ARMS OR EDUCATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST? ? (ADRIAN MONCK, DECEMBER 10): "I am a big fan of Mahmood Al-Yousif. If you want a view from the Gulf that challenges prejudice and gives you an indication of what exactly it feels like to be an Arab across a narrow strip of water from Iran, he is hard to beat. Al-Yousif writes: "Regardless of what your position is; the sabre rattling is very real and multi- billion dollar deals have already been announced with the sale of Patriot 2 and 3 to both Saudi and the Emirates to the tune of US$11 billion or so. Pocket change to both governments it might be, but those funds could have easily been diverted to where they are needed most in our community: education, health, infrastructure or even just kept in the piggy-bank for future generations." That is the talk on the smart Arab street. Put that in your public diplomacy pipe and smoke it!
RUSSIA DEMANDS CLOSURE OF BRITISH COUNCIL OFFICES: ARM OF BRITISH EMBASSY SUBJECT OF TAX PROBES - PETER FINN (WASHINGTON POST, DECEMBER 12)
POSITIVE SIGNS IN NORTH KOREA: NORTH KOREA MAY NOT UPHOLD ITS DISARMAMENT DEAL. BUT SENDING A SYMPHONY CERTAINLY CAN'T HURT ? EDITORIAL (LOS ANGELES TIMES, DECEMBER 11)
DOORS OPENING FOR CHINESE TOURISTS TO US - ASSOCIATED PRESS (NEW YORK TIMES, DECEMBER 12): Chinese citizens flush with cash from their booming economy will find it easier to vacation in the U.S. following a long-awaited agreement that the American travel industry hopes will bring in billions of dollars. The deal, signed Tuesday by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Beijing, will allow Chinese travel agencies to market packaged leisure tours to American destinations, and it will permit U.S. destinations to advertise directly to the Chinese public.
AMERICAN TROOPS ARE WINNING - PETE HEGSETH (WASHINGTON TIMES, DECEMBER 11): ?The troops in Iraq today -- many of whom I served with in 2006 -- are the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. And today, with a coherent strategy that finally compliments their tactical proficiency, they are defeating al Qaeda and Iranian-proxy groups. How members of Congress, sitting in their air-conditioned offices, can consider cutting off their funding is beyond comprehension.?
ONLY ONE THING UNITES IRAQ: HATRED OF THE US: THE AMERICANS WILL DISCOVER, AS THE BRITISH LEARNED TO THEIR COST IN BASRA, THAT THEY HAVE FEW PERMANENT ALLIES - PATRICK COCKBURN (INDEPENDENT, DECEMBER 11/COMMON DREAMS)
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2003? IN THINKING ABOUT IRAN, DON'T FORGET IRAQ - WILLIAM KRISTOL (THE WEEKLY STANDARD, DECEMBER 17): President Bush's successful shift in strategy in Iraq a year ago, as part of his commitment to finishing that job, remains his greatest contribution to peace in the Middle East. The complete and unequivocal defeat of al Qaeda and of Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq is the best way to show Iran that the United States is a serious power to be reckoned with in the region.
LOSING WEIGHT IN THE GULF - THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN (NEW YORK TIMES, DECEMBER 12): "As I have said before, I'd rather see Iran go nuclear, and contain it, than have the Bush team start another Middle East war over this issue. But I'd much prefer a negotiated end to Iran's enrichment."
THE NIE'S PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE - NIKOS KONSTANDARAS (WASHINGTON POST, DECEMBER 12): If the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) provides the opportunity for the two sides to meet in a diplomatic no-man's land, it will turn out to be far more valuable than any other service the intelligence community could provide.
THE NIE FANTASY - BRET STEPHENS (WALL STREET JOURNAL, DECEMBER 11): It has been widely pointed out that the conclusions of the recent NIE flatly contradict those of a 2005 NIE on the same subject, calling the entire process into question. Less discussed is why the administration chose to release a shoddy document that does maximum political damage to it and to key U.S. allies, particularly France, the U.K. and Israel. The likely answer is that the administration calculated that any effort by them to suppress or tweak the NIE would surely leak, leading to accusations of "politicizing intelligence."
BUSH'S SURREAL IRAN POLICY CHARLES PEÑA (ANTIWAR.COM, DECEMBER 12): President Bush's persistence in characterizing the fact that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program as a threat is surreal.
ALL POWER, NO INFLUENCE - JAMES CARROLL (BOSTON GLOBE, DECEMBER 10): America has all the power in the world, and no influence. The secretary of defense put his finger on the problem, which is the radical militarization of foreign affairs.