Texas Gov. Rick Perry hasn’t said much about Libya on the presidential campaign trail but he did call Muammar Qaddafi’s death last month “good news for the people of Libya.” Earlier this evening on Fox News, Perry said he’d “absolutely” support instituting a Libya-style no-fly zone in Syria and do so without a United Nations blessing:
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Would you do what we did in Libya which is institute a no-fly zone over Syria? If you were the president would you advocate that we do that in Syria?
PERRY: Absolutely. Absolutely. …
BILL KRISTOL: And you’d do that I suppose unilaterally without waiting for the U.N. to approve it?
PERRY: I would not spend a lot of time waiting for the U.N. I will tell you that my position on the U.N. is if they continue to go around as the Palestinian state tried to do. We need to sit down as a country and have a conversation about, is the continued funding of the United Nations in the best interest of America.
Watch the clip:
This marks the first time a Republican candidate for president has called for a no-fly zone in Syria. But given that Perry wants to end civilian control of the military, the decision to implement that policy wouldn’t be his in a Perry administration.
In a recorded conversation during a Friday campaign stop in Iowa, former Republican senator Rick Santorum offered a surprisingly hawkish set of foreign policy views (even for Santorum) on both Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After telling a questioner that the U.S. should target Iranian nuclear scientists for assassination, the GOP presidential hopeful went on to say that “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians” and offered his endorsement of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
Santorum even went so far as to compare Israeli annexation of the West Bank to the acquisition of Texas during the Mexican-American war:
QUESTIONER: Do you think Israel should dismantle its settlements?
SANTORUM: No. The West Bank, is this part of Israel?
QUESTIONER: [inaudible] According to 48? [inaudible]
SANTORUM: How did we get New Mexico and Texas?
QUESTIONER: Through war.
SANTORUM: How did they get the West Bank? [inaudible] Through a war. Should we give Texas back to Mexico?
QUESTIONER: Well I don’t think you should recognize recent annexations.
SANTORUM: Oh, so it depends whether it’s recent or not? So we should have given New Mexico and Texas back 150 years go?
The bottom line is that that is legitimately Israeli country. And they have a right to do within their country just like we have a right to do within our country. If they want to negotiate with Israelis, and all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. This is Israeli land.
Santorum’s position that “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis,” an apparent denial of the U.S. interest in creating a two-state solution along 1967 borders, poses a serious departure from the stated U.S. policy of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
If Santorum is endorsing a one-state solution, and there is no other way to interpret his comments, he should elaborate on whether the current Arab residents of the West Bank — a people he refuses to call Palestinians — should receive the full voting rights and freedom of movement afforded to Israeli citizens.
Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories have made the right-wing commentator the darling of the Israeli right, even garnering him an invitation from Israeli parliamentarian Danny Danon to speak before the Knesset. That love-fest between Beck and the Israeli right reached new heights last night when, at a gala for an American Zionist group, right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Beck for “defending” Israel.
Netanyahu delivered taped comments to the crowd at the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) gala after Beck received the Miriam & Sheldon Adelson Defender of Israel Award from right-wing billionaire (and Netanyahu supporter) Sheldon Adelson. Netanyahu said:
I also want to congratulate Glenn Beck for winning the Miriam and Sheldon Adelson award, the Defender of Israel award. Glenn, you can be sure that if Sheldon and Miri Adelson put their name to something, it must stand for a lot. You stand for a lot. You’ve been fearless in defending Israel against the slanders that are hurled against it. You’ve done that with considerable personal cost but you’ve never backed off, you’ve never flinched, you’ve walked away. And I want to tell you how deeply we appreciate this stand of courage and integrity.
He has several times had to fend off allegations of anti-Semitism. Last year he appeared to endorse the notion that Jews killed Jesus Christ; his list of the world’s nine most “dangerous” people includes eight Jews…
An official from the liberal Israeli organization Peace Now told the paper: “If this is the only kind of friend Israel’s government can find around the world, that’s a very poor sign.”
Egypt’s Civilian Government Submits Resignation |
Following three days of increasingly violent demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir square, Egypt’s interim cabinet offered its resignation to the ruling military council. There are conflicting reports on whether the military council accepted the resignation. “The government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has handed its resignation to the [ruling] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” Mohammed Hegazy, cabinet spokesperson, said in a statement aired on Monday night by the official MENA news agency. The Egyptian military enjoyed widespread popularity after the February 11 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, but clashes between security forces and protesters on Sunday marked a noticeable downturn in relations between protesters and the military. The Egyptian Health Ministry reports that at least 23 people have been killed in clashes and 1,500 wounded.
GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has set himself apart in the GOP by staking out wildly conflicting positions on Iran. Last month, Santorum defended Ronald Reagan’s decision to negotiate with Iran but contradicted himself a day later by asserting that the Iranian government “cannot be negotiated with.” But in comments made on Friday at a campaign stop in Iowa, Santorum took a more extreme position than any other candidate, claiming Iranian nuclear scientists are “enemy combatants” and could be targeted for assassination:
QUESTIONER: Do you support some kind of airstrike against Iran? What is the extent of support you’re willing to give? [crosstalk]
SANTORUM: [...] I talked about sanctions. I talked about supporting groups to overthrow the government. I talked about covert activity including computer viruses and sending out a very clear message to nuclear scientists who work on that program that they are enemy combatants similar to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
QUESTIONER: Your policy is to assassinate members of the Iranian government?
SANTORUM: No, I said nuclear scientists who work on this program, particularly if they come from foreign countries into that, they will be seen as enemy combatants. They will be people who are threats to the United States just like your garden variety terrorist. And then finally, I’d be working with Israel and being very clear with Iran that we are preparing a military strike, an airstrike, on those facilities…
Santorum’s outright endorsement of targeting Iranian nuclear scientists as “enemy combatants” is troubling at a number of levels. For starters, the IAEA did not definitively conclude that Iran resumed a nuclear weapons program. Santorum, it would seem, is willing to assassinate nuclear scientists who might not even be working on a weapons program.
Second, Santorum’s legally questionable policy proposal of publicly targeting nuclear scientists for assassination and “being very clear with Iran that we are preparing a military strike” would leave very little space for negotiations, improved communications or a deescalation of tensions.
While the GOP field and Iran hawks are slow to acknowledge the success of sanctions, the Obama administration’s multilateral sanctions regime has slowed the Iranian nuclear program. Furthermore, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen argues for improved communications with Iran to prevent an accidental flare up. Santorum’s latest, uber-hawkish, Iran policy positions manage to ignore both the success of sanctions and the military’s calls for improved communication with Tehran.
This weekend at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, ThinkProgress asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) what an attack on Iran over its nuclear program would do to the Green Movement there. “They might be supportive,” he said, without offering any evidence of how he knew this to be the case.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who along with McCain led the American delegation to the Halifax forum, later jumped in to answer the question as well. While Udall wondered whether an attack would “create a nationalistic fervor” (Iranian human rights activists and those close to the Green Movement think it will), he said “the benefits” of military strikes on Iran “are very, very significant”:
UDALL: This, if it arrives at our doorsteps will be one of the most weighty decisions that any of us would have to make if in fact the United States were involved in such an effort. My analysis is in the short term, there would be a price to pay but also an advantage gain. The price to pay would be oil prices rising, perhaps proxy attacks around the world on the part of non-state actors that the Iranians immorally deploy. I think in the medium term, the benefits are very, very significant. You would see the Middle East not in a nuclear arms race, an entire region destabilized.
Watch the clip:
It appears that Udall believes that attacking Iran would prevent it from developing nuclear weapons and thus ward off a regional arms race. However, the reality is that in all likelihood, bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would have the opposite effect in only delaying an Iranian nuclear weapons capacity, an analysis that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta agreed with earlier this month. And if anything, attacking Iran would, as one DOD official said, “incentivize the Iranians to go all the way to weaponize” their nuclear material.
But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak once again pushed back on the meme on CNN Sunday:
ZAKARIA: You know that there are people in the United States who’ve criticized President Obama for not supporting Israel strongly enough. Do you believe that President Obama is a very strong supporter of Israel?
BARAK: He is extremely strong supporter of Israel in regard to its security. I don’t — traditionally, the presidents were support in Israel in keeping its qualitative military edge and taking care of its security needs. But this administration is excelling in this. And it could not have happened without the immediate direct support of the president. So I don’t think that anyone can raise any question mark about the devotion of this president to the security of Israel.
During a campaign appearance at BAE Systems this morning — a mega defense contractor — Mitt Romney accused President Obama of trapping the super committee into failure in order to reduce defense spending by $600 billion. The former Massachusetts governor criticized Obama for not personally involving himself in the committee’s negotiations and called on the president to introduce legislation that would undo the triggered cuts to military spending and instead target health care funding for the poor:
ROMNEY: In a setting like this, the idea that we’re going to devastate our military is simply unacceptable. I would call on the president and do call on the president to immediately introduce legislation which says we will not have a $600 billion cut to America’s military. We should not cut any funding from our base defense budget, that should not occur. And I would apply the $600 billion that were anticipated on being imposed upon the military, I would take those and apply them into other parts of the federal budget. And there are a number of candidates for that, one of course would be to take something like Medicaid, which is our health care program to the poor and return that program to the states…by doing that you more than compensate for the $600 billion that would be restored to the defense budget.
Reductions to Medicaid, on the other hand, would significantly increase costs for beneficiaries and the nation and undermine care for lower-income Americans who need it most. As the Congressional Budget Office concluded, if Romney implemented his proposal to “return” Medicaid “to the states” and significantly reduced federal funding, governors would have to cope with the shortfall by “cutting payment rates for doctors, hospitals or nursing homes; reducing the scope of benefits covered; or limiting eligibility,” the budget office concluded. As a result, enrollees could “face more limited access to care,” higher out-of-pocket costs, and “providers could face more uncompensated care as beneficiaries lost coverage for certain benefits or lost coverage altogether.”
– With the debt reduction super committee likely to fail, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are writing legislation that would prevent the so-called automatic “trigger” cuts, mainly to block nearly $600 billion in defense cuts. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said they would allow the trigger to take effect.
– As Syrian forces attacked two buses of Turkish pilgrims traveling through the country, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a warning to his neighboring leader Bashar Al-Assad that tanks cannot forever keep a population down: “Sooner or later,” he said, “the oppressed will win.”
– An Arab League initiative to end violence in Syria reached an impasse on Sunday after Syrian and Arab foreign minsters failed to reach an agreement allowing monitors into the country.
– The CIA has ended its spying in Lebanon after arrests of several CIA informants in Beirut this year. “Beirut station is out of business,” a source told Los Angeles Times.
– Egypt faces a third day of unrest as protesters calling for an accelerated end to military rule before the drafting of a constitution clash with security forces around Cairo’s Tahrir square.
– A U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal that, while not formal sanctions, plans in place to name Iran’s central bank as a “money laundering concern” serve as a warning to Europeans and others to prepare for halting all business with Iran while avoiding fallout in energy markets.
– An “al-Qaeda sympathizer” plotted to bomb police and and post offices in New York City as well as U.S. troops returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq according to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.