Intelligence and the anti-Israel lobby

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Ill winds are blowing out of Washington these days. On Thursday, The Washington Post headline blared, "Intelligence Pick Blames 'Israel Lobby' for Withdrawal."

The article, by Walter Pincus, described how former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles "Chas" Freeman is blaming Israel's Jewish American supporters for his resignation Tuesday from his post as chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

In a diatribe published on Foreign Policy's Web site on Wednesday, Freeman accused the alleged "Israel Lobby" of torpedoing his appointment. In his words, "The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency… The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views… and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors."

He continued, "I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the State of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States."

The Washington Post's article quoted liberally from Freeman's diatribe. It also identified the Jewish Americans who wrote against Freeman's appointment, and insinuated that AIPAC – which took no stand on his appointment – actually worked behind the scenes to undermine it.

While it described in lurid detail how one anti-Freeman Jewish blogger quoted other anti-Freeman Jewish bloggers on his Web site, Pincus's article failed to report what it was about Freeman that caused the Jewish cabal to criticize his appointment. Consequently, by default, Pincus effectively endorsed Freeman's diatribe against the all-powerful "Israel Lobby."

Pincus's reportorial malpractice wouldn't have been so problematic if his article had just been one of many articles in the Washington Post about Freeman's appointment. But, like The New York Times, the first mention the Washington Post made of the story was on Tuesday, after Freeman announced his resignation.

The Washington Post's news editor, Douglas Jehl, admitted that a conscious decision had been made to ignore the story. In an e-mail published in the Weekly Standard Jehl wrote, "We did initially elect not to write a story about the campaign against Mr. Freeman."

As the Standard's Stephen Hayes notes, Jehl's statement is notable because it shows that he and colleagues never considered whether Freeman's record was newsworthy in and of itself. That is, they never asked whether the controversy surrounding it was justified. Had they asked that question, perhaps they would have reconsidered their decision to ignore the story.

Freeman was a career US diplomat until his retirement in the mid-1990s. He served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Bush administration. In his memoirs, former secretary of state James Baker claimed that in that position, Freeman was afflicted by "clientitis." Instead of advancing US interests with the Saudis, Freeman championed Saudi interests to the US government.

In 1997, Freeman became president of the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council. There Freeman continued his outspoken support for Saudi positions against the US. In January 2009, for instance, he praised Saudi King Abdullah for coercing the second Bush administration into supporting Palestinian statehood.

Freeman castigated the Bush administration as "the world's first genuinely autistic government." Then he bragged that it was only due to Abdullah's "threat… to downgrade relations with the United States," that the administration finally announced its support for Palestinian statehood.

According to financial records made public in recent weeks, the Middle East Policy Council has received millions of dollars from the Saudi government and royal family over the past several years.

Saudi Arabia is not the only country with interests and values that conflict with US interests and values that Freeman has championed and earned a living from. Until accepting his appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Freeman was a paid member of the Chinese government-owned China National Offshore Oil Company's international advisory board. CNOOC has been the target of a US Treasury probe due to its multi-billion dollar contract with Iran to develop the South Pars gas field.

As with the case of Saudi Arabia, Freeman's political sympathies go hand in hand with his financial ties. In a list-serve e-mail in 2006, Freeman criticized the Beijing Politburo for being too lax with the pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. As he put it, "the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud."

As Martin Cramer, Steven Rosen and other Jewish writers have noted in their reporting on Freeman in recent weeks, Freeman's positions on Israel closely mirror the Saudi Foreign Ministry's positions. So it is that in 2006, for instance, Freeman blamed US ties with Israel for the September 11, 2001, attacks. As he put it, "We have paid heavily and often in treasure for our unflinching support and unstinting subsidies of Israel's approach to managing its relations with the Arabs. Five years ago, we began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home."

Then, too, like the Saudi government, Freeman argues that Arab terrorism against the US is solely a consequence of US support for Israel. Were the US to abandon its alliance with Israel, all Arab terror against the US would stop.

DESPITE PINCUS'S attempt to hide it, the main reason Freeman's appointment was controversial was not the opposition it garnered among pro-Israel American Jews. The main controversy surrounding his appointment as the Obama administration's top intelligence analyst revolved around his financial and political ties to potential and actual US adversaries.

Indeed, according to Newsweek, it was these connections – and specifically Freeman's ties to the Chinese Politburo – that scuppered his appointment. According to Newsweek, the White House withdrew its support for Freeman because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was angered by his support for Beijing's repression of Chinese democracy activists, which she described as "beyond the pale." Freeman's animus towards Israel apparently played no role in the White House's decision to show him the door.

Whatever the reason for his resignation, it is a good thing that Freeman was forced to resign. It is a very good thing that the man writing the US's National Intelligence Estimates and briefing the president on intelligence matters is not a hired gun for the Saudi and Chinese governments who believes that Jewish Americans have no right to participate in public debate about US foreign policy. But while his appointment was foiled, the fact that a man like Freeman was even considered for the post tells us two deeply disturbing things about the climate in Washington these days.

First and foremost, Freeman's appointment gives us disconcerting information about how the Obama administration intends to relate to intelligence. Freeman was appointed by Adm. Dennis Blair, President Barack Obama's director of national intelligence. Blair stood by Freeman's appointment even after information became known about hi
s financial ties to foreign governments and his extreme views on Israel and American Jews were exposed. Blair repeatedly extolled Freeman for his willingness to stake out unpopular positions.

On Tuesday, Blair appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. There he answered questions about Freeman and about Iran's nuclear weapons program. Just as he defended Freeman, so Blair defended the Islamic Republic. He claimed that there is no way to infer from Iran's satellite program that it is expanding the range of its ballistic missiles. He claimed that just because Iran is enriching uranium, there is no reason to believe that the mullahs are interested in building a bomb. That is, America's top intelligence officer is willing to take Iran's word on everything.

On the other hand, he isn't willing to take Israel's word on anything. Although he acknowledged that his nonchalant assessment of Iran was based on the same information as Israel's dire assessment of Iran, Blair scoffed at Israel's views, claiming that they are colored by the Jewish state's fears. In his words, "The Israelis are far more concerned about it, and they take more of a worst-case approach to these things from their point of view."

What Blair's staunch championing of Freeman's appointment and his casualness regarding Iran's nuclear program indicates is that like Freeman, he assumes the best of America's adversaries and the worst of its friends. This approach to intelligence analysis will be destructive not just for the US's relations with its allies, but for America's own national security.

THE SECOND disturbing development exposed by Freeman's appointment is the emergence of a very committed and powerful anti-Israel lobby in Washington. In the past, while anti-Israel politicians, policy-makers and opinion-shapers were accepted in Washington, they would not have felt comfortable brandishing their anti-Israel positions as a qualifying credential for high position. Freeman's appointment shows that this is no longer the case. Today in Washington, there are powerful circles of political players for whom a person's anti-Israel bona fides are his strongest suit.

In the weeks since Freeman's appointment first came under scrutiny, his defenders have highlighted his hatred of Israel as the reason for their support for him. Just as Pincus's post-mortem write-up of Freeman's appointment and resignation barely mentioned his ties to Saudi Arabia and China, and focused on Jews who opposed his appointment, so in recent weeks, his defenders – both non-Jewish and Jewish – have highlighted his hatred of Israel and its American supporters as the primary reason for defending it. The likes of Steven Walt, M.J. Rosenberg and Matthew Iglesias didn't try to explain why Freeman was right to support the suppression of freedom in China. They didn't support his claim that the Saudi king is among the most profound and thoughtful leaders in the world. They didn't repeat his assertion that the US had the September 11 attacks coming to it.

They felt that the fact that he raised the hackles of Americans who support Israel was reason enough to support him. Whether his views on other issues are reasonable or not was of no interest to them.

From September 11, to Russia's invasion of Georgia, from Hamas's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it is clear that in recent years, the US intelligence community has regularly substituted wishful thinking for true analysis. Freeman's appointment and the emergence of the anti-Israel lobby as a major force in Washington policy circles show that turning the US away from Israel has become a key component of that wishful thinking.

But, as they say in the world of intelligence, forewarned is forearmed.

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12 Comments

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 03/13/2009 at 18:45

    Lack of intelligence and the anti-Israel lobby go together. Ambassador Freeman, like several of President Obama’s appointees had either tax problems or conflicts of interest. In Ambassador Freeman’s case, his derailed appointment was due to conflicts of interest and questionable judgment. The haphazard way the Obama Administration does background checks is proof that there is confusion in the White House. As the Obama Administration approaches its 100 days, both Israel and U.S. national security interests are in danger, due to complacency with Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program and other growing threats.

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  • epaminondas 03/13/2009 at 19:01

    Caroline…. Freeman is not the issue. Those responsible for this appt, and their reasons for doing so are the issues.
    Dennis Blair directly, but really, it was the person who in the last year appointed:
    Zbig Brezhinski
    Merrill McPeak
    Samantha Powers
    Robert Malley
    and for 20 years sat and listened to the directed venom of Jeremiah Wright
    These people all have a distinct view about Israel as a derivative, a symptom of something else.
    That something else is the belief that Americans who happen to be Jewish can and do act primarily for the benefit of Israel and to the detriment of the USA.
    That is bigotry, plain and simple

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  • Pops in Vienna 03/13/2009 at 19:38

    Putting reporting issues aside, I hope to hell that American Jews pushed all the political buttons they could to prevent that guy from taking office. Since when is that wrong? It happens all the time with Supreme Court candidates.
    If the Jews did some ankle biting, good for them. I’d say it’s long over due and we should have more of it. They ought to be screaming bloody murder about cozying up to the Iranians and making nice-nice with Syria. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a couple of Jews vote Republican in 2010. Then I’ll know that there really is hope.
    You are right Captain Glick, US “intelligence” is a joke. You’re almost better off to believe the exact opposite of whatever the poltically motivated pin heads are telling you.

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  • Anne Julienne 03/13/2009 at 20:53

    I’m often disheartened by what you see, Caroline, but it’s also encouraging to know that a seer is there for Israel, there to forewarn and forearm.

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  • yukio ngaby 03/13/2009 at 21:18

    Once again, an excellent analysis. Looking at the real reasons why Freeman was forced out (the fact that it was not his anti-Israel views) is very telling. It is disturbing to me that Obama and the general mood in Washington finds blatant anti-Israel sentiments acceptable. Coupling this with the Obama Administration’s bewildering policy to assume “the best of America’s adversaries and the worst of its friends” (as Glick states so well) produces incredibly dangerous potentials for the future. There doesn’t seem to be much reason in Obama’s foreign policy, just a lot of wishful thinking. “Hope and change” I guess.

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  • Nick Lindsey 03/14/2009 at 1:21

    Very disappointing. You tow the party line. For example, you use quotes as in the “Israel lobby” as if it doesn’t exist and put a question mark over anyone who doesn’t use them. There is an active lobby, supremely well organized, and it needs no more quotes than the auto lobby. Pity it is dedicated to a foreign power, something that does make it different.

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  • Ron Grandinetti, USA 03/14/2009 at 3:56

    Caroline, they can run from you but they can’t hide.
    You elect a candidate whose only qualifications are a community organizer and a speech specialist, that’s exactly what you, get, nothing more. With very little experience in either the state or federal senate, not enough to amount to anything especially when you are absent most of the time. . Don’t forget he has no administrative skills.
    Unfortunately Obama is playing president. Not entirely his fault, the blame lies with the voters who bought the goods sold by the liberal left media.
    Just goes to prove anyone can be elected to public office, Nancy Pelosi is another example.
    Obama has surrounded himself with real characters and they are selecting the worst of the worst from the Clinton administration to serve in this government. They are the ones running the government. This is the change that was promised.
    Pops, keep your hopes up, not only the American Jews have to move to the conservative right but all Americans. And it’s not just entirely because Israel is a Jewish Nation, but most importantly Israel is a strong democracy and great friend of ours in the Middle East that we can count on. If it’s necessary to take sides then let it be we side with Israel, not Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt or any other Arab county for that matter. They are two faced.
    The sooner the US tears itself away from oil dependency of other countries the better off we will be.
    Remember mid term elections are around the corner and let us not make the same mistake.
    Wake up Americans.

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  • Bill K. 03/14/2009 at 9:25

    If both the Washington Post and even Nancy Pelosi, for crying out loud, can agree that Chas Freeman was “beyond the pale” where does this position Barrack Obama on the far left scale?
    During the presidential campaign Obama presented tried to present himself as a moderate but this façade keep slipping down. From his background as a community agitator, euphemistically called an “organizer”, to his unsavory associations with America hater Reverend Wright and bomber Bill Ayers, to his enthusiasm for “redistributing” other peoples wealth through confiscatory taxation, to his pending destruction of the American economy to combat the imaginary threat of global warming via “cap and trade” legislation, to his let’s make a deal attitude with totalitarian regimes around the world Obama is about as far left as you can go without breaking into outright fascism or communism. Any one with half a brain could see the general direction Obama would take.
    If the rest of Obama’s tenure is like the first two months we‘ll never make it to the end. The economy will collapse or some tin pot dictator will have taken the measure of Obama and assume it would be safe to attack America and its interests overseas.
    The only chance we have to avoid a disaster is the 2010 elections. Will Americans realize they have had by a smooth talking con man and cast his Democratic hangers-on into the pit? Will the Republicans ever get their heads screwed on straight and repudiate the economic excesses of the Bush years and the Condoleezza Rice foreign policy disasters?

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  • Luigi Frascati, Canada 03/14/2009 at 13:02

    Ms. Glick,
    you can include Rahm Emanuel among those American Jewish politicians who oppose continuing US support for Israel. In fact in an article appeared in Time Magazine immediately after his appointment as White House Chief of Staff, Emanuel was heralded as the perfect choice for promoting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, since it was assumed he would be able to pressure Israel into making all the necessary concessions with regard to halting illegal settlements in the West Bank. And you can also include Ira Forman, the Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), for being first in line in praising the Administration for the appointment of Emanuel, exactly for the same reason.
    In fact, if one were to measure the hatred of all those who make it a political virtue that of antagonizing the very existence of the Jewish State, Freeman probably would not come out the winner. The gold medal would almost certainly go to an American Jew. For instance Marc Stanley, the Chairman of the NJDC, might be certainly regarded as a recipient of such honor. In an article entitled “Why Jews voted for Obama” which could not have been written in a better fashion by an Arab-American, or indeed by a Wahabbist Saudi, Stanley contends:
    “Ultimately the Jewish community supported the Democratic nominee in overwhelming numbers. According to exit polling from Tuesday’s election, Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote – about 25 percent greater than Obama’s percentage of total support nationally. That exceeded everyone’s expectations.
    There are two reasons for this performance. First, Jewish voters took a very close look at both candidates in the final 10 weeks of the campaign. Obama’s performance in the debates belied the GOP narrative that he could not be trusted, while McCain’s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate undermined his Jewish support.
    Second, Jewish Democrats—the National Jewish Democratic Council, along with the Obama campaign and other independent efforts—were better organized than ever”.
    The full text can be found at:
    http://jta.org/news/article/2008/11/05/1000800/op-ed-why-jews-voted-for-obama
    Make sure you also read the comments. I sent in a very critical comment myself when Stanley’s article came out, but it has never been published.
    The powerful circles of political players in Washington involved into anti-Israeli activism you make reference to, Ms. Glick, are pretty much all Jewish. You mention Stephen Walt of Harvard. But then let me also mention Yakov Rabkin and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. Rabkin is the author of a book entitled “A Threat from Within: A History of Jewish Opposition to Zionism” available at:
    http://www.amazon.com/Threat-Within-History-Opposition-Zionism/dp/1842776991
    In the book Rabkin contends that:
    “Terrorism is not a single adversary, but a scare tactic employed by a wide array of Zionist political groups. The terrorist organizations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or ‘the West’; it is largely a response to Israel’s prolonged campaign to colonize the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
    Practically Rabkin says the same thing as Freeman, but in an even more subtle form. It basically denounces Zionism as the primary for of terrorism, which through its very own acts and deeds throughout the years has given rise to the form of counterterrorism we now call “Palestinian Terrorism”. In other words, had there not been Zionism, there would not be Palestinian Terrorism today. With no Palestinian Terrorism there would be no Terrorism against the whole West. And therefore Jews in the West would not have any problems with their Arab counterparts in the Middle East.
    In Rabkin’s view, in other words, had there not been Zionism today all Jews living in the West would be out there snacking on dates arm-in-arm with their Muslim friends under the shadow of a palm tree.
    Mearsheimer, on the other hand, accuses Israel for being the primary cause of the 1973 Oil Embargo against the United States and Western Europe. Mearsheimer contends that the primary reason for the Embargo was America’s and Western Europe’s support for the Yom Kippur War. This Liberal luminary of your hometown, one of the many, however fails to recognize that the Yom Kippur War was merely the pretext, and that the institution of the cartel in 1965 was made well before the Yom Kippur War and with the primary goal of pursuing and achieving the New International Economic Order (NIEO), a UN-sponsored political-economic programme the purpose of which was and is to permit greater participation by and benefits to developing countries. More particularly the Charter of NIEO, dubbed in the West as “colonialism in reverse” and ultimately never adopted by the developing world, called for the “restitution for the economic and social costs of colonialism, racial discrimination, and foreign domination”.
    Further information on NIEO, and thus on the real purpose for the existence of OPEC, can be viewed here:
    http://www.un-documents.net/s6r3201.htm
    Israel and the Yom Kippur War were merely the excuse of the time, Prof. Mearsheimer!
    NIEO is what has allowed Saudi Arabia, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and pre-war Iraq to become what they are today, all at our cost and expenses, and with or without Israel.
    So, going back to your article, indeed there is emerging in Washington a strong anti-Israeli lobby under the auspices of this Administration – a strong Jewish anti-Israeli lobby. And this is the reason why I have consistently stated in this forum that Israel should explore new frontiers by making diplomatic openings to the traditional foes of America – specifically to China.
    And now, to conclude, just a note of interest not related to the subject matter of this post. While I was writing this comment a news has landed into the RSS Feeds of my computer. It appears that Cuba and Venezuela will likely host air force bases for Russian bombers. This news can be viewed here:
    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_RUSSIA_BOMBERS_CUBA?SITE=NJHAC&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
    Good show, Mr. Obama!

    Reply
  • Marcel 03/14/2009 at 13:43

    Meanwhile, in order for the globalist agenda to succeed, the United States cannot remain a close ally of Israel. That relationship is being undermined from within, and the information being publicly disseminated is being manipulated from within – by a compromised and all-too-willing media.” According to this source, the groundwork to get to this point has been in the works for years, if not decades. “It was just placed on the fast track under Obama, who has promised his allegiance to the Arabs. If not already, this will become quite evident to even the most skeptical, much to the consternation of the majority of American Jews who voted for him.”
    As for the coming war, it has already begun as a war for the minds, hearts and souls of the people in the West, and will manifest itself quickly to a physical war between Israel and her Arab neighbors….
    But first, America must be convinced that being an ally of Israel is not in our best interests, and they are the antagonists in this scenario. By electing who we have, and by the appointments already made and policies already implemented, they’re off to a pretty good start, don’t you think?”
    Numerous people have questioned how a junior senator from Illinois – a virtual unknown – could rise from virtual obscurity to the leader of the free world in seven years. Many of the same people have asked how that same person could rise to power despite still-unanswered questionsof his eligibility, and a past checkered by questionable associates and associations.
    The answers lie in the globalist agenda, one that has no place for Israel, beyond Israel being the catalyst for the implementation of a new world order.
    http://homelandsecurityus.com/?p=2545#more-2545

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  • Ken Besig 03/14/2009 at 19:28

    Dear Caroline, let me disabuse you of some of your beliefs regarding Barack Obama and Rahm Emmanuel. Barack Obama has very different ideas about Israeli security than your or I, in fact, he seems to believe that Israeli security depends solely on diplomacy which includes the creation of a Palestinian state and the good will of the Arab States. Israel can only be secure and safe when she agrees to the conditions laid down by the Palestinians and the Arab world in general. Barack Obama will force this to happen by slowly withdrawing American support for most Israeli positions and increasing his contacts with and his support for the Arab side of the conflict. His top advisor, Rahm Emmanuel, the son of a Jewish expatriate Israeli fully supports him in this matter, and has done his best to find advisors to Obama who are either indifferent to Israeli security and diplomatic concerns or are outright and publicly antagonistic to the Jewish State of Israel and her American supporters. The choice of Chas Freeman was a deliberate and thought out selection, thoroughly and consciously vetted by Rahm Emmanuel because of Freeman’s viciously anti Israel and anti Jewish views coupled with his sycophantic support of the Arab world in general and the Saudis in particular. Thankfully, the Freeman nomination was put to rest because of his firm and unwavering support of the Chinese dictatorship and it’s slaughter of the Tianenmen Square demonstrators.
    Barack Obama and Rahm Emmanuel fully intend to redefine and downgrade America’s relationship with Israel and the American Jewish community from what they see as an undue, undeserved, and pernicious influence over America’s Middle East policies. Obama and Emmanuel at the same time intend to redefine and upgrade America’s often prickly if not downright hostile relationship with the Arab and Iranian world into a more friendly and supportive one.
    I hate to write this but Israel and the American Jewish Community will soon find the Obama Administration to be the most hostile, antagonistic, and hateful one we have ever encountered.

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  • Luigi Frascati, Canada 03/15/2009 at 6:36

    There is a correction I must make to my latest comment. It now appears that there is a change to the threat made by the Russians to station bombers in Cuba and Venezuela. The threat was merely a “hypothetical”. This hypothetical statement was made apparently by a Russian air force chief in retaliation for US war ships patrolling the Black Sea. If the US Navy stops patrolling the Black Sea, the Russians will not deploy bombers in Central America.
    These are unquestionably good tidings.
    One surely would not want the President to become too hoarse as he talks to the Russians while they carpet-bomb us whilst, at all times, he talks to the Mexicans while their drug cartels machine-gun us.
    Thanks for the change, Mr. President.

    Reply

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