An interesting interview with Noam Chomsky. I must point out however that I find his answer to the Iran question less than convincing. In order to avoid mention of the Israel Lobby, unfortunately, this great man with such a phenomenal breadth of knowledge has to resort to fantastic mystification.
Noam Chomsky, author of Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, discusses the roots of U.S. imperialism, the often overlooked opportunity costs of empire, the exaggerated strength of U.S. economic rivals, the continuation of the Great Game into the 21st century, how the Western World’s observance of the Durand Line exacerbates problems in Afghanistan, the empire’s loss in Iraq, the U.S. doctrine of punishing Iran just to make an example out of them and the Israeli policy of incremental displacement of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories.
‘After eight years of the closest possible relations,’ writes Jim Lobe, ‘the United States and Israel may be headed for a period of increasing strain, particularly given the likelihood that whatever Israeli government emerges from last week’s election will be more hawkish than its predecessor.
While Iran, with which Barack Obama has pledged to engage in a “constructive dialogue”, and the future of its nuclear programme will no doubt serve as the greatest source of tension between the two allies, the new president’s commitment to achieving real progress on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict may also provoke serious friction, particularly if a re-unified Arab League launches a major new push for its 2002 peace plan.
Last week’s election produced a clear majority for right-wing parties led by the Likud Party of former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly declared his opposition to a settlement freeze, territorial concessions, and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
Even if the more-centrist Kadima leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, can patch together a government of national unity, the right-wing parties will be able to effectively block major concessions in any peace talks, in the absence of any external pressure.
Jim Lobe, the Washington bureau chief for the Inter Press Service, is one of the world’s best investigative journalists and perhaps the most astute analysts of US foreign policy and the domestic interests that influence it. Here he offers sober analysis of the much ballyhooed speech by US Vice President Joe Biden.
I hate to agree with Bill Kristol, but he’s right about Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at the ongoing Munich security conference when he writes that “the administration chose not to use the occasion to say something interesting. One hopes the Obama administration is actually thinking more seriously than the Biden speech indicates.” I’m sure Kristol and I were looking for different things in the speech, but, at least from my point of view, it was hopelessly uninspired and offered no hints of any creative and new thinking that might actually lead to breakthroughs, particularly in the Middle East. Indeed, it sounded like a speech that Condoleezza Rice might have submitted in draft for White House approval before the vice president’s office and Elliott Abrams got their hands on it. Remember, this was the Obama administration’s first major foreign-policy address and thus a huge opportunity to begin charting its own path.
A few things were especially disappointing, beginning with the emphasis placed by Biden on the change of “tone” the new administration would bring to foreign policy. (This was exactly what Rice meant when she announced in her Senate confirmation hearings in 2005 that “the time for diplomacy is now.”) It’s nice to have a new “tone”, but what about some new content beyond the nominal gestures, like closing Guantanamo and forbidding torture, and the cliches about greater consultation and adherence to international law? In that respect, Biden offered little or nothing substantive.
Al-Ahram Weekly, the English language twin of the Arabic daily, is an Egyptian state organ. The Weekly has a broader range of opinion than the tame daily, and does often contain interesting articles. The great Palestinian thinker Azmi Bishara, for instance, can be found in the Weekly. Unfortunately, however, Egyptian regime nonsense concerning the Persian-Shia ‘threat’ is also fed into the mix. This article by Galal Nassar is a sad example. Below is my response to his piece:
‘While many analysts predicted a rosier picture for U.S.-Iranian relations with the Obama administration, the situation is rapidly becoming profoundly more difficult and more complicated,’ writes Col. Sam Gardiner. ‘The new dimension is Russia.’
On February 20, the Russian Federation Security Council and the State Council will approve a new national security strategy to go through 2020. Without saying the “United States,” the draft document clearly identifies the United States as Russia’s primary rival for the next decade. It goes on to say that the primary focus of the struggle will be for hydrocarbons in some very specific areas. The Middle East and Central Asia are mentioned specifically. In these areas, according to the document, the struggle could develop into a military confrontation.
Russia’s last general security document was adopted in 2000 and was much more general than this one about the security objectives of the Russian Federation. The new draft is much more focused and gives indications of future policy directions.