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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.

Democrat Senators provide final votes on the Iran Nuclear Pact

Maryland  Democrat Senator Barbara Mikulski clinched President Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal  today by announcing  her support making it  a virtual fait accompli. The President can now veto Congressional Resolutions rejecting the pact.  The Washington Post headline  today  tells the story, “Chris Coons and Bob Casey back Iran deal, putting Obama one vote from major diplomatic victory.”  The Iran nuclear pact comes up for a vote  15 days from now at the latest could be mooted by a possible filibuster or may be ended by a likely Presidential veto of a majority vote  rejecting it in both Chambers of Congress.  It begs the questions of whether there is any means of stopping this dangerous and misguided deal from being implemented. Depending on whether a successor overturns the multilateral agreement that according to the Administration would be a major diplomatic faux pas.

As we have written in a September 2015, NER article there may be more options than simply voiding it as an executive political agreement by a new President in January 2017. Republicans and a few Democrats are seeking to target sanctions against Iranian Revolutionary Guard Leaders and the Ayatollah who own companies that would benefit economically from the release of $100 billion in sequestered funds in U.S. financial institutions resulting from implementing the JCPOA.  There is also increasing interest in several legislative alternatives. That is reflected in a FrontPage Magazine article published today by Robert B, Sklaroff and Lee S. Bender, Esq., “The Only Way to Block the Iran TREATY: Sue Obama.”  Their bottom line:

Emergency Prescription for Senate:  [1]—Pass rule that abolishes the filibuster; [2]—Pass resolution declaring the Iran nuke deal to be a “treaty”; [3]—Defeat the deal; and [4]—Sue President Obama to enjoin him from implementing the deal.

Opinion polls taken of Americans indicate that by a margin of 2 to 1 they urge members of both Congressional Chambers to vote against it.  Trusting that approval of this deal will cut off Iran from all pathways from achieving industrialization of nuclear weapons- whether in a few weeks, months or a decade or more- amount to sleepwalking towards oblivion.   Many analysts and military nuclear experts think that Iran may already have nuclear weapons and shortly the means of delivering them. Further, believing that $100 billion plus of sequestered Iranian funds will be devoted to rebuilding a beleaguered Iranian economy and raising the living standards of Iranians is myopic. It will go to lining the pockets of the Ayatollah Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard leaders. Furthermore, it will fund proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Houthi rebels in Yemen to destabilize the Middle East and conduct low intensity warfare against America, Israel other Middle East allies. The Saudis, Egyptians, Emirates say that if the pact is approved they will develop their own nuclear weapons capabilities. War might likely loom.   President Obama has allegedly  called opponents “crazies,” criticized those who say he’s  anti-Semitic by replying  he doesn’t have a  smidgen of that, while  inveighing the infamous Juden frage- Jewish question , an innuendo  of dual loyalty.  We have witnessed Congress straying from the pathway suggested by Senators Cotton (R-AR), Cruz (R-TX), Johnson (R-WI), Rubio (R-FL) and others that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action should have been treated as a treaty under Article III of the Constitution requiring the advice and consent of the Senate. The result was the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act  of 2015 enacted into law with a stroke of the President’s pen on May 22, 2015.

Following the announcement of the JCPOA on July 14, 2015 and the unanimous endorsement by the UN Security Council on July 22, 2015, testimony provided by Administration negotiators, led by Secretary of State Kerry, Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz, and Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman has, if anything, raised concerns about the enforceability of the Iran nuclear pact.  Most appalling they exhibited in their responses to Senate and House Committee Members less than curiosity about the provisions of confidential agreements between the UN nuclear watchdog agency, IAEA and the Islamic Republic of Iran.  They suggested that to do so would interfere with the confidential nature of such activities between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic under UN protocols.  The IAEA in turn requested an estimated $10.5 million annually as the required contribution from the US, a board member of the IAEA, to support their activities inspecting and monitoring Iran’s progress towards an alleged ‘peaceful’ nuclear energy program.

Watch this Yahoo News video of Secretary Kerry at the National Convention Center in Philadelphia, today making the final sales pitch for approval of the Iran Nuclear Pact:

Based on the hearing record, the expert witness testimony presenting contradictory views, Americans now realize that there will likely be less than a robust, intrusive inspection scheme. A scheme that would rely on the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. Instead, Iranian inspection of known military development sites will be used to produce a Road Map of prior military developments enabling release of $100 billion of sequestered funds. Moreover, there already have been breaches of conventional weapons and missile technology purchases, despite the 5 and 8 year sunset provisions under UN Security Council Resolution 1929. There have also been breaches of lifting restrictions on travel bans and assets of more than 800 individuals and entities largely controlled by the Ayatollah, mullahs and Revolutionary Guard elite like Quds Firce Commander Qasem Soliemani.  Paul Alster in his Fox News criticism of the Iran deal  pointed out  that Iran has already launched attacks against Israel via proxies in the country’s North . He also suggest s the diversion of $1 billion of released funds that would go annually to underwrite the support of Iran’s terrorist proxies attacking U.S. ally Israel and others in the Middle East Region. Then there is the delivery of new precision rockets and missiles to Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

We could go on, but it is moot given the President is likely before Labor Day to line up all of the votes required for him to veto the rejection resolutions voted by the Republican majorities of both houses with a sprinkling of Democrats with moral compasses.  There may never be a vote in the Senate, as Minority Leader Reid has offered up the alternative of killing the vote via a filibuster and resort to the so-called “nuclear option” used for approving Judicial appointment in 2013. That is unless the suggestion by Sklaroff and Bender about the Senate passing a rule banishing the so-called “nuclear option” is adopted.

This brings us to Plan B – a suit by the Senate against the President’s actions brought before the US Supreme Court that might result in a ruling granting the senior Chamber an up or down vote treating the Iran nuclear pact as a treaty.  We believe its time for serious consideration of the Sklaroff Bender proposal as the Senate would have standing whereas individuals may not. That is evidenced by Federal Judge Kenneth A. Marra’s ex cathedra remarks in the Palm Beach Federal District Court in response to a declaratory judgment motion filed by Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch on August 4, 2015. We commend Freedom Watch for bringing that action.

Listen to this 1330amWEBY segment that aired on September 1, 2015 with Mike Bates, Host of Your Turn and Senior editor, Jerry Gordon discussing the Iran nuclear pact and options to overturn it.

Now we have to see whether Senate Majority Republican Leaders have the courage of their convictions to bring such an important landmark case before the Supreme Court to protect Americans from the threat of an Iranian nuclear attack. Presidential hopefuls and Congressional leaders who will speak before a huge crowd of concerned Americans gathered on the back lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on September 9th at the March to Save America  might echo their resolve to sue the President.  That is contingent on whether he carries out his threat to veto the majority vote in both Chambers of Congress rejecting the Iran nuclear pact backed by the opinions of a majority of Americans.

Now it is time for concerted action by those bi-partisan Members of Congress who reject the Iran nuclear pact. Tens of millions of Americans are disturbed by the President’s appeasement of a keystone member of the Evil Axis, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

Donald Trump: Nuclear deal calls for U.S. to defend Iran against Israeli attack

Supporters of the Iran Nuclear Deal Should and Will Be Called Traitors

Thousands Take to New York Streets to Protest Iran Deal

South Korea Looks To China for Help With Aggressive North Korea

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

Past and Present Agreements with ‘Theocratic, Totalitarian, Genocidal’ Regimes

Hitler_36679e_1933654In the current discussion of the Iran nuclear agreement with world powers and Germany, led by the United States, certain eerily familiar patterns emerge.  There was a direct line from the appeasement by Britain and France that sacrificed Czechoslovakia to the onset of WWII and the horrors of the final solution for European Jewry that witnessed the murder of Six Million men, women and children in unspeakable ways. Hitler clearly had that in mind when during his table talk discussions with Albert Speer, his Munitions Minister, he referenced the Ottoman genocide of the 1.5 million Armenians during WWI, when he was alleged to have remarked, and “who hears any more of the Armenians”.

Further, Hitler expressed admiration for the ‘manliness” of Islamic Jihad, wistfully ruing the adoption of Christianity by the Germanic tribes.  

As we know from Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story: A Personal Account of the Armenian Genocide. President Wilson’s representative to the Sublime Porte from 1913 to 1916, the German general staff were enthusiastic boosters of sending genocidal jihad letters to Mosque leaders in the Ottoman Empire seeking the destruction of not only the Armenians, but other kaffirs, unbelievers, the Greeks in Smyrna and tolerated Jews.  Following the Farhud; the Arab Nazi pogrom in Baghdad on June 1 and 2d, 1941 , the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Hajj Amin Al Husayni, who had fomented the Arab riots of the 1920’s and 1930’s in Mandatory Palestine fled first to Mussolini’s history and hence to Berlin to be given an audience with Herr Hitler in November 1941. This was just a few months when the final solution conference was held in Wansee in the former home of a Jewish department store magnate.

Al Husayni, visited Nazi death camps with SS Commander Heinrich Himmler impressing upon the necessity of killing the Jews, to avoid their escape to the Palestine Mandate.  The echoes of these precedents are heard in the declarations and a book published by Ayatollah Khomenei, “Palestine” seeking the elimination of Israel, occupying lands once conquered by Islam, are deemed a waqf a trust by their god Allah in perpetuity. Despite the Administration promotion of the current nuclear pact with Iran, we hear declarations of “Death to Israel”, “Death to the Jews”, and “Death to America.”  These are the ravings of what former CIA-director, Ambassador R. James Woolsey has called “a theocratic, totalitarian, genocidal imperialist ” regime led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei seeking world domination.  The parallels are too eerily familiar echoed in the warnings by Israeli Prime Minister why the Iran nuclear pact provides a path to a nuclear bomb with only one purpose: to kill Jews.

islam and nazi germany bookcoverFrom Islam and Nazi Germany’s War  by David Motive, we find:

“In order to win Muslims over, German authorities made extensive attempts to employ Islam. Religious policies and propaganda were used to enhance social and political control in the occupied territories and war zones, to recruit Muslims into the Wehrmacht and the SS, and to rally the faithful in enemy territories and armies. Germany’s policies involved Islamic institutions and religious authorities. Its propaganda drew on politicized religious imperatives and rhetoric, sacred texts and Islamic iconography to give the involvement of Muslims in the war religious legitimacy. Although these policies, as with so many other German policies during the war, were characterized by improvisation and ad hoc measures, they were overall remarkably coherent.”

Elsewhere the author continues:

“It shows that German army officials granted Muslim recruits a wide range of religious concessions, taking into account the religious calendar and religious laws such as ritual slaughter. Both the Wehrmacht and the SS also launched special ideological education programs for Muslim soldiers. Military propaganda was spread in the form of pamphlets, booklets, and, most importantly, journals. A prominent role in the units was played by military imams, who were responsible not only for spiritual care but also for political indoctrination.”

Similar, even identical, programs are in place today; only the names the national armies have changed.

fabius and zariff

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Tehran, July 29, 2015. Source: Reuters

In December of 1942, the Islamic Central Institute was inaugurated in the heart of Berlin. Haj Amin al-Husayni gave the inaugural speech and stated the following:

“Among the most bitter enemies of the Muslims, who from ancient times have shown them enmity and met them everywhere constantly with perfidy and cunning, are the Jews and their accomplices…The holy Qur’an and the life history of the Prophet are full of evidence of Jewish lack of character and their malicious, mendacious and treacherous behavior, which completely suffices to warn Muslims of their ever-constant, severe threat and enmity until the end of all days. And as the Jews were in the lifetime of the great Prophet, so they have remained throughout all ages; conniving and full of hatred toward the Muslim, wherever an opportunity offered itself to them.”

Seven decades have passed since the pre-World War Two appeasement by the Britain and France at Munich in September 1938, Hitlerian Nazi Germany’s espousal of Muslim Jihad and destruction of European Jewry. Many of the nations currently party to the Iran nuclear pact are the same as those that signed infamous diplomatic agreements at Munich. The names of some of the nations involved have changed as have the names of the purveyors of eliminations anti-Semitism. What has not changed is the never ending negotiation and indoctrination executed in parallel with terror, incitement and the call for “death for the Jews”. The errors and disasters of the past are either minimized or totally forgotten. New negotiations and never ending signed agreements are forged with only the names of some of the signatories changing…the war against the Jews continues.

RELATED ARTICLES:

9 Lines You Need to Read From Obama’s Latest Iran Nuclear Pitch

Obama Administration Claims Some Middle Eastern Countries Showing Support for Iran Deal. Here’s the Real Story.

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

Iran Nuke Deal: Is it Game Over for the P5+1?

Reuters has two reports on  negotiating  hiccups possibly forestalling conclusion of the P5+1 deal with Iran and its nuclear program.  One report indicates another possible extension of the ‘final agreement’ deadline  beyond June 30th.  A related  report  reveals a stiffening position of France, that there will be no deal unless full access is provided to military facilities. As we have heard previously, that is verboten according to Iran’s Supreme Ruler. Thus, are we witnessing the a denouement or simply kicking the can down the road. Either way, President Obama’s legacy  of an opening to  Iran may be slipping from his grasp. Doubtless that may bring up short those EU and U.S. companies poised to  partake tens of billions in development deals under discussion with Islamic Republic should economic sanctions be lifted under the proposed P5+1 deal. If the diplomatic  deal  is cratering, it leaves the question of whether this a momentary speed bump or a finality?  If the latter what options would the US and especially Israel have to deter Iran’s quest for nuclear hegemony?

On the matter of a possible delay in the P5+1 deadline, Reuters noted:

A self-imposed deadline of June 30 for Iran and six major powers to reach a final nuclear deal to resolve a decade-long standoff may be extended, Iran’s state TV reported.

France’s ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, said on Tuesday that the deal was not likely by June 30 because technical details would remain to be agreed.

“The deadline might be extended and the talks might continue after the June 30 (deadline),” Iranian senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying.

“We are not bound to a specific time. We want a good deal that covers our demands.”

Ambassador Araud said it could take a few weeks of July to complete the technical annexes that are envisaged under an agreement if one can be reached.

Iran and the six powers resumed talks in Vienna on Wednesday to bridge gaps still remaining in their negotiating positions ahead of the deadline.

“The meetings on deputy negotiators level take place in the context of the E3/EU +3’s diplomatic efforts towards a negotiated, comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear issue,” the EU said in a statement.

Once, France’s redoubtable Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius exhibited toughness in these negotiations by going public with a demand that could be a deal killer:. Reuters reported:

France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday his country would not back any nuclear deal with Iran unless it provided full access to all installations, including military sites.

“France will not accept (a deal) if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites,” Laurent Fabius told lawmakers .

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out international inspection of Iran’s military sites or access to nuclear scientists under any nuclear agreement. Iran’s military leaders echoed his remarks.

Fabius said he wanted other countries negotiating with Iran in the framework of the so-called P5+1 – also including Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States – to adopt France’s position.

“‘Yes’ to an agreement, but not to an agreement that will enable Iran to have the atomic bomb. That is the position of France which is independent and peaceful.”

However, it would be premature to exhibit schaden freude until a possible declaration occurs. The P5+1 side is stacked with cunning appeasers intent on cutting any deal that allows them to achieve economic bounty from development deals, while Iran gets away with an unverifiable and “very bad deal”, as Israeli PM Netanyahu and many GOP members of Congress have said innumerable times. They may have their limited opportunity to vote on a deal under the recently passed bi-parrisan INARA, leaving President Obama to trump their possible negative vote with a veto. But first let’s see if a final agreement is in the offing sometime in July or later. Stay tuned for developments.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of negotiators of Iran and six world powers face each other at a table in the historic basement of Palais Coburg hotel in Vienna April 24, 2015. Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Unanimously Approves Iran Nuke Review Legislation

Our Iconoclast post title about a denouement today on the P5+1 Iran Nuke agreement review legislation was realized this afternoon in a unanimous Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote approving a compromise measure. The Committee action reasserted   Constitutional prerogatives forcing President Obama to relent his opposition. The vote was 19 to 0 based on the compromise language worked out between Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). Assenting to the new version of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review  Act of 2015, originally co-sponsored by embattled  New Jersey U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Sen. Corker, were two Committee Members, announced GOP Presidential Contenders, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  Corker had not been a signatory to Arkansas Tom Cotton’s letter that was sent to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic in Tehran apprising them of the Senate’s advice and consent on major treaties and agreements.

This legislative victory preserves the right of the Congress to review changes in the prevailing sanctions against Iran occasioned by the presentation of the Administration of any definitive agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran by the intended date of June 30, 2015.  Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif announced at a ministerial meeting in Spain today, that negotiations leading towards a possible definitive agreement would start April 21st in Lausanne, Switzerland.  U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the House would approve the veto proof measure. A vote on the measure should reach the floor of the Senate shortly, at which time Amendments might be introduced for possible consideration.

Tower report noted:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the committee, said that the legislation, which passed 19-0, “absolutely, 100% keeps the congressional review process — the integrity of it — in place.”

The compromise language, which was worked out by Corker and ranking Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.), shortened the amount of time of Congress would get to review a nuclear agreement with Iran from 60 days to 30, and softened some other provisions of the bill.

The bill is consistent with a poll released today by Suffolk University showing that Americans favor congressional review of any nuclear deal with Iran by a wide margin—72% to 19%.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that President Barack Obama would sign the compromise bill, reversing the administration’s longstanding objection to any congressional oversight of a potential nuclear deal with Iran.

The New York Times reported how quickly Administration opposition to the legislation had folded:

Why Mr. Obama gave in after fierce opposition was the last real dispute of what became a rout. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Obama was not “particularly thrilled” with the bill, but had decided that a new proposal put together by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made enough changes to make it acceptable.

“We’ve gone from a piece of legislation that the president would veto to a piece of legislation that’s undergone substantial revision such that it’s now in the form of a compromise that the president would be willing to sign,” Mr. Earnest said. “That would certainly be an improvement.”

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the committee’s chairman, had a far different interpretation. As late as 11:30 a.m., in a classified briefing at the Capitol, Mr. Kerry was urging senators to oppose the bill. The “change occurred when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this, and only when that occurred,” Mr. Corker said.

Mr. Cardin said that the “fundamental provisions” of the legislation had not changed.

But the compromise between him and Mr. Corker did shorten a review period of a final Iran nuclear deal and soften language that would make the lifting of sanctions dependent on Iran’s ending support for terrorism.

The agreement almost certainly means Congress will muscle its way into nuclear negotiations that Mr. Obama sees as a legacy-defining foreign policy achievement.

Under the agreement, the president would still have to send periodic reports to Congress on Iran’s activities regarding ballistic missiles and terrorism, but those reports could not trigger another round of sanctions.

The Times reported possible floor actions that might resurrect original provisions:

The measure still faces hurdles. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, fresh off the opening of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, dropped plans to push for an amendment to make any Iran deal dependent on the Islamic Republic’s recognition of the State of Israel, a diplomatic nonstarter.

But he hinted that he could try on the Senate floor.

“Not getting anything done plays right into the hands of the administration,” Mr. Rubio said.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, abandoned an amendment to make any Iran accord into a formal international treaty needing two-thirds of the Senate for its ratification, but he, too, said it could be revived before the full Senate.

The measure will be brought up for a floor vote later this month and is expected to pass both the Senate and the House in near veto proof form.

It is clear that the victors in this battle are the Republican Majority and concerned Democrats who have been monitoring polls and constituent opinions regarding Congressional Review prerogatives.  In retrospect  Sen. Cotton’s letter and the March 3rd address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a Joint Meeting of Congress alerted  Americans to problems with the P5+1 framework for a deal  announced on April 2nd despite the objections of President Obama and certain leading Democratic minority members of both the Senate and House. Perhaps the diktats announced last Thursday by Ayatollah Khamenei demanding the lifting of all sanctions upon signing of an agreement and denial of intrusive IAEA inspections of military nuclear weapons development sites conveyed to Senate Democrats that there were different opinions about the two Facts Statements. The one released by the State Department versus that of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Add to that was Monday’s removal of a 2010 moratorium on the sale of an advanced Russian S-300 air defense system to Iran an indication that President Putin and Ayatollah Khamenei could void weapons sanctions agreements at will.

The losers in this episode are Secretary Kerry and President Obama. How those negotiations go starting April 21st will determine if Congress will have anything to review on June 30th.

RELATED ARTICLE: Commentators On Arab TV: Obama Supports Iran Because His Father Was A Shi’ite

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). Source: Politico

Major Gaps between P5+1 and Iran on Framework Agreement

This Passover Easter weekend, the media was abuzz in speculative commentary on President Obama’s announcement in the Rose Garden on Thursday April 2nd of the P5+1 Framework for a nuclear deal with Iran. Problem is no one really knows what is involved in drafting let alone concluding a definitive technical agreement between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran by June 30, 2015, 90 days from now. President Obama extolled the virtues of the deal saying:

Good afternoon, everybody. Today, The United States, together with Allies and Partners, have reached a historic understanding with Iran, which if fully implemented, would  prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, As President and Commander in Chief, I have no great responsibility than the security of the American people. I’m convinced that if this framework leads to a final a final comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world, safer. This has been a long time coming. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been advancing its nuclear program for decades.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Read the opening stanza of former President Bill Clinton on October 18, 1994, when he announced a previous nuclear framework agreement that failed to stop North Korea from eventually creating a stockpile of nuclear weapons and nuclear tipped missiles:

Good afternoon. I am pleased that the United States and North Korea yesterday reached agreement on the text of a framework document on North Korea’s nuclear program. This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula.

This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the threat of nuclear spreading in the region. It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.

In the words of baseball great Yogi Berra, “its déjà vu all over again.”

Today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd interviewed Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said:

“I’m not trying to kill any deal. I’m trying to kill a bad deal…The current plan “leaves the preeminent terrorist state of our time with a vast nuclear infrastructure.” It would spark an arms race among the Sunni states, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” the Israeli leader warned. “And the Middle East crisscrossed with nuclear tripwires is a nightmare for the world. I think this deal is a dream deal for Iran and it’s a nightmare deal for the world.”

Netanyahu stressed that when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capabilities, he prefers a “good” diplomatic solution to a military one.

He outlined such a solution as “one that rolls back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and one that ties the final lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program with a change of Iran’s behavior” and insists that Iran stops “calling for and working for the annihilation of Israel.” He also called for further sanctions on Iran as a way to get the country to take a deal that contains no concessions.

Watch the NBC “Meet the Press” segment with Israel PM Netanyahu:

Sen_ Chris Murphy

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Connecticut Democratic  Senator Chris Murphy, member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee  who followed Netanyahu on Meet the Press  found the agreement announced by the President, “remarkable. “ He remarked that  “sanctioning Iran into submission is not what the partners signed up for. When the question of changing Iran’s behavior on support for global terrorism and violations of human rights came up, Murphy basically followed the Administration line of let’s get the nuclear agreement done first. The Washington Post reported  Murphy saying:

It’s true that this deal doesn’t turn Iran from a bad guy into a good guy”. “But it’s a little bit of rewriting of history to suggest these negotiations were about all of the other nefarious activities of Iran in the region. These negotiations were about ending their nuclear program, such that we can start to lift up the moderate elements … [and] talk about all these other issues.

You take this issue [the nuclear program] off the table and you empower people like Rouhani and Zarif, who may see a different path for Iran — less as an irritant, more as a member of the global community.  “And you may see a pathway to solving some of these other problems (ballistic missiles, support for terrorism and human rights violations) and you can do it potentially without new rounds of traditional sanctions.

Ehud Yaari

Ehud Ya’ari Israeli Middle East analyst and Channel 2 TV Commentator.

More emerged about the differences in the announcement about the framework parameters between the State Department Fact Sheet and Farsi statement of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Noted Israel Middle East analyst, Ehud Ya’ari, a Washington, DC Institute for Near East Policy Fellow and Israel TV Channel 2 commentator, identified six major gaps The Times of Israel reported:

  1. Sanctions: Ya’ari said the U.S. has made clear that economic sanctions will be lifted in phases, whereas the Iranian fact sheet provides for the immediate lifting of all sanctions as soon as a final agreement is signed, which is set for June 30. (In fact, the US parameters state that sanctions will be suspended only after Iran has fulfilled all its obligations: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” By contrast, the Iranian fact sheet states: “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.”)
  2. Enrichment: The American parameters provide for restrictions on enrichment for 15 years, while the Iranian fact sheet speaks of 10 years.
  3. Development of advanced centrifuges at Fordo: The US says the framework rules out such development, said Ya’ari, while the Iranians say they are free to continue this work.
  4. Inspections: The US says that Iran has agreed to surprise inspections, while the Iranians say that such consent is only temporary.
  5. Stockpile of already enriched uranium: Contrary to the US account, Iran is making clear that its stockpile of already enriched uranium — “enough for seven bombs” if sufficiently enriched, Ya’ari said — will not be shipped out of the country, although it may be converted.
  6. PMD: The issue of the Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian program, central to the effort to thwart Iran, has not been resolved, Ya’ari said.

The U.S. parameters make two references to PMD. They state, first: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.”

They subsequently add: “All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, and transparency).” The Iranian fact sheet does not address PMD.

The differences between the sides became apparent almost as soon as the framework agreement was presented in Lausanne on Thursday night. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a series of tweets late Thursday, for instance, that protested the U.S. State Department’s assertion that the nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers would only see sanctions on the Islamic Republic removed “in phases.”

If this weekend is an example, the controversy about the framework “parameters” await the details from the final agreement targeted for June 30th. Problem is those negotiations may extend well beyond the current deadline, perhaps may spark further negotiations and may be incapable of resolution unless the Administration caves into all of Iran’s demands. In the meantime Swiss and French trade delegations are in Tehran discussing possible deals, the Germans have already held theirs, and, of course, Russia and China, have already conducted business with the Islamic Republic. Despite Turkey’s Erdogan expressing pique at Iran’s hegemony in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, he will soon hold trade talks again in Tehran on more gas deals.

Thursday’s announcement sent the Tehran Stock Exchange skyrocketing Friday. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif are smirking over their victory contemplating keeping all of its nuclear, missile and military applications under wraps. Besides they also have four bargaining chips; three imprisoned Americans and a fourth missing for eight years.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of the P5+1 plus Iran and EU Foreign Relations Commissioner in Lausanne, Switzerland 4-2-15.

U.S. Senator Cotton’s Letter to Iran’s Leaders Clarified

When Arkansas junior Senator Tom Cotton sent his open letter on Monday, March 9th to “The Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” signed by 46 other Republican colleagues, 7 declined, it caused a ruckus.

Cotton’s letter endeavored to  remind Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif of the Constitutional authorities.  The Executive Branch’s power in Article II, Sec.2 gives  it the right to negotiate foreign agreements. The Legislative Branch, in this case the Senate, must provide its “advise and consent” to treaties on a two-thirds vote and a three-fifths vote in the instances of Congressional-executive agreements. Anything not approved by Congress, such as the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei is deemed an executive agreement which could end with current term of the President in January 2017. Thus “the next President could revoke the executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

From the President to leading Democratic Senators, the short missive was rebuked as an unwelcome ‘stunt’ interfering with the Executive Branch of government prerogative of engaging in foreign relations.  President Obama considered it “ironic” considering  the signatories of the Cotton letter in league with those notorious hard liners in Tehran.  He alleged they were seeking to upend the MOU. The New York Daily News published a front page  picture of the Cotton letter accusing the signatories of being ‘traitors’.  For the first 48 hours that continued to be the criticism of Sen. Cotton and the GOP leadership in the Senate, with the exception of the 7 who agreed with the White House for different reasons. Senator Corker (R-TN) thought it was unhelpful as he was endeavoring to line up Democratic votes for his Senate Bill 615, The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 co-sponsored by embattled Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif while calling the Cotton letter, “a propaganda ploy” argued:

“I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law,” according to Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The executive agreement was not bilateral but rather multi-lateral with the rest of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, subject to a resolution of the Security Council.

That majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as “mere executive agreements” and not treaties ratified by the Senate.

That “their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments.”

Ayatollah Khamenei considered the Cotton letter reflective of the “US disintegration”. According to the Mehr news agency, the Supreme Ruler said:

Of course I am worried. Every time we reach a stage where the end of the negotiations is in sight, the tone of the other side, specifically the Americans, becomes harsher, coarser and tougher. This is the nature of their tricks and deceptions.

Further, he said the letter was ‘a sign of the decay of political ethics in the American system”, and he described as “laughable long-standing U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in terrorism.”

Jen Psaki 3-11-15  Legal Insurrrection

Source: Legal Insurrection

Notwithstanding the roiling criticism of the Cotton letter, comments by Secretary Kerry at a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Wednesday, echoed those of State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Tuesday who said, “historically, the United States has pursued important national security through non-binding arrangements.” Kerry said in his testimony that the Obama Administration was “not negotiating a legally binding plan” but one from “executive to executive,” Politico reported. Kerry insisted such a deal would still “have a capacity of enforcement.” Thus, he confirmed that the proposed Memorandum of Understanding  between the P5+1  and Iran was non-binding on the parties hinging on verification of conditions.  Something hitherto unachievable with the Mullahs who have a tendency to hide developments. This despite representations by President Obama that the negotiations in Geneva were making good progress towards that goal. Kerry said it was non-binding because we currently don’t recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran, passed embargoes arising from the 444 day Tehran US Embassy seizure and hostage taking in 1979 and adopted Congressional sanctions against its nuclear program. Further, the State Department considers the Republic a state sponsor of terrorism, something Ayatollah Khamenei categorically disagrees with as witnessed by his comments on the Cotton letter.  But seeing is believing when it comes to the Shia autocrats in Tehran proficient practitioners of taqiyya, otherwise known as lying for Allah. Iran ‘reformist’ President Hassan Rouhani suggested that diplomacy with the Administration was an active form of “jihad” equivalent to the 2,500 mile range cruise missile Iran unveiled this week.

Two legal experts on the matter of executive agreements disagreed with the position of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Secretary Kerry in the context of the Cotton letter. Daniel Wiser writing in the Washington Free Beacon asserted  that Cotton was correct and Zarif wrong. They concurred that future US Presidents could revoke the agreement over a bad deal, meaning, violation of provisions by Iran:

Jeremy Rabkin, a law professor at George Mason University and an expert in international law and Constitutional history, said in an email that “nonbinding” by definition means that the United States “will not violate international law if we don’t adhere to its terms”—contrary to Zarif’s assertion.

“In other words we’re saying it is NOT an international obligation, just a statement of intent,” he said.

“What Kerry seemed to say was not that his Iran deal would be in the same category but that it would not be legally binding in any sense, just a kind of memorandum of understanding,” Rabkin said. “I wonder whether he understood what he was saying. It was more or less conceding that what Cotton’s letter said was the administration’s own view—that the ‘agreement’ with Iran would not be legally binding, so (presumably) not something that could bind Obama’s successor.”

Cotton responded with a Tweet, saying:

Important question: if deal with Iran isn’t legally binding, then what’s to keep Iran from breaking said deal and developing a bomb?

Wiser then cites a National Review article by a second legal expert, John Yoo, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley and a former Justice Department official in the George W. Bush Administration:

The Cotton letter is right, because if President Obama strikes a nuclear deal with Iran using only [an executive agreement], he is only committing to refrain from exercising his executive power—i.e., by not attacking Iran or by lifting sanctions under power delegated by Congress. Not only could the next president terminate the agreement; Obama himself could terminate the deal.  Obama’s executive agreement cannot prevent Congress from imposing mandatory, severe sanctions on Iran without the possibility of presidential waiver (my preferred solution for handling the Iranian nuclear crisis right now). Obama can agree to allow Iran to keep a nuclear-processing capability; Congress can cut Iran out of the world trading and financial system.

But the fracas over Cotton’s letter continued unabated. An unidentified resident of Bogota, N.J.  “C.H.” shot off a petition to the Obama White House website, “We the People,” expressing the view that the 47 signers were in violation of the 1799 Logan Act and may have jeopardized achievement of a nuclear agreement with Iran.  Further “C.H.” contended that the Republican Senators might be subject to possible criminal actions brought under provisions of the hoary law that private individuals are barred from engaging in foreign relations. The petition took off like a rocket with upwards of 165,000 signatures heading for over 200,000 in less than 48 hours. That will allegedly require a response by the President, as witnessed by an earlier petition on support for medical marijuana.

But “C.H.” is wrong. Members of Congress in either chamber are exempt from that restriction. Moreover, there have been a number of instances where the many of the Democratic Congressional and Administration critics of Cotton and his Republican colleagues have engaged in private foreign relations episodes.  Among those who undertook such actions were Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry when they were Senators and current House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and the late Teddy Kennedy.  In Pelosi’s case, following her assumption of the House Speakership in 2006, she went off to Damascus in 2007 to sit with President Bashar Assad, despite the protestations of the Bush Administration who were trying to isolate the Syrian dictator.  However,  Republicans have done the same thing when it also suited their political purposes.

Finally, there was another groundswell campaign seeking to gain passage of Sen. Corker’s INARA.  Christians United for Israel (CUFI) flooded Capitol Hill with more than 57,000 emails from members across the US in support of passage of INARA because they were worried about Iran’s possession of nuclear capabilities.  The CUFI initiative was triggered by the March 3rd address by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu before a Joint Meeting of Congress  who made it abundantly clear that he believed the Administration’s 10 year phased deal was a “very bad deal.”

 writing in the Legal Insurrection blog about the Cotton letter controversy concluded:

And to think, all of that wailing and gnashing of teeth from Democrats wasted over a non-binding agreement, one that would have absolutely no legal sway over Iran.

RELATED ARTICLES:

What You Need to Know About the White House’s Talks With Iran

Is Obama Sidestepping Congress and Going to UN on Iran Deal?

Iranian President: Diplomacy with U.S. is an active jihad

Saudi Nuclear Deal Raises Stakes for Iran Talks

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) poses for photographers in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Source: Carolyn Kaster— AP.

Schaden Freude Alert! Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Rushed to Hospital in Critical Condition

Schaden Freude Alert! This is NOT Purim Shpiel.  Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei rushed to hospital in critical condition. This may be evidence that sometimes Ha Shem does work in less than mysterious ways. The report of Ayatollah Khamenei’s ‘critical condition gives heft to the magnificent address by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s address before a joint meeting of Congress.

Purim-groggerIf confirmed it should bolster support for the real deal that Bibi spoke of – regime change in Tehran. That message should not be lost on President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the rest of the P5+1 intent on cutting a deal with this malevolent apocalyptic Mahdist regime fomenting chaos to awaken the moribund Twelth Imam in the holy well in the holy city of Qom, Iran. We trust that my cioreligiionists last night shook that grogger  (Purim noisemaker) (during the reading of Esther’s Megillah, but substituted Khamenei for Haman. Chag Purim Sameach.

Note  this Israel National News report on this ‘revoltin’ development, Report: Iran’s Supreme Leader Hospitalized in Critical Condition:

Just in time for Purim, the Jewish holiday celebrating the redemption of the Jewish people from plots of genocide in ancient Persia, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was reportedly hospitalized in critical condition on Wednesday.

According to Arab media reports cited by Israel Hayom, Khamenei was urgently brought to a hospital in Tehran after several of his bodily systems had already failed.

The reports add that the 76-year-old supreme leader of the Islamic regime has undergone surgery and remains in critical condition.

Recently it has been reported that he was suffering from prostate cancer which had spread to additional parts of his body, and due to his poor health condition he had largely ceased taking part in public events.

The hospitalization comes just days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed Congress on Tuesday to warn of the existential threat to Israel and the world that Iran poses, urging America to avoid the deal being formed on Iran’s nuclear deal ahead of a March 31 deadline for talks.

Lending some credence to the reports is the fact that Khamenei’s official Twitter account hasn’t been updated since Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday, when he wrote the “US is now facing a #dilemma. It should either stop unlimited services to #Israel or they’ll lose more face in the world.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Admiral “Ace” Lyons: The Threat is not “Radical Islam, it is Islam Itself”

 

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

Obama’s NPR Interview Raises Troubling Questions About Normalization of Relations with Iran

President Obama held a year end  interview with NPR’s  Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep on December 17, 2014 that aired on December 30th. During the interview Obama  was questioned about possible normalization of relations with Iran. He coyly said , “ I never say never.”  He also said  that he might like  to see the Islamic regime become  a “successful  regional power in the region.” All while the  P5+1 beavers away trying to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the last time we looked, is still called  a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department  Read the transcript here.

This sounds like legacy building akin to his dramatic announcement of a renewal of relations with Communist Cuba.

Today’s  concerning remarks are in juxtaposition to his signing into law on December 19, 2014, The US Israel Strategic Partnership Act, H.B. 938  which passed after a year of debate by Congress allegedly deepening trade and military support for Israel. The Times of Israel reported:

Obama said his administration will interpret certain sections in a manner that does not interfere with his constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy. That includes a section requiring the administration to provide Congress with certain diplomatic communications.

The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act increases the value of emergency US weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion. It promotes closer US-Israeli links in energy, water, homeland security, alternative fuel technology and cybersecurity.

It also offers a verbal guarantee of Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

The law also expands cooperation on research and development, business, agriculture, water management and academics.

Perhaps the December 19, 2014  signing of the US Israel Strategic Partnership Act was to bolster the Labor- Hatnua alliance in the March 17, 2015 snap election for a new Knesset. The leftist alliance position is that the right in Israel have abused the partnership with the US  through approval of settlement building authorizations undermining possible two state peace arrangements with the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile the PA supported by Arab League  is rushing to file a resolution for a vote by the  UN Security Council  demanding a peace deal with Israel within a year for and the end of alleged Israeli occupation of the West Bank by 2017. The PA, the Arab League and sponsor of the proposed resolution, Jordan  have been  emboldened by the Recent actions of the European Parliaments and several EU member states passing symbolic Palestinian statehood resolutions. There has been an indication from Secretary Kerry that the US might veto the Palestinian resolution  as it might jeopardize  the March 2017 Israeli snap elections result. Meaning that Israeli leftist allies might hopefully form a new  ruling coalition more amenable to a peace deal . There have also been leaks that the US might threaten to  abstain from such a resolution. The PA believes it may have sufficient votes on the Security Council to pass such a resolution.

Today’s State Department Press Briefing evinced concerns over the President NPR interview in an exchange between Jeff Rathke, Director of the Department’s Press Office and AP’s Matt Lee who covers both the White House and State Daily Press Briefings.

Omri Ceren of The Israel Project in a post this evening drew attention to concerns over the President’s NPR interview comments and a recent wave of support in Washington among advocates for normalization of relations with the Islamic Republic. He  wrote:

He said two things about an Iran nuke deal that are getting talked about: (1) it “would serve as the basis for us trying to improve relations over time” beyond the nuclear issue and (2) it would allow Iran to become “be a very successful regional power.”

The AP’s Matt Lee asked about both of those at today’s briefing: whether negotiations are designed to “bring Iran back into the fold” and whether the White House would reverse 35 years of Iran policy “designed to keep it from becoming a successful regional power.

There’s a separate reason why the normalization comments are getting so much attention: pro-engagement advocates have been flooding the zone with the argument. Barbara Slavin from the Atlantic Council said on Friday that “a deal with [the] US would be transformative.” Robin Wright from the Wilson Center toldFace the Nation on Sunday that for the “first time in 35 years, Iran and United States are on the same page at the same time.”.

The push has raised some eyebrows, because the Iranians – including and especially Khamenei – have been saying the exact opposite and rejecting any possibility of post-deal normalization.

Since taking office, President Obama has written four letters to Ayatollah Khamenei. All have been dismissed by the Supreme Ruler. The fourth and latest ‘secret’ October  2014 letter suggesting that the US and Iran had common interests regarding the Islamic State came amidst P5+1 efforts to obtain a final agreement by the deadline of November 24, 2014. That failed  to interest Khamenei leading to  the P5+1 to set a new  date for June 2015. Obama was roundly criticized by both querulous Arab allies and Israeli PM  Netanyahu  as constituting appeasement of this state sponsor of terrorism. Joseph Puder in a FrontPage Magazine article on November 17, 2014 wrote:

Ayatollah Khamenei rejected Obama’s overtures for improved relations, and in the words of Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the latest letter smacks of “Obama chasing after Khamenei in the undignified and counterproductive manner of a frustrated suitor.”

Watch this C-Span Excerpt we prepared of the exchange between Rathke of State and AP’s Matt Lee:

Below is an excerpt from the transcript of today’s State Department Press Briefing:

Matt Lee: Well, no, I mean normally I would ask the people at the White House, since it was the President’s words. But is that this building’s understanding of the way the negotiations, the nuclear talks with Iran are going on? They’re not an end to themselves IE to get to get rid of any ability Iran might have to build a nuclear weapon, but they are actually aiming towards normalization of the sort that you are looking for, that the President is looking for with Cuba?

Jeff Rathke: Well I think I would encourage folks to read the entire text of the president’s interview in particular with respect to Iran. He was, in response to a question about the possible opening of a U.S. embassy, he said, “I never say never,” and then he proceeded to lay out the fact that right now the focus is on getting the nuclear issue resolved and that’s a question of whether Iran is willing to seize the opportunity that the nuclear talks represent. So, and then he describes that as the first big step and then there would then perhaps be a basis over time to improve relations. But I think reading the President’s answer to that question, it’s quite clear that the focus is on the nuclear negotiations and that is…

Matt Lee: But my question is that, given his comments, is the specific, the nuclear negotiation, is that just a part of what the administration hopes will be a broader reconciliation or rapprochement with Iran that ends up with normalization of relations by 2016 when the president leaves office?

Jeff Rathke: Well as the administration has said, we are not closing any doors, but our concerns on Iran are well-known and our focus now is on resolving the nuclear issue. There is a chance to do that but that’s a question of Iran taking that, taking that opportunity.

Matt Lee: Another thing he said in the interview on Iran is that if they went ahead and reached an agreement, if they got a deal, a nuclear deal, and if the Iranians actually comply, that Iran would be in a position to become a successful regional power and suggested that that’s something that the United States would like to see. And you guys have made no secret of the fact that it’s not just the nuclear issue that is a problem for you with Iran, that there are numerous other things including the fact that it is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, as identified by you guys. I’m just wondering does the administration want to see Iran become a “successful regional power,” given the fact that since 1979, American foreign policy, with respect to Iran, has been designed to keep it from becoming a successful regional power, has been designed to keep it from exerting its strength over your or exerting pressure on your allies in the region, both Israel and the Arab states?

Jeff Rathke: Well, again, the President’s answer to the question and U.S. policy is focused on resolving the nuclear issue. That is our focus and that’s why we have the P5+1 talks going on.

Matt Lee: Well right, but then why bring all this other stuff in then? If the focus is just on the nuclear issue, why even broach the idea that you want to see Iran become a successful regional power and leave the door open to you know, normalization of relations to the point where you could open an embassy?

Jeff Rathke:  Well, I think the point is that Iran’s behavior is the factor that drives that, and it’s, Iran’s behavior needs to change, not only on the nuclear issue where we have been involved in the negotiation process, but in other respects as well.

Matt Lee: I get all that but I’m just wondering why, and I guess someone needs to ask the president why he answered the questions the way he did, to leave this thing open because it sounds as though that, it sounds as though the administration sees or at least he sees the nuclear negotiations as a path to bring Iran back into the fold, back into the fold and not just the United States, but…

Jeff Rathke: That’s not the way I interpret the transcript. I think it’s quite clear that focus is on dealing with the nuclear issue.

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

Obama’s October Secret Letter to Ayatollah Khamenei seeks help in fighting ISIS

While President Obama sought “common ground” with the GOP controlled Congress in 2015 at yesterday’s news conference, he was deepening his detente strategy with Iran in a dangerous gambit to secure their aid in the fight against ISIS.  The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that a secret letter had been sent by the President to Ayatollah Khamenei seeking to enlist Iran’s support in the war against ISIS in exchange for the quid pro quo of the supreme Ruler’s assent to a nuclear deal, “Obama Wrote Secret Letter to Iran’s Khamenei about Fighting Islamic State.”  The supposed deadline for a deal between the P5+1 and Iran is less than a month away on November 24, 2014; however that deadline may be moved.  The October letter was the fourth such direct communiqué with Iran’s Supreme Ruler by this Administration. Obama’s letter to the Ayatollah has been acknowledged by Administration “senior officials.”

There have been indications that the P5+1 deal under discussion would preserve Iran’s capability for nuclear enrichments with more than 19,000 centrifuges and allow for replacement with a new generation of faster ones.  We heard from Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon during his recent visit to Washington that Iran was perhaps less than a year from achieving ‘break out’, meaning being able to assemble a nuclear device.

Speaker John Boehner of the US House of Representatives was cited in the WSJ report saying:

“I don’t trust the Iranians, I don’t think we need to bring them into this,” Mr. Boehner said. Referring to the continuing nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Mr. Boehner said he” would hope that the negotiations that are underway are serious negotiations, but I have my doubts.”

Obama’s October letter to Ayatollah Khamenei reflects this Administration’s offer to enlist Iran in the coalition fighting to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, further exacerbating relations with Sunni allies in the air campaign and isolating Israel.

The WSJ Report revealed that both Sunni allies and Israel had not been notified of this latest Administration outreach to Iran’s Supreme Ruler:

In a sign of the sensitivity of the Iran diplomacy, the White House didn’t tell its Middle East allies – including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates-about Mr. Obama’s October letter to Mr. Khamenei, according to the people briefed on the correspondence.

Leaders from these countries have voiced growing concern in recent weeks that the U.S. is preparing to significantly soften its demands in the nuclear talks with Tehran. They said they worry the deal could allow Iran to gain the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in the future.

Arab leaders also fear Washington’s emerging rapprochement with Tehran could come at the expense of their security and economic interests across the Middle East. These leaders have accused the U.S. of keeping them in the dark about its diplomatic engagement with Tehran.

Meanwhile, Ian’s Quds Force Commander, Gen. Qassem Suleymani has been a highly visible ‘item’ in Iraq. He has been advising Iraqi Shiite militia and national security forces in recent operations with Kurdish Peshmerga pushing back ISIS. Both Iraqi Shia militia and Hezbollah veterans of the Syrian civil war conflict and even the 2006 War with Israel have been involved in training and advising this effort. The trigger for their involvement was ISIS’ threat to destroy a revered Iranian Shia pilgrimage Mosque in Samarra in June.  The ISIS advance was halted by Shia militia with help from Suleymani’s Quds Force. Al Arabiyya and IRNA reported in August 2014 funerals for Iranian and Hezbollah commanders killed in this not so shadow war by Iran’s Quds Force in Iraq against ISIS.

Yesterday, AP reported on Quds Force and Hezbollah cadres under the direction of Gen. Suleymani supporting Iraqi national security forces and Peshmerga wresting the embattled town of Jurf al-Sakher last week, “Top Iranian general, and Hezbollah lead Iraq ground war.” The Iraqi town is located south of Baghdad on the road to another revered Shia pilgrimage site in Karbala. Jurf-al Sakher had been occupied by ISIS since August. Note these excerpts from the AP article:

Photos soon emerged on independent Iraqi news websites revealing a more discrete presence – the powerful Iranian general  Qassem Suleymani – whose name has become synonymous with the handful of victories attributed to Iraqi ground forces. Local commanders said Lebanon’s powerful Shiite Hezbollah group was also on the front lines.

[…]

Militia commanders told The Associated Press that dozens of advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Lebanese Hezbollah were on the front lines in Jurf al-Sakher, providing weapons training to some 7,000 troops and militia fighters, and coordinating with military commanders ahead of the operation.

[…]

Suleymani’s Quds Force, the special operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has been involved for years in training and financing Iraq’s Shiite militias. It has long worked with Hezbollah in Lebanon and has been aiding Assad’s forces.

In June, Revolutionary Guard advisers under Suleymani provided guidance for Shiite militiamen in shelling Sunni insurgent positions around Samarra, a Sunni-majority city north of Baghdad that is the home to a revered Shiite shrine, local commanders said. Suleymani was also seen as playing a key role in relieving the Islamic siege of the Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli.  And a top Revolutionary Guard general said in September that Suleymani had even helped Kurdish fighters defend their regional capital Irbil.

According to Ken Timmerman, veteran Iran watcher and author of Dark Forces, Gen. Suleymani may also have been involved with planning the insertion of Quds Force operatives to support local Islamist militia in the 9/11-12/2012 attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans.  This and other allegations may be heard by the House Select Committee on Benghazi under the chairmanship of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Suggestions have also been raised that the republican-controlled Senate might conduct its own Benghazi investigations when the 214th Session begins in January 2015.

Moreover, disclosure of this letter to Ayatollah Khamenei might complicate the President’s announced request for Congressional passage of amended war powers authorization for the fight against ISIS.  This raises the question of how can the Administration provide training and equipment to alleged Syrian opposition forces fighting the Assad regime, while simultaneously reaching out to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah both actively involved in Syria fighting those rebel forces.  Congress rushed before a mid-July 214 recess to appropriate $500 million diverted from Defense appropriations for overseas covert operations to fund training and equipping of ‘vetted’ Syrian opposition forces.  The sponsor of the funding proposal, outgoing Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, was cited by The Hill at the time saying, “Syria is a kaleidoscope of ever-changing circumstances and loyalties. Our friends today could be our enemies tomorrow”.

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