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France Passes Palestine State Recognition: Could UN Security Council be Next Stop?

In a majority vote, the French National Assembly passed a  resolution  for symbolic recognition of Palestine statehood.  This adds France to a list of EU members, Sweden, Ireland,  the UK, and Spain whose Parliaments have passed similar resolutions.  Another such vote is pending in Denmark, while the European Parliament has scheduled a debate and possible vote on December 18, 2014. France24 provided this report on the vote in Paris, “French legislators vote in favor of recognizing Palestinian state”:

The non-binding, but highly symbolic National Assembly vote urges the government to recognize Palestine as state, reflecting growing European impatience with the stalled Middle East peace process.

MPs voted 339 to 151 in favor of the motion calling upon the French government to recognize the state of Palestine “as an instrument to gain a definitive resolution of the conflict.”

Reporting from the National Assembly shortly after the vote, FRANCE 24’s Armen Georgian noted that while the motion was expected to pass, the number of votes in favor revealed “a very clear majority” of French lawmakers supported the move by the ruling Socialist Party.

The vote came despite the opposition from the centre-right UMP party, whose newly-elected leader, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, urged his party members to vote against the motion.

France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities and right-wing lawmakers have criticized the ruling Socialist Party of trying to woo Muslim voters.

The Voice of America account of today’s National Assembly vote  indicted that 60 percent of French polled support Palestinian statehood.

This latest EU member declaration vote for Palestine statehood has been criticized by Israel and praised by the PA. France24 reported:

The Israeli embassy denounce[ed] the move as harmful to prospects of peace in the region.

“Israel believes that the vote in the National Assembly… will reduce the possibility of achieving a deal between Israel and the Palestinians,” according to an Israeli statement released shortly after the vote. “Decisions of this nature harden the Palestinian position and send the wrong message to the people and the leaders of the region,” it added.

The Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, welcomed the vote and expressed its “gratitude” to French lawmakers.

“We call on the French government to translate its parliament’s vote into action,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior leader in the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement.

“We wish to express our gratitude to the members of the French parliament for adopting a resolution on the side of justice and human dignity,” she said. “For peace to prevail, support for the two-state solution must be more than lip service.”

 This is all part of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestine 194 Campaign that has garnered  formal recognition from more than 130 members of the UN General  Assembly, where the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has a controlling vote bloc.  Our European source in Geneva reports possible moves by the Hollande government to introduce formal statehood recognition before the UN Security Council this month, not waiting for the outcome of European Parliament vote on their resolution in Strasbourg.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracy in our NER interview ,published in the current December edition, warned about  what the Administration might do at any scheduled UN Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood. Note  his responses  on this question  by this writer and Mike Bates of 1330AM WEBY in Pensacola, Florida:

Gordon:  The Palestinians have campaigned at the UN and elsewhere for Palestinian state recognition. We have seen votes in Sweden, UK, Spain, something that may even occur in France and the European Parliament. Is that realistic or is it simply just symbolic?

Schanzer:  It’s symbolic for now. However, the Palestine 194 Campaign does pose a threat to Israel long-term. It is not just that the Palestinians would declare a state or gain recognition of statehood. The problem is as this campaign continues to gain steam you are going to see countries that are at least potentially going to impose sanctions on Israel. Why? Because they disagree with where Israel’s borders are, or that Israel’s policies continue in the West Bank in terms of its maintaining control of certain territory that the Palestinians claim as their own. There is also the threat of an ICC, the International Criminal Court action that the Palestinians have been promoting. If the Israelis don’t basically bend or buckle to their territorial demands, that Israel could find itself fighting off an international lawsuit. There is significant concern on the part of the Israelis about where this is going. I think it’s undeniable at this point that the Palestine 194 Campaign is gaining steam.

Bates:  Can the United Nations recognize Palestine as a state without the approval of the Security Council?

Schanzer:  They already have two years ago at the General Assembly. It was roughly 130 countries that recognized the state of Palestine; however, it was only a symbolic vote because it did not make Palestine the 194th country. PA has not backed down. They continue to push the issue. They continue to work with sympathetic countries to have internal votes that would recognize the State of Palestine. This would entail an upgrade of the diplomatic mission and perhaps other perks and agreements on how to deal with the Israelis moving forward. While, it wouldn’t make the state of Palestine, so to speak, the 194th country, it would give the Palestinians more facts on the ground and leverage to work with.

Bates:  The General Assembly vote was purely symbolic. It didn’t admit Palestine as a member state to the UN. Does that require approval of the Security Council?

Schanzer:  It does. The Security Council would be absolutely necessary to make it the 194th country. One of the things that Jeffrey Goldberg’s [The Atlantic] article noted was a one line that was very disconcerting. That was that the United States may be considering lowering the shield, as they call it, at the UN Security Council so that they might abstain on a vote about Palestinian statehood as opposed to vetoing it, which they have in the past.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius smiling during National Assembly Debate on Palestine Statehood resolution. December 2, 2014, Source AP.

Qatar Supplying U.S. Stinger missiles to the Taliban

Yesterday, on The Lisa Benson Show, that I hosted, we heard from two guests, about the extraordinary influence that tiny energy rich Gulf Emirate of  Qatar has in the Obama Administration . That was reflected in their  role facilitating the transfer of the five top Taliban Commanders to Qatar from Guantanamo in a swap for freeing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  A swap fraught with real dangers to American forces still in Afghanistan according to comments from Maj. Gen Paul Vallely, renowned Fox News  senior military analyst and Dr. David Weinberg, senior fellow in the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Shoot_down_of_Soviet_helicopter_by_Mujahedin_fighter_armed_with_Stinger_missilePresident Obama’s hoped  for euphoria  with the announcement of Bergdahl’s release with his parents in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday, May 31, 2014  were dashed  in the firestorm  of  adverse Congressional   and public criticism.  That according to Gen. Vallely   has brought into question the legality and wisdom of the  President’s decision to exchange  high risk Taliban commanders for Bergdahl.  As we noted in recent Iconoclast posts many of Bergdahl’s  platoon comrades considered him a deserter from their forward operating base in Eastern Afghanistan in late June 2009.  On the  Lisa Benson Radio Show Gen. Vallely gave the stunning news that two Afghan police has left the 25th Infantry brigade operating base at virtually the same time as Bergdahl.

Yesterday, veteran investigative journalist and author Kenneth Timmerman  brought into serious question the duplicity of the Qataris in excerpt published in the New York Post  of a forthcoming  new book by him,  Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Ben­ghazi” (Broadside Books),  How the Taliban got their hands on modern US missiles.  This adds one more  clear demonstration of the myopia by the Obama West Wing demonstrating  the blow-back from Qatar where we have invested over a half billion to build the Al Uedid Combat Air Command  and Central Command  logistical supply complex to  support our troops in Afghanistan.  It is no wonder that Dr. Weinberg’s colleague at FDD, Dr. Jonathan Schanzer has called  in the Qatari, in a Politco article both a “Frenemy” and an “ATM for the Muslim Brotherhood” in the Middle East and North Africa. With the Timmerman excerpt on how US stingers supplied the Qataris found their way to Afghanistan for the Taliban to shoot down a Chinook CH-47 helicopter in 2012, we have further evidence of why the release of those five top Taliban commanders and war criminals, by President Obama may further embolden Congressional investigative oversight of these dangerous Administration national security policies.

New York Post, June 8, 2014

How the Taliban got their hands on modern US missiles

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Kenneth R. Timmerman

In his new book, “Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi” (Broadside Books), writer Kenneth R. Timmerman explains how the US government’s efforts to arm the Libyan rebels backfired, flooding weapons into Syria, and as he ­reveals here, Afghanistan:

The Obama administration isn’t only giving the Taliban back its commanders — it’s giving them weapons.

Military records and sources reveal that on July 25, 2012, Taliban fighters in Kunar province successfully targeted a US Army CH-47 helicopter with a new generation Stinger missile.

They thought they had a surefire kill. But instead of bursting into flames, the Chinook just disappeared into the darkness as the American pilot recovered control of the aircraft and brought it to the ground in a hard landing.

The assault team jumped out the open doors and ran clear in case it exploded. Less than 30 seconds later, the Taliban gunner and his comrade erupted into flames as an American gunship overhead locked onto their position and opened fire.

us helocopter

The Taliban took out a US Chinook helicopter in 2012 with a Stinger missile signed out by the CIA around the time of the attack. Photo: Reuters

The next day, an explosive ordnance disposal team arrived to pick through the wreckage and found unexploded pieces of a missile casing that could only belong to a Stinger missile.

Lodged in the right nacelle, they found one fragment that contained an entire serial number.

The investigation took time. Arms were twisted, noses put out of joint. But when the results came back, they were stunning: The Stinger tracked back to a lot that had been signed out by the CIA recently, not during the anti-Soviet ­jihad.

Reports of the Stinger reached the highest echelons of the US command in Afghanistan and became a source of intense speculation, but no action.

Everyone knew the war was winding down. Revealing that the Taliban had US-made Stingers risked demoralizing coalition troops. Because there were no coalition casualties, government officials made no public announcement of the attack.

My sources in the US Special Operations community believe the Stinger fired against the Chinook was part of the same lot the CIA turned over to the Qataris in early 2011, weapons Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department intended for anti-Khadafy forces in Libya.

They believe the Qataris delivered between 50 and 60 of those same Stingers to the Taliban in early 2012, and an additional 200 SA-24 Igla-S surface-to-air missiles.

Qatar now is expected to hold five Taliban commanders released from Guantanamo for a year before allowing them to go to Afghanistan.

But if we can’t trust the Qataris not to give our weapons to the Taliban, how can we trust them with this?

RELATED ARTICLE: Karachi airport attack: Taliban ‘trying to hijack plane’ in assault that left dozens dead

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

The Military Option may be the Only Way to Stop Iran’s Nuclear Program

The other night I attended a Shiva (Memorial Service) for a revered member of the local Jewish community here in Pensacola. During the collation that followed I was approached by two acquaintances, and asked for my views on the US engagement with Iran.  There was a lunch and learn session sponsored by the local Federation the following day on the Iran P5+1 interim agreement to halt its nuclear program. In response to this question from my acquaintances, I said I believed in the reverse of the Reagan doctrine, i.e., “verify then trust’”. I cautioned one of my acquaintances how can you trust a country whose Islamic extremist rulers never miss an opportunity to spout propaganda to wipe the Zionist enterprise off the map of the world.

What I also expressed is that the US and the West has been consistently deceived about the Iranian  nuclear program and intentions. Witness the infamous National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that noted Iran’s temporary stoppage of their nuclear program when the US and Coalition forces invaded Iraq in 2003. Or the trumpeting by current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that he fooled the West in the period from 2003 to 2005 when he was the Islamic Regime’s  chief nuclear  negotiator.  “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.  Perhaps multiple times given what has been revealed in the wake of the roll back in sanctions, part and parcel of the P5+1 agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

US and EU Sanctions may have worked to bring Iran to the table given estimates that the Iranian economy suffered a 1% drop in GDP, and nearly a halving of its oil revenues.  While the Obama Administration said that sanctions relief for Iran was in the neighborhood of $6 to 7 Billion, according to independent estimates by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) it may exceed $20 billion.  Let’s take one example, the lifting of auto trading sanctions.  Mark Dubowitz and Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of FDD in an Iran Sanctions Analysis noted:

The White House fact sheet on the JPA notes that this relief, plus the easing of “certain sanctions” on gold, other precious metals and petrochemicals, will provide Tehran with “approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.” Of those funds, the White House projects that easing auto industry sanctions will yield only $500 million over the six-month interim period.

Note what Dubowitz and Schanzer reported happened after the lifting of the auto trade sanctions:

Shortly after the signing of the Joint Plan of Action, Iran held an international automotive conference attended by representatives from German, Indian, Japanese and South Korean auto companies. France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault SA have expressed optimism that they will be able to reap significant benefits in the coming months. A spokeswoman for Renault recently said, “Renault is satisfied by the signing of this accord… If the sanctions are lifted, our activity which is currently slowed could return to its normal course.” For Renault, this “normal course” could mean the sale of approximately 100,000 vehicles in Iran, while for Peugeot it could mean more than 450,000 vehicles.

The bottom line FDD estimate of auto trading relief in the six month time frame of the P5+1 is:

Even if Iran’s auto sector contributed only ten percent of the sector’s previous $50 billion annual contribution in GDP to Iran’s overall economy, that would be worth $2.5 billion in additional economic activity over the next six months not included in the White House’s calculations.

By helping to revive the auto industry, the most important economic sector after energy, the Obama administration may end up providing far greater economic benefits to the Iranian government, and to the IRGC, than previously believed.

Yesterday, the National Journal (NJ) drew attention to a new push for strengthened sanctions by US Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), “Iran Sanctions Bill is Coming”. This despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and  Banking Chairman Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) acceding to White House and Secretary of State Kerry requests  to a ‘pause’ in new sanctions  legislation  until we see what eventuates in the P5+1 six month interim discussions with Iran.  The NJ noted:

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois told reporters on Tuesday that he’s optimistic an Iran sanctions bill will come out soon and that members involved can push it forward.

Kirk said that the timing of a bill rollout and any consideration in the Senate will be up to his top Democratic partner on sanctions, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and of course Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“The timing will be up to Harry and Bob,” he said. “It’s coming up.”

[…]

Kirk sought to debunk perceptions that intense Obama administration lobbying has had a chilling effect on interested members, particularly Democrats.

Morton Klein and Dr. Daniel Mandel of The Zionist Organization of America in an Algemeiner op ed argued  in the opposite direction  that the P5+1  deal  and  a restart with strengthening of sanctions will simply afford time for Iran to reach nuclear breakout, “With Geneva, Military Force Only Remaining Option to Stop Iranian Nukes”.

Their principal argument was:

The Geneva interim agreement permits Iran to retain intact all the essential elements of its nuclear weapons program.

Klein and Mandel cite Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton Bernard Lewis who said, “MAD, mutual assured destruction … will not work with a religious fanatic. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement.”

They concluded:

It will be extremely hard now for President Obama to credibly threaten military action: if he failed to honor his red line and take military action when Syria actually murdered thousands with chemical weapons. Iran is unlikely to take seriously any red line he might lay down now on building nuclear weapons. Yet he should do so without delay. But even if he does, there is now probably no way Iran can be prevented from going nuclear, except through military action.

Even Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a recent meeting in the Gulf Emirates indicated that diplomacy alone would not bring Iran to heel, without the equivalent of a steel fist in a velvet glove approach.

The realities of how rapier like military action can work against rogue nuclear powers is reflected in a Wall Street Journal Letter to the editor  today from the writer,  Bill Bloomfield of Manhattan Beach California,  “What’s Worked for Limiting Nukes?”:

What worked? Limited military action, in the case of Syria and Iraq. While both countries are still a hotbed of violence and political strife, fortunately they don’t have nuclear weapons to make matters much worse. Their reactors were destroyed by Israel. In the case of Ukraine, economic strangulation worked. The arms race bankrupted the Soviet Union, leading to its breakup. The newly independent Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, all former Soviet republics, gave up their nuclear weapons.

What didn’t work? Threats of economic retaliation, in the cases of India and Pakistan, and negotiation, in the case of North Korea. In 1994, the Clinton administration traded aid for a North Korean promise to give up its nuclear activity—a promise it did not keep. If history is our guide, it will take more than diplomacy to keep Iran free of nuclear weapons.

I hope this answers my acquaintances in Pensacola and across America asking why military force coupled with improved sanctions may be the only option that brings the Islamofanatics in Tehran to heel.  Israel demonstrated that in both Iraq (Operation Opera 1981) and Syria (Operation Orchard 2007). Despite initial criticism, the US subsequently showed begrudging respect. That is not lost on the worried Saudis and the Gulf Emirates, critical of US policies in the roiling Middle East.

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