Wednesday, July 10, 2019

William O. Beeman response to: "U.S. Accuses Iran of ‘Nuclear Extortion’ and Vows More Sanctions" NY Times July 10, 2019

William O. Beeman response to: "U.S. Accuses Iran of ‘Nuclear Extortion’ and Vows More Sanctions" NY Times July 10, 2019

https://nyti.ms/2XCgHTT#permid=101391426
The United States pulls out of the JCPOA, tries to destroy Iran's economy, and vows "regime change," favoring the despised terrorist group, the Mujaheddin-e Khalk (MEK/MKO) to state a U.S. led coup. Then U.S. representatives have the absolute gall to accuse Iran of "nuclear extortion."
When will anyone pay attention to the fact that Iran is fully in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to which Iran and the United States along with nearly 200 other nations are signatories?
The NPT prohibits Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It also allows Iran to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Currently 19 other nations enrich uranium, and indeed, sell it abroad with no censure. Iran is the only nation singled out for their legal enrichment activities.
Iran is also abiding by the JCPOA. Paragraph 36 allows Iran to relax its nuclear activities if other parties to the agreement fail to live up to their obligations under the agreement. First and foremost among those not living up to their obligations is the United States, by virtue of its withdrawal. Iranians correctly claim that the other JCPOA signatories are also not living up to the agreement, because Iran is not receiving the sanctions relief promised by the agreement.
It is not popular to defend Iran, but they are in the right here. The United States is profoundly wrong, and the Europeans are feckless and unwilling to step up and fulfill their obligations. "Nuclear extortion" indeed! Pot calling the kettle black!

Monday, July 01, 2019

William O. Beeman response to: Trump’s Iran Strategy Will Fail. Here’s Why. ‘Maximum pressure’ will only strengthen the Revolutionary Guards, which has recast itself as the defender of a new, nationalist narrative. By Narges Bajoghli New York Times June 30, 2019

My response to: Trump’s Iran Strategy Will Fail. Here’s Why. ‘Maximum pressure’ will only strengthen the Revolutionary Guards, which has recast itself as the defender of a new, nationalist narrative.  By Narges Bajoghli New York Times June 30, 2019

Thanks to Professor Bajoghli for this enlightening analysis based on solid field research. Thanks, too, to the Times Dr publishing it. Since the US government under Trump makes no effort to understand anything beyond their juvenile gut reactions, we can be grateful that there are still a few genuine researchers who are able to go deeper than the cartoon characterizations of Iran today, fraught with lies, myths and empty invective. National Security Advisor John Bolton, accurately parodied by Gary Trudeau in Sunday's Doonesbury comic strip, is only the worst of the ignoramuses shaping our Iran "policy." There is plenty of uninformed chuckleheadedness to go around. Nationalism was a major driving force in the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. It was why the Iranian government turned against the US. Having tried to control Iran since World War II, Iranians were sick of American control of their government and destiny. Secular nationalists were the first post-Revolutionary leaders of Iran, usurped after six months by Ayatollah Khomeini and the religionists. As Professor Bajoghli rightly states, the IGRC has tapped into that deep wellspring of universal Iranian nationalist sentiment, which ironically protects the religious conservatives as well. Iranians will resist fiercely Trump's attacks on the IGRC have been turned against him. His attacks will never bring about the "regime change" Bolton and his ilk lust after. We truly have the most ignorant fools running this clown show.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

William O. Beeman answers to Questions on U.S.-Iranian Relations posed by Persia Digest

William O. Beeman (WB) answers to Questions posed by Persia Digest
Persia Digest: Tensions between the US and Iran have been on the rise in recent weeks. Although President Trump says he does not want war, he has threatened Iran with “complete obliteration”. In return, Iran has shown its readiness to defend itself by downing a US drone in its airspace. It will also begin the second phase of scaling back its commitments under the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal on 7 July. The EU has warned Iran against abrogating the JCPOA. Under these circumstances. We posed these questions to William O. Beeman, internationally known expert on Iran-U.S. relations. 
1. Iranian politicians, and especially its military commanders, believe the chances of a military strike on Iran by Trump are minimal. As Trump’s presidential campaign has been formally launched, does such an interpretation also exist in the US (officials, the media, public opinion).

WB: American commentators are of two minds. Some believe that Trump will not risk a war with Iran because it will damage his re-election chances. He promised not to involve Americans in any further Middle East conflicts when he campaigned for the last election, so keeping the U.S. out of war would be fulfilling his campaign promise.
On the other hand, many commentators note that for a presidential re-election, a war is a good thing, because it fires up patriotism in the country, and people will often say that they “don’t want to change horses mid-stream” meaning they don’t want to change leaders in the middle of a conflict.
But what both positions are really stating is that for Trump, the decision as to whether to engage Iran in conflict is not a military or a security decision. It is purely a political decision. This is consistent with everything Trump does. He seems to care nothing for American security or the welfare of the United States (or the world). He only cares about himself and his political needs. He has accurately been described as a narcissist and an egomaniac.
It is a great shame that so many people must suffer for the sake of one selfish person, but that is unfortunately the situation with Donald J. Trump.
2. Iranian officials, including President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, have repeatedly said that Iran will not negotiate under pressure, but it will respond to politeness with politeness. Why is President Trump not willing to travel down this path instead of applying maximum pressure to reach its goal (negotiations for a deal with Iran)?
WB: Trump advertises himself as a “tough negotiator.” He has done this all his life. In his career as a real-estate investor he regularly cheated people, not paying them for work they did. When they complained, he sued them. He believes that the way to negotiate is to never apologize, never let up pressure, and never concede anything. Unfortunately, his advisors, National Security Advisor, John Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also believe that the only way to negotiate with Iran is to show force, never concede anything, and to be as tough as possible. They truly believe that maximum pressure and no diplomacy is the way to force Iran to negotiate, and they believe that they will get 100% of what they want and Iran will get nothing. President Theodore Roosevelt a century ago said that in diplomacy you need to “speak softly but carry a big stick.” Some commentators in the U.S. point out that Trump’s philosophy is “all stick.”
I have written extensively on ta’arof in Iran. Trump will never understand ta’arof, and this creates a great divide in negotiating styles. It might be wise for Iranian leaders to understand that Trump is 72 years old and is never going to change his negotiating style. For this reason, Iranian leaders must find another way. By the way, one aspect of ta’arof is something that Trump responds to, and that is flattery. Leaders like Putin and Kim Jong Il have extracted a lot of concessions from Trump by flattering him extensively. This is probably not what Iranian leaders are prepared to do, but it does work with Trump.
3. Despite compliance with the JCPOA (as confirmed by the IAEA), Iran has faced a severe sanctions regime over the past year. If Iran leaves the JCPOA, it will face even further sanctions. So, what policy should Iran adopt?
WB: At this point, Iran has been sanctioned to the max, so leaving the JCPOA is not likely to make much difference in terms of sanctions. However, staying within the JCPOA provides Iran with a moral high ground. I need to point out that aside from the JCPOA, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Leaving the JCPOA places Iran in potential violation of the NPT. In fact the entire negotiation leading to the JCPOA was to ensure that Iran would be in compliance with the NPT. Iran argued, correctly in my opinion, that the NPT allowed for enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes. The Bush administration took the position that uranium enrichment was not “automatically” allowed under the NPT. Leaving the JCPOA will raise this question once again, and if Iran decides to leave the JCPOA it should be prepared to once again face the United Nations over the NPT question.
4. Many international analysts believe that maximum pressure to change Iran’s approach has failed, or it will not lead anywhere. What will Trump do if he reaches the same conclusion? Would his Plan B be a war?
WB: It is impossible to tell what Trump will do when he realizes that his plan of maximum pressure has not worked. There is no question that there are other actors here. Netanyahu in Israel, MBS in Saudi Arabia and some of the princes in the UAE are urging the United States to attack Iran. Of course, they want the United States to fight a war for them. Trump has been flattered by these leaders, and may be enticed into conflict with Iran. John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and others are clearly trying to engineer a situation where Iran will launch a “first strike” against the United States. They want Iran to start the war so that they can claim that the United States is innocent. I urge Iranian leaders to resist this “baiting” at all costs. Iran has never launched a first strike against any nation for the past 300 years. It should not start now.
5. After years of talks with the West, Iran finally reached a clear agreement on its nuclear program. But Trump effectively put an end to it. Would you still trust the West and the US to negotiate with if you were in place of the Iranian leaders?
WB: I trust “the West.” I do not trust Trump. He withdrew from the JCPOA largely because it was negotiated by President Obama. Trump has tried to destroy everything that Obama did. He didn’t understand the JCPOA, and I doubt that he has even read it. He seemed to think that it was some kind of transaction, like a real-estate transaction, where the United States gave Iran $150 billion, and didn’t get anything in return. He either ignored or failed to understand that the money was Iran’s money which was owed by the United States.
European allies and signatories to the JCPOA understood the agreement very well, and they have been trying to find a way to stay in the deal and bypass American sanctions. The difficulty is that so much of the world’s commerce involves the United States dollar, and United States banking and financial institutions that there is no way for Europeans or others to deal with Iran and to avoid violating the prohibitions placed by the United States in dealing with Iran using dollars and U,S. institutions. The Europeans have been trying to find another financial arrangement that bypasses the United States, but it has been extremely difficult.
By the way, there is no prohibition on Iran to sell oil or petroleum products. The only prohibition levied by the United States is against people buying Iranian petroleum products using dollars or U.S. institutions.
At least one analyst claims that Trump’s decision to exit the JCPOA and to levy sanctions was due to Iran’s attempt to get petroleum sales denominated in Euros rather than dollars in 2003 [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrocurrency]. but pressed again in 2017. This is an intriguing theory, and it may be true. But it attributes too much intelligence to Trump, who I don’t believe knows anything at all about international trade. 
________________
William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. A linguistic anthropologist best known as a Middle East Specialist for more than 40 years, he has also worked in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Japan, China and South Asia. Recognized for special expertise in Iranian culture and linguistics, he is the author or editor of more than 100 scholarly articles, 500 opinion pieces and 14 books, including Language, Status and Power in Iran, and The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other. He has been a consultant to the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the United Nations and the European Union on Middle Eastern affairs. 


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

William O. Beeman Commentary on Friedman: "Trump Takes On China and Persia at Once. What’s to Worry About?" June 25, 2019

https://nyti.ms/2XwT9nA#permid=101132714


One thing I can guarantee. Any change in government in Iran that is engineered by the United States will fail utterly and completely. The United States has been meddling in Iran since World War II, and it has inherited the mantle of pre-World War II Great Britain in doing so. (Many Iranians continue to blame Great Britain for their woes). This has happened so relentlessly and so continuously, that it has engendered a habit of certitude in Iran that, given the slightest chance, the United States will do its damnedest to destroy Iran and its institutions. This happened in 1953 with the CIA overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadeq and the installation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It happend during the Iran-Iraq war, when the U.S. aided Saddam Hussain to fight Iran to a standstill. Then there are the economic sanctions designed to cripple and destroy the country. There are many, many other incidents that reinforce this picture. The Algiers accords that ended the 444 day hostage crisis extracted a promise from the U.S. that it would "never again interfere in Iran's internal affairs." Well, that promise was almost instantly broken, and now we have Bolton, Pompeo and Trump trying to enact regime change with the despised terrorist organization Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) riding on Bolton's coattails. Iranians are pressing for internal reform. But they must do it themselves. The United States will destroy this possibility if it continues its interference. No one trusts us in Iran!

Monday, June 24, 2019

William O. Beeman response to "Trump Imposes New Economic Sanctions on Iran, Adding to Tensions" June 22, 2019

https://nyti.ms/2X33WkY#permid=101099625

Placing restrictions on Ayatollah Khamene'i is the most ridiculous measure Trump could have taken. First, Ayatollah Khamene'i is Iran's spiritual leader. He has a gigantic foundation with billions of dollars used to support religious activities such as orphanages, schools and seminaries. Trump is attacking Shi'a Islam itself with this move, and that is how it will be interpreted in Iran. Just wait for Friday prayers this week! If Trump, Bolton, Pompeo and Brian Hook think this is the kind of pressure that will force Iran to collapse, buckle, surrender, etc., they are sadly mistaken. This action is going to result in a hardening of Iranian resolve. It is hard to underestimate the ignorance Trump and his team are demonstrating about Iranian culture, society, and reactions to pressure from external forces. They see relations with the United States and Great Britain before World War II as a continual campaign to control Iranian internal affairs. That was the crux of the Revolution of 1978-79. It is not likely that they will abandon this frame of mind, especially with foolish megalomaniacs like John Bolton continually screaming for "regime change" and threatening to replace the current government with the despised and inept terrorist group, the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK). Who will smack Trump across the forehead with a board to get him to wake up and stop pursuing this abortive, ineffectual and dangerous course. Perhaps when the shooting starts!

Friday, June 21, 2019

William O. Beeman Commentary on "Distress and Defiance in Iran" NY Times June 21, 2019

American chicken hawks like John Bolton and Sen. Tom Cotton salivating over the prospect of an Iranian government collapse should think twice. Iranians are fiercely patriotic and willing to withstand enormous hardship to preserve their nation. Above all, foolish monomaniacs like Bolton should abandon the fantasy that the terrorist organization, the Mujaheddin-e Khlaq (MEK) could ever assume power in Iran. The MEK was demonstrating today in front of the State Department for regime change with the shameful participation of US current and former officials. The MEK is despised in Iran, and if the United States tried to install them in power, that very US connection would absolutely doom them. Iranians are sick of American interference. Mr. Abdoh makes an extremely important point. Iran is hurting, yes. But since the 1980s Iran has developed a robust internal economy, and a remarkable infrastructural capacity. It has the capacity to produce everything it needs to survive an American imposed siege. There are some exceptions. Specialized medicine is in short supply. Medicine should be completely exempt from sanctions, but somehow crucial medical supplies are not making their way into the public market. This humanitarian crisis must be alleviated. If Europe and other supporters of the JCPOA are serious, they should come to the aid of the normal citizens of Iran who are caught between the towering egos of Trump and the Iranian establishment.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

William O. Beeman response to "After Iran’s Drone Attack, Trump Says He ‘Would Not Stand for It’" NY Times June 20, 2019


https://nyti.ms/31NbyeY#permid=101052941

There are many important considerations in this incident. 1. It is claimed that the drone was shot down in international air space. Closer inspection of this claim shows that it was in fact very close to Iranian air space--virtually on the border. It is not improbable that the drone first violated Iranian air space, and then flew out into the international space. This is consistent with the United States baiting Iran into violation. This needs to be carefully investigated. 2. Trump, based on intelligence briefings, suggested that this could have been a rogue action by the IRGC. This is highly probable. Whether "rogue" or not, such an action would have been pre-authorized if the drone did in fact violate Iranian air space. There is definitely room for a mistake in personal judgment in this case. 3. The IRGC has recently had its wings clipped by the Iranian government. Many of its resources have been transferred to the regular Iranian Army. This has created a great deal of anger in the IRGC. But from the standpoint of the US, this is in fact a positive response of the Iranian government to US and International demands. 4. Along these lines, the IRGC was initially created to prevent a counter-coup to the Revolution of 1978-79 as a para-military force. It has grown to be a severe problem within Iran itself. Though the Iranian government won't admit it, they are concerned about its influence. This action could be a protest from the IRGC to embarrass Tehran.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

William O. Beeman Comment on "Iran Has Ties to Al Qaeda, Trump Officials Tell Skeptical Congress" New York Times, June 19, 2019. Claim of Iran's ties to Al-Qaeda is a total lie.

New York Times, June 19, 2019

Time out. Stop. The claim that Iran has ties to Al Qaeda is a complete and total lie.
The Trump team must be getting desperate. It is true that Iran allowed some escaping relatives of Osama bin Laden to stay in Iran for a time, but this is a far cry from Iran having ties to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is an extreme reactionary Sunni faction of the Hanbali school of Islam. They are Wahhabi/Salafi in orientation (the Wahhabis and Salafis claim that they are different, but they espouse the same extreme views). They espouse killing of Shi'a Muslims as "not a sin," because they view Shi'ism as heretical. They have made this pronouncement many, many times. Persecution of Hazara Shi'a Muslims in Afghanistan is directly related to Al Qaeda and Taliban calls to murder them.
So is it even slightly plausible that Iran is somehow tied to Al Qaeda?
Republicans and neoconservatives tried to make this false equation during the Bush administration as a way to convince Republicans to attack Iran and effect regime change. This didn't work then, and Congressional representatives, no matter how much they dislike Iran, should not buy this utter garbage argument. It is being promulgated for the same aim as in 2003--namely to garner support for regime change in Iran.
Message to Congress: Don't buy this utter lie!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Why the United States Will Fail at Regime Change in Iran



The Trump administration has no end game for removing its economic blocade. The Trump team claims that they don't seek the destruction of the Iranian government, but that is exactly their naive aim. Lets examine why this is an incredibly stupid goal.

First, Iran is governed by a stable constitution that has been scrupulously observed for forty years since its inception. Regime change would mean trashing the Constitution. Not likely!

The nation is not a dictatorship, although Ayatollah Khamene'i does have the last word on many issues. Its presidents have served their terms and left office, replaced through elections that for the most part free and fair (the 2009 election being the possible exception). It has an active parliament with clear political factions and lively debate. Laws are not rubber stamped.

Second, there is no viable replacement for the current government. Bolton seems to entertain the fantasy that the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) could take over. This terrorist group is despised in Iran. They could never rule. 

Third, Iran has a robust internal economy. it is capable of producing everything it needs to be viable including food. building material and technical equipment.  Unlike Iraq, Iran would easily survive a siege.

Finally, Iran is huge, with a population of 80 million and a potential fighting force of 20 million. Iran survived a debilitating 8 year war with Iraq with immense patriotic fervor. A US war for regime change would be an unmitigated disaster. 

Monday, May 06, 2019

My Responses to an Iranian Journalist on Current Iranian Affairs

Responses to an Iranian Journalist on Current Iranian Affairs

William O. Beeman


Q1: On Friday, US President Donald Trump’s administration renewed five of seven sanctions waivers that allow Russia and European nations to conduct civilian nuclear cooperation with Iran but revoked the other two as part of its pressure campaign against Tehran, according to the US State Department. Washington also stopped issuing waivers to buy Iranian crude oil on Thursday. Before the US moves, Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, had warned against their consequences. What is your assessment of the developments and how do you think about Iran’s possible reaction to the US decision?

I believe the U.S. actions were unwarranted and will eventually be dangerous for the world. However, they were not sudden or unanticipated. The waivers were always temporary, and had an expiration date last week that was announced some time ago. There is actually no restriction on Iran exporting petroleum products. The restriction is on the buyers. The United States has a stranglehold on Iranian oil purchases because they are denominated in U.S. dollars, or in transactions that pass through U.S. Banks. Also the United States has threatened sanctions against any nation that purchases Iranian oil. The U.S. action has yet to be tested, however. There is an open question of what might happen if nations violate the U.S. restrictions. Maybe the U.S. would retaliate, Maybe it wouldn't. I will guarantee one thing, and that is that the United States doesn't know HOW it will enforce its threats, which remain just threats for the time being. My feeling is that Iran should go ahead and find customers for its oil that are willing to take a chance that the U.S. will not be able to enforce its restrictions--but I am not in charge. I still think it is a very good bet that the U.S. threats are mostly bluff and bluster, but Iran's customers, such as Italy, Turkey, India, and Japan are nervous about what MIGHT happen, so they are hesitant to defy Washington.

I do want to emphasize one thing. Iran has a very robust internal economy. The United States doesn't seem to understand this. Of course, most of Iran's foreign exchange comes from oil sales, but Iran has enormous natural resources, and its manufacturing capacity is also very strong. The nation is capable of producing enough food for itself and for export. So yes, the loss of income from oil will be very painful, but if the people of Iran are resolute and patriotic, Iran can not only survive, but also forge ahead economically by continuing to support the internal economy. 

Q2: As you know, Zarif was recently in the US. In multiple interviews with US media outlets and a roundtable with reporters in New York last week, he made the case that a group dubbed “the B-Team” was goading the US toward conflict with Iran, not Trump. The B-team is a group of advisers and foreign leaders whose names share the same letter: National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ). What is your take on Zarif’s remarks? How do you assess the message of his trip to the US?

These leaders who are spoiling for conflict with Iran are led by John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and many informal "advisors" in organizations like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and its subsidiary, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). These are sometimes identified as "neo-conservatives." They have been calling for military conflict with Iran for more than 25 years. The America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has also called for conflict with Iran. Their main goal is "regime change." They believe that if economic conditions worsen in Iran, the Iranian people will overthrow the Islamic republic and install leaders that are more acceptable to Washington. However, they have no idea who these new Iranian leaders might be. Sadly, people like John Bolton has been courting the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) for many years. Not too long ago, he met with an assembly of MEK supporters in Europe and implied that the United States would support a MEK coup. Thes chances of this being successful are of course nearly zero, but that is indicative of the ignorance of people like Bolton. Nevertheless, with such a person in a position of power, the danger to Iran is still very important. 

Q3: Zarif recently said he plans to visit North Korea in the near future. What do you think about possible objectives behind his trip and do you think that it would have links with his recent trip to the US?
Foreign Minister Zarif is going to North Korea in order to rattle Washington. There is no reason he should not go, but I don't believe much can come of such a meeting in practical terms. It will get some press, and will trigger some negative comments from Trump and Pompeo, but at a time when Trump is trying to emphasize that he "loves" Kim Jong Il, having Iran making overtures to North Korea creates bad political optics for Trump. Of course, the implication is that Iran might start its nuclear program again, and that North Korea might help. Actually, that is the only thing that Korea could offer Iran, except perhaps being willing to buy some petroleum products (insignificant market). Thus far I don't see Iran making such a dramatic move, but that is what some people in the press and in Washington will claim. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The United States Must End Support for the Yemen Genocide

https://nyti.ms/2GCDL1G#permid=29894193

The United States Must End Support for the Yemen Genocide
William O. Beeman
Comment for New York Times

The United States' despicable support for Saudi Arabian genocide in Yemen cannot be dismissed by claiming opposition to Iran. Iranian involvement is minimal, and only started well after the Saudis began this slaughter. The Houthis are NOT rebels. They are Zayidi Muslims, a branch of Shi'ism. The Zayidis ruled Yemen from the 9th Century until the 1970s. So this is a civil war, not a rebellion. Moreover, the Houthis/Zayidis have already effectively won. The Saudis are trying to dislodge them at this point through genocidical action. The Saudis see the Zayidis as a threat, because they also live across the Yemeni border in Southern Saudi Arabia. We must get this blood off our hands, and stop the carpet bombing murder of innocent civilians. Rather than providing military support to Saudi Arabia, we should be pressuring Riyadh to support a cease fire and a peaceful settlement.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Americans are Misled on Yemen Conflict

William O. Beeman

Americans have been fed an enormous lie about the conflict in Yemen. The Houthis (named after their current leader) are NOT "rebels." They are, in fact, members of the Zaidi community of Shi'a Muslims. They ruled Yemen from the 9th Century until the 1970s when North and South Yemen (a former British colony) were re-united. The Zaidis were then persecuted by the Sunni leadership in Sana'a. Their movement is in reaction to that persecution, and is an effort to regain their historic control of the country. The Zaidis also live in Southern Saudi Arabia, precariously close to Jeddah, Mecca and Medina, and that is the problem. They have effectively won the civil war. They occupy the capital, and most large centers of population. But the Saudis are afraid that if they fully establish control over Yemen, their Saudi residents will challenge the Royal Family. The Saudis have therefore launched this monstrous humanitarian crisis to try and eliminate the Zaidis. They have sold the lie that somehow the Zaidis would not have tried to re-establish their sovereignty unless instigated by Iran. This plays into the US enmity against Iran, and the utterly false narrative that Yemen is some kind of Iranian expansion project. Yes, Iran has provided some aid to the Zaidis/Houthis, but the aid has not been extensive, or, more important, decisive. The Zaidi/Houthis have achieved their gains on their own. Simply stated, the Saudis are practicing genocide. The US should not participate.

https://nyti.ms/2zR5QN4#permid=29682290

Monday, June 22, 2015

Iranians Overwhelmingly Favor Lausanne/Vienna Accords

I have just returned from a three-week trip in Iran in which I interviewed hundreds of Iranian citizens. I have written several reports of my trip. They are a bit unrefined and I will be editing them into a much longer piece. I think many know that I speak fluent, unaccented Persian, so I am able to talk with Iranians of all ages, ethnicities, education and income levels quite easily. 

Basically my conclusions are that most Iranians are very hopeful that the Vienna talks will be successful. They never talk about nuclear energy or nuclear weapons. They only talk about the lifting of sanctions.

Young people in particular see success in the talks as benefiting the problem of unemployment for university graduates. Four million Iranians will graduate with their "lisans" (undergraduate degree) this year. That is 5% of the entire Iranian population--a huge number. For lower-income Iranians this unemployment situation is the result of great unhappiness. Many families have sacrificed greatly to send their children to college. If they attend the Daneshgah-ye Azad, they must pay tuition. This varies by faculty, but it seems to be about 1 million tomans per semester. Middle and upper class Iranians can pay this, but for the lower income groups it is very hard. Of course attending government institutions is free, but many students still have to work to support themselves.

More realistic (one might say, cynical) people believe that the lifting of sanctions will not result in immediate benefits for the less affluent populations. The most cynical people say that if sanctions are lifted it will only really benefit the very wealthy who are going to be best prepared for foreign investment, which, based on the enormous number of foreign businessmen and women I met seems to be inevitable. Iran's GDP growth was in excess of 3% last year by independent measures (World Bank, IMF) which exceeds that of the United States. Iran's absolute poverty level stands at 12%, but the United States is at 15% as is Australia and Japan.

And why not extensive international investment? Iran is prepared for it already. One of the most important things I learned on this trip was that Iran has developed an extremely robust internal economy and that highly developed  infrastructure has emerged since the revolution--and aided by the sanctions (which insulated Iran from the global recession, paradoxically). One can see this everywhere. There are factories, mining facilities and thriving businesses in every part of the country we visited--Tehran, Zanjan, Hamadan, Kermanshah, Khorramabad, Ahwaz, Shiraz, Yazd, Isfahan, Na'in and Kashan. Roads--four-lane divided highways between major cities--are better than any other nation in the region. Railroads are expanding and air transport covers the entire nation with frequent service. The roads are full of commercial transport vehicles loaded with agricultural and consumer goods and basic materials such as stone, wood, petroleum products and manufactured building materials.  International business people come and see industrial and commercial facilities and networks that are already established and working full-steam. No primary investment will be necessary for international partners in many cases--only expansion both of the scope of manufacturing and in marketing and distribution.

Agriculture has greatly expanded (at the expense of water resources, however). The nation is groaning with high-quality food. The produce is beautiful and abundant as the amount of land under cultivation has expanded tremendously. This is an incredible difference from the period just before the revolution when Iran was importing so much food.

Again, the cynics in Iran point out that much of the import economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard officers and other high public officials. People on the street told me over and over that these people oppose the Lausanne/Vienna  accords because their grip on imports will be broken if the markets are opened.

So we have a curious paradox. Everyone I talked to, without exception wanted the accords to succeed. Many emphasized not the economic benefits but rather the need for "friendship" between the United States and Iran. One elderly Qashqa'i woman put it succinctly: "Why can't we just be friends. Why all this fighting? Who does it help?"

In the United States we have several factors that create opposition to the Vienna talks.

First, Americans do not have an accurate image of Iran. The idea that Iran is a backward, hostile nation with terrorists running around everywhere and women under total oppression is very widespread. I have never seen such a huge gap in perception between fact and reality. This is partly due to nearly 40 years of estrangement. Many Americans think that Iran is a dangerous place, and that if they were to travel there they would be arrested or terrorized.

This makes it very easy for pro-Israeli groups in the United States to demonize Iran in American public opinion. Groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its offshoot, the Washington Isntitute for Near East Policy (WINEP) are propaganda think tanks with a huge grip on American legislators and American Public media.

The New York Times is one of the worst offenders in telling outright lies about Iran. The New York Times has an inordinate influence on public opinion in the United States. The reporters  David E. Sanger, William J. Broad, Rick Gladstone and Michael Gordon have been writing inaccurate, negative articles about Iran regularly for at least 12 years. The editorial staff, who writes the headlines for their articles also makes their articles look even more negative than they are.

Because the American public has such a negative view of Iran, politicians have found out that attacking Iran is good for their political ambitions. No politician ever lost a vote by attacking Iran. Saying negative things about Iran draws applause and general public acceptance. Moreover, if a politician says something even mildly positive about Iran, like: We should talk to Iran, they are immediately attacked as anti-Isarael or even anti-Semitic.

However, the aforementioned business forces in the United States favor the accords as does the Obama administration, so there is a real difference of opinion in the American system.

Let me say that I personally believe that John Kerry and Javad Zarif are very accomplished negotiators. If it were up to them, they would have finalized these accords in a minute.

Also, I believe that the other members of the P5+1 group will ratify the accords. So even if the United States does not, trade will resume between Iran and Europe. Iran does not need the United States to benefit from success in these accords, but Iranians overwhelmingly want Iran and the U.S. to be friends again, even if conservatives in both Iran and the United States oppose this.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Falsely Accusing Iran of "Backing Away" from Nuclear Deal--New York Times

David Sanger and Michael Gordon of the New York Times have done it again. They have managed to accuse Iran of acting in bad faith on the nuclear negotiations--without even knowing what those negotiations consist of, or before an agreement is either signed or abandoned.


("Iran Backs Away from Key Detail in Nuclear Deal," New York Times March 29, 2015)


Messers Sanger and Gordon have been trying to sabotage these talks with their insidious journalism since they began. Sanger in particular was furious at the NIE assessments that asserted clearly that Iran had no nuclear weapons program. By using known Iran detractors such as Gary Samore, Olli Harnonen and David Albright almost exclusively in their reporting, and by editorializing on IAEA reports, they have done their work well. Many Americans firmly believe that Iran is on a path to making nuclear weapons, even though no evidence for this exists at all, anywhere.


In this case they claim that Iran has "backed away" from shipping enriched uranium to Russia based on a single remark to the Iranian press by Iranian deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi that “The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program, and we do not intend sending them abroad,”


The possibility of sending the enriched uranium abroad may or may not have been on the table in the nuclear negotiations, but it was so widely rumored, that in the eyes of Messrs Sanger and Gordon it was some kind of bedrock principle of the talks.


Iran cannot be accused of backing awy from something it has never agreed to do.


Anyone watching Iran should realize that dealings between Iran and Russia are not a matter of trust and good will. Iran deeply distrusts deals that make its supply of uranium dependent on Russia. This has happened several times before. They are afraid that they will ship their uranium to Russia and it will disappear forever, either not given back by Russia, or subject to sequestration by the International Community. Given their experience with the sanctions, this is a fairly reasonable supposition.


There are alternatives to shipping the uranium out of the country, and we will see if those prevail. I hope they do. The Russian delegate clearly was upset. He left the talks. But he was never assured of the uranium transfer.


It is hoped that cooler heads prevail in Lausanne and that an agreement can still be reached.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Perpetually Confused Conflicts in the Middle East--public lecture by William O. Beeman with discussion from Portland Oregon

The Perpetually Confused Conflicts in the Middle East

Attached is a recording of a lecture given to the "Thirsters" civic group in Portland, Oregon on August 7, 2014 dealing with the many conflicts in the Middle East today.

This is a long audio file--nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes. I spoke for an hour and the next two and a half hours were intense questions and discussion. Please note that the beginning of this sound file contains crowd noises. The lecture starts after an introduction from the president of the group.


Public Download link 

Instant Play link 


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Will There be a Sunni-Shi’a War in the Middle East? Not Likely--William O. Beeman, New America Media

Will There be a Sunni-Shi’a War in the Middle East? Not Likely

Will There be a Sunni-Shi’a War in the Middle East? Not Likely

New America Media, News Analysis, William O. Beeman, Posted: Jun 18, 2014


The success of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in capturing large territories in Syria and Northern Iraq, and now threatening Baghdad, has raised once again the specter of a Sunni-Shi’a war in the Middle East. Such a scenario is possible, but unlikely. That’s because Sunni and Shi’a believers throughout the world are divided into many factions living under different social conditions and with different religious, social and political agendas. These differences greatly reduce the possibility of the emergence of a coalition of either group into a single bloc opposing the other.

ISIS belongs to a small faction of Sunni Islam committed to extremist fundamentalist religious convictions that they seek to impose on other Muslims. In this they have common cause with the Salafi movement (salaf means “ancestors,” referring to the original founders of Islam).

The Taliban of Pakistan and Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda also spring from the Salafi movement. The Salfis view Shi’ism as heresy. They believe that Shi’a believers are “polytheists” because of their reverence for Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad and his descendants. Salafi preachers have authorized the killing of Shi’a Muslims as a religious duty. Salafi adherents are found throughout the Arabian Peninsula and also in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

ISIS has roots dating back to 2000 and has evolved to the point that it is functioning as a quasi-government at present with an organized leadership and judicial, financial and military systems. They are actively hegemonic, hoping to establish an Islamic Caliphate, hearkening to medieval times, governed exclusively by their own narrow interpretation of Shari’a Law.

Meanwhile, Shi’ism also exists in many forms. The form known as “Twelver Shism” has been the State religion in Iran since the 18th Century, and is practiced in other nations where believers are a plurality or a majority. Although Americans have been led to believe that Shi’a Muslims are also fundamentalists, in fact Shi’ism is far more flexible in its belief system than fundamentalist Sunnis. Besides the “Twelvers” there are Zayyidis in Yemen, Alawis in Syria (the religion of the Assad regime) and Isma’ilis living in many locations throughout the world.

Twelver Shi’ism is organized into differing philosophical camps headed by Grand Ayatollahs. Shi’a believers attach themselves to one of these religious leaders from whom they seek guidance on religious matters. There are currently 66 living Grand Ayatollahs living mostly in Iran and Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait, each with his own individual view of proper conduct and religious philosophy. A coalition of thought for this diverse body of clerics is highly unlikely.

The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded by the followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni with the controversial doctrine that the most knowledgeable Grand Ayatollah should be the ultimate authority in government and social life. However, many other Grand Ayatollahs disagreed with Ayatollah Khomeini’s view of governance. A number were arrested and stripped of their religious credentials because of their opposition. One of the chief oppositionists to the Khomeinist view of government is Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani of Najaf, the most revered Grand Ayatollah of Iraq.

Shi’ites have been under siege everywhere else in the world outside of Iran. Shi’ites in Lebanon were attacked by Israel seeking to cripple Sunni Muslim Palestinians living in refugee camps there. The Alawite regime in Syria holds power, but has been continually attacked by the Sunni majority in that country. The Zayyidis in Yemen and Saudi Arabia have been attacked by the Sunni governments in both nations. The Bahraini majority Shi’ites have been under siege by the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa family. Hazara “Twelver” Shi’ites have been persecuted and murdered in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Shi’a in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia have been prevented from carrying out religious observances and have been economically disadvantaged. The religious rights of Shi’ites have been curtailed in various parts of Southeast Asia.

Now, although Shi’a Muslims are a plurality, perhaps a majority in Iraq, they are under attack by ISIS.

Iran, meanwhile, has striven to help Shi’a communities when they have been under attack. Iran was instrumental in the formation of Hezbollah in Lebanon when the Shi’a community was first attacked by Israeli forces in 1980. However, Iran no longer has any effective influence on Hezbollah’s actions. Iran also continues to provide aid to the Assad regime in Syria. It has sheltered Hazara refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran has been wary of providing direct aid to other Shi’a communities, such as those in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, despite the fact that ruling powers in those countries have accused them of doing so.

The current crisis in Iraq, though, is not likely to lead to more widespread conflict. ISIS is frightening even for the conservative government of Saudi Arabia and the more liberal government of Jordan. ISIS is well funded, largely because it has commandeered oil fields in Iraq and it robbed the Iraqi Central Bank in Mosul. It continues to receive funding from Salafi “businessmen” in the Gulf States. But support for ISIS will eventually run out, since for many other Arab nations, the ISIS Salafi agenda is far too extreme.

And if Iran does enter into confrontation with ISIS, it is not likely to engineer the disparate Shi’a communities in the Middle East into anything resembling a bloc. On practical grounds such an effort would fail, and savvy Iranians know this. Iraqi Shi’a don’t like or agree with Iran’s Islamic Republic governmental structure. Hezbollah in Lebanon has set its own course at home, and is not likely to be under Iranian control. Iran seeks better relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, even as the leaders of those nations denigrate Tehran. Even within Iran there will be many factions that will not support any kind of cultivation of a Grand Shi’a Alliance for military or political gain.

The United States is now considering making common cause with Iran, something that critics see as a dangerous move that would support “Iranian hegemony.” But this criticism is largely speculation, based on based on lack of information about Iran and the rest of the Shi’a world.

If it is possible for the government of Iraq to repel and contain ISIS with Iran’s help, the United States should definitely support such an action. There need be no real fear at this time that either the Shi’a or Sunni forces will evolve into a kind of World War III in the Middle East.

If Iran itself or the sacred Shi'a Shrines in the Iraqi cities of Najaf, Kerbala, Kufa and Samarra are attacked, however, all bets are off. Iran fought an eight-year war with Saddam Hussein when it was attacked in 1980. The shrines are essential to Shi'ism and Iran considers itself guardian of them. No matter what nationality, if Sunni Muslims make common cause with any group that attacks Iran, they will be met with enormous ferocity.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology, University of Minnesota. He has conducted research in the Middle East for more than 40 years.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Disintegration of Iraq Has Begun--William O. Beeman--New America Media


The Disintegration of Iraq Has Begun

New America Media, News Analysis, William Beeman, Posted: Jun 12, 2014
Iraq was a creation of the British following World War I out of disparate Ottoman provinces that had never had any coordinated existence. It is now on the verge of disintegration, thanks to the misguided policies of the American Bush/Cheney administration. President Obama is being pressured by his Republican critics to “do something” about this. But anything he does will only make matters worse.

The forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have now taken most of Northern Iraq and are inching toward Baghdad. The withdrawal of American troops from the country, and the inexperience of the Iraqi national army have left the field wide open for this takeover. Since troop numbers for ISIS are very small—around 1000 by some estimates—their rapid advance seems incomprehensible, until one considers the ethnic makeup of the territory.

ISIS is a mature Sunni Muslim movement started in 2000. The government of Iraq and its troops are largely Shi’a Muslim. The territories now conquered by ISIS are also Sunni. There is only one conclusion that fits the facts of the success of the ISIS conquest: The Sunni residents of Northern Iraq are aiding ISIS in the takeover. Thus the ISIS “conquest” is not that at all—it is rather a full-scale revolt of the Sunni population against the Shi’a government.

The seeds for these events were sown a full century ago in the creation of the State of Iraq by the British. The British essentially created an artificial state that was doomed to self-destruct. The surprise is not that it is falling apart; it is rather that it has lasted this long.

After World War I, the British had two goals regarding Iraq. They wanted the oil riches of the Ottoman province of Mosul, and they wanted the port of Basra as a depot for the export of that oil and the transport of goods from India to Europe via the railway they also built. Baghdad, the historical metropolis that lay between these two on the great navigable rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, was the natural capital of the new nation.

The British were not at all concerned about the ethnic communities of the new nation. They were mere inconveniences controlled by force to allow the colonial occupation to continue to extract wealth. The Kurds, sitting on the oilfields, were traitorously cheated out of their own independent state. The majority Shi’a in and around Basra were deprived of any but a token role in governance, and the Sunni kings in Baghdad—natives of Arabia and installed by the British—were dominated by the British Embassy and army until a revolution removed them all in 1958.

Keeping the nation together after that point was a formidable task. After years of internal strife the nation devolved into a military dictatorship under Saddam Hussein whose ruthless authoritarian tactics suppressed all revolt on the part of the individual ethnic communities.

All of this changed in 2003 with the American invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush. The first American invasion by George H.W. Bush had left the government intact, but the 2003 invasion destroyed Saddam’s rule and left the nation’s factions exposed like an open sore. The Shi’a majority established a government, but like in the Kingdom of Iraq, the new government was dependent on the American military to maintain the order they needed to govern. Moreover, the Shi’a leaders, fuming with rage at decades of mistreatment wanted revenge. They clamped down on the Sunnis, depriving them of any power in the new government and engaging in their own repression of Sunni majority regions. This of course created even more enmity between the communities.

Now, with the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq, the wounds are open once again, and there is nothing available to stench the flow of blood. The United States situation presents a terrible dilemma for President Obama. He is being called upon to do something to stop ISIS, as if this organization was an invading force that could be air-bombed and stopped. In fact, ISIS is simply the vanguard of a popular resistance against the Baghdad government. Moreover, Iranian troops have been enlisted to aid the Iraqi army in countering these forces.

So the pressure on President Obama from his Republican critics to provide military support against ISIS is misguided. If the President acquiesced, he would be attacking a popular revolt. The justification for this would be that the United States is actually attacking the seemingly greater enemy—fundamentalist Sunnis who are already furious at the United States. However, this distinction is utterly lost on the Sunni residents of Northern Iraq who have been caught in military crossfire for more than a decade and already see the United States as the enemy.

Added to this is the fact that Iranian troops have been enlisted to aid the Iraqi army. Thus the United States, in attacking ISIS would actually be making common cause with Iran—which Washington has labeled “the chief State supporter of terrorism.” The irony is truly staggering.

So at this point President Obama is trapped. Opposing ISIS is in the interests of the United States. Allying with Iran is political poison for the Obama administration. Doing nothing will result in the disintegration of Iraq. Right now, disintegration seems to be the path that the United States and the Iraqis are following.

Can this terrible state of affairs be calmed? Perhaps. The United States handled the insurgence in the Sunni communities by bribing the leaders of the resistance with cash and promises of leadership positions. The cash was given, but the leadership positions never emerged. That is still a strategy that could work in the short run. In the long run if Iraq is to hold together, there must be a serious effort at power-sharing at the national level.

Failing that, the nation will certainly split apart. There is nothing more to hold it together.

William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He has conducted research in the Middle East for more than 40 years

Sunday, April 06, 2014

William O. Beeman Commentary on Thomas Friedman "Sheldon: Iran's Best Friend" NY Times April 5, 2014: Crude and Inaccurate on Iran

Sheldon: Iran’s Best Friend
APRIL 5, 2014

Commentary on this article by William O. Beeman

Tom Friedman's characterization of Iran's current attitude toward Israel is both crude and inaccurate. Iran has never threatened to "destroy Israel." This is a piece of cant that has been repeated so often that it constitutes "truth by repetition." Mr. Friedman's piece uses a cheap rhetorical ploy to make his point. It is indeed "cute" to juxtapose Adelson and Iran and thus play to mistaken cultural stereotypes.

Iran has championed the Palestinians and their mistreatment by Israel. It has also defended the Shi'a population in Southern Lebanon that has been attacked in over-the-border raids by Israel in violation of international law. If Israel would resolve the Palestinian issue, Iran would gladly resume diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv, since Iran has no quarrel with the Israeli people, or indeed with Jews. It may be that Sheldon Adelson may destroy Israel by promoting crude right-wing politics directed at the Palestinians, but Iran would applaud the granting of equal rights and independence for Palestinians, and this would effectively end Iran's objections to Israel.

A final point: Iran conducts considerable sub rosa trade with Israel through third parties, and Iranian Jews (and indeed others) can travel to Israel via third countries. The large Iranian Jewish population in Israel are still Iranian identifying with Iranian culture and civilization. There is far more that unites Iranian and Israeli society, but the Palestinian issue is a continual obstacle.
___________________________________________
IT occurred to me the other day that the zealously pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, actually have one big thing in common. They are both trying to destroy Israel. Adelson is doing it by loving Israel to death and Khamenei by hating Israel to death. And now even Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey inadvertently got drawn into this craziness.

What’s the logic? Very simple. Iran’s leaders want Israel destroyed but have no desire, in my view, to use a nuclear bomb to do it. That would expose them to retaliation and sure death. Their real strategy is more subtle: Do everything possible to ensure that Israel remains in the “occupied territory,” as the U.S. State Department refers to the West Bank, won by Israel in the 1967 war. By supporting Palestinian militants dedicated to destroying any peace process, Tehran hopes to keep Israel permanently mired in the West Bank and occupying 2.7 million Palestinians, denying them any statehood and preventing the emergence of a Palestinian state that might recognize Israel and live in peace alongside it. The more Israel is stuck there, the more Palestinians and the world will demand a “one-state solution,” with Palestinians given the right to vote. 

The more Israel resists that, the more isolated it becomes.

Iran and its ally Hamas have plenty of evidence that this strategy is working: Israel’s 47-year-old occupation of the West Bank has led it to build more settlements there and in doing so make itself look like the most active colonial power on the planet today. The 350,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank reinforce that view by claiming their presence in the West Bank is not about security but a divinely inspired project to reunite the Jewish people with their biblical homeland.

The result is a growing movement on college campuses and in international organizations to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state because of this occupation. This “B.D.S. movement” — to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel — is gaining adherents not only among non-Jews on American campuses but even within some Hillels, campus Jewish centers.

Iran could not be happier. The more Israel sinks into the West Bank, the more it is delegitimized and isolated, the more the world focuses on Israel’s colonialism rather than Iran’s nuclear enrichment, the more people call for a single democratic state in all of historic Palestine.
And now Iran has an ally: Sheldon Adelson — the foolhardy Las Vegas casino magnate and crude right-wing, pro-Israel extremist. Adelson gave away some $100 million in the last presidential campaign to fund Republican candidates, with several priorities in mind: that they delegitimize the Palestinians and that they avoid any reference to the West Bank as “occupied territories” and any notion that the U.S. should pressure Israel to trade land for peace there. Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney took the money and played by Sheldon’s rules.

In case you missed it, the R.J.C., the Republican Jewish Coalition, held a retreat last weekend at an Adelson casino in Las Vegas. It was dubbed “the Sheldon Primary.” Republicans lined up to compete for Adelson’s blessing and money, or as Politico put it: “Adelson summoned [Jeb] Bush and Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin to Las Vegas. ... The new big-money political landscape — in which a handful of donors can dramatically alter a campaign with just a check or two — explains both the eagerness of busy governors to make pilgrimages to Las Vegas, and the obsession with divining Adelson’s 2016 leanings.”

Adelson personifies everything that is poisoning our democracy and Israel’s today — swaggering oligarchs, using huge sums of money to try to bend each system to their will.

Christie, in his speech, referred to the West Bank as “occupied territories” — as any knowledgeable American leader would. This, Politico said, “set off murmurs in the crowd.” Some Republican Jews explained to Christie after he finished that he had made a terrible faux pas. (He called something by its true name and in the way the U.S. government always has!) The West Bank should be called “disputed territories” or “Judea and Samaria,” the way hard-line Jews prefer. So, Politico reported, Christie hastily arranged a meeting with Adelson to explain that he misspoke and that he was a true friend of Israel. “The New Jersey governor apologized in a private meeting in the casino mogul’s Venetian office shortly afterward,” Politico reported. It said Adelson “accepted” Christie’s “explanation” and “quick apology.”
Read that sentence over and contemplate it.

I don’t know if Israel has a Palestinian partner for a secure withdrawal from the West Bank, or ever will. But I know this: If Israel wants to remain a Jewish, democratic state, it should be doing everything it can to nurture such a partner or acting unilaterally to get out. Because, I’m certain that when reports about the “Adelson primary” reached the desk of Supreme Leader Khamenei in Tehran, a big smile crossed his face and he said to his aides: “May Allah grant Sheldon a long life. Everything is going according to plan.”