Tonight begins Simchat Torah here in Israel — outside of Israel, it is Shemini Atzeret with Simchat Torah on Friday.
Simchat Torah — as its name suggests — is a holiday of celebration of/rejoicing in Torah. We dance with the Torah in the course of seven rounds, or processions, around the synagogue. And we complete the annual cycle of reading of the Torah, and begin it again.
With this holiday, we end the holiday season, and return to “normal,” however this may be defined.
To all celebrating, I wish a Chag Sameach.
I had said I would return to Obama’s speech to review what he says about Iran, and I will begin with that.
The picture of Obama here, at the UN podium, reflects a typical pose:
Credit: AP/Andrew Burton
While the position espoused by him exemplifies typical Obama “nether-netherland” thinking. See for yourself (with emphasis added):
“I don’t believe this difficult history [between the US and Iran] can be overcome overnight – the suspicion runs too deep. But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship – one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
“Since I took office, I have made it clear – in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani – that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, but that we are determined to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon. We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy…
“We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course. Given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government…”
That he posits the possibility of a relationship developing between Iran — a renegade state that fosters terrorism world-wide and makes the killing in Syria possible — and the US that is based on “mutual interests and mutual respect” is an indication of how high in the atmosphere he is floating and how little his words have genuine diplomatic import.
He tiptoes. Of course he doesn’t mention “military option.” Heaven forbid — that wouldn’t be friendly. But neither does he refer to sanctions. He remains “positive,” promising the Iranian leaders that they won’t be replaced and that they have the right to “access peaceful nuclear energy” — which is precisely what they claim they are doing.
All in all, this is worthless as a serious, genuinely constructive position. Declaring himself ready to pursue dialogue, he is too quick to substitute semblance for reality. Who says that the Iranian people gave Rouhani a mandate to pursue a more moderate course? Rouhani is not a moderate — he is simply very skilled at acting like one.
However, in spite of this upbeat outreach to Iran by Obama, the president ended up with egg on his face. Big time.
First Rouhani gave his talk at the UN. It made Obama’s speech sound like an exercise in logic and reasonableness. Consider (emphasis added):
“The recent elections in Iran represent a clear, living example of the wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation by the great people of Iran. The realization of democracy consistent with religion and the peaceful transfer of executive power manifested that Iran is the anchor of stability in an otherwise ocean of regional instabilities. The firm belief of our people and government in enduring peace, stability, tranquility, peaceful resolution of disputes and reliance on the ballot box as the basis of power, public acceptance and legitimacy, has indeed played a key role in creating such a safe environment…
“…there are new hopes; the hope of universal acceptance by the people and the elite all across the globe of ‘yes to peace and no to war;’ and the hope of preference of dialogue over conflict, and moderation over extremism.”
Yea, yea, yea…Anyone who chooses to interpret this as a sign of genuine moderation in Iran is seriously deluded.
In a nutshell:
Military threats to Iran just won’t do: “Militarism and the recourse to violent and military means to subjugate others are failed examples of the perpetuation of old ways in new circumstances.”
Neither will sanctions, which he is ever so keen to have lifted, do: “Coercive economic…policies and practices geared to the maintenance and preservation of old superiorities and dominations…”
“Fanning fear and phobia around the emergence of new actors on the world scene” is also unacceptable state behavior.
“the strategic violence, which is manifested in the efforts to deprive regional players from their natural domain of action, containment policies, regime change from outside, and the efforts towards redrawing of political borders and frontiers, is extremely dangerous and provocative.” Translation: you have no right to try to affect who we are or what we do.
And, of course, Israel, which practices “structural violence against the people of Palestinian,” is evil: “Apartheid as a concept can hardly describe the crimes and the institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.”
Nu? What else would we expect?
But there is also another manifestation of “structural violence” seen in “Unjust sanctions…[which] are intrinsically inhumane and against peace..”
Iran is a peaceful nation: “Iran’s nuclear program…must pursue exclusively peaceful purposes. I declare here, openly and unambiguously, that, notwithstanding the positions of others, this has been, and will always be, the objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran…
“I listened carefully to the statement made by President Obama today at the General Assembly. Commensurate with the political will of the leadership in the United States and hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences. To this end, equality, mutual respect, and the recognized principles of international law should govern the interactions. Of course, we expect to hear a consistent voice from Washington.
“…in the name of the Islamic Republic of Iran I propose, as a starting step, the consideration by the United Nations of the project: “the World Against Violence and Extremism. (WAVE)”
So, this is what Obama got from Rouhani: a demand that the US back off and change her ways, that she start acting “peacefully” and with respect towards an Iran that has rights.
Nowhere with nothing, of course. Let us hope that Obama doesn’t rush to seek a reduction in sanctions and otherwise attempt to mollify Rouhani, in the belief that this will lead to good dialogue.
Perhaps he will not. Because already his hope for informal dialogue has been dashed. What has been revealed is that the US had offered a one-on-one meeting between Obama and Rouhani in New York, and Rouhani had “spurned it.”
“One opportunity previously considered likely for such a meeting went by unfulfilled Tuesday afternoon when a number of heads of state gathered for the traditional lunch hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Obama milled around for a number of minutes before sitting at his table, but the Iranian delegation, including Rouhani, proved to be no-shows for the event.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu had instructed the Israeli delegation at the UN to absent itself from Rouhani’s speech because “As the Prime Minister of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, I could not allow the Israeli delegation to be part of a cynical public relations ploy by a regime that denies the Holocaust and calls for our destruction.”
You might want to see his comments on Rouhani’s speech (emphasis added):
“Any rational person understands that Iran, one of the most oil-rich nations, is not investing capital in ballistic missiles and underground nuclear facilities in order to produce electricity.
“As expected, this was a cynical speech that was full of hypocrisy…
“This is exactly Iran’s strategy – to talk and play for time in order to advance its ability to achieve nuclear weapons.
Earlier, on the opening of the UN session, the Prime Minister’s office had also put this out:
“Iran thinks that soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb. Like North Korea before it, Iran will try to remove sanctions by offering cosmetic concessions, while preserving its ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing.”
“Israel would welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that truly dismantles Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons. But we will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran’s continual pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the world should not be fooled either.”
Netanyahu is right, is right, is right. The question is, who will listen? We still have his own speech at the UN coming…
Please note Netanyahu’s reference to dismantling of Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Simply getting Iran to stop, when the capacity to start again still exists, would be sorely insufficient.
This is something I will want to return to, and monitor. It is a vastly complex subject — the question of what has to be dismantled — or removed from the country — in order to render Iran unable to pursue nuclear capacity.
As Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, points out:
“…the potential for compromise is decidedly murky. Mr. Rouhani, via intermediaries, may have floated the idea of a meaningful step forward (in the form of the closure of one of its uranium enrichment facilities, the pilot enrichment plant at Fordo). But, experts point out that this is hardly decisive, insofar as the regime already has sufficient quantities of low- and medium-enriched uranium and working centrifuges to make possible the development of weapons-grade fissile material.”
In addition, Iran is developing an alternate means of going nuclear via the heavy water facility it is building at Arak.
We are reminded again, by the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs, that anything less than a very big stick brandished at Iran is going to be useless or counterproductive:
On September 23, immediately prior to Rouhani’s speech at the UN, Iran held its annual military parade, attended by Rouhani. Various messages were featured in that parade:
“While in English the Iranians wrote ‘Down with America,’ in Persian and Arabic, the Iranians wrote, ‘Death to America’…
“The parade included a line of missile transports carrying Shahab-3 missiles, which have a 1,300 kilometer range that can reach both Israel and American bases in the Persian Gulf…
Finally, under Rouhani’s presidency, Iran’s military parade contained a blatant statement calling for Israel’s destruction. On the lead vehicle of a line of trucks transporting Shahab-3 missiles, there appears a banner that reads: ‘Esraail baayad az beyn beravad‘ – “Israel Should Cease to Exist”…
“Reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency last year, especially in May 2012, contained information that Iran was seeking to remove the conventional warhead from a Shahab-3 missile and replace it with a spherical nuclear device.”