“Pax Iranica” or Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran or Start a New Cold War

Having vanquished Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and China, the United States foreign policy establishment is looking for the next threat to keep it occupied for the next eight years. Viola, here it is—it is Iran (it is not I-ran, it is pronounced Eerraan). New York Times Columnist, Mr. Tom Friedman, adds fuel to the fire that Iran is the next big threat and that the next Cold War or rather the new Cold War will be should be with Iran. Mr. Friedman writes,

The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war. Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president — but this cold war is with Iran.

For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?

Mr. Friedman goes on to quote Aaron David Miller, a noted Middle East Expert, about America’s chances under the next president with Iran,

“We stumbled for eight years under Bill Clinton over how to make peace in the Middle East, and then we stumbled for eight years under George Bush over how to make war there,” said Mr. Miller, and the result is “an America that is trapped in a region which it cannot fix and it cannot abandon.”

Now, I am not in disagreement with Mr. Friedman at all, Iran is indeed an important player in the Middle East politics. Besides, Iran is sitting on vast oil reserves along with the Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which obviously makes Iran a serious contender in Middle East Politics. However, unfortunately, our presidential candidates have not displayed any nuance, sensitivity, diplomacy, or statecraft in addressing the question “how you plan to deal with Iran.” Here watch for yourself the highly, thoughtful, imaginative, and carefully thought out responses made by two of our presidential candidates.


Germans, Jews, and Palestinians–A Dialogue

The question before our panel was whether the trauma of the Holocaust and the ever-present Palestinian-Israel conflict make dialogue between Jews and Germans, and between Jews and Palestinians extremely difficult, if not impossible to bridge the impossible?

Julia Chaitin, Senior Lecturer from the Sapir Academic College, Hof Ashkelon, Israel, examined the barriers that often make conversations across the divide difficult.  Particularly, the focus of her discussion was on navigating the opposing narratives of the past and present in the context of “perpetrators” and “victims” through techniques of reflective storytelling and listening to open up dialogue within the setting of conflict. The lecture and the accompanying discussion provoked an interesting discussion on the possibility of dialogue among conflictual parties and the difficulty of such dialogue.

Can the parents of a Palestinian suicide bombers dialogue with the Israeli parents who have lost their son/daughter to that suicide bombing?  Could they look each other in the eye and potentially have a meaningful conversation? Can the sons and daughters of a Holocaust survivor visit the death camps in Germany and Poland and dialogue with the descendants of the camp guards? Can a Palestinian family talk to the Israeli family, which has occupied its Palestinian family’s former home?  These are eternally difficult questions to answers, rife with unfathomable ethical, moral, and emotional issues.

The Israeli Wall, International Court of Justice, UN and International Law

UN and International Law Students

Here is my quick summary of the situation regarding Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory  (Request for advisory opinion) Summary of the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004. It is within the legal right of the United Nations to make such a request to the ICJ and it is within the jurisdiction of the ICJ to answer the question. The ICJ is set-up to answer such questions.  Now, here are my quick summary points to as a response to the discussions in class.

The question: “What are the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as described in the report of the Secretary-General, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?”

1) This request for advisory opinion was indeed supported by written petitions submitted by 70-80 countries.

2) Yes, the UN is an International Organization (IO) that is legally authorized to make such entreaties before the ICJ. In other words, the UN enjoys the same legal status as a “STATE” under international law for the purposes of international transactions.

3) States, only states or other such IO’s that have the legal standing of a STATE can only appear in front of the ICJ.

4) NO, Taiwan is not a State, NO the PLO or the PA (Palestinian Authority is not a state), but Yes, both the PA and the Holy SEE (the Vatican) have special observer status within the UN.

5) The question of legality of the Wall was presented by a special committee of the UNGA to the ICJ to simply examine whether it is legal for the Israel to construct a permanent barrier through “occupied territories,” thereby solidifying or consolidating their legal claim over a disputed territory.

6) Also please note, that the portion is indeed disputed, which Israel got hold of during the 1967 Arab-Israeli Conflict.  So, as the Court points out as per the provisions of International Law it is within the right of the Court to refer to it as “Occupied Territory” of the Palestine mandate, which prior to the Israeli takeover was nominally under the control of the Ottoman Empire and Trans-Jordan. However, the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict are highly self-evident in this posing of the question. Off course, it goes without saying that the Arab-Israeli conflict is one of the most contentious issues that the world has witnessed in after the end of the Second World War.

More on this topic as the semester progresses.