Middle East Realities Discussion Today — Live on C-Span 2

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Today at 12:15 p.m., I will be charing a session with RAND’s International Security and Defence Policy Center Director James Dobbins and my new colleague Daniel Levy, who has just joined as a Senior Fellow of the New America Foundation and is Director of NAF’s Middle East Policy Initiative.
It will air live on C-Span at 12:15 p.m. today.
James Dobbins important recent op-ed in the International Herald Tribune, “Moral Clarity in the Mideast,” can be read here.
Daniel Levy’s recent article, “Ending the Neoconservative Nightmare,” which appeared in Haaretz can be read here.
— Steve Clemons

UPDATE: The digitized video of today’s event can be watched over the internet by clicking here.

Comments

36 comments on “Middle East Realities Discussion Today — Live on C-Span 2

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  2. rapier says:

    There is only one military option for dealing with Iran. Nuclear weapons. Anything else is just stirring up the hornets nest. True we may use conventional weapons first to make the hornets attack us in Iraq or in the Straits to jutify going nuclear, but such will be done with full intent to loose the nukes.
    Before there were neocons there were those who wanted to drive to Moscow after the German surrender. To slay the beast of communism. Thus the tale, now embraced by Bush that Yalta was a treasonous stab in the back. Those who wanted to nuke China during the Korean conflict. You see we could have had the whole world 60 years ago if only we had the will.
    The reluctance to use nukes was not just a mistake according to older Republicans, it was treason. Neocons know this to their bones. They know the world would be a better place now if we had. Bush and Cheney do too and they don’t need fancy neocon intellectuals to explain it to them.
    There is now no political roadblock to unleashing nuclear weapons. Congress has been eliminated as a player in questions of war, never mind the constitution. Debate about what to do in Iraq or Iran is rhetorical in the extreme. It doesn’t matter for the Decider decides and that is that.
    OK, I’m a crackpot. Who among Steve’s beltway foreign policy insiders, former insiders and hangeroners will say that a nuclear attack on Iran is impossible? 100% of them. I doubt it. I beg the ones who know that it is possible if not probable to speak out publicly. Not in some obscure little conference but by running around and shouting it in every venue they can imagine. Let’s get it on the table.
    My crackpot self has always assumed Bush would lead us into the nuclear slaughter of hundreds of millions. More than Hitler, Mao and Stalin combined. I know it can’t be stopped by talk and there is so little time left that talk won’t stop it. Still it would be nice if someone, anyone with a ounce of institutional credibility would let out a little bleep of protest or regret, something. If for no other reason than getting a jump start on comming to grips with The New America.

    Reply

  3. Kathleen says:

    Steve,
    I saw these presentations on CSpan. Thank you so very much for this breath of sanity and clarity.

    Reply

  4. MP says:

    “To me that is one of the reasons why we should “Start Talking” immediately to Iran…assuming Iran doesn’t want a war and isn’t totally jerking around with their “several” overtures toward talks…then we have an opening to make some deals with Iran, give a little, get a little….the only other alternative is more of the same.”
    Yes, indeedy. This has been my position forever. I have never understood the value in not talking to the folks with whom you have the biggest problems. We did that constantly with the USSR, as I recall. Nixon went to China.
    Talking is often equated with appeasement. But talking doesn’t mean you don’t watch what the other side actually does. You still have the opportunity to match word and deed–and take action if they diverge “too” much. However much that is.

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  5. marky says:

    I have had the fantasy that we could amend the constitution so that Presidential candidates would have to pass some exams to run: civics exams, basic math, basic science, economics..
    This would almost certainly be unconstitutional; however, there is no reason that such a system could not become the custom. If there were a groundswell of public support for the notion that candidates for the highest office should have some baseline competence, maybe something coudl be worked out.
    As a matter of fact, I have a specific suggestion: someone like John Stewart could humorously administer some exams to get the ball rolling in 2008.
    I’m serious.
    I think it’s doable.

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  6. Den Valdron says:

    One should hope, elementary teacher. One should hope.

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  7. elementary teacher says:

    Carroll, howdy, I watched it too. Enjoyed Dobbins. A model of clarity. Liked his points about avoiding monolithic thinking and returning to traditional diplomacy.
    When you consider all the beautiful brains available in this country, don’t you honestly think that a presidential candidate should at least possess an IQ above room temperature?

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  8. Carroll says:

    I just finished watching the c-span rerun of Steve’s program….very interesting and worthwhile…NAF hopefully will do more of these that c-span will cover…people need to hear some intelligent discussion on this…and we don’t seem to be getting much discussion of practical (and moral) solutions to our mess in the ME from any other groups.

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  9. Carroll says:

    Or, when we leave, SA rushes in to keep the Shia from taking over. Iran rushes in to keep the Sunni from taking over. Turkey rushes in to keep from losing the eastern part of its country to Kurdistan. And Iran rushes in to keep from losing a chunk of its country to Kurdistan. Who knows…
    Posted by MP at August 24, 2006 10:32 PM
    To me that is one of the reasons why we should “Start Talking” immediately to Iran…assuming Iran doesn’t want a war and isn’t totally jerking around with their “several” overtures toward talks…then we have an opening to make some deals with Iran, give a little, get a little….the only other alternative is more of the same.

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  10. Den Valdron says:

    Ah, it shows up from time to time when the wingnuts are feeling their oats. It’s manifest destiny, anschluss, “Hey, they’re White and English speaking and they have all that oil and fresh water and stuff, we must liberate them from socialism.”
    It never goes anywhere, because a Canada incorporated into the states would be 26 senator, 50 representatives, and 10 states of Euro-socialism and the Republicans would never ever ever win a Presidential election or a congressional majority again. Worst, Canadian socialists would ally with the New Englanders, the Cosmopolitan New Yorkers, the Great Lakes Midwest and the Loony Left Coast… and then … why America would just plumb go communist!!!
    So, we’re pretty safe. All those dreams of manifest destiny notwithstanding, we’re just too liberal to be acceptable.
    Nah, we’re just going to sit here and be Switzerland.
    The Anschluss happened with England. Go figure.

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  11. MP says:

    “The trouble with the ‘separate states’ proposal is this:
    Largest Sunni city in Iraq? Bagdad.
    Largest Shiite city in Iraq? Bagdad.
    Largest Kurdish city in Iraq? Bagdad.”
    I think the idea is not states as in “nations,” but states as in North Carolina and South Carolina…or BC and Quebec…states or provinces with some autonomy…but still part of one country. Baghdad would be a federal city that belongs to all the states, to the entire country. Still could be a bad idea, and certainly shouldn’t be imposed, but I think that’s the idea. It’s intended to reflect and accommodate the emerging reality rather than impose one…
    Finding the organic, natural “unit” is very tough. Lots of folks all over the world want to break away. I think they call them stealth nations, or something like that. The Basque, the Kurds, and nations most people have never heard of. Then again, the modern nation state is in many cases an artificial construct overlaid onto more organic groupings. It’s an interesting topic as long as people aren’t getting killed, which they usually are.
    When was the idea of annexation of Canada floated? I actually have some memory of that…

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  12. MP says:

    “The more imminent threat is exclusionary, long term energy deals with India and China.”
    I understand that India and China are coming up fast, but this would mean leaving a whole lot of money on the table. And if the West tanks because of a tight energy supply, China tanks pretty quickly thereafter and no doubt India, too. As OBL once said I believe, “Of course, we’ll sell them all the oil they want. We can’t drink it.” But, I do agree, oil is the thing here. None of this makes sense otherwise.

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  13. MP says:

    “And so that surrounding states will not get involved internally in Iraqi fighting because of their concerns about the US staying in the region. Since it is in the Iraq gov’s benefit to stop the fighting for the sake of unity or stability I have to assume he believes what he is saying is right…and knows more than we do.”
    Or, when we leave, SA rushes in to keep the Shia from taking over. Iran rushes in to keep the Sunni from taking over. Turkey rushes in to keep from losing the eastern part of its country to Kurdistan. And Iran rushes in to keep from losing a chunk of its country to Kurdistan. Who knows…

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  14. PW says:

    Yup, I just caught probably the second half on CSpan,too, and it was terrific. Both Dobbins and Levy. Thanks, Steve, for your role in putting these things together. They are invaluable. We need another CSpan channel to cover all the good discussions going on. Or perhaps devoted to NAF.
    (Imagine the discussions after 1/09 about the extent of the damage caused by the Bush administration(s) and how to turn things around.)

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  15. Finest says:

    Well, shucks, podner. Y’all know whut would be a real easy solution down there between the Ufrates and that ole Tigras. You know, somethin’ so simple A’m a little embarassed to say. Well, you know whut it is, dare I say it, a little economic deevellopmunt. You know, somethin’ that ole Emerald Isle is enjoyin’, and dare we mention somethin’ as disparate as ole Hong Kong. Even with that mix of Capitalistical and Communisticated seething masses straight outa Marx (an A’h don’t mean Groucho) they are a gettin’ it done with none of that there hootin’ and a hollerin’. Well, shucks. There Ah said it. Can’t be all that bad if’n they just hunker down and work together. But that ole NYTimes would still callit….er, what was it Mabel, er, yea, a quagmeer, or sompin like that. Have a nice day.

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  16. John says:

    Thanks, Steve, for pulling this seminar together today. It was very instructive–as far as it went.
    It never ceases to amaze me is how the best and the brightest totally ignore the elephant in the room–oil and natural gas. This administration has quite explicitly merged security policy and energy policy. It’s called energy security. It has been at the center of Bush administration thinking and actions since inauguration. Yet I don’t believe I heard the words energy, oil or natural gas spoken during the session.
    Iran is vitally critical to the administration because geographically it is the keystone to world energy. As an intelligent person once said, “control food and you control a person; control oil and you control a country.” As a superpower, the United States must be able to guarantee energy supplies to itself and its friends. It’s position becomes incontestable if it also controls the flow of energy to its potential enemies.
    Iran is in the enviable position or in the unenviable position, depending on your point of view, of having 10% of the world’s oil reserves, 15% of natural gas reserves, and sits atop a major pipeline route for Caspian energy. Were Iran to cut the U.S., Europe, and Japan out of energy deals, the result could be catastrophic to the European and Japanese economies and to the U.S. position as their protector.
    In my mind, the Iranian nuclear issue is simply a red herring, an exercise in public diplomacy designed to make the case for Western domination of Iran. Potency of this issue for domestic public opinion was proven in selling the war in Iraq. Iran certainly did us a favor by touting their nuclear technology, but the reality of their having nuclear weapons is generally understood to be years away. But if Iran had no nuclear capability, it would have been invented, just as it was for Iraq.
    The more imminent threat is exclusionary, long term energy deals with India and China. Given the West’s history intervention in the Muslim world, there is no love lost, and Iran has no incentive to do us any favors. Yet no mainstream security, energy, or foreign relations expert will let the obvious pass his lips. Are they delusional or in denial? Do they think that energy security is something to be discussed only behind and not something for public consumption?
    How can the experts discuss a strategy for dealing with Iran and the Middle East without mentioning what’s at stake?

    Reply

  17. JLD says:

    Thanks, Steve, great session, I caught the evening edition on CSpan – D. Levy was very good indeed, and why oh why can’t y’all get together and concoct a “save our asses” strategy going forward, for whomever takes over from these corrupt madmen in Jan.’09? Levy’s take on Israel and its role in the general calculus of dysfunction, and the long term impact was great, (Rome? Go freakin’ figure!) and frustrating. Oh woe. Such a lesson, such an historical hinge we’re swinging on.
    jld

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  18. Den Valdron says:

    Personally, I don’t think Westerners have any business planning the partiion of other countries.
    I remember once reading some wingnut’s masturbationist fantasy about the annexation of Canada to the United States.
    The problem with that, of course, is that 13 Canadian provinces and territories would amount to 26 Senate seats, or a potentially permanent majority, probably for Democrats. So he engaged in some create line drawing, redistributing borders to create only three or four new states. Six Canadian senators would not upset the delicate balance, particularly if you gerrymandered it to ensure a few Republicans.
    Looking at his new map, I felt profoundly offended, almost violated. I wanted to go and kick his ass. I’m from New Brunswick, a province with a unique history and culture, and a separate existence. Our history goes back at least as far as the 13 colonies themselves. Our city, St. John is one of the oldest ports in North America. Our next door neighbor, Nova Scotia, has an equally valid and distinctive history, as does Prince Edward Island. Newfoundland’s shores were known to the basques before Columbus, and the Island did not join Confederation until 1949.
    Each of these places has histories dating back to the era of the 13 colonies and before. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have populations larger than some American states like Alaska or the Dakotas. Prince Edward Island is twice the size of Rhode Island.
    Asswipe just welded all of these places together to create a new ‘American State’ for his own imaginary political convenience. I was really viscerally offended.
    It would be like someone deciding that Maine, Massachusets, Vermont and New Hampshire should be consolidated. Or perhaps, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
    So, based on my own experience, I can only imagine the visceral anger that must be felt by many Iraqi’s, or for that, many Arabs, as outsiders blithely contemplate the partition of Iraq.
    Personally, I would just say, lets not even discuss it. If its something the Iraqi’s decide on, fine. If its something we impose, then thats one more sin we’ll all pay for.

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  19. Carroll says:

    You may be right, Carroll, it sure seems that way to me. But it also feels like pulling out will simply intensify the bloodshed, and maybe that’s unavoidable anyway.
    Posted by MP at August 24, 2006 07:42 PM
    Well if it turns out I am right, I can’t take credit for the crystal ball. Most of my opinions are based on the opinions of people like Juan Cole and others who have studied and lived in and served in the region and have an indepth understanding of what makes the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites and the Arab world in general tick.
    I don’t know if it would intensify the bloodshed or not, maybe it would short term, but then the news reports say that right now between 3500 to 4000 people are being killed a month in Iraq…and that is just the murders, no telling how many more sick civilians are just dying from lack of adaquate medical organization and services in the chaos.
    The new president of Iraq has said many times that the US is adding to the chaos and needs to get out of Iraq so that Iraqis can talk to each other without any sides perceiving that the US is pulling the strings behind the curtain. And so that surrounding states will not get involved internally in Iraqi fighting because of their concerns about the US staying in the region. Since it is in the Iraq gov’s benefit to stop the fighting for the sake of unity or stability I have to assume he believes what he is saying is right…and knows more than we do.

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  20. Den Valdron says:

    The trouble with the ‘separate states’ proposal is this:
    Largest Sunni city in Iraq? Bagdad.
    Largest Shiite city in Iraq? Bagdad.
    Largest Kurdish city in Iraq? Bagdad.
    Get the picture. The Kurdish area roils with Turkmen, Christians, Assyrians and Yeziday, as well as Arabs. The Kurds themselves have Shiite minority.
    The peoples of the center and south are both Arab and speak Arabic. But they divide between Shiite and Sunni. Even tribes have Shiite and Sunni components.
    To split them apart, you’ll have to do some massive ethnic cleansing/local genocides. Not that some people wouldn’t go for it…
    Meanwhile, geographically, the Tigris and Eurphrates rivers runs through both all three regions. Which means that the lines of communication and pollution are wide open. But the resources are unequally distributed, particularly oil.
    The result would be three, much less viable, and in the longer run, poorer and more ineffective states.
    It’s just a bad, bad idea.

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  21. MP says:

    Rather…assure them that they won’t be cheated. Sorry.
    You may be right, Carroll, it sure seems that way to me. But it also feels like pulling out will simply intensify the bloodshed, and maybe that’s unavoidable anyway.
    A despicable gift that the Bush Administration has given to the world. Hard to believe that we let this happen…with our eyes wide shut. I have to say that a lot of this discussion over these many threads, though often fractious, has burned away some of the numbness that I’ve put up as a self-defensive mechanism.

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  22. MP says:

    “Now idiot Robert Reich and Joe Biden are pitching that the “dems plan” for Iraq should be “partitioning” it into seperate regions sort of like “states” with their own control and laws becuase the current elected goverment in Iraq isn’t being fair about resources…”
    The plan, as I understand it, is based on the fact that the three groups don’t get along. Part of it is Sunni fear that they will be cheated out of their fair share of resources, so the plan is designed, in part, to assure them that they will. It’s actually an attempt to keep the country from splitting apart through civil war.

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  23. Carroll says:

    Carroll: What do you think we should do instead?
    Posted by MP at August 24, 2006 06:19 PM
    I don’t think there is anything we can do except get out of the way…our window of opportunity closed long ago. Creating seperate “states” will ensure there will be endless terrorital fighting between the Kurd, Sunnis and Shiites..just like now…and the sunnis and shiites aren’t going to agree to that anyway.
    More artificals states on top of more artifical states for the sake of outside interest?…another redrawing of the ME and mini colonization?
    Whoever last the longest and is the strongest is going to control Iraq..and n-o-t-h-i-n-g the US “imposes” as a solution is going to last. IMHO

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  24. Den Valdron says:

    Actually, partitioning the middle east has long been a treasured dream of the Likudniks and the Neocons. I do believe that they’ve actually got maps somewhere.
    Let’s see. Iraq is divided into three states. Lebanon is partitioned between the Christians and a Muslim rump. Or perhaps Shiite, Sunni and Druze lumps. Syria is divided up, with bites going to Kurds and Turks, and an Allawaist state. Saudi Arabia is partitioned so that the Shiite minority (about 11% but dominating the Persian Gulf coast where all the oil is) gets its own state. Iran, of course, if they can manage it, would be reduced to a Persian rump, with liberated Kurdish, Turkish, Arab and Hindu neighbors. The idea is to fill the area with Jordans. Small, powerless, backwards Arab states ruled by tame monarchs, where Israel could be the big bad forever.
    And speaking of big bads, it looks like Israel has acquired two more nuclear weapon carrying submarines, bringing it to a total of 5. Assuming that each Submarine can carry 10 to 20 nuclear warheads, that means that there’s a second strike capacity of as many as 100 warheads.
    Israel also hasa Jericho missiles in hardened silos as another second strike capacity. No idea how many of those, but if we can assume an equivalent number to the subs, as much as half of Israel’s nuclear fleet is in a hardened, second strike frame. Or perhaps a third strike frame.
    Bottom line is that if the Iranians or anyone else managed to use nuclear weapons to completely obliterate Israel from the face of the Earth, even an ultimate first strike like that would not effect Israel’s capacity to strike back, and blow them out of existence. Or to strike a third time.

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  25. MP says:

    “Now idiot Robert Reich and Joe Biden are pitching that the “dems plan” for Iraq should be “partitioning” it into seperate regions sort of like “states” with their own control and laws becuase the current elected goverment in Iraq isn’t being fair about resources…”
    Carroll: What do you think we should do instead?

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  26. Carroll says:

    Isn’t it a sign of the times that some of Dobbins’s points, which are obvious, sound profound? A new ME must develop along the lines of what the people who live there want too, not just what sells in American politics. Most people learn this type of life lesson in kindergarten. The article says a lot about our political culture.
    Posted by Matthew at August 24, 2006 08:43 AM”
    >>>>>>>>>>
    Yep, that about sums it up. Crazy has become the norm in Washington.
    And what could say more than that all the polls show the majority of Americans to be opposed to the current ME policy and yet the politicans, dem and repubs alike continue right on with their fear and loathing good vrs evil “security” pitch.
    Now idiot Robert Reich and Joe Biden are pitching that the “dems plan” for Iraq should be “partitioning” it into seperate regions sort of like “states” with their own control and laws becuase the current elected goverment in Iraq isn’t being fair about resources…
    This all sounds so familiar…neither party can let go of helping out the neos with their original “realigment” plan to give the Kurds their own state can they? So now we lurch from dumb to dumber because we insisted the Iraqis have an election and they elected a gov that isn’t doing as we like, so it’s the Iraq gov’s fault Iraq is in civil war and we have to start over and redo them also. I know, let’s not give them any money and starve them out like we did to the elected Hamas in Palestine after we insisted on “democratic” elections there…that should slove the problem, right?

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  27. Concerned American says:

    Israel adds 2 nuclear-capable submarines
    By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI, Associated Press Writer
    5 minutes ago
    JERUSALEM – With the purchase of two more German-made Dolphin submarines capable of carrying nuclear warheads, military experts say Israel is sending a clear message to Iran that it can strike back if attacked by nuclear weapons.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060824/ap_on_re_mi_ea/israel_deterring_iran&printer=1

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  28. Concerned American says:

    Courtesy of Huffingtonpost.com:
    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1154525933028&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
    “He said there was a need to understand that “when push comes to shove,” Israel would have to be prepared to “slow down” the Iranian nuclear threat by itself.
    Having said this, he did not rule out the possibility of US military action, but…”
    […]
    “Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in a meeting in Paris with French Foreign Minister Phillippe Douste-Blazy Wednesday, said Iran “poses a global threat”
    Laying the foundation for “justified” unilateral action:
    “…the firm implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 on Lebanon will send a strong message to Iran – which is testing the world’s resolve – that it is serious about implementing Security Council resolutions.”
    IRAN IS NOT IRAQ:
    “Meanwhile, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported Wednesday that the Iranian news service Al-Borz, which it said is known to have access to sources in the Iranian government, predicted that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would announce what the news service called Iran’s “nuclear birth” on the first anniversary of his government later this month. In addition, an article Tuesday on the Teheran Times Web site, considered to be affiliated with the Foreign Ministry, implied that Iran’s nuclear technology had already reached the point of no return. “If the West is seeking to impede Iran’s nuclear industry, it should realize that Iran has passed this stage,” the report read. ”
    “The world powers, the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, have given Iran until August 31 to accept the incentives package.”
    SCENARIO RISK
    1) August 31st deadline.
    2) September: pretend diplomacy to feign interest in non-violent conflict resolution.
    3) October: escalation and action
    4) November: rally of support for the troops and the “commander-in-chief”

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  29. Concerned American says:

    The U.S. has said that U.N diplomacy fails, it may act unilaterally. According to press reports, options on the table include military air strikes against Iran. Perhaps. But I’m reminded of something said by Ibrahim Sharif, a left-wing politician in Bahrain. People in Bahrain were becoming nervous about getting caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and Iran, since Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet – an obvious bombing target. “Iran does not need to attack Bahrain,” Sharif remarked. “The weak link of the U.S. presence in the Middle East is Iraq. There are 130,000 men (US soldiers) in Iraq. It’s a sitting duck in terms of inflicting damage.”
    Indeed.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-fiderer/how-george-bush-turned-ir_b_27928.html

    Reply

  30. bill says:

    ravo Mr C- watched you on the C and the program as presented- it was a enervating and exciting!
    Thankyou- your efforts are greatly appreciated.
    billjpa

    Reply

  31. Reader says:

    TIME TO CHANGE THE TUNE
    “President Bush has been convinced by self-appointed spokesmen for Israel and the Jewish community that endless war is in Israel’s interest. He needs to hear in no uncertain terms that Israel is ready for dialogue, that the alternative — endless jihad — is unthinkable.”
    The quote above is the final paragraph of an editorial in a Jewish Daily. Highly recommended.
    http://www.forward.com/articles/time-to-change-the-tune/

    Reply

  32. Mark in CA says:

    Steve, don’t be such an East Coast elitist when posting times on your blog without specifying they are Eastern Time. Don’t assume all your readers are in the same time zone.

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  33. Pissed Off American says:

    Steve, I certainly hope you will consider my suggestion to ask Dobbins what he thinks of Zakheim. Not necessarily as part of the interview, of course, but just as an aside.

    Reply

  34. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks erichwwk — yes, the New America Foundation will have its own digitized recording of the presentations and Q&A on its website later this afternoon.
    best,
    steve clemons

    Reply

  35. erichwwk says:

    Kudos for opening up dialogue, bringing people w/ standing together, and especially getting it on c-span. Do you still “save” these broadcasts on New America Foundation?
    Hopefully questions will be raised as to the relationship between decades old US and European ME policies and the current unrest. Most discussions I hear start with conclusions, and then develop support. Would be nice to have an intelligent discussion were empirical evidence and abstract reasoning play a pre-conclusion part, and we have some consensus on policy in the abstract, BEFORE discussing whether or not a real world event is of type A or type B.

    Reply

  36. Matthew says:

    Isn’t it a sign of the times that some of Dobbins’s points, which are obvious, sound profound? A new ME must develop along the lines of what the people who live there want too, not just what sells in American politics. Most people learn this type of life lesson in kindergarten. The article says a lot about our political culture.

    Reply

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