Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on an Iranian radical's request for a U.S. visa:
In 1979, Hamid Abutalebi was among the Iranian radicals who illegally seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans for 444 days.
Today, he wants a U.S. visa so he can enter this country and serve as Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.
This request is an insult to America.
President Obama shouldn't just deny it. He should send back Abutalebi's application form in tiny little pieces.
Many younger Americans weren't alive when Iranian demonstrators burst through the doors at the American embassy and took everyone inside hostage. President Jimmy Carter correctly called these captives "victims of terrorism and anarchy." Some were beaten and tortured. Others were forced to undergo mock executions or play Russian roulette.
Not surprisingly, Abutalebi argues he was an interpreter and negotiator. Not someone who had a pistol or rifle in his hand.
But there's no difference between these roles. He was a terrorist who was part of this criminal mob. He has no business in this country.
This week, a bipartisan group of 29 U.S. senators sent Obama a letter, urging that the State Department reject Abutalebi's request. It includes liberals like Chuck Schumer of New York and conservatives like Ted Cruz of Texas. Georgia senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss have signed it as well. ...
None of the hostage-takers are welcome on American soil. They are goons, not diplomats.
Abutalebi's selection as Iran's envoy to the U.N. is an obvious slap in this country's face. Obama must return the favor.
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., on freedom for Israel's spy:
The release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard seemingly comes up in the context of every round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the mistaken belief that freeing a man who is quite simply a traitor to his country will make Israel more amenable to the U.S. view of how those talks should evolve.
Secretary of State John Kerry recently floated the possibility of Pollard's release. The idea was that freeing Pollard would somehow keep the talks, which are preliminary talks about holding more talks, going. But before the issue could be sent to the White House for the necessary presidential pardon the preliminary negotiations fell apart on their own.
That made it increasingly unlikely that the parties would come up with anything substantive before the April 29 deadline to decide whether to pursue further talks.
Pollard, 59, was a civilian analyst for the U.S. Navy when he began spying for Israel. He was arrested in 1985 as he and his wife sought asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington. Israel at first disavowed him, but he became something of a national hero in that country and was awarded Israeli citizenship in 1995.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked -- at every meeting with a U.S. president going back to Ronald Reagan -- that his spy be released. Each one has said no.
Pollard is eligible for parole next year, but there's no guarantee he'll get it. If he must be released, it should be as a reward for specific, concrete accomplishments that benefit both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, not as an inducement for two sides who don't much want to work with each other to keep on talking.
Los Angeles Times on exposing the CIA's 'dark side':
More than a year after it approved a report critical of the CIA's interrogation and detention policies, the Senate Intelligence Committee has voted to make a portion of the document public. It's now up to President Obama to ensure that the agency doesn't mount a rear-guard attempt to censor or sanitize the committee's findings in the name of national security.
Thanks to news reports and a report by the CIA's inspector general, Americans long have been aware of both the broad outlines and some abhorrent details of the Bush administration's mistreatment of suspected terrorists after 9/11. We know that suspects were transported for questioning to "black sites" abroad, and that two suspected Al Qaeda operatives, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, were subjected to waterboarding. And we have read the memos in which Bush administration lawyers used contorted reasoning to justify torture.
But the Intelligence Committee's 6,200-word report, based on a review of millions of pages of documents, contains additional accounts of abuse, including (according to a Washington Post report) the alleged repeated dunking of a terrorism suspect in tanks of ice water at a site in Afghanistan. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee chairwoman who aggressively has sought its declassification, said the report "exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation."
More important, those who have read the report say it concludes that waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" yielded little valuable intelligence that couldn't have been obtained by other means.
Last week the committee voted to declassify the report's 480-page executive summary along with 20 findings and conclusions, but that represents only the beginning of the disclosure process. The executive branch will now determine which portions of the document must be redacted to protect sensitive national security information.
The Central Intelligence Agency has promised that it will do its part to ensure that the declassification review proceeds "expeditiously." But the agency complained that a previous version of the report contained serious errors -- a charge echoed by the committee's Republican vice chair -- and it has a vested interest in suppressing information that would sully its reputation. That is why the president, who has sent mixed signals about the importance of confronting the abuses of the past, must make thorough and timely declassification of this report a personal priority.
The New York Times on Rwanda's genocide:
On Monday, Rwanda commemorated the victims of a genocide unleashed 20 years ago by Hutu extremists in power then. More than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsi men, women and children, were systematically hunted down and brutally murdered over a period of just 100 days. The world stood by and let the blood bath happen.
Over the past two decades, Rwanda has done an impressive job of rebuilding its institutions and economy. To bring perpetrators of the genocide to justice, the United Nations has conducted more than 70 tribunal cases, Rwanda's courts have tried up to 20,000 individuals, and the country's Gacaca courts have handled some 1.2 million additional cases. Incredibly, Tutsis and Hutus, survivors and former killers, now live side by side. The government of President Paul Kagame has transformed Rwanda into an island of order and relative prosperity in a poor and politically volatile region.
Despite this, the genocide has left a legacy of unanswered questions and uncorrected failures. It is time to face them. The international community cannot hide behind euphemisms. The reluctance to use the word "genocide" because of the moral horror it carries and the intervention it demands does not change realities on the ground. It did not spare the United States accusations of shameful paralysis during the Rwandan genocide, and it will not protect the international community from the judgment of history for mass murder now or in the future. Recognizing the need to respond appropriately to such situations, President Obama created the Atrocities Prevention Board in 2012. But as events in the Central African Republic, Syria and Sudan make clear, the United Nations, regional organizations and allied countries also need to set up international contingency plans to deal with mass atrocities.
It is time for France to open its records to public examination. France had close relations to the Hutu-dominated government that planned and incited the genocide. A lack of clarity about France's role has poisoned its relationship with the Kagame government and hampers France's actions in Mali and the Central African Republic.
Kagame must also be held accountable for abuses in Rwanda and outside its borders, where he has gone after critics in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Europe. Civil and political rights in Rwanda are severely restricted. Dissidents and opposition political leaders are subject to harassment, detention and torture. Several have disappeared or been killed.
Addressing the poisonous legacies of Rwanda's genocide is the only way to avert future tragedy, and it is the best way to honor Rwanda's dead.
Chicago Tribune on giving Mideast peace talks a rest:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sounds frustrated and exhausted. No wonder. He has shuttled time and again to the Middle East to meet a self-imposed late April deadline for a "framework" that could lead to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
But the talks are on the verge of collapse. Let them.
"There are limits to the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward," Kerry told reporters last week. We're at those limits.
Kerry's warning came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu balked at releasing Palestinian prisoners because, he said, the Palestinians hadn't agreed to extend the negotiation deadline past the end of this month.
And after the Palestinians moved to join 15 international conventions and agreements, defying Israel and the U.S.
And after the U.S. foolishly floated the possibility of releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in a transparently desperate bid to keep the Israelis at the table.
Last week, Kerry said the peace process needs a "reality check." We'd say it also needs the U.S. to substitute tough love for denial of the obvious. What would happen if Kerry told the Israelis and Palestinians, Call us when you're ready to make the serious compromises necessary for a deal. Otherwise, we have pressing issues elsewhere in the world.
Secretary Kerry, let's say exactly that.
Everyone knows the broad outlines of a deal -- the necessary land swaps and security arrangements. And everyone knows the formidable obstacles. The Palestinians have failed to unite behind a single political banner, with Fatah and Hamas jockeying for advantage. Hamas terrorists rule Gaza and could veto a peace deal with violence.
The U.S. may find a way to hold the parties at the table beyond the latest deadline. But that just means another deadline will arise ... likely to be broken. The U.S can't broker a peace deal absent strong motivation from both sides to surmount formidable, historic hurdles.
The U.S. has devoted enough energy to trying, at least for now. Whether it's a quest for peace in the region, or for history's warm smile, or for ultimate credibility as diplomats, American presidents and secretaries of state have been mesmerized, and ultimately disappointed, reaching for this elusive goal. Time to step back.
China Daily on explanation from Hagel needed:
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel started his first visit to China since taking office on Monday.
Describing his three-day trip as a journey to boost trust, openness and transparency between Beijing and Washington, Hagel said on Thursday in Honolulu that Chinese are his "friends," stressing the United States' "pivot to Asia" is "not a contain-China strategy".
Those words were certainly welcomed by Beijing. However, other messages sent by Hagel in the past few days are not easily interpreted as a friendly gesture, said a Xinhua commentary.
In an interview with Japan's Nikkei newspaper on Saturday, Hagel criticized China's Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea calling it provocative and unilateral, and laying misplaced blame on China for rising tensions in one of the most geopolitically sensitive areas.
As the new defense secretary, Hagel has to be informed of some basic facts.
China's establishment of an ADIZ is a legitimate move, which conforms to the UN Charter and is aimed at ensuring stability, while the escalating tension was initially ignited by Tokyo's illegal "nationalization" of China's Diaoyu Islands in 2012.
Since then, the nationalist government led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been carrying out a political campaign - including his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine - to challenge China's bottom line.
In fact, the growing assertiveness of Japan can be partly attributed to the US, as the irresponsible remarks by some US politicians have emboldened the rightist forces in Japan.
No doubt, China and the US do have differences, but they have more interests in common.
China sincerely hopes to establish a new type of major country relations with the US, featuring mutual respect and common prosperity, which is essential for China's peaceful development.
As the world's two largest economies, China and the US have a shared interest in a stable environment to facilitate economic prosperity. Neither country, nor the global economy, can afford confrontation or conflict.
In this regard, Hagel's stay in China is expected to offer a rare opportunity for the the U.S. to clarify its "pivot to Asia" policy and assure China of its friendly intentions, so as to strengthen mutual trust and understanding across the Pacific.
Now the ball is in Hagel's court.
The Jerusalem Post on U.S.-Israel ties:
Even before its establishment, the State of Israel had a special relationship with the U.S. - and for good reason. On an ideological level, Israel is a country that reflects America's founding spirit. Similar to the founding fathers of America, who were primarily Protestants escaping religious persecution, Zionists of all stripes were motivated by the need, particularly after the Holocaust, to empower the Jewish people with national self-determination as a means of escaping endemic anti-Semitism.
Though Israel strove to establish a Jewish state, it nevertheless committed itself to liberal and democratic ideals shared by Americans. As stated in our Declaration of Independence, Israel vowed from its very inception to base its rule on "freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions."
While Israel, unlike the U.S., has repeatedly faced threats to its very existence, including from the Arab inhabitants of the land designated to be the national home of the Jewish people, it has struggled to uphold as best as possible the rights and equality of all.
Militarily, Israel has stood by the U.S. through several conflicts and promotes its global vision. Israel has enhanced American intelligence and defense capabilities, has provided ports and training for U.S. forces and has helped in saving American lives on and off the battlefield.
Israel's dynamic and innovative business sector stimulates the US economy through trade, groundbreaking technologies and job creation.
Unsurprisingly, Americans' views of Israel are positive and consistently so. According to a Gallup poll released in February, for the past four years at least, about seven in 10 Americans have viewed Israel favorably, making it by far the most positively reviewed Middle Eastern country.
Israel and America's shared values, military cooperation and economic relations will be discussed and celebrated at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference taking place in New York on Sunday. However, Israel's unique relationship with the US often comes under fire. Last month at the National Press Club in Washington, American organizations such the Council for the National Interest and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy organized a conference called the National Summit to Reassess the US-Israel "Special Relationship."
John B. Judis's book recently released book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, makes the dubious claim that president Harry Truman was essentially bullied by a Jewish lobby into supporting Israel at its founding. But while his subject matter is from a historically remote period in US-Israel relations, his aims are broader, and relevant to today.
"The underlying problem," writes Judis, "remains the same: whether an American president and the American people can forthrightly address the conflict of Jew and Arab in the Middle East, or whether they must bow to the demands of a powerful pro-Israel lobby." For people such as Judis, Walt and participants of the National Summit to Reassess the US-Israel "Special Relationship," there is no context, there is no attempt to understand the substantive reasons behind the countries' strong ties.
That's why the Post's conference in New York is so important. There the focus with be on the profound ties that bind Israel to the US thanks to shared values and ethics, common policy interests and strong military and intelligence cooperation. There will be times when Israel's interests do not dovetail with America's. But the common goals and values cherished by both countries will remain unchanged.