Friday, February 20, 2015

The Feud [with updates]



Why Netanyahu Broke with Obama - David Ignatius

  • Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister of intelligence, said in an interview that the public rift between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over the Iranian nuclear issue has been building for more than two years and reflects a deep disagreement about how best to limit the threat of a rising Iran.
  • He said that the nuclear agreement contemplated by Obama would ratify Iran as a threshold nuclear-weapons state, and that the one-year breakout time sought by Washington wasn't adequate.
  • "From the very beginning, we made it clear we had reservations about the goal of the negotiations," he explained. "We thought the goal should be to get rid of the Iranian nuclear threat, not verify or inspect it."
  • Netanyahu's skepticism reached a tipping point last month when he concluded that the U.S. had offered so many concessions to Iran that any deal reached would be bad for Israel. He broke with Obama first in a private phone call on Jan. 12.
  • "The temptation [for Iran] is not now but in two or three or four years, when the West is preoccupied with other crises," Steinitz said. If Iran chose to "sneak out" at such a moment, it would take the U.S. months to determine the pact had been violated, and another six months to form a coalition for sanctions or other decisive action. By then, it might be too late.
  • What the U.S. is saying to Iran, in effect, is "if you agree to freeze for 10 years, that's enough for us." But that won't work for Israel. "To believe that in the next decade there will be a democratic change in leadership and that Iran won't threaten the U.S. or Israel anymore, I think this is too speculative."
  • "Iran is part of the problem and not part of the solution - unless you think Iran dominating the Middle East is the solution," Steinitz concluded. People who think that a nuclear deal with Iran is desirable, as I do, need to be able to answer Steinitz's critique.
(Washington Post)
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UPDATES:

Hear Out Israel's Leader - Joseph I. Lieberman

  • I appeal to members of Congress to go hear what the prime minister of Israel has to say. Go because this is about determining how best to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and not just another Washington test of partisan and political loyalty.
  • Go because you know that the Constitution gives you, as a member of Congress, the power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations," "define and punish...offenses against the law of nations," "declare war," and "raise and support armies," and Netanyahu might say some things that will inform your exercise of those great powers.
  • Go because you know that Israel is one of our closest and most steadfast allies and you feel a responsibility to listen to its leader speak about developments that he believes could threaten the safety, independence and even existence of his country, as well as that of our closest allies in the Arab world.
  • Go because you worry that it is not just the security of Israel and the Arab nations but the security of the United States that will be threatened if a bad agreement is made with Iran that enables it to build nuclear weapons it could put on its increasingly capable long-range missiles.
  • Go because you are concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation and believe that a faulty deal with Iran will not only put it on the road to becoming a nuclear power but will also lead some of Iran's Arab neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons as soon as possible.
  • At this very unstable moment in history, we cannot and must not avert our attention from what remains the greatest threat to the security of America and the world.
The writer is a former U.S. Senator from Connecticut.
(Washington Post)
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The Appalling Talk of Boycotting Netanyahu - Alan M. Dershowitz

As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for President Barack Obama, I am appalled that some members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation.
    

Congress has every right to invite, even over the president's strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people.

Not only should all members of Congress attend Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, but President Obama—as a constitutional scholar—should urge members of Congress to do their constitutional duty of listening to opposing views in order to check and balance the policies of the administration.
    
The idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Mr. Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress. 
(Wall Street Journal)
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Now We Know Who to Believe on Iran - David Horovitz

  • After anonymous sources in Jerusalem leaked in recent weeks the ostensible terms of the deal being hammered out with Iran, various U.S. government spokespeople contended that the Israeli government was misrepresenting the specifics and sneered that Israel didn't actually know what the terms were.
  • Yet among the terms of the deal being reported by the Associated Press from Geneva on Monday are precisely those that were asserted in recent weeks by the Israeli sources. Iran is to be allowed to keep 6,500 centrifuges spinning, and there will be a clause providing for an end to intrusive inspections in some 10-15 years. There is also no indication of restrictions on Iran's missile development.
  • Israel's most respected Middle East affairs analyst, Channel 2 commentator Ehud Ya'ari, noted that the isolation of Iran even by Israel's key allies was already cracking, with the firmly pro-Israel foreign minister of Australia, Julie Bishop, announcing an imminent visit to Tehran.
  • Ya'ari also noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency has made clear that it lacks the tools to effectively monitor the kind of nuclear program that Iran will be allowed to maintain under the emerging deal.
  • The P5+1 is about to legitimize Iran as a nuclear threshold state. From there, it will be capable of rapidly breaking out to the bomb, well aware that the international community lacks the will to stop it.
  • The Obama administration would evidently like to believe that 10-15 years from now, the ayatollahs will be gone. But if the deal now taking shape is indeed finalized, the chances of the regime being ousted from within will drastically recede. This deal will help cement the ayatollahs in power, with dire consequences for Israel, relatively moderate Arab states, and the free world.
(Times of Israel)
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Israel Safer Than US or UK



31 Countries Face More Terrorism than Israel 

17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, 61% more than the previous year. 


31 countries rank higher than Israel (ranked 32) in the 2014 Global Terrorism Index, including the UK (27) and the U.S. (30).
    

The GTI, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, measures the direct and indirect impact of terrorism in terms of lives lost, injuries, property damage and the psychological after-effects. 
(Institute for Economics and Peace)
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The West's Tolerance of Palestinian Thugocracy



The West's Israel Obsession - Evelyn Gordon

The Jerusalem Post reported last week that a leading Palestinian hospital is at risk of closure because of a $30 million debt. A major reason for this debt is that for years, the Palestinian Authority has failed to pay Mokassed Hospital for many of the patients it treats, though the PA has ample funds to pay generous salaries to thousands of terrorists sitting in Israeli jails. It's a matter of priorities.
    

Another news report notes that thousands of Palestinians who bought homes in the new Palestinian city of Rawabi can't move in because the city isn't connected to the water system. Why? Because all West Bank water projects need approval by the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, which the PA has refused to convene for the last five years. Evidently, it would rather deprive its own people of better housing than agree to meet with Israeli officials.
     

Almost 40% of the PA's budget consists of foreign aid, with the vast majority coming from Western countries. The West is therefore uniquely placed to pressure the PA to alter its priorities, but it has refused to do so. 
(Commentary)
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Egypt Takes Lead Role in Counter-Jihad Efforts

al-Sisi leads Egypt with new vigor

Egypt's Ambitious Anti-Terror Campaign - Hamza Hendawi

Beyond fighting militants in its own Sinai Peninsula, Egypt is trying to organize an international coalition against the Islamic State in Libya and helping Saudi Arabia defend its borders. This nation of 90 million people seeks to restore the leadership role that has eluded it since its influence waned under former President Hosni Mubarak.
     

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have given Egypt an estimated $30 billion to rescue its damaged economy, in return for Egypt providing military manpower alongside its Gulf counterparts. A contingent of Egyptian troops is already deployed on Saudi Arabia's border with Iraq to help defend it against jihadi fighters. Egypt also has military advisers on the Saudi-Yemeni border. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are bankrolling multibillion dollar arms purchases by Egypt, including jet fighters and naval vessels from France and Russia.
    

Egypt carried out two rounds of airstrikes in Libya, on top of secret strikes it conducted last year along with the UAE against Libyan Islamist militias. Egyptian troops briefly crossed the border into Libya to conduct search-and-destroy missions targeting possible surface-to-air missiles that could threaten Egyptian planes headed back from Libya.
(AP)
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UPDATE:


How Egypt Sees Islamic State Threat - Jane Kinninmont

Unlike its Western allies, Egypt's leaders emphasize the view that all forms of political Islam are a threat to international security. Since overthrowing Morsi, they have banned the Muslim Brotherhood, calling it a terrorist organization.
     

By contrast, the U.S. and Europe differentiate between forms of political Islam that they can potentially work with, and more radical violent groups.
    

Islamic State's targeted violence has prompted cross-border military action by Arab armies. This is a marked contrast with al-Qaeda, which was targeted primarily by international forces or, within specific countries, by the domestic security services.
The writer is Deputy Head and Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Program, at Chatham House.  
(BBC News)
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Test of Wills: Iran Sets Obama Up



Why the (toothless) Iran sanctions bill matters - Daniel Pipes, PhD

Nearly all the 54 Republican U.S. senators will vote in favor of the Kirk-Menendez bill requiring sanctions on Iran if the P5+1 negotiations fail. President Obama has promised to veto it. Now, the senate is gearing up for a high-drama vote; will Democrats provide the 13 to 15 votes needed for a veto-proof majority?

Lost in the shuffle is a little-noticed section of the bill that, if passed, guts it. The "Draft of Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015," posted on the website of Sen. Mark Kirk contains a "Waiver of Sanctions." Designed to win the support of skittish Democrats, it also undermines the bill's goal of forcing Obama's hand in the negotiations.

What's the point, one might ask, of the pro-sanctions side struggling so hard to attain a veto-proof majority when Obama can negate its provisions at will?

[W]hy does the White House expend so much political capital stopping this bill when it could let it pass and then kill it by invoking the waiver? Why the major combat over what amounts to a symbolic resolution?

[A]s he explained in the State Of The Union, he passionately wants Kirk-Menendez defeated because "new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails … [by] ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again."

In other words, the Iranian pseudo-parliament (the Majlis) is warning that the bill's passage – even if its sanctions are subsequently waived – in itself cancels the existing interim accord and ends the negotiating process. Iran's foreign minister also declared that the Majlis would retaliate against any new U.S. sanctions legislation by ramping up the nuclear program; and that new sanctions would damage the West's favorite Iranian politician, President Hassan Rouhani.

With this clever tactic, the Iranians have provoked a grand test of wills in Washington, turning Obama into their enforcer obliged to tame Congress; Majlis speaker Ali Larijani has warned that "If Obama can't solve his problems [with Congress], he himself will be responsible for the disruption of the negotiations." Rather than tell Tehran to take a hike, the administration (in keeping with its larger strategy) fell for this ruse, resulting in a forthcoming Senate battle royal.

Is this not reminiscent of the bazaar, where the wily merchant charmingly cheats the naïve tourist? The stake, however, is not the price of a Persian carpet but an apocalyptic rogue regime acquiring and perhaps deploying nuclear weapons.

And so, the toothless Kirk-Menendez bill actually does have real importance. It needs those 67 votes.
[The Washington Times]


Why Netanyahu Should Give His Speech - David Suissa

Like many other American Jews, I've had serious reservations about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to speak to Congress on March 3, against the wishes of President Barack Obama. If the most powerful man in the world is upset about something, you can't afford to just shrug that off.    
And yet, as much as I've had my issues with him over the years, I don't feel like joining in the anti-Bibi frenzy.

What is Obama so afraid of? Is it possible that he's afraid to start a vigorous debate on his Iran strategy that will expose it as potentially harmful to America's or Israel's interest?     

Let's put aside all the hysterics about politics and protocol. As sobering as those things may be, they pale in comparison to the strategic issue of how Obama deals with the Iranian nuclear threat. If he's about to sign an agreement that many experts agree is a bad one, don't we deserve a national debate, as an editorial in the Washington Post called for last week? 
(Los Angeles Jewish Journal)


Rolling Back the Iranian Threat - Mortimer B. Zuckerman

  • Just about every Western leader is consistently on record saying, "No deal is better than a bad deal." But the rhetoric does not match the reality. There are secret letters begging Iran for a compromise. No one is talking about dismantling Iran's program anymore. There is a sickening smell in the air, the harbinger of a bad deal.
  • We cannot leave Iran with thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium when it doesn't even need a single centrifuge to have peaceful nuclear energy. 
  • We also have to confront Iran's program for missiles. Iran doesn't need intercontinental ballistic missiles to reach Israel; they need them to reach Europe and the U.S. and the only thing to carry on an intercontinental ballistic missile is a nuclear warhead.

The writer is chairman and publisher of the New York Daily News.

(New York Daily News)
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Moderate Muslim Sect Goes to Israel

Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims from India clean a marble enclosure marking a shrine, located on the grounds of Barzilai Medical Center in the coastal town of Ashkelon February 8, 2015. The Israeli hospital, known mainly for treating the casualties of conflict in the nearby Gaza Strip, is home to a tomb where, in the view of some Shi'ite Muslims, the head of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, lay interred for centuries following his death in battle. Picture taken February 8, 2015. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Tomb of Mohammed's Grandson Honored in Israeli - Rami Amichay 
    

A Shi'ite Muslim shrine is located on the grounds of Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon [Israel]. The ancient tomb is believed to contain the head of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
    

Members of the Dawoodi Bohra Shi'ite sect, which has a million adherents worldwide, come annually on pilgrimage to the ornate marble enclosure marking the tomb.
     

Hospital deputy director Dr. Ron Lobel noted: "This is one of the absurdities of the Middle East. Here we have a sacred place for...the Shia Muslims, and on the other hand, 12 km. south of here we have other Muslims that shoot rockets at us."
(Reuters)
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

White House Embarresses Itself


 

 
Two astonishing videos, where Obama Administration spokespersons reveal a serious misunderstanding of Islamist violence and a bizarre refusal to identify the Paris attack on a kosher deli as anti-Semitic

ISIS Recruit Speaks


 
An rare video from an ISIS recruit speaking frankly about his experience
Hat tip: Aron Kay

Monday, February 09, 2015

Book Burning Returns



I See Parchment Burning - Jeff Jacoby

The Associated Press reported that Islamic State fanatics have ravaged the Central Library of Mosul, the largest repository of learning in that ancient city. Militants smashed the library’s locks and overran its collections, removing thousands of volumes on philosophy, science, and law, along with books of poetry and children’s stories. Only Islamic texts were left behind.

“These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah,” one of the ISIS jihadists announced as the library’s holdings were emptied into sacks and loaded onto pickup trucks. “So they will be burned.”

There was more book-burning soon afterward, when Islamic State vandals sacked the library at the University of Mosul. “They made a bonfire out of hundreds of books on science and culture, destroying them in front of students,” AP reported. Lost in the libricide were newspapers, maps, and texts dating back to the Ottoman Empire. UNESCO, the United Nations’ educational and cultural agency, decried the libraries’ torching as “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.”

Perhaps the most chilling words ever written about book-burning were penned in 1821 by the great German poet Heinrich Heine: Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen — “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.” Today that axiom is etched on a plaque in Berlin’s Bebelplatz, the public square where more than 20,000 books deemed “un-German” and “decadent” were destroyed in a vast Nazi bonfire on the night of May 10, 1933.

There is something uniquely diabolical about setting books on fire, a lust to obliterate that almost ineluctably leads to even more dreadful evils. It is no coincidence that those obsessed with annihilating the physical expression of dangerous thoughts or teachings so often move on to annihilating the people who think or teach them.

ISIS will find that it is easier to slaughter human beings than to destroy ideas.

The Talmud records the death of Chanina ben Teradion, a 2nd-century Jewish sage killed by the Romans for violating a ban on teaching Torah. It was a terrible death: He was wrapped in the scroll from which he had been teaching and set on fire, with wet wool placed on his chest to prolong the agony. His horrified disciples, forced to witness his death, cried out: “Rabbi, what do you see?” He replied: “I see parchment burning, but the letters are soaring free.”

Any brute can burn parchment, or ransack a library, or blow up a mosque, or bulldoze cultural treasures. But not even mighty armies can destroy the ideas they embody. The Roman Empire couldn’t keep the letters from soaring free. ISIS can’t either.
[Jewish World Review]
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Friday, February 06, 2015

Turkey Can Crush ISIS...Obama Won't Let Them



Does the barbarism have a logic? - Charles Krauthammer, MD

What's missing are serious boots on the ground, such as Syria's once-ascendant non-jihadist rebels, which Obama contemptuously dismissed and allowed to wither. And the Kurds, who are willing and able to fight, yet remain scandalously undersupplied by this administration.

Missing most of all is Turkey. It alone has the size and power to take on the Islamic State. But doing so would strengthen, indeed rescue, Turkey's primary nemesis, the Iranian-backed Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.
 
Turkey's price for entry was an American commitment to help bring down Assad. Obama refused. So Turkey sits it out.
 
Why doesn't Obama agree? Didn't he say that Assad must go? The reason is that Obama dares not upset Assad's patrons, the Iranian mullahs, with whom Obama dreams of concluding a grand rapprochement.

For Obama, this is his ticket to Mt. Rushmore. So in pursuit of his Nixon-to-China Iran fantasy, Obama eschews Turkey, our most formidable potential ally against both the Islamic State and Assad.  What's Obama left with? Fragile front-line Arab states, like Jordan.

But even they are mortified by Obama's blind pursuit of detente with Tehran, which would make the mullahs hegemonic over the Arab Middle East. Hence the Arabs, the Saudis especially, hold back from any major military commitment to us. Jordan, its hand now forced by its pilot's murder, may now bravely sally forth on its own. But at great risk and with little chance of ultimate success.
[Jewish World Review]
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Iran Nuclear Deal Raises Major Concerns - Editorial

As the Obama administration pushes to complete a nuclear accord with Iran, numerous members of Congress, former secretaries of state and officials of allied governments are expressing concern about the contours of the emerging deal. Though we have long supported negotiations with Iran as well as the interim agreement, we share several of those concerns and believe they deserve more debate now - before negotiators present the world with a fait accompli.
(Washington Post)
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What's at Stake with Iran? - Abraham H. Foxman

It is becoming more critical than ever to keep our eye on the ball. Whatever one's view of the decision by Speaker of the House John Boehner to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress, this unnecessary brouhaha should not divert us from the real issue: Will we stop Iran from becoming a nuclear armed power?

The writer is national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
(Times of Israel)
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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Caged & Burned: Video of Jordanian Pilot [updated link]

 

Content Warning:
The very difficult to watch 
ISIS video, can be viewed at a separate link.  Please consider carefully before viewing.  The images are painful to view and hard to forget.  If you really wish to view it click here.  The actual execution begins at the 17 minute mark.

Torched to Death in a Cage

Militants fighting for the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq have claimed to have burned alive captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh while he was locked helpless in a cage.
 
The chilling footage appears to show the captured airman being set alight as the militants - infamous for their barbaric murders - plunged new depths of depravity.  
 
The expertly-edited footage, filmed from several camera angles, shows the pilot wearing an orange jumpsuit and seemingly doused in fuel, as a trail of petrol leading up to the iron bars of the cage is seen being set ablaze.
 
Flames are seen quickly spreading across the dirt to the cage where they completely engulf the helpless pilot in images that are far too distressing to publish. The release of the video has prompted Jordan to announce it will execute all six prisoners convicted of association with ISIS 'within hours'. Within an hour of the 22-minute-long video's publication, Jordan reportedly moved ISIS-linked prisoners to a jail in the south of the country which is usually used for state executions.  
[Daily Mail - UK]


UPDATES:

Jordan Executes Two Prisoners - Greg Botelho & Dana Ford 

In Amman and in the pilot's hometown, crowds hit the streets calling for revenge. Tom Fuentes, a CNN law enforcement analyst, noted: "When was the last time you had a mob in the street of one of these Muslim countries that was not screaming 'death to America,' but in fact screaming, 'get revenge on ISIS.'" 
(CNN)
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Muslim Outrage Against ISIS - Liz Sly & Hugh Naylor

Declarations of outrage swept the Middle East as the spectacle of an Arab pilot being burned alive in a cage triggered some of the harshest reactions yet. The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat headlined its coverage: "Barbarity," while Iyad Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the killing as an affront to Islam. "Most of the people executed by [the Islamic State] have been foreigners, but this time it was an Arab Muslim man," said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst based in Amman.
    

However, Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on ISIS who advises the Iraqi government, said, "The Islamic State has gained more from this than it has lost." In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State broadcast video of the pilot's death on giant video screens as crowds shouted, "God is Great." 
(Washington Post)
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Obama Continues to Flirt with Muslim Brotherhood



Sisi: Protecting Egypt More Important than Struggle Against Israel
- Zvi Bar'el

For the first time, an Arab leader, Egypt's President Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, is challenging the common view that "resistance" organizations that are fighting Israel necessarily serve Arab interests.


The "sanctity" of the struggle against Israel is no longer seen as justification for the existence of an organization that turns its arms against Egypt. 
(Ha'aretz)


Egypt and the New Terror Onslaught - Zvi Mazel

Unfortunately Cairo's long-term ally, America, has yet to restore fully its military cooperation, and Egypt is not receiving the help it so desperately needs to maintain its stability.


The Obama administration still supports the Brotherhood. Just last week a delegation of members of the Brotherhood who fled Egypt was received at the State Department. When will America finally understand that a prolonged and bloody conflict in Sinai will affect all countries in the region?
The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.
(Jerusalem Post)
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UPDATE:

Egypt Outraged by U.S. Hosting Brotherhood

A delegation of Muslim Brotherhood members met with officials at the U.S. State Department on Jan. 27, 2015. The Egyptian regime, outraged by the visit, accused the U.S. administration of not respecting Egyptian law that defines the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and of discounting the will of the Egyptian people.

It also claimed that this conduct flies in the face of U.S. policy, which champions the struggle against global terrorism.
(MEMRI)
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Abbas: Hypocrite



Abbas orders probe into Palestinian cartoon of Mohammad

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered an investigation into a cartoon apparently depicting the Prophet Mohammad in an official Palestinian newspaper.

The move came less than a month after Abbas joined world leaders in a march for free speech in Paris following a deadly attack by Islamist gunmen on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had caricatured Mohammad.


A drawing in the West Bank-based newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadidah showed a robed man standing astride Earth and reaching into a heart-shaped pouch to sow seeds of love around the world. The caption reads: "Our Prophet Mohammad".

Artist Mohammed Sabanneh, a Muslim, said he meant no harm.


[T]he official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Abbas had ordered "an immediate investigation."

It quoted him citing "the need to take deterrent action against those responsible for this terrible mistake, out of respect for sacred religious symbols and foremost among them the prophets".
[Jerusalem Post]


UPDATE:


Mahmoud Abbas Gets a Free Pass - David Keyes
    

"Moderate" Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas publicly hugged the genocidal leader of Sudan, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir; ordered an investigation into a cartoonist for publishing a drawing of Mohammed; and entered his 10th year of a four-year term of office.
     

Under Abbas' rule, the PA has arrested activists for Facebook posts and jailed atheists. Two weeks ago, a student was imprisoned for insulting the head of the Palestinian Football Federation. Torture is rampant.
     

Decades of propping up Palestinian dictators from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas have not solved the problem of radicalism - they've actually strengthened it. 

A modest solution is to begin using the West's immense political and economic leverage to encourage real democratic reform in the Palestinian Authority. Tyrants that stifle dissent are not moderates. The free world should stop pretending that they are.

The writer is the executive director of Advancing Human Rights.
(Daily Beast)
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Friday, January 30, 2015

Bold Statement From Muslim Academic

Mohammed Wattad, PhD

Only Muslims Can Change the World's View of Islam
- Mohammed Wattad, PhD


The cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammad were drawn by Western journalists for Western audiences in a society grounded in democratic rights and freedoms, tantamount among these the right to free speech. And what is the essence of free speech if not the right to express disputed and even offensive views?
    

Muslims are well aware of the rights and freedoms afforded to them in democratic societies, and this is precisely the reason many of them leave their Islamic homelands for the West. It is therefore with the utmost hypocrisy, audacity and impertinence that Muslims living in democratic countries react to criticism of their faith with threats, vandalism and violence. Their sensitivities notwithstanding, if Muslims are to live among Westerners, it is they who must conform to the norms of the land, not vice versa.
    

Examples abound of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other faiths being the subject of gross insult. Yet while these expressions have sparked outrage and anger, they are met with words in the marketplace of ideas. Only among Muslims are words of criticism met by the sword. This proves exactly what the Dutch and French cartoonists sought to depict: the moral, educational and cultural bankruptcy of those who act barbarically in the name of Islam. The cartoons are not concerned with Islam, but with the way some Muslims exercise Islam. They merely reflected existing images created by extremists themselves.
    

If this image is wrong, then we Muslims bear the burden to show otherwise. Terrorism today stems primarily from Muslims in the name of Islam. For these images to change, Muslims must be at the forefront of countering Islamic radicalization in the Middle East and in our adopted countries
The writer is a visiting assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine.
(Jerusalem Post)
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Obama's MidEast Dance


 
Israel’s reported strike January 18 on a joint Iranian-Hezbollah convoy driving on the Syrian Golan Heights was one of the most strategically significant events to have occurred in Israel’s neighborhood in recent months.

[I]t is clear that in one fell swoop the air force decapitated the Iranian and Hezbollah operational command in Syria. According to a report from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the Iranian losses included three generals.

The fact that the men were willing to risk exposure by traveling together along the border with Israel indicates how critical the front is for the regime in Tehran. It also indicates that in all likelihood, they were planning an imminent attack against Israel.
 
Iran’s willingness to expose its forces and Hezbollah forces also indicates something else. It indicates that they believe that there is a force deterring Israel from attacking them.

From the Golan Heights to Gaza, from Yemen and Iraq to Latin America to Nantanz and Arak, Iran is boldly advancing its nuclear and imperialist agenda. As Charles Krauthammer noted, the nations of the Middle East allied with the US are sounding the alarm. Earlier this week, during Obama’s visit with the new Saudi King Salman, he got an earful from the monarch regarding the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israel’s January 18 strike on Iranian and Hezbollah commanders in Syria showed Israel’s strategy wisdom and independent capacity. Israel can and will take measures to defend its critical security interests. It has the intelligence gathering capacity to identify and strike at targets in real time.

But it also showed the constraints Israel is forced to operate under in its increasingly complex and dangerous strategic environment.

Due to the US administration’s commitment to turning a blind eye to Iran’s advances and the destabilizing role it plays everywhere it gains power, Israel can do little more than carry out precision attacks against high value targets. The flipside of the administration’s refusal to see the dangers, and so enable Iran’s territorial expansion and its nuclear progress, is its determination to ensure that Israel does nothing to prevent those dangers from growing – whether along its borders or at Iran’s nuclear facilities.
[Jerusalem Post]

 
Do We Really Mean "Never Again"? - Charles Krauthammer

Amid the pledges of "never again" on Tuesday's 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, anti-Semitism has returned to Europe with a vengeance. It has become routine. The rise of European anti-Semitism is, in reality, just a return to the norm. While the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly wherein anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable, the hiatus is over. Jew-hatred is back.
    
For America, Europe and the moderate Arabs, there are powerful reasons having nothing to do with Israel for trying to prevent an apocalyptic, fanatically anti-Western clerical regime in Tehran from getting the bomb: Iranian hegemony, nuclear proliferation (including to terror groups) and elemental national security. For Israel, however, the threat is of a different order. Direct, immediate and mortal.
    
The Iranian bomb is a national security issue, but it is also a uniquely Jewish issue because of Israel's situation as the only state on earth overtly threatened with extinction, facing a potential nuclear power overtly threatening that extinction.
 
Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living - Israel and its 6 million Jews. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day. 
(Washington Post)
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UPDATES:


Israeli officials told Israel Channel 10 TV they are convinced the Obama administration "has given the Iranians 80% of what they want" in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the U.S. will soon strike a deal that will leave the Iranian regime with a "breakout capacity." Iran will be permitted to keep over 7,000 centrifuges, enough to produce enough enriched material to sprint toward the bomb within a matter of months.
    
These developments have apparently fueled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's sense of urgency in traveling to Washington and addressing Congress. "We are in a continuous struggle with Iran which is opening new fronts against us, which is engaged in terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world," Netanyahu said.
(Jerusalem Post)
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Debating the U.S. Approach to Iran - Michael Doran (Mosaic)
 

  • Instead of trying to paper over the disagreement, Obama has done everything in his power to advertise it. In making his personal rift with Netanyahu the subject of intense public debate, the White House means to direct attention away from the strategic rift between them - and from the fact that the entire Israeli elite, regardless of political orientation, as well as much of the U.S. Congress, regards the president's conciliatory approach to Iran as profoundly misguided.
  • The president is depicting his congressional critics as irresponsible warmongers. He would have us believe that there are only two options: his undeclared detente with Iran and yet another war in the Middle East. This is a false choice. It ignores the policy that every president since Jimmy Carter has pursued till now: vigorous containment on all fronts, not just in the nuclear arena.
  • As a matter of ideology as much as strategy, Obama believes that integrating Iran into the international diplomatic and economic system is a much more effective method of moderating its aggressive behavior than applying more pressure. He appears also to believe that his method is working.
  • In the meantime, the seasoned thugs in Tehran grow stronger and bolder: ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity, ever more confident in their hegemonic objectives. At minuscule and temporary inconvenience to themselves, they have not only reaped the economic and diplomatic rewards pursuant to participation in the interim agreement, but also fully preserved their nuclear ambitions and the means of achieving them.

  • Having bested the most powerful country on earth in their drive for success on their terms, they have good reason to be confident.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council.

ADDITIONAL UPDATES:



Speech Gives Israel a Seat at Iran Talks - Seth Lipsky

Why doesn't Israel have a seat at the table in the main negotiations with Iran, which is openly declaring its intention to destroy the Jewish state? It's one thing to parse the fine points of etiquette with respect to who gets to invite the prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress. But what do those who want to exclude Netanyahu from addressing Congress have to say about Israel's absence at the P5+1? This whole charade with Iran is being conducted in exclusion of the very state against whom Iran intends to use the nuclear weapons it covets.
    

The idea that either the Speaker inviting Israel to speak to the Congress or the Congress preparing contingency sanctions is a violation of some kind of diplomatic tradition is bizarre, given more than 50 years of congressional involvement in arms-control talks, as detailed in the Wall Street Journal.
(Ha'aretz)


The White House Is Lonelier on Iran - Walter Russell Mead 
  • The longer the President and his top aides keep pretending that critics of his Iran policy have no concerns that are worth taking seriously, the more they feed the narrative that the White House is in over its head on Iran - that it has lost sight of some important considerations in a headlong drive to get a deal.
  • The gravest danger to the balance of power in the Middle East today is Iran's push to consolidate its domination of the swath of territory from Iraq through Syria to Lebanon. Instead of coming down like a ton of bricks on Iran's regional ambitions, the administration appears to be edging toward embracing Iran as a useful partner against ISIS and its fellow travelers. A nuclear deal that lifts the sanctions without addressing the question of Iran's regional ambitions would have the effect of greatly strengthening Iran's hand.
  • Iran has consistently cast its quest for regional power as a movement of "Islamic Resistance" against the U.S. and its sidekick in Jerusalem. Iran and its allies have consistently taken the hardest possible line against both the U.S. and Israel. It would seem that the larger Iran looms in the region, the more it will need the image of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism to legitimate its position. Why does it makes sense to think that a stronger Iran will choose alignment with the U.S. when its own political interests would benefit from a more anti-American posture?
  • It is argued that moving to a less polarized relationship with Iran will accelerate a transition toward a more democratic and less theocratic regime within Iran. Certainly a democratic revolution in Iran would be a welcome development. But Americans generally are bad at predicting when revolutions will take place in foreign countries, and we are worse at predicting the course those revolutions take once under way.
  • Finally, there is the question of our current unhappy allies. In pursuit of a new understanding with Iran, the White House has put severe stress on our existing relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel. As a result, Iran has been able to watch America's regional position and alliance network weaken without lifting a finger or spending a dime. Under the circumstances, it looks to many as if the U.S. is dumping its old allies without securing a replacement.
  • If the administration has a serious case for how its Iran policy will leave the U.S. with a stronger and more useful regional alliance network than it now has, that case has not been made. The bits and pieces of the strategy that we know about don't make sense, and the President and his team don't seem to understand how weak and vapid the case they make to the public really is.

    The writer is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Professor of American foreign policy at Yale University. He served as Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations until 2010.
(American Interest)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ISIS & The Iran Cauldron



U.S. Policy in Syria: A Recipe to Contain, Not Defeat, ISIS 
- Andrew J. Tabler

The Assad regime's tacit agreement to avoid firing on coalition strike aircraft - juxtaposed with long delays in the Obama administration's train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition and the president's October 2014 letter to Iran's Supreme Leader on cooperation against ISIS - is creating widespread perceptions that the U.S. is heading into a de facto alliance with Assad and Tehran regarding the jihadists.


If Washington continues this policy, it will merely contain ISIS, not "defeat" or "destroy" the group. Beyond the terrible optics of assisting a president who has used chemical weapons and Scud missiles against his own people, the Assad regime is financially and militarily crippled and therefore unable to retake and hold areas currently controlled by ISIS.

Instead of allowing the regime's strength to grow, Washington should weaken both Assad and ISIS by encouraging the fight between them, weakening Iran's foreign legions and the jihadists at the same time
The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute. 
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)


Iranian Weapons of War America Should Fear - Zachary Keck

With the possible exception of North Korea, no country in the post-Cold War era has sought to challenge the U.S. as much as Iran. Tehran has never missed an opportunity to antagonize the U.S. and limit its influence.
   

In any conventional military conflict, Iran wouldn't stand a chance against the U.S. armed forces. To compensate, Iran pursues a deterrent-based military doctrine premised on three types of capabilities: an expansive ballistic missile arsenal, asymmetric naval warfare (particularly the threat of closing down the Strait of Hormuz), and ties to non-state militant groups.
   

Perhaps Iran's greatest deterrent threat is its ability to threaten oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz, which roughly 20% of global oil supplies must transverse on their way to markets. Iran has at least twenty 150-ton Ghadir-class midget submarines that would be especially deadly in any conflict. As Chris Harmer, an expert on Iran's military at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), explains, "The quietest submarine in the world is one that rests on a sandy seabed. That is how the Iranians would use the Ghadir - get it out of port, sink to the bottom of the shallow Persian Gulf, rest on the sandy bottom, and wait for a target to come to it."
   

With the benefit of hindsight, Iran's decision to infiltrate Lebanon seems like pure strategic genius, as Hizbullah has been the gift that just keeps giving. Time and again Hizbullah has proven to be the most versatile and usable "weapon of war" in Iran's arsenal. Iran used Hizbullah to carry out terrorist attacks like the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and successfully attacked Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in 2012.
(American Interest)
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Iran Ascending



The Long Arm: Iran Is Expanding Its Influence Abroad

Officials in Tehran are not shy about their aim of spreading influence abroad, nor of their apparent success. Tehran can claim, with only a pinch of hubris, to run three Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. This week it may have added a fourth: Sana'a, Yemen's capital.
     

Moreover, an Israeli strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights that killed Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, an Iranian general, exposed Iranian meddling in another part of the Middle East. To its critics, Iran alarmingly holds sway from the Mediterranean Sea to the Fertile Crescent and the Gulf of Aden. "The Iranians are experts at taking advantage of chaos," says Shimon Shapira, a retired military man now at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 
(Economist-UK)


Iran's Emerging Empire - Charles Krauthammer

Iran's march toward conventional domination of the Arab world has been largely overlooked in Washington. For the Saudis and the other Gulf Arabs, this is a nightmare. They're engaged in a titanic regional struggle with Iran. And they are losing - losing Yemen, losing Lebanon, losing Syria and watching post-U.S.-withdrawal Iraq come under increasing Iranian domination.


The nightmare would be hugely compounded by Iran going nuclear. 
(Washington Post)


Fact Checker: Has Iran's Nuclear Program Been "Halted" and Its Nuclear Stockpile "Reduced"?
- Glenn Kessler

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, 2015, President Obama said: "Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we've halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material."
     

Olli Heinonen, who headed the IAEA's safeguards section, said, "It is true that 20%-enriched uranium stocks have decreased, but Iran is still producing uranium enriched up to 5% uranium. The latter stocks have actually increased when you talk about stocks of UF6 [uranium hexafluoride] and other chemical compounds." Moreover, "it appears that the production of centrifuge components continues. Same with the Arak reactor. No new nuclear components have been installed, but it does not mean that the production of those came to halt."
     

David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, said it was not correct that the 3.5%-enriched stock had been reduced; instead it has been converted from one form ("hexafluoride") to another ("oxide"), a step that he said was taken largely for cosmetic (political) purposes. As a practical matter, the conversion of 3.5% to oxide form would only add about two weeks to the break-out period, since Iran could reconvert it back into hexafluoride. 

In effect, the amount of nuclear material available to Iran has gone up "about a bomb's worth during the JPOA [interim agreement]," Albright said.
(Washington Post)


How Congress Can Use Its Leverage on Iran - David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey

Tehran's insistence that existing U.S. sanctions be lifted as part of a nuclear-weapons agreement gives U.S. lawmakers substantial leverage. Congress should insist that any Iranian agreement take the form of a treaty. The Constitution requires that treaties be made only with the advice and consent of the Senate.
     

Congress should pass legislation now clearly stating the parameters of an acceptable nuclear deal with Iran, emphasizing the need to eliminate any Iranian breakout capability. It should also put the Iranians and our allies on notice that, absent congressional approval, the president cannot deliver comprehensive and permanent relief from the existing sanctions statutes.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Mr. Rivkin is also a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
(Wall Street Journal)


UPDATES: 

Prime Minister Has "Sacred Duty" to Oppose Iran Deal that "Endangers Israel's Existence"
- Jacob Kornbluh

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer sought to reassure Americans that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no intention to disrespect President Barack Obama or intervene in American politics by accepting House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address a joint session of Congress in March.
     

"There may be some people who believe that the Prime Minister of Israel should have declined an invitation to speak before the most powerful parliament in the world on an issue that concerns the future and survival of Israel. But we have learned from our history that the world becomes a more dangerous place for the Jewish people when the Jewish people are silent."
     

"The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the State of Israel....The Jewish people are a people who have survived all the evil that history has thrown at us. And we will survive the evil that we face today. But we will not do it by bowing our heads and by hoping that the storm will pass." 
(JP Updates)


New Saudi Ruler Sees Iran Threat - Mohamad Bazzi

No one should doubt that King Salman is as focused on the perceived threat from Iran as King Abdullah was. In a conversation a week ago with six visiting U.S. senators, the new ruler emphasized the threat from a nuclear-armed Iran, said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). 
(Politico)


Netanyahu: "I Am Obligated to Make Every Effort to Prevent Iran from Achieving Nuclear Weapons Aimed at Israel"

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet: "In the coming weeks, the major powers are liable to reach a framework agreement with Iran, an agreement that is liable to leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, which would endanger - first and foremost - the existence of the State of Israel. This is the same Iran that has taken over Lebanon and Syria and is now taking over Yemen and Iraq. This is the same Iran that is preparing an active front against us both on the Golan Heights and in southern Lebanon. This same Iran cannot advance toward nuclear weapons."
    

"As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel. This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel's position and in order to defend its future and its existence." 
(Prime Minister's Office)


Secret Israeli-Saudi Ties Likely to Continue - Ariel Zilber

The tacit security and intelligence cooperation that has come to characterize Israel's clandestine relationship with Saudi Arabia is likely to remain intact following [the] passing of King Abdullah.
     

"The changes that the Middle East has experienced in recent years have created a set of joint interests between the two countries," said Dr. Michal Yaari, an expert on Saudi foreign policy and a lecturer at the Open University. "The biggest enemy for both countries is Iran, and there are also the radical terror groups like ISIS that threaten the regional order in the Middle East. It is this overall framework that has created the conditions for cooperation between Jerusalem and Riyadh."
(Jerusalem Post)


Time to Take It to Iran - Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh

American diplomats should not be afraid to walk away from the table and even suspend the talks should they continue to meet an unyielding Iran. They need to clearly signal that we don't need an agreement as much as they do and that we are prepared to create conditions for international support for increased pressure.
(Politico)
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Additional UPDATE:

About that Invitation to Address Congress - Elliott Abrams

  • When Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last addressed a joint session of Congress in 2011, Walter Russell Mead wrote a remarkable comment on the speech Netanyahu made and the reception he received. "Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth....Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-American."
  • Obama administration officials who are trying to argue that Netanyahu's invitation from Speaker Boehner is outrageous and political (just a few days after the president got British prime minister Cameron to lobby Congress directly) will lose the argument.
  • Iran's nuclear program is one of the most significant national security issues we face and an even larger issue for Israel.
  • I think it's fine that Obama will not see Netanyahu so close to the Israeli election; that's a good practice in general and avoids the inference of U.S. intervention in a foreign electoral contest.
  • But the White House's whining about Boehner's invitation is amateurish, and for the reasons Mead explained it will persuade few Americans beyond the Beltway.
  • Given the situation in the Middle East and the state of nuclear negotiations with Iran (where the U.S. has abandoned almost every red line it ever set), it's no wonder that Netanyahu wants to speak about Iran and that the Speaker wants to hear him.

    The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Council on Foreign Relations)
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