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Dore Gold


By Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., currently the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

[Editor’s note: Dr. Gold will be speaking in Winnipeg on April 26 at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. Details follow this article.]

Just when President Barack Obama is facing mounting criticism over his domestic agenda for the US, one of the leading American journals of international relations, Foreign Policy, published a cover story for its January/February issue comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter, who is widely perceived as having been a failed president. This negative comparison did not come from the conservative side of American political culture, that is represented by Fox News  or the Wall Street Journal, but rather from a liberal publication owned by the Washington Post. Since the magazine is found all over bookstores and airports, it has received a great deal of attention on network television programs.

The author of the controversial article, Walter Russell Mead, focuses on the fact that both presidents came into office with the intention of reducing US military involvement overseas. Carter came into office at the end of the Vietnam War while Obama made his opposition to the Iraq War the one of the main themes of his election campaign. Mead points out that both Carter and Obama sought to reach out with diplomatic initiatives toward American adversaries: Obama has sought to engage diplomatically not only with Iran, but also hoped to normalize relations with Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela. American allies have always experienced a degree of discomfort with these diplomatic shifts, not only Israel, but also a key American ally in South America, like Colombia. 

In one important respect the comparison of Obama to Carter is premature, and even unfair, for Obama has only been in office for one year, while Carter earned his reputation after four years in office. Obama could still change and his speech on Oslo when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, showed that he was considered adopting a completely different approach to global challenges that was closer to the policies of his predecessor, President Bush. Moreover, Obama is sending another 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, although it took him months to make the decision.  In Carter's case, his policies only really changed at the end of his third year in office, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, leading Carter to admit that he learned more about Moscow during that crisis than he ever knew before. The president that wanted to cut back US military involvement in the world after Vietnam suddenly sent his secretary of defense to the Middle East to negotiate new American bases for the US Rapid Deployment Force, in Egypt, Oman, and Somalia, that Carter ordered the Pentagon to create.

There is one point of comparison between the two presidents worthy of consideration--that is the role of Iran in determining how their administrations will be judged. Carter's mishandling of Iran brought about his downfall. The Shah of Iran was convinced that the Carter administration selectively used the issue of human rights against him, accelerating his loss of power to Ayatollah Khomeini. What was undeniable was that Carter's UN ambassador, Andrew Young, called Khomeini "a kind of saint." Ambassador Sulllivan who was Carter's envoy to Tehran during the Islamic Revolution called Khomeini a "Ghandi-like figure." The Carter administration's outreach to the Islamic Republic during 1979 was greeted by contempt by Khomeini, whose supporters captured the US Embassy and held its diplomats hostage for 444 days. 

The Obama administration still clings to its policy of engagement with Iran. True, it appeared to take a new military initiative against Iran by the deploying missile defense units to the Persian Gulf, by while partly reassuring nervous Arab states close to Iran, like Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE, the American decision did not fundamentally do anything to change continuing enrichment of uranium and its drive for nuclear weapons. Nor does this umbrella address Iran's chief method of extending its power: subversion and terrorism in neighboring states, including in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Gaza, and in the Yemen insurgency.

In any case, the White House was not pleased with the decision of the Senate to pass unanimously legislation for new sanctions on Iran last week, as the House of Representatives did already in December. It is still seeking to work on Iran through the UN Security Council and it does not want to alienate the China. Though the chances that the Russians and the Chinese would agree to sanctions on the sale of refined oil products, like gasoline, are virtually nil, it does not seem that the administration is ready to move unilaterally against Iran, but rather still insists on UN support as a prerequisite for any action.

During 2009, when Obama extended his hand to Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly responded with an offensive remark that it was now clear that the US was weak and could no longer defend its interests. Should the Obama administration delay firm diplomatic action on Iran, it should not be ruled out that the leadership in Tehran might resort to increasing acts of subversion against Western targets. Iran already probed Washington's response when it used its army cross the Iraqi border and in order to occupy several Iraqi oil wells a few weeks ago. Iranian speedboats belonging to the Revolutionary Guards have been prepared to test the responses of the US Navy in the Persian Gulf, as well.

Thus Obama might find himself tested by the Iranians in the months ahead. For example, if they reach the conclusion that the West is unable to do anything against them, they might halt all cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and turn off the cameras that monitor their uranium enrichment activities in Natanz. Among professionals this is called "nuclear break out." It was successfully done by the North Koreans in 2002, and after the West did nothing, they tested their first nuclear device in 2006. How Obama handles Iranian provocations in 2010 will undoubtedly affect whether how his administration will be judged. If he accepts with a the reality of a nuclear Iran then he may well be seen to be another Jimmy Carter. But if he fulfills his commitment of making sure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons and proves he is determined to defend the interests of the Free World, then history will look upon him very differently.

This article appeared in hebrew in Yisrael Hayom.

Upcoming Kanee Lecture April 26 to Feature Ambassador Dore Gold

On April 26, 2010 at 8:00 pm at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue  in Winnipeg, The Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada will host former Israeli  Ambassador to the U.N,  Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and a leading international authority on Iran.  He will be speaking on “The Iranian Threat: Myths and Realities.” For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit, or  call 477-7462.

A question and answer session will follow  Dr. Gold’s presentation, and copies of his latest book The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West will be available for purchase.

Dr. Gold was the eleventh Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations (1997-1999), and has previously served as Foreign Policy Advisor to then former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Gold has served as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who asked him to accompany his entourage to Washington and the 2003 Aqaba Summit with President George W. Bush.

Dr. Gold was a member of the Israeli delegation at the 1998 Wye River negotiations between Israel and the PLO, held outside Washington. He negotiated the Note for the Record, which supplemented the 1997 Hebron Protocol, and in 1996 concluded the negotiations with the U.S., Lebanon, Syria, and France for the creation of the Monitoring Group for Southern Lebanon. In 1991, he served as an advisor to the Israeli delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference. From 1985 to 1996 he was a senior research associate at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, where he was Director of the U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Project. Gold received his BA ('75), MA ('76), and PhD ('84) from Columbia University.

Dr. Gold has written numerous books and articles on the Middle East, including U.S. Military Strategy in the Middle East (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publications, 1993), Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism (Washington: Regnery, 2003), Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos (NY: Crown Forum, 2004), The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007) and The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (Regnery, 2009). His articles have appeared in Asahi Shinbun, Commentary, Daily Telegraph, Die Zeit, Ha'aretz, Jerusalem Post, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Ofra, and their two children, Yael and Ariel.

In a Jerusalem Issue Brief,  Dr. Gold wrote in September 2009, “There is an unwarranted complacency growing in the West about Iran. Some believe that if the world survived the advent of Pakistani and North Korean nuclear weapons and the sky did not fall, then an Iranian bomb will be no more threatening. The cases are, of course, very different: Pakistan's bid for nuclear power was based largely on its preoccupation with India, while North Korea has been focused on regime survival and its interests on the Korean Peninsula (not with conquering Japan). In contrast, Iran is a true revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into Iraq, to Bahrain, and the other oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, supplying weapons and training, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. Now Iran is heavily involved in South America and East Africa, with growing security and economic ties. With Iran threatening the flow of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well, through which roughly 40 percent of the world's oil flows, the nuclearization of Iran has global - and not just Middle Eastern - implications.”       

Dr. Gold will be the fifth speaker in The Florence and Sol Kanee Distinguished Lecture series, conceived by Abe Anhang and the late Harold Buchwald as a means of provide top quality speakers visiting our community and a way for the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada to honour Florence and Sol Kanee for their many contributions to our community. Previous Kanee Distinguished lecturers were Sir Martin Gilbert, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Professor Shlomo Avineri and Rabbi Chaim Rozwaski. This will be his first appearance in Winnipeg.   

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