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  • The General Petreaus briefing: Israel

    The Petraeus briefing: Biden's embarrassment is not the whole story
    by Mark Perry

    On January 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief JCS Chairman Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) “too old, too slow…and too late.”

    The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus’s instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. “Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling,” a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. “America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding.” But Petraeus wasn’t finished: two days after the Mullen briefing, Petraeus sent a paper to the White House requesting that the West Bank and Gaza (which, with Israel, is a part of the European Command – or EUCOM), be made a part of his area of operations. Petraeus’s reason was straightforward: with U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military had to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region’s most troublesome conflict.

    The Mullen briefing and Petraeus’s request hit the White House like a bombshell. While Petraeus’s request that CENTCOM be expanded to include the Palestinians was denied (”it was dead on arrival,” a Pentagon officer confirms), the Obama Administration decided it would redouble its efforts – pressing Israel once again on the settlements issue, sending Mitchell on a visit to a number of Arab capitals and dispatching Mullen for a carefully arranged meeting with Chief of the Israeli General Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi. While the American press speculated that Mullen’s trip focused on Iran, the JCS Chairman actually carried a blunt, and tough, message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that Israel had to see its conflict with the Palestinians “in a larger, regional, context” – as having a direct impact on America’s status in the region. Certainly, it was thought, Israel would get the message.

    Israel didn’t. When Vice President Joe Biden was embarrassed by an Israeli announcement that the Netanyahu government was building 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem, the administration reacted. But no one was more outraged than Biden who, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, engaged in a private, and angry, exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister. Not surprisingly, what Biden told Netanyahu reflected the importance the administration attached to Petraeus’s Mullen briefing: “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.” Yedioth Ahronoth went on to report: “The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.” The message couldn’t be plainer: Israel’s intransigence could cost American lives.

    There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers – and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military. While commentators and pundits might reflect that Joe Biden’s trip to Israel has forever shifted America’s relationship with its erstwhile ally in the region, the real break came in January, when David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.

  • #2
    I can hear the cash register ringing from here.

    A excellent example of starting with a small number of facts and applying a hyperbolic interpretation. Note the promo for his book at the bottom of the page.

    The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story
    Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

    Questions about our site? See the FAQ.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by GCoyote View Post
      A excellent example of starting with a small number of facts and applying a hyperbolic interpretation. Note the promo for his book at the bottom of the page.

      The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story
      Reading through the 'news', it struck me that this is very unlike Petraeus, to insert himself into the international politicis of an area outside of his area of responsibility.

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      • #4
        I tried to get some data on Mark Perry's affiliations. But it seems that Wikipedia doesn't give any references to him.

        I always consider the source of a story before I consider it factual...
        Credo quia absurdum.


        Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd! - Richard Feynman

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        • #5
          An interesting point that I did see brought up was that where these new settlements are being built is well within the area that will be controlled by Israel in the event of a peace accord so why the complaining.

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          • #6
            There is an "Update" now. Robert

            "[UPDATE: A senior military officer denied Sunday that Petraeus sent a paper to the White House.

            "CENTCOM did have a team brief the CJCS on concerns revolving around the Palestinian issue, and CENTCOM did propose a UCP change, but to CJCS, not to the WH," the officer said via email. "GEN Petraeus was not certain what might have been conveyed to the WH (if anything) from that brief to CJCS."

            (UCP means "unified combatant command," like CENTCOM; CJCS refers to Mullen; and WH is the White House.)] "

            http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/pos...he_whole_story
            For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman

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            • #7
              Israel is putting American lives at risk
              by Paul Woodward

              In Foreign Policy, Mark Perry describes an extraordinary Pentagon briefing on Israel’s impact on conflicts across the Middle East. Here is an excerpt and following some comments of my own, the author has provided me with additional background on his reporting.

              [Important update: A senior military officer told Foreign Policy by email that one rather minor detail in Perry's report was incorrect. A request from Gen Petraeus for the Palestinian occupied territories to be brought within CENTCOM's region of operations was sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, and not directly to the White House (who may or may not have subsequently been consulted). It is significant that the Pentagon made this correction, not because it was an important detail but on the contrary, because it was inconsequential to the overall narrative. In effect, the Pentagon clearly but discreetly said that there was virtually nothing in this report that could be denied.]

              In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group Report was explicit in making this linkage: “The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability.”

              What Mark Perry’s report indicates is that for the Obama administration a tipping point has been crossed in its perception of Israel’s effect on the conflicts that span the region.

              Until now, the necessity for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been framed in quasi-positive terms — such as that it would help defuse some of the hostility that the US now faces, or, that it would strengthen an alliance of nations attempting to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

              The shift, as expressed by Joe Biden last week and by the Petraeus briefing in January is that Israel is now being seen as a liability: the Jewish state is putting American lives at risk. “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden reportedly told Netanyahu.

              Such a shift marks a watershed in US-Israeli relations and so Perry’s report naturally raises questions. Indeed, the first line of defense from Israel and its supporters will be to claim that, on the contrary, recent events are nothing more than a bump in the road; that we can expect a quick resumption of business as usual between such close allies.

              For this reason, I asked Mark — who I have had the privilege of working with in recent years — to provide some background to his report. This is what he said:

              My piece on the briefing of Admiral Mullen by CENTCOM senior officers has occasioned a great deal of comment, as well as some skepticism: how accurate is the account? Was it told to me by direct participants in the briefing? Is there any basis for imagining that Petraeus has any kind of hidden agenda, whether that is a desire to expand CENTCOM – or even hostility towards Israel.

              I won’t name my sources, even though it’s clear to people in the Pentagon – and certainly to General Petraeus – who they are. Was I told of the briefing by the briefers themselves? I will only say that there were four people in the briefing – the two briefers, Admiral Mullen, and Admiral Mullen’s primary adviser on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I know two of the people involved in the briefing. Whether or not they are my sources is something for the reader to determine. The account is not only accurate, it’s a precis of what actually happened. There is a lot more to it. The White House, State Department and Pentagon have not denied the account, and for good reason: it’s true.

              Is there any basis for imagining that Petraeus has any kind of hidden agenda in ordering the briefing?

              I have been reporting on the American military for thirty years. My work on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Four Stars, is the authoritative account on the subject. I have deeply rooted contacts in the military that go back thirty years. I have never met a senior military officer whom I do not admire. There is no greater insult than to believe that General Petraeus or any other senior American military officer would use the lives of American soldiers as a lever to enhance their own political future. My sense is that General Petraeus neither likes nor dislikes Israel: but he loves his country and he wants to protect our soldiers. The current crisis in American relations with Israel is not a litmus test of General Petraeus’s loyalty to Israel, but of his, and our, concern for those Americans in uniform in the Middle East.

              It is, perhaps, a sign of the depth of “the Biden crisis” that every controversy of this type seems to get translated into whether or not America and its leaders are committed to Israel’s security. This isn’t about Israel’s security, it’s about our security.

              http://warincontext.org/2010/03/14/i...lives-at-risk/

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              • #8
                The article has alot of emphasized sentences, but little context.

                How is Israel building in Jerusalem risking American lives?
                I mean the article says that, but doesn't deem it necessary to explain why.

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                • #9
                  So the US can be held accountable for Israel's actions. But no other country is held accountable for the actions of another. Or in Irans case the actions it military forces.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by craven View Post
                    So the US can be held accountable for Israel's actions. But no other country is held accountable for the actions of another. Or in Irans case the actions it military forces.

                    You notice that huh? . Only in regards to Israel and the US. Similar to the Israeli/Gaza border and the Egyptian/Gaza border. The only "bad guy" is Israel. Pretty hypocritical IMO and I wish some would make up their minds. Does Israel run the US or does the US run Israel? The recent settlement issue shows that the US doesn't have as much influence with Israel as some would like to think. Robert
                    For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman

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                    • #11
                      to think that US brass doesnt know that Israel will continue to do as it pleases in E Jerusalem is pretty naive in my opinion...

                      no one cares about housing in jerusalem except the media... not even the arab world outside of palestinians...

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GeneralTsoGood View Post
                        to think that US brass doesnt know that Israel will continue to do as it pleases in E Jerusalem is pretty naive in my opinion...

                        no one cares about housing in jerusalem except the media... not even the arab world outside of palestinians...
                        Just another excuse to stall any type of "Peace" process. Robert
                        For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman

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                        • #13
                          Well that would be the self-serving interpretation.

                          The account is not only accurate, it’s a precis of what actually happened. There is a lot more to it. The White House, State Department and Pentagon have not denied the account, and for good reason: it’s true.

                          Occam's razor would suggest that the White House actually has better things to do than help Mark publicize his book.

                          But getting away from the author's book promotion, does a realignment of CentCom to include Israel and the Palestinian territories makes sense? Does it even matter?

                          Strafor once made the excellent argument that new presidents often get talked into trying to broker peace in the middle east for various reasons. Without exception they either fail outright or conclude that a durable peace is beyond the capabilities of the US to create or enforce. Either way they then give sufficient instruction to the agencies of government that the US act only to the extent needed to protect its strategic interests and avoid any unnecessary involvement otherwise.

                          In this context the premise that US policy toward Israel is undergoing significant change had little meaning. The actual options available to the administration are not that many. From that it follows that reassigning territorial responsibility from EUCOM to CENTCOM is not an urgent matter either.
                          Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

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                          • #14
                            “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
                            This crap pisses me off.Hey Biden,how about your limpwristed administration's extremely weak rules of engagement you force our troops to fight under?You don't think that endangers our troops lives?They are soldiers in a warzone.The people that hate us aren't going to hate us more because of any of this BS.They already hate us and want us dead.If the enemy decides to attack our well armed and trained forces more than they do now,then give our guys the ROE to actually win.Don't give me this "endangering the troops lives" crap.If you don't want them to endanger their lives,bring them home!A warzone isn't supposed to be safe.The whole purpose of fighting there is to change the warzone into a "peace zone".You can't do that without shedding some blood and hurting some feelings.Imagine if the same PC crap existed in WW2.He Warner Bros,stop making those anti-German and Anti-Japanese cartoons.You might upset our enemies and make the warzone even more dangerous for our troops!Hey Churchill,you better calm down your tone,we don't want to offend the enemy!
                            ALL LIVES SPLATTER!

                            BLACK JEEPS MATTER!

                            BLACK MOTORCYCLES MATTER!

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                            • #15
                              Well for starters, we don't have troops fighting in Pakistan, we are packing up in Iraq, and the Afghans are fighting over control of their own territory without regard for happenings amongst the Arabs. So the obvious question is, 'why would Biden say such a silly thing?
                              Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

                              Questions about our site? See the FAQ.

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