11:08 AM, Feb 12, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Gossip in Jerusalem suggests that many Israelis misunderstand John Kerry’s obsession with the peace process: They believe that the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate is using Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as a platform to challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination. That’s not likely. Instead, it’s in comparing Kerry’s dogged efforts to that of his predecessor that Kerry’s real motives become clear. Clinton left a light footprint as secretary of state because she didn’t want anything sticking to her when campaign season rolls around. Kerry on the other hand is doubling down on the peace process because the 70-year-old former senator knows this is his swan song and wants to leave his permanent legacy as a statesman. The problem is that in securing that legacy Kerry may wind up leaving on Israel’s doorstep what the White House believes is the greatest threat to American national security—al Qaeda.
As executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Robert Satloff explains, the Obama administration’s approach to the peace process is very different from how it saw the conflict in the first term. “Today, the peace process is not the top priority,” writes Satloff, and “the president is not personally engaged.” Moreover, as Satloff writes, “if certain reports are true, the White House has even interfered somewhat in [Kerry’s] efforts.”
That would hardly be surprising given that Obama wants to keep Jerusalem as static as possible. In Obama’s first term, the administration linked the peace process to Iran’s nuclear weapons program: the thinking was that progress on Israeli-Palestinian talks would prove Obama’s bona fides to the Arabs, who would then be more likely to join in a coalition encircling Iran. As the White House failed at the peace process—and learned all too publicly that the Arabs already were on board to stop Iran—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict faded into the background.
And this is exactly where Obama wanted it, because the last thing he sought was a fight with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on two fronts. The White House knew Jerusalem wasn’t going to like the interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which is why it negotiated behind Israel’s back. From Obama’s perspective, beating up the Israelis over the peace process would only give Netanyahu a second reason to act out, when he wanted the Israelis as quiet as he could manage.
Enter John Kerry. It wasn’t enough to kick a dead horse, he wanted to ride it, too. So he started making threats to get the Israelis’ attention. As a recent New York Sun editorial comparing Kerry to William Fulbright noted, Kerry “thinks nothing of warning Israel that if it doesn’t do what he wants, it will be confronted by the movement for a boycott, divestment, and sanctions.”
In echoing the talking points of some of Netanyahu’s domestic rivals, Kerry was hoping to make Jerusalem jump through hoops. The problem, as Bret Stephens shows in his Wall Street Journal column, is that the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement took an enormous hit when Soda Stream pitchwoman Scarlett Johansson resigned her role as “global ambassador” for Oxfam, which wants to boycott goods made in the West Bank, like Soda Stream. As Obama understands, for Democrats the cardinal rule of political messaging is don’t ever wind up on the wrong side of the Hollywood A-list.
Nor has Kerry proven much savvier when it comes to the region. As David Horovitz wrote last week in the Times of Israel, “The indefatigable secretary has consistently displayed a grievous absence of smarts when it comes to Israel, and the wider Middle East.” Kerry, in keeping with the long tradition of peace processing, has a problem with settlements. “There are those who don’t want to stop settling certain parts of the region,” Kerry told David Ignatius, apparently referring not to Iran’s expansionist project from Baghdad to Beirut, but rather to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. And yet the secretary says he understands Israel’s security concerns, which is therefore at the center of negotiations.
9:43 AM, Feb 12, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
President Obama recently characterized al Qaeda as a nearly-spent force “on the path to defeat,” an organization whose “remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.”
1:35 PM, Feb 5, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A lawmaker at a Benghazi hearing stumped U.S. intelligence officials yesterday with this question:
10:11 AM, Feb 4, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The U.S. ambassador to Djibouti, Geeta Pasi, says that "The preeminent security threat to the United States continues to be from al-Qa'ida and its affiliates and adherents around the world." Pasi made the remarks at the 2014 Gulf of Aden Regional Counterterrorism Forum in Djibouti, according to a transcript released by the State Department.
11:11 AM, Feb 3, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Al Qaeda is not on the run. And John Kerry, according to a report in Bloomberg, is finally admitting it.
"[T]he al-Qaeda threat is real, it is getting out of hand,” Kerry told a delegation.
It's in stark contrast to President Obama's repeated claims. “A day after 9/11, we are reminded that a new tower rises above the New York skyline, but al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead,” Obama said in the run up to his reelection in 2012.
Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
For five years, the Obama administration has touted its success in the war against al Qaeda. In formal addresses, daily press briefings, and campaign speeches top administration officials have celebrated the “decimation” of al Qaeda and predicted its imminent extinction.
Why are the Benghazi killers still at large?Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES and THOMAS JOSCELYN
Months and months ago, when Barack Obama could be bothered to say anything at all about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, the president promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. That was before White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the attacks as something that “happened a long time ago.”
It’s been 16 months. The U.S. government has neither captured nor killed a single participant in those attacks, which left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
12:38 PM, Jan 15, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The Senate Intelligence Committee has now released its declassified review of the intelligence surrounding the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The bottom line is this: Multiple parts of al Qaeda’s international terrorist network were involved.
'In many cases...'7:12 AM, Jan 15, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Secretary of State John Kerry covered a broad range of topics with his counterpart Pietro Parolin at the Vatican in Rome on Monday. Besides Syria, the Middle East peace process, Sudan, and Cuba, the subject of poverty came up during their discussions.
11:03 AM, Jan 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The State Department today publicly announced a $10 million reward "for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual responsible for the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks." The announcement for the reward is posted on rewardsforjustice.net.
10:19 AM, Jan 10, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The State Department today designated three Ansar al Sharia organizations, as well as three of their leaders, as terrorist entities. The State Department reports that Ansar al Sharia in Derna was “involved” in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Former Guantanamo detainee Sufian Ben Qumu, who long served al Qaeda, is named as “the leader” of Ansar al Sharia in Derna.
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By MAX BOOT
Arthur Schlesinger posited the existence of cycles in American political history alternating between “public purpose” and “private interest”—his jaundiced labels for liberalism and conservatism. There are also cycles in American foreign policy alternating between interventionism and noninterventionism, the latter sometimes verging on downright isolationism. Normally when one trend backfires in some spectacular fashion, the other trend becomes dominant, until it too burns out and the cycle starts again.
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
The fallout continues from the New York Times’s failed attempt to change the narrative on the Ben-ghazi attacks. The latest hit comes from an unexpected source—the Washington Post:
Al Qaeda’s grand strategyJan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
In the summer of 2008, Barack Obama, senator and presidential candidate, toured the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama had endeared himself to the antiwar left by denouncing President Bush’s decision to topple Saddam Hussein and repeatedly claiming that the war in Iraq had diverted resources from defeating al Qaeda and its allies in South Asia. Obama did not tone down this criticism even as he spoke with CBS News from Kabul on July 20, shortly before proceeding to Saddam’s former abode. “We got distracted by Iraq,” Obama said.
10:12 AM, Jan 9, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Less than two weeks ago, on December 28, David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times trumpeted the results of his investigation into the attacks on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, writing that there was “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorists had any role in the assault.” The Times piece specifically ruled out any meaningful involvement of an ex-Guantanamo detainee named Sufian Ben Qumu, who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda and is currently the leader of Ansar al Sharia in Derna, Libya.