Thomas L. Friedman | Can Joe Biden Save Israel? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“If I could get a memo onto President Biden’s desk about the new Israeli government, I know exactly how it would start:

Dear Mr. President, I don’t know if you are interested in Jewish history, but Jewish history is certainly interested in you today. Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation — from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilizing force in the region to a destabilizing one. You may be the only one able to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition from turning Israel into an illiberal bastion of zealotry.

I’d also tell Biden that I fear that Israel is approaching some serious internal civil strife. Civil conflicts are rarely about one policy. They tend to be about power. For years, the fierce debates in Israel about the Oslo Accords were about policy. But today, this simmering clash is about power — who can tell whom how to live in a highly diverse society.

The short story: An ultranationalist, ultra-Orthodox government, formed after the Netanyahu camp won election by the tiniest sliver of votes (roughly 30,000 out of some 4.7 million), is driving a power grab that the other half of voters view not only as corrupt but also as threatening their own civil rights. That’s why a 5,000-person anti-government demonstration grew to 80,000 over the weekend.”

Inside the Saudi Strategy to Keep the World Hooked on Oil – The New York Times

Tabuchi reported from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, to examine the kingdom’s vision for an oil-rich future.

8 MIN READ

“Shimmering in the desert is a futuristic research center with an urgent mission: Make Saudi Arabia’s oil-based economy greener, and quickly. The goal is to rapidly build more solar panels and expand electric-car use so the kingdom eventually burns far less oil.

But Saudi Arabia has a far different vision for the rest of the world. A major reason it wants to burn less oil at home is to free up even more to sell abroad. It’s just one aspect of the kingdom’s aggressive long-term strategy to keep the world hooked on oil for decades to come and remain the biggest supplier as rivals slip away.

In recent days, Saudi representatives pushed at the United Nations global climate summit in Egypt to block a call for the world to burn less oil, according to two people present at the meeting, saying that the summit’s final statement “should not mention fossil fuels.” The effort prevailed: After objections from Saudi Arabia and a few other oil producers, the statement failed to include a call for nations to phase out fossil fuels.”

Extreme Heat Will Change Us – The New York Times

“ON A TREELESS STREET under a blazing sun, Abbas Abdul Karim, a welder with 25 years experience, labors over a metal bench.

Everyone who lives in Basra, Iraq, reckons with intense heat, but for Abbas it is unrelenting. He must do his work during daylight hours to see the iron he deftly bends into swirls for stair railings or welds into door frames.

The heat is so grueling that he never gets used to it. “I feel it burning into my eyes,” he says.

Working outside in southern Iraq’s scalding summer temperatures isn’t just arduous. It can cause long-term damage to the body.

We know the risk for Abbas, because we measured it.

By late morning, the air around Abbas reached a heat index of 125°F SHOW CELSIUS, a measure of heat and humidity. That created a high risk for heat stroke — especially with his heavy clothing and the direct sun.”

This link might have full access:

Inside the Saudi Strategy to Keep the World Hooked on Oil – The New York Times

“. . . . . Saudi Aramco has become a prolific funder of research into critical energy issues, financing almost 500 studies over the past five years, including research aimed at keeping gasoline cars competitive or casting doubt on electric vehicles, according to the Crossref database, which tracks academic publications. Aramco has collaborated with the United States Department of Energy on high-profile research projects including a six-year effort to develop more efficient gasoline and engines, as well as studies on enhanced oil recovery and other methods to bolster oil production.

Aramco also runs a global network of research centers including a lab near Detroit where it is developing a mobile “carbon capture” device — equipment designed to be attached to a gasoline-burning car, trapping greenhouse gases before they escape the tailpipe. More widely, Saudi Arabia has poured $2.5 billion into American universities over the past decade, making the kingdom one of the nation’s top contributors to higher education.

ImageMen in long, white robes and keffiyehs entering a domed tent.
Visitors to a Saudi forum at the United Nations climate conference in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this month.Credit…Kelvin Chan/Associated Press
Saudi interests have spent close to $140 million since 2016 on lobbyists and others to influence American policy and public opinion, making it one of the top countries spending on U.S. lobbying, according to disclosures to the Department of Justice tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics.” . . . .

Thomas Friedman | Putin and M.B.S. Are Laughing at Us – The New York Times

“. . . . While America can still theoretically take care of most of its own needs for oil and gas today, unlike Europe, we do not have enough to export at the scale required to make up for Putin’s and OPEC Plus’s cutbacks and ease Europe’s transition to a decarbonized future.

But the green progressives never got that message. At a House committee hearing two weeks ago, Representative Rashida Tlaib demanded to know if JPMorgan Chase C.E.O. Jamie Dimon and other banking executives appearing before the panel had any policies “against funding new oil and gas products.”

Dimon answered, “Absolutely not, and that would be the road to hell for America.”

Tlaib then told Dimon that any students who had student loans and bank accounts with JPMorgan should retaliate by closing their accounts. Have no doubt: This kind of juvenile moral preening by Tlaib surely made Vladimir Putin’s day. She’s nowhere nearly as bad as the G.O.P. senators who were inspired for years by ExxonMobil lies that climate change is a hoax, and then used that to block our transition to clean energy. But Tlaib still made Putin’s day.

What lifted Putin even more was when he watched Bernie Sanders, House progressive Democrats and the whole G.O.P. last week come together to kill a bill backed by President Biden and the Democratic leadership to streamline the permitting process for domestic energy projects, particularly permitting for gas pipelines and wind and solar transmission lines — one of our biggest impediments to a stable green transition.

Hard to know who is worse, the progressives who did not understand how much solar and wind energy require quicker transmission permitting to safely scale clean energy or the Republicans, who knew oil and gas companies need quicker pipeline permitting to grow gas production, but killed it so Biden would not have another success. As Joe Manchin, a fossil fuel-friendly Democrat who championed the bill, put it: “What I didn’t expect is that Mitch McConnell, my Republican friends, would be signing up with Bernie or trying to get the same outcome by not passing permitting reform.”

All in all, Putin had a bad month in Ukraine — but a good month in the U.S. Congress.

This is not complicated, folks: Do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference? If we want to make a difference, we need to maximize our energy security, natural security and economic security, all at once. The only way to do that effectively is to incentivize our market to produce a stable and secure supply of energy, with the lowest possible emissions at the lowest possible costs as fast as possible.

The only truly effective way to do that is with a strong price signal — either taxes on dirty stuff or incentives for clean stuff — plus steadily increasing clean energy standards for power generation along the lines proposed by Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis in their new book “The Big Fix: Seven Practical Steps to Save Our Planet.

As long as we are not ready to do that, we’re just faking it, indulging in virtue signaling on the left and the right — and Putin and M.B.S. are laughing all the way to the bank.”  -30-

Cihan Tugal | Turkey Shows What NATO Really Is – The New York Times

Dr. Tugal is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, who writes frequently on Turkey’s politics and society.

“In April, as the world was occupied with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a NATO member launched an attack on two of its neighboring territories. In a bombing campaign, Turkey targeted the camps of Kurdish militants in Iraq and Syria, inflicting damage on shelters, ammunition depots and bases.

The irony went largely unnoticed. That’s hardly a surprise: For a long time, the Western world has turned a blind eye to Turkey’s heavy-handed treatment of the Kurds. Across decades, the Turkish state has persecuted the Kurdish minority — about 18 percent of the population — with devastating zeal. Thousands have perished and around a million have been displaced in a campaign of severe internal repression. But Western nations, except for a brief spell when Kurdish resistance was holding back an ascendant Islamic State, have rarely seemed to care.

Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds is now center stage — but not because allies have woken up to the injustice of Kurds’ systematic oppression. Instead, it’s because Turkey is effectively threatening to block the admittance of Finland and Sweden to NATO unless they agree to crack down on Kurdish militants. For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeing an opportunity to further cement his nationalist agenda, it’s a bold gambit. The tepid response from NATO allies so far suggests he might be successful.”

Conflict and Climate Change Ravage Syria’s Agricultural Heartland – The New York Times

“HASAKA, Syria — At a government bakery in Hasaka, Syria, a faded image of former President Hafez al-Assad looms over the aging machinery and clanging steel chains of the assembly line. The painting dates from long before the war, when this region of northeast Syria was still under government control.

Outside, a long line of families and disabled men wait for bags of subsidized flat bread, which sells at about a quarter of the market price.

What is new at this bakery, the largest in the region, is the color of the flour dumped into giant mixing bowls: It is now pale yellow instead of the traditional stark white.

“This is a new experiment we started three or four months ago,” said Media Sheko, a manager of the bakery. “To avoid bread shortages, we had to mix it with corn.” “

” . . . For thousands of years, the Euphrates River and its largest tributary, the Khabur River, which cuts through Hasaka Province, nurtured some of the world’s earliest farming settlements. But the rivers have been drying up.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, which studies climate change, says the drought that began in 1998 is the worst that some parts of the Middle East have seen in nine centuries.

Irrigation pumps on the Khabur River, which has slowed to a trickle. Now the pumps have to work overtime, using more diesel fuel to get the same amount of water.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Turkey, which controls the region’s water supply from parts of northern Syria that it controls through proxy fighters, has been accused of reducing the flow to the area inhabited by the Kurds, whom it considers an enemy.”

Thomas Friedman | Trump’s Iran Policy Has Become a Disaster for the U.S. and Israel – The New York Times

“The judges have voted and the results are in: President Donald Trump’s decision to tear up the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 — a decision urged on by his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu — was one of the dumbest, most poorly thought out and counterproductive U.S. national security decisions of the post-Cold War era.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Moshe Ya’alon was the Israeli defense minister when the nuclear agreement was signed, and he strongly opposed it. But at a conference last week, he said, according to a summary by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, “as bad as that deal was, Trump’s decision to withdraw from it — with Netanyahu’s encouragement — was even worse.” Ya’alon called it “the main mistake of the last decade” in Iran policy.

Two days later, Lt. General Gadi Eisenkot, Israel’s top military commander when Trump withdrew from the deal, offered a similar sentiment, which Haaretz reported as “a net negative for Israel: It released Iran from all restrictions, and brought its nuclear program to a much more advanced position.”

It sure has. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reported that Iran has amassed a stock of enriched uranium hexafluoride that independent nuclear experts calculate is sufficient to produce weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear bomb in as little as three weeks.”

Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield | Ben & Jerry’s Founders on the Company’s Israel Policy – The New York Times

Bennett Cohen and 

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield founded Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings in 1978.

“We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel.

But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government. As such, we unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation.”

Thomas L. Friedman | The Best Anyone Can Hope For With Iran Is Pretty Bad – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Since Iran and the U.S. held more talks this week to try to revive their nuclear deal, with some progress reported, I want to share my views on this subject: I supported the original deal negotiated by Barack Obama in 2015. I did not support Donald Trump’s tearing it up in 2018, but when he did I hoped that he’d leverage the economic pain he inflicted to persuade Iran to improve the deal. Trump failed at that, leaving Iran free to get closer than ever to a bomb. I support Joe Biden trying to revive the deal. And I support Israel’s covert efforts to sabotage Iran’s ability to ever build a nuclear weapon — no matter what the deal.

If that sounds contradictory, it’s because, well, it just sounds that way. There is a unifying thread running through it all: Dealing effectively with Iran’s Islamic regime — in a way that permanently eliminates its malign behavior — is impossible.” . . . 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
First response. I’m a bit lost. I like Tom Friedman’s brutal honesty, but I despise the Syrian Shiite regime of Assad. The Iranians will probably run out of water in the next 50 years, according to a major Virgina military think tank, so we could just wait out this group of old mullahs. What else could we do? Maybe, apologize to the Iranians for overthowing their leftist democracy 70 years ago, and essentially let them have the nuclear bomb they crave. Offer Israel nuclear protection. If Iran or one of its neighbors destroys Israel, with one lousy nuke, we will destroy the attacker, with as many nukes as it takes to destroy their goverment. Another idea, take out Assad, and destroy his regime, and put in its place our allies, the Sunnis to the north he has been fighting in that brual civil war. Maybe instead, we have to recongnize our inability to manage these foreign interventions well, and focus on our own, serious domestic problems. But supporting the butcher Assad doesn’t excite me. Destroying him, we might accidentally destroy the Russians fighting in Syria, sending a message to Putin about our feelings towards unlimited cyber ransomware attacks. Whatever we do, or don’t do, follow Sun Tsu’s dictum, if you are not smart enough or patient enough to avoid war, get in and get out, do not stick around. Patience might be best.