Jeffrey Goldberg

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

  • The Benghazi Embarrassment

    The embarrassment of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. It's that our political culture makes it impossible to have an adult conversation about it.

    The embarrassment of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. America has its victories against terrorism, and its defeats, and the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American security personnel represents one defeat in a long war. The embarrassment is that political culture in America is such that we can't have an adult conversation about the lessons of Benghazi, a conversation that would focus more on understanding al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, on the limitations and imperfections of security, and on shortfalls in our intelligence gathering, than on who said what when in the Rose Garden.

    What we've got now is a discussion about who needs to be fired, and which candidate is in a better position to score cheap points. Does Mitt Romney actually think that Barack Obama doesn't believe that what happened in Benghazi was an act of terror? A larger question: Does anyone seriously believe that Barack Obama, a president who is at war in more Muslim countries than any president in American history, is soft on al Qaeda? And one other question: Does Barack Obama believe that Republicans somehow aren't allowed to raise serious questions about the Administration's response to the attack? Again, I wish the Republicans would frame these questions not to raise doubts about the commander-in-chief's innermost feelings about terrorism, but to ask what specific actions do we need to take, quickly, to try to prevent follow-on attacks? Whatever happened to that whole notion of politics stopping at the water's edge?

    Four quick points:


    1) Because the conversation around Benghazi is so stupid, we're going to end up with more mindless CYA security "improvements" that will imprison American diplomats in their fortress compounds even more than they are already imprisoned.
     
    2) It would be good if at least some of the blame for the assassination of Chris Stevens was apportioned to his assassins. Both candidates would do us a service if they would re-focus the debate on ways to defeat Islamist terrorism.

    3) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can both take the blame, or the responsibility, for this attack if they want, but the truth, quite obviously, is that neither one of them is in charge of assessing the security needs of individual American embassies and consulates. The job of leaders is to hire well, supervise their hires to the degree possible, and then, if something goes wrong, spend the time and energy to figure out how to fix the problem. It is unrealistic to believe that either leader could have known about what is ultimately a small problem in a large war. We should spend more time judging them on how they respond to defeats then on blaming them for the defeats. (By the way, I would hold George W. Bush to the same standard re:  9/11, and Bill Clinton to the same standard when it came to his Administration's unsuccessful efforts to stop the spread of al Qaeda in the late 1990s.)

    4) As Blake Hounshell put it, "Amb. Chris Stevens was a big boy and he made his own decision to go to Benghazi despite the risks. If he thought it was too dangerous, he should not have gone." We've lost thousands of American government employees over the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Nearly all of them were in uniform, but Foreign Service officers know the risks as well. We need to treat the loss of these four men in Libya as a battlefield loss. That would require people such as Darrell Issa, who chaired a House Oversight committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks, from saying foolish things, like he did the other day. I wrote about this in my Bloomberg View column:
    What Republicans shouldn't do is make statements like the one Issa made on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Oct. 14. Issa argued that if security officials had repeatedly requested reinforcements for U.S. diplomatic outposts in Libya "and that's not being heard, then it isn't just Ambassador Stevens who is now dead -- it's everybody who works throughout the Middle East is at risk."

    Eleven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, and 12 years after the fatal raid on the USS Cole in Yemen, and Issa has just realized that assignment to the Middle East might pose risks for American government personnel!

    Here's the problem with Issa's stunning insight: In his desire to cast the administration as incompetent, he does an enormous disservice to the cause of forward-leaning diplomacy and engagement. American embassies are already fortresses. Issa would dig a moat around them. After a point, there's simply no reason to dispatch diplomats to hostile capitals if they can't engage with actual citizens. Risk is inherent for U.S. diplomats posted to the Middle East.
  • So Who Exactly Is the Archetypal Long Island Voter?

    Talking to Chuck Schumer about the Baileys

    I had completely forgotten about a 2007 piece I wrote for Talk of the Town about Chuck Schumer until Dylan Byers at Politico kindly resurrected it in advance of tonight's debate at Hofstra, on Long Island. For the piece, I took Schumer to the dumpy Chinese restaurant on Capitol Hill he prefers, and it was there that he told me about his imaginary friends, the Baileys, who, to his mind, are the perfect expression of Long Island middle-classness:

    Schumer says that he is accompanied everywhere he goes by two imaginary middle-class friends, who advise him on all manner of middle-class concerns. Their names, until recently, were Joe and Eileen O'Reilly. "For the book's sake, we wanted them to be more national," Schumer said, "so they became the Baileys." The Baileys live in Massapequa, in Nassau County, a town that is invariably known on Long Island as "Matzoh-Pizza."

    The Baileys are both forty-five years old: Joe works for an insurance company, Eileen is a part-time employee at a doctor's office. They worry about terrorism, and about values, and they are patriots--"Joe takes off his cap and sings along with the national anthem before the occasional Islanders game," Schumer wrote. He elaborated, "They're not ideologues. They're worried about property taxes. It's the tax they hate. And that's what Democrats don't get." He has also drafted the Baileys in defending the C.I.A.'s human-intelligence program: "Had Joe and Eileen been in the room after the hum-int screwup, they would not have indulged in the blame game, gutted the human-intelligence program, or weakened America."

    The Baileys, Schumer said, sometimes dine out--not often, because of the cost--and they like Chinese. Which raised the question: What would the Baileys eat, if they were here at Hunan Dynasty? "The more conventional stuff," Schumer said, "but they're with it."

    They're with it?

    "I mean, they're not not with it." Schumer looked at a plate of steamed chicken and vegetables, and said, "They wouldn't order that. They would order kung pao chicken."
    It was suggested to Schumer that he is a little bit weird. He acknowledged this to be true. "They're real for me," he said. "I love the Baileys."
  • Fidel Castro: I Was Wrong to Tell Khrushchev to Obliterate the U.S.

    This week marks the 50th anniversary of Cuban Missile Crisis, during which humankind almost murdered itself, and I will be posting more on this subject later, in particular on lessons that might be derived from the crisis that would help us understand a way out of the current nuclear crisis, between the West and Iran. I interviewed Fidel Castro on this subject in Havana a couple of years ago, and I thought I would re-post his answer to the most important question I could think to ask:

    We returned repeatedly in this first conversation to Castro's fear that a confrontation between the West and Iran could escalate into a nuclear conflict. "The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated," he said. "Men think they can control themselves but Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war." I asked him if this fear was informed by his own experiences during the 1962 missile crisis, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. nearly went to war other over the presence of nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba (missiles installed at the invitation, of course, of Fidel Castro). I mentioned to Castro the letter he wrote to Khruschev, the Soviet premier, at the height of the crisis, in which he recommended that the Soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the U.S. if the Americans attack Cuba. "That would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever through a legal right of self-defense," Castro wrote at the time.

    I asked him, "At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?" He answered: "After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all."

    Read the full story here.

  • Utterly Charming News About the Continued Non-Death of Yiddish

    Delightful evidence of the language's endurance.

    Really, just delightful:

    "Yiddish intrigues me with its majesty and its enigmatic, refined musical tone. I have no explanation for the fact that I have always felt a connection to this language."

    Contrary to what you might expect, the speaker of these lines is not a Polish poet or German philosopher. He is Yusuf Alakili, 50, from Kfar Kassem, currently investing much effort in his studies for a Master's degree in literature at Bar Ilan University's Hebrew. Alakili studies Yiddish on the side for his own enjoyment.

    How did this affair start? "In the 1980s, I worked with a Jew of Polish origin who lived in Bnei Brak, and Yiddish was the main language there. I was captivated by its musical tone and decided to study it in earnest. My dream is to read Sholom Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman [the inspiration for Fiddler on the Roof] in its original language."

  • An Open Letter to Sarah Silverman

    This is the best thing I've read in two hours.

    This is the best thing I've read in two hours:

    Your name is Silverman. My name is Rosenblatt. We both have Jewish ancestors; I am not sure what else we share. You are good at what you do - comedy - and I try to be good at what I do - being a husband, dad, rabbi, and manufacturer of kosher meat. My wife and I are blessed with six children and my day is spent earning for the brood.

    Read on.

    UPDATE: To those lunkheads who have written me about this in the past three hours -- I don't actually agree with this rabbi. It's called sarcastic posting.

    UPDATE UPDATE: Sarah Silverman's father apparently doesn't like it when fundamentalists go after his daughter. Here is one his comments:

    Hey asshole: Daughter #1 is a rabbi. Not by your standards. She's reform. How dare she, a lowly woman think god wants her to be a rabbi, created from a mere rib. Her hubby, three times nominated for a nobel peace prize was listed by the Jerusalem Post as the 49th most influential jew in the world built the worlds largest solar field in israel. By the way, Sarah was also on the list. I missed your name. Oldest granddaughter is serving in the Israel Defense Forces. I'm sure you also served.Oh I forgot the orthodox don't do that. You don't fuck with my family.
  • A Cairo Riot

    Total anarchy breaks out in front of the Egyptian Museum.

    Two things about the riot video below struck me. The first is the presence of the Egypt Museum in the background. The museum, which is probably my favorite on earth, is the repository of a great civilization. And look what happens on the streets around it. The second is the total absence of any police or security. These are scenes of total anarchy. One main worry about the future of Egypt is that every day of continued instability means another day when the economy can't lift itself out of its hole.

     :

  • Unbelievable

    This is what it must be like to be a Cubs fan.

    I have no words for the Nationals' meltdown. This is what it must be like to be a Cubs fan.

    On the other hand, the Nats had a much better season than anyone could have imagined.

    Shabbat shalom.

  • Winners and Losers of 10/11/12 (Special Jayson Werth Edition)

    Biden, Bibi, the entire continent of Europe, and more

    Winners:
    1) Joe Biden. Political polarization means you either adore Joe Biden or you find him unbearably grating, my colleague Gabriel Snyder just noted to me. I think this is generally true, but in my case, I actually find Biden both grating and adorable, at the same time. Maybe last night he was more grating than usual, but he certainly has filled my more partisan Democratic friends with a kind of provisional joy (unadulterated joy comes, if it comes, after the Hofstra debate next week).

    2) Paul Ryan. Ryan held his own against the histrionic and condescending Biden, and I thought he was more fluent on foreign policy matter than I expected him to be, given that this is not his area. I thought the Iran discussion was muddled and disconcerting (because Biden was going soft -- at least that's what it seemed like to me -- while Ryan's "tough" position simply mimicked President Obama's tough position on Iranian nuclearization.

    3) Bibi Netanyahu. All across the globe, 200 foreign leaders are asking their advisers, "How can we get mentioned in an American presidential debate the way Bibi gets mentioned?" It is remarkable, these two men fighting over who agrees with Bibi more, and who knows him better.

    4) Martha Raddatz. She's being compared, of course, to a guy who slept through the last debate, but she did a fine job even when compared to some Platonic ideal of moderation.

    5) Foreign policy wonks. Thanks, in part, to Raddatz, we got more foreign policy in this debate than we otherwise would have, which is a good thing, because this is what presidents, and what the sitting vice president, do much of the time.

    6) Jayson Werth. The Nationals-Cardinals game last night have been the greatest baseball game I ever attended. The feeling in the crowd when Werth capped off his already mythical at-bat with that line-drive homer was something I won't forget, and the junior Goldblog who accompanied me to Nats Stadium will remember this game, thanks to Werth, his whole life.

    7) Europe, for getting the Nobel Peace Prize because it gave up genocide, or something.

    Losers:
    1) Lance Lynn, who gave Werth the perfect pitch.

    2) The "ayatollahs," as Ryan referred to them. They can't seem to catch a break, can they? 

  • What Netanyahu Has Cost Israel

    How the prime minister has blown it on one of the existential issues facing his country.

    Ari Shavit argues that Netanyahu has done important work focusing the world's attention on the danger of a nuclear Iran. But on other key issues -- including the other existential issue, the two-state solution, he has blown it:

    Netanyahu's government failed to deal with Israel's basic problems. It did not take advantage of the peaceful years in the West Bank to make progress dividing the land. It did not leverage the broad unity government to change the system of government and regulate relations with the ultra-Orthodox. It did not rebuild the state apparatus or give the people a sense of solidarity and hope. It ground Israel's international legitimacy and internal enlightenment to dust. Netanyahu's government wasted three and a half precious years on maneuvers, survival and foot-dragging without progressing toward some better future.

    But Shavit turns around and asks, why has the Israeli center-left been so utterly ineffective in offering a counter-vision to Netanyahu's. Read the whole thing.

  • Big News About the Libya Attack

    Susan Rice got one very important fact wrong during her appearance on Meet the Press after the Benghazi attack.

    So when Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went on Meet the Press last month and announced that the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi came under cover of a spontaneous demonstration against an offensive video about the Prophet Muhammad, she was right except for the part about there being a demonstration at all. This is what Rice told David Gregory:

    (O)ur current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of-- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.  What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.  They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya.  And it escalated into a much more violent episode.

    This is what Jonathan Karl is reporting tonight:

  • One Specific Step Romney Could Take on Middle East Peace

    He could hold an honest conversation, as a friend, with the prime minister of Israel about the demographic, security and moral consequences of continued settlement and occupation of the West Bank.

    In his foreign policy speech today, Mitt Romney is planning on saying the following:

     I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.  On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew. ... I believe that if America does not lead, others will--others who do not share our interests and our values--and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us."

    One thing Romney could do as president to help secure Israel as a Jewish state is to have an honest conversation, as a friend, with the prime minister of Israel about the demographic, security and moral consequences of continued settlement and occupation of the West Bank. I can understand why he might not want to announce such a plan a month before the election, but a president who is trusted by the prime minister would be in a great position to have this very hard talk. The talk would open with the following question: "So, Bibi, what's the plan? How are you going to maintain Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy if you're permanently controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians who don't want to be under your control?"

    This would be a helpful conversation to have.

  • The Flashpoint of the World

    The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, perhaps the most contested piece of real estate on the planet, is once again becoming the scene of violent struggle

    I've been working on a long project, so my apologies for the light posting. I wasn't planning on posting at all today, but I thought I could not let pass without comment the fact that the world is about to blow up. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most contested piece of real estate on the planet at the moment, is once again becoming the scene of violent struggle, between Muslims who believe the Mount is solely their possession, and religious Jews who believe they should, at the very least, have a right to pray atop the Mount, which is Judaism's holiest site. This week, a tour of the Mount by the group calling itself the Temple Mount Faithful has once again caused well-meaning Muslims to fear that Jewish extremists are trying to supplant them, and has caused cynical Palestinian leaders to exploit religious sentiment by encouraging these fears.

    Extremist Jewish groups and individuals are pushing for a change in the religious status quo on the Mount. For many years after the Six Day War, religious custom, and the warnings of rabbis, kept Jews off the Mount (the general belief is that walking atop the Mount risks treading on the spot over the Temple's Holy of Holies), but messianic feeling has infected a portion of the religious Jewish population, which would like to see the Third Temple rise on the site. The Goldblog on this issue is simple: Jews, of course, have a right to pray atop their holiest site, but exercising that right in an explosive atmosphere is foolish and counterproductive, and the Israeli government needs to do all it can do to preserve the status quo. I will preempt angry letters by acknowledging that this is not fair -- that if the Palestinian leadership, and the broader Muslim leadership, would simply recognize that Jews have a deep connection to the Mount, much of this fever would dissipate, on both sides. But we also have to deal with the reality we are in, and we also have to face the unfortunate fact that exercising this "right" in the current political and theological atmosphere could get people -- Jews and Muslims -- killed.

    I've been worried for years about the chance that a single extremist could ignite this conflict by trying to speed the arrival of the Messiah by vandalizing the shrine or the mosque atop the Mount, or otherwise upsetting the status quo. Today, the extremists are seeing their theology slowly mainstreamed. This is a big problem. 

  • Through the Blasphemy Looking Glass

    Hussein Ibish on the push for new regulation by a number of Muslim potentates

    Hussein Ibish writes with rising disbelief about the push for anti-blasphemy regulation by a number of Muslim potentates:

    Amazingly, there has been virtually no pushback or reaction to remarks by the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in his recent U.N. speech, which sought to place the blame for the violence entirely at the feet of the authors of the video and implicitly exonerated the rioters and extremist organizations behind them for the deaths for which they were directly responsible. He alleged that "freedom should not cross reasonable limits and become a tool to hurt and insult the dignity of others and of religions and faiths and sacred beliefs as we have seen lately, which regrettably led to the killing of innocent people who have not committed any crime."

    This is a perfect window into the through-the-looking-glass world of blasphemy-ban advocates. In this reality, those who engage in offensive speech (and there's no question that the video is patently Islamophobic and hateful) bear the full responsibility if others cynically exploit their intentional, calculated provocations for their own political and social purposes. If people are killed, that's the fault of the provocateurs, not the killers. These statements implicitly absolve extremist and violent reactions to provocative speech and suggest that the proper response is not to denounce and yet still protect offensive expression, but to suppress it in order to prevent a violent reaction.

  • Obama's Crystal-Clear Promise to Stop Iran From Getting a Nuclear Weapon

    Obama has been consistent and clear in his opposition to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

    Reuters is reporting that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are both satisfied with their non-encounter at the United Nations last week. Both men "left the U.N. meeting with more than they arrived with: Obama with an assurance that Israel would not attack Iran's nuclear sites before the November 6 U.S. presidential election, and Netanyahu with a commitment from Obama to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from producing an atomic bomb."

    I found the second half of this statement surprising. If it is indeed news to Netanyahu that Obama has promised to do "whatever it takes" to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold, then he hasn't been listening. He's not the only one who hasn't heard the President clearly on the subject. I run into people constantly who believe that the bluffer in this relationship is Obama. Their argument holds that Obama will move toward a strategy of containment soon after the election, and that there is no way he would ever use military force to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

    I'm in the camp of people, however, who take him at his word, in part because he's repeated himself on the subject so many times and in part because he has laid out such an effective argument against containment and for disruption, by force, if necessary. With the help of Armin Rosen, of The Atlantic's International Channel, I've posted below a partial accounting of Obama's statements on the subject. Of course, it is possible that in a second term, should he win his bid for reelection, he will change his mind on the subject, and it is possible, of course, that Iran will somehow manage to defy his demands. But the record is the record: Given the number of times he's told the American public, and the world, that he will stop Iran from going nuclear, it is hard to believe that he will suddenly change his mind and back out of his promise.

    Here are some of his statements on the subject, going back to his first campaign for the presidency:

    June 5, 2008, in Cairo: "I will continue to be clear on the fact that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilizing for the entire region.It is strongly in America's interest to prevent such a scenario."

    June 8, 2008, to AIPAC: "The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.... Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel."

    October 7 2008, in the second presidential debate: "We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. It would be a game-changer in the region. Not only would it threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world, but it would also create a possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. And so it's unacceptable. And I will do everything that's required to prevent it. And we will never take military options off the table,"

    November 7, 2008, press conference: "Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable. And we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening."

    February 27, 2009, speech at Camp Lejeune: "(W)e are focusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world."

    January 27, 2010, State of the Union address: "And as Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise."

    July 1, /2010, at the signing of the Iran Sanctions Act: "There should be no doubt --  the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

    May 19, 2011, speech on the Middle East: "Now, our opposition to Iran's intolerance and Iran's repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known."

    May 22, 2011, in an address to AIPAC: "You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.... So let me be absolutely clear -- we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

    October 13,2011, press conference after meeting with South Korean president: "Now, we don't take any options off the table in terms of how we operate with Iran."

    November 14, 2011, press conference: "So what I did was to speak with President Medvedev, as well as President Hu, and all three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power and that we don't trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. That's in the interests of all of us... I have said repeatedly and I will say it today, we are not taking any options off the table, because it's my firm belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would pose a security threat not only to the region but also to the United States."

    December 8, 2011,  press conference: (In response to question about pressuring Iran): "No options off the table means I'm considering all options."

    December 16, 2011, speech to the General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism: "Another grave concern -- and a threat to the security of Israel, the United States and the world -- is Iran's nuclear program. And that's why our policy has been absolutely clear: We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons...and that's why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table. We have been clear."

    January 24, 2012, State of the Union address: "Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal."

    March 2, 2012, interview with Goldblog:  "I... don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

    March 4, 2012, speech to  AIPAC: "I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say That includes all elements of American power:  A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency."

    March 5, 2012, remarks after meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu: "... I reserve all options, and my policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it."

    March 6, 2012, press conference: "And what I have said is, is that we will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon. My policy is not containment; my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon -- because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our non-proliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists.

    March 14, 2012, remarks after meeting with David Cameron: "...And as I said in a speech just a couple of weeks ago, I am determined not simply to contain Iran that is in possession of a nuclear weapon; I am determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon -- in part for the reasons that David mentioned... We will do everything we can to resolve this diplomatically, but ultimately, we've got to have somebody on the other side of the table who's taking this seriously."

    September 25, 2012, speech to the United Nations General Assembly: "Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained...the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

  • Obama's Flawed Record in the Middle East

    On most everything other than Iran's nuclear program, passivity has been the theme of the administration's approach to the region.

    One of the prime missed opportunities of the Obama Administration came during the Iranian "Green Revolution" uprisings of 2009. The President could have advanced American moral and strategic interests by standing up more boldly for the young demonstrators protesting totalitarianism. But he was too passive in his approach. And passivity, it would turn out, is a theme of the Obama Administration's approach to the Middle East. On the most important and urgent issue, the Iranian nuclear program, Obama is an activist president, but on a range of other issues, passivity -- or "aggressive hedging," in the words of Shadi Hamid, the director of research at the Brookings Institution's center in Qatar -- is the rule. From my Bloomberg View column this week:

    "...Obama's record in the Middle East suggests that missed opportunities are becoming a White House specialty.

    Syria is the most obvious example. Assad is a prime supporter of terrorism (as opposed to Qaddafi, who had retired from terrorism sponsorship by the time his people rose up against him), and his regime represents Iran's only meaningful Arab ally. The overriding concern of the Obama administration in the Middle East is the defanging of Iran. Nothing would isolate Iran -- and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah -- more than the removal of the Assad regime and its replacement by a government drawn from Syria's Sunni majority. Ensuring that Muslim extremists don't dominate the next Syrian government is another compelling reason to increase U.S. involvement...

    "There's a widespread perception in the region that Obama is a weak, somewhat feckless president," (Shadi) Hamid...  told me. "Bush may have been hated, but he was also feared, and what we've learned in the Middle East is that fear, sometimes at least, can be a good thing. Obama's aggressive hedging has alienated both sides of the Arab divide. Autocrats, particularly in the Gulf, think Obama naively supports Arab revolutionaries, while Arab protesters and revolutionaries seem to think the opposite."

    Leaders across the Middle East don't take Obama's threats seriously. Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the Arab leaders of the Gulf countries believe he'll act militarily against Iran's nuclear program in his second term.

    Obama's handling of Middle East peace negotiations couldn't be characterized as passive; they could, however, be described as thoughtless. Obama publicly demanded that Netanyahu freeze settlement growth on the West Bank. When Netanyahu only partially and temporarily complied, Obama, in reaction, did nothing. Obama was wrong to draw a line in the sand over settlements, which are a derivative issue (if the Israelis and Palestinians settle their borders, the settlement issue will also be solved). But because he made it an issue without a thought to follow-up, he managed to freeze the peace process.

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