History > 2009 > USA > Politics > International (I)
15 January 2009
April 30, 2009
The New York Times
By HELENE COOPER and JEFF ZELENY
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Wednesday that he was
“gravely concerned” about the stability of the Pakistani government but that he
was confident Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal would not fall into the hands of
Speaking at a prime-time news conference on his 100th day in office, Mr. Obama
called the government in Pakistan, where army forces are at war with Taliban
insurgents who have been advancing on Islamabad, “very fragile.” Pakistan’s
leader, President Asif Ali Zardari, is to visit Washington next week, and
American officials have been pressing his government to be more aggressive in
battling the insurgency.
“I am more concerned that the civilian government right now is very fragile,”
Mr. Obama said, because it lacks the capacity to deliver services like health
care and the rule of law. “As a consequence,” he added, “it’s very difficult for
them to gain the support and loyalty of their people.”
Mr. Obama also hit back at critics including former Vice President Dick Cheney,
maintaining that harsh interrogation techniques used by the previous
administration did not yield any information that could not have been obtained
through other means.
Responding to the fallout over his decision to release secret memorandums that
laid out the Bush administration’s legal justification for interrogation
techniques like waterboarding — which Mr. Obama called torture — the president
said that none of the intelligence reports he had seen left him thinking such
methods were justified or necessary. “I will do whatever is required to keep the
American people safe,” Mr. Obama said. “But I am convinced that the best way to
do that is to make sure we’re not taking shortcuts that undermine who we are.”
He offered no shift, however, in his opposition to an independent inquiry into
the Bush administration’s policies on the interrogation of terror suspects.
During the one-hour news conference, Mr. Obama struck a variety of notes,
ranging from historian-in-chief to mom-in-chief, when he lectured Americans to
take precautions against the swine flu.
“Wash your hands when you shake hands; cover your mouth when you cough,” he
said. “I know it sounds trivial, but it makes a huge difference.”
There were a few light moments, particularly when Mr. Obama was asked what has
surprised, troubled, enchanted and humbled him in the past 100 days. “Wait, let
me get this all down,” he said, taking out a pen.
He was surprised, he answered, by the number of critical issues that appear to
be coming to a head all at the same time.
“I didn’t anticipate the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” he
said. “The typical president has two or three big problems, we have seven or
He said he was troubled, or at least, “sobered” by how much “political posturing
and bickering takes place even when we’re in the middle of really big crises.”
He called himself enchanted by American servicemen and women, and their
sacrifices they make, although he allowed that “enchanted” might not be the
By the time he got to what humbled him, he was ready to expound, going on about
the how the presidency was “just part of a much broader tapestry of American
life” and how “the ship of state is an ocean liner, not a speed boat.”
Often over the course of the hour, he sought to draw distinctions between
himself and his predecessor, and said that he had changed America’s relations
with the world. “We have rejected the false choice between our security and our
ideals,” he said.
Asked about his administration’s support in several recent court cases for the
Bush administration’s position that the government had a broad right to invoke
national security secrets to block litigation, Mr. Obama responded that he wants
to modify the so-called state secrets doctrine, but had not had time to do so
when the court cases came up.
“I actually think that the state secret doctrine should be modified,” he said.
“I think right now it’s over broad.”
Addressing the economy, Mr. Obama said his administration had made progress but
that there was much more to be done and that he ultimately wants a more stable
economy less prone to boom and bust.
“We cannot go back to an economy that is built on a pile of sand — on inflated
home prices and maxed-out credit cards, on overleveraged banks and outdated
regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the prosperity of
us all,” Mr. Obama said in an eight-minute speech before taking questions from
He offered a new catchphrase to describe his economic program, calling for a
“new foundation for growth,” that would encompass increased spending on issues
like education and renewable energy.
Mr. Obama suggested that the pressures of governing at a time of economic
crisis, war and now a potential flu pandemic have led him to pay less attention
to some issues of intense interest to his political base. Asked if he would keep
a campaign promise to eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on
abortion, he said that while he favored abortion rights, getting rid of those
restrictions were “not my highest legislative priority.”
Asked about how he would use the government’s power as a major shareholder in
companies like General Motors and Citigroup, he said the government should limit
“I don’t want to run auto companies. I don’t want to run banks,” Mr. Obama said.
“I’ve got two wars I’ve got to run already. I’ve got more than enough to do. So
the sooner we can get out of that business, the better off we’re going to be.”
The news conference in the East Room of the White House was the final act in a
daylong series of events staged to mark Mr. Obama’s 100th day in office.
Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Obama traveled to Missouri for a town meeting in a state
that he narrowly lost last year. He offered an upbeat assessment of his first
three months in the White House, but implored patience as he tackles a mountain
of challenges, saying he could not work miracles.
The tone of Mr. Obama’s remarks on Wednesday reflected an assessment from
several advisers that the next chapter of his presidency is likely to be even
more difficult than the first. But his job approval rating remains high,
particularly given the wave of challenges on his desk, which in the last week
grew even larger with the first health emergency of his administration.
Concerned’ About Pakistan, NYT, 30.4.2009,
Next Foreign Crisis Could Be Next Door
March 25, 2009
The New York Times
By MARC LACEY and GINGER THOMPSON
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s economy is being dragged down by the
recession to the north. American addicts have turned Mexico into a drug
superhighway, and its police and soldiers are under assault from American guns.
Nafta promised 15 years ago that Mexican trucks would be allowed on American
roads, but Congress said they were unsafe.
United States-Mexican relations are in the midst of what can be described as a
neighborly feud, one that stretches along a lengthy shared fence. That border
fence, which has become a wall in some places, is another irritant.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives in Mexico on Wednesday for
what will be the first in a parade of visits by top administration officials,
including President Obama himself next month, to try to head off a major foreign
policy crisis close to home. They will find a country mired in a deepening
slump, miffed by signs of protectionism in its largest trading partner, and torn
apart by a drug war for which many in Mexico blame customers in the United
There is plenty of angst on the other side as well. Many American communities
are worried about drug violence spilling over the border, and about Mexican
immigrants taking scarce jobs. That is forcing the Obama administration, already
managing two wars and a deep recession, to fashion a new Mexico policy earlier
than it might have wished.
Mr. Obama, like President George W. Bush before him, is finding that these
foreign challenges touch on some of the thorniest issues in domestic politics,
including immigration, free trade and gun control. The Bush administration
disturbed relations by failing to deliver on its promise of immigration reform.
And the Obama administration, in its first weeks in office, has set off new
tensions with a series of conflicting signals and false starts.
Some in the administration have suggested that the Mexican government is not in
control of all of its territory, even as other officials praise President Felipe
Calderón’s resolve to fight the drug trade. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
urged and then backed away from reinstituting a ban on sales of assault rifles,
which are fueling the drug violence.
Mr. Obama acknowledged contingency plans to deploy troops to the border if too
much of the violence spilled over into the United States, but he said almost in
the same breath that no such deployment was imminent.
“I think it’s unacceptable if you’ve got drug gangs crossing our borders and
killing U.S. citizens,” Mr. Obama told reporters when asked if he might deploy
troops. “I think if one U.S. citizen is killed because of foreign nationals who
are engaging in violent crime, that’s enough of a concern to do something about
The bloody drug war, which has caused 7,000 deaths in 16 months, has become the
principal sore point between the countries. Although addiction rates among
Mexicans are on the rise, the vast majority of the drugs flowing through Mexico
will be sniffed, smoked or injected by Americans. On top of that, 90 percent of
the guns used by Mexican drug cartels originated in the United States, according
to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The suggestion by Mr. Obama that American troops might be moved toward the
border to combat drug cartels prompted Gen. Guillermo Galván, Mexico’s defense
secretary, to assert that no deployment of foreign soldiers would be allowed on
Mexican soil. History was at the root of the concern here, as even Mexican
schoolchildren know of the war a century and a half ago in which the United
States seized half of Mexico’s territory.
Also riling the Mexicans was Congressional testimony by Dennis C. Blair, the
director of national intelligence, suggesting that drug cartels controlled some
parts of Mexico. The Calderón administration reacted angrily, with Interior
Minister Fernando Gómez Mont saying that such remarks “are unfortunate and don’t
contribute to generating a climate of confidence that is indispensable to win
For his part, Mr. Calderón has spoken of an American “campaign” against Mexico,
and has pointed out that the murder rate is higher in New Orleans than in his
country. Mexico’s battered image, as outlined in State Department travel
advisories, is of particular concern to Mr. Calderón because it scares off
potential investors and tourists.
The litany of angry rebuttals from Mexico has grown so fierce that an American
diplomat here, Leslie Bassett, wrote a column in a Mexican newspaper the other
day, saying, “No Obama appointee has referred to Mexico as a failed state; every
Obama appointee posed the question has acknowledged the existing security
challenges, commended President Calderón’s fortitude, and dismissed the idea out
State Department officials said that one of the critical goals of Mr. Obama’s
visit would be to “open the aperture” of the bi-national agenda so that the
relationship was not limited — some say, held hostage — to a single issue.
“It is important to underscore that this is a big relationship,” Assistant
Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. said in an interview. “It is very broad
and deep. And it should not be narrowed down to a couple of issues.”
Few of those issues are simple, however.
After the United States shut the border to Mexican trucks, in violation of a
promise it made under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico placed
tariffs on 89 American products, from grapes to dishwashers, in some cases
appearing to select items from the districts of well-connected members of
Congress to increase the action’s impact.
Mexico is reeling from the recession in the United States. Although Mr. Calderón
speaks often of how well prepared his country is for the global downturn,
Mexico’s export factories have lost some 65,000 jobs since October, one of many
tangible effects. Exports fell 32 percent in January, and automobile exports
fell 50 percent in the first two months of 2009. Mexico’s central bank expects
the economy to contract no more than 1.8 percent this year, but some investment
banks forecast shrinkage of as much as 5 percent.
Last week, Mr. Obama made clear that many problems, including the drug trade and
immigration reform, will have to be dealt with together.
“I don’t think we can do this piecemeal,” Mr. Obama said during a town hall
meeting in California. “I’m going to be working with President Calderón in
Mexico to figure out how we get control over the border that’s become more
violent because of the drug trade. We have to combine that with cracking down on
employers who are exploiting undocumented workers.”
Marc Lacey reported from Mexico City, and Ginger Thompson from
Washington. Elisabeth Malkin contributed reporting from Mexico City.
Next Foreign Crisis
Could Be Next Door, NYT, 25.3.2009,
Iran’s Supreme Leader Dismisses Obama Overtures
March 21, 2009
Filed at 9:23 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader rebuffed President
Barack Obama's latest outreach on Saturday, saying Tehran was still waiting to
see concrete changes in U.S. policy.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was responding to a video message Obama released Friday
in which he reached out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year,
and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations.
Khamenei holds the last word on major policy decisions, and how Iran ultimately
responds to any concrete U.S. effort to engage the country will depend largely
on his say.
In his most direct assessment of Obama and prospects for better ties, Khamenei
said there will be no change between the two countries unless the American
president puts an end to U.S. hostility toward Iran and brings ''real changes''
in foreign policy.
''They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We haven't
seen any change,'' Khamenei said in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands
in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.
In his video message, Obama said the United States wants to engage Iran, but he
also warned that a right place for Iran in the international community ''cannot
be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that
demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.''
Khamenei asked how Obama could congratulate Iranians on the new year and accuse
the country of supporting terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons in the same
Khamenei said there has been no change even in Obama's language compared to that
of his predecessor.
''He (Obama) insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day. If you
are right that change has come, where is that change? What is the sign of that
change? Make it clear for us what has changed.''
Still, Khamenei left the door open to better ties with America, saying ''should
you change, our behavior will change too.''
Diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Iran were cut after the U.S. Embassy
hostage-taking after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which toppled the pro-U.S.
shah and brought to power a government of Islamic clerics.
The United States cooperated with Iran in late 2001 and 2002 in the Afghanistan
conflict, but the promising contacts fizzled -- and were extinguished completely
when Bush branded Tehran part of the ''Axis of Evil.''
Khamenei enumerated a long list of Iranian grievances against the United States
over the past 30 years and said the U.S. was still interfering in Iranian
He mentioned U.S. sanctions against Iran, U.S. support for Iraqi dictator Saddam
Hussein during his 1980-88 war against Iran and the downing of an Iranian
airliner over the Persian Gulf in 1988.
He also accused the U.S. of provoking ethnic tension in Iran and said
Washington's accusations that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons are a sign of U.S.
hostility. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, like
energy production, not for building weapons.
''Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have
you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation
and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist
regime? Even the language remains unchanged,'' Khamenei said.
Khamenei, wearing a black turban and dark robes, said America was hated around
the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted ''Death to America.''
Prominent political analyst Saeed Leilaz said Khamenei's comments did not amount
to a rejection of better ties with the Obama administration. Rather, Iran's
current hard-line leaders need to publicly maintain some degree of anti-U.S.
rhetoric to bolster their own position, especially with their conservative base,
''Iran's ruling Islamic establishment needs to lessen tensions with the U.S. and
at the same time maintain a controlled animosity with Washington,'' he said.
''Iran can't praise Obama all of a sudden.''
Khamenei will also likely stand his ground as long as he remains concerned about
the United States' ability to destabilize Iran, he said.
For its part, the Obama administration must take practical steps such as lifting
a ban on selling Iran spare parts for passenger aircraft or considering
unfreezing Iranian assets in the U.S., Leilaz said.
Obama has signaled a willingness to speak directly with Iran about its nuclear
program and hostility toward Israel, a key U.S. ally. At his inauguration last
month, the president said his administration would reach out to rival states,
declaring ''we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.''
''They say we have stretched a hand toward Iran. ... If a hand is stretched
covered with a velvet glove but it is cast iron inside, that makes no sense,''
Iran’s Supreme Leader
Dismisses Obama Overtures, NYT, 21.3.2009,
Brown Speaks to Congress on Economy
March 5, 2009
The New York Times
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged American leaders on Wednesday
to “seize the moment,” in tandem with their European allies, to work through the
global economic crisis and prepare for a future that brings “the biggest
expansion of middle-class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen.”
Speaking from one of the most prominent stages accorded any visiting foreign
dignitary — a joint meeting of Congress — Mr. Brown called for a clear rejection
of protectionist tendencies as the world struggles toward recovery.
The address came a day after President Obama assured Mr. Brown that the “special
relationship” between the two countries was as strong as ever — despite what
some observers have described as coolness in the handling of the prime
minister’s visit. The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said again Wednesday
that “the relationship remains strong and special.”
In any case, the senators and congressmen, joined by American military leaders
and other dignitaries, gave the prime minister a warm welcome, interrupting his
45-minute speech at least a dozen times with standing ovations. One of those
came after he announced that Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who is
suffering from brain cancer, had been granted an honorary knighthood.
The chamber was nearly full as Mr. Brown spoke; the Capitol interns who are
sometimes summoned to fill empty seats on such occasions were relatively few in
Mr. Brown praised his host country as one of remarkable strength, optimism and
resilience. “America is not just the indispensable nation,” he said, “you are
the irrepressible nation.”
Those strengths, he added, needed to be marshaled fully now in what Mr. Brown
said would have to be concerted world action to stimulate national economies,
bolster banks and improve their oversight, and help developing countries survive
Echoing a point that Mr. Obama has begun to make, Mr. Brown argued that a big
part of the solution to the crisis lay in having confidence that it can be
“While today people are anxious and feel insecure, over the next two decades our
world economy will double in size,” Mr. Brown said. “Twice as many opportunities
for business, twice as much prosperity, and the biggest expansion of middle
class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen.”
He argued that the United States, under a president who enjoys great popularity
at home and sometimes even greater popularity abroad, would find a rare
receptiveness to its efforts to move forward.
“Let me say that you now have the most pro-American European leadership in
living memory,” Mr. Brown said.
“There is no old Europe, no new Europe, there is only your friend Europe. So
once again I say we should seize the moment — because never before have I seen a
world so willing to come together. Never before has that been more needed. And
never before have the benefits of cooperation been so far-reaching.”
He also vowed to continue close cooperation in the fight against terrorism, in
efforts to induce Iran to suspend its nuclear program, and in moves to curtail
global warming. And he paid tribute to the soldiers of both countries who had
fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Brown, who was chancellor of the Exchequer, or finance minister, in the
Labour Party government of Tony Blair, has been calling for a “global new deal”
with every country working to end the downturn.
The prime minister has been laying the groundwork for a meeting on April 2 in
London of the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies. He has been calling
for greater accountability and transparency, and stricter oversight, for banking
and financial institutions around the world.
Mr. Obama has supported many of the same goals, at least in principle.
But Julianne Smith, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies in Washington, said that Mr. Brown might not get all
“I don’t think he’s going to be able to go back home and say ‘Obama and I see
completely eye-to-eye on some big global regulation scheme,’ ” she said.
Part of that is a general American skepticism toward such internationalist
approaches, Ms. Smith said. “Europeans, even the Brits, have a higher level of
comfort with global machinery and bureaucratic machinery than Americans do,” she
Commentators on both sides of the ocean have catalogued a number of signs that
the reception accorded to Mr. Brown in Washington was not quite as warm as the
ones British prime ministers enjoyed during the Bush years: No invitation to
Camp David, no full-scale news conference, no state dinner — and while there was
a meeting between the men’s wives, none was held between the two couples. Mr.
Brown, whose own approval ratings in Britain are suffering, had hoped to profit
from his visit to the popular American president.
Mr. Obama brushed such concerns aside on Tuesday, saying that the two countries
were united by a bond “that will not break.”
And Mr. Brown said the same on Wednesday: “Partnerships of purpose are
indestructible,” he said. “There is no power on Earth that can drive us apart.”
Brown Speaks to Congress
on Economy, NYT, 5.3.2009,
Clinton Pledges to Press For Palestinian State
March 3, 2009
Filed at 11:02 a.m. ET
The New York Times
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
pledged on Tuesday to press hard for Palestinian statehood, putting Washington
on a possible collision course with Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin
"We happen to believe that moving toward a two-state solution is in Israel's
best interests," Clinton told a news conference with Foreign Minister Tzipi
Netanyahu, whom Clinton met later, has spoken of Palestinian self-government but
has shied away from saying he backed a U.S. and Palestinian vision of statehood
that has been at the heart of Middle East peace talks.
Clinton, on her first visit to the region as secretary of state, said Washington
believed "the inevitability of working toward a two-state solution is
inescapable." She promised the United States "will be vigorously engaged" in its
Speaking to reporters, Netanyahu made no mention of Clinton's call for a
two-state solution. Dina Libster, a spokeswoman for Netanyahu, said "the subject
didn't come up" in the meeting. "They didn't discuss that."
Netanyahu said that during their talks, he and Clinton voiced a strong desire
for future cooperation and agreed that "creative thinking" was needed in moving
Earlier, at the news conference, Clinton also said two U.S. officials would be
going to Syria for preliminary talks on improving relations between Washington
and Damascus, which engaged Israel in indirect peace talks last year.
Asked about Iran's nuclear program and a possible U.S. dialogue with Tehran,
Clinton said the United States "will do everything necessary to ensure Israel's
security" and consult closely on the Iranian issue with Israeli leaders.
She said the United States shared Israel's concern "about Iran's pursuit of
nuclear weapons." Iran says its uranium enrichment program is aimed at
Netanyahu, who clashed often with the U.S. administration when Bill Clinton, the
secretary of state's husband, was in the White House, was tapped by Israeli
President Shimon Peres after Israel's election last month to try to form a
He has enough parliamentary support to put together a right-wing government but
has been seeking, unsuccessfully so far, to form a middle-of-the-road coalition
that could reduce the chances of friction with the United States.
Netanyahu supports expansion of existing Jewish settlements in the occupied West
Bank, a policy opposed by Washington and which Palestinians say could deny them
a viable state.
President Barack Obama has said it will be a priority and Clinton pledged to
push on "many fronts" early on.
The United States is Israel's chief ally. U.S. aid to Israel will amount to
$2.55 billion in 2009.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, revived in late 2007, have stalled over
violence, settlement-building and disputes over other core issues such as the
future of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.
The Palestinian Authority suspended the negotiations after Israel launched in
December a devastating 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip with the declared aim
of halting rocket attacks by militants in the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Clinton said a durable ceasefire in Gaza depended on Hamas stopping rocket fire
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Clinton's remarks gave
Israel, which again bombed smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border on
Tuesday, the green light "to continue to attack civilians."
On Wednesday, Clinton visits the West Bank to see Abbas and Prime Minister Salam
Clinton Pledges to
Press For Palestinian State, NYT, 3.3.2009,
Mideast Peace, Russian Ties Next Up for Clinton
February 28, 2009
Filed at 9:59 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
is using her second overseas trip to assess Mideast peace prospects, reconnect
with European allies and remind her Russian counterpart that U.S. efforts to
rebuild relations with Moscow have their limits.
She kicks off the weeklong tour by attending an international conference in
Egypt, where on Monday she will announce a U.S. pledge of up to $900 million in
humanitarian aid for rebuilding of the war-shaken Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians are seeking $2.8 billion. The United States does not recognize
the Hamas movement that rules Gaza and will not allow aid money to flow through
The pledge conference reflects in part a U.S. effort to move quickly to
influence events there, where the Islamic militants of Hamas are aligned with
Iran and opposed to peace talks with Israel. Hamas is at odds with the other
Palestinian faction, Fatah, which takes a more moderate approach to Israel.
Clinton also will visit Israel to show President Barack Obama's commitment to
finding a ''two-state solution'' that establishes a sovereign Palestinian state
at peace with Israel.
After elections Feb. 10, Israel is operating under a caretaker government. The
hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to form a coalition government but the
timing and outcome are in doubt.
Among leaders Clinton would be expected to visit in Israel are Netanyahu and
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, leader of the centrist Kadima Party, which won one
more seat in the election than Netanyahu's Likud. Netanyahu, who opposes moving
forward in peace talks with the Palestinians, was asked to put together the next
government because he has the support of a majority of the elected lawmakers.
Israel edged closer to a government of hawks and right-wing religious parties
Friday after Netanyahu failed to persuade Livni to join a coalition that could
help avert a showdown with the Obama administration. Obama has pledged to become
''aggressively'' involved in pursuing Mideast peace.
Clinton also will go to the West Bank to meet with leaders of the Palestinian
Authority, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas.
After focusing her first foreign trip on Asia, Clinton now is trying to build on
what the administration believes is early enthusiasm in the Mideast and Europe
for changing the dynamic of relations with America.
Daniel Fried, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, said Friday
a main theme of Clinton's visit to Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday will be ''a
sense of consolidating some of the enormous political good will on both sides of
the Atlantic, and harnessing it to a common agenda -- not an American agenda but
a common trans-Atlantic agenda.''
On Friday, Clinton is scheduled to meet in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov. He had a sometimes rocky relationship with Clinton's predecessor,
Condoleezza Rice, a Russian affairs specialist.
Lavrov was quoted by Russian news agencies on Friday as saying he expected the
meeting to focus on arms control. That was an issue of great frustration for the
Russians during the Bush administration. President George W. Bush abandoned the
1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty early in his first term in order to
accelerate the development of a missile defense opposed by Moscow.
Clinton has said the administration is willing to move ahead quickly on a
replacement for the START arms treaty that is due to expire in December, and to
consider deeper cuts in nuclear weapons.
Fried said that although the administration is interested in improving relations
with Russia, Lavrov will be reminded that the U.S. does not accept the Russian
argument that it has a sphere of influence in Central Asia and Eastern Europe
that gives Moscow special say on issues like missile defense.
The administration's interest in engaging Russia is tempered by ''cautionary
notes,'' Fried said. That includes a concern that Moscow has gone too far in
flexing its muscles in places such as the former Soviet republic of Georgia,
where Russian troops fought a brief war last summer, and in opposing the NATO
membership aspirations of countries including Ukraine, a a former Soviet
republic on Russia's border.
''The most productive way (to move forward with Russia) is to do so building on
areas where we have common interests, but also mindful of our differences -- not
shying away from them, nor abandoning our values and our friends,'' Fried said.
''That makes for a complicated relationship with Russia.''
Clinton plans to wind up her trip with a stop in Ankara, Turkey, to discuss a
range of topics, including Obama's review of war strategy in Afghanistan. The
Turks think the U.S. should put more focus on expanding and improving the Afghan
security forces and on pressing Afghan authorities to reconcile with elements of
the Islamic insurgency, rather than on putting tens of thousands more U.S.
On the Net:
State Department: www.state.gov
Russian Ties Next Up for Clinton, NYT, 28.2.2009,
Clinton pushes environment, finance in China
21 February 2009
By Calum MacLeod
BEIJING — Starting the first of what she expects will be "many
trips" to China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Chinese leaders Saturday
in Beijing to build co-operation in tackling the global crises in finance,
climate change and security.
But Clinton disappointed human rights groups by saying Friday
that U.S. pressure on Chinese human rights issues "can't interfere" with
dialogue on those three key topics. Her comments "send the wrong message to the
Chinese government," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Friday.
Wrapping up her first overseas visit as secretary of state, Clinton arrived in
the Chinese capital Friday evening after stops in Japan, Indonesia and South
Korea. Saturday she met Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen JiabaoU.S.,
and toured a power plant to highlight the need for clean energy.
After talks with foreign minister Yang Jiechi, Clinton vowed that the Obama
administration seeks a "positive, co-operative relationship" with China. The
international community "is counting on China and the United States to
collaborate to pursue security, peace and prosperity for all," she said
Both Yang and Clinton vowed to work together to solve the financial crisis. "We
have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover and
that together we will help to lead the global recovery," said Clinton, who
thanked the Chinese government for its "well grounded confidence" in U.S.
Treasuries. Buoyed by massive foreign exchange reserves, Beijing is the world's
largest holder of U.S. government debt.
On Saturday, Clinton also announced:
• Sino-U.S. military dialogue, stalled since U.S. arms sales to Taiwan last
October, will resume later this month
• A regular bilateral dialogue on economic issues will be expanded to include
political and security concerns
• The U.S. and China will build a partnership on clean energy technologies, and
hold regular consultations ahead of the December 2009 Copenhagen summit on
President Obama will meet his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao for the first time
in April, at a G20 summit in London which Clinton hoped would produce agreement
on a new international financial system with better supervision of cross border
On Saturday, Clinton toured the Taiyanggong thermal power plant, located two
miles from the 'Bird's Nest', Beijing's Olympic stadium. The natural gas fired
plant uses GE clean energy technology to achieve reductions of 1.62 million tons
of carbon dioxide emissions annually, compared with a coal-fired unit with the
same capacity, said Jack Wen, President and CEO of GE Energy China.
Most Chinese power plants are fired by coal, the fuel that provides up to three
quarters of Chinese energy. In a 'white paper' on climate change issued in
October 2008, China's government admitted that its "coal-dominated energy mix
cannot be substantially changed in the near future, thus making the control of
greenhouse gas emissions rather difficult."
Touring the plant, Clinton encouraged China not to repeat the "same mistakes" as
Western countries. "When we were industrializing and growing we didn't know any
better," she said. "Neither did Europe. Now we are smart enough to figure out
how to have the right kind of growth, sustainable growth, clean energy driven
growth. This plant could be a model."
Vowing to build an "important partnership" to speed "our transition to
low-carbon economies," Clinton cited three areas for Sino-U.S. co-operation:
renewable energy, the capture and storage of CO2 from coal plants, and energy
efficiency in buildings.
Clinton's tough speech to the U.N. Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995, when
she criticized human rights abuses in China, led some observers to hope she
would take a tougher line as Secretary of State. She said Saturday that she had
raised human rights issues with the Chinese foreign minister, and promised to
continue "frank discussions on issues where we have disagreements", including
human rights, Tibet, religious freedom and freedom of expression. Clinton
promised to support efforts by civil society groups to push for progress on
Foreign minister Yang acknowledged differences of opinion on human rights
between Beijing and Washington, and agreed to further dialogue. He also
countered criticism by suggesting the Chinese people are happy. "Although the
air temperature in Beijing is quite low, I am confident that in China you can
see the most smiling faces in the world," he said Saturday.
The U.S. "is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China
on human rights issues," T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA advocacy director
for Asia and the Pacific, said Friday. "But by commenting that human rights will
not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future U.S.
initiatives to protect those rights in China," he said.
Clinton's remarks Friday "point to a diplomatic strategy that has worked well
for the Chinese government — segregating human rights issues into a dead-end
'dialogue of the deaf,'" said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human
Rights Watch, which argues that only sustained international pressure has
produced rights gains in recent years.
China's Premier Wen Jiabao also stressed the need for the two countries to
co-operate to overcome the financial crisis. He praised Clinton for her use,
during a pre-trip speech, of the Chinese proverb "When on a common boat, cross
the river peacefully together."
After worshipping at a Beijing church Sunday morning, and a dialogue with
women's leaders and other civil society representatives, Clinton will hold a
webchat with readers of China Daily, the state-run English newspaper. She leaves
Contributing: Associated Press
environment, finance in China, UT, 21.2.2009,
Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan
February 21, 2009
The New York Times
By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON — With two missile strikes over the past week, the Obama
administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence
Agency inside Pakistan, attacking a militant network seeking to topple the
The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a
broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely
carried out by drone aircraft. Under President Bush, the United States
frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in
cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at
Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks
on American troops.
The strikes are another sign that President Obama is continuing, and in some
cases extending, Bush administration policy in using American spy agencies
against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do during his
presidential campaign. At the same time, Mr. Obama has begun to scale back some
of the Bush policies on the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects,
which he has criticized as counterproductive.
Mr. Mehsud was identified early last year by both American and Pakistani
officials as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of Benazir Bhutto,
the former prime minister and the wife of Pakistan’s current president, Asif Ali
Zardari. Mr. Bush included Mr. Mehsud’s name in a classified list of militant
leaders whom the C.I.A. and American commandos were authorized to capture or
It is unclear why the Obama administration decided to carry out the attacks,
which American and Pakistani officials said occurred last Saturday and again on
Monday, hitting camps run by Mr. Mehsud’s network. The Saturday strike was aimed
specifically at Mr. Mehsud, but he was not killed, according to Pakistani and
The Monday strike, officials say, was aimed at a camp run by Hakeem Ullah
Mehsud, a top aide to the militant. By striking at the Mehsud network, the
United States may be seeking to demonstrate to Mr. Zardari that the new
administration is willing to go after the insurgents of greatest concern to the
But American officials may also be prompted by growing concern that the militant
attacks are increasingly putting the civilian government of Pakistan, a nation
with nuclear weapons, at risk.
For months, Pakistani military and intelligence officials have complained about
Washington’s refusal to strike at Baitullah Mehsud, even while C.I.A. drones
struck at Qaeda figures and leaders of the network run by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a
militant leader believed responsible for a campaign of violence against American
troops in Afghanistan.
According to one senior Pakistani official, Pakistan’s intelligence service on
two occasions in recent months gave the United States detailed intelligence
about Mr. Mehsud’s whereabouts, but said the United States had not acted on the
information. Bush administration officials had charged that it was the
Pakistanis who were reluctant to take on Mr. Mehsud and his network.
The strikes came after a visit to Islamabad last week by Richard C. Holbrooke,
the American envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Holbrooke declined to talk about the
attacks on Mr. Mehsud. The White House also declined to speak about Mr. Mehsud
or the decisions that led up to the new strikes. A C.I.A. spokesman also
declined to comment.
Senior Pakistani officials are scheduled to arrive in Washington next week at a
time of rising tension over a declared truce between the Pakistani government
and militants in the Swat region.
While the administration has not publicly criticized the Pakistanis, several
American officials said in interviews in recent days that they believe appeasing
the militants would only weaken Pakistan’s civilian government. Mr. Holbrooke
said in the interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others
would make clear in private, and in detail, why they were so concerned about
what was happening in Swat, the need to send more Pakistani forces to the west,
and why the deteriorating situation in the tribal areas added to instability in
Afghanistan and threats to American forces.
Past efforts to cut deals with the insurgents failed, and many administration
officials believe that they ultimately weakened the Pakistani government.
But Obama administration officials face the same intractable problems that the
Bush administration did in trying to prod Pakistan toward a different course.
Pakistan still deploys the overwhelming majority of its troops along the Indian
border, not the border with Afghanistan, and its intelligence agencies maintain
shadowy links to the Taliban even as they take American funds to fight them.
Under standard policy for covert operations, the C.I.A. strikes inside Pakistan
have not been publicly acknowledged either by the Obama administration or the
Bush administration. Using Predators and the more heavily armed Reaper drones,
the C.I.A. has carried out more than 30 strikes since last September, according
to American and Pakistani officials.
The attacks have killed a number of senior Qaeda figures, including Abu Jihad
al-Masri and Usama al-Kini, who is believed to have helped plan the 1998
American Embassy bombings in East Africa and last year’s bombing of the Marriott
Hotel in Islamabad.
American Special Operations troops based in Afghanistan have also carried out a
number of operations into Pakistan’s tribal areas since early September, when a
commando raid that killed a number of militants was publicly condemned by
Pakistani officials. According to a senior American military official, the
commando missions since September have been primarily to gather intelligence.
The meetings hosted by the Obama administration next week will include senior
officials from both Pakistan and Afghanistan; Mrs. Clinton is to hold a rare
joint meeting on Thursday with foreign ministers from the two countries. Also,
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, will meet with Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff. Lt. Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s military spy
service, will accompany General Kayani.
Bomber Kills More Than 30
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The police on Friday blamed a suicide bomber for a
powerful explosion that killed more than 30 people and wounded at least 50 in
the Pakistani city of Dera Ismail Khan, according to residents and Pakistani
The bombing, aimed at the funeral of a Shiite man who had been shot, set off
chaos in the city of a million people on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Mobs attacked security forces, ransacked shops and surrounded hospitals said the
mayor, Abdur Rauf.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Obama Widens Missile
Strikes Inside Pakistan, NYT, 21.2.2009,
Clinton Hails Alliance With Japan
February 18, 2009
The New York Times
By MARK LANDLER and MARTIN FACKLER
TOKYO — In words and gestures, Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton offered reassurance to Japan on Tuesday, calling its alliance
with the United States a “cornerstone” of American foreign policy and meeting
with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.
Mrs. Clinton also warned North Korea not to undertake a test of a ballistic
missile, as it has threatened in recent days.
“The possible missile launch that North Korea is talking about would be very
unhelpful in moving our relationship forward,” she said after a meeting with the
Japanese foreign minister, Hirofumi Nakasone.
Mrs. Clinton brought an invitation from President Obama to Prime Minister Taro
Aso to meet him in Washington next Tuesday. He will be the first foreign leader
received at the White House.
In the secretary’s first bit of diplomatic business, the United States and Japan
signed an agreement to begin shifting thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam,
part of a realignment of troops in the Pacific.
North Korea’s saber-rattling has cast a shadow over Mrs. Clinton’s first trip as
secretary of state, forcing her to confront an issue that evokes a complex range
of feelings among Pyongyang’s neighbors.
In Japan, where animosity toward North Korea runs deep because of the plight of
the abductees, Mrs. Clinton said she met with families “to express my personal
sympathy and our concern for what happened.”
During the meeting, several family members said, Mrs. Clinton pledged her
support for resolving questions about abductees — the fate of many of whom
remains unknown even after three decades. But she stopped short of promising
concrete steps to press Pyongyang on the issue.
The relatives said that Mrs. Clinton spent most the 30-minute meeting listening
to their accounts. Sakie Yokota, whose daughter, Megumi, was kidnapped from
Japan in 1977 at age 13, said she gave Mrs. Clinton a copy of her book about her
daughter and an extra copy as a present for President Obama.
“She is also a mother, and she said that any mother would fight to the end if
such a thing happened to her,” Mrs. Yokota said.
But when she asked Mrs. Clinton to punish North Korea by restoring it to
Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism — it was removed by the Bush
administration last year — Mrs. Clinton only said she “would think about it,”
according to Mrs. Yokota.
The relatives said it was noteworthy that Mrs. Clinton had met them, saying it
sent a signal to North Korea not to ignore the issue. But they also showed
disappointment in Mrs. Clinton’s offer to normalize relations with North Korea
if it abandoned its nuclear program.
Shigeo Izuka, whose sister was kidnapped in 1978, said he implored Mrs. Clinton
“not to become friendly with North Korea because of a nuclear agreement.” He
said she listened to him “with intense concern in her eyes, but I felt in my
heart that this issue will be all too easily forgotten.”
North Korea has admitted to abducting Mrs. Yokota’s daughter and Mr. Izuka’s
sister and claim both later died in North Korea. The families reject the North’s
account, saying they want a full investigation.
Mrs. Clinton said Washington would not relent in its pressure on North Korea to
give up its nuclear weapons program — in a way that is verifiable. “We are
watching very closely” she said.
But she repeated President Obama’s pledge to “reach out a hand to those with
which we have differences, so long as they unclench their fists.” And she
committed to continuing the multiparty talks with the North Korean regime that
include China, Japan, and South Korea.
Mr. Nakasone said he was not concerned that “the U.S. policy toward North Korea
is going to change in any significant way.”
Mrs. Clinton’s meeting with Mr. Nakasone began a busy day that included
afternoon tea with Empress Michiko at the imperial residence and a town hall
meeting at Tokyo University.
Fielding a question from a student about American economic sanctions against
Myanmar, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged the policy had not brought reforms to the
military-ruled country. She said the Obama administration was reviewing its
options, although she did not give details. The administration “is looking at
what steps we might take that might influence the current Burmese government,
and we’re also looking for ways that we could more effectively help the Burmese
people,” she said.
On Tuesday evening, Mrs. Clinton had dinner with Prime Minister Aso, followed by
a meeting with his political nemesis, Ichiro Ozawa, the leader of the opposition
Democratic Party of Japan.
In doing so, Mrs. Clinton reached out to a politician who polls show could
become Japan’s leader after elections later this year but who had frosty
relations with the Bush administration, opposing Japan’s naval refueling mission
to support the war in Afghanistan.
Clinton Hails Alliance With Japan, NYT,
Obama Seen Likely to Hedge on Missile Defense
February 13, 2009
Filed at 8:45 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's go-slow approach
to missile defenses in Europe is stirring speculation that he is planning either
to deep-freeze the costly project he inherited from the Bush administration or
use it as a bargaining chip in broader security talks with Russia.
It's a defense and diplomacy issue with important implications for American
policy toward Europe, whose territory the anti-missile system would be meant to
protect. And it complicates relations with Russia, which fiercely opposes the
missile project, and Iran, whose development of long-range missiles is at the
root of the U.S. rationale for pursuing the plan.
Obama has not said how he intends to proceed, stressing only that the system has
to be cost-effective and proven and should not divert resources from other
national security priorities. But leading defense and foreign policy experts are
already taking Obama's constant repetition of those caveats as signals that he
is not eager to plow ahead with the Europe leg of the Bush antimissile plan.
''I think it's on the back burner,'' said James F. Collins, director of Russia
studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former
ambassador to Moscow. He believes the administration is considering how the
issue might fit in a broader set of arms and other negotiations with Moscow.
The Bush plan called for installing 10 silo-based missiles in Poland and a
missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic at a cost of $4.5 billion, with a
2013 target date for having the system up and running. Construction has not yet
begun at either site. Together they would provide a means of shooting down a
small number of long-range missiles launched from the Middle East by
intercepting them in flight outside the Earth's atmosphere -- a so-called
''hit-to-kill'' technology that critics say needs more rigorous testing.
Senior Obama aides have suggested the planned antimissile system will be
included in a lengthy review this year of defense policy and programs.
''I read the Obama and other statements more or less as tentative about this
system in the sense that they aren't going to put huge investment in it unless
they can figure out it's going to work,'' Collins said.
Dean Wilkening, a physicist and defense expert at Stanford University, said a
money crunch caused by the economic crisis may be the most compelling reason for
the Obama administration to lean against the European project. ''They may opt to
delay the site just because'' of the cost and more urgent spending needs,
Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Friday that Poland expects the United
States to carry through with general promises of stronger military cooperation
with Warsaw, even if the missile defense base doesn't work out.
''Poland is in favor of the United States remaining a European superpower,''
Sikorski said in a speech to Poland's Parliament. He said that Warsaw still is
ready to do its part in hosting the missile interceptors, but acknowledged the
''Regardless of what kind of decision the U.S. will take,'' he said, ''we expect
that the declaration on strategic cooperation will be fulfilled.''
The Bush administration saw missile defense in Europe as a vital link in a
broader U.S. effort to deter the use of long-range ballistic missiles by
countries like North Korea and to discourage their development by nations like
Iran. The European site would be linked to existing missile defense sites in
Alaska and California, which the Pentagon says are capable of defending against
a small-scale North Korean attack.
Robert Gates, the holdover Pentagon chief, has argued strongly for working out a
deal with the Russians that would enable the project to go forward. His press
secretary, Geoff Morrell, said Gates and his new boss, Obama, have yet to
discuss the issue in depth.
Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton share the view that if Iran
were persuaded to give up its nuclear ambitions and not develop an
intercontinental ballistic missile, that would ''obviate much of the need'' for
the European sites, Morrell said.
Clinton told reporters this week that money was not the overriding issue on
missile defense. She said it was mainly a matter of resolving technical issues,
while stressing that Iran's behavior could be a deciding factor.
''If we are able to see a change in behavior on the part of the Iranians with
respect to what we believe to be their pursuit of nuclear weapons, you know,
then we will reconsider where we stand,'' she said. ''But we are a long, long
way from seeing such evidence of any behavior change.''
Clinton did not mention Russia's strong objections to the missile plan, but
Moscow has been a central figure in the debate from the beginning. Although the
Russians have objected on grounds that the bases in Poland and the Czech
Republic pose a strategic threat, many in the United States believe the real
problem is a Russian conviction that the bases are part of a broader effort by
the U.S. to encroach on what the Russians consider their sphere of influence --
territories that once were part of the Soviet Union.
John Rood, who was the State Department's chief arms control official for the
final year and a half of the Bush administration, said in an interview that he
would advise against bargaining away the European missile plan.
''Such a step would be ineffective and send a worrying signal to U.S. allies in
Europe, who would question whether the U.S. lacked resolve and was recognizing a
Russian sphere of influence in central Europe, which would be a strategic
error,'' Rood said.
All agree there is currently no Iranian missile that threatens wider Europe; the
disagreement is over projections of when Iran may have such a capability and how
Europe, the U.S. and Russia should deal with it in the meantime.
Obama Seen Likely to
Hedge on Missile Defense, NYT, 13.2.2009,
Obama, Israel and the Arab Street
February 13, 2009
The New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “Why the Muslim World Can’t Hear Obama” (Op-Ed, Feb. 8):
Alaa Al Aswany says that the only way the Arab street, particularly in Cairo,
will hear Barack Obama is if our new president recognizes “the right of people
in an occupied territory to resist military occupation.”
But it was precisely when Israel ended its occupation of Gaza that Hamas
increased its rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.
Did Dr. Al Aswany forget that Egypt occupied Gaza between 1949 and 1967? I doubt
that the Cairo street would have tolerated rocket attacks from occupied Gaza
against Egyptian civilian targets.
If the price of the Arab street hearing President Obama is to accept terrorism
against civilians as a “right” of formerly occupied people, then it is too high
a price to pay.
In America, we have a word for what Israel did to prevent Hamas from playing
Russian roulette with the lives of its children. We call it self-defense, as Mr.
Obama recognized when he, then a presidential candidate, stood in front of Hamas
rockets in Sderot and said: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where
my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop
that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”
Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 8, 2009
The writer is a professor of law at Harvard University.
To the Editor:
Alaa Al Aswany accurately sums up the feeling among a vast majority of
politically aware Muslims around the world. Interviews to Arabic television
channels are no substitutes for actions and policies that break with the past.
Such public diplomacy is in fact patronizing and, therefore, insulting because
it underestimates the political acumen of the Muslim public.
That the new administration will be no different from its predecessors is borne
out not only by President Obama’s stance during the Israeli invasion of Gaza,
but also by news filtering out of Washington about key appointments about to be
made to deal with crucial Middle Eastern actors and issues.
The torpedoing of Gen. Anthony C. Zinni’s appointment as ambassador to Iraq is
one indication of the new president’s tendency to allow the “old hands” to make
decisions when it comes to the Middle East. His presidency does not bode well
for America’s relations with the Muslim world.
East Lansing, Mich., Feb. 8, 2009
The writer is the coordinator of the Muslim Studies Program at Michigan State
To the Editor:
Alaa Al Aswany seems to assume that because President Obama said that he would
listen to the Muslim world, he would make a public statement condemning Israel’s
actions and acknowledging Hamas’s actions as appropriate. This assumption was
Egypt’s frustration with Mr. Obama’s decision not to stop the “massacre” in Gaza
is unwarranted. Israel, along with every other country, has the obligation to
protect its citizens. Israel’s actions were completely justified, and America
appropriately supported Israel.
In saying, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and
nonbelievers,” Mr. Obama meant that we are a nation that respects the “other.”
When Hamas is prepared to talk instead of fire rockets, then Mr. Obama’s words
will have equal meaning in Gaza.
Highland Park, Ill., Feb. 8, 2009
To the Editor:
If President Obama wants to be heard by Muslims, he must strip away the politics
and honestly answer the question: “What’s the moral justification for the
dispossession of the Palestinians from Palestine by the Israelis that has gone
on systematically since 1948?” And then he must act on it.
New York, Feb. 8, 2009
To the Editor:
In his article about the latest war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Alaa Al
Aswany asserts, “I don’t know what you call it in other languages, but in Egypt
we call this a massacre.” He then urges President Obama to condemn Israel “if
only with simple words.”
I can well understand Dr. Al Aswany’s frustration. But what would Egypt then
call the unprovoked action of Hamas, which sent thousands of rockets into
sovereign Israeli civilian territory? To me, that sounds a lot like terrorism.
If the so-called moderate Muslim world would like to hear condemnation from our
new president, then perhaps the blame should go both ways!
(Rabbi) Michael Stanger
Old Westbury, N.Y., Feb. 8, 2009
Obama, Israel and the
Arab Street, NYT, 13.2.2009,
Iran Offers ‘Dialogue With Respect’ With U.S.
February 11, 2009
The New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN — After the icy mutual hostility of the Bush era, President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad of Iran on Tuesday made a conditional offer of dialogue to the Obama
administration, saying Tehran was ready for “talks based on mutual respect and
in a fair atmosphere.”
But he coupled the offer with an attack on former President Bush, calling for
him to be “tried and punished” for his policies and actions in the Middle East
and the Persian Gulf region.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks came in a televised address to a rally marking the
30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 1979 which deposed Shah Mohammed
Reza Pahlavi, ended the close relationship between Washington and Tehran, and
replaced it with decades of confrontation that culminated in former President
George W. Bush’s description of Iran as part of an “axis of evil.”
President Obama said Monday night that his administration was exploring ways to
open a dialogue with Iran. “My expectation is, in the coming months, we will be
looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the
table, face to face; of diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our
policy in a new direction," he said at a news conference.
Since the inauguration of Mr. Obama last month, Washington has sounded a more
conciliatory tone, despite profound differences over Iran’s nuclear program and
its support for political groups in the Middle East that the United States
considers to be terrorists.
“The new U.S. administration has said that it wants change and it wants to hold
talks with Iran,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said.
“It is clear that change should be fundamental, not tactical, and our people
welcome real changes,” he said. “Our nation is ready to hold talks based on
mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.”
Mr. Ahmadinejad went on to say that Iran could cooperate with the United States
to uproot terrorism in the region. “The Iranian nation is the biggest victim of
terrorism,” he said.
But he referred to former President Bush as one of reasons for insecurity in the
region and said, “Bush and his allies should be tried and punished.”
“If you really want to uproot terrorism, let’s cooperate to find the initiators
of the recent wars in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, try them and
punish them,” he said.
His comments seemed to move away from an earlier call by Mr. Ahmadinejad for the
United States to apologize for actions in the relationship with Iran dating back
His speech follows a series of overtures from Washington. Shortly after his
inauguration, Mr. Obama told the Arabic-language television station Al Arabiya
that “if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find
an extended hand from us.”
Referring to Iran on Monday, Mr. Obama said at the news conference that he was
“looking at areas where we can have constructive dialogue, where we can directly
engage with them.”
Last weekend, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. indicated at a security
conference in Munich, Germany, that the United States would take a nuanced
approach toward Iran. He suggested that the administration was willing to be
more conciliatory than Mr. Bush had been, but also to continue his tough
policies if necessary.
“We are willing to talk to Iran,” Mr. Biden said, but quickly tacked back to a
refrain common during the last years of the Bush presidency, offering Iran’s
leader a choice: “Continue down your current course and there will be pressure
and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for
terrorism, and there will be meaningful incentives.”
Many western nations, including the United States, reject Iran’s insistence that
its nuclear program is designed solely for generating energy, suspecting that it
is no more than a screen for a nuclear weapons program what would upset the
regional power balance and potentially threaten Israel.
Washington also objects to Iran’s close ties to militant Islamic groups such as
Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s choice of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution
seemed particularly significant. The United States had been a close supporter of
the shah, but after his fall, radical students stormed the American Embassy in
Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Washington broke off
diplomatic relations with Tehran in 1980.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments came two days after a former Iranian president,
Mohammad Khatami — a reformist politician who advocated more détente with the
West — announced that he would challenge Mr. Ahmadinejad in presidential
elections next June.
Mr. Khatami, who won an overwhelming victory in 1997 and was president until
2005, was elected on promises to grant greater political and social freedom and
improve foreign relations.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency, by contrast, has been marked by economic
mismanagement, surging inflation and international isolation.
Alan Cowell contributed from Paris and Helene Cooper from Washington.
Iran Offers ‘Dialogue
With Respect’ With U.S., NYT, 11.2.2009,
Why the Muslim World Can’t Hear Obama
February 8, 2009
The New York Times
By ALAA AL ASWANY
PRESIDENT OBAMA is clearly trying to reach out to the Muslim world. I watched
his Inaugural Address on television, and was most struck by the line: “We are a
nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.” He gave
his first televised interview from the White House to Al Arabiya, an
Arabic-language television channel.
But have these efforts reached the streets of Cairo?
One would have expected them to. Mr. Obama had substantial support among
Egyptians — more than any other American presidential candidate that I can
remember. I traveled to America several days before the election. The Egyptians
I met in the United States told me — without exception — that they backed Mr.
Obama. Many Egyptians I know went to his Web site and signed up as campaign
In Cairo, which is seven hours ahead of Washington, some people I know stayed up
practically all night waiting for the election results. When Mr. Obama won,
newspapers here described Nubians — southerners whose dark skin stands out in
Cairo — dancing in victory.
Our admiration for Mr. Obama is grounded in what he represents: fairness. He is
the product of a just, democratic system that respects equal opportunity for
education and work. This system allowed a black man, after centuries of racial
discrimination, to become president.
This fairness is precisely what we are missing in Egypt.
That is why the image of President-elect Obama meeting with his predecessors in
the White House was so touching. Here in Egypt, we don’t have previous or future
presidents, only the present head of state who seized power through sham
elections and keeps it by force, and who will probably remain in power until the
end of his days. Accordingly, Egypt lacks a fair system that bases advancement
on qualifications. Young people often get good jobs because they have
connections. Ministers are not elected, but appointed by the president. Not
surprisingly, this inequitable system often leads young people to frustration or
religious extremism. Others flee the country at any cost, hoping to find justice
We saw Mr. Obama as a symbol of this justice. We welcomed him with almost total
enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza. Even before he
officially took office, we expected him to take a stand against Israel’s war on
Gaza. We still hope that he will condemn, if only with simple words, this
massacre that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians. (I
don’t know what you call it in other languages, but in Egypt we call this a
massacre.) We expected him to address the reports that the Israeli military
illegally used white phosphorus against the people of Gaza. We also wanted Mr.
Obama, who studied law and political science at the greatest American
universities, to recognize what we see as a simple, essential truth: the right
of people in an occupied territory to resist military occupation.
But Mr. Obama has been silent. So his brilliantly written Inaugural Speech did
not leave a big impression on Egyptians. We had already begun to tune out. We
were beginning to recognize how far the distance is between the great American
values that Mr. Obama embodies, and what can actually be accomplished in a
country where support for Israel seems to transcend human rights and
Mr. Obama’s interview with Al Arabiya on Jan. 27 was an event that was widely
portrayed in the Western news media as an olive branch to the Muslim world. But
while most of my Egyptian friends knew about the interview, by then they were so
frustrated by Mr. Obama’s silence that they weren’t particularly interested in
watching it. I didn’t see it myself, but I went back and read the transcript.
Again, his elegant words did not challenge America’s support of Israel, right or
wrong, or its alliances with Arab dictators in the interest of pragmatism.
I then enlisted the help of my two teenage daughters, May and Nada, to guide me
through the world of Egyptian blogs, where young Egyptian men and women can
express themselves with relative freedom. There I found a combination of glowing
enthusiasm for Mr. Obama, a comparison between the democratic system in America
and the tyranny in Egypt, the expectation of a fairer American policy in the
Middle East, and then severe disappointment after Mr. Obama’s failure to
intercede in Gaza. I thus concluded that no matter how many envoys, speeches or
interviews Mr. Obama offers to us, he will not win the hearts and minds of
Egyptians until he takes up the injustice in the Middle East. I imagine the same
holds true for much of the greater Muslim world.
Have Egyptians irreversibly gone off Mr. Obama? No. Egyptians still think that
this one-of-a-kind American president can do great things. Young Egyptians’
admiration for America is offset by frustration with American foreign policy.
Perhaps the most eloquent expression of this came from one Egyptian blogger: “I
love America. It’s the country of dreams ... but I wonder if I will ever be able
someday to declare my love.”
Alaa Al Aswany is the author of “The Yacoubian Building” and “Chicago.” This
article was translated by Geoff D. Porter from the Arabic.
Why the Muslim World
Can’t Hear Obama, NYT, 8.2.2009,
Back on World Stage, a Larger-Than-Life Holbrooke
February 8, 2009
The New York Times
By JODI KANTOR
Stashed in a drawer in his Manhattan apartment between snapshots of family
vacations, a photograph shows Richard C. Holbrooke on a private visit to
Afghanistan in 2006. He is mugging atop an abandoned Russian tank, flashing a
sardonic V-for-victory sign and his best Nixon-style grin. The pose is a little
like Mr. Holbrooke himself: looming, theatrical, passionate, indignant.
Three years later, he has inherited responsibility for the terrain he surveyed
from that tank. As President Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and
Pakistan, Mr. Holbrooke will help reformulate and carry out American policy in
what many call the most problematic region on earth.
Between them, the two countries contain unstable governments, insurgencies,
corruption and a narcotics trade, nuclear material, refugees, resentment of
American power, a resurgent Taliban, and in the shadows of the tribal region
that joins the two countries, Al Qaeda and presumably Osama bin Laden.
“You have a problem that is larger than life,” said Christopher R. Hill, a
longtime colleague expected to be named as the new ambassador to Iraq. “To deal
with it you need someone who’s larger than life.”
Few other diplomats can boast of the accomplishments of Mr. Holbrooke, 67, who
negotiated the Dayton peace accords to end the war in Bosnia. But as he lands in
Pakistan on Monday, back on duty after eight years of a Republican
administration, he is still an outsider in the Obama circle, having only
recently developed a relationship with the new president. His longtime foreign
policy pupil, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has the secretary of state job he has
always wanted. And he has taken on a task so difficult that merely averting
disaster may be the only triumph.
“We are still in the process of digging our way into the debris,” Mr. Holbrooke
said in an interview. “We’ve inherited an extraordinarily dysfunctional
situation in which the very objectives have to be reviewed.” Mr. Obama and Mrs.
Clinton chose Mr. Holbrooke because of his ability to twist arms as well as hold
hands, work closely with the military and improvise inventive solutions to what
others write off as insoluble problems. But no one yet knows how his often
pyrotechnical style — he whispers, but also pesters, bluffs, threatens, stages
fits and publicizes — will work in an administration that prizes low-key
competence or in a region that is dangerously unstable.
“Richard C. Holbrooke is the diplomatic equivalent of a hydrogen bomb,” said
Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state and a friend.
Return to Washington
Already, Mr. Holbrooke’s return to Washington has caused tremors. His arrival at
the State Department has rattled colleagues who remember him as someone who
cultivates the powerful and tramples those with less to offer. Others worry
about his assiduous courtship of the news media. Judging from interviews with
several officials, there seems to be confusion about whether the American
Embassies in Pakistan and Afghanistan will be controlled by Mr. Holbrooke or the
regular State Department overseers.
And even friends acknowledge that Mr. Holbrooke is intently focused on his own
legend. (Many people have personal trainers; Mr. Holbrooke has a personal
For now, Mr. Holbrooke is both raising expectations and lowering them. He is
talking about Afpak — Washington shorthand for his assignment — as his last and
toughest mission. But along with the rest of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy staff,
he is also trying to redefine success in the region, shifting away from former
President Bush’s grand, transformative goals and toward something more
On Monday, Mr. Holbrooke begins a 10-day tour of the region, where he will try
to vacuum up as much information as possible, he said, visiting high-level
officials and local ones, women who serve in the Afghan National Assembly,
military bases, nongovernmental organizations, antinarcotics programs, refugee
camps and the perilous tribal region.
There is a reason for this wide-ranging tour: because official Afghan and
Pakistani leaders are seen as weak, Mr. Holbrooke may have to seek alternative
partners, a task to which he is naturally suited, according to Wesley K. Clark,
the retired Army general.
“Richard Holbrooke sees power the way an artist sees color,” General Clark said.
Until a few years ago, Mr. Holbrooke had been to Afghanistan exactly once: in
1971, when he wandered around with a backpack, he said in the interview last
week as he frowned at television reports of a kidnapping in Pakistan. The
setting of the interview, Perseus LLC, a Manhattan private equity firm where he
worked as vice chairman until recently, was an elegant one, at least until he
began clipping his fingernails with office shears.
During the Bush years, Perseus was Mr. Holbrooke’s base, providing him with what
friends say was a relatively undemanding job and lavish compensation as he
bounced from topic to topic, almost as if seeking a problem tough enough to
rivet all of his attention. He founded the American Academy in Berlin, which
promotes cultural relations, and used a formerly quiet nonprofit called the
Global Business Coalition to match corporate leaders with public health issues.
He became chairman of the Asia Society, an institution mostly known for art
exhibits, and pushed it toward more policy discussions.
At night, he retreated to his softly lighted, wood-paneled apartment in the
Beresford, the grand Central Park West building, or to the homes in Colorado or
the Hamptons that he shares with his wife, Kati Marton, a journalist and human
But with a Republican president, Mr. Holbrooke’s nose was pressed to the glass
of the statecraft window. On the morning of the Sept. 11 attacks, when the
greatest foreign policy challenge in generations came crashing into his own
city, Mr. Holbrooke, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, sat
in traffic like any other New Yorker.
Few New Yorkers, though, decide to inspect Afghanistan for themselves. By 2006,
alarmed at the deteriorating conditions there and lured by a relative working
for the United Nations, Mr. Holbrooke traveled privately around the country,
returning for another visit in 2008. He went to a police training center in
Herat, near the Iranian border, where he watched retired policemen from Alabama
try to train Afghans. In Khost, Mr. Holbrooke slept on a cot at a reconstruction
project office and met with madrasa students and former Taliban fighters,
pouring the tea himself to convey respect, according to Kael Weston, a State
Department political officer who served as his guide.
At another stop, Mr. Holbrooke met with newly elected female leaders who barely
seemed to know the basics of legislation. Everywhere, Mr. Holbrooke passed
enormous new villas built by narcotics smugglers.
At a maximum-security prison north of Kabul, the capital, Mr. Holbrooke fell
into a long conversation with a senior Taliban operative, a mullah who patiently
answered questions and then asked one of his own:
“When will you and the Americans be leaving?”
Mr. Holbrooke told him he did not know. “The more you think about it, the more
it highlights the dilemma,” he said in the interview: the United States cannot
say it is leaving, nor can it say it is staying forever.
At home, Mr. Holbrooke used the Asia Society to assemble his own personal think
tank on Afghanistan. The group, which included Gen. James L. Jones until he
became national security adviser, will soon release a study recommending that
the United States declare an end to President Bush’s “war on terror” and
negotiate with Taliban members willing to separate from Al Qaeda. Mr. Holbrooke
has now left the group, but thanks to him, some of the regional experts who
wrote the study are now briefing Mrs. Clinton.
Cultivating the Powerful
Every December, Mrs. Clinton can be found in Mr. Holbrooke and Ms. Marton’s
apartment, laughing through an annual dinner they hold in her honor. The guests
and the entertainment have varied — Glenn Close has sung carols, Robert De Niro
and Matt Damon have sat alongside business figures and writers, and one of the
tamer toasters called Mrs. Clinton the nation’s “first shiksa,” or gentile. But
Mr. Holbrooke and Ms. Marton always give Mrs. Clinton laudatory toasts of their
Mr. Holbrooke served as a foreign policy adviser to Mrs. Clinton from the
beginning of her Senate career, contributing ideas for major speeches and
weighing in on crises. Sometimes, Mrs. Clinton or her staff reached out to him,
aides said. But Mr. Holbrooke was not exactly shy about calling or sending
e-mail messages on his own. The moment the Democratic primaries ended, Obama
aides say, Mr. Holbrooke showered them with ideas as well.
“I did not cross the DMZ until a cease-fire was declared,” he now says jokingly.
By the time Mr. Obama sat down for a sustained conversation with Mr. Holbrooke,
he was president-elect, and Mrs. Clinton was already the leading candidate for
secretary of state. Once she took the job, Mr. Holbrooke was considered for the
deputy post, but the idea was quickly rejected: he was a negotiator, not an
administrator, and the secretary and the president wanted to put a powerful
person in charge of dealings with Afghanistan and Pakistan, State Department
“Richard represents the kind of robust, persistent, determined diplomacy the
president intends to pursue,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview. “I admire
deeply his ability to shoulder the most vexing and difficult challenges.”
Thanks to Mr. Holbrooke’s negotiating skills, he won himself an unusual title:
representative rather than envoy, meaning that his responsibilities extend
beyond the State Department and that he will report to the president, but
through Mrs. Clinton. It is a bit of Washingtonese whose precise meaning will
become clear only with time.
His first task is to help lead a total review of American policy in the region,
an assignment on which Mr. Obama has imposed a 60-day deadline. Another is to
learn as much about Pakistan as Mr. Holbrooke has about Afghanistan; he is
hiring staff members to fill some of the gaps in his knowledge, according to
Asked about Mr. Holbrooke’s sometimes overbearing qualities, Mrs. Clinton
replied with mock innocence. “Gee, I’d never heard that he could be any of those
things before,” she said. Then she turned serious. “Occasionally he has to be,
you know, brought down to earth and reined in.”
Ms. Marton, in defending her hard-driving husband, said, “Richard is all about
outcome.” She described him and the new president as “kindred spirits” in their
views on diplomacy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Both Ms. Marton and Mr. Holbrooke sounded relieved, even a little surprised,
that he found a place in the Obama administration. Now, she said, “he won’t be
able to look back and say he didn’t get a shot.”
Back on World Stage, a
Larger-Than-Life Holbrooke, NYT, 8.2.2009,
Biden Says Up to Georgia Whether to Join NATO
February 8, 2009
Filed at 5:23 a.m. ET
The New York Times
MUNICH, Germany, Feb 8 (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on
Sunday it was up to Georgia to decide whether it would become a member of the
NATO military alliance.
Asked after meeting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili whether he was in
favour of the U.S. ally joining NATO, he said: "I'm in favour of Georgia's
continued independence and autonomy. That is a decision for Georgia to make."
The previous U.S. administration of President George W. Bush pressed last year
for Georgia to be admitted to the alliance, but ran into opposition from
countries including Germany and France.
Biden's comments, on the margins of the annual Munich Security Conference,
appeared to suggest the new administration of President Barack Obama might be
less aggressive in its backing for Georgia's NATO bid.
At a NATO summit in Bucharest in April, Georgia and another former Soviet state,
Ukraine, were promised eventual NATO membership. This angered Russia, with which
the Obama administration is keen to rebuild ties.
Calls for allowing Georgia into NATO grew in the United States after Tbilisi's
brief war with Russia last year, but the conflict increased concern in some
European countries about letting the country into the alliance.
Critics say Saakashvili has stifled the media, judiciary and political
opposition, and concentrated power on an inner circle largely blamed for taking
the country into war with Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who led opposition to Bush's push for Georgia's
admission to NATO in Bucharest, said earlier at the conference that the country
would join the alliance some day, but set no time.
Biden Says Up to Georgia
Whether to Join NATO, NYT, 8.2.2009,
Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Deal With Russia on Missiles
February 8, 2009
The New York Times
By HELENE COOPER and NICHOLAS KULISH
MUNICH — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Saturday that the United
States will pursue a missile defense plan that has angered the Kremlin, but he
also left open the possibility of compromise on the issue and struck a more
conciliatory tone than the Bush administration on relations with Russia.
“It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can
and should be working together with Russia,” Mr. Biden said in a speech at a
security conference here attended by global leaders and diplomats.
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei B. Ivanov of Russia on Sunday said that Mr. Biden’s
remarks were “very positive,” Reuters reported.
The highly anticipated speech, seen as the first major outline of the new
administration’s relations with the world, came just days after Kyrgyzstan’s
president announced a decision to close a United States base there that is
crucial to the war in Afghanistan, which President Obama has made his top
foreign policy priority. That announcement was made in Moscow, and many American
officials concluded that the Russians had pressured Kyrgyzstan as part of their
campaign to reassert control over former Soviet republics.
Some Western diplomats had expected Mr. Biden to announce a strategic review of
the planned missile defense system as a way to defuse tensions between
Washington and Moscow. Although Mr. Biden did not go that far, he did leave room
in both the speech — and an interview afterward — for unspecified changes in the
plan put forward by the Bush administration.
“We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian
capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost-effective,” Mr.
Biden said during the speech.
Foreign policy experts said that the Obama administration was most likely averse
to making any outright concessions on the antimissile system just days after the
Kyrgyz announcement, fearing it could be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Mr.
Biden, they said, seemed to be balancing the need to appear firm with the
administration’s hopes to reverse the several-year slide in American-Russian
relations. Russian cooperation is considered important to American attempts to
keep Iran and North Korea from continuing with their nuclear programs.
The missile defense plan as it had been envisioned by the Bush administration
would place missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech
Republic. The Russians balked at the placement so close to their border, saying
it was proof that the system was meant to combat their nuclear arsenal, rather
than a missile threat from Iran as President Bush had said. Mr. Biden did not
say in his speech where he expected the system to be based.
In an interview after the speech, Mr. Biden declined to say what changes might
be considered. “What I did say in the speech is that we would consult with our
European allies as well as consult with the Russians,” he said.
A top Obama administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because
of the delicacy of the issue said that the administration had not yet reached
the point of discussing whether it could, or would, move the missile defense
sites to other countries.
The Russian reaction to Saturday’s speech was quick, and favorable. Konstantin
Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in the Duma, the lower
house of Parliament, said in an interview that he welcomed Mr. Biden’s comments
about “a need to listen to partners,” which Mr. Kosachev contrasted with Mr.
Bush’s approach “that everything is already predecided, everything is clear and
should be done the way the American administration thinks about it.”
Mr. Kosachev said the new stance would make it easier to reach agreement on many
issues, including the antimissile dispute.
Mr. Biden also indicated that the United States would take a nuanced approach
toward Iran. He suggested that the administration was willing to be more
conciliatory than Mr. Bush had been, but also to continue his tough policies if
“We are willing to talk to Iran,” Mr. Biden said, in a departure from the Bush
administration. But the vice president quickly tacked back to a refrain common
during the last years of the Bush presidency and spoke of offering Iran’s leader
a choice: “Continue down your current course and there will be pressure and
isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism,
and there will be meaningful incentives.”
Iran contends its nuclear program is for generating energy; many Western
countries see it as a screen for a nuclear weapons program.
It was unclear if Mr. Biden’s refusal to take a clear step back on missile
defense Saturday was part of a bargaining strategy in the elaborate chess game
being played between the former cold war enemies.
In recent weeks, Russia’s leaders have sent mixed messages: offering kind words
about Mr. Obama, then suggesting that the United States would need to do more to
win Russia’s support — including addressing complaints about American plans to
expand NATO and ending plans for the antimissile defense system as it was
conceived by Mr. Bush.
The Kremlin’s relationship with Washington became increasingly frosty in the
last several years as Russia began to try to reclaim some of its old power and
chafed at what it saw as Bush administration attempts to stymie its efforts. The
relations hit a low point during the brief war last summer between Russia and
Georgia, an American ally, over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia. The Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, later recognized the
independence of the two enclaves.
On Saturday, Mr. Biden rejected the notion of a Russian regional sphere of
influence and said that Mr. Obama would continue to press NATO to seek “deeper
cooperation” with like-minded countries.
Although his language was tempered, Mr. Biden said, “We will not agree with
Russia on everything.
“For example,” he said, “the United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South
Ossetia as independent states. We will not — will not — recognize any nation
having a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have
the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances.”
Mr. Biden’s remarks came a day after Mr. Ivanov told the same group that Moscow
would not deploy missiles on the Polish border if the United States reviewed its
missile defense plan. Just after Mr. Obama won the presidency last year, Mr.
Medvedev promised to place short-range missiles on Russia’s western border if
Washington proceeded with its planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
But chances for a clear reconciliation between the United States and Russia at
this conference dissipated, foreign policy experts said, after the announcement
on the Kyrgyz base. Mr. Obama plans to send as many as 30,000 additional troops
to Afghanistan over the next two years; shaky overland supply routes through
Pakistan would make it difficult for the United States to adjust to the loss of
During the interview Saturday, Mr. Biden said that the United States would find
an alternative to the air base. “We have other options,” he said, but he did not
Mr. Biden’s speech was the highlight of the security conference. Most of the
dignitaries who were gathered seemed primed to hear how the United States and
its new leadership viewed the world. They erupted into applause when Mr. Biden
walked onto the stage.
It was at this security conference two years ago when the new tension between
the United States and Russia leapt to the fore as Vladimir V. Putin, then
Russia’s president, lashed out against the United States over its use of force
Biden Signals U.S. Is
Open to Deal With Russia on Missiles, NYT, 8.2.2009,
AP Analysis: US-Iran Ties Tense Despite Obama
February 8, 2009
Filed at 9:30 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MUNICH (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden was there along with a senior Iranian
official -- and at first glance, that's about all that can be said for the first
public opportunity to make good on President Barack Obama's proffered hand to
Negative feelings at the Munich Security Conference seemed to outweigh the Obama
administration's recent positive messages on when -- or if -- eye-to-eye talks
with Iran could begin.
The United States, while opening the possibility of direct talks, has not
relented on its demands that Tehran resolve international concerns over its
nuclear program and its alleged support of terrorists.
At the conference in Germany, the two sides have shown they are still
mistrustful after decades of enmity since the seizure of the American Embassy
and U.S. hostage crisis during Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said America had much to apologize
for before his country could consider sitting down at the table. He accused
Washington of causing untold human suffering through decades of failed U.S.
policies on Israel, Iraq, Iran and Palestine.
The next day, when Biden was the featured speaker, Larijani was conspicuously
Biden repeated Obama's offer of talks and rewards, but sternly warned that
unless Iran showed willingness to compromise ''there will be (further) pressure
American allies at the meeting also piled on Iran.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Tehran of stricter U.N. Security Council
sanctions if it rejects a U.S. overture; French President Nicholas Sarkozy urged
Russia to join the West in seeking harsher U.N penalties if necessary; and
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Iran the U.S. offer ''is not going
to get any better.''
Larijani complained to Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Iran had heard of
Washington's readiness to negotiate only through the media.
Tehran is ready to sit down with the U.S. but needs ''an existing really good
starting point,'' he was quoted Sunday as saying. ''(Issues) cannot be solved
with a smile.''
But there were a few positive signs that Obama's offer was not made in vain.
Larijani at one point spoke of a ''golden opportunity for the United States'' --
suggesting if Washington went far enough in conciliatory signals Tehran could
respond in kind. And he said several times that the U.S. needed to change ''to a
chess game instead of a boxing match.''
A European official said Larijani spoke Saturday with EU foreign policy chief
Javier Solana and appeared very interested in the American offer to talk.
The official, who demanded anonymity in exchange for sharing confidential
information with The Associated Press, said Larijani ''kept talking about the
unacceptability of the 'carrot and the stick''' -- suggesting Iran was looking
for a more finely tuned approach from the West.
That appears to jibe with Obama's approach: direct official dialogue and the
appointment of a special envoy to deal with Iran after years of isolation under
the Bush administration.
Associated Press Correspondent George Jahn has been reporting on Iran's nuclear
program and linked strategic issues since 2002.
AP Analysis: US-Iran
Ties Tense Despite Obama, NYT, 8.2.2009,
U.S. Air Base In Kyrgyzstan Says No Sign Of Closure
February 4, 2009
Filed at 2:44 a.m. ET
The New York Times
BISHKEK (Reuters) - The United States said on Wednesday it had received no
official notification from Kyrgyzstan to close a U.S. air base in the Central
Asian country and U.S. officials said they hoped negotiations would go on.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said in Moscow on Tuesday his government had
decided to shut down the Manas air base, set up in 2001 after the start of the
U.S.-led military campaign against Taleban and al Qaeda militants in
In Washington, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said: "We have been
discussing the base with Kyrgyz authorities for some time now. We hope those
discussions will continue to the point where we reach some mutually beneficial
The U.S. embassy in Bishkek said on Wednesday it had received no formal
notification that the base would be shut.
Bakiyev's statement was made at a time when the United States is planning a
major troop buildup in Afghanistan and is seeking to reinforce supply routes
that bypass Pakistan, where convoys have been attacked by militants.
On his visit to Moscow, Bakiyev received a promise of more than $2 billion in
credit and aid from Russia to assist his impoverished country, a former Soviet
Russia, annoyed about the presence of U.S. troops in a region it considers as
part of its strategic sphere of interest, has long pressured Kyrgyzstan to close
the Manas base, home to more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel.
Moscow operates its own military air base in Kyrgyzstan.
Iskhak Masaliyev, a Kyrgyz member of parliament, said the United States would be
given 180 days to remove its forces once it had received official notification
of the termination of its contract for the air base.
"Basically Kyrgyzstan had to make its choice. And it has now made its strategic
choice," said Masaliyev, who represents Kyrgyzstan's communists in parliament.
U.S. officials said while the Manas base was important, any decision to close it
would not halt military operations in Afghanistan.
"The United States and coalition forces will be able to continue operations in
Afghanistan without the Manas base," U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon
Duguid said in Washington.
In Moscow, Russian President Medvedev said despite Kyrgyzstan's decision, both
countries would carry on cooperating with the United States on Afghanistan.
New U.S. President Barack Obama plans to boost U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan
to try and combat an intensifying insurgency.
The United States currently has 32,000 troops in Afghanistan and U.S. officials
have said the planned build-up could grow to include as many as 30,000 troops
over the next 12 to 18 months.
(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Maria Golovnina; editing by Ralph
U.S. Air Base In
Kyrgyzstan Says No Sign Of Closure, NYT, 4.2.2009,
For Obama’s Iran Plan, Talk and Some Toughness
February 4, 2009
The New York Times
By HELENE COOPER and MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration may take a tough line with Tehran in
coming months even as it signals a willingness to move toward direct talks with
Iranian officials, according to President Obama’s aides and outside experts who
have consulted with the government about Iran.
While Mr. Obama is expected to soften the Bush administration’s line against
talking to Iran, the aides said, he may also seek to toughen sanctions. Iran’s
announcement on Tuesday that it launched its first satellite into orbit — a
matter that Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, described as being of
“acute concern to this administration” — may reinforce the impulse to get tough.
“This action does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance
stability or security in the region,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding that the Obama
administration “will use all elements of our national power to deal with Iran
and to help it be a responsible member of the international community.”
A further indication of Mr. Obama’s approach could come on Wednesday, when
William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, is to meet
in Germany with world powers seeking to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Obama told the Arabic-language television station Al Arabiya last week that
“if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an
extended hand from us.” He has also spoken recently of the need to treat Iran
with “mutual respect.” But among the circle of experts advising Mr. Obama on
Iran, several have also advocated increasing the pressure against Tehran.
Dennis B. Ross, the longtime Middle East peace negotiator who is expected to be
named to a senior post handling Iran, has long argued that the United States
must persuade America’s European allies to increase economic pressure against
Iran. A Bipartisan Policy Center task force that included Mr. Ross issued a
report in September saying that “the Europeans make war more likely if they do
not strengthen sanctions against Iran and effectively end all commercial
Gary Samore, a former Clinton administration arms control negotiator who is
expected to become Mr. Obama’s nonproliferation czar, has argued that any carrot
offered to Iran should be accompanied by a bigger stick.
Aides to Mr. Obama say that Mr. Samore has favored offering Tehran warmer
relations with the United States, including lifting certain American sanctions
against Iran and assuring the Iranian leadership that the United States will not
pursue regime change. (Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in the past that
he thought the United States should assure Iran that it would not pursue regime
change.) But Mr. Samore has also argued that such an offer is not enough unless
it comes backed by the threat of stronger sanctions from the United States,
Europe, Russia and China, like, for instance, a ban on foreign investment in
Iran’s oil and gas industry.
The aides, along with other advisers, spoke about the direction of Iran policy
on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.
Both Mr. Samore and Mr. Ross are listed on the Web site for United Against
Nuclear Iran, an organization dedicated to stopping Iran from getting nuclear
weapons. The Web site lists Mr. Samore as a member of the group’s advisory board
and Mr. Ross as a co-founder.
The goal of getting Iran to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment eluded the
Bush administration and America’s European allies, in part, some foreign policy
analysts say, because Russia, China, and some European countries have balked at
the idea of increasing economic pressure on Iran. The United States and other
Western countries suspect that Iran is enriching uranium to produce nuclear
weapons, an accusation that Iranian officials have repeatedly denied.
Mr. Obama’s aides are hoping that he can talk those countries into doing for him
what they were unwilling to do for Mr. Bush. “I think Obama’s trip in April will
be very important,” one administration official said, referring to Mr. Obama’s
expected trip to attend the NATO summit meeting in Strasbourg, France, where he
will meet with a number of European leaders for the first time as president.
Some Europeans have signaled that they are open to additional sanctions against
Iran, viewing them as a diplomatic lever that could lead to direct talks between
the United States and Iran. “We want to be helpful in making sure that the
outstretched hand of President Obama is a strong hand,” said the German foreign
minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in an interview after his first meeting with
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Several European diplomats said that France, Britain and Germany might be
willing to consider sanctions if the Obama administration makes an effort to
improve the atmosphere with Iran first.
Mr. Obama’s aides say that no decision has been made yet about how to proceed on
Iran policy. “We’re still reviewing Iran policy,” said Robert A. Wood, the
acting State Department spokesman. Indeed, Mr. Ross has yet to be named to his
new post. And while Mrs. Clinton also struck a conciliatory note toward Iran
last week, Mr. Obama’s top aides have yet to sit down for a substantive meeting
on Iran, administration officials said.
American policy toward Iran is also likely to be complicated by presidential
elections scheduled for June. An overture by the United States would raise two
kinds of risks, experts say: that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran would
benefit politically from such a gesture, and that he may choose to rebuff
Washington to score political points before the voting.
At the same time, several experts said the Obama administration cannot afford to
sit on its hands, in part because any further delay in persuading Iran to change
course would give Tehran more time to enrich uranium.
“Coming out of the barrel like a jack-in-the-box, saying, ‘Meet us in two days
in Geneva for talks,’ would be a mistake,” said Thomas R. Pickering, a former
undersecretary of state for political affairs. . “But you have to pursue
negotiations, regardless,” he said. “To wait around for a more favorable
president is not a good idea.”
Mr. Pickering and other Iran experts favor a series of confidence-building
steps, which could open the door to more substantive direct contacts. Among
these could be the opening of an American interests section in Tehran, a
low-level diplomatic outpost.
For Obama’s Iran Plan,
Talk and Some Toughness, NYT, 4.2.2009,
In Shattered Gaza Town, Roots of Seething Split
February 4, 2009
The New York Times
By ETHAN BRONNER and SABRINA TAVERNISE
EL ATATRA, Gaza — The phosphorus smoke bomb punched through the roof in
exactly the spot where much of the family had taken refuge — the upstairs hall
away from the windows.
The bomb, which international weapons experts identified as phosphorus by its
fragments, was intended to mask troop movements outside. Instead it breathed its
storm of fire and smoke into Sabah Abu Halima’s hallway, releasing flaming
chemicals that clung to her husband, baby girl and three other small children,
burning them to death.
The Israeli military says that it is unaware of the family’s disaster, or of any
other civilian deaths in this farming village in northwest Gaza. While residents
say that 11 other civilians were killed during the first few days of Israel’s
ground invasion, Israel says that its soldiers killed gunmen and militants in
this village, which it considers a Hamas stronghold. At least four Israeli
soldiers were wounded in the fight.
The war in El Atatra tells the story of Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza,
with each side giving a very different version. Palestinians here describe
Israeli military actions as a massacre, and Israelis attribute civilian
casualties to a Hamas policy of hiding behind its people.
In El Atatra, neither version appears entirely true, based on 50 interviews with
villagers and four Israeli commanders. The dozen or so civilian deaths seem like
the painful but inevitable outcome of a modern army bringing war to an urban
space. And while Hamas fighters had placed explosives in a kitchen, on doorways
and in a mosque, they did not seem to be forcing civilians to act as shields.
The gaps reflect not only a desire to shape public opinion, but also something
more significant: a growing distance between two peoples who used to have daily
interactions, but who are being forced apart by violence, mutual demonization
and a policy of separation.
Palestinians almost never question the legitimacy of firing rockets at Israeli
civilians as a form of resistance, and seemed shocked that Israel would go to
war over it. Meanwhile, Israel sent a double message.
On one hand, it made clear that it was furious over the years of rocket fire and
would not restrain its reaction. On the other, it argued that it took an
exceptionally humane approach to the civilians of Gaza, in contrast to what it
saw as its bloodthirsty enemy, Hamas.
Unlike most Gazans, many people in this village are not refugees from the 1948
independence war, but farmers and landowners, who for years sold strawberries to
Israel until an embargo against the Hamas-run territory began a few years ago.
Israel warned residents, in leaflets, radio broadcasts and telephone calls to
leave, but many thought that the Israeli incursion did not threaten them.
“I figured it would be like all the other times when they dropped leaflets, so
we went inside and waited,” said Rafiq Gambour, 45, a car mechanic who worked in
Israel for years, including in Sderot, where Hamas rockets have taken the
So when disaster struck at the Abu Halima house on Jan. 4, a Sunday, many did
the only thing they thought might save them: They got on the phone with their
Israeli friends. As the sun set and the bodies burned, a crowd of panicked
villagers waited as a village elder and farmer, Mahmoud Khlaiyel, and another
farmer made frantic phone calls to merchants on the other side of the border.
“There was no one I didn’t call,” Mr. Khlaiyel said.
A man who identified himself as Danny Batua, a 54-year-old Israeli Jewish
businessman whose family has been friends with the Abu Halima family for years,
said by telephone that he believed the Abu Halimas were not involved with Hamas,
and that their suffering was a result of inaccurate intelligence on the part of
the Israeli military.
“What can I tell you?” Mr. Batua said. “The army has no idea.”
But according to Captain E., an Israeli military commander whose men took the
western sector of the village on the first night of the ground war, most houses
in that area were empty of civilians. What is more, he said, militants had
remained and had begun gun battles with his soldiers.
The military made the commander available for an interview in Israel, but
limited his identification to the initial of his first name.
“We faced fire mostly from snipers,” he said. “We found tunnels, maps,
Kalashnikovs, uniforms from our army and many large explosives throughout the
houses we searched,” he added, showing photographs of what his men had
collected. “We also found a bucket of grenades inside a mosque.”
Some of what the army contends is clearly real. Rockets were launched from near
the town’s elementary school, and from many of its fields, Israeli commanders
and several residents said.
Hamas leaders were in the village and Israeli commanders displayed evidence of
four tunnels throughout the village, though not the extensive network that
higher-level commanders had reported. The militants also had weapons, but while
the commanders said they had destroyed houses that corresponded only to weapons
caches, that did not always seem to have been true.
“My principle for blowing up houses was not to destroy a house that just had one
AK-47, but only if we found real infrastructure or large amounts of explosives,”
said the brigade commander for the area, Col. Herzl Halevy, by telephone from
“I checked this out personally,” he added. Between 40 and 50 houses were
But when the platoon of another commander, Captain Y., took over the
neighborhood where a family named Ghanem lived, it blew up their house without
going inside, he made clear in a phone interview. A search of it two weeks later
by a correspondent for The New York Times joined by a 20-year veteran of the
British Army, Chris Cobb-Smith, a weapons consultant for Amnesty International,
showed no evidence of explosive material or of a secondary blast.
So why was the house destroyed?
“We had advance intelligence that there were bombs inside the house,” Captain Y.
said. “We looked inside from the doorway and saw things that made us suspicious.
I didn’t want to risk the lives of my men. We ordered the house destroyed.”
That seemed to be the guiding principle for a number of the operations in El
Atatra: avoid Israeli casualties at all cost.
The elementary school was a similar story. Intelligence suggested that there
were explosives inside, and an F-16 dropped a bomb on it, producing a house-size
hole. When the Israelis inspected later, they found written material from Hamas
but no explosives, Captain Y. said. Now the school is unusable, its giant metal
flower decorations lying on their sides.
For the Ghanem family’s 23-year-old son, Bakr, the act will not easily be
“A house is something physical, but also something in your heart,” he said as he
stood outside his collapsed home, taken over by cats and putrid odors. “The
place in our heart has also been injured. There can be no peace after this.”
This talk pains some of the older villagers, like Tamam Abu Halima, 65, who
wants to return to the past she shared with Israeli neighbors, when she would
fix dinners of fish and figs, and accepting an invitation was as easy as getting
in the car.
Her grandson, Hamza, who grew up in a time when boundaries were stricter, has no
fond memories of Israelis.
“The only ones I know shoot and kill,” he said.
Many here believe that Israelis feel the same about them, and that they were
treated with suspicion and contempt, as would-be fighters. That might help
explain what happened, they say, when Omar Abu Halima and his two teenage
cousins tried to take the burned body of his baby sister and two other living
but badly burned girls to the hospital on that Sunday.
The boys were taking the girls and six others on a tractor, when, according to
several accounts from villagers, Israeli soldiers told them to stop. According
to their accounts, they got down, put their hands up, and suddenly rounds were
fired, killing two teenage boys: Matar Abu Halima, 18, and Muhamed Hekmet, 17.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said that soldiers had reported that the two
were armed and firing. Villagers strongly deny that. The tractor that villagers
say was carrying the group is riddled with 36 bullet holes.
The villagers were forced to abandon the bodies of the teenage boys and the
baby, and when rescue workers arrived 11 days later, the baby’s body had been
eaten by dogs, her legs two white bones, captured in a gruesome image on a
relative’s cellphone. The badly burned girls and others on the tractor had fled
Matar’s mother, Nabila Abu Halima, said she had been shot through the arm when
she tried to move toward her son. Her left arm bears a round scar. Her son came
back to her in pieces, his body crushed under tank treads.
“Those who came this time were not Israelis,” Mr. Gambour, the car mechanic,
said of the attackers. “They were not even human.”
The question of how Israel handled civilians in this war has become a matter of
keen controversy. Human rights groups are crisscrossing Gaza, documenting what
they believe will form the basis for war crimes proceedings aimed at
demonstrating that Israel used disproportionate force.
Israeli officers said they took special care not to harm civilians.
“I can promise you that throughout the war, there were many times that civilians
walked by us and we never shot at them,” said a commanding officer in a part of
El Atatra, Major E.
That statement draws a hollow laugh from villagers.
“They think everybody in Gaza is a terrorist,” said Bekker Abu Halima, who had
driven a truck with other bodies and said it was fired on.
Both sides engage in their own denials.
Israelis argue that this war was especially tough because they had waited so
long before taking action in response to the thousands of rockets fired from
Gaza over eight years.
Yet after Israelis withdrew their settlers and soldiers from Gaza in late 2005,
they killed, over the next three years in numerous military actions here, the
same number of Gazans as those killed in this war — about 1,275.
For their part, few Palestinian villagers even acknowledged the existence of
fighters here. Hamas is now asserting that it achieved a victory.
But here in the ruins of El Atatra, perhaps the biggest damage has been to any
memory of a shared past and any thought of a shared future.
“We used to tell fighters not to fire from here,” said Nabila Abu Halima,
looking over a field through her open window. “Now I’ll invite them to do it
from my house.”
Taghreed El-Khodary and Nadim Audi contributed reporting.
In Shattered Gaza Town,
Roots of Seething Split, NYT, 4.2.2009,
U.S. Promises Sustained Mideast Peace Bid
February 3, 2009
Filed at 12:33 p.m. ET
The New York Times
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sticking to a pledge to make Israeli-Palestinian peace
a priority, the Obama administration said on Tuesday its Middle East envoy would
return to the region this month to try to revive the stalled peace process.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Middle East envoy George Mitchell,
who was dispatched to the region just a week after Barack Obama took over the
presidency, would return before the end of this month.
Clinton, speaking with Mitchell shortly after he returned from his first trip,
said the United States was prepared to work with "all of the parties" to make
progress toward a Palestinian statehood.
But she urged the militant group Hamas to meet oft-repeated conditions. "They
(Hamas) must renounce violence, they must recognize Israel, they must agree to
abide by prior agreements," she said.
Hamas, she said, must also cease its rocket fire into Israel and said the Jewish
state would continue to defend itself as long as it was attacked.
In his presidential campaign Obama promised to focus on the Middle East right
away. His predecessor, George W. Bush, who was engaged in wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, waited until his last year in office to make a major effort in the
Clinton, whose husband President Bill Clinton worked until nearly his last day
in office to get an elusive deal, promised a sustained effort from the new
"This is the first of what will be an on going high level of engagement by
Senator Mitchell on behalf of myself and the president," she said.
"The United States is committed to this path, and we are going to work as hard
as we can over what period of time is required to try to help the parties make
progress together," she added.
Mitchell, who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland, returned on Monday from
talks with Israelis and Palestinians in a bid to shore up a ceasefire in Gaza
following Israel's three-week offensive launched in December.
Mitchell said the situation was "obviously complex and difficult" but he was
convinced that with patient diplomacy the United States could help achieve a
"There are no easy or risk-free courses of action," he told reporters. "I plan
to establish a regular and sustained presence in the region."
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled nearly monthly to
Israel and the West Bank in her final year in office in a bid to get both sides
closer to reaching a deal.
Mitchell said leaders in the region were anxious for Clinton to go at an
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and John Whitesides; Editing by David
Wiessler and David Storey)
U.S. Promises Sustained
Mideast Peace Bid, NYT, 3.2.2009,
Gaza Violence Complicates Mitchell Mission
January 30, 2009
The New York Times
By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM — A day after President Obama’s special Middle East envoy called
for a consolidation of the fragile Gaza cease-fire, the truce came under new
strain on Thursday when the Israeli military said Palestinians fired a rocket
into Israel at dawn and Israel launched an air attack into southern Gaza.
On his first visit to the region in his new role, the envoy, George J. Mitchell,
traveled to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian leaders. On Wednesday, after
discussions with Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, Mr. Mitchell said he
spoke of “the critical importance” of consolidating the cease-fire that ended
Israel’s three-week offensive against Hamas.
As Mr. Mitchell prepared to travel to Ramallah, Israel said it launched an air
attack in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis against a “known terrorist”
accused by an Israeli military spokesman of being part of a squad responsible
for a roadside bombing on Tuesday that killed an Israeli soldier on the Israeli
side of the border.
News reports from Gaza described the target of the attack as a Hamas policeman
on a motorcycle who was injured along with several civilians, including
But the Israeli military spokesman, who spoke in return for customary anonymity,
said the man was a member of a group called Global Jihad. The spokesman said the
man had once been a supporter of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that
controls Gaza and that Israel holds responsible for all attacks from the coastal
“As the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas bears full responsibility for
all terrorist activity originating from Gaza,” an Israeli military statement
Global Jihad, a small and shadowy group that broke from Hamas, took
responsibility for a roadside bombing on Tuesday. Israel retaliated with an
airstrike that wounded a militant and a raid that killed a man whose family said
he was a farmer.
On Wednesday, the Israeli military said a rocket, the first since the fighting
ended on Jan. 18, was fired from Gaza hours after Mr. Mitchell arrived in Israel
from Cairo. It landed in an open area in Israel, causing no injuries. Israel
carried out a retaliatory air strike against what the military said was a
weapons manufacturing plant in southern Gaza. There were no immediate reports of
Mr. Mitchell told reporters after the meeting with Mr. Olmert that a broadening
of the truce should include a cessation of hostilities, an end to weapons
smuggling into Gaza and “the reopening of the crossings” based on agreements
reached in 2005.
Those agreements, brokered by the United States, called for Palestinian
Authority forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, a Hamas rival, to
secure the Palestinian side of the crossings. But Hamas took control of Gaza in
2007, routing the Palestinian Authority forces there. Israel has since imposed a
strict economic embargo on Gaza, letting in only humanitarian aid and basic
An Olmert aide said the prime minister told Mr. Mitchell that the crossings
would “not be permanently opened” until the case of a captured Israeli soldier,
Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was resolved. Corporal Shalit was seized in a cross-border
raid in 2006 and taken into Gaza. Hamas is demanding that Israel release
hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including many convicted of major terrorist
acts, in exchange for his release.
Hamas has rejected any linkage between the reopening of the passages and the
case of Corporal Shalit, and it insists on the reopening as a prerequisite to a
lasting cease-fire. In a statement issued in Syria on Wednesday, the exiled
leaders of Hamas and seven other Palestinian militant groups said the “factions
of the resistance reject the signing of a truce agreement before the opening of
all crossing points, the lifting of the blockade and the arrival of supplies.”
Mr. Mitchell planned to meet Mr. Abbas and other Palestinian Authority leaders
on Thursday. Mr. Mitchell had no plans to meet with any representatives of
Hamas, which the United States, like Israel and the European Union, classifies
as a terrorist organization.
In Davos, Switzerland, meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban
Ki-moon, launched an appeal for $613 million in emergency aid for Palestinians
in Gaza, saying: “Help is needed urgently,” news reports said.
Mr. Ban visited Gaza after both sides declared unilateral cease-fires almost two
weeks ago. He is the highest-ranking international figure to have visited Gaza
since the war. Mr. Ban was speaking to reporters covering the World Economic
Forum in Davos.
Ethan Bronner and Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza, Myra
Noveck from Jerusalem, and Alan Cowell from Paris.
Complicates Mitchell Mission, NYT, 30.1.2009,
What Is Bush’s Legacy in the Mideast?
January 25, 2009
The New York Times
To the Editor:
In “The Next War President” (column, Jan.
19), William Kristol says, “I couldn’t help but reflect that a distressingly
small number of my fellow Jews seem to have given much thought at all to the
fact that President Bush is one of the greatest friends the state of Israel —
and, yes, the Jewish people — have had in quite a while.”
As a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, I often think about, and of
course appreciate, Mr. Bush’s friendship. However, Mr. Bush’s ardent support
seemed to be directed more to one political faction in Israel — the extreme
right — than to Israel as a whole.
His support hardened the intransigence of that faction, and made it harder for
Israel’s centrist government to counter the right’s irredentist hold on
territories. Territorial compromise and eventual peace became that much harder
This, in turn, alienated potential Arab parties to any peace settlement. And now
eight lost years have passed during which peacemaking in the Middle East went
I hope that President Obama will steadfastly support Israel’s mainstream body
politic by promoting a policy that has greater likelihood of strengthening
Israel’s moderates, enticing its neighbors to the negotiating table, and
exacting from both sides the mutual concessions necessary to bring the peace and
stability we crave so much.
New York, Jan. 19, 2009
The writer is a visiting professor of management at Baruch College, CUNY.
To the Editor:
President George W. Bush will be remembered as the greatest friend to Israel and
the Jewish people, surpassing even Presidents Ronald Reagan and Harry S. Truman.
History will treat him far better than the present.
Mr. Bush established a free democracy in Iraq, and set free millions of
oppressed people in Afghanistan and Iraq. If the people of Iraq and Afghanistan
are able to continue to live in a peaceful, free society, they will owe George
W. Bush many thanks.
East Windsor, N.J., Jan. 19, 2009
To the Editor:
When Israel needed a friend to help it deal with a rapidly changing dynamic in
the Palestinian government, President George W. Bush was absent.
When Israel needed a friend to help find better solutions to the Iranian-backed
militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, Mr. Bush supported the use of military
force, despite the fact that a military solution to these problems does not
And when Israel needed a strong, respected ally to be its advocate with regard
to Iran, Mr. Bush’s policies in Iraq and his refusal to deal with Iran in a
diplomatic way prevented the world from being able to end Iran’s nuclear
I have no doubt that Mr. Bush believes that he is a good friend to Israel and
believes his love for Israel is genuine. However, Israel is further away from
its goal of a safe and secure future today than it was when he took office.
Michael C. Levy
New York, Jan. 19, 2009
To the Editor:
William Kristol argues that one of President George W. Bush’s accomplishments
was keeping the country safe.
So specifically, how many major terrorist attacks on American soil had there
been before 9/11 and what reason do we have to believe that there would have
been more without the efforts of the Bush administration?
The available evidence, it seems to me, points to the conclusion that most of
the terrorist plots that were supposedly nipped in the bud by the administration
were never viable threats to anyone.
Portland, Ore., Jan. 19, 2009
The writer is a former analyst and station chief for the Central Intelligence
To the Editor:
William Kristol has come to praise George W. Bush, not to bury him, stating that
he is “perfectly happy to defend most of his surveillance, interrogation and
counterterrorism policies against his critics.”
If the cost of security has been the undermining of the Constitution, it has
been a Pyrrhic victory indeed.
Maplewood, N.J., Jan. 22, 2009
What Is Bush’s Legacy in
the Mideast?, NYT, 25.1.2009,
Appointing Emissaries, Obama and Clinton Stress Diplomacy
January 23, 2009
The New York Times
By MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — Signaling his determination to use diplomacy to address the
world’s toughest conflicts, President Obama went to the State Department on
Thursday to install high-level emissaries to handle the Arab-Israeli issue and
Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama struck an empathetic tone toward Palestinians in Gaza, who he said
were suffering greatly after the recently halted Israeli military campaign
against Hamas. But he signaled no major shift in American policy toward the
Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton jointly introduced the
emissaries, George J. Mitchell, who will be special envoy for Arab-Israeli
affairs, and Richard C. Holbrooke, who will hold the title of special
representative and will be responsible for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mr. Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, helped broker a peace agreement
in Northern Ireland. Mr. Holbrooke, a longtime diplomat who was the American
ambassador to the United Nations, played a central role in drafting the 1995
Dayton peace accords, which ended the war in Bosnia.
The appointment of such diplomatic heavyweights could pose a challenge to Mrs.
Clinton as she seeks to carve out her place as the nation’s chief diplomat. Each
was once viewed as a potential secretary of state, and Mr. Holbrooke, in
particular, will have a wide-ranging portfolio.
Underscoring the potentially tangled lines of authority, Mrs. Clinton said that
the National Security Council, led by Gen. James L. Jones, would play a
coordinating role on Afghanistan and Pakistan. She emphasized unity, saying, “We
want to send a clear and unequivocal message: we are a team.”
Already, though, there is some jockeying over whether the State Department or
the White House will dominate foreign policy — with the first skirmishes playing
out in the titles given to the emissaries.
Both Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Holbrooke will report to Mrs. Clinton, and through
her, to Mr. Obama, according to a State Department spokesman. But as if to
dramatize the murkiness of the arrangement, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.,
who accompanied Mr. Obama to the State Department, seemed confused at one point
about whether the new president or the new secretary of state would introduce
the emissaries. (It was Mrs. Clinton.)
As a special envoy, the State Department spokesman said, Mr. Mitchell will have
a more traditional role, working out of the State Department. As a special
representative, administration officials said, Mr. Holbrooke will have the
freedom to roam — and to represent Mr. Obama, the National Security Council and
even the Pentagon.
Mr. Holbrooke and General Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, wanted
Mr. Holbrooke to be able to speak directly to the White House, an official said.
General Jones once led NATO’s Supreme Allied Command in Afghanistan and plans to
be deeply involved in Afghan policy.
With the United States about to deploy 30,000 more troops there, policymaking on
Afghanistan is as much about the military as about diplomacy, officials said, so
Mr. Holbrooke will have to cut across departments.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden visited the State Department hours after Mrs. Clinton
arrived for her first day of work there. She received a hero’s welcome from more
than a thousand State Department employees, who whooped and cheered as if it
were a campaign rally.
“This is going to be a great adventure,” Mrs. Clinton said to employees in a
lively 10-minute address, with people craning to see her from a balcony in the
flag-lined lobby of the State Department.
“I will do all that I can, working with you, to make it abundantly clear that
robust diplomacy and effective development are the best long-term tools for
securing America’s future,” Mrs. Clinton said.
Mr. Obama made the same point in his speech to senior and midlevel diplomats in
the ornate Benjamin Franklin room. And he went out of his way to praise his
former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I’ve given you an
early gift: Hillary Clinton,” he said, to noisy applause.
The State Department has been demoralized by a lack of resources and the primacy
of the Pentagon in overseas operations. Among the crowd gathered to greet Mrs.
Clinton, there was a palpable hope that the department finally had a forceful
advocate. Her arrival — she was bathed in flashbulbs and mobbed by outstretched
hands — was more suited to a celebrity than a government official.
“The employees are ecstatic that we now have a secretary of state who is going
to fight for the resources we need,” said John Naland, the president of the
American Foreign Service Association, the professional association and labor
union representing career diplomats. “For three years, there were almost no
requests for additional staffing and resources.”
To bolster the department’s fund-raising efforts on Capitol Hill, Mrs. Clinton
has named Jacob J. Lew, a former budget director in the Clinton administration,
as one of two deputies. The other deputy is James B. Steinberg, a deputy
national security adviser to President Clinton. Both appeared before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday for their confirmation hearings.
While Mr. Obama’s remarks on the Middle East did not break new ground, his
reference to the plight of Palestinians suggested that his administration might
strive for a more evenhanded tone.
“Our hearts go out to the Palestinian civilians who are in need of food, clean
water and basic medical care,” he said, noting that the blocking of border
crossings in Gaza had deepened their misery.
Mr. Mitchell, 75, said his experience in Northern Ireland, where sectarian
conflict raged for centuries, had prepared him for the grueling work of a Middle
East peace negotiator. “We had 700 days of failure and one day of success,” he
Mr. Holbrooke, 67, who spoke of his roots as a junior diplomat, offered no
details about future policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But he demonstrated his
assertive personal style, saying he would coordinate “what is clearly a chaotic
foreign assistance program” in Afghanistan.
Foreign-policy analysts uniformly praised both men, but some said Mrs. Clinton
would need to assert her authority.
“There’s no precedent for a secretary of state to subcontract two incredibly
high-profile and politically resonant issues so early in her tenure,” said Aaron
David Miller, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
in Washington. “That could create a management problem.”
Helene Cooper contributed reporting.
Obama and Clinton Stress Diplomacy, NYT, 23.1.2009,
Obama Acts Fast on Mideast, But Substance Familiar
January 23, 2009
Filed at 8:06 a.m. ET
The New York Times
CAIRO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has taken the Middle East by
surprise with the speed of his diplomacy but his first statement on the conflict
between Arabs and Israelis was strikingly similar to old U.S. policies.
Arab leaders in the meantime are jumping in with their own proposals in the hope
of helping to shape U.S. policy before the new administration sets it in stone.
Arab governments and commentators had expected Obama to take his time before
turning his attention to the Middle East, concentrating instead on the U.S.
economy and domestic concerns.
But the new president, only two days into office, appointed on Thursday a
special envoy for the region, veteran mediator and former Senator George
Mitchell, and said Mitchell would go to the Middle East as soon as possible.
Mitchell will try to ensure that an informal ceasefire between Israel and the
Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip becomes durable and sustainable, Obama
One day earlier, Obama made telephone calls to Washington's long-standing allies
in the Middle East - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan.
The conservative Arab governments saw the calls as an affirmation of their
privileged status -- another sign that Obama is sticking to traditional
"It took two longs days before Obama dispelled any notions of a change in U.S.
Middle East policy," said As'ad Abu Khalil, Lebanese-born and pro-Palestinian
professor of political science at California State University.
"Obama's speech was quite something. It was like sprinkling sulphuric acid on
the wounds of the children in Gaza," he added.
But Obama's diplomatic activism and promises of engagement on Arab-Israeli
conflicts does at least address one of the conservatives' main grievances about
former President George W. Bush -- that he ignored the conflict for too long and
never put his full weight behind any Middle East peace plan.
A senior member of the Saudi ruling family, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said Bush
had left "a sickening legacy" in the Middle East and had contributed through
arrogance to Israel's slaughter of innocent people in Gaza over the past month.
"If the United States wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle
East and keep its strategic alliances intact ... it will have to revise
drastically its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine," he added.
Jamal Khashoggi, editor of the Saudi newspaper al-Watan, said the Saudi
government was still optimistic about Obama, whom it sees as a possible friend
to the Muslim world.
"Even the few Saudi officials who liked Bush were disappointed with him in the
last two years," he added.
Maverick Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi took the opportunity of Obama's advent to
refloat his own pet proposal -- that Israelis and Palestinians live together in
Prince Turki, a nephew of King Abdullah and a former ambassador to Washington,
said Washington should back the Arab peace initiative of 2002, which offers
Israel peace and normal relations in return for withdrawal to its 1967 borders.
In his policy statement on Thursday, Obama said the Arab peace offer contained
what he called constructive elements.
But he then called on Arab governments to carry out their half of the bargain --
"taking steps toward normalizing relations with Israel" -- without suggesting
that Israel should meet the parallel Arab demand for territorial withdrawal.
Obama gave full backing to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his
Western-backed prime minister, ignoring the political weight of Hamas and other
groups opposed to Abbas.
He repeated the controversial conditions which the Quartet of external powers in
2006 for dealing with Hamas -- recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and
accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Some analysts had speculated that Obama might bring a new approach to dealings
with Hamas and other Middle East forces which retain the right to armed struggle
Obama even linked ending the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza -- one of the
roots of the recent fighting -- to restoring Abbas's control of Gaza's borders.
That could perpetuate the present blockade for months or years to come.
U.S. reconstruction aid for Gaza will also be channeled exclusively through
Abbas, who has no control over Gaza.
The new president followed the traditional U.S. approach of relying on Egypt to
mediate between Israel and Hamas and to stop Hamas in Gaza receiving weapons
But Egypt failed to bring Hamas and Israel together on an agreed ceasefire and
Israel says that Cairo's anti-smuggling efforts along the Gaza-Egypt border fall
Hamas dismissed Obama's first venture into Middle East policy making as more of
the same failed U.S. strategy.
"It seems Obama is trying to repeat the same mistakes that George Bush made
without taking into consideration Bush's experience that resulted in the
explosion of the region," the Hamas representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan,
told Al Jazeera.
The pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper As-Safir added: "The new American President
inspired by Bush's positions ... Obama continues the Israeli war on the
"(Obama) disappointed many hopes set on his balance and moderate views toward
the Arab-Israeli conflict, since his positions allows Israel to continue what it
began in its last war on Gaza," the newspaper added.
(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Beirut and Riyadh newsroom; Editing by
Obama Acts Fast on
Mideast, But Substance Familiar, NYT, 23.1.2009,
Freed by U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief
January 23, 2009
The New York Times
By ROBERT F. WORTH
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the
deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential
complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed
Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.
The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly
bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He
was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation
program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.
His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was
confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.
“They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity
because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia
in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”
The development came as Republican legislators criticized the plan to close the
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp in the absence of any measures for dealing
with current detainees. But it also helps explain why the new administration
wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the
Almost half the camp’s remaining detainees are Yemenis, and efforts to
repatriate them depend in part on the creation of a Yemeni rehabilitation
program — partly financed by the United States — similar to the Saudi one. Saudi
Arabia has claimed that no graduate of its program has returned to terrorism.
“The lesson here is, whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep
a close eye on them,” the American official said.
Although the Pentagon has said that dozens of released Guantánamo detainees have
“returned to the fight,” its claim is difficult to document, and has been met
with skepticism. In any case, few of the former detainees, if any, are thought
to have become leaders of a major terrorist organization like Al Qaeda in Yemen,
a mostly homegrown group that experts say has been reinforced by foreign
Long considered a haven for jihadists, Yemen, a desperately poor country in the
southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has witnessed a rising number of
attacks over the past year. American officials say they suspect that Mr. Shihri
may have been involved in the car bombings outside the American Embassy in Sana
last September that killed 16 people, including six attackers.
In the Internet statement, Al Qaeda in Yemen identified its new deputy leader as
Abu Sayyaf al-Shihri, saying he returned from Guantánamo to his native Saudi
Arabia and then traveled to Yemen “more than 10 months ago.” That corresponds
roughly to the return of Mr. Shihri, a Saudi who was released from Guantánamo in
November 2007. Abu Sayyaf is a nom de guerre, commonly used by jihadists in
place of their real name or first name.
A Saudi security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr.
Shihri had disappeared from his home in Saudi Arabia last year after finishing
the rehabilitation program.
A Yemeni journalist who interviewed Al Qaeda’s leaders in Yemen last year,
Abdulela Shaya, confirmed Thursday that the deputy leader was indeed Mr. Shihri,
the former Guantánamo detainee. Mr. Shaya, in a phone interview, said Mr. Shihri
had described to him his journey from Cuba to Yemen and supplied his Guantánamo
detention number, 372. That is the correct number, Pentagon documents show.
“It seems certain from all the sources we have that this is the same individual
who was released from Guantánamo in 2007,” said Gregory Johnsen, a terrorism
analyst and the editor of a forthcoming book, “Islam and Insurgency in Yemen.”
Mr. Shihri, 35, trained in urban warfare tactics at a camp north of Kabul,
Afghanistan, according to documents released by the Pentagon as part of his
Guantánamo dossier. Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he
traveled to Afghanistan via Bahrain and Pakistan, and he later told American
investigators that his intention was to do relief work, the documents say. He
was wounded in an airstrike and spent a month and a half recovering in a
hospital in Pakistan.
The documents state that Mr. Shihri met with a group of “extremists” in Iran and
helped them get into Afghanistan. They also say he was accused of trying to
arrange the assassination of a writer, in accordance with a fatwa, or religious
order, issued by an extremist cleric.
However, under a heading describing reasons for Mr. Shihri’s possible release
from Guantánamo, the documents say he claimed that he traveled to Iran “to
purchase carpets for his store” in Saudi Arabia. They also say that he denied
knowledge of any terrorists or terrorist activities, and that he “related that
if released, he would like to return to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wherein he would
reunite with his family.”
“The detainee stated he would attempt to work at his family’s furniture store if
it is still in business,” the documents say.
The Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda has carried out a number of terrorist attacks over
the past year, culminating in the assault on the American Embassy in Sana on
Sept. 16. In that assault, the attackers disguised themselves as Yemeni
policemen and detonated two car bombs. The group has also begun releasing
sophisticated Internet material, in what appears to be a bid to gain more
Yemen began cooperating with the United States on counterterrorism activities in
late 2001. But the partnership has been a troubled one, with American officials
accusing Yemen of paroling dangerous terrorists, including some who were wanted
in the United States. Some high-level terrorism suspects have also mysteriously
escaped from Yemeni jails. The disagreements and security lapses have
complicated efforts to repatriate the 100 or so Yemenis remaining in Guantánamo.
Despite some notable Yemeni successes in fighting terrorist groups, Al Qaeda in
Yemen appears to be gaining strength.
“They are bringing Saudi fighters in, and they want to start to use Yemen as a
base for attacks throughout region, including Saudi Arabia and the Horn of
Africa,” said Mr. Johnsen, an expert on Al Qaeda in Yemen.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington; Khalid al-Hammadi from Sana,
Yemen; and Muhammad al-Milfy from Beirut.
Freed by U.S., Saudi
Becomes a Qaeda Chief, NYT, 23.1.2009,
Chinese Translation Cuts Out Parts of Obama Speech
January 21, 2009
Filed at 1:07 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BEIJING (AP) -- The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama's
inauguration speech was missing his references to communism and dissent, while a
live broadcast on state television Wednesday quickly cut away to the anchor when
the topic was mentioned.
The comments by the newly installed U.S. president veered into politically
sensitive territory for China's ruling Communist Party, which maintains a tight
grip over the Internet and the entirely state-run media. Beijing tolerates
little dissent and frequently decries foreign interference in its internal
At one point, Obama said earlier generations ''faced down communism and fascism
not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring
convictions.'' He later addressed ''those who cling to power through corruption
and deceit and the silencing of dissent -- know that you are on the wrong side
The Chinese translation of the speech, credited to the Web site of the official
China Daily newspaper, was missing the word ''communism'' in the first sentence.
The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed entirely.
The censored version was carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency and posted
on popular online portals Sina and Sohu. Another portal, Netease, used a version
without the paragraph mentioning communism, but retaining the part about
The news channel of state broadcaster China Central Television broadcast the
speech live early Wednesday local time, but appeared caught off-guard by the
statement about facing down communism.
The translator had no sooner said ''fascism and communism'' when the audio faded
out from Obama's speech and cameras cut back to the studio anchor, who seemed
flustered for a second before turning to ask an expert what challenges the
president faces in turning around the U.S. economy.
Wang Jianhong, deputy director of the CCTV general editing department, said he
did not stay up to watch the inauguration broadcast but suggested the transition
was a normal part of the program.
''There are breakaways even when broadcasting China's own meetings,'' he said.
''Americans might care a lot about the presidential inauguration, but Chinese
may not be very interested.''
No one in the editing department of the China Daily Web site was immediately
available to answer questions.
The full translation of Obama's speech could be viewed on the Web site of Hong
Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Satellite Television, which has a reputation as a
more independent news source. The China Daily Web site posted Obama's full
remarks in English only.
China has previously altered the words of U.S. officials. A 2004 speech in
Shanghai by former Vice President Dick Cheney was broadcast live on state-run
television at the insistence of U.S. officials, but the Chinese transcript of
the remarks deleted references to political freedom.
In 2003, the memoirs of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton were pulled from
publication in China after the government-backed publisher removed references to
the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests and altered Clinton's comments
about human rights activist Harry Wu.
Chinese Translation Cuts
Out Parts of Obama Speech, NYT, 21.1.2009,
Obama Promises the World a Renewed America
January 21, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN F. BURNS
LONDON — President Obama used his Inaugural Address to promise the
regeneration of an America many in recent years had feared lost.
Speaking directly to the millions who crowded around televisions across the
world as much as to Americans, Mr. Obama said the United States was “ready to
lead once more” despite the ravages of protracted wars and a depleted economy.
But he coupled that with a vision of an America that exercises its power with a
sense of justice, humility and restraint, and an America that, while believing
its values still light the world, pledges to promote them through cooperation
and understanding as much as military might.
With a steel never so pronounced in his campaign, he challenged America’s
adversaries — and, recently, some of its oldest friends — who have spied an
America diminished by economic distress and war, and heralded a new world order
in which America would give up much of its power.
That hesitant, regretful America was nowhere to be seen in Mr. Obama’s address,
which called on Americans to rally against “a nagging fear” that decline is
inevitable. While offering a “new way forward to the Muslim world,” and warning
dictators that they are “on the wrong side of history,” he sounded not unlike
George W. Bush in his challenges to those who spread terror and destruction.
“You cannot outlast us; we will defeat you,” he said.
Some abroad bridled and some were reassured by the recurring foreign policy
motif of Mr. Obama’s address — his resolve that the United States, as it
rebuilds at home, will not give up its long-established role as the leader of
the free world. And while many hailed the change of tone, others were uncertain
that real change was coming, given the realities of American politics and the
world that has not altered with the transition in Washington.
In Cairo and Lebanon, while some hailed Mr. Obama’s outreach to the Muslim
world, most remained skeptical about his ability to change the basic direction
of American policy and what many Arabs regard as a strong bias toward Israel.
For many, the war in Gaza, which caused tremendous anger throughout the Arab
world, overshadowed the inauguration; Mr. Obama did not refer to it in his
“Why should I be optimistic about what he said?” said Hassan Abdel Rahman, 25, a
salesman in a flower shop in Cairo. “If there was reason to be optimistic, then
we would have felt it during the war on Gaza, and if he was just, then he would
have said something then — but he said nothing!”
Some old adversaries suggested that they would keep an open mind. “We salute the
people of the United States,” said Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez,
emphasizing that he hoped that Mr. Obama’s presidency would “mark a change in
the relations of the United States with the countries of the third world.”
In some capitals, Mr. Obama’s renewed claim to foreign leadership and the
prospect of an American president with the kind of aura not seen since John F.
Kennedy have provoked stirrings of jealousy, even animosity. In Russia and
France, notably, there have been high-level calls that Mr. Obama accept that
America’s days as the dominant superpower are over, especially in the face of
the retreat from the free-market capitalism the United States has championed.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov, published an essay last month
saying, in language that was almost pitying, that Russia had “returned to the
world stage” and would not accept the United States any longer as an imperial
power. “America has to recognize the reality of a ‘post-American’ world,” he
More surprising, perhaps, has been the changed tone of France’s president,
Nicolas Sarkozy, who took office in 2007 with a reputation as France’s most
pro-American president in memory but has tempered that as he has sought to
establish himself as Europe’s most powerful voice. “I have always been in favor
of a very close alliance with the United States of America,” Mr. Sarkozy said
two weeks ago. “But let us make things clear: in the 21st century, there is no
longer one nation that can tell what must be done or what one must think.”
The tone of Mr. Obama’s address, especially his emphasis on greater cooperation,
and his vow to combat poverty, climate change and nuclear threats, scarcely
presaged a new era of American bullying. But even with a radical new tone, he
may find the partners he seeks may be reluctant to share burdens that have until
now been America’s main responsibility to bear.
“We have entered a period of historical transition in which the United States
will become first among equals, rather than simply top dog, hyperpower and
unquestioned hegemon,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European studies
at Oxford. “But for Europeans, it may be a case of being careful what you wish
for, because the Obama administration is likely to say, ‘Good, then put your
money where your mouth is, and in the first place, put more troops in
In the days leading up to the inauguration, many politicians, academics, opinion
leaders and others spoke to correspondents of The New York Times around the
world about Mr. Obama in terms verging on euphoria. But they also sounded
warnings that the expectations were too high and that the world might discover
that Mr. Obama is hemmed in by some of the unyielding realities that had
frustrated his predecessor, compounded now by the worldwide recession and what
it has done to diminish America’s reputation as a model of free-market
“Obviously, there is a risk that we will expect too much of this president —
that we will learn that however hugely talented he is, he isn’t a global miracle
worker,” said Christopher Patten, a former European commissioner for foreign
affairs who is now chancellor of Oxford.
Moves that Mr. Obama has signaled, like a plan to close the detention camp at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to align the United States with international law on
the use of torture, are certain to be greeted with relief and celebration around
the world. But on Iran’s suspected bid to acquire nuclear weapons, on his pledge
to step up the allied military commitment in Afghanistan, on climate change and
a host of other issues, he may find personal popularity one thing, achieving his
goals through partnership and negotiation quite another.
As he prepared to leave office, Mr. Bush admonished Mr. Obama to remember that a
president’s first priority is to keep America safe, a challenge the new
But his pledges to “leave Iraq to its people” and push for a “hard-earned peace”
in Afghanistan may yet jar with reality, military analysts have warned. His plan
to increase American and allied troop strength in Afghanistan has met with a
chilling riposte from Osama bin Laden, who, by eluding capture since 9/11, has
embodied the limits of Mr. Bush’s “great war on terror.”
Last week, Mr. bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s leader, challenged Mr. Obama in an audio
message. Referring to Afghanistan and Iraq, he said Mr. Obama was “like one who
swallows a double-edged dagger — whichever way he moves it, it will wound him.”
Iraq could be just as tricky, confronting Mr. Obama, should trends toward less
violence there reverse, with a challenge to his campaign commitment to a
16-month troop withdrawal timetable.
Jorge Montaño, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States, said that Mr.
Bush had been too focused on Afghanistan and Iraq to notice that Latin America
was drifting away from the United States, and that Mr. Obama might prove little
different. “Right now, the people of the United States are worried about their
credit cards, their mortgages,” he said. “These will be Obama’s priorities, and
this region will have to wait.”
But as Mr. Obama took office, practical calculations were largely set aside.
Commentaries praising him found much more to admire than the fact that he is the
first African-American president, significant though that is in a world whose
population of 6.5 billion is overwhelmingly nonwhite.
Even before his solemn and measured address, Mr. Obama had drawn widespread
plaudits for his character and judgment. “Obama acts like a kind of antacid to
the American stomach,” Andrew Sullivan, a columnist for The Sunday Times of
London, wrote last weekend, one of a raft of adulatory articles in Europe’s
major newspapers. Rather than seeing the world in black and white terms, he
wrote, Mr. Obama “sees it as a series of interconnected conflicts that can be
managed by pragmatic solutions, combined with a little rhetorical fairy dust and
willingness to offer respect where Bush provided merely contempt.”
“This is not a panacea,” he added. “But it is not nothing either.”
Reporting was contributed by Simon Romero from Caracas, Venezuela; Mona
el-Naggar from Cairo; Ellen Barry from Moscow; Marc Lacey from Mexico City; and
Daphné Anglès from Paris.
Obama Promises the World
a Renewed America, NYT, 21.1.2009,
On First Full Day, Obama Will Dive Into Foreign Policy
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
By Michael D. Shear and Karen DeYoung
President-elect Barack Obama will plunge into foreign policy on his first
full day in office tomorrow, finally freed from the constraints of tradition
that has forced him and his staff to remain muzzled about world affairs during
the 78-day transition.
As one of his first actions, Obama plans to name former senator George J.
Mitchell (D-Maine) as his Middle East envoy, aides said, sending a signal that
the new administration intends to move quickly to engage warring Israelis and
Palestinians in efforts to secure the peace.
Mitchell's appointment will follow this afternoon's expected Senate vote to
confirm Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. And tomorrow afternoon,
aides said, Obama will convene a meeting of his National Security Council to
launch a reassessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By the end of the week, Obama plans to issue an executive order to eventually
shut down the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to lay
out a new process for dealing with about 250 detainees remaining at the prison.
The actions -- to be taken before the entire White House staff has found their
desks -- reflect the frenetic activity among Obama's national security advisers
that has been taking place behind the scenes since Election Day.
Following his noon inauguration, Obama will spend a brief time at the White
House before heading to a series of dinners and inaugural balls. Aides said the
work of being president will begin in earnest tomorrow morning.
That work has already been in full view with regard to the economic crisis and
other domestic issues. Obama has not been bashful, giving speeches and
dispatching aides to work with Congress on an $825 billion stimulus package. He
will meet with economic advisers tomorrow and is expected to quickly issue an
executive order demanding a new level of transparency and ethics in government.
But the new president will for the first time assume the responsibility for an
Iraq war that he opposed from its inception and a series of international crises
that will quickly test his mettle as commander in chief.
Publicly, the president-elect has deferred to President Bush and has declined to
comment on the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip and the terrorist attacks in
Mumbai. But privately, he and his aides have been preparing to dramatically
reshape the country's foreign policy, starting with the broad conflict zone from
Israel to Pakistan.
Last Thursday, in an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, Obama
criticized Bush for treating Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as "discrete"
problems. Under his watch, Obama said, policy in that region will be treated as
a single, unified one.
"One of the principles that we'll be operating under is that these things are
very much related and that if we have got an integrated approach, we're going to
be more effective," he said.
Incoming officials were still debating yesterday how involvement in the
Israeli-Palestinian crisis should proceed during the first week. With a fragile
Gaza cease-fire in place, the new administration plans to tread gingerly,
working behind the scenes while allowing Egyptian and European initiatives to
play out before taking a highly visible role.
Obama transition officials are acutely aware that the world -- and especially
the Israelis and Palestinians -- will be watching to see what tone the new
president takes. Sources said the initial emphasis will likely be on stepped-up
presidential engagement rather than the specifics of a U.S. role, and empathy
and aid toward humanitarian suffering.
The first concrete evidence of a new foreign policy approach will begin with the
meeting tomorrow. Obama will instruct the Pentagon to prepare for a stepped-up
withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, to be completed within 16 months, and
will hear proposals for turning around the deteriorating war in Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Adm. Michael Mullen, will attend, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of Central
Command, and Gen. Raymond Odierno, U.S. commander in Iraq, will weigh in via
live video connection.
Senior officers began late last year to prepare options for withdrawing from
Iraq. Obama has said he will listen carefully to their recommendations before
approving a plan that meets his specifications. He has said he expects to
maintain a "residual force" in Iraq but has not indicated how many troops will
remain over what period.
He has also indicated he will move ahead with existing plans for deployment of
as many as 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year.
After returning to the White House following his swearing-in today, Obama is
expected to visit the Oval Office, aides said.
A handful of senior staff members will ride in Obama's motorcade to the White
House today and enter their offices for the first time as they brace to confront
the economy, the Middle East, overseas wars and a raft of domestic policy
Aides said only about 15 White House staffers were pre-screened to enter the
West Wing today. The rest will arrive tomorrow morning, after partying at
Gates will not attend inaugural festivities, having been designated to stay away
from the president and other national leaders in case of a catastrophic event.
Mitchell, who led a Middle East peace commission in 2000, is highly regarded as
a negotiator for his work in the successful Northern Ireland peace process. An
Obama adviser said the exact timing of Mitchell's appointment will depend on
Clinton's confirmation vote, which is scheduled to take place by "unanimous
consent" and so cannot be stopped by filibuster.
But a Republican senator could demand a voice vote, thus delaying Clinton's
confirmation by another day. "If any Republican holds her over, they are
stalling the entire administration from hitting this problem," the adviser said.
The Guantanamo order is being crafted by Obama White House Counsel Gregory B.
Craig. Its timing is expected to preempt a Guantanamo trial scheduled to begin
Monday under the current "military commission" proceedings.
Staff writer Anne E. Kornblut contributed to this report.
On First Full Day, Obama
Will Dive Into Foreign Policy, WP, 20.1.2009,
China Calls for Better Military Ties Under Obama
January 20, 2009
Filed at 5:24 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BEIJING (AP) -- China's defense ministry urged President-elect Barack Obama
on Tuesday to work with Beijing to improve its occasionally tense military
relationship with the United States, calling on the Pentagon to ''remove
Sr. Col. Hu Changming, chief spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense,
said China -- with one of the world's fastest-growing armed forces -- looked
forward to smoother relations with Washington and its military, the world's
''At present, when China-U.S. military-to-military relations are faced with
difficulties, we call on the U.S. Department of Defense to remove obstacles ...
and create favorable conditions for the healthy growth of military relations,''
Hu said during a news conference held to present a major military policy paper.
China has long opposed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and blocking formal
independence for self-governing Taiwan remains the military's chief concern, the
policy paper said. China also views separatist movements in Tibet and the far
western region of Xinjiang as the biggest threats to the country's national
''On these matters, we will not compromise,'' Hu said.
Defense sales to and relations with Taiwan have been an issue for every U.S.
president since Beijing and Washington established diplomatic ties 30 years ago.
China considers the self-ruled island a part of its territory and supports
U.S. arms sales to the island remain a major point of contention. Last fall,
China's defense minister demanded that the U.S. cancel a $6.5 billion arms sale
to Taiwan, including Patriot III missiles and Apache helicopters, and then
suspended some senior-level visits and other exchanges in retaliation.
Later in the day, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu reiterated China's
opposition to the arms sales, warning that Washington should ''cautiously and
properly handle the Taiwan issue, (and) support the peaceful development of
cross-strait relations with concrete actions.''
However, years of tension with Taiwan have given way to rapprochement following
last year's election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who favors a less
confrontational approach to China.
Hu noted there had been major improvements in cross-strait relations, saying
''the situation across the Taiwan Strait has taken a significant and positive
China also said it considered the global economic crisis a threat to development
and was concerned about possible competition among nations for energy and food.
The paper did not give any new spending figures for China's 2.3 million-strong
armed forces for 2009. For 2008, China had announced a military budget of $59
billion, up nearly 18 percent over the previous year. It was the 18th year of
double digit growth of military spending in the past 19 years.
Such lavish funding has allowed China to add cutting-edge fighter jets,
missiles, submarines and surface ships, and the report said such efforts would
continue, increasing capabilities as China moves to protect its expanding
interests in other parts of the world.
But it did not mention an aircraft carrier, the object of frequent speculation
by observers of the Chinese military.
A Defense Ministry spokesman last month said China would ''seriously consider''
building a carrier, while the recent deployment of a three-ship Chinese flotilla
to fight piracy off Somalia has further bolstered those prophesying a major
expansion of Chinese naval power.
Strategically, a carrier would serve to police the 1.16 million square miles (3
million square kilometers) of sea claimed by Beijing as its maritime territory.
China Calls for Better
Military Ties Under Obama, NYT, 20.1.2009,
The Next War President
January 19, 2009
The New York Times
By WILLIAM KRISTOL
In synagogue on Saturday, before saying the customary prayer for our country,
the rabbi asked us to reflect on the fact that a new president would be
inaugurated on Tuesday, and urged us to focus a little more intently than usual
on the prayer. The congregants did so, it seemed to me, as we read, “Our God and
God of our ancestors: We ask your blessings for our country — for its
government, for its leaders and advisers, and for all who exercise just and
rightful authority ...”
Barack Obama will assume that just and rightful authority at noon on Tuesday.
After a dinner with him that I attended last week, as we said our goodbyes, I
overheard one of my fellow conservatives say softly to the president-elect,
“Sir, I’ll be praying for you.” Obama seemed to pause as they shook hands, and
to thank him more earnestly than he did those of us who simply — and sincerely —
wished him well.
The incoming president is the man of the moment. He deserves good wishes and
sincere prayers. But I’ve found myself thinking these last few days more about
the man who has shouldered the burdens of office for the past eight years,
George W. Bush.
He wasn’t my favorite among Republicans in 2000. He has made mistakes as
president, and has limitations as a leader. But he has exercised his just and
rightful authority in a way — I believe — that deserves recognition and respect.
It will probably be a while before he gets much of either. In synagogue, right
after the prayer for our country, there is a prayer for the state of Israel,
asking the “rock and redeemer of the people Israel” to “spread over it the
shelter of your peace.” As we recited this on Saturday, I couldn’t help but
reflect that a distressingly small number of my fellow Jews seem to have given
much thought at all to the fact that President Bush is one of the greatest
friends the state of Israel — and, yes, the Jewish people — have had in quite a
while. Bush stood with Israel when he had no political incentive to do so and
received no political benefit from doing so. He was criticized by much of the
world. He did it because he thought it the right thing to do.
He has been denounced for this, as Israel has been denounced for doing what it
judged necessary to defend itself. The liberal sage Bill Moyers has been a harsh
critic of Bush. On Jan. 9, on PBS, he also lambasted Israel for what he called
its “state terrorism,” its “waging war on an entire population” in Gaza. He
traced this Israeli policy back to the Bible, where “God-soaked violence became
genetically coded,” apparently in both Arabs and Jews. I wouldn’t presume to say
what is and isn’t “genetically coded” in Moyers’s respectable Protestant genes.
But I’m glad it was George W. Bush calling the shots over the last eight years,
not someone well-thought of by Moyers.
Many of Bush’s defenders have praised him for keeping the country safe since
Sept. 11, 2001. He deserves that praise, and I’m perfectly happy to defend most
of his surveillance, interrogation and counterterrorism policies against his
But I don’t think keeping us safe has been Bush’s most impressive achievement.
That was winning the war in Iraq, and in particular, his refusal to accept
defeat when so many counseled him to do so in late 2006. His ordering the surge
of troops to Iraq in January 2007 was an act of personal courage and of
presidential leadership. The results have benefited both Iraq and the United
States. And the outcome in Iraq is a remarkable gift to the incoming president,
who now only has to sustain success, rather than trying to deal with the
consequences in the region and around the world of a humiliating withdrawal and
a devastating defeat.
The cost of the war in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, has been great. Last Wednesday
afternoon, in the midst of all the other activities of the final week of an
administration, Bush had 40 or so families of fallen soldiers to the White
House. The staff had set aside up to two hours. Bush, a man who normally keeps
to schedule, spent over four hours meeting in small groups with the family
members of those who had fallen in battle.
This past weekend Barack Obama added to his itinerary a visit to Arlington
National Cemetery. Obama knows that he, too, will be a war president. He knows
the decisions he makes as commander in chief will be his most consequential. And
so on Sunday morning, before going to church, he placed a wreath at the Tomb of
the Unknowns and stood silently as taps was sounded. The somber tableau provided
quite a contrast to all the hubbub and talk of the last few days. Obama’s silent
tribute captured a deeper truth, and — I dare say — a more fundamental hope,
than could any speech.
The Next War President,
Hamas Announces Cease-Fire in Gaza
January 18, 2009
Filed at 12:51 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Hamas offered Israel an immediate weeklong
truce Sunday, hours after Israel silenced its guns and grounded its aircraft,
but the Islamic militant group conditioned long-term quiet on a complete Israeli
withdrawal from the territory.
Israeli tanks rolled out of Gaza Sunday, and infantry soldiers walked across the
border to Israel, their guns and packs slung over their shoulders.
Militant rockets peppered southern Israel ahead of the Palestinian truce offer,
threatening to re-ignite three weeks of violence that killed more than 1,200
Palestinians -- more than half of them civilians, Gaza officials said -- and
turned the streets of Hamas-ruled Gaza into battlegrounds.
In Gaza, Palestinians loaded vans and donkey carts with mattresses and ventured
out to see what was left of their homes after Israel's punishing air and ground
assault. Bulldozers shoved aside rubble in Gaza City to clear a path for cars.
Medical workers sifting through mounds of concrete said they recovered 100
bodies amid the debris.
Israel mounted the offensive three weeks ago to halt years of rocket attacks,
but despite the latest barrage, the government spokesman said Israel's
cease-fire offer stood. Thirteen Israelis died during the offensive, including
four killed by rocket fire.
''We will honor our cease-fire as we said last night and will only act to defend
ourselves if we see Hamas provocation,'' the spokesman, Mark Regev, said in
response to the Hamas cease-fire announcement.
At least a dozen tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled back into Israel,
with relieved crews waving ''victory'' signs with their fingers. Hundreds of
soldiers, laden with equipment, walked through the rain. Some smiled, others
looked weary, their faces smeared with war paint. Israeli flags poked out of
their packs and were attached to the tops of radio antennas.
The Israeli army refused to say how many troops had withdrawn, or how large a
force would remain inside Gaza, but the government said an Israeli presence
would stay until rocket fire halted entirely.
The Palestinian cease-fire was announced by military leaders in Gaza and in
Damascus, Syria, the base of Gaza's exiled Hamas leaders. They did not set a
time, but it appeared to be effective immediately.
In Damascus, Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' deputy leader, told Syrian TV that the
cease-fire would last a week to give Israel time to withdraw and open all Gaza
border crossings to let humanitarian aid into the embattled seaside territory.
''We the Palestinian resistance factions declare a cease-fire from our side in
Gaza and we confirm our stance that the enemy's troops must withdraw from Gaza
within a week,'' Abu Marzouk said.
Hamas, which rejects Israel's right to exist, violently seized control of Gaza
in June 2007, provoking a harsh Israeli blockade that has deepened the
destitution in the territory and confined 1.4 million Palestinians to the tiny
coastal strip. Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely sealed.
Militants did not back down from their demand that Israel ultimately open
blockaded crossings, which serve as economic lifelines for Gaza.
The Hamas offer raised hopes that the cease-fire would stick more than a few
hours. Militants had fired 17 rockets into Israel on Sunday, slightly injuring
three people, police said, even as foreign leaders tried cement an end to the
war in Egypt. Israel briefly retaliated against the rocket assaults with air and
In Gaza City, the Shahadeh family was loading mattresses into the trunk of a car
in Gaza City, preparing to return home to the hard-hit northern Gaza town of
''I've been told that the devils have left,'' said Riyadh Shahadeh, referring to
the Israelis. ''I'm going back to see how I'm going to start again. I don't know
what happened to my house. ... I am going back there with a heart full of fear
because I am not sure if the area is secure or not, but I have no other
In southern Israel, residents who have endured rocket attacks for eight years
accused the government of stopping the offensive too soon. Israel declared the
cease-fire before reaching a long-term solution to the problem of arms smuggling
into Gaza, one of the war's declared aims.
Schools in southern Israel had remained closed in anticipation of the rocket
fire that was swift to come. Shortly before the rocket fire resumed, the head of
a parents association in the town of Sderot faulted the government for not
reaching an agreement directly with Hamas, which Israel shuns.
''It's an offensive that ended without achieving its aims,'' Batya Katar said.
''All the weapons went through Egypt. What's happened there?''
''The weapons will continue to come in through the tunnels and by sea,'' she
Before Hamas made its cease-fire offer, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
warned militants not to attack.
''Israel's (cease-fire) decision allows it to respond and renew fire at our
enemies, the different terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, as long as they
continue attacking,'' Olmert said at the start of the weekly Cabinet session.
''This morning some of them continued their fire, provoking what we had warned
of,'' Olmert said. ''This cease-fire is fragile and we must examine it minute by
minute, hour by hour.''
Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel quoted the head of the Shin Bet security
service, Yuval Diskin, as telling ministers that ''the operation is not over.''
''The next few days will make clear if we are heading toward a cease-fire or the
renewal of fighting,'' Diskin was quoted as saying.
The Israeli operation outraged the Muslim world, sparking dozens of
demonstrations. On Sunday, Qatar announced that it had closed Israel's trade
office in the small Gulf Arab state and ordered its staff to leave within seven
Qatar is the only Gulf Arab state that has ties with Israel.
Leaders of Germany, France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Turkey and the Czech Republic
-- which holds the rotating European Union presidency -- headed for Egypt to
lend international backing to the cease-fire. Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon were also
expected to attend.
Ban welcomed the Israeli move and called on Hamas to stop its rocket fire.
''Urgent humanitarian access for the people of Gaza is the immediate priority,''
Israel said it was not sending a representative to the meeting. But Sunday
evening, leaders from Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and France and the European
Union were coming to Jerusalem for a working dinner with Olmert.
Hamas, shunned internationally as a terrorist organization, was not invited to
the summit in Egypt. But the group has been mediating with Egypt, and any
arrangement to open Gaza's blockaded borders for trade would likely need Hamas'
Abbas, too, echoed Hamas' call for a total Israeli withdrawal and the lifting of
bruising Israeli sanctions.
Israel's cease-fire ''is an important and necessary event but it's
insufficient,'' said Abbas, Hamas' bitter rival and the top leader in the West
Bank, the larger of the two Palestinian territories. ''There should be a
comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, a lifting of the siege and a
reopening of crossings'' to aid, he said, speaking from Egypt.
Under the truce plan, Hamas would not rearm, as militants did during a 6-month
truce that preceded the war. In a step toward achieving those guarantees, Israel
on Friday won a U.S. commitment to help crack down on weapons smuggling into
Egypt and from there, to Gaza.
But Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Saturday that his country
would not be bound by the agreement. Egypt's cooperation is essential if the
smuggling is to be stopped.
Ibrahim Barzak reported from Gaza and Amy Teibel reported from Jerusalem. Alfred
de Montesquiou contributed to this report from Rafah, Gaza Strip.
Cease-Fire in Gaza, NYT, 18.1.2009,
In Homes and on Streets, a War That Feels Deadlier
January 18, 2009
The New York Times
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
RAFAH, Gaza — The war here comes from the sky: fast, sharp and coldly lethal.
And even when it is not crushing a building or collapsing a tunnel, its sound is
always near in the nasal whine of drones and the earsplitting roar of fighter
Here in Gaza’s south on Saturday, the 22nd day of the war, conversations were
punctuated by the whistles and occasional cracks of Israeli ordnance hitting its
targets — a maze of underground tunnels that served as smuggling routes for
To many people in this bustling town on the Egyptian border, this short war has
been the worst in living memory, one that they say is likely to further deepen
age-old resentments. As their walls shook and windows rattled, they said it
seemed that Israel was seizing the opportunity to destroy as much as possible
before a unilateral cease-fire was to take effect early Sunday.
In past conflicts, the attacks came in spurts, people here said, with missiles
shot from helicopters that could take out a living room, but not an entire
building. Now, said Muhammad Hamed, 24, things feel different. He lost some of
his hearing for a short while, after a house on his street was destroyed.
“You see a plane, but you don’t know where it will hit,” he said, standing near
an empty playground where several houses, and the tunnels that probably lay
underneath them, had been crushed. The weapons, he said, were so big that people
“Even if you are a giant, all that could remain is your finger.”
It left a feeling, he said, of weakness and insignificance. Of being outside his
body as if he were watching events from somewhere else.
It also presented more tangible obstacles: engaged to be married, he now has to
wait until after the war to tie the knot.
“There are far too many martyrs right now to get married,” he said, in a black
T-shirt with the number 78 on the front.
A number of government institutions were hit, including the police and fire
station. Israel argues that Hamas is a terrorist organization and therefore many
of its agencies are legitimate targets. To be sure, some members of the police
department are part of the group’s security apparatus, but many officers, whose
duties include writing traffic tickets or registering cars, have no ideological
loyalty to Hamas.
So when the main police station was hit, Jabbar Shalah, 40, thought it was
all-out war. He had been sunning himself outside his house in a plastic chair
and felt an explosion thump in his chest.
“I thought — it’s over,” he said, sitting on a mat at home with his family
around a hot plate that has served as the only cooking device since their gas
supply was cut off. “They’re going after all of us.”
The building was demolished, and the police chief, Tawfiq Jabbar, had been
obliterated, he said. Chief Jabbar’s family buried only his legs.
Samira Shalah, who was making coffee on the hot plate, chimed in: “They say it’s
Hamas’s fault. They don’t want to take responsibility for anyone else they
Muhammad Muhaisin, 35, a member of the rival Fatah party who was not
particularly enthusiastic about Hamas, said people were getting the sense that
the real target was Palestinian civil society itself.
“We see this war as a war on the Palestinian state, not against a party,” he
said. “They are targeting the institutions of the Palestinian state.”
The municipal building and another public building that handled marriages and
electricity payments were also hit. Those buildings, he said, were built by
“They say they want to replace Hamas with Fatah, but really they just don’t want
anybody in charge,” he said in his living room, where the windows had no glass
and a clock hung sideways, stopped at 12:27, the time a bomb hit the mosque
across the street.
The war, he said, will not diminish Palestinians’ national aspirations.
“The idea of Palestine is in people’s minds, not in buildings,” he said. “Every
time they press us it gets stronger.”
Rafah, in many ways, has been spared. Tanks do not roll in its streets, and
because its power comes from Egypt, it has had electricity for most of the war.
In all, according to Muhammad al-Hams, director of the main hospital, Al Najar,
46 people have been killed in the fighting here, a fraction of the toll in Gaza
And though the war has caused serious destruction, leveling buildings and
certain neighborhoods along the border, there are surprising pockets of
normality. In the center of town, donkey carts were stuck in a traffic jam. On
the outskirts, a field of cultivated flowers was untouched.
People had even grown accustomed to the sounds of the planes and bombs, and went
about their lives resigned to it. Abdullah Shamali, a 60-year-old in a sheik’s
headdress and suit coat, did not look up from his hummus, when a crack sounded
“We’re used to it,” he said, shrugging.
War has been here for what seems like forever. Mr. Hamed, the groom-to-be, lives
in a house pockmarked by shrapnel from a previous war. He was standing outside
with a group of friends, watching planes shoot flares into the blue sky, and
thinking about his wedding.
His fiancée’s name is Palestine.
Nadim Audi contributed reporting.
In Homes and on Streets,
a War That Feels Deadlier, NYT, 18.1.2009,
Israeli Cabinet Appears Ready to Declare a Gaza Cease-Fire
January 17, 2009
The New York Times
By ETHAN BRONNER and MARK LANDLER
JERUSALEM — Israel’s security cabinet is expected to meet Saturday night to
declare a cease-fire in Gaza and will keep its forces there in the short term
while the next stage of an agreement with Egypt is worked out.
“It looks as if all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together,” Mark Regev, a
spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Friday. “There will be
discussions tomorrow morning, and it looks like a cabinet meeting will take
place tomorrow night. Everyone is very upbeat.”
Meanwhile, Israeli tank fire killed two boys at a United Nations-run school on
Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya, a U.N. official told
Reuters. Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said
two brothers had been killed and 14 people had been wounded in the attack,
including the boys' mother. An Israeli army spokesman said that he was checking
The most promising element for bringing the three-week conflict to a close
occurred in Washington on Friday, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel signed an understanding on a range of
steps the United States would take to stem the flow of new arms to Hamas from
the Egyptian Sinai, mostly via tunnels.
The agreement came on the last business day of the Bush administration and set
the stage for the Obama administration to play a more active role in resolving
the Arab-Israeli conflict. President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of
State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton signed off on the plan, the State
Whether Hamas will comply with the terms of parallel talks with Egypt was
unclear. At a meeting organized by Qatar, a top exiled Hamas leader rejected
Israeli terms for a cease-fire and called for increased resistance.
“Israel will not be able to destroy our resistance, and the United States will
not be able to dictate us their rules,” the leader, Khaled Meshal, said in
defiant remarks broadcast worldwide. “Arab countries should help Hamas to fight
against the death of civilian Palestinians.”
But the Gaza branch of Hamas, squabbling with exiles out of the line of Israeli
fire, seems to have agreed to much of Egypt’s cease-fire proposal.
Fighting in Gaza continued Friday, despite the apparent progress toward ending
it. Palestinian medical officials said the death toll had risen above 1,100
people, many of them civilians.
The cease-fire under discussion is more formal than the one that broke down late
last month, when each side accused the other of failing to live up to its terms,
and in some ways seems devised to overcome the last one’s weaknesses.
Unlike the last one, this will be written down, in Israel’s case, in the form of
an agreement with Egypt and the understanding with the United States. Israel and
Hamas do not speak officially but Egypt has been brokering terms between the
two. Israel was unwilling to have an accord that might confer legitimacy on
Hamas, which preaches Israel’s destruction.
The agreement hammered out in Washington would provide American technical
assistance, as well as international monitors, to crack down on the tunnels. It
would not, however, involve the deployment of American troops in the region. The
composition of the monitoring force was not yet clear, a senior American
official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The agreement stipulates
that the United States would work to interdict weapons with its NATO partners,
expanding significantly the responsibility to keep Hamas disarmed.
After meeting with Ms. Rice, Ms. Livni, who has been hawkish on continuing the
assault aimed at stopping Hamas rockets from coming into Israel, stressed that
the nation had met its war aims and was prepared to enter a cease-fire
“Israel embarked on the campaign in order to change the equation and restore its
deterrent capacity,” she told Israel Radio. “We did that a few days ago, in my
opinion. It has to be put to the test. If Hamas shoots, we’ll have to continue.
And if it shoots later on, we’ll have to embark on another campaign.”
The Bush administration agreed to the deal after consulting Mrs. Clinton and
Gen. James L. Jones, who will be Mr. Obama’s national security adviser. Ms. Rice
discussed the terms over lunch with Mrs. Clinton on Thursday, the State
Department spokesman said, and briefed Mr. Obama by phone.
“It’s safe to assume that we wouldn’t have moved forward if we hadn’t done some
careful consultations, prior to signing, with the incoming folks,” the
spokesman, Sean McCormack, said.
The timing of the agreement, after a last effort of American diplomacy, struck
some Middle East experts as symbolic of a Bush administration that had refused
to engage in the peace process until late in its term, and has left its
successors with little choice but to re-engage.
“They will inherit this agreement, which is critically important and will make
them more engaged in the region than Bush was,” said Aaron David Miller, a
public policy analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“This is the shape of things to come.”
Ms. Rice said the agreement was only supportive of broader negotiations being
carried out by Egypt, and she refused to say when a cease-fire could actually
take place and when the fighting in Gaza would stop.
“We are doing everything we can to bring it to an end,” she said.
In Gaza, Palestinians tried to recover Friday from a heavy assault from Israel
the day before.
A funeral for a senior Hamas official, Interior Minister Said Siam, who was
killed Thursday by an Israeli attack, turned into a mass rally in Gaza City.
Thousands raised their fingers into the air as a speaker called out, “Let us say
goodbye to one of the lions of Hamas!” Passers-by stopped, elderly women emerged
from houses, and children stood on roofs and declared, “This is in the name of
Gaza hospitals were struggling. They were damaged on Thursday by Israel, which
said mortars had been fired at its forces from sites near the hospitals. CARE
International and other global aid groups said they had resumed distribution
after being forced to stop by the intense attacks of the previous day. They
condemned Israel’s actions.
In Tal Al Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City where fighting was
fiercest on Thursday, Israeli tanks withdrew, leaving a blighted landscape and
several dozen more dead.
Palestinians reported that a mother and her five children — 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12
years old — had been killed in the Bureij refugee camp. Three riders on
motorbikes, means of transport increasingly used by Hamas fighters, were also
killed by missiles.
Israel stepped up military activity on Friday evening. Palestinian medical
officials reported that at least 10 Palestinians had been killed in the Shajaiye
section of Gaza City by a shell that hit a house of mourning. Four more people
were killed in an attack on a house in Jabaliya, north of the city.
At the meeting in Qatar, the Hamas leader, Mr. Meshal, was joined by Iran and
Syria in calls for all Muslim countries to break ties with Israel. Qatar and
Mauritania, which have low-level ties with Israel, were reported to have said at
the meeting that they were freezing those relations.
It was not clear what impact Mr. Meshal’s fiery speech would have on any
cease-fire. But his presence before the emergency meeting underscored the
continued evolution of power in the region away from state players aligned with
the West, to non-state players, like Hamas, and their anti-Western benefactors
who support a more direct and aggressive stance toward Israel.
The once dominant regional leadership of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even Jordan
tried to undermine this meeting, refusing to attend, and pressed other Arab
states to stay away, too.
But it was those who boycotted the event who found themselves marginalized — at
least for the day — as Mr. Meshal spoke before an audience that included
representatives from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Iran and about 10 other
countries assembled for the meeting in Doha, Qatar’s capital.
A senior Egyptian official said that Hamas was unhappy with Israel’s plan to
leave its forces in Gaza during a short cease-fire, but that it had accepted the
idea of placing the Palestinian Authority in charge of the border crossing into
Egypt and the presence of European monitors there. It was unclear how the
divisions within Hamas as well as within the Arab world would affect
negotiations in the coming days.
Ethan Bronner reported from Jerusalem, and Mark Landler from Washington.
Taghreed El-Khodary contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Michael Slackman
Israeli Cabinet Appears Ready to Declare a
Gaza Cease-Fire, NYT, 17.1.2009,
Qatar Suspends Ties With Israel
January 16, 2009
Filed at 2:22 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- Qatar and Mauritania suspended contacts with Israel to
protest the Gaza bloodshed at an Arab summit Friday that deepened the divisions
between pro-U.S. Arab nations and their rivals in the Middle East.
U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia led a boycott of the gathering in the Qatari
capital, which the Gulf nation had called to take a united stance over the Gaza
violence but which ended up being dominated by backers of the Palestinian
militant group Hamas.
Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a top Hamas supporter, made a
surprise appearance, along with Hamas' Syria-based political chief Khaled
Mashaal. They and Syria's president made fiery denunciations of Israel and
called for Arab and Muslim nations to cut any bilateral ties they have with the
Syrian President Bashar Assad repeated an earlier announcement that his country
had frozen its indirect peace negotiations with Israel, mediated by Turkey. He
also declared that a 2002 Saudi-led Arab peace offer to Israel was ''dead''
because of the assault against Hamas in Gaza.
Qatar's prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, announced the
suspension in ties with Israel. The oil-rich state does not have diplomatic
relations with Israel but has maintained lower-level ties, allowing an Israeli
trade mission to operate and hosting Israeli leaders at conferences.
Hamad, who is also Qatar's foreign minister, said the Israeli trade mission in
the country will have about a week to leave. ''We will tell the Israeli (trade
mission) office that their presence here is unwanted until the circumstances
improve and there is a better chance for peace,'' he told reporters.
Mauritania, an Arab League member attending the summit, also announced it was
suspending diplomatic relations with Israel over Gaza. Mauritania had full
relations with Israel. Earlier this month, the Western African nation recalled
its ambassador from Israel amid street protests over Gaza.
The Qatar summit issued a final statement urging all Arab states to stop all
forms of ''normalization'' with Israel and to reconsider their diplomatic and
economic ties with it. Egypt and Jordan, which did not attend the summit, are
the only Arab countries with peace treaties and full relations with Israel.
The Qatar gathering drew a stark line between Arab nations who support Hamas and
those who back its rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel and Egypt expressed optimism Friday that a cease-fire could come soon,
but the Arab divisions are likely to endure well after the Gaza fighting ends,
and they could have an impact on a truce's stability. Any final cease-fire deal
for Gaza will likely need cooperation between the two factions to guard key
border crossings into the tiny coastal strip -- but cooperation could be
strained over time if their regional backers are at odds.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Abbas were preparing to hold a rival summit this weekend
In the past week, Cairo and Riyadh reportedly used their political and financial
weight to persuade other Arab countries to boycott the Qatar gathering or to
send only low-level figures -- hoping to limit the platform for Hamas' backers.
Egypt in particular feared that the summit could boost Hamas and undermine
Cairo's cease-fire mediation.
In the end, the only Arab heads of state to attend in Doha were from Syria,
Lebanon, Sudan, Qatar and Algeria -- and from the more minor Arab League
members, the Comoros Islands and Mauritania. Also attending were Ahmadinejad and
the leaders of Hamas and the smaller Palestinian radical group Islamic Jihad and
representatives from 9 other Arab and African nations.
Syria's Assad criticized Arab nations for not attending and chided them for
failing to support Hamas and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in their
armed ''resistance'' against Israel.
''Israel is a country, built on massacres ... the enemy (who) speaks in language
of blood only,'' Assad said. ''This is a call to resistance ... resistance is
the only way to peace.''
''How can those seeking peace, not support resistance,'' Assad added, referring
to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Mashaal took a tough line, insisting Hamas would not stop fighting in Gaza until
its borders are opened. Israel has imposed a crippling embargo on Gaza since
Hamas took over there in 2007, saying it was necessary to prevent weapons from
reaching the militant group. But the blockade has also caused widespread
shortages and suffering among Gaza's 1.4 million people.
In Iran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent a message to Hamas' chief
Ismail Hanieh in Gaza, saying Hamas' resistance will lead to the defeat of
Israel and infamy of ''hypocrites'' and ''traitors'' in the Islamic and Arab
world, state TV reported.
In another sign of division between the two camps, Qatar's emir announced ahead
of Friday's gathering that his country would give $250 million in aid for
rebuilding Gaza -- and he said it should go ''directly to Gaza,'' implying that
it would not go through Abbas' government, based in the West Bank.
The rival summit in Kuwait is expected to announce up to $500 million in aid for
Abbas' Palestinian Authority to help rebuilding.
Qatar Suspends Ties With
Israel, NYT, 16.1.2009,
Israel Lets Reporters See Devastated Gaza Site and Image of a
January 16, 2009
The New York Times
By ETHAN BRONNER
GAZA — To the west, the Mediterranean sparkled and winked. To the east,
columns of black smoke rose and gunfire pounded. In between, Israeli Merkava
tanks plowed through potato and strawberry fields on Thursday as paratroopers
guarded their ground, a mix of ruins that once were handsome two-story houses
and farm fields that had been turned into rocket-launching pads against Israel
On a day of unusually harsh Israeli attacks inside the center of Gaza City to
the south, this neighborhood of Atatra, in northwest Gaza, was a scene of
devastation on Thursday, filled with impromptu tank-track roads, rusting
greenhouses and blown-up houses that had been booby-trapped with mannequins,
explosive devices and tunnels.
The area was a major site for Hamas launchers over the past eight years. But for
the past 10 days, it has been a ghost town inhabited only by Israeli soldiers,
many of them from a paratroopers’ unit, the 101, founded in 1953 by Ariel
Sharon, the former prime minister, as the first elite Israeli unit aimed at
striking Palestinian guerrillas infiltrating from Gaza.
The fact that more than half a century later Israel remains at war with the
children and grandchildren of those guerrillas has served as a kind of
overpowering historical backdrop to the 20-day-old military confrontation that
Israel says is aimed at ending Hamas rocket fire onto Israeli towns. No one
believes this will be the last war.
Israelis face harsh censure abroad for their tactics, but a visit by 10 foreign
reporters to this position arranged by the Israeli military showed an army that
feels serenely confident that it is doing the right thing. The army, which has
banned foreign journalists from entering Gaza on their own, has begun taking
small groups to outer positions for briefings with commanders in the field.
“It is a very righteous war and has the full support of public opinion,” said
Brig. Gen. Avi Ronzki, the military’s chief rabbi, a West Bank settler who
spends most of his time these days on the battlefield encouraging the troops and
who happened to be at a military campground in Israel earlier on Thursday. “Our
army is showing the way to stop terrorists. And in order to win against terror
we need to use a lot of force like the Americans are doing in Iraq and
Across the border region, Israel has lowered a kind of electronic curtain to
prevent remote-control bombs, disabling even remote car locks well into Israel.
The paratroop brigade commander, Colonel Herzi (military rules forbid his giving
a family name), was the chief briefer for the visit. He arrived late in a
massive Merkava, popped out of a hatch and, M-16 and binoculars hanging from his
neck and shoulders, expressed his regrets.
“What you see here is not a pleasant scene,” he said, looking down at a
military-issued briefing book with talking points. “War is not pleasant. I don’t
like this environment. I don’t like war.”
His soldiers took this area on the first night of the ground invasion a week
into the war. The rocket launchers, which sent deadly projectiles into Ashdod
and Ashkelon, Israeli cities due north, were placed among the potatoes and
peppers, explosive devices around them to prevent their dismantling.
Colonel Herzi said the soldiers found improvised explosive devices in the houses
and, on Wednesday, in a mosque. The typical ruse for the houses was a mannequin
with an explosive nearby and a hole or tunnel covered by a rug.
“I can say that one-third of the houses are booby-trapped,” he said. “You get
into the houses and you see many I.E.D.’s. We had one officer who got married
one day before this operation started, and then five days into it he was badly
wounded and is now between life and death after an I.E.D. exploded in a
Colonel Herzi showed large glossy pictures of what had been seen and captured,
including mannequins and tunnels with ladders, I.E.D.’s and rocket launchers.
The idea behind the setups in some of the houses, he and other officers said,
was that Israeli soldiers would shoot the mannequin, mistaking it for a man; an
explosion would occur; and the soldiers would be driven or pulled into the hole,
where they could be taken prisoner.
None have yet suffered that fate.
That may be partly because shortly after taking this neighborhood, the soldiers
found a hand-drawn map with the booby traps laid out.
The elaborate nature of the snares impressed Colonel Herzi, but he and his men
said they had grown increasingly less impressed with the Hamas fighters
“They are villagers with guns,” said Sergeant Almog, a gunner on an armored
personnel carrier. “They don’t even aim when they shoot.”
Seven members of his unit were wounded by a rocket-propelled-grenade attack on
Wednesday, he said. But he added, “We kept saying Hamas was a strong terror
organization, but it was more easy than we thought it would be.”
The war has been successful, but not necessarily decisive, from Israel’s
perspective, Colonel Herzi said, especially as talk of a cease-fire has grown.
“I know that in the end Hamas will say they won,” he said. “It doesn’t matter
what will be the end of this war. We know they know today that they have a
problem. Will they put down their weapons forever? For sure, no, but I think
they have learned a lesson from this war.”
Israel Lets Reporters See Devastated
Gaza Site and Image of a Confident Military, NYT, 16.1.2009,