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Author Topic: Obama Wins on Foreign Policy  (Read 10135 times)
Soul Crusher
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« Reply #25 on: November 15, 2010, 09:46:18 AM »

"Obama Delivers Only Hot Air" (ASIA TIME) (Messiah's Epic Fail in Asia)
The Asia Times ^ | 15 November 2010 | Donald Kirk

________________________ ________________________ _____________________

Obama delivers only hot air By Donald Kirk

SEOUL – Theodore Roosevelt, a great American president with a clearly imperialist agenda, uttered one of the most famous lines in US history in 1901 when he advised a crowd, "Speak softly and carry a big stick". These days, US President Barack Obama seems to have gotten that aphorism reversed. He speaks a lot but doesn't seem to be carrying a big stick.

That was the impression he gave after winding up his 11-day Asian odyssey in Japan at a tepid weekend gathering of Pacific rim leaders banded together in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping, otherwise known as APEC.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...
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« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2010, 09:08:06 AM »


________________________ __________________

For Obama, a global rebuke
Mistakes on a foreign trade deal and U.S. currency undermine global trust that the U.S. can lead the way out of this recession.
By The Denver Post
Posted: 11/17/2010 01:00:00 AM MST

President Obama meant to repair our nation's reputation on the world stage but instead received a stinging rebuke at last week's Group of 20 meeting in Seoul.

The end result could mean that many trading partners will begin tossing up barriers to our exports. And if protectionism supplants cooperation worldwide, our global economy is in serious trouble.

Normally, it would seem like this would be a good time for Obama to redouble his efforts to illustrate to the world that the United States is open for business and is a protector of a free and open marketplace. But it was, in part, his actions that prompted the G20 stalemate.

World leaders are no longer won over by Obama just being Obama. The novelty has worn off.

Obama supported the Federal Reserve's recent decision to print $600 billion in new currency to prop up U.S. exports, which led to other countries wagging their fingers at us. And the president bungled a trade deal with South Korea that he had basically ignored for his first two years.

As Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University, told The Associated Press, the stalemate in Seoul may mean "more open conflicts on currency matters. This has the potential to feed into more explicit forms of protectionism, which could set back the global recovery."

Obama hoped to work with other G20 leaders to pressure China to cease the artificial deflation of its currency, only to arrive in Seoul roundly ridiculed for supporting Fed chief Ben Bernanke's similar treatment of the dollar.

Many economists warn that governments are taking great risk when they print money in the way that Bernanke ordered. The flood of extra currency weakens the dollar and can lead to runaway inflation.

Obama insisted the Fed's action wasn't meant "to have an impact on the currency, the dollar," but to "grow the economy." That explanation didn't fly in Seoul.

Notably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the chorus of criticism of the Fed action. Meanwhile, Germany, which resisted Obama's call for stimulus spending in 2009, is seeing its economy strengthen, making Merkel's critique all the more embarrassing for Obama.

In other matters, the same Obama who increased fuel-efficiency requirements for cars and trucks sold here at home blamed environmental requirements for exported cars in South Korea for letting a trade deal collapse with that country.

With unemployment still near 10 percent and unease lingering throughout the country, a strong showing at the G20 could have been Obama's chance to instill more hope that better days were ahead. By his own accounting, Obama's political party received a "shellacking" on Election Day, in no small part because of its handling of policies like the stimulus.

He needs to heed that message and give the country steady leadership and stability in economic matters during these shaky times. Other nations shouldn't be wondering whether the U.S. will lead the world out of the global recession.

Read more: For Obama, a global rebuke - The Denver Post
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« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2010, 09:15:45 AM »

How can someone be so wrong all the time? Blacken or Benny, could you tell us how you achieve such a feat?
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« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2010, 09:20:51 AM »

Postin in TEAM KNEEPAD threadsis better than starting new ones because it either forced Benny Bitch to defend it or look even worse by ignoring it.   
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« Reply #29 on: November 18, 2010, 03:01:47 PM »

www.commentarymagazine.c om
 The Never-Ending Worst Week Ever
Abe Greenwald Web Exclusive

________________________ ________________________ _

Barack Obama is on an open-ended run of “worsts.” The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin opened his November 7 column thus: “He took a ‘shellacking,’ a 2012 poll shows him trailing two Republicans, and losing candidates in his own party are griping about his ‘tone deaf’ leadership. And the Mad Hatter, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to exit quietly. Welcome to Barack Obama's worst week in the Oval Office.”

Days later, on November 12, Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio told the Daily News: “This certainly was the worst 10 days of [Obama’s] political life.” Commenting on the president’s failed Asia trip, Muzzio noted, "He came back with bupkis,” and said, "Given that he's not going to be able to get any domestic achievements with the Republicans in control of the House ... if he doesn't do it in foreign policy that's a big problem for him.”

Today, those two look like the boys who cried worst. Look at the big-ticket disasters that have struck the administration since Muzzio’s diagnosis. Senator Jon Kyl announced his plan to block ratification of the New START arms control treaty with Russia — Obama’s single foreign-policy bragging point. Then, in a perverse miscarriage of wartime justice, a jury in a civilian court found Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani not guilty of 284 out of 285 charges of conspiracy and murder relating to the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Nairobi. This was an inch-perfect demonstration of the failure of Obama’s plan to try more terrorism suspects as mere criminals.

Every day brings fresh defeat to the administration. Aside from the pivotal headline events, there are the small roiling undercurrents and large extended cliffhangers: the challenge in Afghanistan, more government waivers being quietly granted to employers who otherwise would be crushed by ObamaCare, the anti-TSA fanaticism, the pushback on quantitative easing, the pushback on ending the Bush tax cuts.

On some of those issues, the president may very well be forced to triangulate.

But is it not becoming clear that on the most crucial fronts, Barack Obama is somewhat beyond a centrist escape route? Moving to the center is a political solution; Obama’s problem is beyond politics. His predicament has put the fundamental health of the country at risk. It’s no longer useful to speak of Obama’s or the Democrats’ problem, but rather of our problem; hence the radical nature of the suggestions from within the Democratic camp. Democratic consultants Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen took to the pages of the Washington Post to advise Obama not to seek re-election. “From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future,” they write. “The best way for [Obama] to address both our national challenges and the serious threats to his credibility and stature is to make clear that, for the next two years, he will focus exclusively on the problems we face as Americans, rather than the politics of the moment — or of the 2012 campaign.” At a press breakfast in Washington, Democratic strategist Stanley Greenberg offered this advice to the president: “I don’t think there is any reason why you can’t reset and start over. I think he can say, got it wrong.”

Indeed, a reset is more relevant here than a pivot. The idea of political triangulation almost becomes a logical non sequitur when applied to the Obama presidency. Barack Obama came to Washington to remake things. His biggest failures don’t come from liberal adornments added on to standard policies; they are more like inventions, unprecedented creations that were forced into existence before being revealed as hazardous. ObamaCare, the stimulus, the establishment of an unexceptional America — there is no pivot away from these. We either retain them or abandon them.

We’ve already seen the inutile results of “compromise” on some of these issues. The selective application of ObamaCare is a threat to our tradition of equality under the law; the arbitrary designation of some terror suspects as enemy combatants while others face civil juries creates national-security incoherence; the simultaneous announcement of both a troop surge and a withdrawal date in Afghanistan did incalculable damage to out war effort. Calls for compromise are essentially calls to go forward half-pregnant with bad policy.

Here’s a mordant laugh. On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer said, “Every administration has a period where things just go haywire, nothing seems to go right. But I can’t recall a week like the Obama White House has had.” That was June 6, when Obama’s worst week was composed of lame PR attempts to deal with an oil spill that was not — at all — his fault. But clearly, as far back as June, the American people sensed that not all was well with the state of the country. The spill was convenient prey — and Barack Obama has scarcely had a week that easy since. What this really means is that our worst week ever has been going on for almost six months. This is a full season of collective uncertainty. With no reset on the horizon, the concept of worst is becoming infinitely elastic.

________________________ ________________

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« Reply #30 on: November 23, 2010, 08:13:24 AM »


________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ____

Has U.S. Foreign Policy Ever Been This Screwed Up?
American Thinker ^ | 11/23/2010 | Michael Filozof

American foreign policy is in a state of total disarray. I don't think that our foreign policy has been in straits this dire since the early 1960s, when we rushed headlong from the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis straight into Vietnam. At least then our foreign policy was consistent in its anti-communism. Today's is incoherent, counterproductive, and sometimes downright idiotic (e.g., when Hillary Clinton went to Russia to push the "reset button"). The Obama administration is either doing nothing to preempt the coming disasters or actually making them worse. It's time for a full-blown, radical reevaluation of our foreign policy.

Let's look around the world at several case studies to see just how much trouble we could be in for:

Afghanistan: The Russians must be laughing their tails off watching the U.S. get stuck in Afghanistan, just as they did in 1979. But the deaths of American service personnel in a pointless war to prop up a corrupt and incompetent government aren't very funny. Invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do in 2001 when we went after Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, but we should have been out of there by 2004, when the war seemed like a total success.

Here is the situation: al-Qaeda fled from Afghanistan long ago to nuclear-armed Pakistan, where we can't go after them. The Taliban has now been defined as the enemy -- but the Taliban never plotted or carried out any terrorist attacks against the U.S.

President Obama -- who is "uncomfortable" using the term "victory" in Afghanistan -- said that we would withdraw troops in 2011. That was a lie. Now he says we'll be out by 2014. That's simply crazy. The U.S. defense budget last year was $660 billion. If we cannot defeat illiterate tribesmen who lack tanks, aircraft, or uniforms after nine years of fighting with a half-trillion-dollar defense budget, something is very wrong. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former field commander in Afghanistan, once said, "We can't kill our way out of this." If a top commander admits that we cannot win a war by killing the enemy, why are we still there -- and why are we committing our forces for another four years?

Iraq: Iraq had been a festering sore in the Middle East for two decades when we invaded in 2003, rightly fearing that Saddam still possessed the chemical and biological weapons we knew he had -- and used - in the 1980s. Left-wing critics of George W. Bush immediately politicized the war and accused Bush of shedding "blood for oil." Too bad that wasn't true. After spending four thousand American lives and billions of dollars deposing a ruthless dictator, the very least we should have gotten out of the deal was a tanker a day full of Iraqi oil and ninety-nine-cent gasoline. But we didn't get even that. George W. took a Wilsonian turn and decided that the war was all about establishing Iraqi democracy. Bad idea. Iraq somehow turned out a European-style parliamentary democracy (why not an American presidential system?) that has severe difficulty forming governments. Instead of a pro-American regional ally and a guaranteed oil supply, we get P.C. blather from our government about green jobs, electric cars, and Iraqi democracy.

Iran: The theocratic dictatorship of Iran was created in 1979, when Islamic radicals overthrew the Shah, seized the U.S. Embassy, and held 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days. Night after night, the blindfolded hostages were paraded before screaming mobs chanting "death to the Great Satan" and burning the American flag in the streets of Tehran. The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Iran for thirty years and has named Iran to the list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

Today, Iran is enriching uranium in violation of International Atomic Energy Agency (an arm of the U.N.) protocols, ostensibly to build an innocent nuclear power plant. According to the IAEA, every nation on earth has the right to a nuclear power plant. We would gladly give Iran enriched uranium for a "power plant" because the level of enrichment for that application cannot possibly be used for a nuclear bomb. By maintaining an indigenous enrichment capability, Iran will be able to enrich to the 80%-90% weapons-grade level. Iran is unquestionably working on the bomb.

What could the Iranians do with the bomb? At the very least, they could threaten to nuke any ship passing out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, thereby obtaining immediate control over oil from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The global economy would be paralyzed overnight. At worst, the Iranians could give a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group, who could detonate it in one of the "Great Satan's" cities. Nuclear terrorists would not leave the telltale radar signature of an intercontinental ballistic missile to divulge the origin of the bomb; the Iranians would shrug and say, "We have no idea how that happened!" If such an event actually transpired, does anyone seriously believe President Obama would order a nuclear counterstrike on the mere suspicion that the Iranians might have been responsible?

On the other hand, if we preemptively strike Iran to destroy its enrichment program, the Iranians will surely try to close the Strait of Hormuz and cripple the world economy anyway. It's a no-win situation. Don't worry, though -- Obama's policy toward the Iranians is to apologize for the CIA's involvement in overthrowing socialist weirdo Mohammed Mossadegh - all the way back in 1953. (Yeah, Barry, that'll stop 'em from getting nuclear weapons for sure.)

NATO: Almost a decade after the 9/11 attacks were committed by Muslim terrorists and after nine years of combat in two Muslim countries, President Obama insists that "we are not at war with Islam." But we are, apparently, still fighting the Cold War. As the leading member of NATO, we have troops in Europe nearly twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed. Why?

Perhaps the name of NATO should be changed to EROUS -- for "Europeans Ripping Off Uncle Sam." We have trade deficits with all our major NATO partners (except for the Netherlands), meaning we give them our money and pay for their defense. The U.S. defense budget is $660 billion, or 4.7% of GDP; Great Britain, our most important NATO ally, spends $69 billion, or 2.5% of GDP. Germany's defense budget is $48 billion, a piddling 1.3% of GDP. NATO "ally" Iceland has no army at all. Media reports that refer to "NATO forces" in Afghanistan are a joke. Britain and Canada have fought valiantly in Afghanistan, but for the rest of our "allies," the Afghan mission is more like a Boy Scout camp-out on Uncle Sam's dime.

Today, NATO is an alliance without a purpose. NATO is a collective-defense alliance, meaning that American troops are committed to die for the defense of other members -- like Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. After the collapse of the USSR, we -- incredibly-- expanded, not disbanded, the alliance. Today, NATO even includes Albania. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

The Rest of the World: Sixty-five years after World War II ended, we still have troops in Japan. The U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy are the de facto defense forces of Japan, the third-richest nation in the world. Why? China's $100-billion defense budget is now the second-largest in the world. The Chinese are developing anti-aircraft-carrier missile technology that could end American hegemony of the seas. Where do they get the money? From us -- our trade deficit is about $250 billion per annum, and the Chinese now hold $2.4 trillion of our $13.5-trillion national debt. American troops have been in Korea continuously for sixty years; today, North Korea has nuclear weapons, and its reclusive dictator Kim Jong-il could be mentally ill. Pakistan is a seething cauldron of fanatics. It already has nuclear weapons and is probably harboring Osama bin Laden. Terrorists assassinated presidential candidate Benazir Bhutto and attacked the Red Mosque and the headquarters of the Pakistani military. Ten per cent of Mexico's population has emigrated illegally to the U.S., but we have failed to seal the border. Mexico is descending into third-world gangland anarchy right on our doorstep, but Washington chose to sue Arizona for asking suspected illegals for I.D.

An honest appraisal of the situation is downright depressing. In a few years, everything might come unglued. Hopefully that won't happen, but the current trajectory of things doesn't look very good, and our political leadership seems absolutely clueless about how to advance American interests in an increasingly dangerous world.
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« Reply #31 on: November 29, 2010, 06:28:51 AM »

  The US Diplomatic Leaks
A Superpower's View of the World


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama: Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information.

251,000 State Department documents, many of them secret embassy reports from around the world, show how the US seeks to safeguard its influence around the world. It is nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy.

What does the United States really think of German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Is she a reliable ally? Did she really make an effort to patch up relations with Washington that had been so damaged by her predecessor? At most, it was a half-hearted one.

The tone of trans-Atlantic relations may have improved, former US Ambassador to Germany William Timken wrote in a cable to the State Department at the end of 2006, but the chancellor "has not taken bold steps yet to improve the substantive content of the relationship." That is not exactly high praise.

And the verdict on German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle? His thoughts "were short on substance," wrote the current US ambassador in Berlin, Philip Murphy, in a cable. The reason, Murphy suggested, was that "Westerwelle's command of complex foreign and security policy issues still requires deepening."

Such comments are hardly friendly. But in the eyes of the American diplomatic corps, every actor is quickly categorized as a friend or foe. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? A friend: Abdullah can't stand his neighbors in Iran and, expressing his disdain for the mullah regime, said, "there is no doubt something unstable about them." And his ally, Sheikh bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi? Also a friend. He believes "a near term conventional war with Iran is clearly preferable to the long term consequences of a nuclear armed Iran."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emissaries also learn of a special "Iran observer" in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku who reports on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali Jafari allegedly got into a heated argument with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.

A Political Meltdown

Such surprises from the annals of US diplomacy will dominate the headlines in the coming days when the New York Times, London's Guardian, Paris' Le Monde, Madrid's El Pais and SPIEGEL begin shedding light on the treasure trove of secret documents from the State Department. Included are 243,270 diplomatic cables filed by US embassies to the State Department and 8,017 directives that the State Department sent to its diplomatic outposts around the world. In the coming days, the participating media will show in a series of investigative stories how America seeks to steer the world. The development is no less than a political meltdown for American foreign policy.

Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information -- data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America's partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public -- as have America's true views of them.


 A time lapse of 251,287 documents: The world map shows where the majority of the cables originated from, and where they had the highest level of classification. View the atlas ...For example, one can learn that German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the Germany's most beloved politician according to public opinion polls, openly criticizes fellow cabinet member Guido Westerwelle in conversations with US diplomats, and even snitches on him. Or that Secretary of State Clinton wants her ambassadors in Moscow and Rome to inform her whether there is anything to the rumors that Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin have private business ties in addition to their close friendship -- whispers that both have vehemently denied.

America's ambassadors can be merciless in their assessments of the countries in which they are stationed. That's their job. Kenya? A swamp of flourishing corruption extending across the country. Fifteen high-ranking Kenyan officials are already banned from traveling to the United States, and almost every single sentence in the embassy reports speaks with disdain of the government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Weighing Public Interest against Confidentiality

Turkey hardly comes away any less scathed in the cables. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the cables allege, governs with the help of a cabal of incompetent advisors. Ankara Embassy officials depict a country on a path to an Islamist future -- a future that likely won't include European Union membership.

As with the close to 92,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan at the end of July and the almost 400,000 documents on the Iraq war recently released, the State Department cables have also been leaked to the WikiLeaks whistleblower platform -- and they presumably came from the same source. As before, WikiLeaks has provided the material to media partners to review and analyze.

With a team of more than 50 reporters and researchers, SPIEGEL has viewed, analyzed and vetted the mass of documents. In most cases, the magazine has sought to protect the identities of the Americans' informants, unless the person who served as the informant was senior enough to be politically relevant. In some cases, the US government expressed security concerns and SPIEGEL accepted a number of such objections. In other cases, however, SPIEGEL felt the public interest in reporting the news was greater than the threat to security. Throughout our research, SPIEGEL reporters and editors weighed the public interest against the justified interest of countries in security and confidentiality.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the White House condemned the impending publication of the documents by WikiLeaks as "reckless and dangerous." The cables, which contain "candid and often incomplete information," are not an expression of policy and do not always shape final policy decisions, the statement reads. "Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world," the spokesperson said. The fact that "private conversations" are now being made public "can deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world."

It is now possible to view many political developments around the world through the lens of those who participated in those events. As such, our understanding of those events is deeply enriched. That alone is often enough to place transparency ahead of national regulations regarding confidentiality.

Following the leaks of military secrets from Afghanistan and Iraq, these leaks now put US diplomats on the hot seat. It is the third coup for WikiLeaks within six months, and it is one that is likely to leave Washington feeling more than a bit exposed. Around half of the cables that have been obtained aren't classified and slightly less, 40.5 percent, as classified as "confidential." Six percent of the reports, or 16,652 cables, are labelled as "secret" and of those, 4,330 are so explosive that they are labelled "NOFORN," meaning access should not be made available to non-US nationals. Taken together, the cables provide enough raw text to fill 66 years' worth of weekly SPIEGEL magazines.

Gossip and the Unvarnished Truth

Much in the material was noted and sent because those compiling the reports or their dialogue partners believed, with some certainty, that their transcripts would not be made public for the next 25 years. That may also explain why the ambassadors and emissaries from Washington were so willing to report gossip and hearsay back to State Department headquarters. One cable from the Moscow Embassy on Russian first lady Svetlana Medvedeva, for example, states that she is "generating tensions between the camps and remains the subject of avid gossip." It then goes on to report that President Medvedev's wife had already drawn up a list of officials who should be made to "suffer" in their careers because they had been disloyal to Medvedev. Another reports that the wife of Azerbaijan leader Ilham Aliyev has had so much plastic surgery that it is possible to confuse her for one of her daughters from a distance, but that she can barely still move her face.

What makes the documents particularly appealing, though, is that many politicians speak the unvarnished truth, confident as they are that their musings will never be made public.

What, though, do the thousands of documents prove? Do they really show a US which has the world on a leash? Are Washington's embassies still self-contained power centers in their host countries?

In sum, probably not. In the major crisis regions, an image emerges of a superpower that can no longer truly be certain of its allies -- like in Pakistan, where the Americans are consumed by fear that the unstable nuclear power could become precisely the place where terrorists obtain dangerous nuclear material.

There are similar fears in Yemen, where the US, against its better judgement, allows itself to be instrumentalized by an unscrupulous leader. With American military aid that was intended for the fight against al-Qaida, Ali Abdullah Saleh is now able to wage his battle against enemy tribes in the northern part of the country.

Insult to Injury

Even after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it still remained a challenge for the victorious power to assert its will on Iraq. In Baghdad, which has seen a series of powerful US ambassadors -- men the international press often like to refer to as American viceroys -- it is now up to Vice President Joe Biden to make repeated visits to allied Iraqi politicians in an effort to get them to finally establish a respectable democracy. But the embassy cables make it very clear that Obama's deputy has made little headway.

Instead, the Americans are forced to endure the endless tirades of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, who claims to have always known that the Iraq war was the "biggest mistake ever committed" and who advised the Americans to "forget about democracy in Iraq." Once the US forces depart, Mubarak said, the best way to ensure a peaceful transition is for there to be a military coup. They are statements that add insult to injury.

On the whole, the cables from the Middle East expose the superpower's weaknesses. Washington has always viewed it as vital to its survival to secure its share of energy reserves, but the world power is often quickly reduced to becoming a plaything of diverse interests. And it is drawn into the animosities between Arabs and Israelis, Shiites and Sunnis, between Islamists and secularists, between despots and kings. Often enough, the lesson of the documents that have now been obtained, is that the Arab leaders use their friends in Washington to expand their own positions of power.

Editor's note: DER SPIEGEL's full reporting on the WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables will be published first in the German-language edition of the magazine, which will be available on Monday to subscribers and at newsstands in Germany and Europe. SPIEGEL ONLINE International will publish extended excerpts of SPIEGEL's reporting in English in a series that will launch on Monday.
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« Reply #32 on: November 29, 2010, 06:32:41 AM »

Trust in short supply at Middle East talks
By Roula Khalaf

Published: November 28 2010 17:47 | Last updated: November 28 2010 17:47

________________________ ________________________ ________________________ _

There was an astonishing report out of Jerusalem last week. Israel, it said, was growing increasingly frustrated with the US.

Israel unhappy? But had Washington not just offered the Jewish state a generous security package, including subsidised fighter jets, to buy a 90-day freeze on the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land? And are the settlements not illegal under international law in any case and the moratorium a demand the Obama administration has been making for two years?

Allegations of West Bank torture increase - Nov-21.Abbas demands freeze on settlement building - Nov-21.Israel security at centre of peace talks - Nov-12.Obama criticises Israeli settlement plans - Nov-09.Hamas seeks to ease Gaza’s reliance on Israel - Nov-07.Israeli Arabs’ anger erupts in clashes - Oct-27..The answer to those questions is yes. And in theory Israelis should be delighted the US is paying for a freeze on actions Israel should not engage in. But so poorly managed has been the US Middle East peacemaking effort that trust is in short supply, whether it is between Palestinians and Israelis or Americans and Israelis.

While the Obama team rightly identified Middle East peace as a foreign policy priority when it came into office, two years on it has yet to identify a coherent strategy. It first set a settlement freeze as a necessary step before Israelis and Palestinians begin direct talks, but backtracked when faced with Israeli resistance. Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister, eventually imposed a partial 10-month moratorium, which expired in September.

After much effort the US launched the high-profile talks but only three weeks before the moratorium ended, although Mr Netanyahu had made clear he would impose no extension, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, was adamant that negotiations would not go on if building resumed in settlements.

The result, which had been predictable to many but, strangely, not to the US, was an embarrassing breakdown of the negotiations soon after they started. The administration has since been dangling security incentives to persuade Israel to accept a three-month moratorium extension. As Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel, wrote in the Washington Post, for the first time in memory, the US is poised to reward Israel for its bad behaviour.

The American argument is that the 90 days can be used to bring the parties to an agreement on the borders of a Palestinian state. As Robert Danin, former deputy to Middle East envoy Tony Blair, explains, the US sees a deal on borders as a way to overcome the problem of settlements, deciding which ones should be uprooted and which should become part of the Israeli state.

It sounds like a neat idea – except that it probably will not work.

For one thing, the Israeli government has yet to agree to the US offer, and some of Mr Netanyahu’s rightwing coalition partners are so suspicious of American intentions that they have demanded the package in writing, partly to ensure that the settlements freeze excludes Arab East Jerusalem, while Palestinians insist it should be included.

The Israeli reasoning is that, although generous on the face of it, the US offer includes elements that should not be negotiable, not least US commitment to Israeli security and support at the UN. The extent of the fighter-jets subsidy is also said to be contentious.

Still, let us assume that Mr Netanyahu wins cabinet approval for an agreement with the US, Mr Abbas drops his opposition to the exclusion of East Jerusalem in the moratorium, and the talks resume for three months.

A deal on borders would be extremely difficult without addressing the other issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians – the fate of Palestinian refugees and the future of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their capital. The parties will have to define the borders – Israel will want to keep East Jerusalem out of the discussion, the Palestinians will demand that it be in. Returning it to the Palestinians, moreover, has just been complicated by Israeli parliament legislation passed last week, which could require the return of Arab East Jerusalem to be put to a referendum.

Trying to resolve one problem – in this case borders – in isolation robs the parties of flexibility, says Mr Danin, preventing trade-offs and concessions: “It risks making refugees and Jerusalem more difficult down the road.” The chances are that even if talks restart, the US will be scrambling for a new strategy in three months. Who knows what will be on offer to Israel then, now that a new Middle East bazaar has been opened.

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« Reply #33 on: November 29, 2010, 08:16:46 AM »

U.S. in Damage Control After Vast Leak of Diplomatic Cables

Published November 29, 2010 | Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The release of more than 250,000 classified State Department documents forced the Obama administration into damage control, trying to contain fallout from unflattering assessments of world leaders and revelations about backstage U.S. diplomacy.

The publication of the secret cables on Sunday amplified widespread global alarm about Iran's nuclear ambitions and unveiled occasional U.S. pressure tactics aimed at hot spots in Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea. The leaks also disclosed bluntly candid impressions from both diplomats and other world leaders about America's allies and foes.

In the wake of the massive document dump by online whistleblower WikiLeaks and numerous media reports detailing their contents, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to address the diplomatic repercussions on Monday. Clinton could deal with the impact first hand after she leaves Washington on a four-nation tour of Central Asia and the Middle East -- regions that figure prominently in the leaked documents.

The cables unearthed new revelations about long-simmering nuclear trouble spots, detailing U.S., Israeli and Arab world fears of Iran's growing nuclear program, American concerns about Pakistan's atomic arsenal and U.S. discussions about a united Korean peninsula as a long-term solution to North Korean aggression.

None of the disclosures appeared particularly explosive, but their publication could become problems for the officials concerned and for any secret initiatives they had preferred to keep quiet. The massive release of material intended for diplomatic eyes only is sure to ruffle feathers in foreign capitals, a certainty that already prompted U.S. diplomats to scramble in recent days to shore up relations with key allies in advance of the leaks.

At Clinton's first stop in Astana, Kazakhstan, she will be attending a summit of officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a diplomatic grouping that includes many officials from countries cited in the leaked cables.

The documents published by The New York Times, France's Le Monde, Britain's Guardian newspaper, German magazine Der Spiegel and others laid out the behind-the-scenes conduct of Washington's international relations, shrouded in public by platitudes, smiles and handshakes at photo sessions among senior officials.

The White House immediately condemned the release of the WikiLeaks documents, saying "such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government."

U.S. officials may also have to mend fences after revelations that they gathered personal information on other diplomats. The leaks cited American memos encouraging U.S. diplomats at the United Nations to collect detailed data about the U.N. secretary general, his team and foreign diplomats -- going beyond what is considered the normal run of information-gathering expected in diplomatic circles.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley played down the diplomatic spying allegations. "Our diplomats are just that, diplomats," he said. "They collect information that shapes our policies and actions. This is what diplomats, from our country and other countries, have done for hundreds of years."

The White House noted that "by its very nature, field reporting to Washington is candid and often incomplete information. It is not an expression of policy, nor does it always shape final policy decisions."

"Nevertheless, these cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world," the White House said.

On its website, The New York Times said "the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."

Le Monde said it "considered that it was part of its mission to learn about these documents, to make a journalistic analysis and to make them available to its readers." Der Spiegel said that in publishing the documents its reporters and editors "weighed the public interest against the justified interest of countries in security and confidentiality."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed the Obama administration was trying to cover up alleged evidence of serious "human rights abuse and other criminal behavior" by the U.S. government. WikiLeaks posted the documents just hours after it claimed its website had been hit by a cyberattack that made the site inaccessible for much of the day.

But extracts of the more than 250,000 cables posted online by news outlets that had been given advance copies of the documents showed deep U.S. concerns about Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs along with fears about regime collapse in Pyongyang.

The Guardian said some cables showed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urging the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program. The newspaper also said officials in Jordan and Bahrain have openly called for Iran's nuclear program to be stopped by any means and that leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran "as 'evil,' an 'existential threat' and a power that 'is going to take us to war,"' The Guardian said.

Those documents may prove the trickiest because even though the concerns of the Gulf Arab states are known, their leaders rarely offer such stark appraisals in public.

The Times highlighted documents that indicated the U.S. and South Korea were "gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea" and discussing the prospects for a unified country if the isolated, communist North's economic troubles and political transition lead it to implode.

The Times also cited diplomatic cables describing unsuccessful U.S. efforts to prod Pakistani officials to remove highly enriched uranium from a reactor out of fear that the material could be used to make an illicit atomic device. And the newspaper cited cables that showed Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, telling U.S. Gen. David Petraeus that his country would pretend that American missile strikes against a local al-Qaida group had come from Yemen's forces.

The paper also cited documents showing the U.S. used hardline tactics to win approval from countries to accept freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay. It said Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if its president wanted to meet with President Barack Obama and said the Pacific island of Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to take in a group of detainees.

It also cited a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that included allegations from a Chinese contact that China's Politburo directed a cyber intrusion into Google's computer systems as part of a "coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws."

Le Monde said another memo asked U.S. diplomats to collect basic contact information about U.N. officials that included Internet passwords, credit card numbers and frequent flyer numbers. They were asked to obtain fingerprints, ID photos, DNA and iris scans of people of interest to the United States, Le Monde said.

The Times said another batch of documents raised questions about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his relationship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. One cable said Berlusconi "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin" in Europe, the Times reported.

Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Sunday called the release the "Sept. 11 of world diplomacy," in that everything that had once been accepted as normal has now changed.

Der Spiegel reported that the cables portrayed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in unflattering terms. It said American diplomats saw Merkel as risk-averse and Westerwelle as largely powerless.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, meanwhile, was described as erratic and in the near constant company of a Ukrainian nurse who was described in one cable as "a voluptuous blonde," according to the Times.

WikiLeaks' action was widely condemned.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said it was an "irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents," while Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called the document release "unhelpful and untimely."

In Australia, Assange's home country, Attorney General Robert McClelland said law enforcement officials were investigating whether WikiLeaks broke any laws.

The U.S. State Department's top lawyer warned Assange late Saturday that lives and military operations would be put at risk if the cables were released. Legal adviser Harold Koh said WikiLeaks would be breaking the law if it went ahead. He also rejected a request from Assange to cooperate in removing sensitive details from the documents.

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« Reply #34 on: November 30, 2010, 07:43:52 AM »,0,6068455.column
A WikiLeaks wakeup call
In the end, what these documents confirm is that President Obama's foreign policy is a mess
Jonah Goldberg

November 30, 2010

Washington is reeling from the latest WikiLeaks document dump. The foreign policy wonks insist that there are few, if any, major surprises. "Much of what we've seen thus far," opined Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, "confirms more than it informs." And, in the end, what these documents confirm is that President Obama's foreign policy is a mess.

Even if you're supportive of Obama's foreign policy efforts, the WikiLeaks dump is a bigger deal than the know-it-alls are suggesting. It's one thing to believe something as a generality; it's another to dispel plausible deniability for all concerned.

Everyone may know that the Saudis are worried about the Iranian bomb. But knowing that isn't quite the same as learning that the Saudi monarchy has implored the U.S. to attack Iran and "cut off the head of the snake," in the words of a Saudi envoy. Egypt and other Arab states have called the Iranian program an "existential threat" and have begged the U.S. to use military force to stop it (of course, if the U.S. did take out the program, these same regimes, not to mention countless domestic critics of Israel, would insist that the U.S. was doing the bidding of the Israel lobby).

Around the globe, diplomats, dignitaries and potentates feel betrayed and exposed. Certainly, the news that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ordered American diplomats at the United Nations to spy on other delegations will make lunchtime at the Turtle Bay commissary a bit awkward.

Politically, the one advantage for the White House is the sheer volume of the leaks. If these stories came out one by one, there'd be room for them to flare up as full-fledged controversies, but with a quarter of a million documents, each story robs oxygen from the next.

Still, the (relative) lack of surprises is hardly an exoneration for anybody — not for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has declared himself an enemy of the United States, nor for the Obama administration, which seems utterly lost about how to deal with him.

The administration's formal response to the revelations was to have State Department attorney Harold Koh pen a tersely worded cease-and-desist letter to Assange, asking him to pretty please stop publishing thousands of state secrets. With the important and complicated exception of Afghanistan, such high-minded legalism is par for the course.

Ever since his bizarre campaign stop in Berlin and his primary debate promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "without preconditions," Obama has consistently stressed his preference for soft diplomacy and gauzy platitudes about international cooperation. For instance, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany proved, according to then-candidate Obama, that "there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one" — an incomprehensible claim that would earn an F from any high school history teacher.

Since then, on issue after issue, Obama's rhetorical globaloney has met the grinder. Perversely, his best moment was when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and felt compelled to explain why he didn't deserve it — yet — and give a legitimately stirring defense of military action.

It is certainly true that Obama inherited many of his foreign policy challenges. Iran was pursuing nukes back when he was in the Illinois state Senate, and North Korea has been crazy since before he was born. But Obama insisted that his would be the better way. Engagement, dialogue, kumbaya would all win the day.

And yet they keep losing. A month after his inauguration, the North Koreans tested a ballistic missile. Since then, they've revealed yet another nuclear program and attacked South Korea just weeks after Obama's embarrassing failure to win a trade deal from Seoul during an official visit. Meanwhile, according to WikiLeaks and other sources, the North Koreans have been selling ballistic missiles to the Iranians.

The irony is that Assange represents a purer form of Obama's own idealism. According to Assange's dangerous utopianism, in governance purity must define means, not just ends. He is convinced that he has revealed the hypocrisy and corruption of U.S. foreign policy, when in reality all he has revealed is that pursuing foreign policy ideals is messier and more complicated in a world where bad people pursue bad ends. We can hope that Obama has been learning that lesson. Assange, meanwhile, is simply blind to it.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
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« Reply #35 on: December 27, 2010, 08:55:38 AM »

Obama Has Lost The World
Eurasia Review ^ | December 26, 2010 | Daniel Greenfield

________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ___-

After the 2010 elections, it’s not exactly news that Obama has lost America. But in a less public referendum, he also lost the world. Obama’s cocktail party tour of the world’s capitals may look impressive on a map, but is irrelevant on a policy level. In less than two years, the White House has gone from being the center of world leadership to being irrelevant, from protecting world freedom to serving as a global party planning committee.

Even the Bush Administration’s harshest critics could never have credibly claimed that George W. Bush was irrelevant. He might have been hated, pilloried and shouted about– but he couldn’t be ignored. However Obama can be safely ignored. Invited to parties, given the chance to show off his cosmopolitan sophisticated by reciting one or two words in the local lingo, read off a teleprompter, along with some cant about the need for everyone to pull together and make the world a better place, and then dismissed for the rest of the evening.

As a world leader, he makes a passable party guest. He has a broad smile, brings along his own gifts and is famous in the way that celebrities, rather than prime ministers and presidents are famous. On an invitation list, he is more Bono than Sarkozy, Leonardo DiCaprio not Putin. You don’t invite him to talk turkey, not even on Thanksgiving. He’s just one of those famous people with a passing interest in politics who gets good media attention, but who has nothing worthwhile to say.

The only countries who take Obama seriously, are the ones who have to. The leaders of Great Britain, Israel and Japan– who have tied their countries to an enduring alliance with America based on mutual interests and values, only to discover that the latest fellow to sit behind the Oval Office desk no longer shares those values and couldn’t give less of a damn about American interests. It’s no wonder that European leaders ignore him as much as possible. Or that Netanyahu visited America, while Obama was abroad. Or that Japanese politics have become dangerously unstable.

On the enemy side, the growing aggressiveness of China, North Korea, Iran, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda can all be attributed to the global consensus that no one is at home in the White House.And if no one is at home in the White House, then that’s a perfect time to slap the big boy around the yard. China is doing it economically, the rest are doing it militarily. They’re all on board with Obama’s Post-American vision of the world. But unlike him and most liberals, they have a clear understanding of what that means. The America of some years back, which actually intimidated Libyan dictator Khaddafi into giving up his nuclear program, without lifting a hand against him is long gone. So is the Cedar Revolution. Syria and Iran are back in charge in Lebanon. And in Afghanistan, the Taliban are laughing at our soft power outreach efforts.

Obama’s soft power approach emphasizes the ‘soft’ and forgets the ‘power’. It neglects even Clinton era understandings about the role of America in the world, and reverts instead to a Carter era sense of guilt that bleeds into hostility toward American interests and allies. While the rest of the world puts their own interests first, they act like a cog in some imaginary global community, turning and turning toward the distant horizon of international brotherhood. While China, Russia and most of the world walk down their backs and up their jellyfish spines, laughing all the way. And America’s allies gird themselves and prepare for the worst.

From the first, this administration has curried favor with America’s enemies by betraying and humiliating its allies. But these hideous acts of moral cowardice have not won Obama the approval of America’s enemies. Only their contempt. And a Nobel Peace Prize from a committee of elderly left wing Swedes, awarded not for any accomplishment, but for the lack thereof. For being a man without a country, a leader without a spine and a representative of America who gives no thought for the interests of that country.

Now that the Koreas stand on the brink of war, Iran continues its drive toward a nuclear bomb, Al Qaeda is going global, Hezbollah is on the verge of taking Lebanon and Mexico is on the verge of imploding– the impact of America’s absence on the global stage is all too clear. The countless cocktail parties and toasts have not changed the world. All they’ve done is highlighted the transition of the White House from world leadership to global party guest. Trip after trip has ended in photo ops and policy failures. Instead Obama is stuck dumpster diving into the futile quest for a Palestinian state, not because such an entity will make the world any better, but because it will make him look good.

Obama has no mandate at home, and he has even less of one abroad. America’s enemies do not fear him. Only our allies do. Kim Jong Il does not sit up nights worrying what Obama will do. Because the consensus in North Korea, Iran and the rest of the world is that the sea will rise, the sun will set and Obama will do nothing. Except maybe write a strongly worded letter, offset by some quiet backchannel diplomacy from his coterie of international left wing stooges reassuring the offender that, “No, Barry really isn’t mad at you. He’s just concerned. Really, really concerned.”

Liberal pundits mock the rough and ready style of conservatives like Reagan, Bush or Palin in world affairs, but what they fail to realize is that the over-educated naivete, trendy cosmopolitanism and buzzword rich approach of a Kerry or Obama come off as laughably pathetic on the world stage. Republicans might be hated, but they can’t be ignored. Democrats on the other hand are catspaws and pawns, fools who are so sure of their cleverness and determined to embrace every culture in the way that only the graduates of Ivy League institutions can, that any Third World vendor could twirl them around his fingers.

World leaders are rarely liked, but effective ones are respected. And effective world leaders don’t lead with appeasement, don’t compromise before the other side has even made an offer and negotiate on behalf of their country, rather than some intangible global consensus. They understand that they represent a country, not a popularity contest. They don’t travel abroad to be adored or be greeted with parades and gifts, but to achieve tangible results on specific issues. To do otherwise is not to be a world leader, but a celebrity who happens to have picked up a big title along the way.

To be a proper American president on the world stage, means choosing to be respected, rather than liked. Obama always chooses to be liked, rather than respected. Because respect comes from accomplishment and character, while ‘liking’ is a function of appearance and image. Aiming to be ‘liked’ is playing to Obama’s strengths. But being liked is irrelevant outside of an afterschool special. World affairs is not a networking seminar, it is a negotiation between countries who have billions of dollars and millions of lives on the line. And Obama has no idea how to play that game. Like the kid who never fit in anywhere, he’s still trying to be liked. And he’s willing to sell out American interests and allies to get the cool UN kids to like him.

Unfortunately Obama’s irrelevance is also America’s irrelevance. A Republican House of Representatives cannot do what Obama should be doing. And any attempt to show strength gets shouted down by the liberal punditocracy as treason and undermining the White House. As if anyone, anywhere could undermine Obama internationally as much as he undermines himself. The same liberals who considered Ted Kennedy’s treasonous offer of cooperation with the Soviet Union or Kerry’s trip to Latin American Marxist terrorists to be acts of courage, damn Republicans who supported allies in Ecuador and Israel as traitors. And so Obama must have a free hand to do it all on his own. To do what Kennedy or Kerry could have only dreamed of.

Obama has lost the world. He has made the country that he claims to represent into a shadow of its former strength and glory. And his irrelevance endangers American lives. Not just those of soldiers in war zones, laboring under restrictive Rules of Engagement, written so as not to offend Muslims. Not just those of Americans at risk for domestic terrorism under an Attorney General who sympathizes with terrorists, more than with Americans. But to everyone living in a world where countries like North Korea and Iran feel free to do what they want, where our economic rivals such as Russia and China advance their interests and their espionage, and where terrorists across the Muslim world grow in boldness and number because they have no one left to fear anymore. In America and around the world– Barack Hussein Obama endangers us all.

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« Reply #36 on: January 27, 2011, 03:57:17 AM »

  Erekat: ‘Obama has no credibility in the Middle East' 

 At least Mideast leaders ‘feared Bush,’ PLO negotiator says; Mitchell urges him not to let opportunities slip away. 
US President Barack Obama has lost all credibility in the Middle East, PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told US envoy George Mitchell in October 2009, according to leaked Palestinian documents released by Al-Jazeera and the Guardian Wednesday night.

In an apparently heated exchange with Mitchell about a settlement freeze, Erekat said he would not be able to convince the Palestinians to negotiate without a full settlement freeze.

“It’s not up to me to decide your credibility in the Middle East,” Erekat said. “He [Obama] has lost it throughout the region.

When he got the Nobel Peace Prize, I was asked about it in the media and publicly congratulated him. I was attacked for it in the Arab media – just for congratulating like I would congratulate anyone who wins a prize... Believe me, there is no president in the Middle East who wants to help Obama as much as AM [PA President Mahmoud Abbas].”

Mitchell argued with Erekat that the Palestinians negotiated without a full freeze in the past.

“Now with the first president who wants to make an effort – he’s being penalized by you,” Mitchell said.

To which Erekat replied, “Not me. He has [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu. He came to Cairo and said, ‘full freeze.’ We will not convert to Judaism, so if Netanyahu’s charade of two states is followed, it’s going to be one state.”

Later in the meeting, Erekat said that “people in the Middle East are not taking Barack Obama seriously. They feared Bush, despite everything. This is important. BO [Obama] has lost it with the decision-makers, although not the street.”

In another meeting that month, Mitchell said Obama was “completely committed to achieving the objective you want.”

“President Obama is not like previous administrations. In US politics, there never was and there never will be a president as determined to resolve this conflict,” Mitchell said. “So you can argue over words and delay indefinitely, so you lose the most important thing – this opportunity: the presence of a US president completely committed to achieving the objective you want.”

After Erekat warned that this was a final opportunity for a two-state solution and that the best alternative to a negotiated settlement is a binational state, Mitchell replied, “That is your decision. But the fact is that you have a president committed to this issue. All that points to the need to begin negotiations as fast as possible.”

“We won’t have a perfect ToR [terms of reference], or perfect negotiations, or a perfect outcome. That’s life. I understand the frustration and the burden of history, but please, don’t let this opportunity slip by,” Mitchell said. 
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« Reply #37 on: February 10, 2011, 05:00:27 PM »

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« Reply #38 on: February 15, 2011, 05:50:00 AM »

Obama, the leader who didn’t lead
Jerusalem Post ^ | 2-15-11 | SHMULEY BOTEACH

________________________ ________________________ _____

US president was afraid to push, to call for autocrat to immediately resign from his illegitimate perch. Obama reacted; the people of Egypt led.

I’m sitting and watching President Barack Obama’s speech on the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. He is eloquent as usual, supplying compelling visuals of the protesters demanding a free government in spite of great personal peril. He is quoting Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He has ‘taken charge’ of the situation.

But say what he will, for Obama it’s all too late. Throughout the riveting three weeks of Egypt’s democratic birth, the leader of the free world simply refused to lead. He watched the events unfold just as you and I did. He was afraid to push, afraid to nudge, afraid to call for the autocrat to immediately resign from his illegitimate perch. Obama reacted; the people of Egypt led.

Obama was supposed to be a transformational president. An African-American had risen to the highest office on Earth. Surely, even more than president George W. Bush, he would emerge as a champion of freedom and democracy. Surely such eloquence would be employed in the cause of human liberty. Obama would surely conduct a global freedom train.

BUT WE were all given pause when Obama, in the first months of his presidency, embraced dictator Hugo Chavez with a wide grin and bowed to the tyrant-king of Saudi Arabia. Chavez had called Bush “the devil” from the rostrum of the UN, and has single-handedly dismantled democracy in Venezuela, brutalizing his opponents and throwing them in jail. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia presides over a regime where women are imprisoned and lashed simply for being in a closed space with a strange man.

Perhaps these were just glitches. Perhaps Obama really did have a freedom agenda that he would pull magically out of his hat.

But it only got worse, with Obama’s foreign policy repudiating most of Bush’s democracy-building gestures as unrealistic ‘neocon’ ideology, and moving instead toward Kissingerian realpolitik. Under Obama, America is again doing business with almost any kind of dictator. Obama even won a Nobel Peace Prize simply for not being Bush! We thought his lauding of tyrants had reached its zenith when our leader, holding only his second state dinner last month, honored one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth. The new Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner was rotting in jail along with his wife while the Chinese president was eating Maine lobster in the White House.

It’s one thing to do business with China, but to honor its brutal leadership so? With Egypt the circle is complete. Four hundred million Arabs live under brutal tyranny. Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous state. A gift was handed to Obama – who has done next-to-nothing for imprisoned people around the world – when the citizens of Tunisia and Egypt began agitating for liberty. That agitation received one line in his State of the Union address.

And even as the Egyptian people showed they were ready to endure almost any hardship to be free, our president simply watched to see what would happen, got it wrong repeatedly, and suddenly found his voice only when it was all over. You would think that the president would have given a speech when the demonstrations first started, declaring: “The people of Egypt, sovereign in their own land, are demanding the immediate resignation of a president who has presided unlawfully over them for three decades. The people of the United States and their president stand squarely with our brothers and sisters in Egypt, and demand Mubarak’s immediate compliance.”

Instead, we got all this confusing talk from Obama and Hillary Clinton about how the transition to democracy can be messy, and how Mubarak needed time. Time? Three decades isn’t enough?! He had to go now.

SO HERE we are. The greatest democracy on Earth, led by a man whose rhetoric and actions are in conflict. If Obama really believed it wasn’t wise for Mubarak to leave immediately, why didn’t he say it on the day of his resignation? Rather than invoking Gandhi and King, he should have invoked the French Revolution, Iran and Hamas, showing the perils of premature democracy.

The reason he didn’t is that when it comes to promoting democracy, Obama is weak, oddly bereft of strong personal convictions on human liberty, believing that while people deserve to be free, only a superstrong government can guarantee that freedom.

Obama may be our first African-American president, but he is most definitely not a product of the civil rights movement. Thank God the brave people of Egypt have rejected our president’s empty rhetoric of hope and change.

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« Reply #39 on: February 15, 2011, 07:56:40 AM »

A lot of your sources are huge 911 CTer publications, 33.

Do you stand by them?
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« Reply #40 on: February 15, 2011, 07:58:10 AM »

A lot of your sources are huge 911 CTer publications, 33.

Do you stand by them?

 Roll Eyes  Roll Eyes

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« Reply #41 on: February 18, 2011, 08:41:13 PM »

How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People
CFR ^ | February 18, 2011 | Elliot Abrams

The Obama Administration cast its first veto in the United Nations on Friday, February 18, killing a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlement activity. Its poor handling of the entire episode has left just about everyone angry at the United States , and is therefore a manifest failure of American diplomacy. The Palestinian Authority began to talk about this resolution months ago. The United States could then have adopted a clear position: put it forward and it will be vetoed. That very clear stand might have persuaded the Palestinian leaders and their Arab supporters to drop the effort early on, when it could have been abandoned with no loss of face. Instead the Administration refused to make its position clear until the final day...It seems clear that the Administration was desperate to avoid a veto, indeed desperate to go four years without spoiling its “perfect record.”

But a “perfect record” in the UN requires vetoes, given the persistent anti-Israel bias of the organization. The Administration’s desire to avoid vetoes only served to reduce its bargaining power, for the credible threat of a veto has long served American diplomats seeking to achieve an outcome more favorable to our interests.

On the last day before the vote, the President called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas...asked Abbas to drop the resolution and settle for a non-binding statement condemning settlement expansion...But apparently the President did more than ask: “One senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the offer, made in an hour-long phone call from Obama, was accompanied by veiled threats of ‘repercussions’ if it were refused....

Abbas rejected the Clinton and Obama appeals and/or ignored their threats, in itself a sign of reduced American diplomatic influence. The American veto will have angered Palestinians even more. But it will not have gained the Administration any thanks from Israel or from supporters of Israel in the United States, who were appalled by the Administration’s search for a bad compromise...

So the Administration was content with condemning settlements, happy to establish a new UN fact-finding mission, and willing to redefine the role of the Quartet. All that just to avoid a veto of the sort American presidents have been ordering for decades. Feeling guilty about its veto the Administration then issued an extraordinary “explanation of vote,” read by UN Ambassador Susan Rice. Though we had to veto, she explained, “we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace…."

This is amazing language for a diplomat: “folly,” “illegitimacy,” “devastates,” “corroded,” and so on. It’s hard to recall such a vehement statement against Israel, nor one that contains so many conclusions that are, to say the least, highly debatable....

No doubt the Administration decided that as it had vetoed it would “make it up” to the Arabs with this statement. But emotive language such as Amb. Rice employed serves no purpose. Arab newspapers will headline the veto—assuming of course that they have space in their pages tomorrow after covering the revolts in Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, Bahrain, and Egypt—and are very unlikely to cover her speech. Only Israelis and supporters of Israel in the United States will study her language, and remember it.

So, the Administration emerges having damaged relations with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Decades of American experience at the United Nations proves clearly the “folly” of such diplomatic action...Next time, say you’ll veto, veto, and leave it at that. The United States will end up with fewer angry friends and fewer gleeful enemies.

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« Reply #42 on: February 25, 2011, 01:09:10 PM »

fighting words
Is Barack Obama Secretly Swiss?
The administration's pathetic, dithering response to the Arab uprisings has been both cynical and naive.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, at 11:41 AM ET


However meanly and grudgingly, even the new Republican speaker has now conceded that the president is Hawaiian-born and some kind of Christian. So let's hope that's the end of all that. A more pressing question now obtrudes itself: Is Barack Obama secretly Swiss?

Let me explain what I mean. A Middle Eastern despot now knows for sure when his time in power is well and truly up. He knows it when his bankers in Zurich or Geneva cease accepting his transfers and responding to his confidential communications and instead begin the process of "freezing" his assets and disclosing their extent and their whereabouts to investigators in his long-exploited country. And, at precisely that moment, the U.S. government also announces that it no longer recognizes the said depositor as the duly constituted head of state. Occasionally, there is a little bit of "raggedness" in the coordination. CIA Director Leon Panetta testified to Congress that Hosni Mubarak would "step down" a day before he actually did so. But the whole charm of the CIA is that its intelligence-gathering is always a few beats off when compared with widespread general knowledge. Generally, though, the White House and the State Department have their timepieces and reactions set to Swiss coordinates.

This is not merely a matter of the synchronizing of announcements. The Obama administration also behaves as if the weight of the United States in world affairs is approximately the same as that of Switzerland. We await developments. We urge caution, even restraint. We hope for the formation of an international consensus. And, just as there is something despicable about the way in which Swiss bankers change horses, so there is something contemptible about the way in which Washington has been affecting—and perhaps helping to bring about—American impotence. Except that, whereas at least the Swiss have the excuse of cynicism, American policy manages to be both cynical and naive.

This has been especially evident in the case of Libya. For weeks, the administration dithered over Egypt and calibrated its actions to the lowest and slowest common denominators, on the grounds that it was difficult to deal with a rancid old friend and ally who had outlived his usefulness. But then it became the turn of Muammar Qaddafi—an all-round stinking nuisance and moreover a long-term enemy—and the dithering began all over again. Until Wednesday Feb. 23, when the president made a few anodyne remarks that condemned "violence" in general but failed to cite Qaddafi in particular—every important statesman and stateswoman in the world had been heard from, with the exception of Obama. And his silence was hardly worth breaking. Echoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had managed a few words of her own, he stressed only that the need was for a unanimous international opinion, as if in the absence of complete unity nothing could be done, or even attempted. This would hand an automatic veto to any of Qaddafi's remaining allies. It also underscored the impression that the opinion of the United States was no more worth hearing than that of, say, Switzerland. Secretary Clinton was then dispatched to no other destination than Geneva, where she will meet with the U.N. Human Rights Council—an absurd body that is already hopelessly tainted with Qaddafi's membership.

By the time of Obama's empty speech, even the notoriously lenient Arab League had suspended Libya's participation, and several of Qaddafi's senior diplomatic envoys had bravely defected. One of them, based in New York, had warned of the use of warplanes against civilians and called for a "no-fly zone." Others have pointed out the planes that are bringing fresh mercenaries to Qaddafi's side. In the Mediterranean, the United States maintains its Sixth Fleet, which could ground Qaddafi's air force without breaking a sweat. But wait! We have not yet heard from the Swiss admiralty, without whose input it would surely be imprudent to proceed.

Evidently a little sensitive to the related charges of being a) taken yet again completely by surprise, b) apparently without a policy of its own, and c) morally neuter, the Obama administration contrived to come up with an argument that maximized every form of feebleness. Were we to have taken a more robust or discernible position, it was argued, our diplomatic staff in Libya might have been endangered. In other words, we decided to behave as if they were already hostages! The governments of much less powerful nations, many with large expatriate populations as well as embassies in Libya, had already condemned Qaddafi's criminal behavior, and the European Union had considered sanctions, but the United States (which didn't even charter a boat for the removal of staff until Tuesday) felt obliged to act as if it were the colonel's unwilling prisoner. I can't immediately think of any precedent for this pathetic "doctrine," but I can easily see what a useful precedent it sets for any future rogue regime attempting to buy time. Leave us alone—don't even raise your voice against us—or we cannot guarantee the security of your embassy. (It wouldn't be too soon, even now, for the NATO alliance to make it plain to Qaddafi that if he even tried such a thing, he would lose his throne, and his ramshackle armed forces, and perhaps his worthless life, all in the course of one afternoon.)

Unless the administration seriously envisages a future that includes the continued private ownership of Libya and its people by Qaddafi and his terrible offspring, it's a sheer matter of prudence and realpolitik, to say nothing of principle, to adopt a policy that makes the opposite assumption. Libya is—in point of population and geography—mainly a coastline. The United States, with or without allies, has unchallengeable power in the air and on the adjacent waters. It can produce great air lifts and sea lifts of humanitarian and medical aid, which will soon be needed anyway along the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, and which would purchase undreamed-of goodwill. It has the chance to make up for its pointless, discredited tardiness with respect to events in Cairo and Tunis. It also has a president who has shown at least the capacity to deliver great speeches on grand themes. Instead, and in the crucial and formative days in which revolutions are decided, we have had to endure the futile squawkings of a cuckoo clock.

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Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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« Reply #43 on: April 02, 2011, 05:11:12 AM »

Ex-Mujahedeen Help Lead Libyan Rebels (Obama allied with Al Qaeda terrorists)
Wall Street Journal ^ | 4/2/11 | CHARLES LEVINSON

Two former Afghan Mujahedeen and a six-year detainee at Guantanamo Bay have stepped to the fore of this city's military campaign, training new recruits for the front and to protect the city from infiltrators loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The presence of Islamists like these amid the opposition has raised concerns, among some fellow rebels as well as their Western allies, that the goal of some Libyan fighters in battling Col. Gadhafi is to propagate Islamist extremism.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...
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« Reply #44 on: April 09, 2011, 10:08:11 AM »

..Gaza-Israel violence rages on as 4 militants killed
By Nidal al-Mughrabi | Reuters – Sat, 9 Apr, 2011 8:00 AM EDT

....ShareretweetEmailPri nt......GAZA (Reuters) - Israel killed four Palestinian militants and wounded half a dozen others as it pursued air raids in Gaza for a third day on Saturday, responding to increased rocket fire out of the territory, local medics said.

Militants in the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamist Hamas, continued striking Israel's south with rockets, wounding five Israelis at around daybreak, according to Israeli media reports.

Israeli forces killed a local Hamas commander in the southern Gaza town of Rafah bordering Egypt, as well as two of his bodyguards, in a targeted strike on a vehicle, medics said. Israel blamed the slain commander for a rocket strike on its port of Eilat launched from Egyptian Sinai some months ago.

Five militants were wounded in a second air raid in northern Gaza. Another air strike at daybreak killed a further militant.

Cross-border violence has surged since Hamas militants fired an anti-tank rocket at an Israeli school bus on Thursday, wounding two people including a teenager, who was listed in critical condition.

Israel has said it wants to teach Hamas a lesson for that attack, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday amounted to "crossing a line," adding that "whoever tries to attack and murder children puts his life on the line."

At least 18 Palestinian militants and civilians, including an 11-year-old boy, have been killed in retaliatory strikes on the Gaza Strip since Thursday, and 36 since the latest round of bloodletting began in earnest on March 20.


Gaza militants have fired over 70 rockets and mortars into Israel since Thursday, damaging a house, police said. Israeli media said half a dozen people have been wounded.

Some 50 rockets were fired on Friday, and Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system has intercepted seven since then.

Israeli security cabinet member Gideon Sa'ar said on Saturday that Israel's raids in Gaza, a tiny coastal territory under blockade by the Jewish state, would go on.

"We will not permit sporadic shootings or the disruption of life" inside Israel," Sa'ar told Israel Radio. "We will continue to operate, under full consideration, to implement a principle of defending our citizens."

A Hamas spokesman told Reuters afterwards that the militants would escalate rocket fire and aim for a broader range of targets unless Israel's aerial assaults were stopped.

"If the Israeli escalation continues, amid international silence and complicity, the reactions by resistance factions will broaden," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Fawzi Barhoum, another Hamas spokesman, urged the Arab League, now focused on unrest elsewhere in the Arab world, to convene urgently on Gaza.

"It is time for them to acknowledge Gaza and put the Palestinian struggle on their agenda," Barhoum said.

Two years of periodic, low-level skirmishing on the border escalated suddenly last month when Hamas showered rockets on Israel. Hamas had largely withheld fire since a Gaza war in late 2008 in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Political analysts in Gaza have explained the latest bloodshed as an effort by Hamas to divert attention from popular demands -- fueled by pro-democracy unrest elsewhere in the Arab world -- for an end to a split with its Western-backed Fatah movement rivals, who govern in the West Bank.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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« Reply #45 on: April 26, 2011, 01:21:03 PM »

Riyadh Freezes Huge US Arms Deal; US special forces and CIA operations suspended in Yemen
David Virgil Dafinoiu

The sixty-year old US-Saudi alliance has had its ups and downs but the differences were never allowed to sink to the icy level which marks them today and is seriously hurting America’s strategic standing in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf.

By the time Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Riyadh Wednesday, April 6, things had gone too far for his rescue mission to have any chance of success. His conversation with King Abdullah got exactly nowhere.

Gates hurried over to Riyadh after a secret Saudi message was received in Washington announcing a freeze on arms purchases from the United States, a first in Saudi-US military relations. The message explained that Riyadh needed spare funds to finance military operations against Iran in view of the deteriorating security situation. It hinted at the high cost of deploying Saudi troops in Bahrain and buttressing the oil kingdom’s border with Yemen in view of escalating civil warfare and Yemen President Abdullah Ali Saleh‘s uphill battle against his opposition.

Underlying the words was a hint that Riyadh intended to go shopping for cheaper weapons systems outside the United States, which was unheard of until now. New ground was also broken by Riyadh’s explanation that it needs to address the military and nuclear threat coming from Iran. For decades, America was accepted without question by all parts of the Gulf region as their as trusty security shield.

First Saudi arms shopping expedition ever outside the US
The blow to American pockets as well as its prestige is disastrous: Saudi Arabia is the top buyer of American military hardware. It committed last year to a package, including F-15 fighter jets and a range of helicopters, worth $60 billion, the largest America’s military industry has ever landed.

Shortly before Gates landed in Riyadh, US officials briefing the press traveling on his plane assured them he would bring “good news” from Riyadh on the arms deal. But other officials admitted that the Saudi Arabian monarchy was “so unhappy with the Obama administration for the way it pushed out President Mubarak of Egypt” that it had sent senior officials to the People’s Republic of China and Russia in search of expanded business and defense procurement opportunities.

The conversation between the Saudi King and US defense secretary ranged over four main subjects: Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and the Saudi-US arms transaction.

On Iran, Riyadh and Washington were wider apart than ever before, their differences on the handling of Iran’s expansionist thrust and nuclear program exacerbated by the latest Arab turmoil.
In a blistering denunciation, the king told Gates he found it hard to excuse the Obama administration’s obdurate disregard of Saudi intelligence updates to the CIA on the complicity of Tehran and Hizballah in destabilizing Lebanon and Bahrain.

Bushehr – a ticking Fukushima on Saudi Arabia’s doorstep
Even less excusable in the Saudi view was Washington’s refusal to take seriously the testimony offered after Saudi troops entered Manama to defend the Bahraini throne that Iran was stepping up its preparations for military intervention after fomenting riots among the 2 million Shiites living in the eastern Saudi oil regions.
The Saudi ruler had concluded that no matter what evidence was put before President Barack Obama, he would never be deflected from his policy of engagement with Tehran.

Abdullah warned that American indulgence of Iran’s nuclear aspirations was placing the very survival of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states in grave jeopardy.
The king had a particular bone to pick over the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr, our sources disclose. Despite all of our warnings, Abdullah told Gates, you tried to persuade us (in August 2010) that Iran’s first reactor would be harmless. And what do we see today if not a potential Fukushima on our doorstep? Even Tehran is scared to activate it after witnessing the Japanese nuclear calamity, realizing that if it explodes, millions of Iranians will die.
So how are we supposed to feel now about the Iranian reactor and US assurances?

Abdullah was harshly critical of the US presidential advisers’ counsel to the White House to withhold endorsement from Saudi military intervention in Bahrain.
As long as Washington hopes to topple the Bahraini and Saudi kingdoms by promoting pro-democracy revolutions on the Egyptian pattern, why would you expect the Persian Gulf rulers to support America and treat it as an ally? he asked the US defense secretary.

Abdullah tells Saleh to turn his back on Washington and hold tight
King Abdullah explained that once he had realized the Obama administration had no intention of acting in consideration of the security interests of the Saudi and Gulf nations, he resolved to take their affairs into his own hands. He said he now feels free to do what he thinks necessary to advance those interests without resorting to – or even consulting with – Washington.

Gates confirmed that the US did have “evidence” of Iranian meddling in the turmoil besetting Bahrain and other Middle Eastern countries, refuting the Obama administration’s public statements denying Iran was a primary factor. But this admission most probably came too late. Abdullah has set his course on a new policy that distances the kingdom from the United States. Even though Gates disagrees with Obama on the Middle East – and especially on military intervention in Libya – the Saudi monarch knows that his time is almost up at the Pentagon.

According to USSO Gulf sources, Riyadh has in the past 10 days struck out against the United States by launching an independent course in Yemen.
Last week, the Obama administration reversed its policy of support for President Abdullah Ali Saleh and told him it was time to negotiate terms for his departure with the opposition.
The Saudis stepped in thereupon and told Saleh to ignore Washington and hold tight because from now on, he could count on Saudi-led GCC backing taking the place of the United States.

This was Riyadh’s first public demonstration of the new policy as exercised in the Arabian Peninsula. It was followed, according to our exclusive counter-terror sources, by intensive consultations between the Yemeni president and Saudi intelligence chiefs who visited the palace in Sanaa, and at least two top-level conversations between King Abdullah and the Yemeni president.

US special forces and CIA operations suspended in Yemen
The upshot was dramatic and never until now revealed.
Late last week, a communication from President Saleh reached Washington announcing the suspension of US special forces’ operations at their secret base near the port city of Hodeida and the hold-up of covert CIA activity against Al Qaeda in Yemen.

In other words, American forces are banned from using Yemeni soil or its Red Sea waters as bases for striking Al Qaeda terrorists in Arabia.
This is the first time that fallout from Arab Revolt – called by some the Arab Spring – has impaired America’s war on Al Qaeda. It has increased the danger that terrorists hiding in Yemen, the most notorious of whom is the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is connected to at least three terrorist attacks, including the Fort Hood shooting, will be free to resume their attacks in the United States.

That is just one of the side-effects of Saudi King Abdullah’s new policy.
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« Reply #46 on: April 26, 2011, 07:36:11 PM »

He's doing terrific!

He is applying his brilliant community organizing skills to world diplomacy. The results are truly splendid.

After his virtuoso skills helped organize the black community in Chicago to record high murder rates, HIV infections, bankruptcy's, incarcerations and general misery, Barak Hussein Osama built on that success and took it to the White House.

Osama is great at apologizing for things that never happened, reading teleprompter s and not taking strong positions on anything. His most resounding policy is that he has no policy. However, he does enjoy going on vacations. Reports also show that our swindler and chief likes to play lots of golf and basketball. His days of community organizing in the hood helped him perfect his jump shot. Unfortunately, Vladamir Putin, Kim Jong IL, Bashir Assad and Mullah Omar like cricket much better than basketball. 

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« Reply #47 on: April 27, 2011, 04:18:28 AM »

The Wrath of Abbas
Fed up with the stalled peace talks, the Palestinian leader defies Israel and vents about Obama.
 Paolo Verzone / Agence VU for Newsweek
Portrait of Mahmoud Abbas in April 2011.

We’re somewhere over the Mediterranean, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is trying to get inside the head of Barack Obama. “We knew him before he became president,” he’s saying, struggling to understand what happened to the man who had seemed more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than any of his predecessors. “We knew him and he was very receptive.” Around us, Abbas’s closest aides are shuffling papers or typing on laptops, while his bodyguards lounge on long corduroy couches. Saeb Erekat, the ubiquitous adviser, is writing talking points for Abbas’s meeting the next day with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. A man with a sidearm is shoveling pumpkin seeds into his mouth. In a space the size of two living rooms, most of the 20-odd passengers are puffing on cigarettes, and so is Abbas. At 76, he smokes more than two packs a day.

Abbas is about as affable as politicians come—even hawkish Israelis like Ariel Sharon have said so. But occasionally, he can deliver a shot of scathing criticism, usually followed by a grandfatherly smile. A week earlier, he told me bluntly that Obama had led him on, and then let him down by failing to keep pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank last year. “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze,” Abbas explained. “I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it.” Abbas also criticized the mediation efforts of Obama’s special envoy, George Mitchell, who has shuttled between Israelis and Palestinians for more than two years. “Every visit by Mitchell, we talked to him and gave him some ideas. At the end we discovered that he didn’t convey any of these ideas to the Israelis. What does it mean?”

Now, on the flight from Tunis to Paris, I wanted to know how long Abbas could wait. The next 18 months are probably dead time in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy as Obama focuses on his reelection campaign. No candidate for president wants to risk alienating Israel’s supporters by pressing the peace question. But a second-term president can be bolder. Bill Clinton, after his reelection in 1996, managed to get an Israeli agreement for a partial West Bank withdrawal. Netanyahu remembers it well: he was prime minister at the time. But Abbas, who has worked every angle for Palestinian statehood for 50 years, the last six as president, says he’s nearly out of time. “I cannot wait. Somebody will wait instead of me,” he tells me. “And I will not stay more.”

As the Middle East undergoes profound transformation, Americans can count on one thing in the region remaining the same: the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to be an irritant for Arabs and a source of resentment against the United States. Abbas offered the best hope for peace between the two sides when he took over for Yasir Arafat in 2004. Moderate in his approach to Israel and unequivocally against violence, he was the counterpoint to Arafat’s wiliness and eccentricity.
Paolo Verzone / Agence VU for Newsweek

Mahmoud Abbas being interviewed by media at the Hotel Meurice in Paris, in April 2011

The optimism didn’t last long. In short order Abbas lost his Parliament to the Islamists of Hamas and then lost Gaza to the same uncompromising group. By the time he and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert drew close to agreement in 2008, corruption charges made the Israeli leader a lame duck. Then Israelis elected Netanyahu.

If Abbas leaves the stage without a deal, it would add another layer of uncertainty to the regional turbulence. Among political figures in the West Bank and Gaza, Abbas is the most popular, followed by the leader of Hamas. Even if Abbas’s Fatah party can retain power, his successor would lack Abbas’s founding-generation stature. He would likely be less able to push through the required compromises for peace with Israel. “It would really be a tragedy of missed opportunities,” says Yossi Beilin, a former peace negotiator who knows Abbas well.

 Farah Nosh

Photos: A History of the West Bank

West Bank Story While these issues swirl, Abbas last week let NEWSWEEK into his personal space. For five days, I traveled with him from Jordan to Tunisia to France as he rallied support for a U.N. resolution this September that would confer statehood on the Palestinians—a conscious replication of the process that gave birth to Israel more than 60 years ago. On the plane and before and after the meetings, I had almost unfettered access to Abbas and his closest advisers.

The team travels on an Airbus A318 borrowed from the United Arab Emirates (the PLO owns just a tiny jet). When fitted for commercial flights, it holds 132 passengers, but in the current configuration, it has all the comforts of a private plane: open spaces, wood-topped coffee tables, and leather bucket seats. Abbas’s travel routine includes a few moments of prayer in his seat during takeoff and then about 15 minutes of reading from a dog-eared copy of the Quran. Through much of the flight, stewardesses are wheeling out Middle East staples like couscous and kebabs but also shrimp and calamari and mussels, which Abbas seems to particularly like. As we’re landing in Tunis, an aide who’d introduced himself as Colonel Said goes around spraying Paco Rabanne Ultraviolet on each of the passengers.

The trip has all the trappings of a foreign tour by a head of state: the presidential marching bands at the airports and the convoys of black luxury cars speeding through town as policemen hold up traffic (in Paris, no less). They’re a testament to the juggernaut the PLO has built up over many decades, and the broad sympathy governments have for the Palestinian cause. But Abbas is constantly aware that he heads something short of a state, and that the time left for him to achieve independence is ticking down.

 Paolo Pellegrin
Photos: Gaza on My Mind

Gaza: Wounded City Behind the Blockade On the evening of Feb. 17, Abbas got a phone call to his office in Ramallah. President Obama was on the line with a request. In the preceding weeks, Arab protesters in the region had toppled two longtime autocrats, including one of America’s closest Arab friends, Hosni Mubarak. Demonstrations raged in Libya and Yemen, and would soon spread to Syria. In Washington, officials worried that the protesters would eventually focus on America’s relationship with some of these dictators and on its support for Israel. Obama’s cautious steps seemed to be preventing the dreaded scenes of protesters burning American flags. But a U.N. Security Council resolution initiated by Palestinians and scheduled to be debated the next day threatened to remind Arabs of the very thing they hate most about America.

The resolution demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory,” a position Obama long supported. In fact, Palestinians say they lifted the language straight from public remarks made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But it put Obama in a bind. Members of his Democratic Party felt they’d paid a price in the midterm elections a few months earlier for Obama’s tough stand with Netanyahu in the preceding year. An American veto might mitigate the damage. But it would also remind the Arab demonstrators how uncritical America’s support for Israel can often be.

So for 55 minutes on the phone, Obama first reasoned with and then pressured Abbas to withdraw the resolution. “He said it’s better for you and for us and for our relations,” says Abbas. Then the American president politely made what Abbas describes as a “list of sanctions” Palestinians would endure if the vote went ahead. Among other things, he warned that Congress would not approve the $475 million in aid America gives the Palestinians.

Abbas relates the story to me during our stop in Tunis. In the presidential guest house, a sprawling compound of luxurious suites and chandeliered meeting rooms, the televisions are all tuned to the Arabic news networks. In this news cycle, the focus is Syria, where Bashar al-Assad has launched a violent crackdown against protesters. The Palestinians in the room are all rooting against Assad, who has given money and support to Abbas’s rivals in Hamas. Earlier in the week, the conversation with Abbas had turned to Mubarak and America’s handling of the revolution in Egypt. Abbas told me he thought the push Obama gave Mubarak was “impolite” and imprudent. “From day one, when it started with Mubarak, I had a telephone call with Madame Clinton. I told her, ‘Do you know what are the consequences? Either chaos, or Muslim Brotherhood or both,’?” he says. “Now they have both.”

After Abbas informed Obama he wouldn’t withdraw the resolution, Clinton followed up with a 30-minute exhortation of her own. Then more pressure. Lower-level officials phoned several Palestinian influentials in Ramallah and asked them to use their sway over the Palestinian leader. Still, Abbas was unprepared for what was coming. Only when he watched the Security Council vote on television did the reality sink in. “I had an idea that they will abstain,” he tells me. “But when they said, ‘Who will be against?’ my friend Susan [America’s ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice] raises her hand.” Abbas shakes his arm and lets out a long hoot. The council’s 14 other members, including France and Germany, all supported the resolution.

Late last week, when NEWSWEEK’s White House reporter asked a spokesman for a response to Abbas’s criticism, a senior administration official who had been in the room during Obama’s conversation with Abbas described the account as a “selective reading of how those events transpired.” The official declined to be identified. But Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, was willing to be quoted by name. He said the conversations with Abbas and Clinton were shorter than Abbas maintains and insisted that Obama did not raise the possibility of punitive measures. “It’s simply not accurate to claim that he threatened President Abbas,” Vietor said. “President Obama made the same case privately that we make publicly—that this effort does not help the Palestinians, Israelis, or the cause of peace.”

The White House also took exception with the notion that Obama left Abbas in the cold; one official called the accusation “nonsense.” And Vietor described as “totally inaccurate” Abbas’s criticism of Mitchell, the envoy. “Of course he carried both parties’ ideas to each other all the time.”

In Paris, the French government sends luxury Peugeots to ferry Abbas and his closest aides from Orly airport, while the rest of the entourage gets around in Mercedeses owned by a private car company. My driver tells me the company’s owner is a Palestinian who has been friends with Abbas and Arafat since the 1960s. He provides the cars gratis whenever the delegation comes to town. His company also provides service to Arafat’s widow, Suha, who lives in Paris and whom my driver describes as “generous with the tips.”

We’re dropped at the hotel Le Meurice across from the Tuileries Garden. Adjoining suites make up Abbas’s room and his office, and aides and guests are constantly coming and going. On the sidewalk outside, a few dozen groupies wait for Beyoncé Knowles, who is also staying at the hotel. She crosses the lobby moments before Abbas heads out to his meetings.

On the agenda with Sarkozy is the outlook for September, when Abbas plans to make his big U.N. gambit. United Nations maneuvering, especially when it relates to the Middle East, is usually the equivalent of a political Ambien. But Abbas believes a resolution that recognizes a new state of Palestine in the 1967 borders would be a game changer, especially if it has the support of the world’s leading democracies. Which is why Paris is the fifth European capital he’s visited in the past six weeks. Judging by Israel’s response, he might not be wrong. In a speech to Israel supporters in New York last month, the usually unflappable defense minister, Ehud Barak, warned that Israel faces deep isolation, a “diplomatic tsunami,” come September.

In the room, Sarkozy is receptive. He tells Abbas he’s incensed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s settlement building and supports Palestinian independence. Still, the U.N. vote could draw a harsh Israeli response or trigger another round of violence. After an hour of talks, the French president remains noncommittal.

The strategy for September marks a gamble for Abbas. At least one of his aides worries it will generate the kind of expectation that the Palestinian leader couldn’t then meet. U.N. votes don’t make 500,000 Jewish settlers suddenly disappear from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And Netanyahu is unlikely to just hand over the keys. (His spokesman, Mark Regev, said about the U.N. initiative: “The Palestinians can go for more empty rhetoric or choose a path of real change. The only way to peace and Palestinian statehood is through negotiations with Israel.”) For the statehood resolution to have more than just symbolic impact, Abbas would have to come back from New York and assert sovereignty over the territory the U.N. just handed him. But that would entail confrontational measures—for instance, ending the security cooperation with Israel. Abbas told me that’s a path he will not take.

The danger is that without tangible movement, the disappointment could turn into popular anger—directed at Israel or even at the Palestinian president himself. Abbas is fond of saying that if just 10 people protested outside his office in Ramallah, he would step down, in contrast to the Arab leaders who cling to power. When he told me that on the trip, one of his aides corrected him: “You said three people the last time.”

Abbas is missing the tip of his right ring finger. The story I’d heard seemed to reflect the awkwardness Abbas experienced going from being Arafat’s behind-the-curtain deputy to leading the PLO—and how much he hated crowds. While campaigning for president after Arafat died in late 2004, a horde of people surrounded his car in southern Gaza. Unsure about their intentions, he pressed the electric button of his armored window and closed it on his own finger. But Abbas told me the real story, a version that made more sense. It was his driver, concerned for his safety, who pressed the button. By the time Abbas reacted, the tip of his finger had been severed.

Abbas was due to give a speech in the town, so he bandaged the finger and stayed for two hours. The same driver then ferried him to a hospital in Gaza City, 30 kilometers away. “I found the doctor there, he made the surgery for me,” Abbas told me.

Is the driver still working for him? “No, no, no. I told him, ‘You have to leave,’ and he left.”

With Daniel Stone in Washington and Joanna Chen in Jerusalem
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« Reply #48 on: May 13, 2011, 09:41:39 AM »

AP sources: US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell plans to resign
By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, May 13, 1:00 PM

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s special Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, is resigning after more than two largely fruitless years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks, U.S. officials said Friday.

The White House is expected to announce that the veteran mediator and broker of the Northern Ireland peace accord is stepping down for personal reasons, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an afternoon announcement that will follow a White House meeting between Mitchell and President Barack Obama.

There are no imminent plans to announce a replacement for Mitchell, the officials said, although his staff is expected to remain in place at least temporarily.

Mitchell’s resignation comes at a critical time for the Middle East, which is embroiled in turmoil, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been moribund since last September and is now further complicated by an agreement between Palestinian factions to share power.

Obama will deliver a speech next Thursday at the State Department about his administration’s views of developments in the region, ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also will travel to Washington next week.

In a telephone interview Friday with the MaineToday Media group in Mitchell’s home state, Obama said: “George is by any measure one of the finest public servants our nation has ever had.” He didn’t address the resignation directly, but added that Mitchell is also “a good friend.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration remains focused on the Middle East peace process.

“The president’s commitment remains as firm as it was when he took office,” Carney said. “This is a hard issue, an extraordinary hard issue.”

Since his appointment on Obama’s second full day in office in January 2009, Mitchell, 77, had spent much of his time shuttling between the Israelis, Palestinians and friendly Arab states in a bid to restart long-stalled peace talks that would create an independent Palestinian state. But in recent months, particularly after the upheaval in Arab countries that ousted longtime U.S. ally and key peace partner Hosni Mubarak from power in Egypt, his activity had slowed markedly.

Nimer Hamad, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the AP that Mitchell’s job had been made more difficult by Israeli intransigence.

“Mitchell hasn’t been in the region in three months,” Hamad said. “Whether he resigns or not, it’s clear that Mitchell wasn’t in the region because he didn’t see the possibility of being a mediator between two sides where one of them is not responsive.”

Israeli officials declined to comment until the official announcement is made.

Mitchell has led a long career as politician, businessman, congressional investigator and international mediator.

Upon being announced as the administration’s point man for Mideast negotiations, he recalled his role in producing Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace accord in 1998.

“We had 700 days of failure and one day of success,” he said. “For most of the time, progress was nonexistent or very slow.”

Mitchell believed his patience would serve him well in the Arab-Israeli conflict and its constant forward and backward steps. Speaking of the Northern Ireland conflict, he added: “I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings.”

Mitchell served in the Senate as a Democrat from Maine from 1980 to 1995, the final six years as majority leader. In 2000-01, he headed a fact-finding committee on Mideast violence that called for commitments by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to immediately and unconditionally end their fighting. The panel urged a cooling-off period and other steps toward peace, but it did not lead to lasting results.

The April 2001 Mitchell report asked Israel to freeze settlements in the West Bank and called on the Palestinians to prevent gunmen in Palestinian-populated areas from firing on Israeli towns and cities. The settlements, as well as Israeli concern over rocket and other attacks on its soil, remain sticking points today.

Mitchell also led the 2007 investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in major league baseball. Before that, he was chairman of The Walt Disney Co. from 2004-2006.


Associated Press writer Julie Pace in Washington and Dalia Nammari in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Soul Crusher
Getbig V
Posts: 18648

Doesnt lie about lifting.

« Reply #49 on: August 07, 2011, 08:50:16 AM »

Not working out too well huh? 
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