This warning if intended for American readers. I see a pattern emerging. Not really unexpected, but deeply, deeply worrisome none the less.
I had intended to focus on a follow up on the Israeli-US relationship today, but will move that topic to further down in this post because of news that takes precedence:
A satiric film recently produced in the US, called "The Innocence of Muslims," paints a deeply uncomplimentary picture of Mohammad. Sam Bacile -- an Israeli-born US real estate developer, now in hiding -- produced and directed the film; he was assisted in production by members of Egypt's Christian Coptic community living in the States. A controversial Florida pastor is promoting it.
This film attracted little attention in the Muslim world until a trailer for the film in Arabic was put up on YouTube last week. As it went viral, all hell broke loose.
First, yesterday, there was violence directed against the US Embassy in Cairo. Rioters scaled the Embassy walls and tore down the US flag, replacing it with a black flag bearing a symbol of radical Islam.
As matters were heating up outside -- and before the attack took place, according to Politico -- the Embassy issued a statement:
"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions...
"Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
The rioters stormed the Embassy anyway and the mob unrest has continued into the day today.
Following this, yesterday, rioters in Benghazi, Libya, killed US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three members of his staff. Stevens and staff members had fled the US Consulate in Benghazi, which had been fire bombed, but were hit by rockets targeting his car.
This was the statement by Clinton in response to the multiple murder of US officials:
"The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
Now, if you don't see what is wrong with the two statements cited above, you are missing the point. The tone is one of appeasement. Before the condemnation of murder, Clinton apologizes for denigration of religious beliefs of others.
As Romney put it: "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
And, you can be sure, the radical Islamic world is taking note of this. It's of a piece with Obama's refusal to set red lines on Iran.
Be very very scared. Bad stuff is coming down the road.
I note here that Obama has since backtracked on the apology for the film but it's a question of too little too late. This is the president's pattern. He reverses himself when he notes a critical or unfavorable public reaction -- as he did with putting Jerusalem in the Democratic platform. (And as he may yet do with regard to meeting with Netanyahu, see below.)
Yesterday, coinciding with 9/11, Michael Widlanski -- formerly a strategic affairs adviser for the Ministry of Public Security and author of the highly recommended "Battle for Our Minds" -- wrote a piece on terrorism for the JPost, "The war against the war on terror," in which he said:
"The Obama administration is the symbolic representation of a whole elite...that would like to ignore the fact that Islamic terror is not only not dead but establishing new ways to operate through second-generation terrorists who were born and educated in the West.
"Sadly, we may have to learn, again, the hard way, the Islamic extremism and the terror it foments are still a factor in our lives."
Clinton's comment that the murders in Libya were committed by a "small, savage group" are a clear indication of a denial of the scope of what the US must contend with.
Returning to the issue of the Israel-US relationship and points of disagreement:
Following Secretary of State Clinton's rejection of red lines for Iran, which Netanyahu had requested -- and her inane and pointless remark about seeking "good faith" negotiations with Iran -- the prime minister remarked that:
"Those who don't set 'red lines' cannot show Israel a 'red light.'"
We will move forward as our leaders deem proper for us.
According to an unnamed Israeli official, cited in multiple news reports, Netanyahu, who will be in NY to address the UN later this month, requested a visit with the president after the flap about the red lines and was turned down. "A scheduling problem" at the White House was the reason reportedly provided.
There have since been denials of this story by the White House, saying that this whole thing never happened and the two leaders are in phone communication and in agreement on stopping Iran. Word is that Obama placed the call, which had a decidedly cool tone. I see this as an attempt by the president to smooth over what was becoming an increasingly tense situation. In the end, who knows, Obama might "find" the time. Considering what's at stake here -- and the fact that Obama will be meeting with Egyptian president Morsi -- that might be a wise move.
Meanwhile, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking to CBS yesterday, the U.S. would have about a year to act if Iran decided to build a nuclear weapon:
"...it would take Iran some time to construct a nuclear device once the Tehran leadership chose to go ahead.
"It's going to take them a while once they make the decision to do it. It's roughly about a year right now. A little more than a year.
"And so, we think we will have the opportunity once we know that they've made that decision, to take the action necessary to stop (the program)."
This was an attempt to defuse Netanyahu's concerns. But consider this by Jeffrey Goldberg (emphasis added):
"...Netanyahu's specific anxiety is not unreasonable: The White House position is that the U.S. will keep Iran from possessing a nuclear bomb. It is fair to ask, as Bibi is asking: Does that mean you will let them have a warhead design, sufficient enriched uranium, and a missile system capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, so long as they don't actually finish building the device and then mating it to a delivery system? In other words, what if Iran is only technically non-nuclear? What if it would only take Iran a month to put together a nuclear bomb from the moment the decision is made? What will you do then? And how will you know, for sure, that they are doing it? American officials have promised Israel and the Arab states that their intelligence is good enough that they will know when Iran is approaching the nuclear threshold. But obviously the record of the American intelligence community is not without its flaws..."
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.