The First Jewish White House Chief of Staff

March 11 2022

It has hardly been remarked upon that Ron Klain, the current White House chief of staff, is Jewish. Among his predecessors in the position were Rahm Emanuel, whose father was an Irgun veteran, and Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew. But it was the late Ken Duberstein, as Tevi Troy writes, who paved the way:

Ken Duberstein, the first Jewish White House chief of staff in history, has died at seventy-seven. He served the Reagan administration ably and well, and went on to have a long private-sector career serving as a wise man of Washington.

A Brooklyn native, Duberstein went to Franklin & Marshall College before moving to Washington, DC, where he interned for the New York Republican senator Jacob Javits and earned a master’s degree from American University. He wrote his thesis on ethnic voting patterns in his native Brooklyn.

As chief of staff, Duberstein developed a very strong working relationship with Colin Powell, then the national-security adviser. Duberstein later recalled that he and Powell “ran the U.S. government for two years. A black [man] who was raised on the streets of the South Bronx and a Brooklyn Jew were in these positions for the most conservative Republican president of the 20th century.” He and Powell remained close long after the administration ended.

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Read more at National Review

More about: American Jewry, Ronald Reagan

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine