In a major address today at the State Department in Washington, President Barack Obama delivered “Cairo II,” a major follow-on to his 2009 speech on re-setting relations with the Islamic world.
** QUICK HITS. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu hits the White House Friday, but he’s already hit out at President Barack Obama’s formulation for Israeli/Palestinian settlement – a return to the 1967 pre-Six Day War lines. Netanuahu, whose allowed an extensive settlement program by religious fundamentalists in disputed areas, says that would hurt Israel’s security. I can think of additional things that threaten Israel’s security. … In the Libyan War, the Gaddafi regime floated a new ceasefire scheme through the Russians, saying their fighters will pull back if rebel fighters pull back. And if NATO air strikes end. Details seem unclear. … With the additional ballots all but counted in Tuesday’s special election for former LA area Congresswoman Jane Harman’s seat, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen late this afternoon conceded that she has missed making the July run-off in what turned out to be a closely fought three-way race in a multi-candidate field. LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who ran first in the field with under 25% of the vote, will be a prohibitive favorite over self-funding Republican businessman Craig Huey. Lefty perennial candidate Marcy Winograd won 10% of the vote, allowing downtown LA establishment favorite Hahn to finish first.
** CALIFORNIA 2011: BROWN SPEAKS, BUDGET ANALYST CITES PROGRESS AND UNCERTAINTY. While many busy themselves hunting for photos of a 13-year old boy and think about sex, others focus on far more unimportant things. Like, well, all the stuff below, and above. And even the chronic California budget crisis, whose present roots date back to the late 1990s, when then Governor Pete Wilson cut the car tax.
California’s budget analyst office, known as the Legislative Analyst Office, today issued its assessment of Governor Jerry Brown’s “May Revise” of his state budget proposal. And Brown’s plan gets good marks.
In past budgets, the state has not been able to make significant inroads into its underlying
operating shortfall. The reliance on one-time and short-term solutions has meant that the
Legislature and Governor have had to address each year a large budget problem. This year is
different. An improved economic and revenue situation, along with significant budgetary solutions
already adopted, mean that the state is in a position to dramatically shrink its budget problem.
The Governor has offered a serious proposal worthy of legislative consideration.
But the LAO sees a significant problem in Brown’s approach. His insistence on linking the extension of 2009 tax hikes with a ratifying public vote introduces “uncertainty” into the mix, as those parties affected by the budget won’t know, depending on when any election takes place, how solid their own budget planning is.
Governor’s Plan Involves Much Uncertainty. School districts, counties, and the state each
would face various uncertainties if the Legislature were to opt for the Governor’s apparent plan to
seek approval for his major tax proposals and realignment plan earlier, rather than later, in 2011-12.
At this point, the outcome providing the most certainty would be the Legislature and Governor
reaching a budget agreement without going to the voters. If, however, the tax measures are to go
before voters, it might be preferable to have the election at the end of the fiscal year so that parties
affected by the budget would at least have certainty as to funding levels for the entire fiscal year.
This happens to be exactly what I think. Any public vote should take place in 2012, perhaps best in June, so as to allow a full year of non-chaotic operation and let the public be clear on what the alternatives are to disapproving the tax extensions.
For his part, Brown spoke for, reportedly, only a few minutes very early this morning at a bipartisan legislative prayer breakfast. He did not tip his hand on any particulars in his appearance, which was not webcast.
This was his first public appearance since unveiling the May Revise on Monday, and only his second public appearance since undergoing a fairly routine skin cancer procedure nearly three weeks ago.
Regarding the present controversy around his predecessor, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown had only this pointed quip for reporters: “I don’t have anything to add to what all you folks have exhausted us with.”
** THE BIG THING MISSING FROM OBAMA’S BIG SPEECH. Well, that was a big speech today from President Barack Obama, with many policies and initiatives laid out for the world’s most volatile and arguably consequential regions of the day, as you can see in the lengthy speech excerpts below.
But there is one huge missing element. Obama did not mention the nation that may be more important for the US than any other in this particular period: Saudi Arabia.
I discussed this at length in two months ago in this piece. Oil is the key to economic recovery and Obama’s re-election, and Saudi Arabia is the key to oil.
And Obama doesn’t mention it, though he does weigh in heavily on the crackdown in Bahrain, just across a causeway from Saudi Arabia.
Clearly, he does not want to antagonize the Saudi royals.
He also did not mention another huge part of his geostrategic approach, which is to rapidly build up the Saudi military — in particular its air and anti-air assets — to give the Kingdom air superiority in the region and enable it to more than counter any potential air threat from Iran.
That, I assume, was far too realpolitik for the idealistic airs of today’s address.
I’ll have more about the big Saudi military build-up.
** NEW POLL: OIL AND GAS — THE GREAT DISCONNECT. A new Gallup Poll shows that Americans are feeling very negative about gasoline prices.
Despite a sharp drop in crude oil prices following the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1st, reflecting a deflation in the geopolitical risk premium, U.S. gasoline prices have not followed suit. And most Americans not only do not now expect them to, they expect gasoline prices to go up, by a whopping 12.5%.
Expectations are most pessimistic in the West, which will be a critical battleground in the 2012 presidential race, with key state contests in Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado.
Americans, who currently report paying an average price of $4 per gallon of gasoline, expect prices to continue to rise to an average of $4.52 this year. When Gallup last asked Americans about current and expected gas prices, in March, they were paying $3.45 per gallon and expected to pay up to $4.36. Thus, as gas prices have risen, so have Americans’ expectations of how high they will rise, though the difference between current and expected prices is smaller now than in March. …
The May 12-15 USA Today/Gallup poll finds that 9% of Americans think gas prices have peaked, with 84% expecting them to increase further, based on an analysis of the difference between respondents’ reported current and expected prices. That includes 27% of Americans who think gas prices will rise 75 cents or more in their local area before the year is out.
In March, fewer (1%) thought gas prices had peaked, while 76% correctly predicted prices would rise at least 50 cents from what they were paying at that time. …
Southern residents report paying slightly less for gas on average than those living in other parts of the United States. Western residents expect prices to jump the most from what they are currently paying, to an average of $4.68 per gallon. …
The majority of Americans think the higher prices are here to stay, with 54% saying the price increases represent a permanent change, compared with 43% who believe they are a temporary fluctuation. That is a more optimistic assessment than in 2008, the year gas prices set a record, when 78% thought the increases were permanent.
Gallup has asked this question since 2000, and Americans have generally thought gas price increases were likely to be permanent in recent years. Prior to 2004, Americans were more inclined to see gas price hikes as temporary. …
The average price Americans report they are currently paying for gasoline has risen more than 50 cents in the last two months, and the public is bracing for even higher gas prices. If their predictions come true, gas prices will easily exceed the historical record high from 2008.
Two-thirds of Americans say current gas prices have caused them hardship, and a majority say they have made major changes in their lives to deal with the higher prices.
Should the high prices persist, many more Americans will likely follow suit and alter their behaviors to cope with the increased cost of gasoline.
The reality is that gasoline prices should be coming down, not going up. This is a central challenge for the Obama Presidency.
>>>>>>LIVE VIDEO NETCAST
At 8:40 AM Pacific, President Obama delivers his address on U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa. Afterward, members of the Obama national security team take online questions. The events will be netcast live here on New West Notes.
** LIVE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.
With massive geopolitical events swirling and the 2012 presidential race unfolding, the White House is increasingly a pivot point for the day’s events. Live streaming of key presidential events is now available as a matter of course here on New West Notes. You can mute the audio by clicking on the pause button.
NWN will continue to present other live netcasts in full streaming mode, as it did with the Ronald Reagan Centennial events from the Reagan Library, as they emerge and are technically available and as significance dictates.
EXCERPTS FROM OBAMA ADDRESS: “A MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY.”
… The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.
Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build. …
That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It is the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world – the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaint, this young man who had never been particularly active in politics went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.
Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home – day after day, week after week, until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.
The story of this Revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of the few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn – no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader. …
But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and diversion won’t work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world – a world of astonishing progress in places like India, Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied. …
Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age – a time of 24 hour news cycles, and constant communication – people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days, and bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we have seen, calls for change may give way to fierce contests for power.
The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace. …
Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our own interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways – as Americans have been seared by hostage taking, violent rhetoric, and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens – a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities.
That’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then – and I believe now – that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.
So we face an historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. …
We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.
And finally, we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region. …
Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.
That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high –as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab World’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections; a vibrant civil society; accountable and effective democratic institutions; and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.
Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi launched a war against his people, promising to hunt them down like rats. …
The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way. …
Thus far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. …
Our opposition to Iran’s intolerance – as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror – is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today. That is true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.
Bahrain is a long-standing partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law. Nevertheless, we have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. …
So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we will need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States. We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future – particularly young people.
We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo – to build networks of entrepreneurs, and expand exchanges in education; to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with – and listen to – the voices of the people.
In fact, real reform will not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard – whether it’s a big news organization or a blogger. In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens. …
What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and peaceful when women are empowered. …
Even as we promote political reform and human rights in the region, our efforts cannot stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that transition to democracy.
After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. …
The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. …
Drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; and investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness; the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability; promoting reform; and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy – starting with Tunisia and Egypt.
First, we have asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G-8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruption of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.
Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.
Third, we are working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. These will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.
Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. Just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.
Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress – the corruption of elites who steal from their people …
Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.
For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people.
My Administration has worked with the parties and the international community for over two years to end this conflict, yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on for decades, and sees a stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward.
I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people – not just a few leaders – must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.
Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated. …
Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. …
That is the choice that must be made – not simply in this conflict, but across the entire region – a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past, and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.
For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, ‘peaceful,’ ‘peaceful.’ In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying lose the grip of an iron fist.
For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful civil war that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of non-violence as a way to perfect our union – organizing, marching, and protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”
Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa – words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights. It will not be easy. There is no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. Now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.
Iraqi police were targeted today in three powerful blasts, killing at least 27 people.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 8:40 AM Pacific, Obama delivers a speech on the events in the Middle East and North Africa, and U.S. policy in the region, in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the U.S. Department of State.
At 11:55 AM Pacific, Obama is interviewed by BBC in the Diplomatic Room of the White House.
At 12:30 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
At 4 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at the Women’s Leadership Forum at the Grand Hyatt.
At 5 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a DNC event in a private residence.
For his part, Vice President Joe Biden headlines DNC events in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Today is Obama’s long in the works major address on the Arab awakening, the jihadist struggle, and Middle East peace at the State Department.
Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu arrives in Washington shortly.
In Iraq, some 27 police were killed in a series of targeted blasts by forces seeking to disrupt the security situation prior to the US pull-out at the end of the year.
In Afghanistan, dozens were killed by similar blasts in advance of a summer beginning draw-down of US forces and hand-off to Afghan forces.
In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fired three more ministers, including the oil minister, in the wake of his disputed firing of the intelligence minister.
But he is not being supported by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and may resign.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may resign.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly focused on the Arab uprising, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Libya is nine hours ahead of Pacific time, Iraq is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** NCIS: AMERICA’S FAVORITE SHOW AND WHAT IT TELLS US. Tuesday night saw the season finale of NCIS, the most watched scripted television series in America. Indeed, if a national poll is to be believed, the veteran CBS procedural about Navy cops (NCIS standing for Naval Criminal Investigative Service), finishing its eighth season, is not only the most popular current scripted show in the country, it’s the favorite show of all time.
How was the season finale? On the anti-climactic side, actually, and not nearly as good as the penultimate episode, one of the show’s best. But it did set up an intriguing beginning to the show’s ninth season in the fall, one which says nefarious things about our national security apparat. More about that in a moment. There be some spoilers ahead.
So, NCIS, the most popular show of all-time? Really? …
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
At 7 AM, Brown spoke at a bipartisan legislative prayer breakfast at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. His office announced the appearance late yesterday.
Brown is working on California’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
** IN THE SHADOW OF BIN LADEN: THE CALIFORNIA CONNECTION. The first official to announce the death of Osama bin Laden was not President Barack Obama, it was Senator Dianne Feinstein. The Senate Intelligence Committee chair was speaking at a memorial service in Santa Monica for her longtime campaign manager, Kam Kuwata.
Feinstein says she thought that Obama was about to give his nationally televised address. Which he actually gave about an hour later. And that the memorial, filled with pols and media types, was off the record. Which of course is why her remarks were reported in the media.
But Feinstein’s premature announcement of one of the biggest stories in recent memory is only one of the California connections to the demise of the legendary founder and leader of al Qaeda, who claimed credit for ordering the 9/11 attacks on America and eluded American forces for nearly a decade. … From my May 11th feature.
** IN THE SHADOW OF BIN LADEN: REPUBLICANS AND THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE. If there was a worse week in which to hold the first Republican presidential debate, it’s hard to think of when that might be.
It’s probably poetic justice that the first Republican presidential debate took place Thursday night in the shadow of Osama bin Laden, for his very existence spurred the accomplishment of some of the right’s biggest objectives in the past decade: … From my May 7th essay.
** CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS: AN UNCERTAIN TRUMPET. … From my May 2nd feature.
** OBAMA’S BIGGEST PROBLEMS STILL LIE ABROAD. … From my April 29th essay.
** HAS CALIFORNIA’S REFORM MOMENT ARRIVED? … From my April 26th column.
** THE NON-IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY: OBAMA AND LIBYA. … From my April 21st essay.
** ASSESSING THE JERRY BROWN ASSESSMENTS (AND WHY HE WAS IN STEALTH MODE SO LONG). … From my April 18th feature.
** THE RETURN OF JERRY BROWN. … From my April 11th column.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in three wars in the region, and the Arab uprising underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $98 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up about $64 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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