Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Capitulation of US: 'Step on Me'



U.S. Ignored Israeli Warning on Violation of Sanctions - Jeffrey Heller

A senior Israeli official said that, despite a tip-off from Israel, the U.S. allowed Iran to purchase 15 used commercial planes in the last three months, even though the acquisition violated international sanctions.

"Israel learned from intelligence sources about this very significant breach of the sanctions in advance of it occurring," the Israeli official told Reuters. "We flagged the issue to the U.S. administration. Unfortunately, the deal still went through and there was no success in preventing it." 
(Reuters)


New Tensions Between U.S. and Iran - Dion Nissenbaum & Asa Fitch

Two Iranian warships have linked up in the waters off Yemen's coast with an Iranian vessel said to be carrying aid for Yemen, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. American officials have called on Iran to send the ship to the African country of Djibouti to undergo newly established UN inspections for aid going to Yemen. But Iran has ignored that appeal so far.

(Wall Street Journal)


Iran Ship to Refuse Inspections

Iranian officials said an Iranian cargo ship, which left from Bandar Abbas, Iran, for al Hudaydah, Yemen, and is escorted by the Iranian Navy's 34th Fleet, will refuse inspections by countries involved in the conflict in Yemen.

Iran appears to be testing U.S. redlines in the Gulf of Aden.

Recent incidents involving the U.S.-flagged Maersk Kensington, Marshall Islands-flaggedMaersk Tigris, and a convoy of seven cargo ships reportedly carrying weapons for the Houthis demonstrate Iran's willingness to test the line.
(American Enterprise Institute)
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Low Rates of Post Traumatic Stress in Israel



Why PTSD in the IDF Is Only 1 Percent - Sebastian Junger

PTSD is a natural response to danger. From an evolutionary perspective, it's exactly the response you want to have when your life is in danger...

The American military now has the highest PTSD rate in its history - and probably in the world. PTSD claims to the Veterans Administration have reportedly risen 60% to 150,000 a year.

Anthropological research from around the world shows that recovery from war is heavily influenced by the society one returns to, and there are societies that make that process relatively easy.

Israel is arguably the only modern country that retains a sufficient sense of community to mitigate the effects of combat on a mass scale. Despite decades of intermittent war, the Israel Defense Forces have a PTSD rate as low as 1%.

Two of the foremost reasons have to do with national military service and the proximity of the combat - the war is virtually on their doorstep. "Being in the military is something that most people have done," I was told by Dr. Arieh Shalev, who has devoted the last 20 years to studying PTSD. "Those who come back from combat are re-integrated into a society where those experiences are very well understood." 
(Vanity Fair)
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Monday, May 18, 2015

Rabin on Jerusalem: How Things Change

 
 
This rare video is of an interview Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave the day before he was murdered!

Caroline Glick notes on her Facebook post: "[h]e explains that his vision is for Jerusalem to remain united under Israeli sovereignty and for the Palestinians to exercise their national rights in less than a sovereign state. Today we are told that this is an extremist right wing view. When we take a step back, we can see how badly things have deteriorated in the past 20 years."

 Many believe that had Rabin lived, peace would have been achieved.  This 'cult-of-the-individual' ignores evidence like this.  There is no evidence that Rabin would have negotiated away parts of Jerusalem.  Rabin's opinion, once a "left-wing" position, is now widely seen as a "right-wing" one.  My...how things change. 
Hat tip: Caroline Glick

Friday, May 15, 2015

Kill Us...Please



Hamas Understands the West - David P. Goldman

Never in the entire history of warfare has a belligerent done what Hamas did during the Gaza war, namely, maximize civilian casualties on its own side in order to win sympathy.


Yet there is a reflex in the West to declare the deaths of civilians "unacceptable" even if it is engineered by Hamas. Hamas understands the West better than the West understands Hamas.

The horror over civilian deaths overwhelms the West and prompts a significant body of Western opinion to demand a "solution" where no solution is to be found.
(Asia Times-Hong Kong)
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Monday, May 11, 2015

Projecting Weakness




Inspectors Find Undeclared Sarin and VX in Syria - Anthony Deutsch

International inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared, diplomatic sources said. 
(Reuters) 


What Do Syrian Chemical Violations Mean for Iran Deal?
- David Gerstman   


When we see that there are no consequences to Syria for violating a verifiable deal to get rid of its chemical weapons, what lesson should we draw about future violations by Iran of any deal that it agrees to regarding its illicit nuclear program? 
(Legal Insurrection)


Report: New Chlorine Attacks in Syria - Sarah El Deeb

Mohammed Tennari, a doctor who testified before the UN Security Council last month about chemical attacks, reported Thursday on three new chemical attacks in the province of Idlib that injured nearly 80 people. Government helicopters dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine on the villages of Janoudieh, Kansafrah, and Kafr Batiekh on Thursday.
(AP-Washington Post)


Persian Gulf States Want: Iran Kept at Bay - Doyle McManus

This week, President Obama will gather kings, emirs and sheiks from the oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf at Camp David for a summit aimed at bolstering the U.S. alliance with their Sunni Muslim governments. These alliances have been fraying, mostly because of diverging views on Iran, the Arab states' historic rival, ruled by Shiite Muslims.


In recent months, as the Obama administration has neared an agreement to limit Iran's nuclear programs, the Saudis and their allies have reacted with near-panic. They don't want an equilibrium that grants Iran big-power status; they want Iran kept at bay. They think Iran is irrevocably bent on expanding its influence. 
(Los Angeles Times)


Saudi, Bahrain Kings to Miss Gulf Nation Summit in U.S.
 
The kings of both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will be skipping the Camp David summit of U.S. and allied Arab leaders, the two countries confirmed Sunday.

The absences will put a damper on talks that are designed to reassure key Arab allies, and almost certainly reflect dissatisfaction among leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council with Washington's handling of Iran and what they expect to get out of the meeting.
(AP-ABC News)


UPDATES:

With Plane Delivery, Iran Sanctions Collapsing Already
- Eli Lake

Abbas Akhoundi, Iran's transportation minister, said Sunday that 15 planes had been acquired by Iran since February. Iranian media reported that the nine planes that arrived for Mahan Air used to be part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet. On Monday, the Financial Times
reported that Western governments suspect Iraq's Al-Naser Airlines to have been a front for Mahan to acquire the planes.

Some analysts said the transaction showed how the sanctions against Iran were collapsing. "Mahan Air's case shows that U.S. sanctions no longer deter Western companies from doing big business with Iran," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "The administration must move quickly to punish those companies involved in this blatant breach of U.S. sanctions. Otherwise, the argument that sanctions are still largely intact and can always be snapped back in the future loses all credibility."
    

Avi Jorisch, a former Treasury Department official who is now a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the purchase of the airplanes was a "gross violation" of the interim agreement. "Such moves weaken the U.S. government's ability to negotiate and make a credible case that if a good deal is not signed, Iran's economy will continue to suffer."  
(Bloomberg)
*

Assad Failed to Disclose Ten Chemical Weapons Sites
- Josh Rogin and Eli Lake 

Officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the Obama administration early this year that its inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent during an inspection of the Syrian government's Scientific Studies and Research Center near Damascus. The administration is said to have not yet decided about how to respond.

(Bloomberg)
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Lessons of Syrian Chemical Weapons Discovery
- Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser
  • In early May, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that they had located traces of sarin-type chemical weapons and ricin-type biological weapons in at least three sites in Syria which the Assad regime had not reported.
  • The lack of political will to be drawn into a conflict with the party under supervision leads to foot-dragging; the issue is sidelined and its importance downplayed. The chlorine-gas attacks on the Syrian population, for example, have become a humdrum matter that interests no one and is barely mentioned, let alone spurring a response.
  • The West's commitment to act on these issues only within the framework of a broad international coalition creates total paralysis.
  • Whoever wants to defend against the threats embodied in Iran's behavior must have an independent capacity to act - even if one enjoys a deep strategic security relationship with the U.S. What the Saudis have been demonstrating in Yemen shows that they have already reached this conclusion.

    The writer is Director of the Project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research and Analysis and Production Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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What Syrian Chemical Weapons Reveal about Obama - Daniel Pipes, PhD

The famed "red line" warning that Barack Obama issued in August 2013 to Bashar al-Assad of Syria was arguably the defining foreign policy moment of his presidency...

When the incident ended in a blur, responses were bifurcated. The president and his allies hailed this as a monument of diplomacy, whereby a plausible threat led bloodlessly to a major improvement in behavior. In contrast, critics presented Obama as a paper tiger who raged with threats that collapsed when offered meaningless assurances by a well-established liar.

For two years, there was no verdict. But now, closure is at hand. That's because there are now multiple reports of the Assad regime using chlorine in barrel bombs, plus the discovery of traces of ricin, sarin and VX.

In response, the U.S. government not done nothing about these hideous developments other than issued mild rebukes, turn to the feckless United Nations, and hope against hope that the Russians and even the Iranians would dispose of the problem. No mention of red lines this time, just a wish no one would remember 2013.

But we do remember and we do draw conclusions. It's now indisputably clear that Obama is no more than a paper tiger. His threats against the Syrian dictatorship meant nothing but vanished into thin air, replaced by squirming and prattle.

Not only is this response important in itself, but it has implications for other hostile states, notably Russia, China, and especially Iran. If Obama dares not handle the weakling in Damascus, how might he venture to do so with the more formidable foes in Moscow, Peking, and Tehran?

For this reason, the issue of Assad's chemical weapons is crucial to American foreign policy. Like many observers, I count the months until this president is gone and the United States of America has an opportunity for a fresh start to stand by its word, live up to its historic reputation, and protect itself.
[Fox News]
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Monday, May 04, 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Iran Ratchets Up Tension




Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's Bluster - Max Boot
  • On Tuesday, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats seized the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-registered container ship that was transiting through the Straits of Hormuz.
  • On Wednesday, speaking in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif made it seem as if a nuclear agreement is a done deal - on Iran's terms.
  • Zarif made clear that the lifting of sanctions would occur within weeks of the agreement being signed (contrary to White House claims that sanctions relief would be phased), while also mocking Obama's claims that sanctions could "snap back" in the event of Iranian violations: "If people are worrying about snapback, they should be worrying about the U.S. violating its obligations and us snapping back," he said.
  • Both are evidence of Iranian arrogance: by hijacking a ship registered to an American protectorate and then lecturing American leaders that they will have to abide by Iran's terms for a nuclear deal - or else. This is not the way Iran would talk or act if it feared the U.S., but plainly it doesn't. It is indicative of where we stand that there has been nary a peep of protest about the hijacking of the Maersk Tigris.
  • The very reason why Iran was able to hijack the negotiations to legitimate its illegal nuclear program is precisely because the U.S. has spent years turning the other cheek at Iranian aggression. That's why Iran's foreign minister feels free to come to New York and act like a haughty master of the universe.

    The writer is a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Commentary)


Iran Seizes Cargo Ship in Strait of Hormuz - Missy Ryan and William Branigin

The Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship, was intercepted by patrol ships from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, fired upon and then boarded by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Iran's Fars news agency said Iran was taking the ship to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
    
A State Department official said that under a bilateral compact the U.S. has responsibility for the security of the Marshall Islands, including the defense of ships flying the nation's flag. The U.S. military, after receiving a distress call from the Tigris, sent surveillance aircraft and ordered the destroyer USS Farragut to head toward the ship.
    
On Friday, the U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Kensington was approached by four Iranian patrol craft while on an internationally recognized shipping route in the southern Persian Gulf, off the coast of Oman. The Iranian ships circled the Kensington and followed it for a time before departing. The incidents are alarming, a U.S. Navy official said. 
(Washington Post)


The Pirates of Tehran - Editorial

Apologists for Iran will no doubt ascribe the seizure of the Tigris to "hardline factions" within the regime. That might be true, but it only underscores the futility of striking a nuclear deal with a regime in which the hardliners can operate with impunity. Iran's disdain for basic maritime conventions is a good indicator of how it will treat any agreement it signs. Pirates don't keep their word, and it's dangerous to bargain as if they will. 
(Wall Street Journal)

 
- Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall 

[Iranian] commanders have threatened to sink U.S. ships and send American soldiers home in coffins. Recently – with the nuclear talks at full speed – Iran conducted a large naval exercise in which it sank a mockup of a U.S. aircraft carrier. Here, too, the United States chose not to react.
This time Iran has raised the stakes. Will the United States hold back this time as well?
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

UPDATE: 
 
Given the US's formal, binding obligation to the Marshall Islands, the Iranian seizure of the ship was in effect an act of war against America.
 
[T]he Obama administration failed to condemn their unlawful action.
 
If the administration continues to stand by in the face of Iran's aggression, the strategic implications will radiate far beyond the US's bilateral ties with the Marshall Islands. If the US allows Iran to get away with unlawfully seizing a Marshall Islands flagged ship it is treaty bound to protect, it will reinforce the growing assessment of its Middle Eastern allies that its security guarantees are worthless.
 
Three days after a ship sailing under their flag was seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, citizens of the Marshall Islands discovered that their decision to place their security in America's hands is no longer the safe bet they thought it was 29 years ago.
(Jewish World Review)



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Iran Deal A "Mirage"



The Iran Deal that Never Was - Gideon Rachman 

There is no Iran nuclear deal. The joint statement released by Iran and its negotiating partners earlier this month was a few short paragraphs, skirting all the crucial issues. All the detail about what was "agreed" was actually contained in a unilateral statement issued by the Americans on April 2 - the so-called White House fact sheet. Iran had not signed off on that "fact sheet." And, in subsequent days, Iran made it clear that it dissents from the American interpretation of what was agreed. 

The two sides are meant to bridge all these gaps between now and their next deadline of June 30, which is when a final agreement is meant to be agreed. However, given that the framework agreement is actually a mirage, it seems rather unlikely that the two sides will sign off on the final deal in June - or even later this year. Talk of an Iran "deal" is certainly unjustified. Given the gaps between Iran and the U.S., failure is still more likely than success.
(Financial Times-UK)
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Friday, April 24, 2015

"A Decade of Chaos"


Shmuel Bar, PhD

Chaos Could Last For At Least A Decade - Ariel Ben Solomon    

"The ideology of Islamic State and the caliphate are a watershed event," said Shmuel Bar, a senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research at the Technion.
     

"No previous Islamic regime - no matter how radical, dared declare itself a caliphate."

"The very paradigm of the caliphate implies that there is only one form of Islam and the caliphate must purge the 'Abode of Islam' from all others - Shi'ites, Alawites - and subjugate all other religious communities - Christians and Jews - or eliminate them."
    

"This chaos is now irreversible....Therefore, Israel and the West must be prepared to live through the age of chaos in the Middle East for at least a decade." 
(Jerusalem Post)
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hypocrisy & Israeli Memorial Day




Double Standard at UN - Israeli UN Amb. Ron Prosor

Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor addressed the UN Security Council:
  • Regarding the fighting in Yemen, in a rare display of unity, the Arab leaders have joined forces. It should come as no surprise that they have lashed out with little regard for the consequences. The Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have hit humanitarian aid convoys, hospitals, schools, and civilian neighborhoods, and left entire families dead.
  • And yet there have been zero Human Rights Council condemnations and zero calls for a Commission of Inquiry. When Israel is at the heart of a crisis, the Arabs don't miss a beat. But when fingers can't be pointed at Israel, some Arab nations are downright heartless.
  • Israel commemorate[s] Remembrance Day and honor[s] the 23,320 individuals who lost their lives to war and terror. We will remember the brave soldiers who died so that we can have our freedom, and the thousands of men, women and children who were robbed of their lives, simply because they were Israeli.
  • War has never been the choice of the State of Israel. Our choice is, as it always was, the path of peace. But when war and terror are forced upon us, we will not surrender and we will not back down. For nearly 2,000 years, we were stateless and powerless in the face of hatred and indifference. Those days are no more.
(Israel Mission to the UN)
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      Tuesday, April 21, 2015

      Obama's Foreign Policy Disarray



      Israel Alone - Bret Stephens

      In recent conversations, senior Israeli officials can't understand what's become of U.S. foreign policy. They fail to grasp how a president who pledged to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons is pushing an accord with Tehran that guarantees their proliferation. They are astonished by the nonchalance with which the administration acquiesces in Iran's regional power plays.


      That leaves Israel alone to deal as best as it can with a broadening array of threats: thousands more missiles for Hizbullah, paid for by sanctions relief for Tehran; ISIS on the Golan Heights; an Iran safe, thanks to Russian missiles, from any conceivable Israeli strike. Israel must seek its security with an America that, say what it will, has nobody's back but its own. 
      (Wall Street Journal)


      Nonproliferation Standard Is Dead - Matthew Kroenig
      • The U.S. has always opposed the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies to all states, including its own allies, because the risk of proliferation was simply too great, and it is a mistake to make an exception for Iran. The U.S. even played hardball with friends, forcing Taiwan and South Korea to shut down reprocessing programs in the 1970s and convincing France to cancel the sale of a reprocessing plant to Pakistan in 1978. The agreement with Libya in 2003 was a textbook example of successful nuclear diplomacy. But then, suddenly, the Obama administration abandoned this cornerstone of American foreign policy.
      • In the interim agreement struck in November 2013, Washington granted Iran the right to enrich, and over the past 18 months it has engaged in the unprecedented act of bargaining over the scale - not the existence - of an aspiring proliferator's enrichment program. Moreover, the Iran deal sets a dangerous precedent.
      • The U.S. is making this exception to its nonproliferation policy for a longstanding U.S. enemy, a leading state-sponsor of terrorism, a country that has violated its nonproliferation commitments in the past, and a country that at present stonewalls the International Atomic Energy Agency's questions about the military dimensions of its nuclear program.
      • In the wake of the Iran deal, it will be difficult for Washington to explain that it trusts Tehran with sensitive nuclear technologies, but not other countries, including its allies and partners. Expect additional bids for enrichment and reprocessing programs as countries follow Iran's example and assemble the components of a nuclear weapons capability under the guise of "peaceful" nuclear power.
      • The Obama administration claimed a zero-enrichment deal with Iran was impossible. Perhaps it was. But it would have been much better for Iran to enrich in the face of strong international condemnation than for its dangerous enrichment program to receive the solemn blessing of the international community.
      • We abandoned a clear international standard we had established in order to meet Iran halfway in its unreasonable demands. What we have to show for it is not a historic deal, but the death of a 70-year-old bipartisan pillar of American foreign policy.The writer is associate professor of government at Georgetown University and a senior fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.
      (Weekly Standard)
      *

      UPDATE:

      David Horovitz, the well known Israeli journalist formally with The Jerusalem Post, has penned an excellent article reviewing all of Obama's presidential missteps with regard to the US - Israel relationship.  Pay particular attention to his list.  See:

      Obama’s 67 degrees of separation from Israel

      [I]n the heartfelt but likely forlorn hope of a change for the better in this unnecessarily fraught relationship, [here] are an anniversary-appropriate 67 ways in which the president and his mighty administration, unfortunately, have put daylight between the US and Israel. Sixty-seven ways they’ve distanced themselves, or haven’t been as much help as they could and should have been...
      [The Times of Israel]
      Hat tip: Marty P


      MORE UPDATES:

      Arms-Control Expert: "A Huge Retreat by U.S.; Big Victory for Iran"
       

      Former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation Stephen Rademaker told the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

      "The United States is abandoning the policy pursued for more than twenty years by the Clinton, Bush, and, until now, Obama administrations, to make sure Iran neither had nuclear weapons nor was on the threshold of producing them. [T]his is a huge retreat in U.S. nonproliferation policy, and a big victory for Iran in its decades-long quest to gain acceptance of its nuclear program."
          

      "The economics of this deal suggest to me that we are about to diminish the prospects for transformation in Iran rather than enhance them."  
      (U.S. House of Representatives)


      Anointing Iran - Charles Krauthammer

      In December, President Obama said that he wished to see Iran ultimately become a "very successful regional power." His wish - a nightmare for the Western-oriented Arab states - is becoming a reality. The strategic reality of the new Middle East is clear to everyone: Iran rising, assisted, astonishingly, by the U.S.
      (Washington Post)


      Obama's Goal Is Detente with Iran - Michael Doran

      While President Obama has persuaded much of the world that the primary goal of his Iran diplomacy is to negotiate a nuclear arms-control agreement, in fact, the primary goal is détente with Iran.
           

      Obama has put an end to containment of Iran as a guiding principle of American Middle East policy. To be sure, he continues to pay lip service to the idea of countering Iran's influence, but his actions do not match his rhetoric. In Syria and Iraq, especially, Obama has long been respectful of Iranian interests while treating Tehran as a silent partner against Islamic State (IS).
          

      Détente with Iran requires Obama to demote all of those allies who perceive a rising Iran as their primary security threat.
      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. 
      (Mosaic)


      Deal or No Deal? - Thomas L. Friedman

      There is a hard core in Tehran for whom nuclear weapons are a deliberate thumb in the eye of the world meant to block the very integration that would open Iran to influences from America and the West - an opening they fear would dilute whatever revolutionary fervor is left in its youths, many of whom are fed up with Iran's isolation. 

      (New York Times)


      The Danger of the Iran Deal - Jeff Jacoby

      Virtually everything we know about Iran's nuclear program was uncovered only after years of stonewalling, concealment, and denial. The construction of a vast uranium enrichment installation near Natanz and a heavy-water reactor in Arak didn't come to light until an Iranian exile group exposed their existence. With such a track record, it's logical that Iran's commitments are so widely regarded as worthless. No piece of paper signed in Switzerland will take the ayatollahs' eyes off the nuclear prize they have so long pursued. And of what value is any agreement if one of the signatories can't be trusted not to cheat?
          

      But the mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad. They say they are deadly serious. Believe them.
      (Boston Globe)
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      Monday, April 20, 2015

      Honey, I Shrunk The Jews: Obama Deflates American Jewish Community



      Honey, I Shrunk the Jews! - Lee Smith

      Almost as soon as the White House reached the nuclear framework agreement with Iran, it began sending out senior administration officials to brief domestic allies and rivals in order to sell the deal. The president himself called Speaker of the House John Boehner, while National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power got other legislators on the phone. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz made the administration’s case for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Agreement over the weekend on the Sunday talk shows. Guess who didn’t get briefed.

      Well, not exactly. Key Jewish community leaders did get a briefing—not from the president or the secretary of state or the national security adviser, but from Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Colin Kahl.

      [T]he fact that Obama sent the vice president’s aide to brief Jewish leaders on an issue of vital concern to them suggests how little the commander in chief now respects or fears the power of a community he once courted so assiduously. For instance, there was the famous 2009 conference call during which he told a gathering of community leaders that it was in the best interests of Israel as well as the United States to put some “daylight” between the White House and Jerusalem. Having been warned nearly six years ago, in person, it should hardly come as a surprise to those same American Jewish leaders that it’s now daytime.

      The vanishing political import of the American Jewish community appears to have taken least some of its leaders—used to Oval Office sit-downs and plenty of concerned hand-holding—by surprise. But you can bet it didn’t take Obama six years to comprehend the political import of James Baker’s famous observation about the Jewish community’s voting patterns. If, as the former secretary of state once said, “F— the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway,” Obama saw the flip-side of Baker’s crude insight: The president could stick it to the Jews, since they’d vote for Democrats no matter what.

      Obama was able to hammer away at AIPAC and the pro-Israel lobby largely because the liberal segments of the Jewish community found it convenient to believe that Obama’s target was just Benjamin Netanyahu, the stubborn and arrogant right-wing prime minister who drove decent people crazy. If he stopped being such a jerk, then good American Jewish liberals like themselves would all be eating latkes in the White House again.

      What these community leaders seemed not to have fully understood is that American Jewish political power is linked not just to the financial power of Jewish donors or the influence of Jewish voters in a few key cities but more fundamentally to the strategic importance of the American-Israel relationship. What they certainly did not see is that tension with Bibi served Obama very nicely in a much bigger strategic move, which was the main aim of Obama’s Middle East policy since 2009: namely, to downgrade the U.S. alliance with Israel in order to make room for America’s new can-do regional partner, Iran.

      The hardly coincidental byproduct of Obama’s dramatic and far-reaching Middle East realignment is that the American Jewish community is getting a down-grade. The irony of course is that the more distance the American Jewish community puts between themselves and the Jewish national homeland, the less they matter to anybody on either side of the American political divide or in Israel.
      [Tablet]
      *

      UPDATE:

      Inside Obama’s Meeting With Jewish Leaders - Lee Smith

      Of course, if you’re a leader in the American Jewish community, you can’t help but hear Iran’s exterminationist rhetoric in a different frame. So maybe the legacy of Rabbi Stephen Wise was on the mind of American Jewish leaders when President Barack Obama called them to a meeting at the White House. It being Holocaust Remembrance Week, who wants to be remembered as the contemporary version of Wise, who chose to protect his relationship with Roosevelt rather than criticize a president who did nothing to save European Jews from extermination?

      “It was one of the tensest meetings I can ever remember,” said one participant who has been invited to many White House sit-downs over the years and requested anonymity. “The president spoke for 25 minutes, without notes,” he told me. He didn’t dismiss what the Iranians say, he just didn’t really address it.”

      Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal center, who also attended the meeting, was willing to speak on the record to Tablet. “Speaking for myself,” said Hier, “I was not satisfied.”

      Roosevelt never lifted a finger to save European Jews, but he did defeat the Nazis. Obama writes letters to the man who threatens to exterminate Jews and promises him peace. American Jewish leaders have plenty to worry about. The cost to American political life of legitimizing exterminationist anti-Semitism may turn out to be one of the worst parts of a bad deal.
      [Tablet]
      *

      Sharansky: US Drops the Moral Ball

      Natan Sharansky

      When did America forget that it’s America? - Natan Sharansky

      On a number of occasions during the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli government has appealed to the United States and its allies to demand a change in Tehran’s aggressive behavior. If Iran wishes to be treated as a normal state, Israel has said, then it should start acting like one. Unfortunately, these appeals have been summarily dismissed. The Obama administration apparently believes that only after a nuclear agreement is signed can the free world expect Iran to stop its attempts at regional domination, improve its human rights record and, in general, behave like the civilized state it hopes the world will recognize it to be.

      As a former Soviet dissident, I cannot help but compare this approach to that of the United States during its decades-long negotiations with the Soviet Union, which at the time was a global superpower and a existential threat to the free world. The differences are striking and revealing.

      Imagine what would have happened if instead, after completing a round of negotiations over disarmament, the Soviet Union had declared that its right to expand communism across the continent was not up for discussion. This would have spelled the end of the talks. Yet today, Iran feels no need to tone down its rhetoric calling for the death of America and wiping Israel off the map.

      Today, by contrast, apparently no amount of belligerence on Iran’s part can convince the free world that Tehran has disqualified itself from the negotiations or the benefits being offered therein. Over the past month alone, as nuclear discussions continued apace, we watched Iran’s proxy terror group, Hezbollah, transform into a full-blown army on Israel’s northern border, and we saw Tehran continue to impose its rule on other countries, adding Yemen to the list of those under its control.

      Then there is the question of human rights. Democrat Henry Jackson, insisted on linking economic normalization to Moscow’s allowing freedom of emigration. By the next year, when the Helsinki agreement was signed, the White House had joined Congress in making the Soviets’ treatment of dissidents a central issue in nearly every negotiation.

      Iran’s dismal human rights record, by contrast, has gone entirely unmentioned in the recent negotiations. Sadly, America’s reticence is familiar: In 2009, in response to the democratic uprisings that mobilized so many Iranian citizens, President Obama declared that engaging the theocratic regime would take priority over changing it.

      Reality is complicated, and the use of historical analogies is always somewhat limited. But even this superficial comparison shows that what the United States saw fit to demand back then from the most powerful and dangerous competitor it had ever known is now considered beyond the pale in its dealings with Iran.

      I am afraid that the real reason for the U.S. stance is...a tragic loss of moral self-confidence.

      We have yet to see the full consequences of this moral diffidence, but one thing is clear: The loss of America’s self-assured global leadership threatens not only the United States and Israel but also the people of Iran and a growing number of others living under Tehran’s increasingly emboldened rule. Although the hour is growing late, there is still time to change course — before the effects grow more catastrophic still.
      Natan Sharansky, a human rights activist and former political prisoner in the Soviet Union, is chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
      [Washington Post]


      The Bold Red Line - Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror

      The argument that any military strike would result in only a short-term setback in Iran's nuclear endeavors is wrong because it fails to account for the effect a successful strike would have on Tehran's willingness to invest in rehabilitating a program that could be destroyed in a matter of several nights, which is how long the U.S. said it would take to strike all of Iran's nuclear facilities.

      I believe that Iran would not rush to resuscitate its nuclear program in the event it was destroyed by the U.S. It also stands to reason that Iran's actual ability to retaliate over such a strike, other than by putting Hizbullah in play, would be limited.

      The U.S. can forcibly bring the Iranian nuclear program to a halt, it simply chooses not to do so.
      The writer, former Israeli National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council, served 36 years in senior IDF posts.
      (Israel Hayom)


      Accommodating Iran and Risking Israel's Future - Mortimer B. Zuckerman

      Never would Iran be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. That was the pledge of the Clinton and Bush administrations. Flash forward to the Obama administration. "Never" has been slimmed down to 13 years - at best.

      (U.S. News)


      Israel: We Can Target Russian-Made Weapons - Barbara Opall-Rome  

      Israeli officials have reiterated Israel's right to target S-300 missile batteries or any other high-end Russian arms [while they are being] transferred to regional terrorist organizations via Iran or Syria. 
      (Defense News)
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      Friday, April 17, 2015

      Will Israel Strike Iran Before Putin Delivers Missles?



      Bad or Worse? - J.E. Dyer 

      Russia's selling the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran is bad. The mobile S-300 could dramatically complicate the air space picture for strike planners, with the missile launchers moving around to evade reconnaissance.

      Iran could also lose a launcher and quickly deploy another one to fill the gap. It has nothing approaching this capability today. 

      The S-300's range and mobility will make an attacking force work much harder, and probably take more losses, to fight through to its targets. No defensive system makes an attack impossible, but the S-300 makes an attack cost more.
      Defeating the S-300, in order to give a meaningful thump to the Iranian nuclear program, would not require a conventional ground invasion. But it would require considerably more tactical air forces than the U.S. has in a ready status today.
           

      Israel will have to get creative. The S-300 poses a significant problem. Israel actually has more strike-fighters combat ready and available for an Iran attack today than the U.S. does.
           

      But there's no option of flying into an S-300 network once it goes active. It must be degraded - blinded, immobilized to some level - before the first main-target attack aircraft shows up. 

      The S-300 forces a decision on the Israelis about what their threshold is: at what point do they decide they can't do enough damage after the S-300 is deployed, and must strike before it's deployed.
      The writer is a retired U.S. Naval Intelligence officer.
      (Liberty Unyielding)


      Is Any Deal Better than No Deal? - Michael Gerson

      Why would the Obama administration claim victory in the middle of a sensitive negotiation, in a manner that prods the other side to harden its demands and encourages the unraveling of sanctions?
           

      No one believes that Obama would use force against Iran. And this means there is no theoretical limit to the concessions that could be justified to avoid conflict. The argument of "concessions or war" is another way of saying that any deal is better than no deal. 
      (Washington Post)


      Legitimizing Iran's Anti-Semitism - Lee Smith

      President Obama called American Jewish leaders to a meeting at the White House on Monday. "It was one of the tensest meetings I can ever remember," said one participant who has been invited to many White House sit-downs over the years. "Lots of people challenged him very strongly, like about taking the threats of dictators seriously when Khamenei says death to America, death to Israel, death to the Jews. The president said he knows what the regime is, which is why he is trying to take away their weapons. He didn't dismiss what the Iranians say, he just didn't really address it."
          

      Who knows if the Iranians actually mean to make good on their threats against Israel? After all, say the experts, Iran is not irrational. Of course Iran is irrational. It is irrational in its very essence, for anti-Semitism is the form that unreason takes in modern political life. Disregarding the regime's anti-Semitism is to willfully ignore the nature of the regime. To strike a deal with such a regime is willfully perverse and doomed to failure.
      (Tablet)
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      Wednesday, April 15, 2015

      Obama Changes Tune on Iran Confrontation



      In Setback, Obama Concedes Congress' Role - Patricia Zengerle

      President Obama conceded that Congress will have the power to review a nuclear deal with Iran. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously, 19 to 0, to approve a bipartisan bill that would give Congress oversight of a final deal. 


      Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker [pictured] said the White House had agreed to go along with the bill "only when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this." 
      (Reuters)


      White House: Obama Will Sign Senate Bill - David McCabe & Ben Kamisar
       

      President Obama is willing to sign a new Senate deal that would allow Congress to review and vote on a proposed nuclear deal with Iran, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. The new bill shortens the timeframe for Congress to review a nuclear deal with Iran to 30 days and allows Obama to submit the deal after the June 30 deadline for negotiators to conclude their work.
           

      The president would have to submit the deal by July 9 to have the expedited timeframe. If Congress votes to reject the deal, the bill says the president could not waive sanctions that had been imposed through legislation.
      (The Hill)


      Obama's Approval Among U.S. Jews Narrows - Frank Newport 

      For the first quarter of 2015, 54% of American Jews approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, compared with an average of 46% among all Americans.
           

      That 8-point gap is lower than the average 13-point gap seen so far throughout Obama's term in office. In 2009, Obama's support among Jews was 77%.  
      (Gallup)


      Netanyahu Urges Putin Not to Supply Iran with Missile Defenses
      - Elhanan Miller

      Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressing Israel's "grave concerns" regarding Russia's decision to provide Iran with advanced antiaircraft missiles. Netanyahu told Putin that the S-300 deal "will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East."


      Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "This sale of advanced weaponry to Iran is the direct result of the dangerous deal on the table between Iran and the P5+1. Can anyone still seriously claim that the deal with Iran will enhance security in the Middle East?"

      (Times of Israel)


      Rare Bipartisanship in Congress over Iran - Max Boot

      Rare bipartisanship prevailed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to force President Obama to submit any Iranian nuclear deal for congressional approval.


      Ironically, this legislation could actually strengthen Obama's hand with the Iranians: Secretary of State John Kerry can now plausibly tell his Iranian interlocutors that, however much he would like to concede their points, Congress won't stand for it.
           

      The basic message, from Democrats and Republicans alike, is that there is deep unease in Congress, as well as in the country at large, about the terms of the accord, and for good cause.
      The writer is a Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
      (Commentary)


      Getting U.S.-Iranian History Wrong - Michael Rubin 

      In defense of President Barack Obama's empathy with Iran, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman gets Iranian history wrong. Friedman describes how: "We, the United States, back in the '50s, we toppled Iran's democratically-elected government. You know, there might be some reason these people actually want to get a weapon that will deter that from happening again."


      The idea for the coup was British because Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (a predecessor of British Petroleum) and then refused to negotiate. The U.S. was more concerned by Mosaddeq's pro-Soviet proclivities. So, too, were the Iranians themselves, especially the military and the clergy. That's right, the folks who run the Islamic Republic today were co-conspirators with the U.S. and deeply opposed to Mosaddeq's anti-clerical attitudes. At the time of the coup, Mohammad Reza Shah was a popular head of state whom Mosaddeq was seeking to force out in order to assume dictatorial power himself.

      Moreover, the idea that the 1953 coup motivates the Iranian nuclear program is bizarre. The resurrection of the Iranian nuclear program after the 1979 Islamic Revolution can be traced more to Iraqi chemical weapons attacks on Iran. The assumption that grievance motivates the Iranian nuclear drive is lazy thinking and belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic, which at its heart is an ideological state that seeks to export its revolution
      The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
      (Commentary)
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      UPDATES:

      Ready for the Truth? Khamenei Wants to Destroy Us - Michael Ledeen

      Our basic error is that we think our offer of a strategic alliance - President Obama's "outstretched hand" - is attractive to Iran. It isn't.


      Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei doesn't want a deal with us; he wants to destroy us. When he calls us the "Great Satan" or when he leads chants of "Death to America!," he means it. Khamenei wants to go down in Islamic history as the man who defeated America, not the imam who signed a deal with the devil. He's willing to accept our surrender, but he won't forge a partnership with Obama.

      Why did they agree to negotiate? Because Iranian President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif convinced Khamenei that the Americans were desperate for a deal, that there was no danger of an American military option and that Iran could get all manner of favors from the Americans without conceding anything important. Think of the negotiations as a component in the Iranian war against us, not as a step on the path to detente. We have real enemies who don't want to seize our outstretched hand. They want to chop it off
      The writer, the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was special adviser to former Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
      (The Hill)


      Jews Have Good Reason to Be Wary of Tehran's Rhetoric
      - Shahrzad Elghanayan
      • During recent talks in Switzerland, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC's Ann Curry: "We have a history of tolerance and cooperation and living together in coexistence with our own Jewish people."
      • That's not quite right. Iran's Jews did have something of a golden age relatively recently, but Zarif can't take credit for it. That era was a brief period when the conservative Shiite clergy were stripped of their power - after the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 gave Iranians of all religions and ethnicity equal rights, and before Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979.
      • Jews have lived in Iran since 586 BCE. In the 16th century, conservative Shiite scholars and clergy under the Safavid dynasty had restrictions placed on all minorities, including Jews, to bar them from economic activity and to prevent them from passing their "ritual impurity" to Muslims.
      • It was during that window of relative Jewish affluence that my grandfather, Habib Elghanian, became one of Iran's most famous industrialists after he and his brothers introduced the plastics industry to the country in the late 1940s. In 1959, he was elected the chairman of the country's Jewish association. In 1962, when my family built the country's first private sector high-rise, the 17-story Plasco Building in Tehran, Shiite cleric Mahmoud Taleghani objected to the idea that a Jew had built the tallest building of its time in Iran.
      • In a 1964 address, Ayatollah Khomeini spoke about how: "The entire country's economy now lies in Israel's hands; that is to say it has been seized by Israeli agents. Hence, most of the major factories and enterprises are run by them." That speech singled out two people in particular: One was my grandfather, and the other was Baha'i industrialist Habib Sabet.
      • When Khomeini returned from exile in February 1979 as the head of the Islamic revolution, my grandfather was among the first civilians he went after. On May 9, 1979, my grandfather was executed after a 20-minute trial on trumped-up charges that included being a "Zionist spy." After a firing squad killed him, the new regime stole what he had spent his lifetime building.
      (Washington Post)
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