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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.

Is Kurdistan Rising?

In the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition, June 20-21, 2015, Yaroslav Trofimov writes of the possible rise of an independent Kurdistan, “The State of The Kurds”. An independent Kurdistan was promised by the WWI Allies in the Treaty of Sevres that ended the Ottoman Empire in 1920. That commitment was dashed by the rise of Turkish Republic under the secularist Kemal Atatürk confirmed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne denying an independent Kurdistan in what is now Eastern Turkey. Combined a future Kurdistan encompassing eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, northwest Iran and northern Iraq might comprise a landlocked republic of 30 million with significant energy and agricultural resources. The rise of Kurdistan is reflected in these comments in the Trofimov WSJ review article:

Selahattin Demirtas, Chairman of the HDP party in Turkey:

The Kurds’ existence was not recognized; they were hidden behind a veil. But now, after being invisible for a century, they are taking their place on the international stage. Today, international powers can no longer resolve any issue in the Middle East without taking into account the interests of the Kurds.

Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and chairman of the bar in Diyarbakir, Turkey:

In the past, when the Kurds sought self-rule, the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs were all united against it. Today that’s not true anymore—it’s not possible for the Shiite government in Iraq and Shiite Iran to work together against the Kurds with the Sunni Turkey and the Sunni ISIS. In this environment, the Kurds have become a political and a military power in the Middle East.

Elçi, amplifies a concern that Sherkoh Abbas, leader of the Kurdish National Syria Assembly (KURDNAS) has expressed in several NER interviews an articles with him:

The PKK has made important steps to adopt more democratic ways. But you cannot find the same climate of political diversity in [Kurdish] Syria as you find in [northern Iraq], and this is because of PKK’s authoritarian and Marxist background. This is a big problem.

As effective as the KRG government and peshmerga have been in pushing back at ISIS forces threatening the capital of Erbil, the real problem is the divisiveness in the political leadership. That is reflected in the comment of  Erbil province’s governor, Nawaf Hadi cited by Trofimov:

For 80 years, the Arab Sunni people led Iraq—and they destroyed Kurdistan. Now we’ve been for 10 years with the Shiite people [dominant in Baghdad], and they’ve cut the funding and the salaries—how can we count on them as our partner in Iraq?” All the facts on the ground encourage the Kurds to be independent.

That renewed prospect reflects the constellation of  events in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

The fall of the AKP government in the Turkish Election of June 7, 2015

There was  the  stunning  defeat of the 13 year reign of  the Islamist AKP headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by the trio of secular, nationalist and upstart Kurdish parties, the CHP, HNP and HDP that might form a minority ruling coalition 45 days from the June 7, 2014 parliamentary elections. These minority parties garnered a plurality of 299 seats in the Ankara Parliament.  That is if these parties can coalesce. If not Islamist figurehead President Erdogan seek new elections if they can’t put together a new ruling government.  A Washington, D.C. forum on what the results of the Turkish  election convened by the Foundation for Defense  of Democracies (FDD) forum presented nuanced views. Watch this C-Span video of the FDD forum.

FDD Senior Counselor John Hannah moderated the discussion with former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and FDD Senior Advisor  former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman and FDD Non-Resident Fellow and former member of Turkish parliament Ayman Erdemir.

John Hannah

June 7 in my opinion was an inspiring performance, a much needed triumph of the spirit of liberal democracy in a Middle East landscape currently inundated with way too much bad news.

For those of us who have watched over the past decade with great dismay the slow drip of Turkey’s democracy being drained away by Erdogan’s creeping Islamism and authoritarianism, we frankly weren’t sure anymore if the Turkish people had this kind of an election in them.

Aykan Erdemir

My take-home message would be that we should not read these elections too much with a progressive, liberal-democratic interpretation. But we should not underemphasize the importance of it either, because ultimately June 7 proved to us that there could be a return from competitive authoritarianism, where an incumbent with huge advantages nevertheless can suffer a relative defeat in the ballot box.

I have always argued that Erdogan’s policies and politics cannot be interpreted within the nation-state borders. Erdogan’s policies right from the start have been transnational; it has always been a Muslim Brotherhood-oriented policy, whether in Syria, Jordan, or Egypt. He is a visionary transnationalist politician.”

Ambassador Edelman

Turkey is a deeply polarized society, and the bad news there is that the AKP is the only party that is competitive across the nation.

Erdogan will not see this vote in any way as inhibiting him in creating an executive presidency. …My suspicion is that Erdogan does not want to see a government formed within the 45-day period set by the constitution and would like to see the country go back to elections. He thinks that if he could apply the ‘keep voting until I get the right answer’ standard, there is a chance he will do better in a second election, get at least a governing majority if not the super-majority.

Dr. Harold Rhode, former Turkish and Islamic Affairs expert in the Office of the Secretary of Defense held a more optimistic view cited in a JNS.org article on the Turkish Elections, “noting that he personally knows pro-American and pro-Israel officials “within the senior leadership of all three of the [non-AKP] parties.”

Syrian YPG Fighters capture Tal Abyad  Reuters

Syrian YPG fighters capture Tal-Abyad from ISIS, June 2015. Source: Reuters.

Syrian Kurdish YPG victory at strategic border town of  Tal-Abyad

The second development was the victory by Syrian Kurdish PYG fighters , Christian Assyrian and secular  FSA militias  wresting the strategic border gateway of Tal-Abyad  from  ISIS with support from  US coalition air strikes. This followed the  January 2015 victory in  the siege at the border  city of Kobani. The Syrian PYG, affiliated with the Turkish PKK, a  terrorist group designated by  Turkey, EU and the US, whose leader Abdullah Ocalan is under house arrest in Turkey,  has been assisted  by fighting units of the Iraqi Peshmerga from the adjacent Kurdish Regional Government  (KRG)in northern Iraq.  The third development was the KRG Peshmerga wresting   control  of Kirkuk and its vast  oil field. Kirkuk, as Trofimov noted  is considered  the “Kurdish Jerusalem” .  Not to be outdone by Kurdish compatriots in Syria and Iraq, in mid-May 2015, Iranian Kurdish  Party of Free Life in Kurdistan ( PJAK)  forces in northwestern Iran’s Zagros mountain  fought  Iranian security forces in Mahabad.  Mahabad  was the capital of the short-lived State of Republic  Kurdistan established with Soviet Russian support in  Iran in 1945- 1946.

KRG Delegation meets with resident Obama VO Biden and National Security Council May 2015

Kurdish President Barzani and KRG delegation meet President Obama and VP Biden May 2015.

KRG Meets with President to Free up Arms Deliveries

The KRG quest for independence has been stymied by the Baghdad government of PM Haidar al-Abadi.  The Baghdad  government has not lived up to its agreement reached in December 2014 to provide regular payments to the KRG amounting  to nearly $5.7 billion in exchange for selling 550,000 barrels of oil. The result has been that KRG government  and the 160,000 Peshmerga force have not been paid in months.  More troubling has been the current agreements between the Obama Administration  and  the al-Abadi government for allocation and deliveries of heavy weapons that have not found their way to the highly effective Peshmerga fighting force. This is especially galling given the thousands of Humvees, mobile artillery, anti-tank, main battle tanks and MRAP vehicles abandoned by fleeing Iraqi national security forces in the conquest of Mosul in June 2014 and Ramadi in late May.

A  meeting occurred in Washington in early May 2015 with  KRG President Barzani and senior officials with President Obama, Vice President Biden and members of the National  Security Staff seeking resolution of this impasse.   Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near Policy wrote about this in a May 15, 2015 Al Jazeera, article, “A big win for Kurds at the White House”:

From May 3-8, 2015, Washington D.C. hosted a high-powered delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). KRG President Massoud Barzani was flanked by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, National Security Chancellor Masrour Barzani and Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustapha Sayyid Qadr, among other KRG ministers and officials.  [The delegation was originally scheduled for a five minute meeting with President Obama, instead the session lasted an hour].

In particular, the Kurds complained that Washington has allocated too small a proportion of its $1.6bn Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) assistance to Kurdistan.

Slow and indirect delivery of US weapons systems is a connected concern. Washington has chosen to funnel most weapons shipments via the federal Iraqi Ministry of Defense, the only entity entitled by US law to sign end-user certificates (EUCs) for the weapons.

[…]In reaction to these views, the House Armed Services Committee of the US Congress introduced clauses into the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Pentagon’s budget, in an attempt to protect the Kurds’ fair share of US weapons.

The draft NDAA for Fiscal Year 2016 was amended by congress to include a clause (Section 1223) that named the Peshmerga as one of a number of security forces collectively entitled to “not less than 25 percent” of the annual $715m of US support.

Most controversially the amendment would allow the KRG “as a country” to “directly receive assistance from the United States” if Baghdad failed to meet the aforementioned condition, a clause that sparked security threats from Shia militia leaders against US trainers in Iraq.

Baghdad protested the language, and US Vice President Joe Biden signaled one day before the Kurdish delegation landed that “all US military assistance in the fight against [ISIL] comes at the request of the Government of Iraq and must be coordinated through the Government of Iraq”.

[…]

Instead of trying to force the White House to do Kurdistan’s bidding through pressure politics, Barzani seems to have adopted a longer-term view in his dealings with the US on defense.

Section 1223 did not give the Kurds a great deal – sharing a quarter of US material collectively with Sunni Arab paramilitary recipients – but it would have soured relations with the Obama administration at a critical time.

Israeli Support for an Independent Kurdistan

One  Middle East nation that  supports an independent Kurdistan  is Israel . As exemplified by comments from  Israeli Prime Minister  Netanyahu, Israel supports the creation of an independent Kurdistan in  Iraq.  There is a long connection between the Kurds and the Jewish nation. There is  an estimated 150,000 Kurdish Jewish  population in Israel that has fostered  cultural –linguistic exchanges with Iraqi Kurdistan.  Iraqi and Iranian kurds smuggled Iraqi Jews to freedom via Iran, during the days of the late Shah, to Israel and the West.  Iranian Kurds continued that effort despite  the Islamic republic facilitating the departure of Iranian Jews  via Turkey to reach  Israel.  From the 1950’s to the mid-70’s Israel provided covert military training and  equipment  to Iraqi Kurds  against the Ba’athist regime of the late Saddam Hussein.  That ended with a treaty between the late Shah of Iran and Hussein orchestrated by Henry Kissinger in 1975.  During the 1980’s Hussein took his revenge on Iraqi kurds during the  Iran-Iraq War  in a series of genocidal revenge campaigns including a massive gas attack that killed thousands decimating Kurdish villages.   Israel currently hosts the huge U.S. War Reserve Stock for use in Middle East conflicts. Perhaps, the Obama Administration might relent on the current agreements with the Baghdad government and permit transfers from the US War Reserve Stock   in Israel of much needed weapons, equipment and munitions to the Peshmerga in Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish militias fighting ISIS.  Israel is less than several hundred miles from Erbil.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of supporters cheering Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP.

How Fateful are Israel’s Knesset Elections on March 17th?

Sunday, March 15th, the Voice of Israel (VOI) Global Radio System aired a “National Security” program with Executive Producer and host Dan Diker and guests Dr. Harold Rhode former Pentagon Islamic Affairs expert, Distinguished Gatestone Institute Senior Fellow and Bassem Eid Arab correspondent for VOI. Eid is founder of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. The thought provoking title was “Whom Do Radical Islamists Want as Israel’s Next Prime Minister?

This is a must listen program for all those concerned about Israel’s future in the run up to Tuesday’s March 17th Israeli Knesset elections.  Those elections have more than 20 parties competing for 120 seats. It will pit the current ruling coalition Likud government led by PM Benjamin Netanyahu against the Zionist Union headed by MK Yitzhak Herzog and former Justice Minister of Hatnuah, Tzipi Livni. There is also a new emerging factor. A coalition negotiated following the Knesset elections. It could include a Joint Arab List that might secure upwards of 13 to 15 seats. The Joint Arab List electoral results might possibly bolster the Zionist Union led opposition, including the leftist Meretz party, seeking to be given the nod to form a ruling coalition if selected by Israel President Reuven Rivlin. The VOI will have extensive live and extended coverage of these important Israeli Knesset elections on March 17th.

You may register and listen live to the VOI here.

Overarching this Knesset elections were disclosures this weekend of the U.S. Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee addressing complaints by PM Netanyahu of “foreign country involvement.” This is a reference to reports that the U.S. Administration has funded NGOs engaged in possible anti-Netanyahu “anyone but Bibi” vote campaigns among the country’s Arab and urban Jewish voters. The effort involves former Obama Presidential campaign field operations staff headed by Jeremy Bird of 270 Strategies.   Support has come from major Obama Jewish Democratic contributors and possibly State Department funding of NGOs.  Whether the Administration would prefer a new Israeli government whose policies might materially affect the national security and sovereignty of Jewish nation is at question?

This  Ides of March VOI “National Security” program, is a fascinating and elucidating commentary about the  dynamics of the contending forces in the regional  Muslim communities,  both Shia and Sunni, and  views of the US Administration as an unreliable ally. That is reflected in the views of Saudi -backed Al Arabiya  that gave  high marks to PM Netanyahu for standing up to the threat posed by  the Islamic State,  Iran  and proxies Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad  and Hezbollah. As pointed out by Dr. Rhode, Al Arabiya, strongly endorsed Netanyahu’s address before the Joint Meeting of Congress on March 3rd seeking to obtain a better deal to deter Iran from achieving nuclear hegemony in the region. There is also discussion of Egypt’s President Al-Sisi’s emerging role of importance trying to fashion a Sunni regional coalition of forces, the equivalent of a NATO – type organization to confront IS.  Al-Sisi’s New Year’s speech in  Cairo, before Al Azhar and the Awqfar  Ministry,  espoused reform of underlying Qur’anic doctrine  that has returned to the takfir purist form of Islam emblematic of the apocalyptic IS, a self styled Caliphate. A Caliphate that as Dr. Rhode pointed out may have been fostered originally by Shia Mahdist Iran now ironically engaged in combating IS in Iraq.

Rhode and Diker suggested that if a more compliant Israel government was elected on Tuesday that IS and Hamas cells in the West Bank and Hezbollah with Iran on the Golan might foment possible trouble.  Iran, as noted by Diker and Rhode, is rapidly spreading its hegemony threatening the region from Yemen on the Red Sea, across the Arabian Peninsula to the shores of the Persian Gulf and through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast. An Iran whose nuclear quest may have already triggered nuclear proliferation with Saudi Arabia’s disclosure of a recent nuclear development deal with South Korea.  We found fascinating the discussion among Diker, Rhode and Bassem Eid, astute VOI Arab correspondent, on the internal Israel Arab Muslim divide over the question of whether they would support the United Arab List.

Bassem disclosed the previously not well known fact that 60 percent of Israeli Arab Muslims are more likely to vote for Jewish parties as loyal citizens rather than for the Arab list. The Party’s leaders are more concerned about Israel as an ‘apartheid state’.  They have fashioned seditious relations with Ramallah, Gaza, Damascus and even Tehran and all   enemies of Israel. Bassem also noted that the Palestinians view the Likud government and Netanyahu as more reliable with honoring commitments than prior experiences with both Labor and Kadima governments.  Rhode explained that regional Arabs view favorably the Israeli democratic traditions that Arab Muslim citizens enjoy. He told of the impact of that on the Egyptian body guards of the late President Anwar Sadat when he came to Jerusalem in 1977 to give a speech before the Knesset. They noted, he said, the sharp contrast between the quiet respect paid to President Sadat when he spoke and the vigorous debates in the Knesset chamber that followed his address.  The VOI program offers insights into what might occur Tuesday when Israel votes for the 33rd Knesset.  The comments of these American and Israeli experts raise serious questions about the objectives of the US Administration Vis a vis a P5+1 non-binding deal to facilitate Iran’s nuclear hegemony.

Monday, March 16th, this writer and Mike Bates, co-host of Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio 1330 am WEBY will be interviewed by VOI National Security host Dan Diker. That recorded program will address Obama Administration funding via State Department AID and US Jewish moguls involved with OneVoice, V-15 and the Abraham Fund to get out the anti-Bibi vote in Israel. The program will also delve into controversy surrounding Sen. Cotton’s ‘Iran letter’. That controversy has led to revelations suggesting that  the Administration is striving to establish a  rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran  avoiding Congressional review instead  seeking a  nuclear agreement  by the P5+1 at the UN  via a Security Council resolution.  That could result in lifting more than an estimated $70 billion in UN financial sanctions against Iran held in US banks controlled by the US Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control.  Sunday talk show criticism of the Cotton letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran by Secretary of State Kerry and former Secretary Madeleine Albright on CBS’ Face the Nation were contested by Sen. Cotton who drew attention to the precedent of a non verifiable deal made during the Clinton Administration with North Korea that eventuated in the latter’s creating a nuclear stockpile of weapons 12 years later.

Tuesday, VOI host Diker will join Northwest Florida’s talk radio 1330 am WEBY periodic Middle East Round Table co-hosts Bates and Gordon to report first returns from what many consider the fateful 2015 Knesset elections during 4:00 PM CST (5:00 PM EST) segment of “Your Turn”.

Listen Live here.

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

Czech President tells Organization of Islamic Cooperation to “Go Jump in a Lake”

On the occasion of Israel’s Independence Day, the Czech Republic President, Milos Zeman, gave a speech at the Israel Embassy in Prague. It was  stunning in its clarity regarding Islamic hateful doctrine towards Jews and by inference Christians and virtually all unbelievers  and apostates. Our colleagues at Gates of Vienna (GoV) obtained  a translation of  President Zeman’s remarks. They have since generated an acrimonious and courageous  exchange  with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) who alleged  that Zeman had committed blasphemy by accusing Islam of not being a religion of peace and tolerance. Anything but. Baron Bodissey of GoV said, “He’s the only head of state that I know of who has ever told the OIC to shove off. And he did it so brilliantly.”

Here are excerpts from Zeman’s speech at the Israeli Embassy in Prague published  by GoV in translation from the original Czech, “A Euphemism for Political Cowardice”  :

There are states with whom we share the same values, such as the political horizon of free elections or a free market economy. However, no one threatens these states with wiping them off the map. No one fires at their border towns; no one wishes that their citizens would leave their country. There is a term,political correctness. This term I consider to be a euphemism for political cowardice. Therefore, let me not be cowardly.

It is necessary to clearly name the enemy of human civilisation. It is international terrorism linked to religious fundamentalism and religious hatred. As we may have noticed after 11th of September, this fanaticism has not been focused on one state exclusively. Muslim fanatics recently kidnapped 200 young Christian girls in Nigeria. There was a hideous assassination in the flower of Europe in the heart of European Union in a Jewish museum in Brussels. I will not let myself being calmed down by the declaration that there are only tiny fringe groups behind it. On the contrary, I am convinced that this xenophobia, and let’s call it racism or anti-Semitism, emerges from the very essence of the ideology these groups subscribe to.

So let me quote one of their sacred texts to support this statement: “A tree says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. A stone says, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” I would criticize those calling for the killing of Arabs, but I do not know of any movement calling for mass murdering of Arabs. However, I know of one anti-civilisation movement calling for the mass murder of Jews.

After all, one of the paragraphs of the statutes of Hamas says: “Kill every Jew you see.” Do we really want to pretend that this is an extreme viewpoint? Do we really want to be politically correct and say that everyone is nice and only a small group of extremists and fundamentalists is committing such crimes?

Michel de Montaigne, one of my favorite essayists, once wrote: “It is gruesome to assume that it must be good that comes after evil. A different evil may come.” It started with the Arab Spring which turned into an Arab winter, and a fight against secular dictatorships turned into fights led by Al-Qaeda. Let us throw away political correctness and call things by their true names. Yes, we have friends in the world, friends with whom we show solidarity. This solidarity costs us nothing, because these friends are not put into danger by anyone.

Less than a week following President Zeman’s remarks, Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General of the Saudi-based 57 member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, issued a thundering taqiyya-ladened charge that Zeman’s remarks were blasphemous demanding an apology. GoV on June 7, 2014 posted the OIC ‘s riposte and demand  for President Zeman to recant his remarks, “Promoting Peace, Harmony, and Magic Ponies At The OIC”.  Here are some excerpts:

The Secretary General of the  Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iyad Ameen Madani, expressed his disappointment at the reported statements made by the Czech President, Miloš Zeman, on 26 May 2014 at the Israeli Embassy in Prague that “Islamic ideology rather than individual groups of religious fundamentalists was behind violent actions similar to the gun attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.”

[…]

Mr. Madani stated that the Czech President’s recent statements on Islam are in line with the previous statements the President made in the past, where he linked “believers in the Quran with anti-Semitic and racist Nazis”; and that “the enemy is anti civilization spreading from North Africa to Indonesia, where two billion people live”.

Such statements, said Mr. Madani, not only shows President Zeman’s lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of Islam, but also ignores the historical facts that anti-Semitism and Nazism are a European phenomena through and through. They have no roots in Islam, neither as a religion nor as a history or civilization. The Holocaust did not take place in the area from North Africa to Indonesia, Madani said.

Madani stressed that such statements, issued even before the identification of culprits and motives, are not only irresponsible but also feed the existing stereotyping, incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence against Muslims based on their religion. It also runs contrary to the ongoing global efforts to strengthen dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions to promote multiculturalism, understanding, acceptance and peace.

The Secretary General reiterated that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and that terrorism should not be equated to any race or religion; a stance upheld by all major UN texts on the subject of countering terrorism. He added that the OIC countries share a profound respect for all religions and condemn any message of hatred and intolerance.

It is only appropriate that President Milōs [sic] Zeman apologizes to the millions of Muslims worldwide for his deeply offensive and hateful anti Islam statements.

Mr. Madani urged the international community to take strong and collective measures to promote peace, harmony and tolerant co-habitation among peoples of diverse religious faiths, beliefs, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. He also called upon all political, secular or religious leaders to join hands and strengthen their efforts in promoting dialogue and mutual understanding, which will prove that “what joins us together across religions and regions is far greater than what separates us”.

OIC Secretary General Madani’s statement is what we have come to expect. We wonder how the millennia long documented history of Islamic Jihadist anti-Semitism, documented by Bat Ye’or, Andrew Bostom  among others keeps being avoided by Madani and other luminaries in the Muslim World. Our recent interview with Dr. Harold Rhode gave clear evidence of the  Muslim connection to the Nazi Holocaust. That was evidenced in the June 1941 Farhud in Baghdad fomented by the nefarious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Haj Amin al Husseini, Hitler’s houseguest in Berlin during WWII, Al Husseini was a cheerleader for the destruction of Six Million European Jewish Men, Women and Children. He actively sponsored a Muslim Waffen SS Division engaged in their slaughter. Better to kill these possible immigrants making Europe virtually Judenrein to prevent their emigration to the ancient land of their Jewish forbearers. A land renewed in May 1948 with the declaration of Independence of Israel as a sovereign Jewish nation.

President Zeman issued no apology for his remarks. A subsequent GoV post, “Czech President to the OIC: No Apology”, noted:

The translated excerpt from idNES.cz:

President Miloš Zeman is not going to apologize for his statements in which he linked Islamic ideology with violence. His words were conveyed by his spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček: “President Zeman definitely does not intend to apologize. For the president would consider it blasphemy to apologize for the quotation of a sacred Islamic text.”

Perhaps, President  Zeman had in mind something that occurred in Prague in January 2014, when the newly arrived Palestinian Ambassador, Jamal al Jamal was mortally wounded  as a result of his opening  a booby trapped safe in his new residence. A search of the residence by Czech security revealed discovery of a cache of weapons.  A cache that might have been used for possible terrorist actions in the Czech Republic perhaps targeted its small Jewish community.

Israeli officials should follow Czech President Zeman’s truth telling. After all, Israel tolerates Israeli Arab Muslim like Haneen Zoabi (Balad) supporting a second holocaust by a nuclear Iran and Sheik Raed Salahl head of the northern branch of the Islmaist movement, Hamas inside Israel, who foments riots in Jerusalem seeking declaration of a Salafist Emirate to replace the Jewish nation. A group that Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz  (MK-Likud) proposes banning.  A group he said in a recent Israel National News article  “ that is illegal everywhere except in Israel”.

Baron Bodissey’s final acute observation was:

As far as I am aware, Miloš Zeman is the first Western head of state ever to tell the OIC to go jump in a lake. So this is an historic occasion.

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

Was the Jewish Pogrom in Baghdad on June 1, 1941 a Holocaust Event?

In our June 2014 New English Review interview with Dr. Harold Rhode, we discussed the Farhud, the Nazi influenced pogrom that occurred on the Jewish festival of Shavuot, June 1, 1941, The Future of the Babylonian Jewish Archives.  Note this exchange:

Gordon: During World War II, the Jewish community in what we call Iraq really had a series of horrible experiences.  What was the experience during World War II and who were the persons who were involved?

Rhode:  The British had ruled Iraq and in the mid 1930’s, Iraq was given its independence. It had a king but there was a coup led by a man by the name of Rashid Ali who was working with the Nazis, in cahoots with the Mufti of Jerusalem who was living in Baghdad at the time. The Mufti was also working with Hitler. When Rashid Ali’s forces took over in 1941, there was a pogrom (farhood in Arabic) against the Jews. The Jews up until then never really worried. Yes they had been second class citizens because in the Muslim world, neither Jews nor Christians nor any non-Muslims were allowed to rule over Muslims.

In reality, however, the Jews actually ran much of the Iraqi economy at that time, and were involved in many other activities which helped Iraq run relatively smoothly. … After about six days in 1941 when approximately 180 people were killed, a lot of property was destroyed and many Jews were injured – all of a sudden Jews said: “wait a minute, something is wrong here. Maybe we don’t have a future here.” Iraqi Jews weren’t ardent Zionists at the time. But the farhood really shook them to their very foundations. The State of Israel was declared in 1948, i.e., it was the rebirth of the Jewish state which had existed 2000 years ago.

After Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Arabs – including Iraq – did their utmost to destroy it. Life became almost unbearable for the Jews of Iraq. Especially in Baghdad but in other places in Iraq as well. Kurdistan, however, was a different story. Life was much better for the Jews in Kurdistan which was Northern Iraq.

On the occasion of the 73rd commemoration of the Farhud Ha’aretz published an article raising the question of whether it should be considered a Holocaust event, “Lawyers make case for giving Iraqi Jews Holocaust benefits”.    There is ample evidence of Nazi involvement in the coup by Iraqi strongman Ali Rashid al-Gaylani, the Nazi Foreign ministry, and the German Ambassador to Iraq.  Then there was the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini who was living in Baghdad after he was forced by British Palestinian Mandatory authorities to leave given his role in the Arab riots from 1936 to 1939. prior to the occurrence of the Farhud, for sanctuary in Berlin as Hitler’s house guest during WWII.  Edwin Black chronicled the 1941 Baghdad pogrom and both Nazi and Hussein’s involvement in his 2010 book, The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/rknnKYP5Iqg[/youtube]

See our January 2011 Iconoclast post on Eric Stakelbeck’s interview with author.

The Ha’aretz article presented evidence by experts representing the Farhud victims and surviving families, contested by Israel’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority at the Finance Ministry.  Ha’aretz cites Dr. Yaakov Toby of the University of Haifa, an expert retained by the Authority, saying:

 “Berlin’s affairs were directed toward the European continent, not elsewhere.” He added, “There was no expectation, and certainly no order, from the German government to the Iraqi government to carry out any government activity inside Iraq, and certainly not one of violent incidents or killing of Jews.”

The rebuttal to the Authority’s expert Dr. Toby is based on the investigative research of Professor Yitzchak Kerem, an expert on Spanish and Oriental Jewry.   Ha’aretz notes:

In his professional opinion, he wrote, “The deciding factor in the outbreak of the Farhud was Nazi incitement against Iraq’s Jews, which was carried out by the Nazi regime through the representatives and agents it appointed.”

He draws a firm conclusion. “The Farhud must be seen as an integral part of the Holocaust that the Nazi regime brought on our people.” He calls the Farhud “the Kristallnacht of Iraqi Jewry.”

Here is some of the evidence cited by Ha’aretz of Nazi involvement in the Baghdad pogrom supporting Professor Kerem.

On the devastation wrought by the Farhud, the Ha’aretz article noted:

According to statistics at Yad Vashem, 179 Jews were killed, more than 2,000 wounded, and 50,000 were victims of theft during the Farhud (an ancient word meaning imposing brutal terror on the subjects of a regime). “Terrible acts of cruelty were carried out during the pogrom. Babies, elderly people and women were murdered and their limbs hacked to pieces. Women were raped. Synagogues were damaged and Torah scrolls desecrated,” according to a brief paper in Hebrew about the Farhud at Yad Vashem’s website.

The extent of Nazi involvement in the Farhud revealed:

The historical material includes minutes of a German military discussion, the Nazi foreign ministry’s correspondence, British army intelligence reports and the report of the investigative committee established in Iraq after the pogrom. The Iraqi prime minister, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani; the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini; Adolf Hitler and his book Mein Kampf; the Nazi radio station that broadcast from Berlin and had reception in Iraq; and the fascist youth movement that mirrored Germany’s Hitler Youth all play major roles in the material.

Professor Kerem collected testimonies proving that al-Gaylani’s government had been funded by the Nazis. In a telegram sent on May 21, 1941 from Baghdad, Dr. Grobba, Germany’s ambassador in Iraq, writes that he transferred tens of thousands of gold ingots to al-Gaylani. Alongside that, he gives an update about al-Gaylani’s request for 80,000 more gold ingots and mentions the agreement that was about to be signed between Germany and Iraq, as part of which the Nazis would grant a loan of one million gold ingots to their allies in Baghdad.

Money and propaganda were not the only things the Nazis provided to Baghdad. They also sent weapons to Iraq in an attempt to help the Iraqis fight against a common enemy — the British. Professor Kerem found evidence of that in the archives of Germany’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry. He says that in the minutes of a meeting of the supreme German command from May 7, 1941, it is written that “Hitler decided to assist Iraq in every possible way, including sending arms, ammunition, money and military aid.”

While the German effort failed, before the British returned to install a new government, the Farhud occurred:

Indeed, the German attempt to help the Iraqis fight the British failed On May 29, 1941, after the British reached the gates of Baghdad, al-Gaylani fled from Iraq. The Jews thought that the danger had passed, and on the morning of the Shavuot festival, June 1, 1941, they emerged wearing their holiday clothing to welcome the pro-British ruler, who had returned to Iraq. But Iraqi troops set upon them, and within hours Jews were being attacked all over the city and in other places as well.

“Farhud, ya ummat Muhammad!” (Farhud, O nation of Mohammed!) was the cry of the mob when the signal was given to murder and rob the Jews,” Hela Kargola later said. “Thousands, regardless of gender, age or status, took part in the celebration of slaughter and theft.”

Carol Basri President of the Corporate Lawyering Group, LLC, published a monograph in the Fordham Journal of International Law  in 2002 entitled,   “The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: An Examination of Legal Rights: A Case Study of the Human Rights Violations of Iraqi Jews”. In a section concerning the Farhud in Baghdad, she cited six causes of the rampage drawn from the Official Iraqi Government Report prepared by the British. They appear to support the arguments of Professor Kerem:

First, was the German Legation spreading sustained anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda under the direction of Dr. Fritz Grobba?

Second was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, and his entourage, which accompanied him to Iraq in 1940.

Third, the Report blamed Palestinian and Syrian schoolteachers, installed in every school, which had “poisoned the pupil’s [sic] minds and turned them into instruments of their propaganda. Whenever they perceived that the government was taking any steps against Nazism, they went into action, arousing the students who would then go out in demonstrations and issue harmful manifestos.”

Fourth, the Report blamed the German Arabic-language radio station, which also spread Nazi propaganda (and had an increased effect after Rashid Ali made it legal to listen to the station).

 Fifth, was the Iraqi Broadcasting Station, which over the two months Rashid Ali was in control,” broadcast false reports about misdeeds in Palestine. The broadcasts contained patently inflammatory agitation against Jews and powerful appeals to Nazism.”

Sixth, the Report blamed the Futuwwa and Youth Phalanxes, both pro-Nazi paramilitary groups, which have participated heavily in the Farhud. The Report also laid blame on the hierarchy of the Baghdad Police for its inaction and ordered it brought before a military tribunal.

As Basri noted the British Ambassador could have ordered British forces encamped near Baghdad to quell the two day rampage, but didn’t. Moreover after the Farhud was over, Nazi sentiments were still rampant. She cites Freya Stark who was at the British Embassy, who observed in 1942, Iraq was a “country seething with disguised Nazis and swastikas appearing everywhere (even on the back of my car).” Then Basri cites a British Intelligence report in the same year saying:”whatever the outcome of the war.., the Iraqis will punish the Jews eventually.”  The report noted “fear inspired by Moslem threats” and the fear of Hitler’s upcoming Spring Offensive in the Middle East.

After the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 the Iraqi government moved to deprive Jews of citizenship and passed  national legislation expropriating property including personal possessions. The estimates cited by Basri of property stolen by the Iraqi government ranged from $150 to $200 million and with economic indexing may be in well excess of a billion.  For the Israeli Finance Ministry’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority to suggest that the Farhud wasn’t a Holocaust event would appear too questionable in view of the evidence. The irony is that while Iraq’s Jews were not Zionists at the time of the Farhud, following their repatriation to Israel in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah  in 1950 to 1951, they became highly productive and committed citizens of the Jewish nation.  The repatriation, resettlement and absorption of Iraq’s Jews was paid for by the State of Israel with contributions from world Jewry. No UN or American government funding was involved.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is of  a mass grave of victims of the Farhud, 1941. It is a scan of a page from the book ‘Iraq’, edited by Haim Saadoun, published by the Ministry of Education and the Ben – Zvi, Jerusalem, (5762, 2002) page 17.

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

Iraqi Jewish Archive Stay Extended

Jewish Immigrants from Iraq leaving Lod Airport in 1951

When we interviewed Dr. Harold Rhode, the savior of the Iraqi Jewish archives, he told the story of how he had found them in the water-logged basement of the late Saddam Hussein Mukhabarat in Baghdad in 2003 and arranged for recovery and restoration by the National Archives and Records Agency (NARA) in Washington, DC. In July 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority reached an agreement under international law with the Iraq interim government for return of the restored Jewish archives. We noted:

1815 copy of mystical Zohar source Drew Angere for New York Times

1815 copy of mystical Zohar. Source: Drew Angere for New York Times

An agreement that is controversial as Rhode and others contend that the Hussein’s Mukhabarat stole the property from the Jewish community and that it rightfully should be returned to the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Center in Israel. The Iraqi government contends that the archives may contain important historical information of the origins of the country.

A report by JNS,org today brought a reprieve by the government of Iraq for exhibit of these Iraqi Jewish archives,  “Iraqi Jewish Archive’s U.S. exhibition extended”.

The JNS.org article cited an exchange of letters by the Iraq Ambassador in Washington saying:

Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily said in a statement Wednesday that Iraq “has authorized me to extend the period which the exhibit may remain in the United States.” The exhibit “has led to an increase of understanding between Iraq and United States and a greater recognition of the diverse heritage of Iraq,” he said.

“We look forward to completing the technical aspects of this extension with the Government of the United States within the coming days. Items which were among the material brought to the United States that are not part of the exhibit will return to Iraq in the very near future, as originally agreed,” said Faily.

Following the close of the exhibit in early January 2014, of the archives at the NARA Lawrence F. O’Brien gallery in Washington, DC, it was sent to New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage for an exhibit.

The JNS.org  report noted the comments of representatives of both the Orthodox Union and the American Jewish Committee regarding the ultimate status of the Iraqi Jewish Archives:

The Orthodox Union (OU) welcomed Faily’s announcement of the exhibit’s extension, but said its work on the issue of the archive’s final destination isn’t done.

“The historical and religious value of the Iraqi Jewish Archive materials compel us to ensure that the archive should remain in the United States where it will be easily accessible to all, particularly the Iraqi Jewish community now living in diaspora around the world,” said Nathan Diament, OU’s executive director for public policy. “We will continue to advocate for an appropriate long-term solution for these materials.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international Jewish affairs, said, “Extending the exhibit’s schedule and making it available to other American communities will benefit all who have interest in the history of Iraq’s Jews.”

Dr. Rhode in our NER interview expressed his views as to the ultimate disposition of these restored archives:

The American government considered the archives as property which belonged to Iraq and therefore the International law it has to be returned. However, this was really property stolen by the previous Iraqi governments from the Jews who fled the country, mostly in 1950-51.

The problem is most of this is private property. These were holy books that belonged to individuals. They never belonged to the Iraqi government. When, for example, Iraqi Jews had a Torah made, if you moved to another synagogue, the Torah moved with you. In 1950/51 when most of the Jews left they were not allowed to take this material with them. They were only allowed to take basically a suitcase of clothes, if that, and so the Jews were forced against their wishes to leave the material behind.

If this is private property it belongs to the Jews.  If it can’t be identified then it becomes the property of the exiled Iraqi Jewish community. 85% of the exiled Iraqi Jews and their descendants live in Israel.  As exiled Jews from the Muslim world they property was expropriated.  They have no access to their material.

We had suggested that the Iraqi Jewish Archives should instead be transferred to the Babylonian Jewish Heritage Museum in Israel to be placed on permanent exhibit there.  A significant portion of Iraqi Jews had settled in Israel after their expulsion from Iran in the early 1950’s.

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