World

A Blank Check for Israel? Bad Idea.

On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, some in Congress are itching for another ill-advised conflict.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Late last week in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the latest round of nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent five UN Security Council members plus Germany) ended with an agreement for more meetings—a technical experts meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on March 18, followed by a political directors meeting back in Almaty on April 5-6.

As for the tenor of the talks, most observers agree that it was more upbeat than in the past, with Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili at one point referring to the P5+1’s offer of greater sanctions relief as a “turning point.”

While recognizing that challenges still remain, supporters of the talks were encouraged. “What Almaty showed us is that American and international proposals can elicit the kinds of responses from Iran that are necessary to move the process forward,” said Joel Rubin, director of policy and government affairs for the Ploughshares Fund. “There’s a clear consensus among the P5+1 and our ally Israel that a diplomatic solution is the preferred outcome, and that’s why it’s essential to continue to test Iranian intentions through robust and creative diplomacy.”

Conceived in Delusion, Sold in Deception

AP Photo/John Bazemore

On March 19, two weeks from now, it will be ten years since the United States military commenced the invasion of Iraq. Even though some details are fading from memory, one bit sticks in my mind—those final days before the war and its dramatic countdown, the 48 hours George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons to get themselves out of the country. It was a fitting end to the pre-war campaign, some theatricality to lend an extra bit of drama to a conflict conceived in delusion and sold in deception. This anniversary is a good time to remind ourselves of what happened then and how so many of the people who continue to shape our public debate behaved.

The campaign to sell America on an invasion of Iraq was probably the most comprehensive and dishonest propaganda effort our country has seen in the last century. As we discuss it over the next few weeks, those who continue to hold that it was a good idea—akin to saying to this day that the Titanic was unsinkable—will claim that though there was certainly bad intelligence, the Bush administration did not actually lie about Iraq, that their intentions were good and they forthrightly made their case to protect America.

Don't let them get away with it, not for a second.

Euro Crisis Redux

Think sequestration is bad? Things could be turning disastrous in Europe.

When global leaders met in Davos, Switzerland this past January for the annual World Economic Forum, it was not just an opportunity to chatter about the state of the global economy, but also a moment for a collective sigh of relief. The fiscal cliff in the United States had just been avoided, Barack Obama was even able to raise some revenue by letting some of the Bush-era tax rates expire, and the currency crisis in Europe appeared to be on the mend. What a difference a month makes. As another battle over deficits and spending looms in Washington and threatens to pull the U.S. economy back into recession, a far greater worry is the ever-present crack-up of the euro, which would be an economic tsunami to the spring shower of sequestration.

Netanyahu's Ticking Time Bomb

While Israel fails to form a government, the West Bank could explode.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The clock is running out for Benjamin Netanyahu. Five weeks after his pyrrhic election victory, he is still trying to piece together a new Israeli government. The one force he has working for him is that the leaders of every other party in parliament also know how few hours are left before the buzzer sounds.

Italy's Vote Against Austerity

Flickr/Sara Fasullo

Those pesky European voters have done it again. Last spring the Greek electorate, choked by recession and austerity, nearly gave the reins of government to a hard-left, anti-reform coalition.  Now it’s Italy’s turn to throw the plans of the Eurozone high command into disarray. As results of the two-day parliamentary election began streaming in on Monday, Brussels, Berlin, and Frankfurt (seat of the European Central Bank)—not to mention the global markets—looked on in horror.

A Third Intifada?

Flickr/Jill Granberg

Over the past days, growing unrest in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in response to the death of a Palestinian in Israeli custody has threatened the relative calm that has prevailed recently, a result of the considerable amount of cooperation between the Palestinian security services and the Israeli army. While it seems clear that neither of the main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, are interested in an escalation, the speed with which large protests erupted in the last week demonstrates once again the danger of pretending that the status quo in the occupied territories is a sustainable one.

Lockheed, Stock, and Barrel

Do we truly need brand new aircraft carriers? Nope, but try telling the Pentagon and their many contractor friends.

AP Photo/Northwest Florida Daily News, Devon Ravine

AP Photo/Eric Talmadge

Threat versus "Threat"

The second entry in our series on how to fix the Pentagon budget

flickr/zennie62

AP Photo

South Korea's Northern Stories

No one understands North Korea’s current nuclear moves better than those who live in the country next door, and who lived through the darkest moments of the 20th century.

E. Tammy Kim

I arrived in Seoul from New York on January 30, having lost half a day somewhere over the Pacific. On the airport shuttle bus, a flat-screen TV played and replayed the Naro satellite launch: South Korea's encore attempt to put its first in orbit. The news spliced in footage of a cheering crowd, gaze heavenward, waving small Taegeugki flags outside the space center.  It was like watching a dated Space Race reel.

Two weeks later, as I was leaving Seoul, I again rode the airport shuttle. This time, the dashboard broadcast was much more grave. A red-backed news ticker announced North Korea's suspected nuclear test, nearly confirmed by seismic measurements. The images were again of mid-century intensity: mushroom clouds and infrared surveillance, menacing portraits of a Mao-suited dictator. This news, I gathered from cuts to president Obama, had gone international.

My trip was thus bookended by hot actions on a Cold War peninsula—a divided nation still technically at war. Politics, including the recent election of a hawkish, first-ever woman president, were in the air, though I'd gone to Korea for personal reasons.

Return of the Ratzinger

With Benedict around for the selection of his successor, a new Pope might not mean new hope for progressive Catholicism.

AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano

Conclave is coming, and by hook or by crosier, we’ll have a new Pope before Passover. Papal elections can spell change for the congregations of the world’s largest church, so we talked to a priest to get a handle on things. Joseph Palacios is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the founder of pro-gay-marriage group Catholics for Equality. He is on leave from his diocese in Los Angeles.

Senate Tested, Iran Approved?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

It’s become difficult to keep track of the all the ridiculous charges that have been thrown at Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel over the past few months, but surely one of the most absurd is the idea that the government of Iran “endorsed” his nomination.

It’s Time for Some Israel Real Talk.

I’ll start.

flickr/jason_harman

Last week, the storied New York LGBT Center refused award-winning queer writer and activist Sarah Schulman a chance to read from her new book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International. In doing so, the organization cited the Center’s “moratorium” on using the center to "organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” in place since early 2011 purportedly to maintain the Center as a "safe space" for both Jews and Arabs. On Monday, they relaxed the moratorium, though it remains unclear whether Schulman will be allowed to read.

The Australian Connection

Why did Israel keep a prisoner's arrest, name and death secret, and will we ever know for sure?

Flickr/opk

Have you heard about Israel's Prisoner X affair? I can't tell you about it, because it's secret. Actually, I will tell part of the story in a few moments, because secrets do get out, or at least pieces of secrets. 

Game of Drones

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Murray Brewster

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File

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