Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Nuclear Dust Settles

Iran, North Korea Developing Rocket Booster - Bill Gertz

Iranian missile technicians secretly visited North Korea as part of joint development of a new rocket booster for long-range missiles or space launchers, at the same time nuclear talks took place in Geneva, according to U.S. officials. The booster is believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be intended for a new long-range missile or space launch vehicle that could be used to carry nuclear warheads, and could be exported to Iran in the future.

Recent U.S. intelligence assessments have said that both North Korea and Iran are expected to have missiles capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear warhead in the next two years.
(Washington Free Beacon)

Agreement Must Not Become Permanent - Amos Yadlin

It is not at all clear that a final agreement can be reached with the Iranians - especially if the economic and military threats are not maintained. Israel must therefore prepare a Plan B to include a guarantee from the Americans that there will be no extension of the preliminary agreement and that it will not evolve into a permanent arrangement. 
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies.
(Institute for National Security Studies)

Analysis - Michael Herzog

Israel is now fixing its sights on the end of the six months and will start a dialogue with the U.S. on the desired endgame. A very likely scenario is that there will be no deal and talks will continue beyond the six months. Facing a strung out process will put Israel in a dilemma of deciding if and when to intervene.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog served as head of the Strategic Planning Division of the IDF and worked with four ministers of defense as senior military aide and advisor, and chief of staff. 

Iran Wins on Points - Aaron David Miller

Does Iran want a deliverable nuclear weapon? Sure it does. The idea that the mullahs have abandoned permanently their quest to acquire a nuclear weapons capacity or that any agreement - interim or final - will provide ironclad assurances that they have done so is an illusion. Unless Iran crosses the President's redline of actually acquiring a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration is going to go to extreme lengths to avoid attacking Iran.

When Kerry is congratulating Javad Zarif, Iran's top negotiator, on a Geneva agreement and there's little to celebrate with Bibi, you know the Iranians have scored more than a few points. Let's hope the U.S. and the other members of the P5+1 can do better the next time around.
The writer, a vice president at the Wilson Center, is a former adviser to U.S. secretaries of state on the Middle East.
(New York Daily News)

Let the War of Interpretations Begin - Emily B. Landau
  • In negotiations for a comprehensive deal, the Iranians can be expected to challenge what was agreed and continue to haggle over the terms, while pressing the P5+1 to agree to further sanctions relief. Already there are two texts of the agreement, one released by the White House and one by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, and they are not identical.
  • Many accuse Netanyahu of being contrary, not willing to join the celebrations. But why are the international negotiators not voicing similar concerns as Netanyahu on the technical questions? Netanyahu's positions on these issues are actually in line with the long-held positions of the international community - even codified in a string of UN Security Council resolutions.


No Agreement on Starting Date for Iran Deal

Officials involved in negotiating the Geneva deal say there is still no start date. They say the IAEA must verify that Iran is keeping its end of the deal before the clock starts ticking down on the agreement's six-month time frame and the start of sanctions relief. 

IAEA head Yukiya Amano may not submit a plan on verification until January because of the upcoming holiday period.

(AP-Washington Post)

U.S. Backs Iran Claim that Some Work OK at Arak Site

The U.S. says Iran can undertake some construction work at the Arak nuclear facility as long as fuel isn't produced and advances aren't made on a planned heavy water reactor.
(AP-Washington Post)

Iran: We Have Emerged Victorious over the West

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, told Al-Alam TV on Nov. 25: "After ten years, we have emerged victorious over the West. They wanted to prevent us from acquiring nuclear technology, but we have reached that point....Now we have emerged victorious heroes. It was in our best interest to sign this agreement."

"We have now entered a new stage. We expect good results. The nuclear dossier will be removed from the agenda of the UN Security Council, and...they have acknowledged Iran's uranium enrichment. In addition, the economic siege on the Islamic Republic will be lifted."

"They said that they did not recognize our right to enrich uranium, but at the same time, they say that Iran agreed not to enrich above 5%. This constitutes an official acknowledgement of that percentage. They officially recognized that. We consider this to be a great victory for Iran." 

How to Think about Obama's Deal with Iran - Dennis Ross

One urgent order of business for the Obama administration is to address the concerns of those who lament the deal instead of dismissing them. The Israelis fear that the sanctions will fray as countries and companies begin to position themselves for a post-sanctions future. This is not fanciful but it is also not a given. Similarly, the Israelis worry that the first step will be the last, and essentially leave Iran poised with a breakout capability.
The writer, counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as special assistant to President Barack Obama from 2009-11.

Iran Deal Risks Creating Another North Korea
- Michael Rubin

Rather than preventing Iran's nuclear breakout, historians may mark the Geneva deal as the step that most legitimized Iran's path to nuclear weapons capability.
The writer, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is a former Pentagon official (2002-2004).

A Most Dangerous Deal - Yaakov Amidror

  • Just after the signing ceremony in Geneva on Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran declared that the world had recognized his country's "nuclear rights." He was right. Iran made only cosmetic concessions to preserve its primary goal, which is to continue enriching uranium.
  • With North Korea, too, there were talks and ceremonies and agreements - but then there was the bomb. This is not an outcome Israel could accept with Iran.
  • The deal will only lead Iran to be more stubborn. Anyone who has conducted business or diplomatic negotiations knows that you don't reduce the pressure on your opponent on the eve of negotiations. Yet that is essentially what happened in Geneva.
  • And while the Obama administration maintains that the military option is still on the table in case Iran does not comply with the new agreement, that threat is becoming less and less credible.
  • Supporters of the agreement emphasize that future inspections in Iran will be frequent and strict. But if the Iranians decide to deceive the inspectors, they will succeed; they have in the past.
  • The West has surrendered its most effective diplomatic tool in exchange for baseless promises of goodwill. The Geneva agreement has made the world a more dangerous place. It did not have to be this way.

    Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror was the head of the Israeli National Security Council from March 2011 until November 2013.
(New York Times)

Israel Made Geneva Deal Possible - Anshel Pfeffer

The Geneva deal is far from perfect, but it is very hard to see how any agreement would ever have been reached if for the last decade and a half Israel had not been engaged simultaneously in an intensive diplomatic campaign, one of the largest joint intelligence operations in history, and, for at least the last four years since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to the Prime Minister's Office, a public relations offensive - all aimed at building pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program.

Major Foreign Companies Eye Trade with Iran - Zvi Bar'el

Foreign conglomerates are lining up to do big business with Iran, now that the country has won limited sanctions relief in the Geneva nuclear accord signed Sunday.

U.S. Now Indicates Iran Deal Wasn't Finalized - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Iran is currently enjoying a "window" of time before the six-month deal signed in Geneva on Sunday goes into effect, during which it is not bound to take any credible steps toward disabling its ability to produce a nuclear weapon, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki acknowledged Tuesday. "The next step here is a continuation of technical discussions at a working level so that we can essentially tee up the implementation of the agreement," Psaki said Tuesday. "Obviously, once those technical discussions are worked through, I guess the clock would start."
(Times of Israel)

How U.S. Diplomacy Is Empowering Iran - Avi Issacharoff

Not only has the six-month interim agreement not yet come into effect, but also Iran is free to proceed with its military program at full speed until the deal's final "technical" details have been worked out. Experts have also said the agreement leaves the Iranians the ability to manufacture crucial components for their nuclear program outside the Arak facility and install them if the site is reopened.

According to Prof. Asher Susser of the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University: "An important historical shift is now reaching its climax. The Middle East's center has shifted from the Arab countries to the Persian Gulf. And when the U.S. permits Iranian hegemony, it projects onto the situation in Syria, Iraq and other places."

According to Susser, if these processes continue, the Arab countries will have no choice but to tighten bonds with Iran. "They won't like it but they may not have any other alternative." 
(Times of Israel)

A Saudi-Israeli Alliance? - James Zumwalt

In Shiite-dominated Iran, the mullahs remain committed to developing nuclear weapons with which to threaten Sunnis and the West. This has created a once unthinkable alliance in the region of states truly committed to denying Tehran nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia fully understands Iran's threat is real. It understands why Iran pursues a nuclear weapon - to trigger its end-of-world belief of the 12th Imam's return. It also understands Iran's plan involves wrestling Islam's two most religious sites - Mecca and Medina - from the Saudis as "Guardians" of same - a role Iran believes destiny demands it play.

There are signs Saudi Arabia recognizes Israel has the commitment to prevent Iran from going nuclear and that an Israeli attack may well represent Riyadh's last best hope to stop Iran as Israel steps into the void left by Washington. 
A retired U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. 

U.S. Blindspot Shows on the Iran Nuclear Deal - Jonathan Spyer

The newly announced deal on the Iranian nuclear program appears to be the outcome of a long, unseen, bilateral negotiation between the U.S. and Iran. The present U.S. administration is simply unconvinced that Iran's regional ambitions represent a dangerous destabilizing force.

This blindspot is strange. The evidence is plain to see: Iran is an active participant in the Syrian civil war. It dominates Lebanon through Hizbullah. It is closely allied with the government in Iraq. It is engaged in subversion in Bahrain, north Yemen, Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia. It actively sponsors Palestinian terror groups engaged in violence against Israel - most importantly Islamic Jihad and Hamas, but also elements within Fatah. The nuclear program is intended to render Iran invulnerable to any serious action to resist or turn back its push for regional domination.

Iran has engaged in falsehood and prevarication ever since the discovery of its nuclear program a decade ago. Its intentions are plain and its fingerprints are all over the region. Yet when confronted by ambitious and ideological forces, determined to transform the region in their own image, this administration behaves as though it is dealing with reasonable and amicable partners.   
The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

The Dead's Envy for the Living -David P. Goldman

Many commentators, most eloquently Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, draw a parallel between the appeasement of Hitler at Munich in 1938 and the appeasement of Iran at Geneva. There is another, more chilling parallel: Iran's motive for proposing to annihilate the Jewish State is the same as Hitler's, and the world's indifference to the prospect of another Holocaust is no different today than it was in 1938. It is the dead's envy for the living.

Dying civilizations are the most dangerous, and Iran is dying. Its total fertility rate probably stands at just 1.6 children per female, a catastrophic decline from 7 children per female in the early 1980s. Iran's present youth bulge will turn into an elderly dependent problem worse than Europe's in the next generation and the country will collapse. That is why war is likely, if not entirely inevitable.
[Middle East Forum]

Monday, November 25, 2013

Iran Deal: "Disaster"

Chamberlain 1938/Obama 2013

The Geneva Agreement: A Foreign Policy Disaster -Daniel Pipes, PhD

This wretched deal offers one occasion when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid. An overeager Western government, blind to the evil cunning of the regime it so much wants to work with, appeases it with concessions that will come back to haunt it. Geneva and Nov. 24 will be remembered along with Munich and Sep. 29.

Barack Obama has made many foreign policy errors in the past five years, but this is the first to rank as a disaster. John Kerry is a too-eager puppy looking for a deal at any price.

With the U.S. government forfeiting its leadership role, the Israelis, Saudis, and perhaps others are left to cope with a bad situation made worse. War has now become a much more likely prospect.

Shame on us Americans for re-electing Barack Obama.

It's 1938 all over again -Melanie Phillips

The most stunning aspect of the Iranian war against the west, however, is that since 1979 the west has effectively denied that it is taking place. When its civilians were murdered in terrorist atrocities with Iran's fingerprints all over them, when its soldiers were blown up in Iraq by Iranian roadside bombs, when British Royal Navy personnel were kidnapped at gunpoint by Iranian forces on the high seas and held hostage for 13 days, the west turned the other way and refused to retaliate.

And now this suicidal farce has reached its last act — with the west tragically still in appeasement mode. The west is now on the verge of handing to Iran on a plate what it once said was 'unthinkable'. Obama, Ashton and Cameron might as well go to Tehran and wave a white flag.

There are persistent if unconfirmed reports that a deal with Iran was stitched up long ago by the very radical Valerie Jarrett, Obama's most trusted and Iranian-born adviser.

Presented with unambiguous evidence of the Supreme Leader's genocidal prejudice towards the Jews of Israel, the Obama administration merely flapped the limpest of wrists. A spokesman said Khamenei's remarks were 'not helpful'...

We are indeed now facing the unthinkable. Not just that Iran is on the verge of being allowed to proceed to nuclear capability. The really unthinkable reality is that the enemies of the civilized world are not just to be found in Tehran. They are also in London, Brussels and Washington DC.
[Jewish World Review]

Ayatollahs, 1; West . . . Damned -Jonathan Tobin

Does anyone seriously believe Kerry's piece of paper will not act as a green light to the Europeans, who have been desperate to resume business with Iran, and cannot fail to interpret it as a sign they can ease up as well?  The president can pretend that he is still holding the ayatollah's feet to the fire. But now that he has normalized a regime that goes on sponsoring terror, threatening Israel and spewing anti-Semitic hate, there will be no reassembling the coalition against Iran even if he eventually comes to the conclusion that he has been, like every other diplomatic partner of Iran, fooled by them.

The president's campaign promise to end Iran's nuclear program is now officially thrown on the scrap heap of history. He can only hope that when Iran does choose to take the final step to a weapon he will no longer be in the White House or that Americans will have been so diverted by other concerns that no one will care or seek to hold him accountable.

[T]his is a dark day for the cause of international peace and security. Iran has got its long-sought Western seal of approval for a nuclear program that enhances its power immeasurably. The rest of the region and those elsewhere who are not deceived by this agreement can only tremble.

We don't know for how long the administration has been conducting the secret diplomatic talks with Iran or whether they were run by Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett. But it's apparent that Washington's assumption that it couldn't make the ayatollahs give up their nuclear toys was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

By refusing to push them harder and by showing their willingness to accept far less than the minimum that would have ensured that a weapon was not possible, they gave the Iranians the confidence to stick to their positions in the talks.

[W]hat Kerry and other administration apologists are doing is turning the question of alternatives on its head. Instead of falsely implying that the only alternative to appeasement was war, he should be called to account for not exploring all the diplomatic and economic options that could have brought about a far more satisfactory result than the weak deal he signed.

Instead of avoiding war, what Kerry has done is to set in motion a chain of events that may actually make armed conflict more likely. It's not just that Israel must now come to terms with the fact that it has been abandoned and betrayed by its American ally and must consider whether it must strike Iran's nuclear facilities before it is too late.  Saudi Arabia must now also consider whether it has no choice but to buy a bomb (likely from Pakistan) to defend its existence against a deadly rival across the Persian Gulf. The Western stamp of approval on Iran will also embolden its Hezbollah terrorist auxiliaries and make it even less likely that Tehran's ally Bashar Assad will be toppled in Syria.

By deciding that the U.S. was too weak to stand up to Iranian demands, Obama and Kerry have put the Islamist regime in a position where it can throw its weight around in the region without any fear of U.S. retaliation.
[Jewish World Review]

Praise in Iran for Agreement - Thomas Erdbrink

People from across the Iranian political spectrum, including many hard-line commanders and clerics who had long advocated resistance and isolation from the West, told state news media that the deal that Rouhani's negotiating team had made was a good start.

"The nuclear negotiating team deserves to be appreciated and thanked for its achievement," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.    
(New York Times)

Netanyahu: Geneva Agreement "a Historic Mistake"

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet: 

"What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world. For the first time, the world's leading powers have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran while ignoring the UN Security Council decisions that they themselves led."

"Sanctions that required many years to put in place contain the best chance for a peaceful solution. These sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks. This agreement and what it means endanger many countries including, of course, Israel. Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. As Prime Minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability." 
(Prime Minister's Office)

Iran Three Months Away from Bomb - Amos Harel

[A]s long as there is such sweeping international support for the interim agreement, an Israeli military option isn't in play, at least not at this stage.

The Hidden Cost of the Iranian Nuclear Deal - Michael Doran

I see the Iranian nuclear deal as a deceptively pleasant way station on the road that is the American retreat from the Middle East. By contrast, President Obama believes that six months from now, this process will culminate in a final, sustainable agreement.

On the nuclear question specifically, I don't see this as stage one. In my view, there will never be a final agreement. What the administration just initiated was, rather, a long and expensive process by which the West pays Iran to refrain from going nuclear. We are, in essence, paying Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate with us. We just bought six months.

What was the price? We shredded the six UN Security Council resolutions that ordered the Islamic Republic to abandon all enrichment and reprocessing activities. And we started building a global economic lobby dedicated to eroding the sanctions that we generated through a decade of very hard diplomatic work. But the price that troubles me most is the free hand that the U.S. is now giving to Iran throughout the region. And Iran will now have more money to channel to proxies such as Hizbullah.

Six months from now, when the interim agreement expires, another payment to Ayatollah Khamenei will come due. If Obama doesn't pony up, he will have to admit then that he cut a bad deal now.
The writer, a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, served as a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense and a senior director at the National Security Council.
(Brookings Institution)

Saudi Prince: "The Threat Is from Persia, Not from Israel"
- Jeffrey Goldberg

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal told me, "There's no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran." Alwaleed believes that Iran will pocket whatever sanctions relief it gets without committing to ending its nuclear program.

I asked him if he thought the Arab states would actually back an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. "Publicly, they would be against it," he said. "Privately, they would love it." "The Sunnis will love it....The Sunni Muslim is very much anti-Shiite, and very much anti-, anti-, anti-Iran."

You're sure they loathe Iran more than they loathe Israel, I asked? "Look, Iran is a huge threat, historically speaking....The Persian empire was always against the Muslim Arab empire, especially against the Sunnis. The threat is from Persia, not from Israel."

Bad Agreement Likely to Get Worse - Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie

The interim agreement...places more constraints on Iran's nuclear program than the deal that the Obama administration reportedly was prepared to sign two weeks ago. The Senate's threat to pass additional sanctions, France's objections to the initial deal, and Israel's fierce resistance to the terms of the proposed agreement seem to have played a role in providing U.S. negotiators with leverage to extract a better deal from Iran.
Mr. Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Kittrie is a law professor at Arizona State University and a senior fellow at the foundation.
(Wall Street Journal)


Click HERE for AIPAC's statement on the Iran Deal
Click HERE for former Ambassador John Bolton's succinct summary on FoxNews
Iran's Nuclear Program Is Still Growing - Robert Satloff

The most consequential aspect of the Geneva deal is an apparent promise that, at the end of the process, Iran may be able to enrich as much uranium as it wants, to whatever level it wants. That emerges from language buried in the Joint Plan of Action concerning the parameters of a final agreement that is supposed to be negotiated over the next six months.

Washington is on record now agreeing that the final accord will allow Iran to enrich uranium, putting the last nail in the coffin of six UN Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its enrichment activities and providing a potentially huge payoff for Iran.

When viewed in combination with the outcome of the Syria chemical weapons episode, there is little doubt that America's threat of force has lost much of its credibility.
The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(New Republic)

When the U.S. Let Iran Off the Hook - David Horovitz

 If the U.S. had been negotiating with a dependable and credible interlocutor, the Geneva deal might make a certain amount of sense. The problem is that Iran is not a dependable or credible interlocutor. It is, rather, a cunning and deceptive adversary, and the U.S. has let it off the hook.
(Times of Israel)

Key Implications of the Geneva Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Program 

  • Unprecedented international recognition of Iran's enrichment program - Under the Geneva agreement, Iran will retain its vast enrichment capabilities. For the first time, the international community recognizes Iran's enrichment program and agrees that it will not be rolled back - contrary to a longstanding policy enshrined in several UN Security Council resolutions.
  • International acceptance of the heavy water reactor in Arak - The elements of the comprehensive solution mentioned in the Geneva agreement lack any commitment to the dismantling of the Arak heavy water reactor, which is uniquely suitable for the production of military grade plutonium.
  • Current stock of low-enriched uranium will remain intact - Iran is allowed to preserve its current stock of about 7 tons of uranium enriched to a level of under 5%.
  • Iran will be able to easily reverse the measures taken under the agreement - Iran is not required to roll back or dismantle anything. Its nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, enabling it to resume full operations once it is politically convenient.
  • The military dimensions of Iran's program are completely absent from the agreement - The Geneva agreement does not contain any clear requirement from Iran to provide answers, access and information relating to the military dimensions of its nuclear program.
  • The agreement undermines the sanctions regime - The pressure of economic sanctions is what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. Reducing sanctions without any real Iranian concessions is extremely counter-productive: Iran is now less likely to agree to any significant restrictions on its nuclear program.  
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Sucker's Deal

A 'sucker's deal' -Charles Krauthammer, MD

A president desperate to change the subject and a secretary of state desperate to make a name for himself are reportedly on the verge of an “interim” nuclear agreement with Iran. France called it a “sucker’s deal.” France was being charitable.

Regime survival is the only thing the mullahs value above nuclear weapons. And yet precisely at the point of maximum leverage, President Obama is offering relief in a deal that is absurdly asymmetric: The West would weaken sanctions in exchange for cosmetic changes that do absolutely nothing to weaken Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

Don’t worry, we are assured. This is only an interim six-month agreement to “build confidence” until we reach a final one. But this makes no sense. If at this point of maximum economic pressure we can’t get Iran to accept a final deal that shuts down its nuclear program, how in God’s name do we expect to get such a deal when we have radically reduced that pressure?

Don’t worry, we are assured. The sanctions relief is reversible. Nonsense. It was extraordinarily difficult to cobble together the current sanctions. It took endless years of overcoming Russian, Chinese and Indian recalcitrance, together with foot-dragging from Europeans making a pretty penny from Iran.

Once the relaxation begins, how do you reverse it? How do you reapply sanctions? There is absolutely no appetite for this among our allies. And adding back old sanctions will be denounced as a provocation that would drive Iran to a nuclear breakout — exactly as Obama is today denouncing congressional moves to increase sanctions as a deal-breaking provocation that might lead Iran to break off talks.

The mullahs are eager for this interim agreement with its immediate yield of political and economic relief. Once they get it, we will have removed their one incentive to conclude the only agreement that is worth anything to us — a verifiable giving up of their nuclear program.

[Jewish World Review]

Israel: No Credible American Military Option - David Horovitz

Israel always knew the Obama Administration was all about "engagement" and that it would keep open the door to a diplomatic arrangement with Iran almost indefinitely. But there were those in Jerusalem who did not rule out an American resort to force, under certain circumstances, until the Syrian chemical weapons crisis over the summer.

At that juncture, the horrified American public and Congressional reaction to the prospect of imminent conflict with Syria further hardened the Administration's determination to do whatever it could to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis without resorting to force. Since then, Israel has broadly concluded that there is no credible American military option.
(Times of Israel)

Why Saudi Arabia Hates the Iran Deal - David Kenner

Saudi Arabia sees any realistic deal as American acquiescence to Tehran's hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East, analysts and former U.S. officials say.

"[Saudi officials] don't think this leads to a deal that leads to peace, they think this leads to Iranian domination of the Gulf," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "To their minds it doesn't do anything about Iranian ambitions, it just takes the United States out of the equation as a force that's helping box Iran in."
(Foreign Policy)

Lost Cause in Geneva - Ari Shavit

You want the real truth? The Americans are worn out.

Going to Geneva is an effort to postpone the end, so that a nuclear Iran doesn't emerge now, on Barack Obama's watch, but immediately afterward.

But what the Americans haven't taken into account is: Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. These countries now feel cheated, betrayed and threatened.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

VideoBite: Naftali Bennett Hits It Out of the Park

Israeli Minister Pushes Back at "Occupied Territory" - Joshua Levitt 

In a television interview Israel's Economy Minister Naftali Bennett objected to CNN's Christiane Amanpour's insistence on referring to "occupied territories."
"Since you say the term 'occupied,' I have to point out, I'm holding a coin here from Jerusalem," he said, lifting the coin up to the camera.

"It's an international term, Mr. Bennett," she insisted.

"I know," Bennett said, "and I don't accept it. Because this coin, which says in Hebrew, 'Freedom of Zion,' was used by Jews in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago in the state of Israel in what you call 'occupied' [land]. One cannot occupy his own home."

"The building of communities there is not a hindrance to peace. Only 7% of the entire West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, is built [up] today, 93% is open, so no-one is stopping peace."     

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Temple Mount

The author of this essay, Tuvia Tenenbom on The Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site.  Despite the upcoming Chanukah holiday celebrating the rededication of this very site, Jews are not free to pray there now. 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Temple Mount
- by Tuvia Tenenbom

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but late last night, in the frightening darkness of my room in the holy city of Jerusalem, I felt I had had enough of being Jewish. How much, and how long, can a man be a light unto the nations?

And so, in the morning light I got up from bed, got dressed, ate my Last Breakfast, bid goodbye to the Bible and the Talmud on my iPad, walked out and hailed a taxi to Al-Aqsa. It was time to see what it was like to be a Muslim.

The cabbie tried speaking with me in Hebrew, thinking I was a Jew, but I let him know he couldn’t be any further from the truth. Immediately he switched to Arabic and asked if I want to get off at “the gate.” I had no clue what gate he had in mind, but I just said yes. Since I’m pretending to be an Occupied Palestinian, I should probably get used to saying yes to everything, I thought.

Within minutes we reached a road in East Jerusalem, and he told me that we had arrived. Where was the gate? Allah surely knew, but I didn’t. I walked up the road and found a gate, or something like it. Why did the cabbie drop me before the gate? I didn’t know. What I did know was this: At the gate there were cops, Israeli cops.

“Are you a Muslim?” one of them asked.

“I am!” I answered, without hesitation.

“Know the Quran?”

“Of course!

“Show me.”

How in the world was I supposed to show him? And why should I? But he had a gun, and I didn’t. So I said, “Ashahdu al-la Allah illallah uAshahdu an Muhammad-ar rasulallah [I testify that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet]. This is a declaration of faith, and according to the Islamic law, if a man says this he becomes a Muslim — in case he isn’t yet.

This should have satisfied the gun holder, but the problem is that cops are no imams, and religious law is not their domain. “Say the Fatiha,” the cop barked at me.

It’s been a long time since I studied Islam, and I didn’t exactly remember, beyond the very beginning.

I tried nevertheless. I said, “Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim, al-hamdu lillahi rabil alameen” [“In the name of Allah, the compassionate and merciful, praise be to Allah, lord of the worlds’].

Should be good, I thought. But the cop said, “Continue!”

Who did he think he was? Why should I pray to him?

I didn’t, and he talked to his colleague, discussing why I was behaving so strangely. They talked and talked, and finally they decided: “You are Christian. No entry.”

But I wanted to pray, I said.

Well, they argued, if I wanted to pray that much, I should enter the mosque via the Jew and Christian entrance. But the Infidels’ entrance, I protested, was closing at 11:00 a.m., in 55 minutes. The cops were not impressed. The walk is only 29 minutes from here, one of them said, and he pointed at the road I should take.

I looked at the name of the road. Via Dolorosa. I was to walk the way of that old Jew, Jesus Christ.

Not easy to be a true Muslim.

I walked and walked and walked. Soon 29 minutes had passed, and no infidels’ entry in sight.

I spotted another entrance, for Muslims only, several feet away. I swore my allegiance to the Prophet, loud enough for the Israeli prime minister in west Jerusalem to hear me, but the cop at the entrance was obviously deaf, yelling at me, “Fatiha!”


I tried once more, reciting the beginning of it quickly, the way some Hasidic Jews do in synagogues when they recite loudly just the beginning of prayers, only this new cop didn’t know from Hasidic Jews. He said, “Don’t stop, continue!”

I stared at him as if he had just offended my most precious religious feelings. He looked at me, not sure what kind of creature I was, and went to discuss the matter in Hebrew with his colleague.

They discussed between themselves who I could be, and decided: Half Muslim, half Christian.

They pointed for me the way. Via Dolorosa.

“But I am a Muslim, on both sides of the family!” I protested.

“Show me your passport,” the cop said, softening up.
I hadn’t brought a passport.

“Via Dolorosa!”

Having no choice, I continued the way of the old Jew until I reach the gate of the infidels, and finally I entered.

It’s beautiful inside my new Holy Shrine, an amazing square surrounded by trees and sands, like a spacious dream forest. I never knew there was so much empty real estate in the Old City.

I mingled with my new co-believers, and after every few steps I spotted a sign in Arabic: Spitting forbidden. I’m not sure why there is a need for so many signs forbidding the act of spitting.
After 11 a.m. passed, I successfully evaded the Israeli police, who by that time had cleared the area of all infidels.

I kept on walking, enjoying my new status, when suddenly an Arab guard caught up with me and yelled: “Out of here!”

This man did not even ask me for the Fatiha. He chased me out as if I were a Christian.
Once out, I stopped by a coffee shop packed with Muslim men. If I can’t pray like a Muslim, let me at least drink like a Muslim, I thought. I drank one cup of coffee after another, and in the end, nature called.

I asked the waiter for directions to the men’s room.

“Are you Muslim?” he asked.

“Yes, I am, by Allah!” I said. I seemed to be declaring my Islamic faith today more that the most devoted of Talibans in Afghanistan.

“Go to Al-Aqsa,” I was told.
I was there, I said, but the Jewish police thought that I was only half a Muslim and they got on my nerves.

“Show them your passport.”

“I don’t have it on me.”

“Then you have to go to the Jewish Wall.”

I had said I was a born-again Muslim, but still, apparently I had to urinate with the Jews. What a curse!

I walked out of the coffee house in the direction of the Jewish Wall, and I saw Arabic graffiti on a wall outside the coffee shop: “Soon Al-Quds will be free!”

“Al-Quds,” the holy, is Jerusalem.“Free” means free of Jews.
I wonder if they were talking about me.

Tuvia Tenenbom, founder of the Jewish Theater of New York, is the author of the best-selling book “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room: An American Jew Visits Germany.” He is currently in Israel where he is working on the follow-up, tentatively titled “Alone Among Jews.”
[The Forward]

Stunning Realignment: France & Saudi Arabia Stand with Israel

The U.S. Can Write Off the Middle East
- Martin Kramer

  • We have become used to the notion that U.S. preeminence in the world and the Middle East is a constant. But it isn't so. The simple truth is that Israel cannot rely on the U.S. to do the right thing.
  • More than six years ago, before Obama even declared his candidacy, I told the Conference of Presidents that "America's era in the Middle East will end one day," and that "it is possible that in twenty years' time, America will be less interested and engaged in the Middle East. What is our Plan B then?"
  • Obama accelerated that timetable, but the long-term trend has been clear for years.
  • Israel and the U.S. have had an extraordinary run. But history stands still for no people. However enamored we are of the status quo, Israel needs a Plan B.
  • The State of Israel must be agile enough to survive a power outage of any ally. Israel's future depends upon its ability to read the changing map of the world, to register the ebb and flow of global power, and to adapt as necessary.
  • Let us pray for the perpetuation of America's power to do good in the world. Let us prepare for something less.
    The writer, President of Shalem College in Jerusalem, is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.

French President Assures Israel France Will Stand Firm on Iran Deal
- Noam Dvir

French President Francois Hollande arrived in Israel for a three-day visit. In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hollande assured Israel that France would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had given up any pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Hollande reaffirmed France's conditions for an interim deal: put all Iranian nuclear installations under international surveillance, suspend 20% uranium enrichment, reduce existing enriched uranium stocks and stop construction of a heavy water plant at Arak. "These are the points that are essential to us to underpin a deal," Hollande said.
(Ynet News)

Mossad working with Saudis on plans for attack on Iran

The Mossad is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a potential attack on Iran in the event that Tehran's nuclear program is not sufficiently curbed in the deal that may be concluded between Iran and world powers in Geneva this week, The Sunday Times reported.

Both Jerusalem and Riyadh have expressed displeasure at the deal being formulated between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers that they see as doing little to stop Tehran's progress toward a nuclear weapon.

According to the Times, Riyadh has already given its consent for Israel to use Saudi airspace for a potential attack on Iran.

The paper quoted a diplomatic source as saying the Saudis were willing to assist an Israeli attack by cooperating on the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.

[Jerusalem Post]

Israel Willing to Strike Iran on Its Own - John Reed

In an interview with the Financial Times, Israel's outgoing national security advisor Yaakov Amidror, who stepped down last month, said Israel could halt Iran's nuclear weapons capability "for a very long time," and added its air force had been conducting "very long-range flights...all around the world" as part of preparations for a possible military confrontation with Iran. "We are not the United States of America, of course, and...they have more capabilities than us,"
he said. "But we have enough to stop the Iranians for a very long time."

"We are not bluffing," Amidror said. "We are very serious - preparing ourselves for the possibility that Israel will have to defend itself by itself." "It is not just a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the whole of the Middle East and, towards the end of this decade, to the world," Amidror said. "But we cannot count on others to do the job if the others don't want to do the job."
(Financial Times-UK)


Maintaining The Status Quo: not so bad

The Conflict Can Be Managed - Ophir Falk

The current Palestinian president will not retract his demand for the return of refugees and isn't willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one.

Even if the Palestinian leader was willing to compromise, he lacks the legitimacy to do so. He is persona non grata in Hamas-held Gaza and almost a decade has passed since he was elected in Ramallah. That weakness binds him to a no-budge position on all the core issues.

Many international disagreements and border disputes are being managed peacefully, and have been for decades. Israel and its Palestinian neighbors can also manage their conflict by agreeing on agreeable issues and agreeing to disagree on issues that are currently unsolvable.

The earth will not quake if the status quo continues in Jerusalem and if Jews and Palestinians are permitted to continue living where they live.
[Ynet News]

Israelis Don't Scare Easily, Mr. Kerry - Moshe Arens

Secretary of State John Kerry warned last week that unless Israel reaches an agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, it will face renewed Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians - another intifada. Israel has been through two intifadas, and succeeded in putting them both down. It has shown that terror can be defeated. It is a lesson that has been absorbed by those Palestinians who engaged in and supported terror activities.

To attempt to scare Israel into agreeing to Abbas' demands is certainly not conducive to the continuation of the talks. Most important of all, Israelis don't scare easily.
The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

So Exactly How Did Yasser Arafat Get So Rich? - Frederick Forsyth

I have seen acres of breast-beating journalism about Palestinian misery but never an examination into where all the donated money has gone over the years. For this is certain: Arab donors and a generous non-Arab world have donated many billions to the Palestinian cause.

For example, since the founding of Israel in 1948 literally billions of pounds have been donated to help Gaza's people have a decent life.

If it had been invested shrewdly and well, Gaza today could be a mini-Monaco. It could have a deepwater freight port, a flourishing fishing port and a leisure harbor crammed with the yachts of wealthy visitors. It could have resort hotels on the sea and farms, ranches and orchards in the hinterland.

It has nothing of these. It is a failed state of poverty, misery and violence. So what happened to all that money?

A lot went on guns, explosives for bombs and material to build rockets to launch at Israel. But the bulk has certainly suffered the fate of most wealth in that neck of the woods.

It has simply been embezzled, not by Israelis but by Palestinians and above all by their leadership cadres.

The donations continue to flow in... and disappear.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Voice of Sanity from Jordan's Queen: VideoBite

 A moderate and self-critical Queen Rania provides an excellent narrative on the current state of the Arab & Muslim world.  Known to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, the Jordanian Queen [of Palestinian background] can now be known for her voice of sanity.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

France Prevents Bad Nuke Deal With Iran

Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister, appears to have single handedly prevented the Iran deal.

Iran Talks End without Deal - Laurence Norman and Jay Solomon

Iran and six world powers failed  to seal a deal to freeze Tehran's nuclear program, but both sides agreed they had made enough progress during the three days of talks to hold another round. A Western diplomat said the talks would resume on Nov. 20 and involve senior officials but not ministers.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there were points in a draft text that France couldn't support, including concerns about what Iran would do with its stockpile of enriched uranium and a French demand that Iran suspend all work on its nuclear reactor at Arak.
(Wall Street Journal)

Menendez: Move Forward with New Sanctions - Isobel Markham

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said the U.S. should move forward with new sanctions on Iran. "I think that the possibility of moving ahead with new sanctions, including wording it in such a way that if there is a deal that is acceptable that those sanctions could cease upon such a deal, is possible."

Menendez argued that increased sanctions would offer "an insurance for the United States to make sure that Iran actually complies with an agreement that we would want to see. At the same time it's also an incentive to the Iranians to know what's coming if you don't strike a deal."     

Menendez urged negotiators to stick to the deal put forward by the UN Security Council, which calls for Iran to cease all enrichment and accept stricter protocols on inspection and oversight of its nuclear facilities. A move away from this position, Menendez said, suggests "we seem to want the deal almost more than the Iranians. And you can't want the deal more than the Iranians, especially when the Iranians are on the ropes." 
(ABC News)

Israeli Official: U.S. Wants Iran Deal to Avoid Strike - Attila Somfalvi

A senior Israeli official addressed the nuclear talks between Iran and the West, saying "The Americans are anxious to sign a bad deal because they fear the only alternative left - sans deal - is a strike."

"There's no doubt that if they sign now, Iran will turn into a threshold state and there won't be any deal that could stop Iran from developing its nuclear plan."
(Ynet News)


Israel Reacts with Alarm - Natan B. Sachs

The common view from Jerusalem reflects a combination of short-term relief over the French resolve, and a very deep concern over the new and potentially dramatic rift with the U.S. administration.

Discussions in Israel suggest the Americans have been over-eager to reach a deal and had allowed the terms to erode significantly, rather than Iran feeling pressured to close a diplomatic deal in light of the biting sanctions. This plays into a common narrative in the region of a U.S. administration eager to find any diplomatic way out of a confrontation.
The writer is a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.
(Brookings Institution)

Oppose the Deal on Iran - Alan M. Dershowitz

The U.S. is leading the noble efforts to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough to prevent Iran from having the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Yet the deal offered to Iran - to soften some sanctions in return for a promise by the mullahs to preserve the status quo with regard to their nuclear program - does not serve the interest of peace.

Were Iran to use the current diplomatic efforts as a cover to buy time to make a preventive military attack unrealistic, this would indeed be our "Chamberlain moment," a replication of the time when the idealistic but naive British prime minister made a bad deal with the Nazis in a desperate but futile effort to avoid deploying the military option against Hitler's growing power.

To weaken the sanctions regime now, in exchange for a promise to maintain the status quo, would be bad diplomacy, poor negotiation and a show of weakness precisely when a show of strength is called for. 

We Must Not Capitulate to Iran - Con Coughlin

Thankfully it has been left to the French to demonstrate that not everyone taking part in the Geneva talks is gullible enough to accept the Iranian promises of good behavior at face value.