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Pat Buchanan - Mideast Game of Thornes

As President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran is compared to Richard Nixon's opening to China, Bibi Netanyahu must know how Chiang Kai-shek felt as he watched his old friend Nixon toasting Mao in Peking.

The Iran nuclear deal is not on the same geostrategic level. Yet both moves, seen as betrayals by old U.S. allies, were born of a cold assessment in Washington of a need to shift policy to reflect new threats and new opportunities.

Several events contributed to the U.S. move toward Tehran.

First was the stunning victory in June 2013 of President Hassan Rouhani, who rode to power on the votes of the Green Revolution that had sought unsuccessfully to oust Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. Rouhani then won the Ayatollah's authorization to negotiate a cutting and curtailing of Iran's nuclear program, in return for a U.S.-U.N. lifting of sanctions. As preventing an Iranian bomb had long been a U.S. objective, the Americans could not spurn such an offer.

Came then the Islamic State's seizure of Raqqa in Syria, and Mosul and Anbar in Iraq. Viciously anti-Shiite as well as anti-American, ISIS made the U.S. and Iran de facto allies in preventing the fall of Baghdad.

But as U.S. and Iranian interests converged, those of the U.S. and its old allies — Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey — were diverging. Turkey, as it sees Bashar Assad's alliance with Iran as the greater threat, and fears anti-ISIS Kurds in Syria will carve out a second Kurdistan, has been abetting ISIS. Saudi Arabia sees Shiite Iran as a geostrategic rival in the Gulf, allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad in Damascus, the Shiite regime in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. It also sees Iran as a subversive threat in Bahrain and the heavily Shiite oil fields of Saudi Arabia itself.

Indeed, Riyadh, with the Sunni challenge of ISIS rising, and the Shiite challenge of Iran growing, and its border states already on fire, does indeed face an existential threat. And, so, too, do the Gulf Arabs. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown in the Middle East today.

The Israelis, too, see Iran as their great enemy and indispensable pillar of Hezbollah. For Bibi, any U.S.-Iran rapprochement is a diplomatic disaster.

Which brings us to a fundamental question of the Middle East. Is the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal and our de facto alliance against ISIS a temporary collaboration? Or is it the beginning of a detente between these ideological enemies of 35 years?

Is an historic "reversal of alliances" in the Mideast at hand?

Clearly the United States and Iran have overlapping interests. Neither wants all-out war with the other. For the Americans, such a war would set the Gulf ablaze, halt the flow of oil, and cause a recession in the West. For Iran, war with the USA could see their country smashed and splintered like Saddam's Iraq, and the loss of an historic opportunity to achieve hegemony in the Gulf. Also, both Iran and the United States would like to see ISIS not only degraded and defeated, but annihilated. Both thus have a vested interest in preventing a collapse of either the Shiite regime in Baghdad or Assad's regime in Syria.

And, thus, Syria is probably where the next collision is going to come between the United States and its old allies. For Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel all want the Assad regime brought down to break up Iran's Shiite Crescent and inflict a strategic defeat on Tehran. But the United States believes the fall of Assad means the rise of ISIS and al-Qaida, a massacre of Christians, and the coming to power of a Sunni terrorist state implacably hostile to us.

Look for the Saudis and Israelis, their agents and lobbies, their think tanks and op-ed writers, to begin beating the drums for the United States to bring down Assad, who has been "killing his own people".

The case will be made that this is the way for America to rejoin its old allies, removing the principal obstacle to our getting together and going after ISIS. Once Assad is gone, the line is already being moved, then we can all go after ISIS. But, first, Assad.

What is wrong with this scenario?

A U.S. no-fly zone, for example, to stop Assad's barrel bombs, would entail attacks on Syrian airfields and antiaircraft missiles and guns. These would be acts of war, which would put us into a de facto alliance with the al-Qaida Nusra Front and ISIS, and invite retaliations against Americans by Hezbollah in Beirut, and the Shiite militia in Baghdad.

Any U.S.-Iran rapprochement would be dead, and we will have been sucked into a war to achieve the strategic goals of allies that are in conflict with the national interests of the United States. And our interests come first.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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Justice system can't turn blind eye to hopelessness & despair

To The Daily Sun,

There is mounting mutual bipartisan support to make drastic reforms to the U.S. criminal justice and prison system from political leaders as diverse as President Obama and Sen. Rand Paul.

In a speech that he gave to the NAACP on Tuesday, July 14, President Obama stated that although the United States only has 5 percent of the world's population, 25 percent of all people in the world behind bars are in the U.S. During my lifetime, the U.S. prison population has quadrupled from approximately 500,000 prisoners in 1980 to approximately 2.2 million Americans behind bars today.

President Obama pointed out that we have four times more people in prison than China (even though China has a larger population) and we have more people behind bars than the top 35 European nations combined. U.S. taxpayers spend approximately $80 billion a year to fund the U.S. prison industry. President Obama explained that $80 billion is enough money to "pay for universal pre-school for every 3 and 4 year old in the United States", "double the salary of every high school teacher in America," or "eliminate tuition at every single one of our public colleges and universities."

The deplorable condition of the U.S. prison and criminal justice system today causes us to lose significant moral credibility as a supposedly free nation. Winning first place for locking up the highest percentage of our population is not something in which we as a nation should take pride.

Even worse, President Obama correctly points out that our nation's criminal justice system "remains particularly skewed by race and by wealth, a source of inequity that has ripple effects on families and on communities and ultimately on our nation."

In this speech, President Obama makes six specific recommendations with bipartisan support to enact comprehensive reform for the U.S. criminal justice and prison system that we as citizens should whole-heartedly support:

1. Reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders.

2. President Obama said in his speech, "We ask police to go in there and do the tough job of trying to contain the hopelessness when we are not willing to make the investments to help lift those communities out of hopelessness. That's not just a police problem; that's a societal problem.... We've got to make sure boys and girls.... are loved and cherished and supported and nurtured and invested in."

Right here in Laconia, we have a fabulous police force led by Chief Adams working diligently to keep our city safe while treating all citizens with dignity and respect. We as members of this city, this state, and this nation also have a responsibility to do our part. We need to support and fund efforts to revitalize communities and youth development programs both here in Laconia, throughout our state, and throughout our nation to give all of our kids and all of our citizens a fighting chance. We need to stop trying to contain hopelessness — we need to offer more reasons to hope and more opportunities to more youth and more people.

3. In his speech President Obama said, "We've got to make sure our juvenile justice system remembers that kids are different. Don't just tag them as future criminals. Reach out to them as future citizens...." Based on my 15 years of professional experience, when you respond to teens making poor choices as future criminals, they often grow up to be criminals. When you respond to teens making poor choices as future citizens with the potential to lead healthy, positive lives, they often grow up to become productive citizens. I am not proud of every choice that every teen with whom I have worked has made, even when we offered the more compassionate approach. Nevertheless, it is my experience that the positive approach of offering opportunities, support, education, pro-social community connections, and guidance combined with compassionate accountability is usually more effective than a punitive approach.

4. President Obama declares, "We should not tolerate conditions in prison that have no place in any civilized country." We must promote and support efforts to reduce the appallingly high number of rapes, gang activity, and over-crowding in our U.S. jails and prisons. I also agree with President Obama that we must end the extensive over-use of solitary confinement in U.S. jails and prisons.

5. We need to support initiatives to give prisoners that have served their time and are trying to reintegrate into society opportunities to achieve legal, gainful employment. Please support the current initiative to "ban the box" on job applications related to ending criminal background checks for job applicants unless the background check is directly relevant and necessary for a particular job.

6. We should allow former felons that have served their time and reintegrated back into society the right to vote.

As President Obama said in his speech, "Any system that allows us to turn a blind-eye to hopelessness and despair, that's not a justice system, that's an injustice system... Justice is not only the absence of oppression, it's the presence of opportunity."

Words written by Pope Francis this past spring seem particularly pertinent here: "We should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights."

Dave Lynch

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

Laconia

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