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Obama says likelihood of Iran deal and Israeli-Palestinian agreement are both under 50%

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Obama walks out on stage in Jerusalem last March to deliver speech, photo by Pete Souza

Obama walks out on stage in Jerusalem last March to deliver speech, photo by Pete Souza

David Remnick’s piece in The New Yorker on traveling with Obama has a number of Israel moments, including a fundraiser at Haim Saban’s spread in L.A. with “a Warhol diptych of Golda Meir and Albert Einstein over the fireplace.”index And there’s this:

Obama told me that in all three of his main initiatives in the region—with Iran, with Israel and the Palestinians, with Syria—the odds of completing final treaties are less than fifty-fifty. “On the other hand,” he said, “in all three circumstances we may be able to push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us. And all three are connected. I do believe that the region is going through rapid change and inexorable change. Some of it is demographics; some of it is technology; some of it is economics. And the old order, the old equilibrium, is no longer tenable. The question then becomes, What’s next?”

P.S. A couple smart folks have said of Obama’s Jerusalem speech last March, “Remarks … to the People of Israel,” that he was washing his hands of the mess. I’ve told you what you have to do, now do it. And if you can’t… tough luck.

Philip Weiss

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30 Responses

  1. wondering jew on January 21, 2014, 6:21 pm

    I think the odds are 50-50 on Iran. 89-11 on Israel Palestine and 100-1 on Syria.

    • piotr on January 22, 2014, 1:11 am

      My objection to your odds is that in the case of Syria they do not add to 100. My guess is that your oracle returned “100-0” or something like that.

      Probably a better measure would be to use palm-plant assesment. One can imagine Iran deal without getting any suspicious growths on his/her palm. Agreement with Palestinians before Obama finishing his office is conceivable, but I would say that I would get a cactus growing on my hand first, perhaps a smallish one. An agreement signed by Syrian government would happen after relocation of Joshua Tree National Monument to the top of my palm.

    • Tzombo on January 22, 2014, 6:58 am

      I think the odds are 99-01 in Israel Palestine. Israel is not prepared to even throw the Palestinians a bone.

    • Inanna on January 22, 2014, 6:13 pm

      Obama is just saying this to manage expectations so that when he gets a deal on something, he’ll be touted as a miracle-worker.

      Obama knows that the I/P talks are going nowhere. But he’s not focussed on that. He’s using it to help him get his deal with Iran through and he’ll throw the Palestinians under a bus to get out of the Iran issue and help him to get his pivot to Asia underway and avoid looking weak when the sanctions regime starts to unravel, as it already is. It’s a classic political ploy.

      There’s more chance of a deal with Syria but it’s complicated by what Saudi Arabia will do. If it was just Russia and China on the other side (like Iran) it would be a lot easier to work out – Saudi is the spoiler. But Saudi is wounded by the Iran deal and there isn’t much the Americans have to offer Saudi in return for giving up on Syria, like Obama can offer up the Palestinian sacrifice to the Israelis. However, Obama might be prepared to play hardball with the Saudis since there is not domestic constituency to consider and the Europeans are spooked by the whole foreign jihadi thing blowing back on them. This could come in the form of discontinuing weapons transfers and clamping down on intelligence-sharing and coordination on Syria. I think the Syria deal could go either way.

  2. ToivoS on January 21, 2014, 6:26 pm

    Well his policy towards Syria (i.e. Assad must go) looks like it will end in abject failure. These Geneva II talks have some hope if they can be used to pressure the Sauds and Qatar to stop funding the war in Syria and perhaps to use the talks to figure out a way to repatriate those thousands of terrorists in Syria back to their home countries.

    It goes without saying that the Kerry/IP talks are going nowhere.

    Now Iran is the critical one. I predict that will end on a positive note. Obama will somehow convince the Senate to not interfere and the international-diplomatic dynamics will result in an agreement where sanctions are lifted and Iran preserves its rights under the NPT.

    I would consider that 50% success for the three issues.

  3. Citizen on January 21, 2014, 6:34 pm

    Obama’s not wrong in his assessment. The only question is, will he take the pulpit to directly address the American masses about Israel? I say no. So he’s just part of the status quo.

    • Krauss on January 22, 2014, 12:53 am

      Obama has always been part of the status quo.

      He is very fond of saying “make me do it”, but of course even when people pressure him he typically puts off doing it. He’s been very careful his entire time, except on the question of Iran which, together with health care reform, have been the only two major instances I can think of where he has been brave. And in fact health care reform was a demand in the democratic primary so it doesn’t really count. So we’re left with Iran as the only issue where he has been ahead of the curve.

      On every single issue other than that he has either walked away from a contentious problem or he has been dragged into it, reluctantly(gay marriage as there are many other examples).

      On I/P, however, I do think we should cut the president some slack unlike on many other issues. Because here there is a specific kind of crazy that doesn’t exist on other issues whether it is financial reform or marijuana legislation or marriage equality.
      Or rather, there is crazyness in all those issues. But it isn’t the absolute norm to such an extent as it is on I/P.

  4. just on January 21, 2014, 7:13 pm

    Until and unless the US becomes honest and withdraws from aparthied Israel, we will fail. The rest of the world and the Palestinian people will make justice happen when we are removed from the “process”.

    Our complicity with the criminal state, our own actions in “defense” of the indefensible, and our hypocrisy are legendary.

  5. petersz on January 21, 2014, 7:32 pm

    The odds are 100% on the Iran deal. The decision has been made to make Iran the hegemon of the middle east, its a natural ally of the USA, the Arab Spring has changed everything as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are too unstable. In the unlikely event of Congress going against him, he can use the veto and claim the American people are behind him.

    • Citizen on January 22, 2014, 6:41 am

      @ petersz
      I wish I was as sure as you are that the bill in the senate to increase sanctions & commit US to join any Israeli attack on Iran will not get a vote sufficient to overturn Obama’s veto, if it comes to that.

  6. Mike_Konrad on January 21, 2014, 8:19 pm

    Iran is lying – The mullahs are nuts

    Israel is stalling – I do NOT blame Israel

    Syria is defiant (both Syria’s Rebel and Assad)

    There is 0% of any solution.

    • seafoid on January 21, 2014, 10:19 pm

      Mike, honey

      You ask why your posts are not filed.
      I don’t know how to say this.
      You have all the credibility of John Bolton.

      • just on January 22, 2014, 5:14 am

        LOL and bingo, seafoid!

    • just on January 21, 2014, 10:21 pm


      you are delusional, as usual.

    • Sumud on January 21, 2014, 11:47 pm

      The mullahs are nuts

      Especially for you Mike Konrad:

      • piotr on January 22, 2014, 1:41 am

        From the link: Obama deploys 3 US Navy ships for Sochi Olympics. These ships were dispatched to Benghazi.

        Geographic knowledge of Pamela seems rather sketchy. It reminds me biological acumen of late Rachel Kristol who advocated that IDF should be throwing “Hamas terrorists” into the sea to be consumed by shark and stargazers. Stargazers are quite smallish and they burrow in sand at the sea bottom. I would advise to write “sharks and barracudas”.

    • Ron Edwards on January 21, 2014, 11:52 pm

      I got this one. It all makes so much sense! OK, first, the Iranian administration is lying because … uh, they’re liars! Which means what they say is lies. So simple!

      And they are such liars that they MADE the intelligence from all those nations’ agencies all lie too. Even Mossad, yeah, they’re lyi– um … the Iranians made them lie. ‘Cause that’s how they do it, they … you know. So, nuclear weapons! Wiped off the map!

      I’ve been running into this a lot. It’s that same little shrill guy, saying to his big sort-of confused mean friend. “You gonna let that bitch LIE to you like that? You gonna let him PUNK you?” (to the guy he wants to see beaten up) “Yeah, we’re gonna FUCK YOU up! Yeah!” (back to his friend) “He’s lying, man! Show him what that gets!”

      Call it out. It makes no sense. There isn’t a shred or speck of reason for hostilities or any of this drama between Iran and the U.S. It’s nothing but the little shrill guy.

      • just on January 22, 2014, 5:11 am
    • Shingo on January 22, 2014, 6:11 am

      Iran is lying – The mullahs are nuts

      No Mike, reality is driving you nuts. The IAEA report that Iran are abiding by the agreement. Hasbara fail!!

      Israel is stalling – I do NOT blame Israel

      Of course no, you are a hasbarat.

    • K Renner on January 23, 2014, 12:39 am

      I don’t want to be (too) mean in asking this, but do you actually think this sort of post is going to make people take you at all seriously, or think that what you say has value to it?

      I mean, the first “point” is garbage akin to the worst coming from the Israel-first camp and the very worst of the GOP– the ones who are outright delusional.

      The second point is no better– you don’t blame Israel for being the impediment to the peace process actually being a thing– as it’s been ever since people started talking about the peace process?

      You think their waffling and stalling and “let’s blame the Palestinians for not evaporating” are good things?

      The third point is really the only thing that doesn’t sound ridiculous, but you are basically saying “why bother, nothing will come of it anyways” before anything’s really even picked up.

  7. American on January 21, 2014, 8:26 pm

    Well Step One is already done.
    Perhaps Obama is being guarded and cautious…for several reasons.
    Not wanting Isr to shit stir and shoot its mouth off any more than normal…might be one.

    EU Lift Some Iran SanctionsWBUR ‎- 11 hours ago
    The United States and European Union say they will lift some sanctions against Iran after reports from international inspectors that Tehran has …U.S., Europe lift some Iran sanctions under nuclear deal –

    The ……/iran…/6c078bd6-81d7-11e3-a273-6ffd9cf9f4…
    1 day ago – The action comes in response to Iran’s halting of its most sensitive uranium- enrichment work.

    LONDON — The European Union said Monday it was immediately lifting some of its economic sanctions against Iran now that the Tehran …

    BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has voted to lift some economic sanctions on Iran after getting word that …US, EU Lift Some Iran Sanctions After Assurances On Uranium – 1 day ago – Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency report that Tehran has halted the highest level of uranium enrichment, a key part of the …Iran, US, Europe Start Implementing Nuclear Deal – ABC › International
    1 day ago – Iran unplugged banks of centrifuges involved in its most sensitive … the United States and European Union to partially lift economic sanctions as a … work in exchange for some sanctions relief — start a six-month clock for……

  8. American on January 21, 2014, 8:34 pm

    Jim Lobe points out a part of the Wag the Dog Iran Sanctions Bill we overlooked:…..the ‘other’ clause that could trigger a war if this bill passes…let’s call it the ‘Israeli false flag’ clause.

    ”First, there’s the provision that requires the President to certify that “Iran has not directly, or through a proxy, supported, financed, planned, or otherwise carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or United States persons or property anywhere in the world.” If he does not so certify, then the enhanced sanctions set forth in the bill would automatically take effect. As Ed Levine pointed out .

    “…[I]f, say, Hezbollah were to explode a bomb outside a U.S. firm’s office in Beirut, the sanctions would go into effect (because Iran gives financial and other support to Hezbollah) even if Iran’s nuclear activities and negotiations were completely in good faith.”

    Which means…..the mad Mullahs in Israel could dream up a false flag attack on some US asset or American(s) to blame on Iran and trigger this bill into effect and into a US attack on Iran.

    • hophmi on January 22, 2014, 11:43 am

      “Which means…..the mad Mullahs in Israel could dream up a false flag attack on some US asset or American(s) to blame on Iran and trigger this bill into effect and into a US attack on Iran.”

      LOL. Get ready for the conspiracy theories.

  9. seafoid on January 21, 2014, 11:49 pm

    “The blend of styles made it difficult for Presley’s music to find radio airplay. Many country music disc jockeys would not play it, because he sounded too much like a black artist and none of the rhythm and blues stations would touch him because “he sounded too much like a hillbilly.”

    When the tour reached Odessa, Texas, a 19-year-old Roy Orbison saw Presley for the first time

    : “His energy was incredible, his instinct was just amazing. … I just didn’t know what to make of it. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare it.”

    Something with the imaginary power of Elvis is coming to Israel and there is no reference in their patched up made up military culture to compare it with. The memes of Zionism are as powerful as “how much is that doggy in the window” now. Justice and disgust at the ethnic hatred of Zionism are going to blow the whole caboodle out of the water.

    • ziusudra on January 22, 2014, 4:09 am

      Greetings seafoid,
      Shalom, Salam.
      Thanks for the E.P. analogy of his serendipperty carisma to change the direction of Music in de 50s.
      Ms Patti Page also went on to sing: the Robbers ‘with flashlights that shine in the dark’ – we see them now.-
      PS Who cares what convinced Le Clerk or Gorbachov to give vent, they did it.
      Where’s their kind in Zionistan?
      PPS I’m of 1941, we may be close?
      PPPS What’s a bot?

    • just on January 22, 2014, 5:23 am

      kit and “caboodle”, Roy and Elvis. Goodness gracious, seafoid!

      You are amazing. ;}

  10. shachalnur on January 22, 2014, 5:47 am

    “Less than 50% chance of getting to any solution” is not surprising and predictable,since this is by design.

    Setting up the Middle East for a big confrontation and US/Europe trying to make profit out of the ensuing Chaos.

    The key sentence is “And all three are connected”.

    What do Syria/Iraq fighting US/Europe supported Al-Qaida,Iran enriching Uranium,and Israel ethnically cleansing Palestinians have in common?

    The only way these three conflicts are connected is when there’s some power wanting the Middle East blow itself up.

    Israel’s reaction is telling,and is becoming more radicalized internally.

    Kevin Ovenden just gave an interesting interview on PressTV “Israel becoming increasingly radicalized”.

    Israel,the Palestinians ,Iran and Syria have one thing in common; all three don’t trust the US/Europe and are turning to BRICS(Russia ,China) for help to avoid a huge blow-up.

  11. Citizen on January 22, 2014, 7:02 am

    Re the I-P conflict, the Israeli general’s son said parroting AIPAC was just part of having a political career in the US, just part of doing business–saying and doing whatever the zionists want to shut them up so one can go on with other business, e.g., for Obama, Obamacare. He said nothing will change re the Palestinian’s situation until there’s a groundswell like there was by the masses against the Vietnam war. Further he says if somebody calls you an anti-Semite or self-hating Jew, just concede the point and say, “OK, so I’m an anti-semite. But you support (go down list of all the atrocious things Israel does to Palestinians on a daily basis) XYZ. So what does that make you?”

  12. Citizen on January 22, 2014, 7:06 am

    The video goes through the difference between the Zionist historical narrative and what really happened, happens as documented in Israeli government archives very few people have ever read. And the Q & A tackles practical questions re how to bring more awareness to Americans.

  13. brenda on January 22, 2014, 4:05 pm

    No one as smart as Obama is going to predict a slam dunk on any of these issues. That’s ok by me. Eisenhower famously (and nobly) wrote a letter before the assault on Normandy, personally accepting the responsibility for failure. Under 50% chance of success? That still leaves a chance, maybe even a good chance.

    I admire Obama and Kerry for the energy they are investing in I-P negotiations — even though I know Palestine will get shafted if they are successful. Israel will get more than it deserves, Palestine less than it deserves. But if nothing else, Kerry will have been successful, has already been successful in exposing Israel’s hand, fully. The Europeans will take over from where the Americans left off.

    And if nothing else, Obama will have been successful in exposing AIPAC’s hand. I would give odds much better than fifty-fifty that the general American public does not like the idea of going to war with Iran on behalf of Israel. The dream of AIPAC being treated as and lawfully recognized as a foreign lobby — gosh, odds of fifty-fifty on that look pretty good to me…

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