Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bibi & 'Bama - What it Means

This morning, something HUGE happened. Some of you may have missed it, or heard about it but failed to grasp its gravitas. Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel spoke to Congress on the dangers of U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks. This wasn't a simple speech on something we all agree on - this wasn't something designed by the President to make Congress look bad. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

The Head of State of a foreign nation made an unprecedented address to the U.S. Congress - bypassing the President of the United States, entirely. That's massive. 

The state of Israel has long (since 1949) been a close ally of the United States of America - a nation that we have defended in the UN, provided weapons & technology to, during the Cold War years, and publicly defended as a beacon of democracy in the midst of the chaos of the Middle East. While Presidents & Israeli PMs have certainly had their share of differences over the years, our two nations have enjoyed a mutual respect and kindness toward each other, for decades.

Now, in light of talks between the United States and Iranian diplomats, over Iran's nuclear program, Congressional Republicans - and many throughout the nation, on both sides of the isle, fear that the United States is willing to make far too many concessions to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the name of compromise. For this reason, House Majority Leader, late in January 2015, John Boehner (R) invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington to share his concerns --------------- without consulting the President. In Boehner's words,

"In this time of challenge, I am asking the Prime Minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life. Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again."

To clarify, Israel has a serious concern with the potential for a nuclear-armed Iran, as Iranian leaders have vocally condemned the existence of the Jewish state for years. Many fear that if Iran possesses nuclear weapons, they will almost certainly use them to attack the state of Israel - which could have dire consequences not only for these two nations, but for the entire world. Preventing such an outcome, is clearly a desirable objective.

The White House was less than enthusiastic about this revelation, when Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, "The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he's traveling there." From the initial announcement it was clear that the President felt personally insulted by this breach of protocol, and for months there has been speculation over the impact of this speech.

Shortly before the speech by Netanyahu, President Obama spoke briefly on the speech, in an interview, calling it a "distraction" from the larger concerns with Iran, and deflecting to queries about how destructive this breach of policy would be to the U.S.-Israeli relationship in the future. His tone - as is frequently the case with President Obama - seemed calm and unconcerned - which is even more concerning in light of the seriousness of the issue.

Bibi's speech was fantastic, in my opinion. He steered a careful course - remaining respectful and supportive of the United States and even President Obama, while condemning the Iranian nuclear talsk as "a bad deal." He was careful to condemn Iranian leaders as "zealots" pursuing "jihad" and referring to the nation at large as the world's "foremost sponsor of terror" - breaking from the recent rhetoric of President Obama, who has painfully sought to disassociate the acts of Islamic terrorists from the religion of Islam. Netanyahu's speech was a polite slap in the face to the President and his administration - reminding the American people that just because Obama says something is true, it doesn't mean the rest of the world agrees.

The most stunning part of this entire situation, however, is the tone of President Obama, in light of everything. While he may be trying to come across as "above the fray" and even presidential - it simply isn't working. The entire nation - both nations in fact - recognize that this speech was no distraction - it was a serious address by a foreign head of state to the American people, on U.S. soil - in direct opposition to the policies of the American President. James Oliphant wrote today, in the National Journal, that

"Obama, in an interview with Reuters, had dismissed the speech as a "distraction," and aides made sure everyone knew he would be too busy to watch it. But if the president didn't cast an eye at a TV, he might have been the only person in Washington not to. And that's the problem. 
For weeks, the White House has worked steadily to write the speech off as a thinly veiled Republican ploy to undermine the delicate negotiations with Iran. But network coverage treated it for what it was: the head of state of a critical ally delivering a controversial address on American soil. That served the interests of both House Speaker John Boehner, who was the impetus behind the speech, and Netanyahu, elevating both of them while key Democrats such as Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren stayed offstage."

I couldn't have said it better myself (ya, I know - don't even say it). While Barack Obama wants to write this off as a small blip on the radar - the American people aren't buying it! And frankly, Obama's coolness in light of this insult is hurting, rather than helping him.

So yes - something big happened in Washington this morning. Bibi threw down the gauntlet to Barack, in his own town, and I am excited, frightened, and generally fascinated to see what the coming weeks will bring us.


  1. Please show evidence that Iran has, or is trying to obtain nuclear weaponry. Please also show why it would make any kind of sense for Iran to use it. This whole debate seems to hinge on that point.

  2. All of Iran's uranium is tracked by the IAEA because they are party to the NPT. None of it is being enriched above energy levels (3%). They are technically allowed to enrich to 20%. A weapon takes about 95% enrichment.

    To build a weapon needs tens of millions of dollars of funding. It needs dozens of tests in unpopulated areas. It needs months of high enrichment. It needs decades of science.

    Their religious leaders have publicly and explicitly stated that having nukes would be against Islam. Their government leaders have explicitly demanded that no government official participate in a nuclear weapons program.

    Iran is fighting against ISIS. Iran fights against Al-Qaeda.

    Please explain how it is we might be led to believe that Iran desires to commit an act of aggression against another nation.

  3. This post was about Netanyahu's speech to Congress and how that reflects on the President. I'm not interested in debating the truth claims of Shiite theocracies.

    1. It seems to me like you're trusting some politicians more than others. I personally don't see why either Obama or Netanyahu would be any more or less likely than the other to lie or tell half-truths in pursuit of a political agenda.

    2. Most certainly I am. We all trust some politicians over others. Or are you honestly saying you're not trusting some politicians more than others? You believe what neo-liberals & libertarian politicians say, but not US conservatives, blue collar liberals or Israeli conservatives? You only believe politicians that echo your own ideology.

      I judge according to the actions of the politician, as I have observed them - not their words. Words can lie, actions rarely do.

    3. The difference in trust that I have between those two is so microscopic, it may as well be the same. There are less than a handful of politicians that I trust, and even then not totally.

      What is a neo-liberal?

      Do you only believe politicians that echo your own ideology?

      What are the actions of Netanyahu that you believe make him worthy of being trusted? What makes you think that he is a friend of the US residents?

  4. One thing though - Iran's hatred of ISIS and Al Qaeda is irrelevant. Shiites and Sunnis have warred for over a thousand years. It doesn't mean they've seen the light and are allies of the West.

    1. The question remains: is there a shred of evidence that Iran is making, or has any intent to make or use, or could ever make or use a nuclear weapon without being stopped first?

      Also, in case you were wondering, Iran has been fighting alongside the US in Iraq against ISIS. They are literally allies with the West in that sense. They supported the actions of Bush in 2003, because they also wanted to see Saddam removed from power and have a Shiite theocracy instituted in Iraq (that's what the US did, switched it from the Sunni/secular Saddam to a Shiite theocracy).

    2. So to clarify, you're okay with Shiite allies, or opposed to it?

    3. Do I need to be either? In my personal life, I will have friendships with anyone of any race or religion. Muslims are perfectly amiable.

      In regards to my preference on Middle East policy, the question is loaded. I'm morally and practically opposed to US foreign intervention and occupation. The more involvement the US has, the worse the problems get. I'm not interested in forcing my fellow neighbors to pay for my meddling in someone else's affairs. Maybe I'll meddle if I want, and you can if you want. But why make other people give your cause money?