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Sunday Reads: Egypt’s nostalgia for Mubarak, US is settling scores with Netanyahu

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October 26, 2014

US

Under-Secretary Wendy Sherman talks about (the “single-track”) Iran negotiation process at a symposium on the subject:

The Obama Administration recognizes that in diplomacy, it is sometimes a good idea to widen the agenda so that a tradeoff on one issue can be balanced by flexibility on another. Given the turbulence roiling in the Middle East today, the temptation to link the nuclear question to other topics is understandable. However, all parties have agreed that this should be a single-track negotiation, with its own defined set of participants, its own logic, and a clear bottom line. We are concentrating on one job and one job only, and that is ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

US Lieutenant Colonel Jan K. Gleiman believes that proxy warfare is “the future of war”:

Future conflicts will be filled with sub-state and non-state armed groups. The capability to assess, influence, support, and integrate those entities into operations and strategy is something every credible military force needs to possess. Strategists need to understand those groups in both the context of the conflict at hand and in theory. The ability to influence such groups requires commitment. And, of course, the ability to influence outcomes requires that unconventional warfare efforts be part of a bigger strategy.

Israel

Shimon Shiffer examines the recent displays of tension between Washington and Jerusalem:

A clear indication of the growing rift between Netanyahu and Obama is the fact that as far as many administration officials are concerned, Israel doesn’t really have an ambassador in Washington today, not in practice anyway: Ambassador Ron Dermer, one of Netanyahu's closest associates, has become persona non grata since taking office, at least in Washington.

The attitude towards him is so hostile that the following joke has begun to circulate in the American capital: Not only are the president's advisors refusing to meet with Dermer, but even the White House switchboard won't take his calls.

20 years ago today, Israel signed a peace agreement with Jordan. David Schenker writes about the effects and the current state of the agreement:

While the population does not uniformly appreciate the treaty, the palace does, and the king will continue quietly advancing relations with Israel and Washington in the coming years. “Quietly” is the key — to avoid popular backlash, he will remain loath to advertise ongoing close strategic cooperation with Israel. In fact, during an October 20 meeting with Jordanian legislators, he tempered his critique of jihadist extremism with an equally powerful salvo against what he called “Zionist extremism.”

… Still, two decades on — at a time when Jordan is hosting more than a million Syrian refugees and continues to struggle against the tide of rising Islamic militancy — it is difficult to imagine the moderate kingdom persevering without the benefits of peace with Israel.

Middle East

Eric Trager examines Egypt’s current nostalgia for Mubarak through the story of a food cart owner:

In 2007, Suleiman al-Hout had a problem. Local officials in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia refused to license the food-cart from which he sold kebda, or fried liver, a common Egyptian street food. At first he asked a relative who sat on Ismailia’s local council to intercede on his behalf, but to no avail. So Hout took matters into his own hands. He walked into the local headquarters of then-President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) with one simple question: “How can I vote for you?”

According to David Ignatius, the Iraqi government and the US are losing a lot of their allies to IS:

Sitting next to Gaood during the interview is Zaydan al-Jibouri, a 50-year-old sheik of another leading tribe. He frankly admits that his fighters have joined ex-Baathists and former military officers in siding with the Islamic State. “Why do you blame us in Anbar for joining” the Islamic State, he asks. “The ones who went with ISIS did so because of persecution” by the Shiite-led government of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“The Sunni community has two options,” Jibouri continues. “Fight against ISIS and allow Iran and its militias to rule us, or do the opposite. We chose ISIS for only one reason. ISIS only kills you. The Iraqi government kills you and rapes your women.” That sectarian rage and hunger for vengeance appear to animate Sunnis across Iraq.

Jewish World

Professor Joshua Berman discusses his need to revere great rabbis even after events like the recent voyeurism scandal:

I heartily endorse the various checks and balances that have been proposed to ensure that a crime like this never happens again, even if it marks every male member of the Jewish people a suspected sexual predator. At the same time, I look back on the rabbis that I have revered, and don’t regret for a second the fact that I put them up on a pedestal. Their example serves as an inspiration for me to strive higher every day.

The various scandals of the last few years are a wake-up call from our collective naivete. Going forth we will need to be more cautious, even more suspicious of individuals of authority. But let’s not lose that vital and healthy sense of reverence for the individuals who could make our lives so much richer for it. Don’t throw out the rabbi with the mikvah water.

A new book by controversial historian Götz Aly examines the role of envy in Germany’s persecution of the Jews. This Commentary review (written by Daniel Johnson) argues that focusing on envy is problematic:

Aly himself quite rightly criticizes the German tendency to identify with the Jewish victims—“We tend to cast the perpetrators as bizarre, almost alien figures”—and to hide behind abstractions that keep Germans at a safe distance from radical evil. By exposing his own Nazi family to scrutiny, Aly may hope to encourage others to rattle the skeletons in their own closets. But he is blind to the fact that his explanatory framework is bound to have the opposite effect. By making Nazis seem just like everybody else, motivated by the everyday emotion of envy, Aly risks making the extraordinary seem ordinary.

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