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Why a Rapprochement With Iran Could Serve Many Interests

February 27, 2015

Given the chaos and continuing upheaval in the Middle East it seems we all should strive to better understand the various forces at play in that region.  Over time I have tried to present various articles aimed at addressing how to stop ISIS, deal with Israel, and now comes the must read from Robert Kaplan regarding how we might address our relationship with Iran.  None of what these articles present holds the full approach that might best work to meet international objectives.  But reading from a broad perspective of  divergent views will allow us to better understand what world leaders are contemplating when it comes to Middle East policy.

In part, here is what Kaplan writes.

The practical approach to Islamist terrorism is not always to fight terrorists everywhere, but to play Shiites against Sunnis and vice versa, depending upon the circumstances. By warming up to Iran, we would not be siding with the Shiites against the Sunnis per se, but rather manipulating both sides more effectively than we have in the past. Nor should ending our belligerence toward Shia Iran mean deserting our Sunni allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere. We must go to great lengths to reassure them, in fact. I am not endorsing a flip-flop—an exchange of one alliance for another. Handled properly, a détente with Iran need not jeopardize our relationships with Sunni nations. It could, however, motivate them to be more honest allies than before. For decades, the Sunni dictatorships in Egypt and Saudi Arabia took their military alliances with the United States for granted, even as they fostered the hateful climate that produced the 9/11 terrorists. As for the Sunni jihadists themselves, they are already our committed enemies. We must continue to deal with them through a combination of military strikes, support for Sunni moderates (where they can be found), and creative diplomacy (of the sort that might be exemplified by a rapprochement with Iran).

The Levant will likely be in a state of violent and chaotic conflict for decades, much as Afghanistan has been since the late 1970s. The more the United States and Iran coordinate with each other, the less chance there is that America will have to put additional boots on the ground in the Middle East. If the United States is serious about the pivot to Asia, its objective should be to get regional powers, including Iran, to carry the burden of stabilizing Syria and Iraq.

There is more. A future, relatively congenial Iran might be less inclined to make trouble through its Hezbollah and Hamas allies in southern Lebanon and Gaza. It might help secure al-Qaeda-infected Yemen, via Iranian-backed Houthi tribesmen (the Houthi are Zaidi Shiites who have been overrunning Yemeni territory). It could even counteract future Chinese influence in the Persian Gulf: Already, Iran and India have joined forces to develop the Arabian Sea port of Chabahar in Iranian Baluchistan. This port could one day compete against the nearby port of Gwadar, which China and Pakistan are working jointly to further develop. An American-Iranian understanding could also ensure the overall security of the Gulf sheikhdoms—an Iran in dialogue with America is an Iran less likely to be militarily aggressive toward its neighbors. And a more friendly Iran might conceivably help balance against Russia’s influence in the Transcaucasus, where Vladimir Putin has made a satellite out of Armenia, put troops near a weakened Georgia, and pressured energy-rich Azerbaijan into a closer relationship.

While the United States could use Iran for all of the above, Iran could use the United States, ironically, to give its regime legitimacy, thereby opening the floodgates of foreign investment and rescuing the Iranian economy. The mullahs’ deepest fear is that they will end up like the shah—toppled by a popular upheaval that is, in the main, economically driven. Of course, such an economic opening runs the risk of further emboldening hard-line elements in Iran, but over time it is more likely to move the country in a liberal direction.

ISIS Smashes Priceless Ancient Artifacts

February 26, 2015

I so want to use all the words that I think are not professional or suited for blogging.  You have no idea what I want to type about this matter.     My heart sank tonight as I watched and heard Scott Pelly report the news.   I had to rewind the DVR to really believe that the ISIS forces are working to destroy historic sites in Nineveh and the remains of the ancient wall of Mosul.

Using a great amount of explosives ISIS forces blew away pieces of the wall considered the most important historical monument of the Iraqui province and the whole region, dating back to the civilization of the Assyrian kings in the eighth century BC.

Barbaric uneducated slime.

To Matt Walker–We Are Not Scared Of Scott Walker, We Are Appalled

February 26, 2015

I was not sure if I was to laugh at the words from Scott Walker’s son, or to sneer.  In the end I guess there was some of each upon hearing that Matt Walker believes that the left is scared of the Wisconsin governor.

“I think that those on the left are afraid because he has been able to fight on behalf of the people and win.  He stood up for what he believes in and the people of Wisconsin stood up with him. Every time they have gone after him, it has only made him and this reform movement stronger.”

Well that is one way to see events.  There is the fact that Walker did win three statewide elections in four years, and that his legislative agenda has slipped into law like a hot knife through butter.   Except for court battles to shine light on questions of constitutionality  much of what Walker has wanted he has been able to achieve.   If that was the only way to judge political success than the words from the young Walker would be all that is required to know.

But of course there is more to ponder.

It is always easy for a politician to play to the base feelings of the electorate.  We have seen that play out numerous times with such notables in our history such as Huey Long striving for class resentment and Richard Nixon’s racial play aimed at undercutting our political fabric.  Walker hopes to cast himself in such a starring role.  But if we turn the pages a bit further on our national story we see the downside of being tempted by those who seek to divide the electorate for their own political aims.

And that is exactly what Scott Walker has done.  And continues to do.

The labor strike that has consumed this state was designed to split and fracture who we are as a people.  To create such deep divisions within communities and families that bowling buddies spar with each other and holiday meals around the table are ripe for political explosions of emotion might have made Walker noticed on the national stage.  But he failed at leadership if one defines it as bringing people together and thinking about state policy that lasts longer than a politician’s term of office.

The threat of damaging and eroding the prized educational institution that is the UW System, and severely harming UW-Madison is presented to show to early primary states that Walker has political machismo.  Harming large sectors of Wisconsin and throwing back progress may cheer those of limited understanding on a cold caucus night in Iowa in 2016 but it does not make for a profile in courage.

The Young Turks in the Republican Party may view Walker with great pride as they have not much experience or sense of history from which to view the political landscape in Wisconsin.  If they think, as they look at the recent past, and try to size up the mood of liberals that we are scared let me be the first to state most empathically that is not the case.

We are not scared of Scott Walker, we are appalled by him.

One only needs to look at the condition of our public schools after deep funding cuts, the demotion of science at the Department of Natural Resource’s, the undermining of voting rights, and the harm being done to women’s health care rights to make the case of how Walker has used our state to position himself for the conservative primary voters he will need to win the nomination.

I for one am not scared, but energized to make sure this country knows the full story of Walker’s time as governor.  By the time we all have had our say I suspect if will be the Walker Team who will be scared of the political outcome.

An ISIS Must Read From Time Magazine

February 26, 2015

March’s The Atlantic was the first of the must-reads this month about ISIS.  But now there comes the cover story from Time, and it too ranks as an article that meets the needs of those who wish to see more clearly the twists and turns required to be pondered as we move forward.  And forward, we must move.  And smartly forward, even better.

“ISIS is luring the world into a trap. Always troubled, the Middle East faces crisis on all fronts. ISIS has tentacles in all these troubles. It won’t be easy to pry those tentacles loose without making everything worse. Which is exactly what ISIS wants: to make matters worse. … The question is not beating ISIS. It’s what comes after that.”

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New York City Jewish Policy On Metzitzah B’peh Is Just Wrong!

February 25, 2015

It seems to me that sound medical science has been jettisoned in New York City for wacky political interests.  I often write of my concerns that some conservatives turn away from science and that such moves are lunacy.    The same line can be drawn from the liberal mayor of New York City to the policy regarding metzitzah b’peh.

The de Blasio administration is giving up on the controversial policy of requiring a written consent form from parents before a mohel can perform metzitzah b’peh, the circumcision ritual that involves orally suctioning blood from the wounded penis. … The deal: In exchange for abandoning the consent forms, which were really never enforceable, the coalition of rabbis negotiating with City Hall agreed that if a baby is diagnosed with H.S.V.-1, the community would identify the mohel who performed the bris, or circumcision, and ask him to undergo testing. If the mohel tests positive for H.S.V.-1, the city’s health department will test the D.N.A. of the herpes strain to see if it matches the infant’s. If it does, the mohel will be banned from performing the ritual for life.

If it doesn’t, the health department will work to find the source of the virus. If that source can’t be identified, there are no rules in place to keep that mohel from performing metzitzah b’peh, even though he has tested positive for H.S.V.-1.

Dr. Jonathan Zenilman, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chief of the infectious diseases division at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, also filed an affidavit saying, “it is my professional opinion that suctioning of the fresh circumcision wound puts uninfected infants at risk of acquiring HSV-1 and developing serious illness.”

City health officials linked 17 cases of neonatal herpes to direct oral suction in the last 15 years. Of those, two have died and two more suffered brain damage.

Chinese Rocket Disintegrated Brightly Over Western United States

February 25, 2015

This would have been a sight to see!

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On Monday night, Feb. 23-24, sky watchers in the western half of North America witnessed a spectacular cluster of fireballs and meteors. We now know it was the re-entry and breakup of a Chinese rocket body, specifically stage 3 of the CZ-4B rocket that launched the Yaogan Weixing 26 satellite in Dec. 2014. Donny Mott photographed the glowing debris from Spirit Lake, Idaho.

Mott was watching a display of auroras around 10 pm local time when the fragments flew by. “It was super bright,” he says. “You can see it breaking up in these 4 images I took 10 seconds apart.”

Another photographer, John Arnold, caught the meteor flying over Craig, Montana: photos.

According to satellite tracking expert Ted Molczan, “there are confirmed sightings from Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, British Columbia, Alberta. The most southerly observation I have noted so far was from Scottsdale, Arizona; the most northerly from Didsbury, Alberta. That spans nearly 3000 km of the descent.” Molczan has prepared a map of sightings along with the ground track of the decaying rocket body.

Chicago Still Produces A Great Political Show

February 25, 2015

The Chicago mayoral election Tuesday is the political story of the day.  The ballots cast in one my favorite cities has caused Mayor Rahm Emanuel great heartburn.   Emanuel was unable to get a majority plus one vote in the election thereby forcing a runoff election in April against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

The Chicago Mayor had unions and businessmen and even President Obama on his side but failed to garner the biggest need that his campaign required.  He failed at being liked by his city in the way and to the depth required to win an election against his far less-known opponents.

I have said to James throughout this election what I will write here.  At the end of the election cycle Emanuel will win.

I will now have to add, based on what happened yesterday, that the win will be ugly in being attained.  For the next six weeks some of the most intense and even brutal politics will be out in the open to be watched as the two finalists put all they have into the election.

I am not sure how Emanuel makes himself into a political commodity that is seen to be more ‘warm and engaging’, and if he really made such an attempt if would make the issue of being phony more a problem than his real-life  brusque foul-mouthed nature.    I am not sure how he more fully can address some of the issue like school closing an violence without opening wider divides in the electorate.     But in reality he needs to do both.  He needs to find a way to better connect with voters and address what needs to be top and center of this race.

When Emanuel talked about such matter in debates as schools and violence  he could know the limited time to get past surface issues played to his campaign tactics.  And with the weak lineup running against him there were great expectations of getting 50% plus one yesterday so he did not need to wade into the deeper more troubling waters surrounding some of these issues.

But now everything has changed.

More money will be needed to run a highly negative race and more thought given to how a far more unified anti-Emanuel bloc of voters must be handled come April’s election.

But of course many of these same problems needs to be addressed by Garcia.  He needs money, more meat on the issues that he wants to tackle, while also needing to find a way to connect more personably with the electorate.

This all sets up a hard-nosed and noisy spring election in Chicago and presents to us one grand political show to watch.

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