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The Temple Mount is in our Hands: The Legacy of the 1967 Six Day War

The 28th of Iyar in the Hebrew Calendar falls on May 23, 2017. It marks the 50th anniversary of the June Six Days War in 1967 that resulted in the incredibly swift victory by Israeli forces against the massed armies and air forces of the United Arab Republic led by charismatic Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser had led the creation of the secular Pan-Arab movement encompassing Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. He was playing off Moscow versus Washington. He sought to ‘erase Israel from the Map of the World’ in revenge for the defeats in both the Israeli War for Independence in 1948-49 and the abortive Suez Operation in 1956 with the UK and France.

Nasser was seeking a secular socialist Arab empire. That is in sharp contrast to Israel’s current nemesis, Iran, that adopted the same slogan. It is seeking a Pan Islamic conquest of the Middle East and beyond with the aid of nuclear weapons, missiles and proxy fighters, Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi in Yemen.

Nasser ratcheted up his game plan in May 1967, demanding that UNEF troops withdraw from the Sinai so that his mobilized Army could replace them. He created a causus belli with the closing the Straits of Tiran, at the mouth of the Red Sea., to Israeli navigation. That prompted US President Johnson and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to consider forming an international  flotilla to break the impasse.  Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin had other plans.  The country mobilized its reservists, deployed its forward forces, girded for possible action.

On the morning of June 5th, Israel launched virtually its entire air force of French made Dassault Mirage fighter bombers, Fouga close air support aircraft and US A-6 fighters in a brilliant attack from the Mediterranean Sea. It caught and destroying the Egyptian air force unawares at breakfast time. Later Syrian and Jordanian air forces would be similarly decimated. That enabled a breakthrough in Gaza and the Sinai passes that facilitated armored units reaching the Suez bypassing struggling Egyptian forces. Israeli forces in the north fought their way up and took the strategic Golan Heights from Syria aided by intelligence from Israeli spy Eli Cohen who had penetrated their military. His identity discovered he was executed in 1965, after providing Israel with key information on Syria’s forces.

What to do about Jerusalem was initially left undecided. The immediate question was what to do about the Jordanians who had occupied east Jerusalem illegally for 19 years following the 1949 Armistice. Initially concerned about the opposition it would meet from the Jordanians and in response to shelling of West Jerusalem, the decision was made on June 5th to send the 55th Parachute and Jerusalem Brigades to enter the fray. That culminated in liberating Israel’s ancient capital on the morning of June 7, 1967 with a radio message from paratroop commander Col. Mordechai “Motti” Gur, “the Temple Mount is in our Hands.” The Six Days of War ended on June 10, 1967. Israel had increased its territory by more than three times. Much of that would be returned in subsequent disengagement agreements and peace accords with both Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994.

50 years later there is a legacy of unresolved issues: the question of Israel’s sovereignty over its eternal capital, the fixing of ‘secure and just’ borders under UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, Israel’s legal rights to “close settlements on the land” under International law, and the impasse over a possible peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel. Also outstanding is the matter of a possible move of the existing US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem enabled under a 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Law passed by the US Congress. However, it has been but waived every six months by four US Presidents because of ‘national security issues’, meaning resolution of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.

On the cusp of the 50th anniversary of the June Six Days of War, President Trump is making his first major overseas trip to the Middle East and Europe starting on Friday, May 19th. His first stop will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where he will be addressing a summit convened by King Salman with 50 Muslim Countries, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Separately, he will be discussing possible military aid to the Saudis and the Emirati members of the Gulf Coordination Council concerned over the threat from Iran across the Persian Gulf. He may come away from that encounter with possible proposals for reigniting the moribund peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.

His 26 hours in Jerusalem will include the first American Presidential visit to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. He will lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and hold a private dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Present at that dinner will be the new US Ambassador to Israel, the Hon. David Friedman, who in contrast to the President’s 2016 election campaign promises, has taken up his seat in the existing Tel Aviv Embassy and the official residence in Herziliya.

Against this background, we convened another in the periodic 1330am WEBY Middle East round table discussions hosted by Mike Bates of “Your Turn” with  Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based Jewish Policy Center and Jerry Gordon, Senior Editor of the New English Review.  The Center’s Spring 2017 Quarterly edition of inFocus, “Six Days and Fifty Years“, was devoted to a review of historical documents and analysis of the legacy of that significant conflict

Mike Bates overlooking Kotel and Dome of the Rock Mosque on Temple Mount 3-2014

Mike Bates

Mike Bates:  Good afternoon and welcome to Your Turn. This is Mike Bates. This hour is one of our periodic Middle East round table discussions and I have with me in the studio Jerry Gordon, Senior Editor of the New English Review and its blog, “the Iconoclast”. Jerry welcome.

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Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon:  Glad to be back.

Bates:  And joining us by telephone Shoshana Bryen. She is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center in Washington. Shoshana welcome.

Shoshana Bryen 2017 headshot

Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen: Thank you Mike.

Bates: So a lot is happening in the Middle East always but this week particularly it seems like it’s even more active than usual. President Donald Trump will be visiting Israel on the eve of Jerusalem Day commemorating the liberation of Israel’s capital during the Six-Day War.  As we approach the 50th anniversary, Monday the 22nd, the President will be in Israel. Shoshana, what’s your overall take?

Bryen: Mike it’s not actually his first foreign visit because his first visit is to Saudi Arabia and I think that’s great. I’m really pleased that the President is going to go to Saudi Arabia. He is going to meet with the leaders of other Arab countries and bring that information to Israel and I think that’s terrific. The largest problem in the region is Iran. We get fixated on Palestinians but the problem is Iran. This will help them bridge some of the gaps between the Gulf State positions and the Israeli positions and could lead to very interesting things in the future.

Bates: Do you expect any activity, anything significant on the big elephant in the room and that is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Bryen: No. I think the Presidents take a position saying let’s start working on this. Let’s think about this. Let’s talk about this. I don’t think you will see anything major pop up regarding the Palestinians.

Gordon: Shoshana, what is this spat that has popped up in the press between Netanyahu and Trump? How manufactured is that and really what is the background for it?

Bryen: How about a hundred percent manufactured.  The first question was, is Jerusalem in Israel? Does Israel have control over Jerusalem and somebody said no; Jerusalem is not in Israel. The White House very quickly put out a statement that saying this was “not authorized communication and comments about the Western Wall do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the President.” That was probably the fastest White House statement I have ever seen, so I think you have people who are trying to look for trouble and if they can’t find any they will make some. There was also another comment that didn’t quite make the same level of press. Secretary of State Tillerson said something about “Israel and Palestine.”  So the Palestinians said, “Oh wow, this is great!” Immediately Tillerson said, “No that wasn’t meant to do that.” That was a mistake. So, I don’t think the problem is with the President and I don’t think the problem is with Secretary Tillerson. I think the problem is looking for ways to embarrass the President or ways to embarrass Israel.

Bates: Many of these communication mistakes are coming from within the administration. Do you see the White House as being undisciplined?

Bryen: No, I don’t think it’s undisciplined. I think they still have an awful lot of holdover personnel particularly in the case of Israel are not going to be friends of either the President or Israel.  If it was up to me I would ask for the resignations of every single person that worked there in the prior administration.

Bates: What is the symbolism of the visit, specifically to the Western Wall? Do you anticipate and that it probably will occur, do you anticipate that Donald Trump will visit the Western Wall? If so I understand that he would be the first sitting President to do so and if he does, do you expect him to be accompanied by Prime Minister Netanyahu?

Bryen: On the first one, yes, I do think he will go to the Western Wall. I think he will set that precedent and be the first sitting President to do so. Whether he is accompanied by the Prime Minister is very hard for me to tell. By previous common understanding, American officials are accompanied by the Chief Rabbi of Israel. This is a decision that will be made by the President and the Prime Minister and you can second guess it but I won’t.

Bates: Can you give us some insight on what the pros and cons of a dual versus simultaneous visit would be? Why do it, and why not do it?

Bryen: There are people who say that if he goes with the Prime Minister of Israel who is a political figure, it’s like asserting Israeli sovereignty at that space. It’s as if the President accepts Israeli sovereignty there. There are people who don’t want that. There are people who do. There are people who will say, no, President Trump hasn’t agreed that Israel is the sovereign authority in Jerusalem. However, you can’t ignore the fact that this is the holiest place in the Jewish world and so the President has visited a holy Jewish place with a Jewish Prime Minister so you can play it either way.

Gordon: Shoshana there was a very interesting op-ed in  The Wall Street Journal by Northwestern University Law School Professor Eugene Kontorovich. He is the architect of a very successful anti-BDS law that has been passed by several states.  He drew attention to Russia’s recognition of Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem.  What were his arguments to support U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital.

Bryen: Essentially Kontorovich said if a major power in the world can do that then the United States can do it as well and he is correct. However, the Russian statement is not as definitive or as positive I think as Kontorovich paints it in The Wall Street Journal. The Russian statement says, “We reaffirm the U.N. approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

The problem here is that if you see East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state in those kinds of blunt terms you are essentially making a case to re-divide the city. If you re-divide the city all the Jewish patrimony stays on the wrong side. I think the Russians were making a statement of principle. West Jerusalem for the Jews, East Jerusalem for the Palestinians, that’s probably not the best way to deal with Jerusalem. At the end of the day the Jewish people need to have access and control of Jewish holy places, so I’m not thrilled with that statement.

Bates: Do you anticipate that the United States Embassy will move to Jerusalem?

Bryen: No.

Bates: Ever? Well, maybe ever is too long a time, I mean in the next five years

Bryen: Yes, right, never. You know I don’t know about five years. I do believe the President will use the waiver this time. I would point out that President Trump used the waiver process in the case of Iran a few weeks ago to buy himself some time on the specifics of what he wanted to do with Iran.  Several people in Washington went crazy and they said,” Oh, he’s not going to get rid of the nuclear deal and he is caving on Iran.” No he wasn’t. He used it as an opportunity to have the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense begin pointing out other bad things Iran does. It’s not just the nuclear deal. So the waiver is a mechanism for deciding how you want to handle a sticky situation. In the case of Iran, it was well used to begin a process of pointing out that Iran is just basically a bad country.

In the case of Israel which is a friendly country and an ally, it still gives you an opportunity to push off the decision and do other things. What I want to know is, what are the other things? My greatest hope is he will use the time to talk to the Palestinians honestly about their behavior and make them understand that their behavior is incompatible with peace. If he uses it that way  – give one take one,/take one give one – he’s probably on the road to something useful.

Gordon: Shoshana, Trump met with the infamous PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office. Among other things he criticized him for doing was paying stipends to Israeli jailed Palestinian terrorists like Marwan Barghouti and their families estimated at over four hundred million dollars annually. Are any of these funds coming from U.S. taxpayers and what evidence do we have of the Administration and Congress trying to stop such abuses?

Bryen: I must say the money that goes to terrorists does not come from U.S. distributions.  We are very clear about it because one hundred percent of our money is tied up in  projects. We have projects for economic development, improving water access, healthcare and education. We also pay Palestinian creditors certain of them directly. The United States pays the Israeli Electric Authority because the Palestinians don’t pay their bills. So U.S. money is not going to terrorists. That’s point one. Point two is that in the meantime there are bills in the House and Senate to cut off U.S. funds to the Palestinians. There is one by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, there is one by Lindsay Graham, there is corresponding legislation in the House. The issue that I see here is that if we cut off our money and we stop those programs in infrastructure, water access, and health, the Palestinian Authority is unlikely to fund them so they will wither on the vine. They will die. Maybe that’s good maybe it’s not good, those programs will go away. The Palestinian Authority will continue to use its other money – UNWRA money, EU money, Saudi, Qatari, PLO, direct tax money, any other way that they get money.  That money will continue to  go to terrorist salaries so we may be cutting off our noses here despite our faces.

Gordon: Shoshana there was news in The Wall Street Journal about a Gulf Cooperation Council plan based on the 2002 Saudi plan for recognition of Israel. Why is that a nonstarter?

Bryen: It’s a nonstarter because it’s backwards. It inverts the process. UN Resolution 242, which is the cornerstone of Israel’s security emanating from the ’67 war, requires that the Arab states go first because they were the ones who waged three wars in 1948, 1956 and 1967. They are required, according to the UN, to terminate their states of belligerency and respect the legitimacy, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the states in the region. The only one that matters in that context is Israel. After that there are supposed to be boundaries drawn. The Saudi plan says that if Israel withdraws from all the territory it acquired in ’67 – which by the way would include the Golan Heights today.  Can you imagine what would happen if the Syrians were on the top of the Golan Heights today? If Israel would withdraw from all the territory acquired in ’67 including Jerusalem and the holy sites, the Arab peace plan says, after that, the Arabs will consider their 242 obligations. It’s backwards. It won’t do.

Bates: Are you seeing any forward progress in the peace process at all?

Bryen: What’s the peace process?

Bates: Now that’s a good question.

Bryen: Look if you are talking about Palestinians and Israelis, no there is no peace process because the Palestinians will be the last people to make concessions to Israel. They need the backup of the Arab states who pay their salaries so they will never go first. Now, if you are talking about the broader region, where Israel fits in, how the Saudis, the Emirates and Jordan feel, there  may be some movement. There is movement because the Gulf states see their primary enemy as Iran, and on that subject Israel is a potential source of assistance on intelligence,  weapons, tactics and training. There is a place for Israel in the region if you leave the Palestinians out of it for the moment.  That was the suggestion we got when President Trump stood with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington and it was a very good vibe. They were going to lift their eyes, they were going to look at the region, they were going to see where the spaces were for movement and I think they will still do that.

Bates: Specifically with the Palestinian issue there was a recent revision to the Hamas Charter that allegedly recognized the Israel.  People have touted it as a complete reversal of the position of the Palestinians.  Specifically, Hamas,  who previously had called for the destruction of Israel.  Their revised Charter isn’t calling for that anymore.  The Palestinians want peace.  So, if peace doesn’t happen,  it’s now the Jews’ fault.  After those headlines Hamas came back and told their people, “We said that but we didn’t really mean it.”  How do you interpret this revised Hamas Charter?

Bryen: You know what Mike? I don’t require interpretation at all. Go straight to the text of the new document.  Forget about statements afterwards. In the new document it says:

Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without rejecting any Palestinian rights. Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem along the lines of the June 4th, 1967 Armistice line with the return of the refugees displaced from their homes in 1949 to be the formula of national consensus.

In other words, no Israel. If the Palestinian Authority wants to talk to the Jews and if they accept a fully independent Palestinian state as a temporary measure that’s okay.  They are agreeing to accept Palestine wherever it gets liberated but “river to the sea” means all of it.  Anyone who is looking for anything else it’s not in there. It’s pretense, it’s all made it up. Hamas was making a single pitch to the Palestinian Authority saying, “If you want to negotiate with the Zionists you can, but it won’t be the end of the war.”

Bates: What is so striking about that is the new Charter is overt deception. It wouldn’t be deception at all to those who are paying attention, so why was this celebrated?

Bryen: Because people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear and nobody who read it said any of those things. All they heard was you could have a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Jerusalem and it’s not the end of life. It’s not, it’s a stage in the destruction of Israel and I think the Israelis take that extremely seriously. You know you can’t account for people who read into these things what they want to. You really should go to the text and the text is clear.

Gordon: Shoshana, the Jewish Policy Center, where you are Senior Director published a rather interesting monograph. I commend it for our listeners to obtain a copy. It’s all about the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the June Six-Day War, 1967. One of the more important documents included was written by the late Professor Eugene Rostov of Yale Law School who formerly was a Senior State Department Official during the Johnson Administration. He had a hand in drafting the provisions of UN Security Resolution 242. What were his basic arguments about Israel’s international legal rights for “secure and just borders” and “close settlement on the land”?

Bryen: His single most important point was the British mandate. A mandate is a mission to do something. In this case, the mandate was for the establishment in Palestine, in their historic home. The British got the mandate to do that and the Mandate called for “closed settlement on the land” by Jews.  It was an invitation to Jews to settle in Palestine. A lot of places became states in the 20th century became states because they consolidated territory by war or by political means.  There are lots of reasons the places became states, but only one place in the world is a state because the countries of the United Nations wanted to make it one. Because of the mandate; the UN invited Jews to come and live in Palestine as their national home.  The Jews relied on that promise that the UN wanted them to come to Palestine and create the national homeland for the Jewish people.

Rostov feared that if the UN and the West  betray those commitments, “it would take a long step toward dissolving the world’s community as organized by the United Nations.”

The UN didn’t give the Jews their interest in Palestine. Palestine is the return of indigenous people to their homeland.  The UN wanted it and they helped to create it and they invited the Jews and made promises to the Jews.

The third point which is a little different than the other two,  is the League of Nations and then the United Nations did not see the territories as “Arab.” They are not “Arab territories” so anyone who says the Jews “came to the Arab territories” or the UN “took Arab territories for the Jews”, this is not correct. The territories in that region have been occupied by the non-Arab Ottomans for five hundred years and in those five hundred years all kinds of people lived there. Kurds, Jews, Turkmen, Baluchi, Yazidi – all kinds of people lived there.  Israel was not created out of  “Arab land”  in the eyes of the UN.  It was created out of the remnants of an empire that was dissolved, and that strengthens the Jewish claim to the piece of land that they have or to other lands that they wish to have.

Bates: Jerry, we are rapidly approaching the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, June 5th through June 10th, 1967. As a result, Israel expanded their country significantly having captured the Gaza, the Golan Heights, the Sinai and the West Bank.  We understand there is a documentary that will be playing in theaters across the country on Tuesday night, May 23rd. What do you know about that documentary?

Gordon: It is a docudrama produced by CBN and it focuses on the struggle and breakthrough into Jerusalem of the 55th Parachute Brigade of the IDF headed by then Colonel Mordechai “Motti” Gur.  I want to read an excerpt out of a book about Jerusalem and the breakthrough that will give you a sense of the drama that occurred. Simon Sebeg- Montefiore’s book, Jerusalem: The Biography captures the climactic moment of liberation during the June Six days of War in June 1967.  Note this excerpt published by the National Post, “The Temple Mount is in our Hands”:

First the Israelis bombarded the Augusta Victoria ridge using napalm, the Jordanians fled. Then Israeli paratroopers took the Mount of Olives and moved down towards the Garden of Gethsemane. We occupy the heights overlooking the old city. Paratroop Commander Colonel Motti Gur told his men in a little while we will enter it the ancient city of Jerusalem where for generations we have dreamed of and striven for we will be the first to enter. The Jewish nation is awaiting our victory. Be proud and good luck.

At 9:45 a.m. the Israeli Sherman tanks fired at the Lions Gate smashing the bus that blocked it and blew open the doors. Under raking Jordanian fire the Israelis charged the gate. The paratroopers broke into the Via Dolorosa and Colonel Gur lead a group onto the Temple Mount. ‘There you are in a half track after two days of fighting with shots still filling the air and suddenly you enter this wide-open space that everyone has seen before in pictures,’ wrote Israeli Intelligence Officer Arik Ackmon, ‘and though I’m not religious I don’t think there was a man who wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion. Something special had happened.’ There was a skirmish with Jordanian troops before Gur announced over Israel radio the Temple Mount is in our hands”, hence the name of this docudrama. The docudrama portrays what occurred in the battle for Jerusalem through recreations and interviews with many of the surviving paratroopers who made that assault and liberated Jerusalem.

Bates: This docudrama that Jerry is talking about In Our Hands-The Battle for Jerusalem will be playing in Northwest Florida at the AMC Bayou 15 theatres which is on Bayou Boulevard between 9th Avenue and Davis Highway at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23rd and it’s one night only.

Bates: Shoshana, speaking about the Six-Day War and specifically the capture of the Old City,  I have three questions which I will ask all at once so that you can answer them however they need to be answered. 1) Why were the Israeli forces originally forbidden from entering the Old City, 2) why did they then decide they would go into the Old City,  and  3),after capturing the Temple Mount why did they give it back?

Bryen: There are three questions that are really one question.  The answer to the big question is remember that Israel didn’t think it was going to win that war and they didn’t think the Jordanians were going to enter the war. The Israelis were telling the Jordanians from the beginning don’t do this, don’t get involved, stay home.  The Jordanians for their own reasons began shelling Western Jerusalem from Eastern Jerusalem.  But before that, if you  remember  May of 1967 the Israelis believed they were going to lose. Twenty-five years after the Holocaust they believed this could be it for the remaining Jews. Rabbis were talking about mass graves.  So the reason they didn’t want to go into the Old City was they hadn’t planned on it.  Plus,  they were afraid that it was booby-trapped and that there would be greater destruction of holy places. And number three they just didn’t think about it.

Now, by the time they got to it was clear, they had destroyed the Egyptian Air Force, they were rolling in the Sinai, they were rolling on the Golan, they were going to roll in Jerusalem so they did it. They found it was not booby-trapped. The Arabs surrendered the city with not very much destruction.

To your third question. They didn’t give it back.  What they said was,  “The mosque on the top must be ruled by Arabs, by Muslims; it is not our space. Unlike the Muslims who in ’48 and ‘49 took all the Jewish spaces and they destroyed them. Forty-seven synagogues they destroyed, not to mention the Mount of Olive Cemetery. When it was the Jewish turn they said,  “No not us. We are not going to destroy it and we are not going to rule it.”  They went to the Waqf, the Muslim o, religious authority in the city of Jerusalem, which was under the control of King Hussein of Jordan, who is the guardian of the mosques of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. They made a deal that religious people would take care of religious space. It’s an amazing thought that having returned to the space of the Western Wall they looked on top and they saw someone else’s religious patrimony there and they respected it.

Bates: What they got for that respect was continued violence and even the Temple Mount you say that they didn’t give it back and I suppose arguably you are right. On the other hand, it’s being managed by this Waqf and Israeli police control the entry points to the Temple Mount. Muslims, with rare exceptions when violence is feared, can enter any time they want and can pray. Non-Muslims are limited to very specific entry times from very specific entry points and are prohibited from overtly praying on the Temple Mount.

Bryen: Well that’s a quirk. Because Israel’s Rabbinate did not want people praying on the Temple Mount and the Israeli Government took that as their signal – which was the answer the government wanted; a rare case of the Rabbinate making the government’s life easier rather than harder.  The Rabbis were concerned that people could find themselves praying in the space that was originally the Holy of Holies and you can’t and that’s a religious issue. The Israeli government said the Rabbis don’t want it, the Arabs do want it so we don’t want it. I don’t know what would have happened if the Rabbis had said the opposite. I don’t know where it would have gone.

Gordon: Shoshana one of the allied problems has been that the Waqf has been the perpetrator of excavating what is the archeological Jewish provenance under the Dome of the Rock and much of that has been scattered in the debris in the City of David scree pile. That doesn’t indicate that in respect of what the Israelis did to grant control over the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque that it respects Jewish heritage there.

Bryen: The Waqf does not respect Jewish heritage and I would suggest that the Israeli government made a mistake in allowing them to do excavation. It wasn’t necessary. You must remember there is a difference between what happened in the days shortly after the Six-Day War when first there was certain euphoria because they had not expected to survive.  In those first days after the Six-Day War the Arabs of Jerusalem were not threatening people. They surrendered the city rather than have it be blown up. They worked with the Israelis. They understood that they were occupied.  Things that happened immediately thereafter were in the context of decent relations. Over time those relations didn’t stand up for exactly the reason you said. The Waqf and the Arabs do not fundamentally respect the Israeli position vis-a-vis Jerusalem at all and the Temple Mount specifically. They’re not quite as nice as they used to be.  They continue to permit the Arabs to have a great deal of leeway on the Temple Mount and perhaps they shouldn’t.

Bates: I agree with that. I was in Israel in 2014 and I had a fair amount of difficulty getting to the Temple Mount. Ultimately we did get in and had a private tour from one of the Imams which is somewhat interesting itself.  I was shocked by how exclusive it is against non-Muslims. Non-Muslims don’t have decent access to the Temple Mount.  I just find that to be incredibly unjust. If there is any point of validity to the charge of apartheid it is the Temple Mount where the Muslims have it and the infidels don’t.

Bryen: Absolutely, but the Muslims will tell you don’t need to go to the Temple Mount because you are not a Muslim.  So what difference should it make to you if you don’t have free access?

Gordon: That means that infidels or Kufr as people call them in Islam.

Bryen: Yes.

Gordon: Or Dhimmi, subjugated people under Sharia law.

Bryen: And not entitled to the same rights and privileges as Muslims.

Gordon: That’s correct.

Bryen: Which is to say Muslims can go there when they want but you don’t need to and so you can’t.

Bates: If  I may editorialize for just a moment Shoshana and Jerry, Jerusalem isn’t really a holy place for Muslims anyway. They just want it so the Jews can’t have it and their claim is that Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam behind Mecca and Medina. This is based on the false story that the prophet Mohammed rode the winged horse from Mecca to Jerusalem on his night journey.  They claimed that he ascended into heaven from the location of what is now the Al-Aqsa Mosque accompanied by the angel Gabriel.  The problem with that nonsensical story is obvious to those who study history and just don’t take at face value what they are told. The night journey to Jerusalem referred to in the Hadith as the farthest mosque supposedly took place in 621. However, there was no mosque in Jerusalem in 621. It was Umar bin al-Khattab who built the first mosque in Jerusalem during the Rashidun Caliphate which didn’t begin until 632  following  the death of Mohammed.  Jerusalem wasn’t conquered by Muslims until 637! The likely date for construction of the first mosque in Jerusalem was 637.  That is sixteen years after Mohammed’s night journey..  If I may be so bold as to say it, Islam’s claim to Jerusalem is a myth and not based on fact!

Bryen: There you go making sense because you are not supposed to be reading the dates of conquest and things like that. You are supposed to take it on face that this is what they say it is. It is a problem, I mean I’m laughing a little bit but I’m not laughing. They will tell you that the calendar doesn’t matter. What matters is faith and we believe this and if we believe it then you must treat it as if it’s true. Here you get to something that you will see in the political sphere as well.

It is not just religion; what they call their “narrative.” That means the history that they make up. Saeb Erekat once said that he was a Canaanite and someone said if you are a Canaanite you can’t be an Arab, because Arabs and Canaanites were different people.  He said, “ Don’t tell me what my narrative is.” In other words, don’t tell me what my truth is. My truth is whatever I make it and so you are exactly right. If the dates of construction don’t match the reality of history and we care about that you’re supposed to say, “Oh well too bad, it doesn’t. It’s the narrative.”

You find a lot in the political sphere.  This is what the Palestinian text books do. They tell you things that are not true.  They say, “That is our narrative, that is what we teach our children because that is what we want them to understand.”

Bates: My motto is “truth above all” and whichever side that truth falls on that’s where I want to be.  That’s why it bothers me so much when people tell and subsequently believe lies.

Gordon: Shoshana, Charismatic, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser triggered the crisis that lead to his and the so-called United Arab Republics defeat in the 1967 War. What were his objectives, how did he treat the Palestinians and why does that resonate today given the Iranian threats to Israel’s existence?

Bryen: Nasser was not interested in Palestine or Palestinians. Nasser was an Arab nationalist and he had only two goals. First was to be the leader of the Pan Arab Nationalist movement and second to play Russia and the United States against one another. Yes, he wanted to destroy Israel because he thought it was important for his nationalist Pan Arab goals.  Occasionally, it was important to mention Palestinians, but the goals were always something else. The goals were always Pan Arab. How does it relate to Iran today? Iran is not Pan Arab obviously, however it is Pan Islamic and Pan Islam is a bigger and more expansive problem than Pan Arabism, but it has the same goal. It is the control of large stretches of territory and people.

Bates: And the re-establishment of an Islamic Caliphate.

Bryen: Nasser was not exactly Caliphate oriented because he was a secular nationalist. Now, the Iranians are looking for the Caliphate. ISIS is looking for the Caliphate. Al Qaeda is looking for the Caliphate.

Gordon: Erdogan is looking to create another Caliphate.

Bryen: Erdogan wants the Ottoman Empire back.

Gordon: Right.

Bates: Shoshana, you recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States and the author of an outstanding book titled, Six Days of War – June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. What are your major takeaways from your interview with Michael Oren?

Bryen: Oren spent a fair amount of time talking about the difference between Pan Arabism and Pan Islamism.  But the biggest point he made was without the Six Day War Israel would not be the country that it is today and he means that in positive ways. The Six Day War made the borders of Israel much more defensible.  It made Jerusalem again the heart and soul not only of the State of Israel but of the Jewish people. The Six Day War brought religious freedom to Jerusalem. It gave the Jews a sense twenty-five years after the Holocaust, that they could compete in this modern world. They could live in this modern world.

What came out of that is the strategic alliance with the United States.  Plus, Israel is in the top tier of countries in terms of scientific and educational development. Other kinds of development include computers, music, agriculture and water technology.  All of that comes from the confidence to be who you are and to know that you can survive in the world. That is my favorite part of the interview which was also his biggest point.

That confidence has made Israel the only country in the modern world that has a birth rate that is above replacement. Israeli women have between three and five babies each and that is secular women. The Arab birth rate in Israel has gone down as Arab-Israeli women have more opportunities for education and professional opportunities, their birth rate has declined.  The birth rate for Orthodox Jewish women has declined for the same reason. More education, more opportunities in the secular world. The birth rate for secular Israeli women is going up and it is over three babies per woman which is more than replacement. It is the highest number in the developed world.  That is from optimism.

According to Ambassador Oren the Six Day War was itself a terrible trial of fire for the Jewish state, but what came out of it is a very positive optimistic and confident Israel which in his view and in mine can figure out how to solve their remaining problems.

Gordon: Shoshana on the back of your InFocus Spring 2017 Quarterly issue is a document you call your final thoughts entitled, “Back to the Future”. What are they?

Bryen: You cannot solve the current problems without going back to the fact that the Arab states have never ever recognized the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. To solve the problem, they have to do what they failed to do since ’48. If they do that everything else is possible.

Bates: Any closing thoughts, Jerry?

Gordon: For our listeners in Pensacola you ought to come and watch this terrific docudrama called, In Our Hands-The Battle for Jerusalem. It will be shown the AMC Bayou 15 on May 23rd, the eve of Jerusalem Day in Israel at 7 p.m.  It’s the only showing and you ought to take someone with you and go see it.

Bates: Jerry and I will both be there and we hope to see you there as well. So, thank you Jerry Gordon from the New English Review and Shoshana Bryen with the Jewish Policy Center in Washington for joining us as well. Always enjoy these Middle East round table discussions. We thank you for listening today to Your Turn on 1330 WEBY.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. Listen to the 1330am WEBY interview. Download the Jewish Policy Center, inFocus Spring 2017 Quarterly, Six Days and Fifty Years .

Is President Obama Imposing the ‘Auschwitz Border’ on Israel?

Introduction

On the cusp of the transition from the Obama to the Trump Administration, Israel has been in the crosshairs of actions at the UN and a Paris meeting convened on January 15, 2017 by outgoing French President Hollande.  Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority will be attending the gathering of 72 nations. The Quartet, as well as the 28 Foreign ministers of the EU will also be meeting on it and deciding what script is to be presented at the UNSC meeting on January 17th in New York. One ominous possibility might be a state of Palestine declaration.

Yet, a communique drafted by the U.S. and France and ‘leaked ‘widely proposes ‘coercively’ establishing borders that might imperil Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and its national security.   That is the pre-1967 June Six Day War border what revered Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban called “the Auschwitz border” dividing Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.  Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based Jewish Policy Center in an interview with the co-authors called the proposed borders, “Indefensible. Because you have an eight mile waist between what will be Palestinian artillery in the hills and the Israelis living underneath them. Ronald Reagan explicitly rejected the pre- ’67 borders.”

UN Security Council Resolution 2334

The Paris meeting  was  triggered by the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334  on December 23, 2016  and a subsequent controversial  speech by outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department on  December 28th supporting  resolution 2334. Kerry in his State Department speech called Israel Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu  the head of “the most rightwing  regime in Israeli history, with “an agenda driven by the most extreme elements” for “unfettered settlement construction and  flagrant violation of international law” forcing the end of the peace settlement talks with the Palestinian Authority.  Kerry’s comments were objected to by Netanyahu as “obsessive, unbalanced, “saying that “most of his speech blamed Israel for the lack of peace.”  UK PM Theresa May criticized Kerry’s remarks saying, “We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.”  Kerry was also criticized by a number of Republican and Democratic Senators and Congressional Representatives.

On  December 23, 2016, a crucial vote at the United Nation’s Security Council  passed an anti-Israel  Resolution 2334 by a vote of 14 to 0, with the US abstaining.  UNSC Resolution 2334 virtually abrogated Resolutions 242 and 381 passed in the wake of the June 1967 Six Days of War that reunified Israel’s capitol that had guaranteed Israel’s right to negotiate secure borders. Resolution 2334 stated that “Israel‘s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demanded that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”  While UN Resolution 2334 had no ‘coercive’ effect under international law; nevertheless, it represented the first action the Security Council passed since 2009 on this issue.  Moreover, it was the first abstention by a U.S. government since the Carter Administration in 1980.

On January 10, 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told a visiting U.S. AIPAC delegation in Jerusalem, that, we have unequivocal evidence the Obama Administration Led UN Resolution [2334] that marked a major break with US policy.”

Background of Israel’s Legal rights to the Land

Under UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338 Israel lawfully built what the Jewish nation’s opponents called ‘settlements’.  These were Jewish villages and towns built on lands in Judea and Samaria with deeds conveyed in the Ottoman era.  Nearly 90 percent of population in these Jewish villages and towns in the disputed territories were built on lands originally inhabited by Jews prior to the 1948 -1949 War of Independence for Israel.

In 1979-1980 there was a flurry of  UN Security Council resolutions  seeking to  declare  these disputed territories  part of a future Palestinian State and Jewish  ‘settlements’ illegal.  However,  Eugene Rostow, former  President Johnson era State Department official and  co-author of Resolution 242 with British Foreign Minister Lord Carrington, affirmed Israel’s legal right to the lands under the original British Palestine Mandate in 1922 that also declared the Kingdom of Jordan.   Professor Rostow noted this in an article published in The Yale Journal of International Law, “Palestinian Self-Determination: Possible Futures for the Unallocated Parts of the British Mandate.”  Rostow’s arguments presage what is now occurring at the UN Security and at the Paris meeting, as if this was “deja vu all over again,” as baseball legend Yoga Berra might  say in one of his famous malapropisms.

Rostow cited the precedent of the Palestine Mandate:

The Palestine Mandate was established under the authority of paragraph 8 of Article 22 of the Covenant, which authorized the League Council explicitly to define the terms of a Mandate when the broad general statement of paragraph 1 was insufficient.

The purpose of the Palestine Mandate was “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” The Mandatory government was required to facilitate Jewish immigration and “close settlement” in Palestine, subject to the proviso that the Mandatory government could “postpone or withhold” the application of these (and related) articles of the Mandate in the area of Palestine east of the Jordan River. This was done when Britain established Transjordan as an autonomous province of the Mandate in 1922. But Jewish rights of immigration and close settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, established by the Mandate, have never been qualified.”

Trump Obligations to Israel

During the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing of Trump nominee for Secretary of State, Lax Tillerson, retiring Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil, responded on questions regarding his views of US support for Israel. He said;

Israel is, has always been and remains our most important ally in the region. The UN resolution that was passed, in my view, is not helpful. It actually undermines a good set of conditions for talks to continue. As an attempt to ‘coerce’ Israel to change course that will not lead to a solution. The president-elect has already made it clear that we’re going to meet our obligations to Israel as the most important ally in the region.

One of the expressed obligations of President – elect Trump is the movement of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  While there have been US laws passed in 1990 and 1995 to implement this, waiver provisions were passed by the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administration every six months.  There appears to be momentum to finally achieve the move.  Sites have already been picked out. There is even a compromise solution to make the existing US consulate in Jerusalem as the seat for the US Ambassador effectively making two US consulates one in Jerusalem and the current Embassy in Tel Aviv. Objections to the prospective move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem were reflected in incitement preached at mosques in the Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem.  That may have motivated a Salafist terrorist to mount a truck ramming in Jerusalem’s Amona killing 4 young IDF officers, injuring 17 alighting from a bus. The perpetrator was killed by an armed guide with the group.

Against this background, Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio Station, 1330amWEBY host, Mike Bates and co-host Jerry Gordon, Senior editor of the New English Review, convened another Middle East Roundtable discussion with Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based Jewish Policy Center.

LISTEN to the Podcast of the January 10, 2017 broadcast.  Read the Transcript in two separate posts: Part 1 and 2.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Why do we have an Oil Glut?

The world is awash in oil and gas. Amazing.  Less than two decades ago in 1998, the predictions were by this time in 2016 oil production would be past its peak. In fact the gloom and doom experts were called Oil Peakists. Note this from Science magazine back in 1998:

From Science magazine’s “The Next Oil Crisis Looms Large—and Perhaps Close,” Aug. 21, 1998:

This spring . . . the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported for the first time that the peak of world oil production is in sight. Even taking into account the best efforts of the explorationists and the discovery of new fields in frontier areas like the Caspian Sea . . . sometime between 2010 and 2020 the gush of oil from wells around the world will peak at 80 million barrels per day, then begin a steady, inevitable decline, the report says.

However, technology, especially here in the U.S., relegated that prediction to the proverbial dust bin of history. With the private developments of  revolutionary shale fracking and horizontal drilling technology, vast new energy resources were opened up in places like North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and even in the older Permian field in West Texas. The U.S. is now pumping 9 million barrels of oil a day, and trillions of cubic yards of gas. We are no longer dependent on importing Middle East oil. In fact much of the oil that we import comes from our neighbors Canada and Mexico.

In the wake of lifting sanctions against nuclear Iran, oil is beginning to flow again to the European Union from Tehran which says it could add another 500,000 barrels in production this year.  U.S. oil is also flowing to Europe now that the 43 year old ban on oil exports was lifted and signed in law late in 2015. The first shipment of sweet crude drawn from the Eagle Ford Shale field in South Texas left the port of Corpus Christi, Texas on New Year’s eve and landed at the port of Marseilles on Friday. Another shipment out of Houston made it to Rotterdam on Thursday. A third one out of Houston is on its way to Marseilles. The oil is the equivalent of the so-called Saudi light or sweet crude which doesn’t require as much refining producing profit margins for the refiners.

So, why do we have this glut? 

The world’s economies are not growing as fast or rather slowing down, especially in the big consumer of raw materials and energy, China.  China’s economy and trade is impacting on those exporters of commodities like oil, gas,  copper, aluminum  and  iron ore like Australia,  Brazil, Canada,  Russia, Venezuela  and African countries. Where China was growing at a purported 10 percent plus, annually, the evidence is it has fallen to less than a third of that towering inflated level. We have come to realize those growth estimates were based on questionable figures  prepared by the Chinese government.  Some economic experts suggest the annual growth in GDP may be less than three percent.  So with that news came the sudden plummeting in the world trading markets for commodities, especially oil.

There is  also the great geo-resource political game in the Middle East going on between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and let’s not forget Russia.  Saudi Arabia as the keystone in the OPEC oil Cartel is not listening to the complaints of the other members of the group at meetings in Vienna demanding that it reduce domestic production. It is pumping oil and still making money, because it costs less than $5 a barrel. This despite a yawning budget deficit of $98 billion. The Saudis have an estimated $600 billion in hard currency reserves, which provides a cushion to ride out the geo-political storm. They are using the oil weapon to beat back competitors including Iran across the Persian Gulf, Russia which  has military in Syria supporting the Assad regime, and  the newly resurgent producer, the US.   Russia, as Shoshana Bryen of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center pointed out in a recent interview, mispriced its budget at $119 a barrel of oil, then redid the numbers at $87 dollars only to see it plummet to less than $30 at one point.

So what is the impact here in the U.S.?

When was your last trip to fill up your car at the gas station?  Here on the Gulf Coast in the U.S., regular unleaded gas is currently selling for less than $1.80 a gallon.  That means savings to consumers who appear to be putting away the difference awaiting a return to a more confident economy.   Diesel that at one point was priced at nearly $1 dollar a gallon above gasoline has shrunk to less than ten cents a gallon differential. That means that the cost for moving shipments via long haul truckers has gotten cheaper. It means that jet fuel cost is less reflected in the huge profits being declared by the major airlines. Some of that may be due to the lagging airline ticket surcharges that remain in place.  However, the drop in oil production is also impacting the profit margins of rail carriers who minted money from train loads of combustible leaving the Bakken formation in North Dakota. The drop in oil prices occasioned by the glut also means that the cost of petro chemical feed stocks is enhancing profit margins for plastics,.

Remember, the discussion about lifting the 43 year old oil export ban?

One of the by-products of that was the convergent pricing of U.S. crude has converged with world pricing.  If you went onto the COMDEX oil trading floor in lower Manhattan, you would see traders vying for futures contracts in West Texas Intermediate (WTI) versus Brent-the so-called North Sea crude oil benchmark. The lifting of the oil export ban in the U.S. virtually eliminated the difference making Brent the world standard.  As of Friday, January 22, 2016 WTI was $32.19 per barrel for March 2016 deliveries, a 9.0 % jump, and Brent priced out of the London ICE was $32.18. Heavier grades like Canadian Tar sands or Venezuelan heavy sulfur crude require more refining to produce various products. These grades actually sell at discounts from those benchmarks by as much as five dollars.

Can we expect the oil glut to last? Hardly. The current excess supply will work itself off and oil futures will gradually begin to rise again. That will bring rigs on stream here in the U.S. to start producing again, it may cause Iran to produce more than the declared 500,000 barrels  annually and the Saudis would just be minting more billions to add to its hard currency reserves. However, by mid century those fabled Saudi sweet crude reserves may likely begin to tail off. Energy, whether oil or gas will reflect the cyclical demands of the world economies.  The U.S. stands in pretty good shape to weather the current volatility in trading markets; thanks to technology, entrepreneurial prowess and the lifting of the oil export embargo. Don’t panic and consider investing in contrarian values in the equity and debt markets. That is what the long term value investors do. They buy when values are relatively cheap compared to long term returns.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. An earlier version was published in the Newsletter of the Lisa Benson Show National Security Task Force Newsletter, January 23, 2016.

Iran: ‘Humiliating the United States, with no consequences’

american sailors captured by IranYesterday, when we posted on the IRGC hostage taking of U.S. Navy sailors and their riverine patrol boats to Farsi Island, we wrote of the prior incidents of Iran’s hostage taking in the Persian Gulf.

Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center and I commiserated about the seizure of six British Royal Marines in June 2004 by the IRGC naval contingent. The Royal Marines were taken to land, blinded and demanded to apologize for entering Iranian waters. They were then taken out onto the desert and blindfolded while weapons were chambered in a mock execution. They were released three days later in what was billed as a “misunderstanding.”  The Royal Marines were operating in Iraqi waters when seized by Iran.

As noted in a Reuter’s report on today’s seizure of U.S. patrol boats and arrest of U.S. Navy personnel, there was another seizure of British naval and marine personnel by Iranian Revolutionary guards that created a diplomatic crisis in 2007:

In March 2007, Iranian forces seized 15 British servicemen – eight Royal Navy sailors and seven marines – in the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway that separates Iran and Iraq, triggering a diplomatic crisis at a time of heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. They were held for 13 days.

Look at Iran’s track record over the last several months since the JCOPA was endorsed by the UN Security Council. Iran fired off two ballistic missile tests in October and November 2015 in violation of UN Res. 1929. Last week, IRGC missile boats hailed the USS Harry Truman giving it and an accompanying destroyer, the USS Bulkley and a nearby French frigate a 23 minute warning before firing rockets in a live fire exercise 1,500 yards away. The Administration has been humiliated time and again by the Ayatollah and will continue to be held in contempt for being weak, even after the, Administration releases $100 billion in sequestered funds in foreign banks, perhaps as early as this week.

Meanwhile the spin at the White House was that the crews of the two patrol boats may be released by daylight to return to their base in Bahrain. Think, also, of those other American hostages held by the Islamic Regime in Tehran, an ex-FBI agent, a former Marine, a Christian Pastor, two American Iranian Businessmen and a convicted Washington Post reporter.

15 hours after the 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their boats were returned, but not before they were put through a humiliating process of being forced to kneel at gun point and ultimately forced to apologize for how the boats found their way into Iranian waters. That awaits a U.S. Navy investigation  into what occurred and possible Iranian violations of the Geneva Convention over treatment of the detained U.S. Sailors and use for propaganda purposes. Both they and their boats returned to the Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain. What the IRGC learned of any technology on board the riverine patrol boats is another matter.

Nonetheless, this was the latest episode of U.S. humiliation by the Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC of President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif and President Obama, bound and determined to close the nuclear deal with Iran by releasing $100 billion of sequestered funds early next week on compliance day to this state sponsor of terrorism.

WATCH this Wall Street Journal video of the detention and apology by a possible U.S. Navy riverine boat commander:

us sailors captured by iran

Photo montage by the UK Daily Mail.

The Jerusalem Post published commentary by  Harold  Rhode, former Islamic and Turkish Affairs expert with the Pentagon Office of Net Assessment,  Tony Badran  and Ali Afoneh of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute  on this latest humiliating episode perpetrated by the IRGC navy, Former Pentagon official to ‘Post’: ‘Iran humiliating US with no consequences.’

See our December 2014 New English Review interview with Dr. Rhode, “China’s Islamist Threat”  and March 2014 interview with Dr. Michael Rubin, The Peril of Engaging Rogue States.

The Jerusalem Post opinion article noted:

Iran’s capture and release of 10 US sailors demonstrated that “moderates” such as President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have no real weight, while the real power continues to be wielded by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his hard line allies, such as the Revolutionary Guard, several commentators said Wednesday.

Propaganda videos of the soldiers blindfolded and kneeling released by Iranian media humiliated the world’s superpower and shows that Iran can continue its aggressive behavior with no consequences.

The Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of the nuclear deal’s implementation and the lifting of sanctions on Iran, they said.

“Test fire ballistic missiles. Check. Fire missiles near US ships. Check. Torch US ally’s missions. Check. Seize US sailors. Check. Get paid,” tweeted Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Iran’s continued aggressive behavior since the nuclear deal was agreed upon last summer gives it, and other rogue actors, the impression that it can act with a rather free hand.

Such a message must be terrifying to Israel and other US-Arab allies in the region.

Besides the question of whether there was a US apology to Iran, which administration officials deny, it remains unknown whether there was a secret deal or promise that facilitated the release of the sailors.

“Detainment of the US sailors was short, but the IRGC achieved its goal: The IRGC communicated the message to the domestic and the international audience that it calls the shots in Tehran, and humiliated the US,” Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington- based think tank, told The Jerusalem Post.

Harold Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute and a former adviser at the Pentagon, told the Postthat much of the equipment on the US boats was probably previously unavailable to Iran.

“Did Iran take US equipment? Will it share what it learns with North Korea, Russia and China?” “There is no concept of good will in the Middle East,” said the former Pentagon official.

The fact that until to now the US has not reacted on numerous issues – such as Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile in October in violation of a UN Security Council resolution and the firing of rockets near US naval ships – “demonstrates America’s weakness to Middle Easterners,” Rhode said.

“This is another case of America demonstrating that it is an unreliable ally and a harmless enemy,” he added.

“In the Middle East, when people smell weakness, they pounce,” said Rhode.

“Most amazingly from the Iranian point of view,” he continued, “is that they captured these sailors right before Obama’s State of the Union speech, and the president didn’t even mention it.”

“Did the Iranians do that on purpose to further humiliate Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry? From an Iranian cultural point of view, the answer is yes!” exclaimed Rhode.

This is a huge win-win situation for Iran, he continued, as Iran gets US advanced technology, it humiliates America, and it gives the US administration – so desperate to implement the unsigned Iran-US nuclear agreement – the excuse to say that Iran is cooperating with the US as a result of the agreement.

“A grand-slam for Iran, and a huge defeat for the US. Now Iran can continue advancing its ultimate goal of gaining nuclear weapons,” said Rhode.

Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told the Post the incident benefited the IRGC and other hardliners.

“They humiliated the United States. They received a groveling apology. They broadcast photos of the captured Americans.”

Rubin recalled a similar incident involving the UK in 2007, and how the photos and footage of the detained sailors made their way into the campaign commercials of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“To credit diplomacy for their release is like giving a slap on the back to an arsonist who started a fire and then wants credit for putting it out,” said Rubin.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Iran: Boat seizure “should be a lesson to troublemakers in the U.S. Congress”

Biden: Iran saw US boats in distress, acted “like ordinary nations would do”

After hours of interrogation, Iran says 10 captured U.S. sailors “released in international waters after they apologized”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

PODCAST: Pakistani Terrorist Camps in the United States

Listen to this podcast of the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show on KKNT 960 AM Radio – The Patriot. Lisa Benson and New English Review Senior Editor Jerry Gordon co-hosted this show with the assistance of Board of Advisers member, Richard Cutting.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Foundation of Islam and Democracy and the U.S. Commission for international religious discussed the recently launched Freedom Muslim Reform Movement, the deteriorating situation inside Syria and U.S. failure to contend with NATO ally Turkey under Islamist President Erdogan in the war against ISIS.

Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center, addressed allegations in a recent Wall Street Journal expose of NSA spying on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Congressional Members and American Jewish leaders, Israeli preparedness against ISIS threats in Syria and the Sinai and the tacit cooperation with Egypt and the fascinating understanding struck with Putin’s Russia to contain Hezbollah. We will be posting Bryen’s written responses to these and other questions, separately.

Jamaat ul-Fuqra fbi

FBI agents embracing members of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a Pakistani based terrorist group in the United States.

Ryan Mauro, National Security Analyst at The Clarion Project addressed the terrorist training camps established in both Canada and America by radical Pakistani Sufi Sheik Mubarak ali Gilani, who has not been investigated by the FBI despite his founding a network of Jamaat ul-Fuqra/Muslim of America (MOA) paramilitary camps in both Canada and the U.S. that conveyed extremist Islamist ideology and provided weapons training for prison converts to Islam. These MOA camps fostered a three decade record of attempted assassinations, criminal activities supporting terrorism akin to that of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino massacres. Yet, as Mauro pointed out, Sheik Gilani does not support ISIS.

Our usually astute European listener had these comments on the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show:

To hear Dr. Jasser state the plan to reform the religion of Islam was very interesting. The Sharia Islamic law actually promoted by Sunni Islam is both political and religious. For these extremists their ideology requires them to conquer the world and forcefully ask all the non-Muslims to convert to Islam or become third class citizens of their caliphate.

What Dr. Jasser is proposing is to separate religion state from religion in Islam. A modernized religious law will take a lot of time.  However, this is the only way to advance eliminating extremist Islam from all around the world. Dr. Jasser should not call this reform a new Sharia law, but the New Moslem Religious law. The word Sharia has another meaning for all Moslems. It will be interesting to watch how many mosques and Imams would adopt Dr. Jasser’s propositions because many are still funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Moslem Brotherhood. Let us not forget that Muslim Brotherhood/CAIR members have been engaged by the Administration in such policy considerations.

Dr. Jasser has to be congratulated for the dangerous and wonderful work he is doing.

Wonderful to hear Shoshana Bryen giving her opinion and analysis. The Israelis know that they are being tapped and they know quite well what encryption services they can use for their communications which are Top Secret. Shoshana knows all about what is going on and she writes about it explicitly.

The details that Ryan Mauro provided are diagnostic of the chronic illness of these Islamist Muslim of America camps.  It is unbelievable that the FBI, even with limited resources, has not taken the necessary steps to indict all those who are embedded in these groups. I sincerely hope that there will not be a major terror attack in the US perpetrated by members of these Islamist camps.

I think the radio show is really getting better and better. The American public needs to hear these comments to wake up and contact their law makers in order to have a safe America.

EDITORS NOTE: This podcast originally appeared in the New English Review.

National Security Agency: Spying on American Jews, Israel and the U.S. Congress

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director at the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center.  She has been a frequent guest on The Lisa Benson Show regarding US-Israel relations, the Obama Administration and national security.  On the first program of the New Year, January 3, 2016, she appeared  to address allegations raised by a Wall Street Journal article about NSA spying on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and by happenstance, Members of Congress and American Jewish leaders, “US Spy Net  on Israel Snares Congress. “  She also responded to an NER Iconoclast post on whether the Israel Defense Force was prepared to meet the threat of ISIS affiliates on both the Syrian frontier and the Egyptian Sinai. She also spoke of an emerging relationship with Putin’s Russia allowing Israeli freedom to attack Hezbollah targets in Syria.

Listen to the segment with Bryen on the Benson show Podcast of January 3, 2016 starting at the 20 minute mark:

As is our practice in producing the weekly Benson Show, we send our guests a set of suggested questions requesting they select a limited number to respond in what a fast is paced packed 44 minutes.  Bryen prepared written responses to the original of set of questions. Below are her astute and illuminating responses.

What is real story behind the Wall Street Journal report alleging NSA spying on Israeli PM Netanyahu, Congressional members and American Jewish Leaders?

Bryen:  The administration was spying on Congress; maybe still is.  The White House tried to put a layer of protection between itself and illegal NSA activity by saying “do what you want.” If there was a problem or a lawsuit over this, the White House position wouldn’t hold up. NSA was spying on Israel and vice versa – nothing new.

The real targets were Congress and American Jews. I don’t see that Congress knew about this specific spying. Surely no one up there is naive and they know they are listened to. This is important for the next points. That makes the idea that they would get on the phone with Israeli Ambassador to US Ron Dermer and allow him to bribe them over the wire totally ridiculous. Whatever NSA got, they did not get it from tapping Dermer’s phone. They probably also did not get it from tapping Congressional phones because Congress assumes it is tapped and no one was discussing bribery.  What could you bribe a Congressman with to get his/her vote on this?

There was no collusion between Ron Dermer and the American Jewish community. I was part of the machinations opposing the nuclear deal with Iran, although the Jewish Policy Center does not lobby; we are only in the information business. “The Jews” knew their talking points and didn’t need Dermer for anything. If they talked to him, that is one thing.  However, needing him for “talking points,” again, that is ridiculous. If there are intercepts of American Jews talking to Congressional members it would have to come from bugging Congress. Lee Smith, of The Weekly Standard makes the point that if there was bribery or attempted bribery involved, there would already be criminal cases. There are none, of course. So, where does that leave us?

NSA spying is only supposed to be done for issues of National Security. One can make the argument that if the US government thought Israel was going to bomb Iran, it would rise to that level. However by 2013, the US was positive Israel was not going to do that. What comes after is political.

Are the enemies of the White House are Congress and the Jews? Congress because Obama knew it opposed the deal. That is why the talks needed to be secret. Also, the talks leading to the talks needed to be secret. They were worried that Israel would spill the beans. Israel didn’t.

There were several incidents in which the Administration let people know what the problems were.  Lee Smith points in his article to a Jon Stewart interview with the President. There is also The New York Times (NYT) editorial that accused Jews of being more loyal to a foreign government than to the US. Senators Schumer and Menendez were damned as “beholden to donors” – code word for Jews.

Obama told Stewart: “If people are engaged, eventually the political system responds. Despite the money, despite the lobbyists, it still responds.” Stewart said, “What do you mean by lobbyists?” The President didn’t answer, but after the signing of the JCPOA, he said Congress would evaluate this agreement fairly, “not based on lobbying, but based on what is in the national interests of the United States of America.”

The NYT reported on a Democratic Issues Conference in Baltimore where the President said he understood the pressures that senators face from “donors and others.” However, according to the NYT, Obama urged the lawmakers to “take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain,” meaning money and Jewish support. Menendez was offended.

Smith actually thinks there was no specific bugging going on, but just an attempt to intimidate Congress and the Jews. I disagree.  They think they are above the law on these things. And they may be, but it doesn’t appear to matter.

Why are media accusations unfounded that American Jewish leaders and U.S. Congressional friends of Israel take their cues from the Israeli Embassy?

Bryen:   Because those accusations presume American Jews NEED someone to tell them how they are supposed to feel about a political issue. On its face that is ant-Semitic. American Jews are a sophisticated community of Americans – although I have some disagreements with where they come out on some issues – they don’t need anyone, particularly a foreign government, to tell them what to think or what to do about issues.

Have these disclosures impacted on US- Israel intelligence cooperation and weapons deliveries to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge?

Bryen:  No, there is no present impact that I can discern. First, all intelligence agencies assume that they are being spied on by both friends and enemies. It’s nothing new. Second, the relationship works both ways – the American intelligence services rely on Israel for information in the region.

What options does Congress have to bar lifting sequestered funds of Iran now that the Administration announced delays in new sanctions in view of Iran’s violation of ballistic missile testing under UN Resolutions?

They’re talking about new sanctions laws in Congress after the holiday recess. Note that Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is the loudest voice on this. He voted FOR the JCPOA and he’s figured out that the deal was a disaster and Secretary Kerry’s “snapback sanctions” were a joke.

Congress can pass any law it wants – sanctions included. Iran’s public interpretation of the deal is that any new sanctions would violate the JCPOA and leave Iran free to withdraw from it – or actually, continue to violate it. The White House appears to be siding with Iran including on the secure visa procedure, which is absolutely an obligation of Congress. Iran remains on the State Sponsor of Terror list because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas. If the White House does not want more sanctions, it will threaten a veto.  Then you will have the extraordinary spectacle of a U.S. government shielding the world’s top sponsor of terror from the United States Congress.

How prepared is the IDF to contend with threats from ISIS in both Syria and the Sinai?

Bryen:  Israel is in a continual state of readiness.  For years they have had to closely identify and track the threats. They are helped by the determination of Egypt in Sinai – with which the US government should be thrilled. It is the actual implementation of the Camp David Accords. The problem for the US in the Sinai is that we have the Multilateral Force and Observers there – MFO – primarily manned by Americans. It is a holdover from Camp David designed to ensure that the Egyptians don’t move military equipment into Sinai in quantities larger than Camp David permitted. Now it is a target for ISIS and affiliated Bedouin groups.

Israel is helped on the northern front by the fact that at the moment neither the Assad government nor Hezbollah wants to open another front and Russia would not permit it. The Israel-Russia relationship is fascinating.  It is mutually beneficial right now and has the seeds of longer-lasting cooperation.

As for ISIS, while in theory killing Jews would be fine, it doesn’t need a second front either. There is a growing threat of ISIS-inspired organizations on the Syrian border, where multiple local factions have pledged allegiance to ISIS leadership. The more immediate risk, however, is most likely related to ISIS’ possible impact on Israeli Arab youth, both within Israel and in Judea and Samaria.

Given the latest killings of Israelis in Tel Aviv by an Israel Arab, what can the Netanyahu government do to prevent such deadly attacks?

Bryen: We don’t’ have all the information, including whether or not it was actually terrorism. It didn’t have the usual “fingerprints.”  The perpetrator was an Israeli Arab citizen who had served five years for a previous attack on an IDF solider. He used a firearm deliberately hitting two people, not spraying the restaurant for maximum casualties. The attack was in the heart of Tel Aviv and he fled the scene.  Israeli Police hedged on whether it was simply a criminal act. If it was a terrorist, it appears to be of the “lone wolf” variety, which means Israel has the same problem the U.S. does.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

The Islamic State poses a Global Airline Security Threat

metrojet flight plan

Metrojet 9268 Flight Schedule, October 31, 2015.

Saturday morning, October 31st, Flight 9268 a Metrojet Airbus A321 with 224 largely Russian tourists, and crew aboard were bound on a course for St. Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh on Egypt’s Sinai Red Sea. The aircraft reached an altitude of 31,000 feet at 430 knots, when something catastrophic occurred at 23 minutes into the flight. Communications with the pilot abruptly ended, the plane struggled to gain altitude and just as suddenly plummeted earthward with the tail section broken off and the rest of fuselage sent crashing into the desert and mountains were a flash was seen via satellite.

All 224 passengers and crew aboard were killed. The crash occurred less than 300 miles from the resort area at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula at the mouth of the Red Sea. The passenger remains and  aircraft debris were scattered over a wide area. All of this was recorded in real time on satellite flight status internet reports and satellite imagery. Forensic teams from Egyptian, Russian and Airbus air safety organizations were dispatched to retrieve the flight data recorders. Egyptian military and Red Crescent teams were engaged in recovery of the remains, personal effects and luggage of those killed in the crash.

Grief was overwhelming at funerals held in Russia this week with the arrival of the remains of the victims.  The immediate questions were what caused the aviation catastrophe and who may have been behind it.

Watch this CNN video on “Did a Bomb take down Metrojet Flight 9268?”:

Russian-jet-crash-sinai

Metrojet Flight 9268  Tail section. Source: AFP

If the emerging facts surrounding the fate of Metrojet Flight 9268 are confirmed this aviation disaster, possibly perpetrated by Islamic terrorists,  could well be Russia’s 9/11.  Shoshana Bryen of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center suggested that in an American Thinker blog, “Could the destroyed Russian plane be jihadi payback?” The inference being that the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 was a deadly rebuke to Russian President Putin for his entry in the Syria conflict attempting to bolster the faltering Assad Regime in alliance with Shia extremist Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. Boaz Bismuth writing in Israel Hayom  penned an op ed about the alleged bombing with the prescient title, “ISIS aims for the global skies.”

A lot is at stake, as the Sinai had become a veritable Islamic terrorist venue with Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS echelons attacking Egyptian security forces. Sharm el-Sheik is  a major European tourist destination attracting millions of visitors annually from the EU, Russia and other countries. For the El-Sisi government, terrorist involvement in the aviation disaster in the Sinai would have a chilling effect on billions in income from tourism. For Russia it could be an un-reckoned threat arising from its entry in the Syrian conflict. It is seeking to keep at bay Caucasian and other Russian Muslims from flocking to join the self-declared Caliphate, the  Islamic State.  For the international airline industry it may have profound implications for assuring security for passengers and operations both at home and in destinations adjacent to jihadist conflict zones.  If airport or airline servicing contractors were involved, then a major security gap would be opened by this latest aviation terrorism episode.

Several theories were developed as to what caused the aircraft to go through  violent maneuvers. The aircraft may have been hit by a shoulder held air defense heat seeker missile or MANPAD, it might have suffered a high altitude structural failure which caused it to break apart or the aircraft could have suffered an internal bomb explosion. Both the MANPAD and structural failure explanations were dismissed in view of the altitude at which the incident occurred, 31,000 feet , exceeding the maximum  altitude of MANPADs, 15,000 feet. Moreover the high altitude structure failure possibility was obviated by the service record of the Metrojet aircraft indicating that it had undergone structural repairs after a 2001 incident that occurred on a rough landing.  The bombing possibility, while initially dismissed, became a palpably plausible on Wednesday, November 4th. Both UK and U.S. intelligence suggested they had intercepted electronic information indicating that an explosive device may have been secreted on board Metrojet Flight 9268 by possible operatives of ISIS groups active in the Sinai Peninsula. Perhaps they were posing as local catering and cleaning contractors with access to the aircraft. Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood  or ISIS operatives could have secreted a bomb in the rear lavatories or rear luggage holds on the Metrojet A321.

Evidence is mounting to the ultimate conclusion that this might have been  a bombing.  Shoshana Bryen  indicated that photographs of the aircraft wreckage in British media “show some of the holes in the wreckage. They are outward-facing – meaning something inside the plane moved out. A blown fuel tank – which is on the outside – would have caused inward-facing holes.” Then there were reported  forensic evidence of metal shards among the clothing and effects of the victims.  Bryen also cited reports “indicating  that security at Sharm el-Sheikh was totally lax; which helps make the case that someone inside did the job. Since Egyptian tourism and Russia are targets of the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS respectively, and since ISIS came from the MB root, collaboration here is a twisted “win-win” for them.”

‘UK PM Cameron underlined the increasing evidence of a bomb plot to destroy, Metrojet  Flight 9268, saying, “It is ‘more likely than not” that a bomb brought down  the Metrojet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula”. He took extraordinary measures grounding all UK charters for a security sweep at Sharm el Sheikh airport leaving more than 3,500 British passengers delayed until given clearance. CNN cited Cameron’s  office issuing a statement saying,  “Outbound flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh remain suspended and the Foreign Office continues to advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, but we are continuing to work with the Egyptians to get back to normal service as soon as possible.” Similar announcements came from Irish authorities and Lufthansa.  Sharm el-Sheikh is visited by more than 1 million tourists, annually.

The Israeli resort of Eilat at the head of the Red Seas also is a major European and international tourist destination.  ISIS Sinai affiliate formerly known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis has targeted Eilat for a possible bombing attack. The possible ISIS terror bombing of the Metrojet  could have rippling effects there to assure the usual tight security arrangements of Israel international carrier, El Al, and  domestic ones like Arkia.  El Al aircraft are already equipped with electronic counter measures like the Elbit C-Music anti- missile system to foil possible MANPAD attacks. Doubtless, the Israelis may also have better security clearances for aircraft maintenance, catering and cleaning employees, as well as barriers and surveillance of the Egyptian border to thwart infiltration of MB and ISIS terrorists.

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009.

ISS Facility Services Receives State of Utah Refugee Services Employer of the Year 2009

The downing of the Metrojet with its innocent Russian victims  has more than just Russian, Egyptian and Israeli concerns. From investigations by the Wall Street Journal,  CNN and others, security clearances for baggage handlers, catering, and cleaning personnel with access to the tarmac and aircraft here in the U.S. is lax.

Further investigations by the Lisa Benson Radio Show National Security Task Force of America  have revealed employment of Somali refugees  by major international groups like ISS Worldwide A/S headquartered in Copenhagen. The US subsidiary  ISS Facility Services, Inc. is based in San Antonio. ISS Worldwide employs over a half million through their outsourced network of airport and commercial facilities maintenance contracts. ISS specializes in a broad range of facility management services including janitorial services, especially for airport authorities and major manufacturing  companies.

The Somali Muslim émigré population has been the source of both Al Shabaab and increasingly ISIS recruitment in the U.S.  One illustration of the inherent ISIS risk among U.S. Somalis employed at US airports was  the reported death in September 2014  of  American Somali Émigré ISIS  Jihadi

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner.

The late ISIS Fighter a former Twin Cities airport cleaner

Abdirahmaan Muhumed, 29.  That revealed his employment as a cleaner for Delta Global Services, Inc.  that gave him security access to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  Muhumed left behind 9 children in the Twin Cities to become an ISIS jihadi, before his death in Syria. Muhumed had unfettered access to jetliners at the airport, which handles 90,000 passengers a day. He also had access to the tarmac and special security clearance to other parts of the airport. Muhumed had no criminal record in the United States that would have prevented him from getting a job at the airport.

This revelation following the death of Somali émigré ISIS fighter Muhumed, should raise the concerns of both the TSA and Homeland Security regarding screening of airport and aircraft maintenance personnel at U.S. Many of who have contracts with groups like ISS Worldwide A/S and Delta Global Services, Inc.  Moreover, without active community policing programs in the major U.S. communities recruitment of Muhumed and other ISIS recruits could not have been detected.  Thus, the downing of the Metrojet in Egypt by alleged ISIS perpetrators reverberates here in the U.S.  FBI Direct James Combey has warned that ISIS jihadis lurk among us in all 50 states.

RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Unvetted foreigners’ working as U.S. baggage handlers

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Revealed: Russia’s Great Game in the Middle East

It was a bizarre turn of events at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York on the 70th Anniversary of the world body.  President Obama gave a speech lambasting Putin’s Russia over its seizure of Crimea and  invasion of eastern Ukraine violating the country’s sovereignty. However, he paid court to Russia and China for supporting the  Iran nuclear pact unanimous approved  by the UN Security Council poised to release tens of billions in sequestered funds as of December 15, 2015. He  questioned Russia’s sudden military presence in western Syria building a military complex to bolster the Assad regime.  A regime that rained barrel bombs causing the deaths of 250,000. A regime ethnically cleansing the country’s Sunni population sending millions to displaced persons camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and hundreds of thousands in flight to the EU.  The President got warm applause over his rapprochement with Cuba.

Putin, when he had his turn at the rostrum accused the U.S., without naming it, of causing the rise of the Islamic State through its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan,  ultimately creating a Sunni supremacist Caliphate.  Following Putin Iranian President Rouhani  had his turn at the rostrum in the Assembly hall. He made the astounding proposal that an international alliance including Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq  combat terrorism in the Middle East.  A proposal that Rouhani  said should be confirmed in another Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action akin to the Iran nuclear pact.  He noted the nuclear pact  was  concluded  “without the impediment of the Zionist enterprise”, meaning Israel.  Witness  the cheek of President Rouhani   of Iran  suggesting  a new Shia alliance in the Middle East, plus Russia welcoming  the US to join in fighting Sunni Supremacist  Islamic State.

What was on display at the UN was the supplanting  of the U.S. in the new great game of the Middle East by  Russia.  It was enough to make one’s head spin with these sudden turns  of events. It made the U.S., look like a “JV team “struggling  to keep up.

The usually astute Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based  Jewish Policy Center  was asked  by this writer during the September 27, 2015 Lisa Benson Show why  these developments occurred so suddenly.  She said that  Putin’s Russia like all great powers do when they are confronted by a vacuum, especially one that threatens its national  interests.  Thousands of Jihadists have left Chechnya, Dagestan, and Tartarstan in Russia attracted by the Salafist  Islamic doctrine of the Islamic State as a declared Caliphate.  Thus  Putin’s objective is to “bottle” up these Sunni Jihadists in Syria and Iraq.  Putin admitted as much in a CBS 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose  Sunday evening when he said:

More than 2,000 fighters from Russia and ex-Soviet republics are in the territory of Syria. There is a threat of their return to us. So instead of waiting for their return, we are better off helping Assad fight them on Syrian territory.

Watch the CBS 60 Minutes Charlie Rose interview with Russian President Putin:

When Lisa Benson asked Bryen about  where Iran’s proxy Hezbollah stood in these developments, she  replied  Hezbollah “had not been an efficient fighting force in Syria.  Further, she commented that Russian presence in Syria is meant to actually limit Hezbollah’s  involvement, perhaps  to a defensive role “in the Alawite enclave.”  Moreover, she noted  that Putin is not interested  in a war with Israel ,suggesting that the meeting with Netanyahu  in Moscow was  to coordinate means to avoid conflict. However, Bryen  noted  Putin has another interest in the region, “control over the flow of gas to Europe” being developing offshore in Israeli, Egyptian,  and Lebanese fields.  Bryen thinks there is ‘no evidence’ of Russian presence on the Syrian frontier on Israel’s Golan Heights.  Notwithstanding a spate of rocket and mortar attacks on the Golan responded to by the IDF this past weekend that Israeli Minister of Defense Ya’alon thinks were ordered by Iran.  We shall soon see whether Putin’s gamble pays off.  Or results in another graveyard  like Afghanistan  rout of the Soviet 40th Army in 1989.

We could see this  thunder clap about to occur in the run up to the UN General Assembly session.  We had the Russian announcement of  military aid and mission to be established in the Alawite bastion of Latakia province.  Included were  the building of expanded landing fields to accommodate Ilushin cargo aircraft  and squadrons of  Mig and Sukhoi fighters, transiting from Russia to Syria  via Iran and Iraqi airspace. Then there was the announcement of Black Sea fleet maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  In late July, following the UN endorsement of the Iran deal, Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander  Qasem Soliemani in Moscow  met with Putin and  Russian Defense Minister Shogui. Those discussions were  ostensibly to expedite deliveries of Russian advanced air defense systems, but  in reality to plan for Russian direct involvement with Iranian forces . In May , we witnessed an alleged US ally, Iraqi Premier Haidar al-Abadi traveling to Moscow  to obtain additional fighter  deliveries to aid in the battle against the Islamic State. Meanwhile, President Obama had committed 3, 500 American military trainers to assist  the  Iraqi National Security forces  to recover Anbar province and  Mosul. Abadi, our alleged ally in the coalition against ISIS,   brought in Russian military advisors to link  up with   Soliemani  directing  Iraqi Shia militia forces.

The unkindest  cut of all was the announcement  on the eve of the UN General Assembly of a joint intelligence and security operations center in Baghdad sharing  information among Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

There was  also evidence that the U.S. led coalition strategy in Syria and Iraq “defeating and degrading” ISIS had collapsed.  That was reflected  in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by CENTCOM commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin who told Senators that  the $500 million program to train Syrian opposition fighters had failed ignominiously. We had spent $40 million training and equipping 60 candidates, who signed waivers that they were to fight ISIS, not Assad. 40 of those surrendered their weapons and joined Al Qaeda affiliate jabhat al Nusra.    If that wasn’t  enough, we had the roiling scandal of a revolt by CENTCOM  intelligence analysts who requested a Pentagon Inspector General  investigation into why assessments were being prettied up by superiors  to present a misinformed picture to the President and National Security Staff that we were succeeding in the air campaign without US boots on the ground.  That was further depicted in testimony by ex-CIA director, retired Army General Petreaus , who  testified  before the same Senate Armed Services Committee  recommending establishing   no fly zones, sanctuary havens in country and deploying  Special Forces teams.  Add to that the failure of the Obama White House to honor its commitment to supply  Syrian Kurdish YPG  and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces with updated weapons, ammunition and equipment.  The Kurds are  being attacked by Turkish air force fighters.  To cap things off, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, coordinator of the  Coalition effort,  resigned after a year of service.  As former Defense Intelligence Agency  head, retired Army General Michael Flynn observed, this is what you get when you “politicize intelligence”. The President suggested in his UN address  that the Islamic State   “violent extremism , distorts ”the true meaning of the Islamic faith.”

Russian may have “frozen” the Syrian conflict in a stalemate.  The U.S. finds itself suddenly on the sidelines, largely, by its own “red lines”. Now with Russia’s direct involvement in Syria and Iraq, we will soon find out if ISIS is vanquished or remains a growing global threat. Such are the rules of The Great Game that in the 19th Century pitted imperial Czarist Russia against the British Empire.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Obama’s Dangerous Spin on the Iran Nuclear Deal

There was a spirited panel discussion on  the August 9, 2015 Lisa Benson Radio Show for National Security stemming from President Obama’s  remarks on the Iran nuclear deal  during  his interview on CNN’s Farid Zakaria’s Global Public Square (GPS) Sunday morning program.  Panelists Barry Shaw in Israel, Shoshana Bryen of The Jewish Policy of the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center and this writer. The interview was recorded last Thursday following the President’s speech at American University and contentious meeting with a select group of American Jewish leaders. It was alleged that he told them that “if they left  off criticizing his deal, he would leave off criticizing them. That was a warning to the major American Jewish lobby group , the American Israel Political Action Committee. (AIPAC) and an affiliate, Concerned Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran have funded a multi-million ad campaign opposing the President’s Iran nuclear deal up for a vote in Congress in  Mid-September.

President Obama  also asserted during the interview that the Republican opposition to the Iran nuclear deal was ideological and political and not dissimilar from so-called hardliners in Iran. In response to a question on this from Zakaria he said:

The reason that Mitch McConnell and the rest of the folks in his caucus who oppose this jumped out and opposed it before they even read it, before it was even posted, is reflective of an ideological commitment not to get a deal done. And in that sense they do have a lot in common with hard- liners who are much more satisfied with the status quo. What I said was that there are those who, if they did not read the bill before they announced their opposition, if they are not able to offer plausible reasons why they wouldn’t support the bill or plausible alternatives in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon other than potential military strikes, then that would indicate that they’re not interested in the substance of the issue, they’re interested in the politics of the issue.

Zakaria asked, “Is it appropriate for a foreign head of government ( a reference to Israeli Pm Netanyahu] to inject himself into a debate that is taking place in Washington?“  The President  responded:

You know, I’ll let you ask Prime Minister Netanyahu that question if he gives you an interview. I don’t recall a similar example. Obviously the relationship between the United States and Israel is deep, it is profound, and it’s reflected in my policies because I have said repeatedly and, more importantly, acted on the basic notion that our commitment to Israel security is sacrosanct. It’s something that I take very seriously, which is why we provided more assistance, more military cooperation, more intelligence cooperation to Israel than any previous administration.

But as I said in the speech yesterday, on the substance, the prime minister is wrong on this. And I think that I can show that the basic assumptions that he’s made are incorrect. If in fact my argument is right that this is the best way for Iran not to get a nuclear weapon, then that’s not just good for the United States, that is very good for Israel. In fact, historically this has been the argument that has driven Prime Minister Netanyahu and achieved consensus throughout Israel.

So the question has to be, is there in fact a better path to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon than this one? And I’ve repeatedly asked both Prime Minister Netanyahu and others to present me a reasonable, realistic plan that would achieve exactly what this deal achieves, and I have yet to get a response. So, as I said yesterday, I completely understand why both he and the broad Israeli public would be suspicious, cautious about entering into any deal with Iran.

Notwithstanding the President remarks in the CNN Zakaria interview, New York Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer and Bronx New York House Member, Elliott Engel, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Relations Committee and several other leading Democrat members of both the New York and California delegations have also opted to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action announced in Vienna on July 14th and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security on July 22nd.  Congress will reconvene after Labor Day for more Hearings and a vote to either approve or reject the Iranian nuclear deal. President Obama has threatened veto it if a majority of both the Houses of Congress vote to reject it.

Watch these CNN Video clips of President Obama interview with Farid Zakaria on August 9, 2015

On Israeli PM Netanyahu

On Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei

On his American University Speech

LBS Soundcloud August 9 correctedThe following were important takeaways from  the August 9th Lisa Benson Radio Show:

Israel’s History of Unilateral Actions against Iraqi and Syrian nuclear programs despite US Objections.

Barry Shaw speaking from Israel drew attention to Israeli attacks on the Osirak reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1981 and Syria’s al-Kibar reactor in September 2007. He noted that Israeli PM Menachem Begin suggested that  his order for the so-called Raid on the Sun in Iraqi would set a precedent for future similar actions by his successors.  Shaw noted the objections by the Reagan Administration and even US media  characterizations of Israel’s actions  as state sponsored terrorism . However a decade later in the 1990’s Dick Cheney , then Secretary of Defense expressed  the thanks of the US  for Israel’s action in 1981 during the Gulf War in 1991.  Following, the 2007 Syria reactor raid, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Israel for not exhausting diplomatic efforts. Shaw noted that following the raid Syria let in the IAEA to inspect the reclaimed site of the former Al-Kibar nuclear bomb factory Shaw also reflected the views of a  significant majority of Israelis backing PM Netanyahu’s intervention criticizing the Iran nuclear pact.

The Dangers of Obama’s Withdrawal of US Assets in the Region.

Shoshana Bryen drew attention to the dangers of withdrawal of US military assets in the Persian Gulf abetting the hegemonic objectives of Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei  and the Islamic Regime IRGC. As of the fall, the US will have no carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf for the first time in decades. She went to note  the President postulated that Saudi Arabia and Iran might find themselves coming closer on certain issues. If the Gulf States see their future with Iran, rather than with the US, we will not have a base in the Persian Gulf. The US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and US facilities in Kuwait and Oman may not be able to use those facilities to attack Iran if, in fact, their governments see Iran as the key power for the future.

Military Option  may have been  taken Off the Table with Iran Weapons Purchases from Russia and China.

This  writer  drew attention to the Moscow trip of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani to meet with Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Shogui to speed up deliveries of the S-300 air defense system and the $10 billion oil barter deal with China for delivery of stealth fighters.  He suggested that this was a breach of both UN travel bans on the Quds Force Commander as well as the UN resolution 1929 sanctions against purchase of conventional  weapons and missile technology precluded on both five and eight sunsets under the JCPOA.  It makes any military option harder by orders of magnitude. While both the US and Israel  aren’t without resources of our own, Iran breaches  of  sanctions  makes the decision to use American military power more complicated.

Iran North Korea Nuclear and ICBM Development Cooperation may already have developed a bomb

Host  Lisa Benson drew attention to a recent American Thinker article co-authored by Bryen and her husband,  Stephen, “Does Iran Already Have Nuclear Weapons?”  The Bryens suggest that Iran may already have developed a nuclear weapon in cooperation with North Korea.  This writer interviewed analyst Ilana Freedman regarding the same issue in a March 2014  NER article, “Has Iran Developed Nuclear Weapons in North Korea ?”   The Bryens postulate that Iran may already have a small nuclear bomb that might be used  as a threat in the region to provide a nuclear cover for hegemonic objectives. The motivation on the part of the North Korean, who earn hard currency through illicit transactions is receipt of funds from Iran, a member of the same original A.Q. Khan network that provided techno logy for the North Korean bomb making and Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges.

Plan B –Restoring Military Funding in support of National Security Objectives in the Middle East and NATO Allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States Threatened by Putin’s Russia

Notwithstanding , a possible veto of a Congressional  resolution rejecting the Iran nuclear deal, Bryen and Gordon suggested that the Congress has to stop the hollowing out of our military capabilities under sequestration. That should be addressed in September when National Defense Act Appropriation bills come up for approval in both chambers.  Bryen noted Plan B is precisely to end sequestration – which has to happen for American national security reasons including Iran and beyond Iran. The size of the Army has to increase (it is projected to decrease by another 40,000) and the drain of mid-level officers (Captains, Majors and LT Colonels) has to stop. Our Navy has to begin to restore ship building. She noted the fleet size is he smallest since WWI.

Poland and the Baltic States have requested a stronger NATO presence out of fear that Russia will do to them what it did to Ukraine. Ukraine was NOT a member of NATO, so there were mixed ideas about what to do, but Poland and the Baltic States are. If Russia thinks it can intimidate or even occupy parts of those states, simply because it sees the US as a waning power, NATO will be finished. With that, the remnants of American influence will be finished. We have to put troops in those places and do exercises in those places and we should reconsider installing the radars that President Obama declined to place in Poland and the Czech Republic when he first took office.

Listen to the Soundcloud of the August 9, 2015 Lisa Benson Radio Show

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Obama’s Phased Nuclear Deal with Iran: Kicking the bomb down the road?

This column is co-authored with Ilana Freedman who is a veteran intelligence analyst and specialist in counter-terrorism. Ilana is Editor of FreedmanReport.com.

When we posted late Monday night, February 23, 2015, on breaking news about the phased deal resulting from bilateral discussions between U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, we knew from our sources that more shoes would be likely to drop. Last night we received information from these reliable sources on the extent to which the Administration had strayed from its original mandate. The information was:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry is poised to sign a secret Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Iran that was completed by negotiators on Saturday, February 14.
  • The State Department has received a decision from Eric Holder’s Department of Justice that the MoU does not require approval by the U.S. Senate in the Constitutionally defined process of Advise and Consent for treaties between the United States and other nations, and that therefore Congress will not be consulted.
  • The agreement does not cover the subject of inspections, removing the requirements of having inspections at any of the sites covered by the memorandum.
  • The agreement will allow Iran to have 10,000 enhanced centrifuges that will increase their nuclear program capacity by upwards of 50%.
  • Of the 10,000 centrifuges allotted, all of Iran’s 6,000 existing centrifuges will be converted to the enhanced, next generation versions. The conversion can begin immediately after the agreement is signed. This will enable Iran to achieve a nuclear threshold state in less than two years. The balance of 4,000 centrifuges will, according to our sources, be supplied by Russia.
Alireza Jafarzadeh Deputy Director of Natioal Council of Reskistance of Iran National Press Club  @-24-15 Source AFP

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director, Washington Office of NCRI, National Press Club, Feb. 24, 2015.

It is not known whether other Iranian nuclear sites will likewise fall under this inspection exemption, including military test sites like Parchin and the secret parallel Lavizan site, which was disclosed in Washington on Tuesday, February 24th by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a National Press Club briefing. At the NPC briefing, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the NCRI’s Washington D.C. office, reported on a secret test site which has been previously identified in reports of the Washington, D.C. based, Institute for Science and International Security.

“Despite the Iranian regime’s claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent … it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3,” he said.  Jafarzadeh said the site was hidden in a military base in the northeastern suburbs of Tehran.

According to the presentation, the complex was described as a facility 164 feet underground. The Lavizan-3 site was apparently constructed between 2004 and 2008 and has underground labs connected by a tunnel, and lead-lined doors to seal out radiation leaks.  The facility itself is heavily shielded from radiation and insulated against noise and radiation leaks to avoid detection.

“Since 2008, the Iranian regime has secretly engaged in research and uranium enrichment with advanced… centrifuge machines at this site,” Jafarzadeh said.

The NCRI called the existence of the site “a clear violation” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as UN resolutions and an interim November 2013 deal struck with the P5+1 group, he said.

When asked about the NCRI findings at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the bi-lateral discussions with Iran, Secretary Kerry commented:

That U.S. officials knew of charges related to the site prior to this week, but that “it has not been revealed yet as a nuclear facility.”

“It is a facility that we are well aware of, which is on a list of facilities we have,” the Secretary of State said during a Capitol Hill budget hearing on Wednesday morning. “I’m not going to go into greater detail. . . .But these things are obviously going to have to be resolved as we go forward.”

Rep. Brad Sherman, ranking Democrat on the House Affairs Committee replied to Kerry:

 “The MEK sometimes gives us accurate information.”

“They are the ones that told the world about the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Sherman said. “They now say that there’s a secret facility at Lavizan-3.”

A credible independent expert monitoring Iran’s nuclear program raised questions about the NCRI findings.  David Albright of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security commented in a USA Today article, February 27, 2015:

“The basic story raises questions about its authenticity. They may have answers but the questions raise further doubts,” Albright said. “The claims are so controversial that any manipulated evidence casts doubt on the whole story.”

The matter of possible violations of the P5+1 interim agreements, the lack of inspections of military applications facilities like Parchin, the Arak heavy water reactor and the Lavizan-3  site near Tehran underlines the evidence of Iran’s  retention of significant uranium enrichment  centrifuge capabilities under the suggested 10 year phase deal the Administration announced  earlier this week.  It begs the question of why any enrichment capabilities are provided to Iran under the proposed arrangement, given that the principal use of centrifuges is for enrichment of uranium into fissile materials for bomb making.

That was a point made by Dan Diker, executive producer of the Voice of Israel “National Security” program during a Middle East Round Table discussion on 1330am WEBY Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio, “Your Turn” with co-hosts Mike BatesJerry Gordon of the NER and Shoshana Bryen , senior director  of the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center.

Diker of the VOI noted:

The notion that Iran would be able to enrich any uranium is completely unacceptable.  The civilian nuclear programs around the world hosted by Canada and other western countries have nothing to do with centrifuges.  They are just not part of the nuclear file.  Many countries want to have peaceful civilian nuclear power.  The notion that the Iranians would claim that they need centrifuges to produce peaceful nuclear power is an absurdity.  The fact that the P5+1 have allowed any uranium to be enriched is an extremely dangerous proposition.  That is the message that Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to bring to the American people and by extension to the world community.

As to why President Obama and Secretary Kerry would sanction the phased program, Bryen of the JPC suggested:

“[The President’s] thinking appears to be that ten years from now the Mullahs will have fallen, young Iranian democrats will have taken over, and it will be OK.  The big piece of this that he missed is that the Mullahs only represent one part of the Iranian body politic and that is the religious part. Iran is also Persian and Persians are empire-oriented.  Even if we get rid of the Mullahs, even if we get rid of the religious basis for governance in Iran and we have secular people, secular people in Persia believe in a Persian Empire. If we kick this can down the road ten years and the Mullahs are gone, Obama thinks that will be a good thing. I’m not sure that’s true.”

Listen to the February 24, 21015 1330am WEBY Middle East Round Table discussion on the Iranian nuclear program: Segment 1Segment 2Segment 3Segment 4.

An article based on the 1330am WEBY Round Table program will be published in the March 2015, NER.

The WEBY panel will also be heard on a separate Voice of Israel “National Security” program, Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 1PM Israel Standard Time ( 6:00 AM EST in the U.S.).  A sound cloud of that VOI broadcast will also be available on March 1st.

Iran’s provocative activities during the so-called Great Prophet-9 maneuvers this week raised questions about the untimely demonstrations of force directed at the US Fifth Fleet presence in the Persian Gulf. The first episode was the destruction by Iranian cruise missiles on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 launched at a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier as a target near the international oil/gas choke point, the Straits of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.  Watch the video, here.

Then on Friday, February 27, 2015, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy announced the successful launch of a cruise missile from a submerged Ghadir midget-submarine with a range of 150 miles. Watch the video, here.   Sepah news service quoted Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of IRGC-N saying:

The new weapon would be critical in any future naval war against the U.S.

“The new weapon will have a very decisive role in adding our naval power in confronting threats,” he was quoted as stating in Sepah News.

Iran’s latest operations in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz raises many questions. Why mount exercises in which a mock US aircraft carrier is destroyed by the Iranian navy? Or launch cruise missiles designed to take out a US naval destroyer just as the US is about to give them everything they want without a shot fired?  It may be a show of arrogance, a finger in the eye of the Obama administration (which it believes to be weak and foolish), or a move beyond the MoU into a new level of saber rattling to show its neighbors the seriousness of its ambitions. Or it might be all three, a typical multi-dimensional Persian chess play by the IRGC.

What the US must learn – and fast – is that this is not an enemy one can toy with. As in most Middle East politics, the weak are despised and the game goes to the powerful. As the secrets of Obama’s secret negotiations are revealed (or leaked), and the truth comes out about our feckless policies of negotiations and appeasement, the outcome is likely to be devastating for the region and the world.  Iran revels in its possible conquest of American might and moves a giant step closer to achieving its nuclear ambitions with America’s assistance – and blessings.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Arkansas elects the youngest US Senator to enter the 214th Congress: Rep. Tom Cotton

Just prior to last night’s resounding GOP mid-term victories in the US Senate, the House and a host of gubernatorial contests, I had an opportunity to speak with Shoshana Bryen. She is the executive director of the Washington, DC – based Jewish Policy Center. We were preparing for last Sunday’s Lisa Benson Show, which had a midterm election theme of “Vote to Protect America and its Ally Israel”.  We talked about a wide range of issues.  In addition to Shoshana, we had as other guests on the show, Ken Timmerman, veteran Iran watcher and author of Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghaziand Navy Seal veteran, Ben Smith.  Listen here to the discussion on the November 2, 2014 Lisa Benson Show.   

When I asked Bryen about emerging figures in the mid-term elections, she pointed to Rep. Tom Cotton (R-4th CD AK)  running a competitive  campaign against incumbent two-term  US Democrat Senator Mark Pryor. Pryor was the scion of a long serving Arkansas political dynasty.  His father David before him had served as both Governor and US Senator.

Cotton, I knew from reading a profile of him by retired Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had a career that resonated. He was a highly educated double Harvard graduate who voluntarily served as an Infantry officer in the US Army during the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict.  Wisse’s WSJ op-ed   was an unabashed endorsement, Vote for Tom Cotton—and Redeem Harvard”.   So, I asked Bryen on last Sunday’s broadcast to talk about Cotton and another Army veteran Lt. Col.Joni Ernst of Iowa both running for the US Senate in their respective states.

 Cotton and Ernst won their respective Senate races last night. A colleague called last night from a cheering Iowa GOP celebration to give me the news about Ernst’s victory. Cotton trounced Pryor by running against “Obama’s failed policies”. He won by 16 percent. His campaign played up his Army service. Cotton, 37 years old, will enter the 314th Congress in January 2015 as its youngest member.

 Cotton is a sixth generation Arkansan from a cattle raising ranching family in the small community of Dardanelle, Arkansas. A graduate of both Harvard College and Law School, motivated by the events of 9/11, he rejected a JAG Commission. Instead, he volunteered   to go through OCS at Fort Benning and trained at both the Infantry and Ranger Schools.  Cotton served from 2005 to 2009. He had two tours, one in Iraq and a second in Afghanistan with the famed Screaming Eagles, the 101st Airborne, rising to the rank of Captain and received a Bronze Star for his combat actions. At 6’5″, he was selected as Platoon Leader at the Old Guard that provides the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.

Watch this mini-documentary on Senator-elect Cotton:

Like Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, he also is a McKinsey & Co. alumnus. Most importantly as a first term Congressman from the (4thCD- AK) he was assigned to House Foreign Affairs. During his Senate campaign he consistently strove to educate Arkansans about the dangers of isolationism.  He has also proved to be a good friend of Israel in Congress during his initial term in the US House of Representatives. The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECFI head, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard,  said this about Cotton in a Washington Free Beacon report on their purchase of a spot ad for him, “We’re for a strong Israel and a strong America. So is Tom Cotton. He’ll be a great senator.”

Just before his Senate electoral victory, Cotton weighed in on the West Wing campaign against Israel and PM Netanyahu with a statement released on October 29th:

I’m appalled at recent media reports suggesting the Obama administration is seeking ‘détente’ with Iran, while unnamed administration officials disparage Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with vulgar ad hominem attacks.  I call upon President Obama to renounce these reports and disclose the names of these officials and fire them.  Iran remains our worst enemy and Israel our closest ally.  The Obama administration’s weak behavior will only embolden Iran to continue its headlong rush to nuclear weapons and terror campaigns against America and our allies, while destabilizing the region and further eroding our interests.

Finally, for the record, I must note that Prime Minister Netanyahu in his youth was a member of Israel’s elite special-operations forces, where he displayed great courage.  He and his family have made grave sacrifices in the fight against our common enemies.  On behalf of all Arkansans, I want to thank Mr. Netanyahu for his bravery and service.

I asked Bryen during the preparation for last Sunday’s show where Cotton might be assigned in the newly organized US Senate under the leadership of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the presumptive GOP Majority Leader in the 214th Congress in January 2015.  She thought that Cotton might end up on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  I told her that would be an historic antidote to the legendary Arkansas Democratic Senator William Fulbright who opposed the Viet Nam War during the era of President Johnson after voting for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964.  Cotton’s Arkansas constituents realize the importance of US leadership on national security interests and support for Israel. That will stand him in good stead.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured image of Senator elect Tom Cotton is courtesy of the New English Review.

US Appeasement of Iran Endangers the entire Persian Gulf

Following the Iconoclast post yesterday on the “Two Faces of Sen. Dianne Feinstein”, there was an exchange of views with Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center and Sarah Stern, President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth.  We were discussing a  matter related to the threat that Iran posed  to the US in the Western Hemisphere; the Administration succumbing to de facto Iranian nuclear hegemony in the Persian Gulf. Daniel Pipes in an, NRO-The Corner article, drew attention to  Administration appeasement enabling Iran to strike deals with Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This resulted in  Iran gaining potential control over the strategic Straits of Hormuz, “Has Iran gained a Foothold in the Arabian Peninsula”?

Pipes’ important article appeared while Washington and the world media were focused on the implementation of the Six Powers Joint Plan of Action, portions of which were released by the White House yesterday.  Other salient provisions  of which were sequestered at the request of UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).   He drew attention to the agreements both the UAE and Sultanate of Oman:

According to a sensational report by Awad Mustafa in Defense News, a Gannett publication, not only has Tehran signed an agreement with the UAE  over three disputed islands near the Strait of Hormuz, but it has also reached a possibly even more important accord with the government of Oman. Both of these agreements have vast implications for the oil trade, the world economy, and Iranian influence.

According to an unnamed “high level UAE source,” secretive talks taking place over six months led to a deal on the Greater and Lesser Tunbs finalized on Dec. 24: “For now, two of the three islands are to return to the UAE while the final agreement for Abu Musa is being ironed out. Iran will retain the sea bed rights around the three islands while the UAE will hold sovereignty over the land.”

This is big news, but yet bigger potentially is the source’s stating that “Oman will grant Iran a strategic location on Ras Musandam mountain, which is a very strategic point overlooking the whole gulf region. In return for Ras Musandam, Oman will receive free gas and oil from Iran once a pipeline is constructed within the coming two years.”

Both agreements center on the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil passageway and vulnerability.

  • The UAE deal involves the tiny but strategic islands of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs near the straits, occupied by Iranian forces since 1971, just as the UAE emerged as an independent country.
  • It’s not clear what granting to the Iranians “a strategic location on Ras Musandam mountain” means but Musandam is the very tip of the Straits of Hormuz and Tehran winning access to any sort of military position there could enhance their ability to block the oil trade as well as make trouble on the peninsula.

Oman’s role in facilitating the UAE-Iran talks, says the source, was approved by Washington: “Oman was given the green light from Iran and the US to reach deals that would decrease the threat levels in the region and offset the Saudi Arabian influence in the future by any means.”

Couple this development with what happened at a US Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing Wednesday involving the Obama emissary who facilitated those back channel conversations with Tehran in Oman, Puneet Tawar.   The Global Affairs blog of The Hill in a post noted how two Republican minority members, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Idaho Senator James Risch stopped Tawar’s confirmation, “Rubio, Risch block Obama nominee over ‘back channel’ talks with Iran”:

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and James Risch (R-Idaho) are holding up a vote on a State Department nominee over his involvement in back channel talks with Iran that have infuriated Republicans, The Hill has learned.

The Republican lawmakers prevented the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from voting Wednesday to confirm White House Iran adviser Puneet Talwar as the new Assistant Secretary of State for political military affairs.

Talwar was one of several U.S. officials who met in secret with Iranian negotiators in Oman in 2012 and 2013 before multilateral talks officially resumed following President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June.

“Sen. Rubio is requesting additional information from Mr. Talwar about his role in the so-called ‘back channel’ outreach to Iran,” a Rubio spokeswoman told The Hill in an email.

[…]

“It focused exclusively on the nuclear issue, so there were no other side discussions underway,” Talwar responded. “And it was merged [with the multi-party talks] after the conversations gained traction.”

In my discussion with Bryen and Stern I drew attention to what an Iranian nuclear hegemon in the Persian Gulf might do to US national interests.  Iran producing a nuclear weapon might threaten US Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain and possibly its strategic base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.  Both of these facilities   protect the free flow of oil to U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, among others.  Bryen pointed out that Japan may choose an energy deal with Russia rather than risk an oil cutoff from the Gulf if the U.S. is no longer the guarantor.  Such a deal would change the nature of American “pivot to Asia” and alliances there.  If Iran produces nuclear weapons, which it may have already, it is likely to play a form of n-dimensional nuclear Three Card Monte.   If the US capitulates, then the Gulf emirates and the Saudis may have to resort to baksheesh to preserve their access to the Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz to make mega-revenues in the world energy trades.  The Saudis at least have pipelines to secure Red Sea ports. The Iranian Shia mullahs on the opposite  shore of the Persian Gulf will simply use hidden nuclear suasion to gain revenues from their despised Sunni members in the Muslim Ummah.

In a Wall Street Journal excerpt  from former Secretary Gates’ memoir, Duty, he criticized the political operatives  populating the West Wing National Security Council (NSC). In contrast to other Administrations,  many Obama NSC advisers are people to whom the Administration owed political favors. Among those he cites are  Tom Donilon, former Clinton era chief of staff at the State Department, who like his  NSC deputy, Denis McDonough, the later is Obama’s current Chief of Staff, had limited  national security groundings.  Early Obama Administration NSC chief, former Marine Gen., Jim Jones criticized Donilon for “his lack of overseas experience”,   telling him “You have no credibility with the military”, according to Bob Woodward’s, Obama’s Wars.  McDonough, prior to joining  Senator Obama’s staff  was a foreign affairs aide to former Senate Majority Leader  Tom Daschle and subsequently served in the same capacity with former Interior Secretary and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar.  We wrote about McDonough’s role in meeting  with Muslim Brotherhood leaders at the 2012 Brookings Doha Qatar Center meetings. Wendy Sherman, a colleague of Donilon at State during the Clinton Administration,   did us no favors over the oil/ food for no nukes deal with  North Korea under Kim Jong -Il, the late father of the current ruler, Kim Jong- Un.   All we received from Ms. Sherman’s efforts were nuclear tests;  test  of ICBMs and exchange of technology to assist Iran in its bomb making.  Now as Undersecretary of State, Sherman has brought us the P5+1 agreement.  As to nuclear bomb making support by North Korea just recall, the pictures we have of Iranian and North Korean scientists assisting Syria in building the nuclear bomb factory on the banks of the Euphrates destroyed by Israel in September 2007.  The Administration has failed in the view of many to meet the sense of the Kissinger adage: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”.

The Obama Administration has jeopardized potential strategic control of the oil rich Persian Gulf.  Both the UAE and Oman know that. This could present a threat to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean with its stockpile of nuclear weapons and  cruise missiles and B-52 bombers.  As Bryen commented, “When Munich occurred at least the Chamberlain rationale was that it gave the British and French time to prepare for war against Nazi Germany”.  However, what rationale does the Administration have?

The Persian Gulf allies have witnessed the Administration losing resolve in the region causing them to seek whatever cover they can from the predatory hegemon to avoid becoming what Churchill called, “crocodile food”.   Is Israel next?

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.