April 9, 2006

by Reb Yudel
What does David Harris know that James Fallows doesn't?

The American Jewish Committee has -- along with AIPAC -- been calling for "action" to "Stop Iran's Nuclear Arm Drive." They've taken out full page ads, for example, calling on Congress to do something.

Since they haven't called for the Bush/Cheney administration to be replaced by people more capable at diplomacy and long-term strategic thinking, what do you think they have in mind?

Curious readers are invited to research the matter, and get back to me. For your assistance, here are the relevant contacts at the American Jewish Committee whose portfolios indicate they might have some clue of how to implement the sort of policy they're calling for, without the "Messianic" Bush policy opposed by the Chief of Staffs.

The main AJC switchboard is
(212) 751-4000


David A. Harris, Executive Director (x203)

Interreligious Affairs (relevant given the possibility of global anti-American jihad)
David Elcott, U.S. Director of Interreligious Affairs (x260)

elcottd@ajc.org

Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

Felice Gaer, Director (x314)

gaerf@ajc.org


Office of Government and International Affairs
Jason Isaacson, Director (202-785-4200)

isaacsonj@ajc.org

Research

David Singer, Director (x300)

singerd@ajc.org


Please file your responses in the comments.

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#1

HEre's an up-to-the-minute commentary by Dr. Eran Lerman, Director of AJC's Israel/Middle East Office:

The $6.40 a Gallon Question:
Is the World Ready to Do What Must Be Done
To Stop Ahmadinejad?


A Weekly Briefing on Israeli and Middle Eastern Affairs
April 17, 2006
Dr. Eran Lerman
Director Israel/Middle East Office


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again challenges the world, telling the West it can no longer do anything about Iran's nuclear program, while repeating his assertions of Holocaust denial. In a major conference in Tehran, he offered aid and guidance to the new Hamas government, as well as to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizballah; in fact, it seems that Iran's constant goading is the key factor behind the new campaign of murder launched against us. What drives this Iranian confrontational course?
One of the first questions that need to be asked has to do with the roots of Ahmadinejad's breathtakingly, almost childishly aggressive posture. ("Those who are angry with us-let them die of anger.") What gives him, in his mind-unless he is truly demented, and it would be unsafe to proceed on that assumption-the capacity to defy the "powers that be" in this fashion? A number of scholars and experienced Israeli observers of Iranian affairs have tried to account for his outlook by delving into aspects of his faith-specifically, the peculiar convergence between Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's modernist totalitarian perversion of Shi'a beliefs, as reflected in the political structure of today's Iranian Islamist revolutionary state, and the older, mystical traditions within the same denomination, which bring him into communion with the "Hidden Imam," a belief reflecting a touch of the ancient Manichean polarity, typical of Iran in its pre-Islamic era. In his world there is absolute good, namely, all that the Islamic Revolution stands for, and there is absolute evil-i.e., the infidels who rule America and "the rotten tree which would be destroyed by the storm," namely the Zionist entity.

Perhaps we need not delve quite so far into the darker corners of what the some Muslim traditions call ghulat, Shi'a extremists, who slip over the unseen line and pretend to become prophets and saviors-although Muslim history has known many such over the years, some peaceful and benign, others less so. There are less mysterious reasons for Ahmadinejad's defiant posture, and they have to do with the perceived failure of the West as a whole to deal with an underlying challenge to its ability to act against Iran. A few years ago, when the oil markets were glutted and Saudi Arabia could offer surge capacities to respond to any major crisis, Iran would have been reckless to test the West's resolve. But things have changed, and the risk of confrontation could become a double-edged sword-unless important measures are taken soon to alter this aspect of the strategic equation.

At least five major developments have changed the dynamics of the "oil weapon"-an old and rusty threat when used by a disunited Arab world and aimed at Israel, but a potent factor in Iran's game of brinkmanship:

1. The surge in Chinese and Indian consumption of oil, as well as the collapse of self-restraint in the U.S. and elsewhere, have given a new edge to the sellers' market;
2. Saudi Arabia, stretched for funds to keep its pampered and restive population happy, is cruising much closer to its top capacity and can barely provide cover if a key producer should drop out of the market;
3. Iraq has yet a long way to go if it is ever to regain its position as a stable and reliable supplier;
4. Political and social instability, from Nigeria to the Caspian basin, further adds to the uncertainty and to the costs it entails;
5. Finally, in Hugo Chávez the radicals may find, if they choose to take a confrontational course, an angry ally ready to constrain and inconvenience the "North Americans" even further.

A prominent Israeli energy economist, Dr. Amit Mor, now warns, against this troubling background, that unless major preparations are made, and made now, any future crisis with Iran-over the imposition of sanctions, let alone the use of force-could quickly lead to a test of wills, with Iran taking some 3 million barrels a day off the market. This could easily send oil prices soaring, for the first time ever, well beyond the frightening threshold of $100 a barrel, perhaps as high as $150, ten times (!) or more the prices of the mid-nineties. Sooner rather than later, this would mean $6.40 at the pump. And what happens then?

Mor firmly believes that a resolute leadership in the U.S. and Europe can forestall the crisis, but only if some measures are taken immediately. The strategic reserves, mainly in America, should be replenished now, with plans made for tapping into them in a measured and well thought-out fashion, when the time comes to do so; a million barrels a day can thus come downstream. An equivalent amount, or more, could be saved by changing the consumption habits of American (and, to a lesser extent, European) drivers: Today, Americans at their wheels consume a huge proportion of the world's fossil fuels. Finally, the Saudis-who are, in all likelihood, as eager as anyone to see Ahmadinejad's power curtailed-can be prevailed upon to push the limits and use their residual surge capacity to further mitigate the threat.

Raising this question-and the equally cogent prospect that the revolutionary regime and its proxies may unleash a wave of terrorist attacks, including a barrage of rockets against northern Israel and a broad effort against U.S. and allied targets-must not, in other words, be construed as a politicized argument against taking action. (Much grief came from falling into this mental trap and discarding valuable analysis in the run-up to the removal of Saddam from power.) Quite the contrary: This may be the best reason for acting sooner rather than later, in time rather than too late, so as to deny to this kind of regime the tools of regional domination and exterminatory design. There are strong reasons to believe that this is what most leaders in the Arab world (and the military establishment in Turkey) are saying, sotto voce, to their Western interlocutors. But what it does mean, and should mean, is a new kind of preparedness-and readiness to make some short-term sacrifices, such as carless days and other major changes in public consumption habits. As the terror masters vie with one another in Tehran, pledging to ensure that Iran will not stand alone at the moment of crisis, the need to counter this by resolute action-belying their assumption that the hedonistic West is impotent-will involve not only governments but society at large.

Posted by: andy at April 17, 2006 2:28 PM
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