Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Blockbusters from the Cohen Brothers

Roger Cohen and Richard Cohen: Brothers in credulity
Think irony (yours), think dark comedy (politics in the Middle East), think gullibility (the Cohens') and unintended consequences ... and you have the makings of a great send-up movie. Oh, wait, which Cohen bro are we referring to?  Roger (Jews are happy living in Iran) in the NY Times, or Richard (Israel was a mistake) in the Washington Post? Luckily Mark Tracy in Tablet was able to tell them apart and encapsulated their latest pitches beautifully in links to their respective op-eds this morning:

"Somebody had to take Seymour Hersh’s dubious article about the lack of an Iranian nuclear weapons program overly credulously, which is why we have Roger CohenAnd somebody else had to be a transcriber for the Saudi government vis-à-vis Israel, which is why we have … Richard Cohen?"

Roger showed his usual inability to grasp the reality that is Iran with his Iran Without Nukes. But luckily, Jeffrey Goldberg immediately found the problem with the script, that … er… it kinda contradicted the Times editorial of the same day and those experts who found Hersh’s New Yorker article rather preposterous:

From Goldberg: ‘“Roger Cohen today, giving the benefit of the doubt to the mullahs, again: “It might also be worth recalling that Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, declared last month that attacking Iran would be “a stupid idea.” He suggested his main worry was not Iran itself but Netanyahu’s susceptibility to “dangerous adventure.”

'"Dagan’s concerns have surfaced as Seymour Hersh concludes in a New Yorker article this month that, as he put it in one interview, “There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon.”
'"His reporting reveals that the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) of 2007 — which concluded “with high confidence” that Iran had halted a nuclear-weapons program in 2003 — still pertains in the classified N.I.E. of 2011. As a retired senior intelligence official put it to Hersh, there’s nothing “substantially new” that “leads to a bomb.”
'"In other words, Iran, epicenter of inefficiency, unable to produce a kilowatt of electricity through its Bushehr nuclear reactor despite decades of effort, is still doing its old brinkmanship number.”
‘“Here is The New York Times editorial board, yesterday, not giving the benefit of the doubt to the mullahs: Iran continues to stonewall about its illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency isn’t falling for it. Nobody should. The agency’s latest report is chilling. While Tehran claims that its program has solely peaceful ends, it lists seven activities with potential “military dimensions.” That includes “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile”; new evidence that Iran has worked on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology; and research on missile warhead designs — namely “studies involving the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab 3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.”’

Richard’s scenario – Tough Talk from a Saudi prince about America’s favoritism towards Israel –  provided a megaphone for Prince Turki, who warned that, “There will be disastrous consequences for U.S.-Saudi relations if the United States vetoes U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. It would mark a nadir in the decades-long relationship as well as irrevocably damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and America’s reputation among Arab nations. The ideological distance between the Muslim world and the West in general would widen — and opportunities for friendship and cooperation between the two could vanish.” 

Cohen let the prince have the last word with this salvo towards Israel, “I’d hate to be around when they face their comeuppance.”

Thankfully, many of his commenters were able to see this for the fatuous screed that it was:

From AMartin5: “Oh my, it's absolutely laughable for a Saudi to lecture anyone about human rights or occupation. The Saudis wouldn't know a human right if they walked smack into one. Saudi Arabia is a frightening place for anyone who cherishes freedom. Freedom of speech? Nada. Freedom of religion? Zilch. Freedom for women and gays? Ha! 
 
As for occupation, a little history lesson: if you ever look at an old map of the Middle East, there was once a country called simply, "Arabia." Now how did it become "Saudi Arabia"? Because the Saud clan rode into the territory many decades ago, and took it over, kicking out the Hashemites (who now rule over Jordan). So until the Sauds are willing to relinquish occupied Arabia, please let them be quiet about others.

From Mark McDonald: “Were it not for the vast oil reserves of Saudi Arabia who would care or even give attention to Turki? How is this many different than Himmler? A country that refuses women the right to even drive a car and still practices public beheadings certainly should be careful supporting democratic reforms in the Middle East or anywhere else. The Arab Spring is destined to arrive in Saudi Arabia and this of course is the real source of Turki's frustration with Israel. This is a typical and long time Saudi strategy--whenever there is trouble at home, point the finger at Israel--and Cohen has bought it hook, line and sinker. How on earth can Israel make peace with people who refuse to recognize its right to exist?

On the whole I don't think either of these will find their way into your local theaters... but actually, maybe they will. Americans are so eager for a little fantasy in these tough times.

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