Posts

Florida Governor Signs Groundbreaking pro-Israel Legislation into Law

On March 10, 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed SB 86 into law prohibiting the State Board of Administration from investing in companies that boycott Israel.  Florida became the third state to pass this ground breaking anti-BDS legislation during the current legislative cycle across the country. In a statement released to the media, Scott said:

I am proud to sign this important bill into law and join the Florida Legislature in sending this message: the State of Florida will not waver in our support of Israel, one of our greatest allies and friends. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement is fueled by anti-Semitism, and has no place in Florida or any part of the world that values freedom and democracy. The State of Florida stands firm with our ally Israel and will not support those that participate in this intolerant movement.

When the State Senate unanimously passed the anti-BDS legislation on January 21, 2016, we wrote:

The ‘scrutinized companies” Florida legislation would:

Require the State Board of Administration to identify all companies that are boycotting Israel or are engaged in a boycott of Israel in which the public fund owns direct or indirect holdings by a specified date; requiring the public fund to create and maintain the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List that names all such companies; prohibiting a state agency or local governmental entity from contracting for goods and services that exceed a specified amount if the company has been placed on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.

The legislation is modeled on one that passed in South Carolina, last session in Columbia, spearheaded by State Rep. Alan Clemmons. It has the support of the Israel Allies Foundation in Washington, which is seeking to see it adopted in other jurisdictions across the US.

Listeners to the weekly Lisa Benson Show that airs Sunday on KKNT 960 The Patriot out of Phoenix heard South Carolina Rep. Clemmons discuss the model legislation during an interview on December 6, 2015. LISTEN to the podcast here.

When the Florida House passed the companion measure on February24, 2016, Israel Allies Foundation executive director, E.J. Kimball noted:

We applaud the State of Florida for making Senate Bill 86 the law. Florida’s new anti-discrimination/boycott law is good as a matter of economic policy, public policy and foreign policy. This is a great accomplishment for the pro-Israel community, and a resounding defeat for the hatred and bigotry of the BDS Movement.”

We salute Senator Negron, Representative Workman, Representative Moskowitz and Representative Rader for their leadership and public service. It is important to note the BDS Movement’s use of dishonesty and anti-Semitic insinuations about Jewish money and control in opposing the passage of this legislation.

IAF is proud to have played a leading role in this victory. The passage of this law is the result of more than two years of legal research, policy development and educational resourcing by our experts.

Many different communities came together in order to ensure the success of this legislation. It is important to note the particularly important roles played by Stand With Us, Chabad of Tallahassee, the Jewish Community Relations Councils, and the hundreds of churches and Christian faith leaders around the State of Florida. These groups led the effort by delivering terrific community engagement in support of the campaign. The timing and importance of this victory cannot be overstated. It was truly an honor for IAF to contribute our expertise and educational resources to this effort.

Republican presidential hopeful Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio issued this statement when the Florida house passed the anti-BDS legislation:

I would like to commend the Florida Legislature for passing this law to ensure that Florida’s tax dollars do not contribute to the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and bigoted Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. This movement significantly threatens peace in the Middle East and directly harms the economies of Florida and the United States.

It is more important than ever that we stand united with our close ally, Israel, and oppose the discriminatory labeling guidelines recently issued by the European Commission on both the state and federal levels. Recently, Senator Wyden and I introduced a Senate bill opposing the new European Union labeling guidelines and sent a message to the world that America will not be silent in the face of this form of anti-Semitism.

I encourage other states to take up this issue and help bring this kind of moral clarity to Washington, D.C.

We hope that other states will take up this anti-BDS legislation supported by Senator Rubio and others in Congress.  Congratulations to the tireless staff of the Israel Allies Foundation involved in development and advocacy for this important legal bulwark supporting the economy of the only democratic ally of the US in the Middle East, Israel.

RELATED ARTICLE: More Than One Million Jobs and $1 Billion in Tax Cuts in Florida

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

Obama’s War Against Pro-Israel Lobby Group AIPAC

In today’s edition of the New York Times is an article revealing the widening rift between President Obama and pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC. He is angered at an affiliate  running multi-million ads against his signature foreign policy legacy, the Iran nuclear pact or JCPOA, “Fears of Lasting Rift as Obama Battles Pro-Israel Group on Iran.”

He is apparently taking this very personally as reflected in his American University speech  with references to his bête noire,  Israeli PM Netanyahu, and unnamed “lobbyists” running multi-million ads painting him as the contemporary send up to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, appeasing Hitler at Munich in 1938.  The Times has more on the President’s contentious meeting with 20 American Jewish leaders at the White House and the extensive efforts to  brief ad answer questions to New York U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, who ultimately came out rejecting it, unlike his upstate colleague, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand gave her commitment, although with some ostensible misgivings.  Here are some examples:

President Obama had a tough message for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, the powerful pro-Israel group that is furiously campaigning against the Iran nuclear accord, when he met with two of its leaders at the White House this week. The president accused Aipac of spending millions of dollars in advertising against the deal and spreading false claims about it, people in the meeting recalled.

So Mr. Obama told the Aipac leaders that he intended to hit back hard.

The next day in a speech at American University, Mr. Obama denounced the deal’s opponents as “lobbyists” doling out millions of dollars to trumpet the same hawkish rhetoric that had led the United States into war with Iraq. The president never mentioned Aipac by name, but his target was unmistakable.

[…]

“It’s somewhat dangerous, because there’s a kind of a dog whistle here that some people are going to hear as ‘it’s time to go after people,’ and not just rhetorically,” said David Makovsky, a former Middle East adviser for the Obama administration and now an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. But Aipac’s claims, he said, had been just as overheated. “There’s almost a bunker mentality on both sides.”

[…]

“This has nothing to do with anybody’s identity; this is a policy difference about the Iranian nuclear program,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “We don’t see this as us versus them,” Mr. Rhodes added, predicting that the White House and Aipac would work closely in the future on other matters, including Israeli security. “This is a family argument, not a permanent rupture.”

Mr. Schumer’s Courting and AIPAC’s  media war:

[AIPAC]  had sent 60 activists to Mr. Schumer’s office to lobby him last week, while Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, an offshoot Aipac formed to run at least $25 million in advertising against the deal, ran television spots in New York City. As Mr. Schumer deliberated, he spoke with Aipac leaders, but also with representatives of the pro-Israel group J Street, which supports the deal.

The White House courted Mr. Schumer heavily even though officials always suspected he would oppose the agreement, they said Friday. “I don’t know if the administration’s been outlobbied,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Thursday before Mr. Schumer’s announcement. “We certainly have been outspent.”

Besides individual meetings with Mr. Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Wendy R. Sherman, the chief negotiator, Mr. Schumer had three hourlong meetings with members of the negotiating team, who answered 14 pages of questions from him.

Mr. Schumer hashed out further details with Mr. Kerry, Ms. Sherman and Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz in a recent dinner at the State Department. Mr. Obama, in the White House meeting with Aipac leaders, sharply challenged the group after one of its representatives, Lee Rosenberg, a former fund-raising bundler for Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, said the administration was characterizing opponents of the deal as warmongers, according to several people present, who would speak about the private meeting only on the condition of anonymity. The meeting included some 20 leaders of other Jewish organizations.

Then there was the Obama full court Press with AIPAC after his trip to Africa:

The friction between Mr. Obama and Aipac over the Iran deal has been building for months. Last week, as Mr. Obama made his way back from Africa on Air Force One, White House officials learned that Aipac would be flying 700 members from across the country to Washington to pressure their members of Congress to reject the deal. Mr. Obama’s team asked to brief the group at the White House, and was told instead to send a representative to the downtown Washington hotel where the activists were gathering before their Capitol Hill visits, according to people familiar with the private discussions.

Ms. Sherman; Adam J. Szubin, the Treasury official who handles financial sanctions; and Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, all made presentations to the group, but were barred from taking questions to further explain it. White House officials said they were told from the start there would be no questions, while Aipac supporters said that they would have allowed questions but that there was no time.

Whatever the case, Mr. Obama took offense and later complained at the White House to Aipac leaders that they had refused to allow Ms. Sherman and other members of his team to confront the “inaccuracies” being spread about the agreement, leaving him to defend the deal to wavering lawmakers who had been fed misinformation about it.

President Obama has arrogated to himself the dismissal of any and all critics of his foreign policy legacy. He has gone out of his way to criticize pro-Israel AIPAC’s affiliate, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, running video ads portraying him as an appeaser in the mold of Neville Chamberlain at Munich promoting the Iran nuclear pact as cutting off the Islamic regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon for ten years.

Experts like David Albright from the Washington, DC -based Institute for Science and Technology told Congress that it is more likely less than a few months not the suggested one year at a ten year sunset in the JCPOA. Moreover there is increasing evidence that the agreement has serious flaws and is being flaunted by the Islamic Republic even before Congress votes to accept or reject in mid-September. Witness the comments of Wendy Sherman at a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week that she had only looked at drafts of the IAEA side deals. Then on the same day there was a closed door briefing by IAEA director general Akiya Amano to a bi-partisan group of Senators and Representatives during which he said they couldn’t release the confidential memos with Iran dealing investigation of prior military developments. Many Congressional members came away with a distinct impression that the so-called robust intrusive inspection regime was doubtful. At the same Banking Committee hearings, FDD’s executive director Marc Dubowitz testified that the snap back sanctions if Iran was caught cheating on a sneak out to a nuclear weapon were illusory at best.

Iran sent controversial Quds Force Commander Soleimani to Moscow to meet Russian President Putin and close ally Defense Minister Gen Shogui to speed up deliveries of the S-300 advanced air defense system violating both his travel bans and UNSC Resolution 1929 banning purchases of conventional weapons and missile technology. That was less than 10 days after the pact was announced.

Thus for President Obama to single out AIPAC as warmongering “lobbyists” in his American U speech was churlish and gratuitous set against the threats and violations by the Islamic regime. No wonder after extensive briefings and questions of the Obama negotiating team, NY Sen. Schumer, future Senate Democrat leader, came out and said he was opposed to the Iran deal.

220px-Humpty_Dumpty_Tenniel(1)This Times comment from Malcolm Hoenlein of the umbrella COPMAJO sums up the widening rift with Obama over his characterization of AIPAC and other groups opposing the Iran nuclear pact: “Words have consequences, especially when it’s authority figures saying them, and it’s not their intent, perhaps, but we know from history that they become manipulated,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, repeating a concern he had raised directly with Mr. Obama during the closed-door session. “Of all political leaders,” Mr. Hoenlein added, “he certainly should be the most sensitive to this.”

That reminds us of the exchange between Alice and Humpty Dump from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass:”When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.””The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

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

Rabbi Praises Anti-Israel, Anti-America Noam Chomsky

Rabbi Isabel de Koninck

Rabbi Isabel de Koninck

My colleague, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, founder of Z Street and national correspondent for The Jewish Press, demonstrates in this article why progressive rabbis at college Hillel chapters are leading this generation of Jewish college students, astray. Witness the honorary degree given to Noam Chomsky at the June 12, 2015 commencement at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Drexel handed out 14 honorary degrees, including Chomsky. He was one of several honorees who spoke at a number of campus ceremonies.  According to the Drexel announcement Chomsky received his honorary degree as “professor emeritus at MIT, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician and political commentator.” The Drexel Hillel executive director and campus rabbi, Rabbi Isabel de Koninck, posted on her Facebook page about being in the presence of Chomsky. de Koninck exclaimed: “That’s me with Chomsky and President Fry!”  A former Drexel Hillel student cited by Marcus said:

A representative of the Jewish community should probably not be in a photo op with him. It is a bit disturbing that a figurehead of the Jewish community would allow herself to be next to him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some students felt alienated and more hesitant to be involved in the organization after seeing such a photo.

de Koninck is an alumna of Brandies U, received her ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, was a Wexner Fellow and is a board member of the Reconstruction Rabbinical Association.

Chomsky originally hailed from a Philadelphia Jewish family, where his father was a noted Hebrew linguist and Hebrew school administrator; his mother came from an avowed leftist anarchist background. Chomsky was fortunate to have been educated at the University of Pennsylvania where he received in rapid order over the period from 1944 to 1950 a BA, MA and PhD before settling down as a cognitive linguist at MIT. He is a linguist who adhered to an environmental / behavioral model of how speech developed and disputes the view that speech was genetically determined. Despite being the author of 100 books, many of them anti-war, anti-American, anti-Israel and socialist/anarchist tracts. The New York Times Magazine did a profile on him that revealed his biggest problem at the time was estate planning. He had made a fortune from sales of his books published by the progressive London-based Pluto Press. Chomsky came to the fore in 1967 at the peak of the Vietnam anti-war movement as an advocate of the New Left, from which he made a career giving college lectures and receives honoraria.

Marcus notes some of Chomsky’s extreme views.

On Israel:

He has called the Jewish State such a consistent and extreme violator of human rights “that you hardly have to argue about it.” For that reason, he claims, U.S. military aid to Israel is in direct violation of U.S. Law. He also contends that peace proposals made by Hamas have been more “forthcoming” and sound than any proposed by Israel.

Although he is distressed that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) Movement has not yet been successful, he is very supportive of it.

On America’s foreign wars and policies:

Chomsky also denied there was proof of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and said the U.S. attack on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan would justify a retaliation scenario in which “Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.”

Also, according to Chomsky, the United States is not a democracy; it is a “plutocracy” in which most citizens are disenfranchised.

12 Years ago, on a rainy night in November 2003 in New Britain, Connecticut, I witnessed the award of a $50,000 honorarium presented to Chomsky  then President of Central Connecticut State University, who subsequently resigned in March 2004 over charges of plagiarism and fiscal misappropriations. I was there in the presence of the Hillel director and students from the nearby University of Hartford. Also present was a fellow Army Intelligence reserve officer and high school history faculty member, Richard Bruneau. At the time CCSU was notoriously “occupied” by pro-Palestinian and anti-Iraq war activists, including a local Chomsky acolyte, distinguished university professor emeritus Norton Mezvinsky.

We witnessed a succession of speakers queuing up at a microphone excoriating the US for the “unlawful” invasion of Iraq, and Israel as a colonial power occupying Palestinian lands. This despite the Jewish nation defending its citizens in the midst of a bloody Intifada.  I recall remarking to Bruneau at this convocation at CCSU   it reminded me of the images of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies. Except that those participating in the adulation for Chomsky were community pro-Palestinian anti-Israel and anti-War leftists supported by CCSU faculty and its President.  The sense of that occasion was caught in Bruneau’s report on the Chomsky ‘honor’ in a Frontpage magazine article, “College Pres Cheers Chomsky”:

On Tuesday night at Central Connecticut State University, a capacity crowd filled Welte Auditorium to honor Noam Chomsky, touted as “one of the world’s most distinguished scholars” and a “noted foreign policy critic.” A standing ovation and resounding applause greeted Chomsky as CCSU President Richard Judd deemed his appearance a “special night” for venerating “one of the greatest intellectuals” of the last two centuries.

I attended wondering why taxpayers should subsidize reverential treatment for a man who has provided sustenance for Holocaust deniers and who blames America for virtually every international calamity of the past 100 years. Moreover, why pay homage to an anti-American viper who has characterized the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as less vile than American air strikes?

However, I left thinking that maybe Chomsky should have his own television show. The exposure would destroy his credibility, and we could bury his reputation right along with the other enemies of civilization like Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Fidel Castro, whom he has endorsed.

Fast forward to June 2015 and the Drexel University’s honorary doctorate bestowed on Chomsky and the problem of misguided Hillel leadership.  You may recall the Swarthmore ‘free Hillel’ episode that we posted in December 2013, “Defining Moment: Hillel International Confronts Swarthmore College Chapter on Zionism”.   Swarthmore College is a member of the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.  The kerfuffle concerned the challenge by the college chapter to the standards imposed by Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut.  We wrote:

The confrontation between the Hillel Chapter at elite Swarthmore College near Philadelphia and Fingerhut over the chapter’s so-called Open Hillel policy of presenting speakers delegitimizing Israel marks a new and potentially important development for this Jewish campus organization.

We concluded:

Given our exposure to problems on U.S. campuses over a decade, we applaud what Fingerhut at Hillel International is doing.  We presume that he has the backing of the principal funder of Hillel International programs, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Let us hope Fingerhut’s arrival as President of Hillel International isn’t too late to reign in anti-Zionist efforts like the Swarthmore Open Hillel initiative on many US college campuses.

With the Drexel Chomsky honor, it would appear that more ‘missionary work’ is required by both Fingerhut and the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia to combat demonization of Israel by the Jewish campus group chapters across America. The example of this growing problem with Hillel is chronicled in our series of articles on the anti-Zionist environment at UCIrvine. See in our June 2015 edition: “How One Southern California Jewish Federation Undermines Student Zionism at a State University.”

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

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in trouble over anti-Israel appointee?

On Monday there was an expose of the well regarded father of Ms. Samar Ali an accomplished American Muslim appointee of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. The expose published in Frontpage Magazine concerned Samar’s father, Dr. Subhi  Ali, an esteemed member of the local and state medical community, who practices in Waverly,Tennessee, “Samar Ali: Her Father’s Organization Wants to Destroy Israel”.

Dr. Ali is Chairman of The Jerusalem Fund in Washington, DC, a pro-Palestinian anti-Israel NGO promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Jewish State of Israel seeking its destruction. David James, the author of the expose has limned his sources, the disclosures of which are sure to cause headaches for both Tennessee Gov. Haslam and Bill Hagerty the State Commissioner of Economic and Community Development. According to sources in Tennessee, Commissioner Hagerty, where Ms. Ali heads a state international trade office, is fighting the possibility of losing her talents and Middle East financial connections. Perhaps it may be intimidation from Muslim Advocacy groups who have penetrated the Haslam Administration Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Samar Ali(1)

Samar Ali, Director TN Trade Department of Economic & Community Development

Back in June of 2012, we posted on Ms. Ali’s impressive background. She was the first American Muslim student council President at Vanderbilt University, a graduate of its Law School, and a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration.  She was also an associate at a Washington, DC law firm with a client list that included major Saudi and Emirate financiers with a specialization in the growing practice of Shariah compliant finance.

We noted the following in our post on Ms. Ali’s appointment.

In mid- May 2012 Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam appointed Samar Ali, a former White House fellow and member of the international Washington, DC – based law firm of Lovells & Hogan, LLC as international director of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The Nashville Post noted this in a May 12, 2012 article about Ms. Ali’s appointment:

Ali, who is from Waverly, will serve as international director. She joins ECD after serving as a White House Fellow and practicing corporate law at Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C., and Abu Dhabi. Her role will include overseeing TN Trade as well as ECD’s other international initiatives, including managing the operations of the state’s four international offices.

The White House website announcement provided further background on Ms. Ali when she was appointed a Fellow for the 2010-2011 class:

Samar Ali is an Associate with the firm Hogan Lovells US LLP.  She is responsible for counseling clients on mergers & acquisitions, cross-border transactions, Shari’a compliant transactions, project finance, and international business matters.  During her time with Hogan Lovells, she has been a founding member of the firm’s Abu Dhabi office.

[. . .]

While in Nashville, Samar led the YMCA Israeli-Palestinian Modern Voices for Progress Program, and is currently the transatlantic liaison for the development of the Palestine Diabetes Institute.  She is a founding member of the first U.S. Delegation to the World Islamic Economic Forum, and has served as an Advisory Board Member of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health.

Hogan Lovells’ website revealed how important and material their Shari’a compliant finance practice is:

Over the past four years, we have advised on more than 200 Islamic finance transactions with an aggregate deal value in excess of US $40 bn. Our team members are at the forefront of developments in the Islamic finance industry.

Governor Haslam defended his announcement of Ms. Ali’s appointment despite criticism from within Republican state party ranks. Note this exchange in a Knoxville News column of Nashville Bureau Chief Tom Humphrey in July 2012:

A resolution passed by the Stewart County Republican Party called Ali “an expert in Shariah Compliant Finance, which is one of the many ways Islamic terrorism is funded.” It also noted that she is a one-time appointee of President Barack Obama — she served in a White House fellowship program — and that her family has a long history of supporting the Democratic Party.

Speaking after his appearance before a congressional panel in Washington, Haslam said Ali is highly qualified for the state job and “we’re lucky to have her in Tennessee.”

Humphrey did a follow up column based on a Knoxville News interview with Ms. Ali in November 2012 where she dismissed the Anti-Muslim allegations, saying that, “such attacks were hurtful.” But she called them “silly and “untrue.”  Moreover as a student council president she had spoken out against ‘terrorism’ after 9/11. She was grateful for the support from Governor Haslam. Humphrey cited Clint Brewer, assistant commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development who called Ms. Ali “one of the brightest leaders of her generation from this state.”

“Her extensive work experience in international business makes her eminently qualified to serve the people of the Volunteer State,” he said.

She has been traveling the globe opening up state trade offices in the UK, Mexico, Germany, China and India to boost Tennessee exports by 10% per annum over five years. Her project is backed by a $616,000 Federal grant.

Not to be excluded from support for Ms. Ali’s appointment is the Nashville Jewish Federation. The Federation board penned a letter in 2012 to Governor Haslam applauding his decision.

ATCPJ Newsletter noted her father’s role as Chairman of The Jerusalem Fund. The Fund’s executive director Yousef Munayyer openly advocates BDS against Israel. It noted:

It seems the Jerusalem Fund’s anti-Israel bent has not wavered much since its founding. It’s very public advocacy for BDS against Israel makes this organization’s position question.

Does the Jewish Federation understand that the end goal of BDS is the delegitimization and destruction of the State of Israel?

The answer to that is no. With the revelations of FPM dossier piece accusing The Jerusalem Fund Chaired by Dr. Subhi Ali of advocating delegitimization of Israel the Nashville Jewish Federation will probably opt to remain silent. After all Dr. Subhi Ali and the leaders of the Volunteer Muslim community have ready access to both Capitol Hill and Metro government in Nashville. We are told that they have powerful friends in Washington, as well.

Will Ms. Ali think that the evidence of her father’s organization supporting BDS against Israel is “hurtful” to the Volunteer State’s Jewish community and Gov. Haslam’s Administration?  Somehow we doubt it. After all Gov. Haslam may want to take advantage of a Shariah compliant sukuk bond financing that  Ms. Ali’s Middle East financial connections would deem exemplary of ‘ethical investing’. Ethical investing with a portion of proceeds devoted to Zakat, Muslim Charity, which includes the way of Allah, Jihad.

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

US Appeasement of Iran Endangers the entire Persian Gulf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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