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.

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)

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)

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)


Middle East Map Carved up - Owen Bennet-Jones 

The Middle East's longstanding borders created by foreign powers are slowly breaking down. The rise of ethnic sectarianism and of the Islamic State have led ethnic groups, such as the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, and religious-based terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State, to gain autonomy over patches of land throughout the Middle East.

With the central governments in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya gradually losing power to non-state actors within their borders, many Western diplomats are worried whether this trend will spread to more stable countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Oil, a key Middle Eastern export, is a major concern for Western governments, so the increase in smuggling by non-government actors is a troubling trend.

Middle Eastern governments' loss of land and control to autonomous groups will most likely lead to turmoil throughout the region for years to come.

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)

      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)


      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


      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. 

      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)

      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.


      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.

      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)

      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.

      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." 

      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%.  

      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.

      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.


      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)

      Monday, April 13, 2015

      Israeli Left Wing Supports Potential Iran Strike

      Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni

      Israeli Opposition Demands U.S. Support for Israeli Strike on Iran Nukes
      - Ron Ben-Yishai

      Israeli opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni from the Zionist Union party called for the U.S. to "give legitimization ahead of time to any action Israel will need to take to protect its safety" if Iran violates the framework agreement and tries to produce nuclear weapons. 

      The crux of Herzog and Livni's plan is a call on the American administration to commit in advance to approve an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities if Iran violates the framework agreement signed a week and a half ago by trying to produce nuclear weapons.
      (Ynet News)

      Thursday, April 09, 2015

      Obama Interview Sets Off Alarm Bells

      Not on Obama's Watch - Ari Shavit

      "Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch," the president told the New York Times. He's committing that Iran will not become nuclear before Jan. 20, 2017, promising that in the next 21 months Iran will not produce or assemble its first nuclear bomb. What are Israelis supposed to do with such a short-term commitment by the president? And what are the Saudis, Egyptians, Turks, Jordanians and Emiratis supposed to think?

      The Obama-Friedman interview sets off a thousand alarm bells. We begin to suspect that the Obama-Khamenei agreement will not prevent Iran from going nuclear, but will only postpone the achievement by a few years. This is a time of trouble for every Israeli, Arab, European and American who favors stability and sanity. In the balance is the world in which our children will live or die. 

      Barak: Give Iran an Ultimatum - Matthew J. Belvedere

      The U.S. needs to give Iranian leaders a clear choice: Get rid of your military nuclear program "or else," former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak urged.

      "The Pentagon and the forces of America under the backing and probably directive of the president [could] create an extremely effective means to destroy the Iranian nuclear military program over a fraction of one night," he said. He described the type of targeted operation as closer to the killing of bin Laden than the war on Iraq.

      Barak said he would rather see a peacefully negotiated end to Iran's nuclear threat. But "there is no agreement, basically," arguing that President Obama's administration backed themselves into a corner by committing "all around the world and back home to pass this agreement." 

      Iranian Navy Sails near Yemen - Simeon Kerr

      Iran has sent two naval vessels to waters near Yemen as part of "anti-piracy efforts" in the trade routes that connect the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, according to Iran's Press TV. The naval deployment highlights the tensions surrounding the conflict in Yemen after Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia launched an air campaign against the Shia Houthis.

      Riyadh and its Gulf allies say Yemen is the latest example of Tehran expanding its influence through proxies across the Arab world.
      (Financial Times-UK)

      Zarif: No Online Cameras Allowed  

      Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told parliament that Iran would allow no online cameras to be installed in its nuclear facilities.

      Zarif was also quoted as saying, "I have told the Western diplomats that Iran is capable of making an atom bomb anytime it wills."
      (Mehr News-Iran)

      Pakistan Produced Nukes with 3,000 Centrifuges - Dore Gold

      Advocates of the understandings with Iran over its nuclear program point to the fact that it proposes cutting Iran's 19,000 centrifuges to approximately 5,000, thus limiting its ability to enrich vast quantities of uranium.     

      But how many centrifuges does a country need to produce atomic weapons? Pakistan enriched uranium for its first nuclear device with only 3,000 centrifuges.

      Palestinians Demand...Free Electricity

      The PA's Audacity - Editorial

      In December, Israel froze the transfer of tax revenue it collected on the PA's behalf after the PA decided to join the International Criminal Court in order to instigate proceedings against Israel for alleged war crimes. Following pressure from Washington, the government relented and handed over to Ramallah NIS 1.37 billion. But Israel held back a symbolic NIS 160,000 to defray a fraction of the PA's NIS 2b. debt to the Israel Electric Corporation. The PA is also in massive arrears to Mekorot for water piped to it and to Israeli hospitals for unpaid medical bills.   

      According to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' arithmetic, this token deduction amounts to "a full third of the total." Therefore, he said, he refuses to accept any of the money and is prepared to take Israel to the ICC over the matter. It might be absurd to presume that collecting a small portion of enormous outstanding utility bills can be portrayed as a war crime. But what holds true for other nations is not so in Israel's case.

      If Abbas does press this matter at the ICC, it would be interesting to see if the jurists actually rule that it is an inalienable Palestinian right to enjoy free electricity at the direct expense of Israeli consumers.
      (Jerusalem Post)

      Wednesday, April 08, 2015

      Progressive Jewish Leader Bucks Obama's Iran Deal

      The rejection of Obama's plan by Rabbi Yoffie is big.  He is, perhaps, the most prominent left-leaning Jewish leader in the USA

      Rabbi Yoffie at JStreet conference

      Not Convinced about Iran Deal - Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

      Even Obama admirers, such as myself, will not be cheering this particular agreement with Iran. Part of the reason is that it is not a very good deal. Iran's nuclear infrastructure remains in place, the Iranians have walked away from long-standing commitments, and the Americans have compromised on long-standing demands.     

      But in the final analysis, it is not the specific terms that will most bother U.S. Jews. After years of Iran watching, they know that Iran is an Israel-hating, Holocaust-denying theocracy, and the patron of Hizbullah and other radical groups that are in the business of killing Jews. When in doubt about whether to trust virulently anti-Semitic nations and leaders, the general rule is: Don't.     

      The president argues that the deal offers the best possible means to assure Israel's security. The problem is that he is not convincing. His explanation of what will happen if Iran cheats is convoluted and even embarrassing; even the non-expert knows that what he is proposing, at this stage at least, cannot be counted on to work.     

      With a weak deal on the table, American Jews want Obama to use the months ahead to forge a much tougher and more effective agreement. 
      The writer served as President of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012.