers le Moyen-Orient, l’Iran se charge d’occuper le vide pour faire exactement cela.

Les hommes de main de l’Iran à Gaza, ses laquais au Liban, ses gardiens de la révolution sur le plateau du Golan entourent Israël avec trois tentacules de terreur. Soutenu par l’Iran, Assad massacre Syriens. Soutenu par l’Iran, les milices chiites sont lâchées en Irak. Soutenu par l’Iran, les Houthis prennent le contrôle du Yémen, menaçant les détroits stratégiques à l’embouchure de la mer Rouge. Avec le détroit d’Ormuz, ce serait donner à l’Iran une seconde point d’approvisionnement en pétrole du monde.

La semaine dernière, près d’Ormuz, l’Iran a procédé à un exercice militaire en détruisant une maquette d’un porte-avions américain. C’est juste la semaine dernière, alors qu’ils négocient avec les Etats-Unis sur le nucléaire. Mais malheureusement, depuis les 36 dernières années, les attaques de l’Iran contre les Etats-Unis ont été tout sauf sur des maquettes. Et les objectifs n’ont été que trop réels.

L’Iran a pris des dizaines d’Américains en otage à Téhéran, a assassiné des centaines de soldats américains, des Marines à Beyrouth, et est responsable de la mort et de mutilations des milliers d’hommes et de femmes, de militaires américains en Irak et en Afghanistan.

Au-delà du Moyen-Orient, l’Iran attaque l’Amérique et ses alliés à travers son réseau mondial de terrorisme. Il a fait sauter le centre de la communauté juive et l’ambassade israélienne à Buenos Aires. Il a aidé Al Qaida à attaquer les ambassades américaines en Afrique. Il a même tenté d’assassiner l’ambassadeur saoudien, ici à Washington DC.

Au Moyen-Orient, l’Iran domine désormais quatre capitales arabes, Bagdad, Damas, Beyrouth et Sanaa. Et si l’agression de l’Iran n’est pas défaite, d’autres suivront sûrement.
Donc, à un moment où beaucoup espèrent que l’Iran se joindra à la communauté des nations, l’Iran est occupé engloutir les nations.

(Applaudissements)

Nous devons tous unir nos efforts pour arrêter la marche de l’Iran par les conquêtes, l’asservissement et de la terreur.

(Applaudissements)

Il y a deux ans, on nous a dit de donner au Président Rouhani et aux ministre des Affaires étrangères Zarif, une chance d’apporter des changements et de la modération en Iran. Quels changements! Quelle modération!

Le gouvernement de Rouhani pend gays, persécute les chrétiens, emprisonne des journalistes et exécute encore plus de prisonniers que par le passé.

L’année dernière, le même Zarif qui charme diplomates occidentaux a déposé une gerbe sur la tombe d’Imad Mughniyeh. Imad Mughniyeh est le cerveau terroriste qui a fait verser le plus de sang plus américain que tout autre terroriste outre Oussama ben Laden. Je aimerais voir quelqu’un lui poser une question à ce sujet.

Le régime iranien est plus radical que jamais, il scande « Mort à l’Amérique », et surnomme l’Amérique « le grand satan. »

Maintenant, cela ne devrait pas être surprenant, parce que l’idéologie du régime révolutionnaire de l’Iran est profondément enracinée dans l’islam militant, et c’ est pourquoi ce régime sera toujours un ennemi de l’Amérique.

Ne soyez pas dupe. La bataille entre l’Iran et l’ISIS ne fait pas l’Iran dans un ami de l’Amérique.

L’Iran et l’ISIS sont en compétition pour le trône de l’Islam militant. Le premier se nomme République Islamique, le second Etat Islamique. les deux veulent imposer un empire islamique militant, d’abord sur la région, puis sur le reste du monde. Ils sont simplement en désaccord sur celui qui sera le chef de cet empire.

Dans cette lutte mortelle pour un trône, il n’y a pas de place pour l’Amérique ou pour Israël, pas de paix pour les chrétiens, les juifs ou les musulmans qui ne partagent pas la croyance médiévale islamiste, pas de droits pour les femmes, pas de libertés pour les peuples.

Alors, quand il s’agit de l’Iran et de l’ISIS, l’ennemi de votre ennemi est votre ennemi.
(Applaudissements)

La différence est que l’ISIS est armé avec des couteaux de boucher, des armes saisies et YouTube, alors que l’Iran pourrait bientôt être armé avec des missiles balistiques intercontinentaux et des bombes nucléaires. Nous devons toujours nous rappeler – je vais le dire une fois de plus – que le plus grand danger auquel notre monde doit faire face, est le mariage de l’Islam militant avec des armes nucléaires. Vaincre l’Etat Islamique et laisser l’Iran obtenir des armes nucléaires serait comme gagner la bataille, mais perdre la guerre. Nous ne pouvons pas laisser cela se produire.

(Applaudissements)

Mais cela, mes amis, c’est exactement ce qui pourrait arriver, si l’accord en cours de négociation est accepté par l’Iran. Cet accord ne va pas empêcher l’Iran de développer des armes nucléaires. Il fait tout sauf garantir que l’Iran n’obtienne ces armes, beaucoup d’armes.

Permettez-moi de vous expliquer pourquoi. Alors que l’accord final n’a pas encore été signé, certains éléments de tout accord potentiel sont maintenant de notoriété publique. Vous n’avez pas besoin des agences de renseignement et des informations secrètes pour le savoir. Cherchez cela sur Google.

En l’absence d’un changement radical, nous savons pour sûr que tout accord avec l’Iran comprendra deux grandes concessions à l’Iran.

La première concession majeure serait de laisser l’Iran avec une vaste infrastructure nucléaire, en l’obligeant pendant une courte période de construire une bombe. Cette pause est le temps nécessaire pour obtenir suffisamment d’uranium de qualité militaire ou de plutonium pour une bombe nucléaire.

Selon l’accord, pas une seule installation nucléaire ne serait démolie. Des milliers de centrifugeuses utilisées pour enrichir l’uranium seraient laissés libres. Des milliers d’autres seraient déconnectés temporairement, mais pas détruites.
Le programme nucléaire de l’Iran resterait en grande partie intacte, notamment parce que cette pause, d’environ un an pour laisser aux Etats-Unis le temps d’observer la situation, cette pause serait encore plus courte pour Israël.

Et si le travail de l’Iran sur ses centrifugeuses avancées, plus rapides et de meilleures qualités, si ces centrifugeuses ne sont pas stoppées, cette pause pourrait être encore plus courte, beaucoup plus courte !

Certes, certaines restrictions seraient imposées sur le programme nucléaire de l’Iran et ce pays devrait accepter des visites supervisées par des inspecteurs internationaux…  Mais voici le problème:  les inspecteurs documentent les violations; ils ne les arrêtent pas.

Les inspecteurs savaient quand la Corée du Nord était prête à obtenir la bombe, mais cela n’a pas empêché quoi que ce soit. La Corée du Nord a éteint les caméras, expulsé les inspecteurs. Et en quelques années, il ont obtenus la bombe.

Maintenant, nous savons que dans les cinq ans, la Corée du Nord pourrait avoir un arsenal de 100 bombes nucléaires.

Comme la Corée du Nord, l’Iran aussi a défié les inspecteurs internationaux. Cela a été fait à au moins 3 occasions distinctes en 2005, 2006 et 2010. Comme la Corée du Nord, l’Iran a brisé les serrures et éteint les caméras.

Je sais que ce que je vais vous dire ne va pas vous choquer, personne, mais l’Iran ne défie pas que les inspecteurs… Il joue également de manière très habile à cache-cache avec eux, il triche avec eux.

L’Agence de surveillance nucléaire de l’ONU, l’AIEA, a dit encore hier que l’Iran refuse toujours de faire le ménage dans son programme nucléaire militaire. L’Iran a également été pris la main dans le sac – pris deux fois, pas une fois, deux fois – à exploiter des installations nucléaires secrètes à Natanz et Qom, des installations dont les inspecteurs ne connaissaient même pas l’existence.

À l’heure actuelle, l’Iran pourrait cacher des installations nucléaires que nous ne connaissons pas. Comme l’ancien chef des inspections de l’AIEA l’a déclaré en 2013, «S’il n’y a aucune installation non déclarée aujourd’hui en Iran, ce sera la première fois en 20 ans que ce serait le cas. » L’Iran a prouvé à maintes reprises qu’on ne peut pas lui faire confiance. Et c’est pourquoi la première concession majeure est une grande source de préoccupations. Cela laisse l’Iran avec une vaste infrastructure nucléaire tout en s’appuyant uniquement sur les inspecteurs surveiller cela. Cette concession crée un réel danger : celui de voir l’Iran obtenir la bombe en violant l’accord.

Mais la deuxième concession majeure crée un danger encore plus grand ; l’Iran pourrait construire la bombe tout en signant l’accord… Parce que presque toutes les restrictions sur le programme nucléaire de l’Iran expireront automatiquement dans environ une décennie.
Une décennie peut sembler une longue période dans la vie politique, mais c’est un clin d’oeil dans la vie d’une nation. C’est un clin d’œil dans la vie de nos enfants. Nous avons tous la responsabilité d’imaginer ce qui se passera lorsque les capacités nucléaires de l’Iran seront pratiquement illimitées et que toutes les sanctions ont été levées. L’Iran serait alors libre de construire une énorme capacité nucléaire qui pourrait produire beaucoup, beaucoup de bombes nucléaires.

Le Guide suprême de l’Iran le dit ouvertement. Il dit, l’Iran prévoit d’avoir 190.000 centrifugeuses, pas 6.000 ou pas 19.000 comme aujourd’hui, mais 10 fois cela: 190.000 centrifugeuses d’enrichissement d’uranium. Avec cette capacité importante, l’Iran pourrait fabriquer du carburant pour l’ensemble d’un arsenal nucléaire et ce en quelques semaines à partir du moment où la décision est prise.

Mon ami de longue date, John Kerry, le secrétaire d’État, a confirmé la semaine dernière que l’Iran pourrait obtenir légalement toutes ces centrifugeuses lorsque l’accord arriverait à expiration.

Maintenant, je veux que vous pensiez à ce sujet. Le parrain du terrorisme mondial ne pourrait être qu’à quelques semaines d’obtenir assez d’uranium pour tout un arsenal d’armes nucléaires… Et cela avec une pleine légitimité internationale.

Et en passant, le programme de missiles balistiques intercontinentaux de l’Iran ne fait pas partie de la transaction… Et jusqu’à présent, l’Iran refuse de même le mettre sur la table des négociations ces missiles. Eh bien, avec cela l’Iran pourrait avoir les moyens d’utiliser cet arsenal nucléaire dans tous les coins de la terre, y compris au coeur de l’Amérique.

Donc, vous voyez, mes amis, cet accord a deux concessions majeures: une, quitter l’Iran avec un vaste programme nucléaire et deux, la levée des restrictions sur ce programme dans environ une décennie. C’est pourquoi cet accord est si mauvais. Il ne bloque pas le chemin de l’Iran vers la bombe; il ouvre le chemin de l’Iran vers la bombe.

Alors pourquoi quelqu’un devrait signer ce deal ? Parce qu’ils espèrent que l’Iran va changer pour le mieux dans les années à venir, ou qu’ils croient que l’alternative à cet accord est pire?

Eh bien, je suis en désaccord avec ça. Je ne crois pas que le régime radical de l’Iran va changer pour le mieux après cet accord. Ce régime est au pouvoir depuis 36 ans, et son appétit vorace pour l’agression augmente chaque année qui passe. Cet accord ne va faire que donner plus d’appétit à l’Iran.
L’Iran serait-elle moins agressive en retirant des sanctions et avec une meilleure économie ? Si l’Iran est engloutit quatre pays en ce moment alors qu’il est soumis à des sanctions, combien de pays plus l’Iran va pouvoir dévorer quand les sanctions seront levées ? Est-ce que l’Iran va moins financer le terrorisme quand des montagnes d’argent se déverseront sur le pays ?

Pourquoi le régime radical iranien se dé-radicaliserait alors qu’ils pourraient profiter de ce qu’il y a de mieux: le terrorisme à l’étranger et la prospérité à la maison ?

C’est une question que tout le monde se pose dans notre région. Les voisins d’Israël – les voisins de l’Iran savent que l’Iran va devenir encore plus agressif et parrainer le terrorisme encore plus quand son économie sera libérée et que la voix vers la bombe sera sans encombres.

Et beaucoup de ces voisins disent qu’ils vont réagir dans cette course, pour s’armer avec des bombes au plus vite. Donc, cet accord ne changera pas l’Iran pour le mieux; il ne fera que changer le Moyen-Orient pour le pire. Un accord qui est censé empêcher la prolifération nucléaire va plutôt déclencher une course aux armements nucléaires dans la partie la plus dangereuse de la planète.

Cet accord ne sera pas un adieu aux armes. Il serait un adieu à la maîtrise des armements. Et le Moyen-Orient sera bientôt traversé par un réseaux de fils liés à des armes nucléaires. Une région où de petites escarmouches peuvent déclencher des grandes guerres se transformerait en une poudrière nucléaire.

Si quelqu’un pense – si quelqu’un pense que cet accord est le début du chemin, détrompez-vous. Quand nous prendront ce chemin, nous devrons faire face à un Iran beaucoup plus dangereux, un Moyen-Orient jonché de bombes nucléaires et un compte à rebours pour un possible cauchemar nucléaire.

Mesdames et Messieurs, Je suis venu ici aujourd’hui pour vous dire que nous n’avons pas à parier sur la sécurité du monde en espérant que l’Iran va changer pour le mieux. Nous n’avons pas à jouer avec notre avenir et l’avenir de nos enfants.

Nous devons insister pour que les restrictions sur le programme nucléaire de l’Iran ne soient pas levées aussi longtemps que l’Iran continue ses agressions dans la région et dans le reste du monde.

(Applaudissements)

Avant de lever ces restrictions, le monde devrait exiger que l’Iran fasse trois choses. Tout d’abord, arrêter son agression contre ses voisins du Moyen-Orient. Deuxièmement…

(Applaudissements)

Deuxièmement, cesser de soutenir le terrorisme dans le monde entier.

(Applaudissements)

Et troisièmement, cesser de menacer d’anéantir mon pays, Israël, le seul et unique Etat juif.

(Applaudissements)
Merci.

Si les puissances mondiales ne sont pas prêtes à insister pour que l’Iran change son comportement avant qu’un accord est signé, à tout le moins, ils devraient insister pour que l’Iran change son comportement avant l’expiration d’un accord.

(Applaudissements)

Si l’Iran change son comportement, les restrictions seraient levées. Si l’Iran ne change pas son comportement, les restrictions ne devraient pas être levé