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‘The Golan is ours’ — Israel Sovereignty and American National Security

A momentous joint press conference was held at the White House with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu on February 15, 2017. For the first time in recent memory, a U.S. President was not demanding that Israel relinquish sovereign territory that had been granted under international law. That meant that the Jewish nation was entitled to negotiate secure borders in the land west of the river.

Things appear to be changing in the Middle East among the Sunni Arab monarchies, Emirates and states recognizing that America’s democratic ally is the proverbial strong horse opposing the hegemonic aspirations of the Shia Islamic Republic of Iran. An Iran that in consort with its proxy Hezbollah is actively engaging in creating a Shia crescent from the Persian Gulf via Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean Coast of Lebanon. Moreover, Iran has control of two world maritime choke points in the oil trades; the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al Mandab (at the mouth of the Red Sea).

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The Golani tree symbol of the IDF Golani Brigade of the Northern command.

For Israel there is evidence that Iran’s IRGC Qods force and its proxy Hezbollah are ranging across the vital Golan Heights frontier. That is reflected in clashes that resulted in the deaths of IRGC Generals and a Hezbollah commander, son of the terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyah.   A frontier that is also witnessing the expansion of ISIS militia on the southern portion of the Golan frontier.

The Golan is strategic to Israel’s national security reflected in its annexation by Israel’s parliament the Knesset in 1981. Yet, there have been efforts at the UN suggesting that Israel’s sovereign claim to the Golan is questioned. That despite it being included in the original Palestine Mandate granted to Great Britain at the Sam Remo conference in 1920. After two climatic wars fought in 1967 and in 1973, Israel is not about to give up its sovereign claim to the Golan.Further, Israel’s ears on the Middle East can be found on the summit of Mount Hermon at the base of the frontier monitoring digital communications.  IDF Golani units are deployed on the heights of this important bastion.  The UNDOF force in the demilitarized has been routed during the six plus years of the Syrian civil war. Israel has provided humanitarian aid and medical assistance to Syrian civilians and casualties of opposition militias often treating them in field hospitals and in emergency cases sending them to hospitals in central Israel.  The Syrian frontier on the Golan divides the Druze community, the Israeli branch of which are loyal citizens and yet understand the predicament of their cousins across the frontier.

There has been talk of establishment of so-called safe zones in southern Syria at the apex where Israel, Jordan and Israel meet.  At issue is what international forces would staff it. Given the record of the UN peacekeepers it is dubious that it could effectively defend the suggested safe zones. Israel’s experience in the Lebanon wars indicates that it is not about to take on the responsibility of a security zone in Syria. The one in Lebanon ended disastrously in the pell mell withdrawal from the Southern security zone   in 2000.

That apex at the conjunction of the three counties frontiers is now the target of the Islamic State. A recent Jewish Press report confirms the activity of Islamic State Salafist militia overrunning the apex area of Southern Syria, Jordan and Israel threatening the Golan frontier. It reports that the ISIS militia is lead by a Palestinian Salafist. While the IDF Chief of Staff Eizenkot would like the UNDOF to block further movement by the ISIS, their track record has been abysmal. Thus his assessment is that the IDF on the northern frontier could see intense fighting occur this spring.

Jonathan Schanzer and Marc Dubowitz crystallized in a Wall Street Journal article, “Golan,” stressing the vital importance of Israel’s sovereignty.  They noted:

Benjamin Netanyahu has achieved his primary objective of resetting ties with the U.S. after eight years of tensions. True, the Israeli prime minister and Donald Trump still need to bridge the gap on issues such as Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy and West Bank settlements. But they seem to be on the same page on a broad range of regional matters.

That could lead to a breakthrough on an issue of strategic importance to Israel. According to reports of the two leaders’ meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu asked for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The move makes sense for both sides. It would provide the Israeli government with a diplomatic win while helping the Trump administration signal to Russia and Iran that the U.S. is charting a new course in Syria.

[…]

By recognizing Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan, the Trump administration would signal to Russia that, while Washington may now coordinate with Moscow on activities such as fighting Islamic State, it doesn’t share Russia’s goals for Syria.

Moreover, it would show that the U.S. will take a tougher line on the provision of arms and intelligence to Iran and Hezbollah.

Recognition of Israel’s Golan claims would acknowledge that it needs these highlands to hold off a multitude of asymmetric and conventional military threats from Syria—and whatever comes after the war there. Israel continues to target Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah to prevent them from establishing a base of operations on the Syrian Golan.

Recognizing Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan would also soften the Palestinians’ core demand for a state within the 1967 borders. If an international border can be revised along the Syrian border, the Palestinians will have a harder time presenting the 1949 armistice line along the West Bank as inviolable.

Against this background we reached out to someone who knows the strategic importance of what Messrs. Schanzer and Dubowitz have espoused, Ambassador Yoram Ettinger former Israeli emissary in Washington involved with Congressional liaison.

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Mike Bates

Mike Bates:  Good afternoon welcome back to Your Turn, this is Mike Bates. We continue with our conversation, our Middle East round table discussion. With me in studio is Jerry Gordon,  Senior Editor of the New English Review and his blog the Iconoclast.

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Jerry Gordon

Jerry Gordon: Glad to be back.

Bates: And joining us by telephone from Israel is Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli Congressional Liaison.

Yoram Ettinger: Thank you very much.

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Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger

Bates: Ambassador Ettinger, from your perspective as a former Israeli Emissary involved with Congressional relations, how significant was the outcome of the joint press conference at the White House on January 15th?

Ettinger: I would say that the outcome of the meeting between the leaders of the US and Israel is very significant.  It signals reconnection of the US administration with Middle Eastern reality after eight years – and more years – of assuming that the Palestinian issue is the core cause of regional turbulence and the crown jewel of Arab policymaking. Now there is an Administration that realizes, with all due respect, the Palestinian issue is not the primary or secondary, not even tertiary issue when it comes to Middle East priorities. The current administration seems to focus on the major threats to the US as well as to Western democracies and the regional and global stability. These are: Iran’s megalomaniacal aspirations and its  aim to become a major nuclear power. Second is Islamic terrorism  and third, the need to minimize the clear and present danger to every  pro- American Arab regime in the middle east, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and Oman.

On all of those issues – Iran, Islamic terrorism, and the need to stabilize the pro- American Arab regimes – Israel plays a very unique role. The question is, are you going to sacrifice the very essential cooperation between US and Israel on the altar of the Palestinian issue? It seems to me that President Trump and his advisors may or may not go along entirely with Israel’s view of the Palestinian issue.  They are not going to sacrifice dire American national security interests on the altar of the Palestinian issue, which is not, is not, a core cause as far as Arab policymaking is concerned.

Bates: Ambassador Ettinger, I realize Israel is a democratic country, and like every democratic country, the people are not unified in their view of the world any more so in Israel as it is in the United States. But I’m curious. If you can generalize, what is the sense of the Israeli people to President Trump versus what we had for the previous eight years, President Obama?

Ettinger: Certainly Israel is highly diversified as far as ideology, as far as world view, even as far as Judaism is concerned.  However, one should note that a major factor in Israel is a sense of patriotism. We see that on the occasion of wars, on the occasion of conflicts with Arab countries, and recently on the issue of the Palestinians.  We see coalitions of all the big groups in Israel.  In fact, something which is not common in the US. The  majority of our special operation forces are very Dovish, and I emphasize very, very Dovish in their world view, and the majority of Israel’s combat pilots are also very Dovish.

And, their worldview has nothing to do with the fact that they are first to be called to serve during wartime, and they serve superbly.

When it comes to President Trump, the perception in Israel is that he is supportive of Israel. The public has accorded him at this point very significant support, unlike the case of the eight years with President Obama – when many Israelis sympathized with him as far as personality is concerned, maybe as it was reflected by television, newspapers, radio – but most Israelis were aware that as far as President Obama was concerned, Israel was not exactly one of his top positive priorities. When it comes to President Trump, the sense is that he does regard the Jewish State as a cardinal, positive element on his agenda.

Gordon: Ambassador, what is the danger of having a Palestinian state adjacent to the Jewish nation of Israel?

Ettinger: When it comes to Israel, the clear and present lethal threat is highlighted at this time of global instability, violence, and intolerance, tenuous agreements, tenuous regimes and policies. With a Palestinian state, Israel would be once again constrained to an eight-to-fifteen mile sliver along the Mediterranean, over-towered and dominated by the mountain ridges of the West Bank of Judea and Samaria. This is not exactly a prescription for long life expectancy. It’s a prescription for suicide, I believe.

But the key point is not what it means for Israel. For your American listeners, the issue is what would the impact be on America’s national security. And Americans should know when it comes to a Palestinian State, based on its track record, we are talking about a definite erosion of America’s authority in the Middle East and definite injury to very important American national security interests. For instance, there is the American-supported Hashemite monarchy in Jordan. A Palestinian State on the one hand and Hashemite regime in Jordan east of the Jordan River constitute an oxymoron.

Top Jordanian military officers made it very clear to their colleagues in Israel that the top priority of the Hashemites  is to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Now the issue is not merely one more, or one less pro- American Arab regime.  A change in regime in Jordan would cause tectonic ripple effects, which would not be limited only to Jordan, but a definite spill- over southward to Saudi Arabia and from Saudi Arabia to the rest of the pro- American  Arab Gulf states.

This means that a Palestinian state could trigger ripple effects all the way into the Persian Gulf area, playing into the hands of Iran, also possibly into the hands of Russia and China and certainly adversely effecting America’s interest. It could create an Iranian block from Iran through Iraq, Jordan, all the way to fifteen miles from the Mediterranean. That  would mean loss of pro- American control of two critical waterways, the Bab el Mandab and Hormuz Straits in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, two of the most critical waterways for oil tankers, which would have an impact on the  global economy and  American economies.

You might also find a guarantee of naval rights, landing rights for the Russian, possibly Iranian, maybe Chinese, naval and air force, in the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, which once again would undermine vital American interests.

All this is based on the track record of Palestinians, which includes the waves of terrorism in the 1920s, 30s, 40s; collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War; collaboration with the USSR after the war; collaboration with Ayatollah Khomeini after the demise of the Shah of Iran; and very close ties with Russia, North Korea, China, Cuba, and Venezuela.

Bates: Ambassador  Ettinger there was a recent  The Wall Street Journal op-ed by Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz of the Washington DC based Foundation for Defense of Democracies drew attention to the possibility of Israel asserting sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Why did Israel annex the Golan Heights in 1981 and what geo-political and national security significance does it have given the threats on the frontier from Iran’s proxy Hezbollah and Syrian Islamic opposition  and ISIS?

 Ettinger: First of all, the Golan Heights is not foreign terrain for the Jewish state. The Golan Heights is part of the Jewish homeland going back some 3,500 years .  As far as contemporary strategy is concerned, there are only two options when it comes Golan: will it be part of Israel, controlled by Israel; or will it be a platform for rogue organizations, rogue regimes. There is no other option, although again in the wishful la-la land of some western policymakers, one could transform it into an international, neutral area.  Certainly when you look at the Middle East there is no such thing as a neutral element or neutral space.

As far as the impact of the Golan Heights, once again on the region as a whole and on Israel. One can go back to 1970 when Syria was a major military Arab power, Syria invaded Jordan. With the US bogged down in Southeast Asia, there was no way it could stretch military hand and help the pro- American late King Hussain. They called Israel. Israel mobilized its troops and the following day – without firing a single shot, only through the posture of deterrence of the presence of Israel – the Syrian military withdrew back to Syria. That was possible because Israel controlled the Golan Heights in 1970, which meant we were at the point where we could reach Damascus and basically take over Syria.

Should Israel be off the Golan Heights, and once again there is violence which threatens pro-American Arab regime in Jordan, without the Golan (and certainly there would already be a Palestinian state), Israel would be in no position, have no power to exert any posture of deterrence to assist the US, assist pro-American Arab regimes. We are talking today about the proliferation of Islamic terrorist organizations, many of which operate in Syria, which means with proximity to the Golan Heights and should Israel get off Golan Heights, the only question would be: which rogue regime, which rogue organization, will then control the Golan Heights.

Bates: There is no question that the Golan Heights are critical to the security of Israel. I made a day trip through Golan Heights when I was in Tiberius a few years ago. It’s beautiful, sparsely populated area.  It is of  massive strategic importance. Why doesn’t the United States recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel’s sovereign territory and is there any chance that will change under a Trump presidency?

Ettinger: It’s true that Golan Heights is critical for Israel’s national security, but it’s also true that it is  very important for America’s own national security, America’s own posture of deterrence in the Middle East.  Israel on the Golan Heights, Israel on the mountain ridges of Judea Samaria extends the strategic hand of the USA. With Israel off the Golan Heights and certainly off the mountain ridges of the West Bank, Israel is going to be transformed from a national security asset to a national security liability and a burden on the US. And the US is facing, in my mind, intensifying, and not reduced, threats due to the current trends in the Middle East and throughout the world. The US cannot rely on Europe which has lost its will power gradually – and is also losing its muscle. Israel is the only element in the Middle East upon which the US can rely. It is probably the most effective force anywhere in the world upon which the US can rely on.

Bates: No, question about it Ambassador.

Gordon: Ambassador, what is behind Israel’s emergence as a world leader in high tech global investments and its impact on the country’s economy?

 Ettinger: Out of necessity, due to the attempt to strangle Israel territorially, militarily, economically; due to various attempts to boycott and sanction Israel; and due to real lack of natural resources, Israel had to rely on its brain power. We have managed not only to survive but we have managed to develop – I would say next to the US – a major global, high tech technological country, both commercially and militarily. Today, in Israel, we have 250 research and development centers operated by global high tech giants, most of them American, some European. These are the centers that develop for Intel and Microsoft, and Apple and Google, and other giants, the latest innovative technologies. Israel contributes to research and development in America, to the competitiveness of American industries in the global competition, and to America’s foundation of employment.

Bates: It is a huge benefit, Ambassador. We have been speaking with Jerry  Gordon of the New English Review and its blog the Iconoclast and  with Ambassador Yoram Ettinger.  You can find Ambassador Ettinger online at www.theettingerreport.com.

Thanks so much for joining us this afternoon on 1330amWEBY

Listen to the broadcast, here.

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

Florida: U.S. Arrests Iranian Turk in $110 Billion Illegal Gold for Gas Deal

Patrick Goodenough’s CNS article chronicles this latest expose of corruption by Turkey’s Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a $100 billion dollar gold for gas scheme, discovered in 2013, evading UN and U.S. sanctions against dealing with a  Nuclear Iran Iran-Related Arrest in Florida Could Have Political Implications for Turkey’s Islamist Ruling Party.  Goodenough gives credit to the investigation team at the Washington, DC based Foundation for Defense of Democracy research uncovering this duplicity, while the Administration was actively pursuing negotiations over an Iran nuclear pact.  Goodenough writes:

The arrest in Florida of a prominent Iranian-Turkish businessman accused of conspiring to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions may have major political implications in Turkey, where the same man was linked to a corruption scandal reaching into the upper ranks of the ruling party.

A senior opposition leader expressed the hope that the arrest of Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-born Turkish businessman, may lift the lid on a scandal which many critics suspect was covered up by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The Hurriyet daily quoted Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu as saying in parliament Tuesday that as a result of Zarrab’s arrest, “I am sure many will not get a wink of sleep tonight; they won’t be able to sleep in comfort in their beds.”

“Reza Zarrab will speak there, you will see,” he said, adding that “dirty relations will be exposed” and the facts will emerge about four AKP cabinet ministers who were the subject of massive fraud and corruption allegations three years ago.

The Department of Justice announced Monday the unsealing of an indictment in the in the Southern District of New York against dual Turkish-Iranian citizen Zarrab, 33, who was arrested in Florida on Saturday; and two Iranian nationals who remain at large, Camelia Jamshidy, 29, and Hossein Najafzadeh, 65.

John Carlin, assistant attorney-general for national security, said that according to the charges the three had “circumvented U.S. sanctions by conducting millions of dollars-worth of transactions on behalf of the Iranian government and Iranian businesses.”

“These alleged violations, as well as the subsequent efforts taken to cover up these illicit actions, undermined U.S. laws designed to protect national security interests,” he said.

According to the indictment, between 2010 and 2015 the three allegedly conspired to thwart U.S. and international economic sanctions against Iran by concealing financial transactions that were on behalf of the Iranian government or government-controlled banks and other entities.

They used a network of companies located in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere to conceal from U.S. banks, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and others the fact that the transactions were benefiting and on behalf of Iranian entities.

The indictment quotes from a Dec. 2011 letter from Zarrab, addressed to the general manager of the Central Bank of Iran saying in part, “[i]t is not secret that the trend is moving towards intensifying and increasing the sanctions, and since the wise leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran has announced this to be the year of the Economic Jihad, the Zarrab family, which has had a half a century of experience in foreign exchange, … considers it to be our national and moral duty to declare our willingness to participate in any kind of cooperation in order to implement monetary and foreign exchange anti-sanction policies …”

[…]

Earlier research into the “gas for gold” scheme by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Roubini Global Economics found that Iran and Turkey’s Halkbank were exploiting loopholes in U.S. sanctions law.

Here’s what we wrote about Zarrab and the emergence of the illegal gold trading back in a NER/Iconoclast post in January 2014.

Meanwhile the main secular opposition, the People’s Republican Party (CHP) lead by Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Turkey’s parliament has kept up a stream of constant criticism of Erdogan endeavoring to place him at the center of the corruption probe. Yesterday, he questioned the Turkish Intelligence (MIT) report on the illegal gold trading submitted in April 2013 involving Azeri Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab. Today’s Zaman reported Kilicdaroglu saying:

In a weekly meeting of his party’s parliamentary group on Tuesday, Kilicdaroglu addressed reports published Monday in a number of media outlets claiming that the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) submitted a report to Erdogan on April 18, 2013 detailing the shady relations – involving bribery and influence-peddling – of certain ministers with Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is under arrest. “I would like to ask the prime minister about what he did upon receiving this report. Did you call these ministers and talk to them? Did you talk to your children? He didn’t. He is the one who gave these orders,” Kilicdaroglu said.

These latest developments on the Zarrab illegal gold trading for Iranian gas call into question the Administration’s policy of supporting Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS supporters like Erdogan. Erdogan’s Turkey, while criticized  by the US and  NATO, hasn’t been dismissed as a member of the mutual defense pact,   given his war against the Kurds inside the country,  across the border in north Syria and even in the Iraqi Kurdish region. All while surreptitiously supporting ISIS emboldening his family’s shipping and oil smuggling profiteering. Question why Israel wants to renew relations with Turkey after the May 2010 Mavi Mamara free Gaza incident paying $20 million in alleged wrongful death compensation for the nine Turkish nationals killed in the scuffle with Israel Naval commandos.  Note this recent anti-Semitic comment by the AKP woman official following the Istanbul blast that killed three Israelis, two of whom were American citizens, injuring ten others, from a Jerusalem Post report:

 An official from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP Party tweeted that she “wished the Israelis” who were said to be wounded in Saturday’s Istanbul suicide blast were dead. Irem Aktas made the provocative tweet immediately after the attack. Turkish sources said that Aktas is the head of the party’s media relations and women’s outreach department.

Credit the team at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies for sleuthing the gold for gas scheme from open sources that we wrote about back in 2014.   Cliff May, President of FDD wrote this in an email:

This week, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of Turkish-Iranian national Reza Zarrab, upon his arrival in Miami. Among the charges: defrauding the US government.

Zarrab briefly made news in late 2013, when he was arrested on charges of corruption in Turkey, where he then resided. He was presumed to have coordinated Iran’s largest and most sophisticated sanctions evasion scheme on behalf of Babak Zanjani, an Iranian formerly under U.S. and EU sanctions who was recently sentenced to death in Iran for embezzlement.

The Turkish government quashed the police investigation against Zarrab — presumably because of the involvement of senior government officials in the corruption scheme he devised to grease the wheels of his operation.

The U.S. administration, keen not to undermine the chances of a nuclear deal with Iran, declined to pursue the dozens of companies and individuals involved in a giant financial scam that enabled Iran to launder more than $100 billion worth of oil and gas revenue, transform it into gold and ship it back to Iran through a trail of companies that went from Dubai to Turkey, from Istanbul to Tajikistan, from Tashkent to Malaysia.

For years, FDD has tirelessly and doggedly documented these networks. FDD Senior Fellow Emanuele Ottolenghi identified Mehdi Shams, one of Zanjani’s key associates, and mapped out his network of front companies in Europe and the Middle East as early as September 2013.

Despite reluctance by U.S. officials to take any action against Shams, Emanuele kept pushing the story as did others at FDD. When the Zarrab-Zanjani connection was exposed in December 2013, the Daily Beast extensively quoted Emanuele and exposed Shams’ links to Zanjani.

FDD’s Executive Director Mark Dubowitz and VP for Research Jonathan Schanzer detailed in hard hitting pieces the nature of the sanctions scheme. Their work helped inspire Congress to make important legislative changes designed to close a critical loophole in the sanctions architecture.

With the corruption scandal case in full swing in Turkey, Emanuele and FDD Fellow Saeed Ghasseminejad exposed another Zanjani associate in early January 2014 in a piece published in Turkey’s daily, Hurriyet. The man they named, Hamid Sallah Heravi, was sentenced to death along with Shams and Zanjani two weeks ago.

Then, in March 2014, with Turkey’s Erdogan determined to quash the investigation, the Turkish prosecutor’s indictment was leaked. FDD Turkish affairs analyst Merve Tahiroglu provided critical analysis based on a 330-page document that FDD promptly provided to Treasury.

Our team continued to follow the story and its many angles and to provide critical open-source intelligence to government authorities.

Our efforts have now paid off: Revelations from the Zanjani trial vindicate our insistence on going after his networks and his associates. They confirm our fellows’ open-source research on Iranian illicit finance networks. And the arrest of Zarrab in the United States is now sure to further expose the high levels of collusion and corruption within the Erdogan government.

Meanwhile, President Obama fresh from his fractious trip to Cuba with autocratic aging Communist dictator Raul Castro disputing the country’s notorious human rights record and family control over the economy has another problem upon arrival in Buenos Aires when he meet with President Mauricio Macri, whose election ended the corrupt 12 year reign of the Peronista Justicia party of former President Cristina Kirchner and her late husband. It concerns the release of US intelligence on Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires that figured in the murky circumstances behind the murder of the late Argentinean special prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January 2015.  Stay tuned for developments in these stories dogging the President’s valedictory lap in Cuba and Latin America.

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

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:

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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.

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

Documentary ‘Los Abandandos’: Iran’s Assassination of Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman

When Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered under mysterious circumstances on January 18, 2015, we wrote of the curious circumstances surrounding his death. He was found dead in his Buenos Aires flat with a bullet to his head with a pistol allegedly in his possession. He was on the brink of presenting a 300 page brief to a committee of the Argentine Congress based on a decade of investigations. Investigations begun under the auspices of the late President of Argentina Nestor Kirchner and after his passing in 2007, for a time under his successor, his wife Cristina.

Nisman’s death came amidst revelations about negotiations of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 between Iran and outgoing Argentine President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman regarding a truth commission. The object of the commission was to facilitate an expose of Iran’s and its proxy Hezbollah’s roles in both the 1992 Buenos Aires Israel Embassy and 1994 AMIA Buenos Aires, Jewish Center bombings. Bombings that killed 114, injuring 542.In exchange for no prosecution following the truth commission proceedings, Iran and Argentina would renew their commercial trade.

On the occasion of Nisman’s January 30, 2015 funeral and interment in the martyrs section of the La Tablada Jewish cemetery in Buenos Aires we wrote in an Iconoclast Post, “There is No Justice in Argentina” :

Many in the Argentine Jewish Community considered that appropriate as they deemed him the “86th victim” of the AMIA blast. In effect his burial in the Martyrs section repudiated initial official assessments from President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and the investigating prosecutor that he may have been a suicide. Kirchner quickly changed her story to a likely murder by rogue intelligence elements who had “manipulated” Nisman.

By the time outgoing President Cristina Kirchner gave her valedictory speech at the UN General Assembly on September 28, 2015, she referred to the dismissal and trial of officials in the country’s intelligence echelon who she alleged impeded the investigation saying, “prosecutor Nisman, in charge of the case, passed away.”

Cliff May, President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies attended a recent premier of a new documentary, Los Abandandos, (The Abandoned) about Nisman’s murder and the AMIA bombing investigations at Washington, DC’s, Newseum. . He published an opinion column in today’s Washington Times about the unsolved mystery of Nisman’s death and the comments of the film’s director, “Argentine Murder Mystery”. May noted:

The evidence, of which there is no shortage, leads to one conclusion: Iran’s rulers ordered the mass murder; Iran’s proxy terrorist organization, Hezbollah, carried out the mass murder; and in recent years Argentine officials at the highest levels have been involved in a cover-up of the mass murder.

May notes what possessed the director of Los Abandandos, Matthew Taylor, to pursue the story and create a riveting documentary:

To prevent the truth from passing away, Mr. Taylor went to Argentina where he quietly — he didn’t inform authorities — interviewed journalists, opposition politicians and anyone else brave enough to tell him what they knew. As the film shows, Argentines have gathered by the hundreds of thousands to protest what they see as their government’s capitulation to terrorists. Some have carried signs reading: “Islamic Fundamentalists Killed Nisman.”

In a conversation immediately following last week’s screening, Mr. Taylor was asked if he had made the movie to influence opinion about President Obama’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran. When he began the project, he replied, he was not even aware of that controversy. But the film does serve, he added, as “a guide to what happens when you do deals with Iran.”

He pointed out that the AMIA bombing and the murder of Nisman started “with a nuclear deal” — an agreement Argentina made in the late 1980s to provide Iran with nuclear technology and assistance. Eventually, under pressure from the United States, the Argentine government did not give Iran’s revolutionary theocrats what they wanted.

One plausible theory — in essence, Nisman’s theory — is that the attack was Iran’s way of sending a message and a warning: “This time we kill Argentine Jews. Disappoint us again and who knows what our targets will be?”

May concluded:

Whatever the reasons, Mrs. Kirchner’s Faustian bargain necessitated abandoning both the AMIA victims and Nisman. Did it necessitate something even worse? That remains an unsolved murder mystery.

The Islamic fundamentalists who rule Iran are as determined and ruthless as any in the world. Their agents, including Hezbollah, are increasingly influential throughout much of Latin America.

Watch this You Tube video of the trailer for Los Abandandos:

Will the mystery of Nisman’s murder be resolved following the looming Argentine Presidential election on October 25th? That contest pits ruling Peronist Justicialist party candidate Daniel Scioli, the anointed successor to Kirchner, against  Buenos Aires Mayor, Mauricio Macri of the Center Right, PRO party. The latest polls taken show Scioli ahead of Macri, despite the former  not showing up for a televised Presidential debate Sunday; 41.3 % to Marci’s 30.5%.  There are five Presidential candidates in the race. The Buenos Aires Herald quoted Macri in late January 2015 saying, “The priority is to clarify the circumstances of  his death. We need to be respectful and allow the Judiciary to work. Nisman’s death cannot go unpunished.”  Should Scioli maintain his lead, we doubt that the mystery of Nisman’s death will be resolved anytime soon.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is the Alberto Nisman assassination graphic by Greg Groesch/Washington Times.

Can the States Stop Implementation of Iran Nuclear Deal?

On the Sunday, September 20, 2015 Lisa Benson Show we interviewed, David B. Rivkin, Jr. a noted Constitutional  litigator, a partner in the Washington, DC office of the Baker Hostetler law firm. The topic was “Can the Senate Sue the President over his handling of the Iran Nuclear Deal?”  Rivkin is also   a Senior Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).  He served in a variety of legal and policy positions in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush  Administrations, including stints at the White House Counsel’s office, Office of the Vice President and the Departments of Justice and Energy. While in the government, he handled a variety of national security and domestic issues, including environmental and energy policy, tax, trade and constitutional issues.  He is a much sought after as a media commentator on matters of constitutional and international law, as well as foreign and defense policy.

Rivkin recently won a landmark decision in the D.C. Federal District Court in the matter of House v. Burwell over the supremacy of Congressional appropriations authorities with regard to implementation of the Affordable Care Act that affirmed Congressional standing to bring such an action. He co-authored a September 6, 2015 Washington Post opinion article with Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) suggesting a possible suit by the Senate against the President for non–compliance with the language of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act requiring delivery of all requisite documents including the privileged IAEA side agreements.  A September 10, 2015 WSJ op ed by Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley discussed how the successful House v. Burwell suit gave standing to Congress to bring possible litigation against the President. Moreover, the suit in the ACA matter had survived a motion to dismiss by the Administration. We have published similar proposals by Sklaroff and Bender for Senate litigation over the JCPOA unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council on July 22, 2015.

The Sklaroff Bender proposal required the Senate to change Rule 22 to achieve cloture to cut off filibusters by Minority Democrats, before Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) might offer up a resolution to treating the Iran nuclear agreement as a treaty under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution requiring a two thirds vote under the advise and consent of the Senate.  However, to initiate that would have required McConnell to make changes in Rule 22 at the start of the 114th Congress in January 2015.  Currently, to cut off debate requires 60 votes. Congressional Research Service reports on this issue indicated previous proposals reducing the threshold down in steps to a simple majority vote. A number of prominent conservative activists and organizations advocated such a change at the start of the new Congress but McConnell pushed back, arguing that Democrats would use the new rules once they returned to the Majority to quash Republican concerns in the future.

The Senate Republican majority failed in a last move to upend the Iran Nuclear deal. As reported by the AP, a Senate vote on a resolution requiring Iran to recognize Israel as a quid pro quo to lifting sanctions failed once again to reach the 60 vote’s threshold.  The vote was 53 to 45 before the deadline of September 17th under the Corker-Cardin Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, in an AP report on the Administration’s start to implement the JCPOA, the deal “likely will be revisited by the next commander-in-chief.”  The AP reportedHouse Speaker John Boehner suggesting that possible litigation might be an option. Other Senators and Members of Congress have suggested renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act of 2006 before it sunsets in 2016.

Watch this mid-April 2015  Wall Street Journal interview with David B. Rivkin, Esq. He had presciently predicted the problems confronting  Congress  under the Corker-Cardin Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to pass resolutions rejecting the JCPOA.

During the Lisa Benson Show interview, Rivkin suggested that the President had violated Coker-Cardin by not delivering all of the requisite information, including the IAEA side agreements with Iran. As a result of this violation, the Congressional review period has never started and, consistent with the statutory language of Corker Cardin, the President’s authority to lift any sanctions against Iran or unblock any frozen Iranian funds has been vitiated. Rivkin expressed the view that, if the President were to indicate that he intends to lift sanctions, or unblock frozen assets, this decision can be challenged in court, either by the House or the Senate, or the States. Listen to the Rivkin interview on the Lisa Benson Show sound cloud, here.

Rivkin and colleague Lee Casey wrote about that possibility in a July 26, 2015, Wall Street Journal opinion article, “The Lawless Underpinnings in the Iran Nuclear Deal“. They argued:

The Obama end-run around the Constitution could yet be blocked if states exercise their own sanctions regimes …The administration faces another serious problem because the deal requires the removal of state and local Iran-related sanctions. That would have been all right if Mr. Obama had pursued a treaty with Iran, which would have bound the states, but his executive-agreement approach cannot pre-empt the authority of the states.

That leaves the states free to impose their own Iran-related sanctions, as they have done in the past against South Africa and Burma. The Constitution’s Commerce Clause prevents states from imposing sanctions as broadly as Congress can. Yet states can establish sanctions regimes—like banning state-controlled pension funds from investing in companies doing business with Iran—powerful enough to set off a legal clash over American domestic law and the country’s international obligations. The fallout could prompt the deal to unravel.

An explanation of the JCPOA State Sanctions impasse was outlined in a Steptoe International Compliance blog on August 15, 2015, “The JCPOA and State Sanctions” by Bibek Pandy:

The Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) does not say much about Iran sanctions imposed by US state governments. Almost two dozen states (including New York, California and Florida) have passed laws that in some form (i) ban the awarding of government contracts to companies tied to Iran, and/or (ii) prohibit public funds from investing in companies doing certain types of business in Iran. These state restrictions can be more extensive in scope than US federal sanctions. For example, some state restrictions (e.g. in Florida) attach automatically to the parent entity of the company who engages in certain Iran activities. Laws in many states provide for the lifting of Iran sanctions when the President removes Iran from the list of countries that support terrorism; but the JCPOA does not do that, and, as a result, Iran sanction laws in most states will remain intact.

[…]

Companies considering engaging in activity authorized under the JCPOA need to be still mindful of non-federal Iran sanctions. In particular, state government contractors with Iran links should review state procurement laws before engaging in activities permitted by the JCPOA. Furthermore, contractors can face civil penalties in many states for providing false certifications related to their Iran activities. The bar for Iran-related disqualification in some states is relatively low, and the JCPOA does not change that.

David B RivkinDavid B. Rivkin, Jr., Esq.

Following the Lisa Benson Show, David Rivkin and this writer held a conversation to explore the possibilities of a state level initiative. Florida Attorney General (AG) Pam Bondi led a filing made in the 1st Federal District Court in Pensacola on behalf of Florida and more than two dozen other State AGs endeavoring to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Federal Judge Vincent heard oral arguments and ruled on the matter sending it ultimately to the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.   Rivkin thinks that a similar action could be mounted by Florida and a few other states in the same legal venue, the 1st District Court.  The filing might be based on existing Florida sanction law passed under the federal 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) supplemented by an Executive Order.

The State cause of action, according to Rivkin, could be filed in a matter of weeks, potentially forestalling the release of sanctions before the implementation date under JCPOA, December 15, 2015. As indicated in a September 11, 2015 FDD memo by Dubowitz, Fixler, et.al. the subsequent release of upwards of $120 billion of sequestered funds in several Asian banks would take an additional six months. Thus the Rivkin state litigation proposal, if implemented promptly, might possibly stop the release of Iran nuclear sanctions.

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

Israel: ‘No Choice’ but Military Option against Iran’s Nuclear Program?

Israel - Iran War Scenarios  12-14(2)In 1964, I sat in a darkened movie theater in Washington, D.C. with a fellow Army Intelligence officer watching Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant dark satire film on how to live with thermonuclear warfare, Dr Strangelove: or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. My colleague and I laughed nervously as we had just finished secret intelligence assignments. That memory was triggered by a recent American Thinker article by veteran nuclear war gaming and arms control expert, John Bosum, “Thinking About the Unthinkable: An Israel-Iran Nuclear War”.  That was a reference to books and articles by nuclear game theorist and Hudson Institute co-founder Herman Kahn and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on limited nuclear warfare.

Scary prospects then, scary prospects now with the world on the verge of concluding a nuclear agreement with the apocalyptic Islamic Republic of Iran virtually assuring it of an arsenal of nuclear weapons in a decade, if not sooner funding in part by the lifting of $150 billion in sanctions. The U.S. says it has the means of striking back at Iran if it is found cheating, a reference to possible military actions. The reality is that the Administration has hollowed out the nation’s military capabilities leaving Israel isolated. The Jewish nation would doubtlessly be reviled by world opinion, should it undertake a strike of its own on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Israeli Limited Nuclear Attack Scenario

There are daunting prospects facing Israel with the looming Congressional vote rejecting the Iran nuclear pact in the face of a likely veto threat by President Obama that may not be overridden. John Bosum, in his American Thinker article vets a possible limited nuclear attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities. His credibility stems from his considerable expertise and professional background in nuclear war gaming and arms control.  He posits an attack scenario using conventional air craft equipped with US supplied GBU 28 “bunker busters” followed by tactical nukes or nuclear tipped cruise missiles launched from Israeli Dolphin subs offshore in the Arabian Sea.  That scenario faces the realities of estimated losses by Israel Ministry of Defense planners. They have estimated that such a scenario might result in the loss of 40 percent of air crews-a heavy price to pay for young IAF pilots.  Then there is Bosum’s suggestion that Israel might use a low altitude EMP attack on Iran by a Jericho 2 missile.  Ex-CIA official Chet Nagle suggested that Israel might pursue that during a Capitol Hill EMPact program on the EMP Threat several years ago. There is also the non nuclear option using swarms of Drone- launched CHAMP cruise missiles that could take out specific targets. Examples are computer controllers and major power transformers for underground enrichment and centrifuge R& D facilities as well as command and control networks. Israeli encrypted software managing large swarms of drones may provide a stealth shield against the Russian supplied S300 batteries. In September 2008 the IAF flew simulated missions against Greek S300 systems involving swarms of IAF aircraft that rattled the IRGC military. From that exercise the IAF may have developed electronic means of spoofing these Russian systems version of S-300 air defense systems.

Bosum believes that Israel’s anti-missile umbrella including the Arrow anti-ICBM, David Sling, Iron Beam and Iron Dome systems, might not be able to withstand barrages of Iranian rockets and medium range ballistic missiles. There is evidence from the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) November 2012 Iran attack simulations that a conventional attack might succeed in setting back the Iranian program by three years.  Moreover, the simulations suggest that the anti-missile umbrella may destroy significant numbers of incoming Iranian missiles sparing Israel’s major population centers. From reliable sources we understand that Israel may have successfully conducted tests against North Korean developed Shahab 3 missiles likely candidates for nuclear equipped MIRV warheads.

The real issues for Israel are priorities and staging of a limited nuclear attack scenario on Iran’s nuclear program.  From release of  interview audio tapes  this weekend on Israeli Channel 2  by the authors of a forthcoming memoir of  former Defense Minister Ehud Barak   there were allegations  that  Netanyahu was thwarted  from undertaking possible Iran nuclear attack missions  because of objections from  former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, “cold feet” of Ministers Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Defense Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon  and  looming joint Israel US military exercises in 2012. There were reports that President Obama threatened to invoke the Brzezinski Doctrine with orders to shoot down IAF aircraft attacking Iranian targets.  Problem is Barak’s representations may have been part of a promotional effort to enhance his reputation and legacy.  There were also rumors that current Minister of Defense, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon may have also revisited the limited Iran nuclear attack option this past year.  He broadly hinted  that “steps” might have to be taken during a May 5, 2015 conference in Tel Aviv hosted by the Israel Law Center, sufficient to bring a reaction from Iran’s UN Ambassador. Ya’alon was cited in a Times of Israel report saying:

“Certain steps” Israel might consider against tyrannical regimes threatening the nation’s security.

Cases in which we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations we might take certain steps that we believe…should be taken in order to defend ourselves.

Of course, we should be sure that we can look at the mirror after the decision, or the operation. Of course, we should be sure that it is a military necessity. We should consider cost and benefit, of course. But, at the end, we might take certain steps.

He was reminded of US president Harry Truman who “was asked how you feel after deciding to launch the nuclear bombs, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000, casualties? And he said, “When I heard from my officers the alternative is a long war with Japan, with potential fatalities of a couple of millions, I thought it is a moral decision.

We are not there yet, Ya’alon then added.

The Hezbollah Attack Scenario

The release in mid-August 2015 of a definitive national strategy document by IDF Chief of State (COS) Gen. Gadi Eizenkot,  criticized failures to combat both Hamas and Hezbollah, raised the risk from non-state fundamentalist Islamic State, but downplayed the Iran threat.   It is not without moment in late August that there was a stream of contradictory declarations from PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon that Iran is behind a series of low intensity and rocket attacks on Northern Israel and the Golan frontier since the beginning of this year. The attacks involved IRGC officers and Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  Israeli PM Netanyahu referencing acceptance of the Iran nuclear pact by world powers said, “You rush to embrace Iran, they fire rockets at us. We will harm those who harm us”

From the assessments of retired Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former National Security Adviser, the immediate objective is the elimination of the near enemy and proxy of Iran, Hezbollah.  Recently Iran unveiled a new solid fuel surface to surface missile, the Fateh 313, that President Rouhani threatened  ballistic missile exercises would demonstrate the ability of longer range missiles to strike both Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The limited range of 310 miles of the Fateh-113 makes the weapon suitable for possible launch from Syria and Lebanon against population centers in Israel. Further, this threat is bolstered by the turmoil in Lebanon behind the unresolved political crisis over the possibility of a power grab by Hezbollah.

An Israeli preemptive attack scenario is at the heart of Jon Schanzer’s article, “The Iran Nuclear Deal Means War between Israel and Hezbollah”.   Schanzer argues that the Iran nuclear deal may trigger a major war against Hezbollah to eliminate the Iranian- supplied rocket and missile inventories and the command and control echelons of Hezbollah.  Schanzer refers to discussions with senior Israeli defense officials who appear committed   to dislodge Hezbollah and destroy the huge inventory of 150,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon. Israel has both air and naval combat capabilities to achieve this including interdiction of Iranian and Chinese supplied anti-ship missiles. Further, the IDF would not have to rely on those U.S.-supplied GBU-28’s bunker busters.  It has sophisticated weapons like the Rafael SPICE precision guided glide bombs used to foil weapons deliveries from Syria to Hezbollah in the Bekaa Valley. It also has its own variant of the Boeing CHAMP cruise missiles capable of non-nuclear EMP effects against command and control nets. Moreover, unlike the inconclusive Second Lebanon War of 2006, the IDF has learned its lessons about unit training, command and control and effective means of taking out anti-air,  anti-tank rockets and  launching precision battlefield missiles, using the Iron Beam, Trophy and Pereh systems.

This sequencing of threat priorities was reflected in a Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition Interview by Sohran Ahmari with former Saudi General and National Security Advisor Anwar Eshki, “The Saudis Reply to Iran’s Rising Danger.”  General Eshki held colloquies with Dr. Dore Gold   director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry. The most notable one was the public forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. General Eshki’s conclusion drawn from a Socratic dialogue on the near versus far enemy decision paradigm was: “Israel is thinking first of all to destroy Hezbollah, to solve the problem with Hezbollah. After that they can attack Iran.”

Walla News in Israel reported a senior defense official   saying that Israel may be capable of undertaking an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and defending Israel against a retaliatory strike:

Every year that passes, the IDF improves. We never stand still. The professional level increases. In the coming year we will receive another submarine, F-35 fighter jets and other platforms. Intelligence is improving as well.

Further, Walla reported IDF COS Eizenkot instructing deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan to revise military plans for a possible military strike. But it cautioned that the military option was off the table until there are ‘significant developments’.  That may be for public consumption. Israel has a tradition of saying nothing or opaquely very little when such events occur

Conclusion

The planners in the Ministry of Defense pits in Tel Aviv have multiple threats and must prioritize resources. By necessity Israel must plan for taking out the near enemy, Hezbollah, which would enable them to have a clear path to attack Iran.  Thus, it must be prepared to accomplish both threats.  At issue is whether Israel I PM Netanyahu and the security cabinet have the resolve to accomplish both despite adverse world opinion and likely intervention by the Obama Administration.

When Israeli PM Begin ordered the “raid against the sun’ in 1981 that took out Saddam Hussein’s  Osirak nuclear reactor , it took a decade for former Vice President Dick Cheney to thank Israel when the US led coalition unleashed the First Gulf War.  No such thanks came from the Bush Administration following the IAF’s successful obliteration of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear bomb factory following the September 2007 raid.  . The Obama Administration has demonstrated its inability or unwillingness to exercise a possible military option should Iran be found cheating under the terms of the JCPOA. It has hollowed out the US military capability under the Congressional Sequester.  We have the smallest navy since WWI and the smallest Army since before WWII. We have less than 26,000 first line aircraft.  Israel has no choice, but to undertake its sovereign right to defend the Jewish nation against such existential threats.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Iranian President Rouhani and Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan with Fateh-313 Sold Fuel Missile, August 22, 2015. Source: Iranian Presidential office/AP.

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.

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.

“Manufactured Crisis:” Obama Administration’s Response to Iran’s Increase in Low Enriched Uranium

Following the release of the latest IAEA report on May 29th disclosing a 20% increase in low enriched uranium (LEU), the Washington, D.C. based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) analyzed the findings and in its report questioned why scrap was used to spike production. The IAEA report principal findings cited in an Algemeiner report were:

Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended all of its enrichment related activities in the declared facilities.

The agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.

The New York Times published an article in response that reflected concerns over why Iran had continued LEU production, despite Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreements to the contrary.   The implication was that perhaps Iran had effectively been  ‘cheating’  using  it as a bargaining chip should no agreement be reached .  This would be a possible violation of the original November 2013 JPOA.  An Israeli diplomat commented in the Algemeiner report:

That’s exactly the problem with dropping the sanctions before Iran has proved any goodwill. The Americans are going to be doing business with Iran, and the Austrians, the Germans ,  the French and the whole world are going to do business with Iran.

That possibility was raised in a reporter’s question to Josh Earnest at yesterday’s White House Daily Press Briefing.  Ms. Marie Harf at the later State Department Daily Press Briefing expressed the view that the U.S. negotiating team “was perplexed” by the NYTimes report suggesting that nothing was awry and questioning whether it was a “manufactured crisis”. She alleged , the IAEA  had verified the LEU production under the JPOA, suggesting that Iran was in compliance.

Note these excerpted C-SPAN videos of exchanges with  journalists’ questions about  the Iran IAEA and NYTimes reports on LEU production at yesterday’s State Department and White House Daily Press Briefings.

Watch Marie Harf, State Department Spokesperson on “A Manufactured Crisis” over the NYTimes report on Iran LEU:

Watch Josh Earnest, White House Press Spokesman response to reporter’s question about Iran’s “Cheating” on LEU production:

The Daily TIP Report of The Israel Project summarized these latest concerning developments:

Iran has increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by one-fifth during the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), according to a Monday report in The New York Times, despite repeated claims by the Obama administration that Iran has halted progress on its nuclear programThis raises concerns about the uranium stockpile in any future deal. In late March, during negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, said that the uranium would not be shipped abroad.  If Iran maintains a stockpile of low-enriched uranium or oxidized uranium (the latter can be reversed in the matter of a few weeks), it would have permanent access to multiple nuclear bombs’ worth of enriched uranium. A White House fact sheet released upon the signing of the JPOA in November 2013 stipulated that Iran would “[n]ot increase its stockpile of 3.5% low-enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of [the agreement] than it is at the beginning.” According to the most recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency cited by the Times, not only has Iran increased its stockpile, but it has sped up the pace of enrichment.

Furthermore, in a May analysis, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) concluded that most of Iran’s near-20% enriched uranium is in the form of scrap rather than fuel assemblies. Moreover, Iran is currently conducting R&D on how to recover this highly-enriched uranium from scrap. ISIS wrote previously that the administration has failed to take into account the fact that both the near-20% enriched fuel and near-20% enriched scrap can be reconverted back into enriched uranium for use in a bomb, which would drastically reduce breakout time. In its most recent report, ISIS wrote, the use of near-20% enriched uranium “can significantly speed up breakout timelines to well below 12 months.”

The understandings announced in Lausanne on April 2 call for the reduction of Iran’s uranium stockpile, but do not specify the mechanism by which that would be done.

As we noted the IAEA report also expressed unease that its findings did not include any inspection of military sites, a matter of increasing concern given comments by French Foreign Minister Fabius in a WSJ interview. Fabius contended that without inspection of military sites like Parchin ,and unknown others that Iran’s Supreme Ruler has blocked, the P5+1 final agreement targeted for the end of this month would be “useless.” With Secretary of State Kerry flown back to Boston for  repair and treatment of a broken leg  sustained in a bike accident in Switzerland, whether the U.S. negotiating team can produce a  “tough verifiable” agreement with Iran. One  capable of surviving a 30 day review by Congress under INARA.

President Obama in his interview on Israel’s Channel 2 suggested that a tough verifiable inspection with snap back sanctions approved by Iran would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear device in 10, 15 or even twenty years.  Moreover, he suggested  there was no military option that would completely deter Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon.  The Israeli body polity and many Americans including the national ‘paper of record’, the New York Times, are increasingly skeptical of the President’s blandishments about achieving a tough verifiable deal.  A Capitol Hill panel  was composed of former US Senators Evan Bayh, Joseph Lieberman, former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, John Hannah and Ray Takeyh of the Iran Task Force of he Foundation for Defense of Democracies   discussed this on June 1st. They confirmed what Israeli Prime  Minister  Netanyahu and 47 GOP Senators had said in an address to Congress and a letter to Iran’s Supreme Ruler that the P5+1 process could result in  a “very bad deal”.  These latest revelations by the IAEA, NYTimes, ISIS and the  FDD Iran task Force suggest  that  a possible P5+1 agreement with Iran  may be slipping away from Obama’s grasp.

Watch the FDD Iran Task Force panel C-Span Video:

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

“There is No Justice in Argentina”

Yesterday, the late Argentine Prosecutor, Alberto Nisman was laid to rest in the La Tablada Jewish Community in Buenos Aires amidst a veritable firestorm of controversy that stretched from Argentina to Israel. There were signs of “Justice for Nisman” and “Thank You” in the throng of hundreds outside La Tablada cemetery. Nisman was appropriately interred in the Martyrs Section reserved for the Jewish victims of the July 18, 1994 AMIA blast. A separate section in La Tablada is reserved for suicides. The obituary in La Nacion contained the Hebrew abbreviation z”l of blessed memory.’ Many in the Argentine Jewish Community considered that appropriate as they deemed him the “86th victim” of the AMIA blast. In effect his burial in the Martyrs section repudiated initial official assessments from President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and the investigating prosecutor that he may have been a suicide. Kirchner quickly changed her story to a likely murder by rogue intelligence elements who had “manipulated” Nisman.

Among the mourners at his funeral were his two daughters 7-year old Ila and 15 year old Kala, his sister, mother and ex-wife, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado. The Times of Israel (TOI) report noted:

“This is burying part of our republic,” said Patricia Bullrich, an opposition member of Congress, before entering the cemetery. “It’s a day of reflection and sadness for all of Argentina.”

A farewell letter written by Nisman’s daughters to their father was published Thursday in Argentine papers. “We hope now you can rest in peace. We will guard in our hearts the beautiful moments we lived together,” they wrote.

In a separate funeral notice, Nisman’s ex-wife Salgado said she felt “profound sorrow” for their daughters. “I say goodbye to you, hoping you find the peace that your dedication to your job did not let you fully enjoy,” it said.

The Guardian reported:

Hundreds of protesters, convinced that he was a victim of foul play, gathered in front of the cemetery, some holding placards demanding “Justice for Nisman”.

“It is a great injustice. He was threatened,” said Cristina Paredes, 53, who said Nisman’s death “is the straw the broke the camel’s back” for Argentineans fed up with Kirchner and accusations of corruption by her administration.

The death was mourned as far away as Israel, which hailed Nisman – son of a textile merchant who had studied law at the University of Buenos Aires – as “courageous”.

A friend in Geneva, Switzerland, Imre Herzog, who had forwarded several of our Iconoclast posts on Nisman death to members of the Argentine Jewish community, reported a woman commenting, “There is no Justice in Argentina.”

Nisman was found dead shot with a .22 caliber pistol delivered to him on January 17th by Diego Lagomarsino, the IT manager of the Special Investigative Unit. Lagomarsino, the last person to see Nisman, told a news conference the Prosecutor “didn’t trust his security detail.” Moreover, as the TOI reported, Nisman had chilling evidence of a threat on his life from alleged Iranian sources. He played a recorded voice message recorded while one of his daughters visited him. Ironically, Lagomarsino is being accused of violating Argentinean laws regarding conveying unregistered weapons. Nisman’s death on Sunday January 18th occurred on the cusp of his scheduled testimony at a Congressional hearing on a 289 page Compliant his Special Investigative Unit had prepared.  It contained accusations of a cover up  by President Kirchner and Foreign Minister Timerman of a trade deal with Iran in exchange for dropping charges against Iranian officials involved in the 1994 AMIA Bombing. Nisman’s murder might have been by members of his security detail on orders of shadowy Argentine opponents or a professional hitman from Hezbollah. Iran and proxy Hezbollah have operatives in the Triple Frontier border zone, where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet considered the Iron Triangle of terrorism in Latin America.

The 1994 AMIA blast that created the Martyrs section in the La Tablada cemetery was attributed to 29 year old Lebanese Hezbollah suicide bomber, Ibrahim Hussein Berro, who was driving a Renault Trafic van packed with 275 kilograms of shaped explosives using ammonium nitrate fertilizer and a fuel oil mixture.  Eighty-five were killed and hundreds were injured in the blast that tore off the façade of the Jewish community facility causing it to collapse. The explosion spread death, havoc and injuries in the street in a crowded Buenos Aires central commercial district.  Berro had been identified by his brothers in Michigan as a Hezbollah member. They gave Nisman a photograph that matched an artist rendering of a description from other eye- witnesses who had briefly glimpsed Berro driving to his fateful end.  Nisman remarked, “The brothers’ testimony was substantial, rich in detail and showed that he was the one who was killed”.

Nisman’s relentless pursuit of who organized this pre-9/11 action led him to obtain an Interpol red tag warrant for the arrest and prosecution of senior Iranian officials and Hezbollah terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyah. Mughniyah was brought to justice when on February 12, 2008 he was killed in a car bombing when he stepped into his Mitsubishi Pajero leaving a celebration of the 1979 Islamic Revolution at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. Many believe that this may have been by Mossad in retribution for Mughniyah’s role in planning and executing both the 1992 Israeli Embassy and 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombings in Buenos Aires. Others identified in the 2007 Compliant, approved by a majority vote of the Interpol Assembly meeting in Morocco, were several Iranian officials including former President Rafsanjani and current President Rouhani. They had all been present at a meeting in Mashad, Iran in August 14, 1993 that authorized the operation with the proviso that it “kill without leaving a trace”- the title of a book  on Nisman’s investigations by Israeli-Argentinean Gustavo Perednik. The animus for these murderous attacks against Israelis and Argentineans is alleged to be Argentina’s suspension of a nuclear transfer agreement that same year that began during the era of the late Shah. Immediately following the AMIA blast, a Panamanian commuter flight on August 19, 1994 was blown up in mid-air by an Arab passenger carrying forged Columbian documents. All 21 passengers and crew were killed, including 12 Jewish businessmen bound for Panama City from Colon. Panamanian and US investigators deemed that a terrorist action.

One aspect of the Nisman saga affects the US, as well. In an interview with Lou Dobbs of Fox News, Claudia Rosett, Journalist- in- Residence at the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies told of Nisman being barred by the Argentine Justice Ministry from appearing at a 2013 Congressional Hearing on Iranian-Hezbollah terror networks. Networks as Rosett pointed out that originated in the Triple Frontier, spread throughout all of Latin America to Mexico and even here in the US. Think of the Quds Force deal with a Mexican Cartel and an Iranian émigré in Texas seeking to arrange the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the US at a Washington, DC restaurant.  Despite Nisman being barred from testifying before the Congressional Committee, an empty chair with a place card bearing his name was placed in front at the Hearing. A testament to the esteem and his courage in warning us of Iran’s long reach of state sponsored terrorism that have claimed over hundreds of lives of innocent victims and  now, Nisman.  His legacy cries out for independent Argentine/US/Israeli filings before the International Criminal Court at The Hague to finally bring to justice Iranian officials who organized the crimes and corrupt Argentinean officials complicit in the monstrous cover up.

Watch the Fox News Lou Dobbs interview with Claudia Rosett:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of th funeral cortege for late Alberto Nisman La Tablada Jewish Cemetery 1-29-15 in Buenos Aires. Source: AP.

Has Qatar turned Away from Islamist Support in the Middle East?

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published an intriguing analysis by Yaroslav Trofimov of the of Qatar’s apparent withdrawal from being a broker in the murky world of Middle East peace and Islamist causes, Qatar Scales Back Role in Middle East Conflicts.   Trofimov noted:

From mediating in Lebanon and Sudan to helping rebels in Libya and Syria and backing the Palestinian group Hamas, Qatar has been involved in virtually every Middle Eastern flash point. But, under pressure from bigger neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it has moved in recent weeks to distance itself from its traditional posture of championing Islamist movements—particularly the Muslim Brotherhood—in Egypt and elsewhere.

“The Qataris were a little bit shaken about how much blowback they have had,” said Abdullah Baabood, director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University. “The recent events show they have overstretched themselves. They will now pick their battles and focus on what serves best their strategic interests.”

Trofimov drew attention to some demonstrable turns of events in December 2014 following the dust up in March when envoys from three Arab States in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia withdrew their Ambassadors.  In November the UAE followed Saudi Arabia and listed the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates Hamas,  CAIR and the Muslim American Society in the US as terrorist organizations. Trofimov noted the turnabout:

After their threats to boycott a summit of Gulf monarchies in Doha this month, Qatar revised its stance on the critical point of disagreement—how to treat the Muslim Brotherhood and the current Egyptian leadership, which ousted the Islamist group from power last year.

Having expelled several Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders ahead of the summit, Qatar sent a senior envoy to Egypt on Dec. 20 to seek a rapprochement with President Abdel Fattah El -Sisi.

Two days later, Qatar shut down the Egyptian channel of its Al Jazeera TV network, an outlet for the Brotherhood and other opponents of Egypt’s current leadership.

“The security of Egypt is important for the security of Qatar,” Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said.

Earlier on December 6, 2014, we reported that the Qatari Ambassador to the US,  H.E. Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari at a presentation before the Pensacola, Florida Tiger Bay Club proclaimed, “We do not support Hamas”.  He astounded some in the audience.  That was in contrast to the views of Jon Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who in a September 2014 Congressional hearing said, “That Qatar is currently Hamas’ ATM”.  We noted Qatar’s pledge of $1 billion to rebuild Gaza after the cease fire that ended the 50 day war in the summer of 2014. Qatar had provided a luxurious safe haven for billionaire Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.  The Ambassador said, “Better to have Khaled Meshaal in Qatar than across the Gulf in Iran”.  But then there were other matters for example the Taliban office in Qatar that facilitated the exchange of senior commanders released from  Gitmo for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  Oatar had provided a long exile of anti-Semitic and anti-American Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Preacher Yusuf al Qaradawi who coincidentally had an Interpol red tag warrant issued for his arrest and extradition to Egypt on the same day as the Ambassador’s Pensacola presentation. We cited US Treasury concerns over wealthy Qatari businessmen funding Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra in Syria and the Islamic State. These stood in contrast to GCC member Kuwait that had moved at US behest to shut off the spigot of such jihad donations from wealthy individuals there.  The Qatari Ambassador cited diplomatic recognition of Israel and a state office the Jewish nation had in Doha. Curiously, the other GCC member who maintains relations with Israel, Oman, apparently doesn’t support the Palestinian cause.

The Qatari Ambassador’s  presentation on December 6th in Pensacola was eclipsed by the Emir al-Thani’s appearance at a GCC summit in Doha three days later on December 9th that marked the start of a lowering of Qatar’s profile internationally reflected in Trofimov’s WSJ revelations.

There were also some fundamental economic realities; the plummeting oil and gas prices, reflecting the excess of supply over current global demand.  That resulted in hammering the revenues of oil producers like Russia, Iran and Venezuela.  There is the prospect in 2015 of the US vaulting to the forefront as both the world’s leading oil and gas producers propelled by the fracking revolution. If allowed by the Obama Administration exports of oil and gas would further weaken world prices that could result in a further drop in Qatar’s revenues.  Al Arab in a report on December 16, 2014 quoted the Qatari energy minister at an industry conference in Doha saying:

“Energy markets are interconnected, and we can see the effects of the oil price drop affecting gas too,” Mohammed al-Sada told reporters in Doha.

There was already a “strong degree of conversion of gas spot prices between different regions,” he said on the sidelines of the 16th ministerial meeting of gas exporting countries.

Oil prices have dropped by nearly 50% and natural gas prices 10% since June 2014.

Then there were still unresolved FIFA 2018 and 2022 bribery investigations of both Russia and Qatar. That has besmirched the reputation of the world football federation and its autocratic head, Sepp Blatter, following the resignation of former US Attorney Michael Garcia of the US law firm of Kirkland and Ellis, over the failure to release the final report of his investigation in bribery allegations. There have been  accusations that some of the $220 billion funds for the infrastructure  in preparation for 2022 FIFA World Cup competition  in Qatar may have involved bribes to FIFA officials and  possible  diversion of contractor payments  to fund the Jihad of the Islamic State.

Qatar’s estimated $220 billion investment in infrastructure to support the 2022 World Cup matches in its torrid climate has engendered another problem: the deaths of  nearly 1,000 foreign workers and their  near servitude-like employment and housing conditions. The Times of India in a December 24, 2014, report cited evidence of Qatar’s continuing toll of foreign workers:

A series of stories in The Guardian have shown that migrant workers from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere were dying in their hundreds.

While some were listed as having been killed in workplace accidents, many more were said to have died from sudden, unexplained cardiac arrest.

The government confirmed in the DLA Piper report that 964 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh had died while living and working in the Gulf state in 2012 and 2013.

The report recommended that Qatar do more to record and investigate the causes of death among the migrant population but it has made little outward progress.

After it was published, Qatar said it would reform the kafala system that keeps workers tied to their employer, and better enforce laws that require contractors to provide humane living conditions and ban them from seizing passports.

But the system that Qatar proposed to replace kafala would still leave workers tied to their employers for the length of their contract, which could be as much as five years.

Seasoned observers of the Middle East region say that Qatar under the two century rule by the Al-Thani family “has been punching internationally above its weight class” to use the boxing analogy. Yet Qatar has often been referred to as a Frenemy.  Not exactly a friend, not exactly an enemy.  The friend part is reflected in the forward operating base for the US CENTCOM at the al-Udeid airbase complex and multi-billion dollar purchases of weapons from US defense contractors. There was also the creation of an education hub for several US universities and the Brookings Institution Doha Middle East Research Center.  That may be winding down with status of forces agreement with the Afghanistan government and the Obama Administration ending active US combat participation in the conflict with the Taliban.  The enemy side of Qatar  had  until these latest developments been reflected in support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Al Qaeda and Islamic State by wealthy fundamentalist Qataris.

Trofimov in his WSJ analysis cites the characterization of Qatar by a human rights critic:

Despite its rhetoric in favor of democratic change in the region, the absolute monarchy has remained just as repressive as its neighbors, said Najab al Nuaimi, the country’s former justice minister who is now a prominent human-rights lawyer.

“It is a police state. There is no democracy in Qatar. If you open your mouth, they will even strip you of your passport,” he said. “We supported directly all the uprisings, with violence, with guns—but only the Brotherhood, not the liberals.”

Thus, tiny Qatar has been forced to rein in its support of the Islamist jihadist causes because of geo-political realities, leaving Turkey’s President Erdogan as the lone supporter of Hamas in the region.  That has been  fueled by the  US energy revolution producing a glut in the weakened demand for oil and gas that precipitated  the plummeting oil and gas prices. We can thank American entrepreneurial enterprise for causing the drop in revenues to energy dependent producers like Russia, Iran and Venezuela and quickening the possible demise of OPEC.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha on 12-9-14. Source: Associated Press.

Qatar Ambassador to U.S.: “We Don’t Support Hamas”

Qatar’s Ambassador to Washington  H.E. Mohammed Jaham Al-Kuwari is a veteran diplomat with 32 years of service to the small gas rich wealthy Arab state on a peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf off Saudi Arabia.  American educated at the University of Portland, Oregon with graduate work at the University of Madrid in Spain, he speaks several languages including Farsi used during a diplomatic post in Tehran.  He has held a number of diplomatic posts, Foreign Ministry and Cabinet positions. As Qatar’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, he presented his credentials to President Obama in the Oval Office in March 2014. Ambassador Al-Kuwari spoke Friday, December 5th at the monthly meeting of the Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola, Florida.

Qatar with its capital of Doha has fewer subjects than the metropolitan Pensacola area, approximately 300,000. There are also upwards of 1.7 million foreign workers residing in Qatar with some evidence of human rights violations. Human Rights Watch in its 2014 World Report noted:

Migrants continue to experience serious rights violations, including forced labor and arbitrary restrictions on the right to leave Qatar, which expose them to exploitation and abuse by employers.

The soft spoken Qatari diplomatic representative flew in from “wintry DC” the prior evening to be greeted by Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, Escambia County Commissioner Michael Underwood and the board of the Tiger Bay Club.  He presented a check for $10,000 to Mayor Hayward and proceeded to unroll a charm campaign on this Gulf Coast community in North West Florida with a heavy military presence.  Located in Northwest Florida are the famed Pensacola Naval Air Station, Navy Training and Information Dominance Commands, the Naval Flight Training Center at Whiting Field, the USAF Air Force Special Operation Command Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Eglin and Tyndall Air bases.  It is not uncommon to see personnel from the six Arab States, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, undergoing training at these facilities.  One of the Tiger Bay board members who attended the private dinner Thursday evening opined the Ambassador gave a “smooth performance.”

The Qatar Charm Campaign

Tiny Qatar across from Shiite Iran is endeavoring to explain the presence of the leaders from terror groups Hamas and Taliban ensconced in luxury in Doha.   There are also allegations by the US Treasury that some Qatar individuals and charities may have funded these groups, as well as, the self declared Islamic State, formerly ISIS. A bit ironic, as Ambassador Al-Kuwari said ISIS is a threat to them that needs to be addressed through immediate military action.

On the diplomatic side, Qatar is one of two Gulf Arab States, the other being Oman, that have diplomatic relationships with America’s ally in the Middle East, Israel.  He stressed their recognition of the State of Israel which has offices in Doha.  He spoke about the role of Qatar trying to bring about peace between the Jewish State and the Palestinians, what he repeatedly deemed as the principal  root cause of unrest and violence in the region. He spoke about the criticism from fellow Arab League members questioning why Qatar tolerates Israeli presence and Jewish visitors.

Ambassador Al Kuwari propounded the view that the Al Jazeera satellite TV network was founded as the “voice of the Arab Spring”, promoting democratic aspirations.  He pointed out Qatar’s own aspirations to build democratic institutions noting a possible future elected parliament, given the two century rule by the Al-Thani family.

“Qatar doesn’t support Hamas”

He astounded some in the audience when he claimed that Qatar does not support Hamas.  This despite the $1 billion pledge by Qatar made at a Cairo conference to underwrite one quarter of the $4 billion cost to rebuild Gaza after the third Hamas perpetrated war with Israel since 2008. In his Tiger Bay talk he referenced the 2,200 Gazans killed in IDF Operation Protective Edge, not mentioning that the majority were Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad operatives who had used civilians as human shields. Nor did he mention that the $400 millions pledged after the 2012 Gaza war may have been used to build the terror tunnels that enabled cross border attacks inside Israel during the recent summer war.   As he put it, “better to have Khaled Meshaal, the leader in Qatar than across the Gulf in Iran”.

As to questions concerning permitting a Taliban office in Qatar, the Ambassador said that was to facilitate discussions with the Afghan government leading to an inclusive democratic government.  He recommended the terror group relinquish its threats of violence and denial of empowerment of women through education.  He noted the role played by Qatar in release of several Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo in exchange for release of captive US Army Sergeant Bergdahl.  However he did not respond to questions as to whether any of the released Taliban commanders in Qatar were rumored to have subsequently joined ISIS.

When asked about the Muslim Brotherhood, he suggested that there could be democratically elected Islamist governments, decrying the imprisonment by Egyptian President el-Sisi of Brothers, liberals and human rights advocates by the newly elected government.  The Ambassador suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood may not have resorted to terrorism, which appears contradicted by Egyptian, Saudi and UAE designations.   He was, however, silent about the long term presence in Qatar of exiled Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood preacher, Yusuf al-Qaradawi founder of the Union of Good, a US Treasury Global Designated Terror Group supplying Hamas.

As Ambassador Al-Kuwari was finishing his presentation The Investigative Project was reporting:

 Interpol issued a bulletin Friday seeking the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood’s most influential cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The bulletin was sparse on details but said that Egypt wanted the 88-year-old Qaradawi “to serve a sentence” for crimes including “incitement and assistance to commit intentional murder.” …  According to the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch, Interpol issued a “red notice” which is both its highest level alert, and a move subject to later review by the international police agency.

The Egyptian El-Sisi government had requested extradition by Qatar of al-Qaradawi to stand trial.

Ambassador Al-Kuwari painted a glowing picture of Qatar as the Switzerland of the Middle East with billions of dollars holding hundreds of international academic, business and interfaith conferences akin to Davos. He touted American universities like Cornell, Northwestern, Texas, and Virginia Commonwealth that set up programs in Doha. He said that Qatar wanted to invest in economic enterprises in the region to create jobs for the large number of unemployed university graduates.  In the US Qatar is spending $5 million funding university courses to teach Arabic.

 He emphasized the humanitarian contributions of Qatar reflected in the $100 million given for the rebuilding of New Orleans following hurricane Katrina, the $850 million to rebuild Haiti after the 2012 Earthquake in cooperation with the Clinton Foundation and a major push against Polio in the less developed world in conjunction with the Gates Foundation.  But there were also investments in the US, like the $1.5 billion City Center complex developed with the Hines group in Texas revitalizing a derelict section of Washington, DC.

When asked about the depiction of Islam as being prone to violence reflected in the barbarism of ISIS, he deplored that.  He contended that ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates were a distinct minority that had infiltrated the demonstrated record of tolerance of Islam. His message was that Qatar was following the example of the 800 year Muslim reign in Al Andaluz, southern Spain, where allegedly Jews, Christian and Muslims lived in tolerance. This is not demonstrated by the history of intolerance and barbarism akin to that perpetrated by contemporary ISIS and the Taliban during the successive waves of invasion by extremist Berber-Muslims from North Africa.  He noted Qatar’s approval for building a new Catholic church.

Is Qatar a Frenemy?

Seasoned observers of the Middle East Region say that Qatar under the two century rule by the Al-Thani family “has been punching internationally above its weight class” to use the boxing analogy. Yet Qatar has often been referred to as a Frenemy.  Not exactly a friend, not exactly an enemy.

On the friend side Qatar has assisted in building several major bases including the forward command center at al-Udeid air base for the US Central Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Base just outside Tampa, Florida. Qatar has supplied air contingents in the US-led coalition of 60 countries seeking to “degrade and destroy” Sunni extremist group, the Islamic State, formerly ISIS. The capital, Doha has been turned into an international education hub for the Middle East with the aid of US academic institutions and think tanks like the Doha Center of the Washington, DC –based Brookings Institution.  Qatar has created jobs here in the US by purchasing $19 billion  of 50 Boeing 777s  for expansion of its Qatar Airways in major hubs  Dallas, Miami , Philadelphia to bolster existing facilities in Houston, Washington, DC, New York and Chicago .  Further, Qatar has signed agreements with the Pentagon to purchase more than $11 billion in Patriot Missiles, Apache helicopters and Javelin anti-tank missiles. Moreover, it acquired the Current TV channel, now Al Jazeera America, from former Vice President Al Gore and investors.

On the other hand, there is a troubling story.  Qatar in a New York Times op-ed by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor called Qatar a “Club Med for Terrorists”. He was referring to providing sanctuary for Khaled Meshaal, the billionaire leader of Hamas.  Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies in testimony before the Joint Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs on September 9, 2014 said “that Qatar is currently Hamas’ ATM”:

“If you add up the annual $400 million that we believe has been pledged by the Qataris and perhaps the rumored $300 million provided by the Turks, then you’re looking at $700 million out of a roughly $1 billion budget,” Schanzer told members of Congress. “I’m no math major, but that would be 70 percent.

Earlier this year three Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, briefly withdrew their Ambassadors from Qatar.  They were, among other reasons, objecting to the Qatar funded Al Jazeera satellite TV network broadcasting across the region in Arabic the extremist inflammatory statements of exiled Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood preacher, Yusuf al Qaradawi.  In November 2014, the UAE joined Saudi Arabia placing the Muslim Brotherhood on its list of world terrorist organizations, including Hamas and, here in the US, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, the Council of American Islamic Relations and Muslim American Society.

There are questions about what Qatar is doing concerning wealthy Qataris who have funded Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah and the Sunni fundamentalist Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.

There have been  accusations that some of the $220  billion funds for the infrastructure  in preparation for 2022 FIFA World Cup competition may have involved bribes to FIFA officials and  possible  diversion of contractor payments  to fund the Jihad of the Islamic State.

Some Members of Congress have called for black listing both Qatar and Turkey because of these individuals’ contributions to ISIS, even suggesting that the U.S. move CENTCOMM bases in Qatar elsewhere in the region. Those accusations led the US State Department while calling the current relationship with Qatar “productive”, to also state that “disruption of terrorist financing by Qatari individuals and charitable associations remains inconsistent”.

Conclusion

Qatari Ambassador Al-Kuwari’s Pensacola presentation will doubtless be repeated frequently during his Washington, DC posting. After all the campaign is laced with prospects of American communities and businesses receiving billions in economic rewards.  If Qatar is to succeed it might wisely follow the path of fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Kuwait and rein in terrorist financiers in the tiny state. Qatar might start by honoring the Interpol Red Tag warrant for the arrest and extradition of Muslim Brotherhood preacher Al Qaradawi.  As to fostering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, if Qatar’s track record negotiating cease fire proposals with Turkey on behalf of Hamas in the recent summer Gaza war is any indication, that is an unlikely prospect.

Listen to the Qatar Ambassador’s Pensacola Tiger Bay Club presentation.

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

Turks Renege on Air Base, ISIS beheads Hundreds in Kobani while Surrounding Baghdad

Yesterday, National  Security Adviser Susan E. Rice went on NBC’s “Meet the Press “and glibly announced that Turkey had given permission for use of the Incirlik air base  by the U.S.-led  coalition assaulting ISIS from the air. She  triumphantly  commented, “That’s a new commitment and one that we very much welcome”.

Today, The Washington Post  reported  a senior Turkish official  denied such a claim, saying that talks were still underway, perhaps awaiting a Pentagon military planning team this week in Ankara. Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Erdogan has made it abundantly clear that he wants his priority demand  opening up a front against the Assad Regime. Erdogan’s negotiations tactics lend credence that he is tacitly supporting ISIS’ destruction of the Kurdish YPG fighters in Kobani.

It looks like the same stall tactics his AKP government used back in 2003, when the U.S. Army First Infantry  Division was prevented from off loading in the Mediterranean  port of Iskenderun to  transit of  Turkey and enter Northern Iraq. What is the expression, dog bites man first time, dog’s fault;  dog bites man second time, man’s fault.  Following in the wake of Ms. Rice’s gaffe on Benghazi on Meet the Press October 15, 2012 and now with this episode, she has lost credibility.

But then the Obama policies in the region have failed. 

Whether it is red lines in Syria, supporting a One Iraq policy in the face of disintegration of the Baghdad central government, and his ISIS strategy with a U.S. air assault but no boots on the ground.

Turkey’s stalling on permission  for  the US-led coalition  air contingents use the Incirlik air base less than 100 kilometers from the Turkish – Syrian border has complicated  air operations.  We have argued  that should have been the first orders of business by the Administration. Now US Navy squadrons on board the USS George H. W. Bush in the Red Sea, USAF  squadrons based temporarily at the Al Udeid air base in Qatar carrier and RAF squadrons based in Cyprus have to fly 1,100 mile round trip sorties  making it virtually impossible to engage in round the clock air operations.

We offer the following   suggestions about what to do with a recalcitrant Erdogan in Turkey,. One suggested by Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is that Turkey be temporarily suspended  from the NATO alliance until it agrees to lend meaningful support to the US-led coalition.  The Administration might impose an embargo on sales of US military equipment and spare parts to Turkey, akin to what was done following Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, lifted in 1978. The State Department might delist the Turkish Workers Party (PKK) from its designated terrorist list. There is the precedent of the delisting of the Iranian opposition group, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq  (MEK). That act outraged the Iranian Islamic regime. A similar action by the U.S. State Department might cause a diplomatic furor between Washington and Ankara further emboldening Kurdish protests in Turkey and elsewhere.

We have grisly reports from The Daily Mail, today, that hundreds of trapped Kurds in Kobani have been beheaded by ISIS jihadists to the cries of “allahu Akbar”. Rumor has it that a contingent of 200 Kurdish fighters with more modern weapons may be on their way to Kobani. But that may be too little too late to save  the encircled YPG fighters in Kobani.

 Meanwhile a  large column of 10,000 ISIS troops ,equipped with stolen US tanks, artillery and Humvees,  have virtually taken all of Anbar province encircling  Baghdad and threatening  the International airport. The UN reported today that more than 30,000 families, 180,000 persons  fled after the town of Hit was taken.

We had this exchange with a veteran U.S. security contractor in Baghdad.

Gordon:  Thank you for your comment on my Iconoclast post.  Suffice to say all of us pray for the safety of you and all your American colleagues in Iraq. The flight of the Iraqi forces before Mosul in June empowered ISIS with billions in US supplied arms, weapons, tanks and Humvees. ISIS military commanders are former Saddam Ba’athist commanders and quite capable in conducting operations against a corrupt Iraqi national army. ISIS has a friend in Turkey’s Erdogan, allied with the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Despite the change in government and removal of former Premier Al-Maliki, Iraq remains a satrap of Iran for all intents and purposes. ISIS’ Jihad Qur’anic imperative, to borrow a phrase of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, is “Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of war” to the cry of “allahu Akbar”.  I trust that you and your colleagues can make it out to Kuwait and home before the Baghdad airport falls into ISIS hands.

Tim:  I agree with what you say. I have been able to see all this happen first hand. I have been over here for a total of five years. I believe that some plan has been made for our evacuation but nothing has been shared. We will see.

Yesterday,  Lisa Benson asked  us to join her, Dr. Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS) and the Hon. Karwan Zebari,the Kurdish Regional Government Ambassador in Washington.  Benson, has drawn  attention to the barbaric onslaught of ISIS against the YPG fighters in Kobani, and  the efforts of the KRG Peshmerga forces in Iraq. Benson has also reached out to activists to solicit relief assistance to Kurds, Yazidis and Christians in the KRG. She has told graphically of the escape of Yazidi women and girls from Raqaa who were sold into sex slavery by their ISIS captors and the price they had paid to reach safety and freedom in the KRG. Benson has mounted several twitter rally campaigns with hashtags #ArmPeshmerga and #SaveKobani.

In the discussion on this latest Lisa Benson Radio Show broadcast, we addressed revelations by Senior Iranian officials in contact with the Administration. They suggested  that Israel will be threatened by ISIS if the Assad regime is attacked.  Dr. Abbas, confirmed Iran’s double game strategy facilitating the rampage that emboldened ISIS’ conquest of large swaths of Syria and Iraq virtually destroying the map of the Levant. A map that began with the  British-French Sykes Picot secret agreement of 1916 that led to the French and British Mandates of the League of Nations at the San Remo Conference in 1920. This was followed by  the creation of the Kemalist Republic of Turkey in 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne.

The big losers  in the Versailles conference in 1919 were the Kurds. They were promised a nation in their ancient homeland in what became modern Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

Ambassador Zebari  articulated  the failure of the so-called One Iraq policy propounded by the US Administration  as the basis for the strategy to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State.  ISIS has become enormously wealthy from looting banks, extortion, and taxation of conquered people and sales of smuggled oil from fields in both Syria and Iraq.  The flood of ISIS fighters from 70 countries have travelled the jihadist highway allowed  by the Islamist regime of President Erdogan’s AKP government in Ankara.  Dozens have been  killed in  riots in Turkey’s predominately  Kurdish  southeast.

Benson fielded a call from a Kurdish American organizer of a hunger strike in support of Kurds in Kobani that will be launched across from the White House this Friday.  Another call, asked the probing question of Dr. Abbas and Ambassador Zebari, “ What could be done to arouse the Administration to alleviate this looming disaster?”  Ambassador Zebari suggested that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have recognized the failure of the One Iraq policy and the necessity of supporting the Kurds.

Both Dr. Abbas raised the question of why Jewish advocacy groups in the US don’t support this, as they have been noticeably silent?   Benson contrasted the questionable appropriation  of more than $500 million by Congress in response to the President’s request to provide training and arms for  so-called moderate Syrian opposition forces, most of who appear to Islamist. The consensus of the discussions on Sunday’s program was the One Iraq strategy has failed and that the Kurds deserve a nation-state of their own.  Dr. Abbas and Ambassador Zebari  opposed  Secretary of State Kerry continued espousal of the failed One Iraq policy.

Dr. Abbas drew attention to  the US donation of  $212 million announced at the Cairo  Donor conference organized by Norway for reconstruction in Gaza. Over $2.7 billion was raised in pledges from EU and Middle East Muslim nations. There was nary a word about dismantling and verifying Hamas’s terror command and tunnels. Kerry also pushed for renewal of Palestinian – Israeli peace discussions. All while PA President Abbas pushes his campaign for a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian State claiming he has 7 of 9 votes in favor.

Ambassador Zebari pointed out that  Israel and the Kurds are objects of scorn and hate by the Muslim Brotherhood, Shia and Sunni, Salafist and Wahhabist Jihadists  in the Middle East.

This should, in his opinion, arouse Americans  during the upcoming Mid-Term November elections to vote for Congressional candidates who support Kurdish nationalism and provide the arms  to fight against ISIS   Meanwhile, we had reports  from Jerusalem today that Israeli police closed down Palestinian rioters  at the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount. These rioters were  seeking to rain havoc with rocks and Molotov cocktails on Jews at the Kotel below celebrating the Festival of Tabernacles, Sukkoth.

The UN considered such Israeli actions, “provocative”.

RELATED ARTICLE: US “ally” Turkey bombs Kurds opposed to the Islamic State

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

United Arab Emirates Secretly Offers Funding for Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to Defeat Hamas

Ilana Freedman of The Freedman Report posted this from The Peninsula alleging the United Arab Emirates  (UAE) had met secretly with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman offering to fund Operation Protective Edge to defeat Hamas.  The Peninsula report notes this about who might have facilitated this development:
clear

Former Fatah Security chief, Mohammad Dahlan circa 2006

Sheikh Abdullah’s Security Adviser, Mohamed Dahlan, was also present. Dahlan, a Palestinian, is a former Fatah member expelled from the party and Gaza and now lives in the UAE.

Former Palestinian Authority Security chief Dahlan had been cited by the Jerusalem Post at the start of Operation Protective Edge denouncing Hamas for “fostering  new terror groups,  threatening Egypt’s security, and laying siege to the Gaza Strip.”  Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense for Democracies chronicled the acrimonious split between Dahlan and PA President Abbas in his book, State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State.  Read our November 2013 NER review on The Failed State of Palestine  for more details about Dahlan’s split with Abbas.

The secret meeting between the UAE and Israel is in sharp contrast to Qatar that has gone on record yesterday in a The Gulf in the Media  report supporting the Palestinian people and Hamas in Gaza. Both developments in the Gulf come amidst the current Israeli ground incursion directed at destroying Hamas’ rocket inventory, launching facilities and extensive network of tunnels.  That appears to fit the Arab dictum “the enemy of my enemies is my friend”.  Despite supporting Hamas,  Qatar has a friend in the Obama Administration.  This is further evidence of a deep division among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council  (GCC) regarding the threats from affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood the Islamic State, formerly ISIS.  PA President Abbas was in Ankara yesterday visiting Premier Erdogan, a Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas supporter.  Today, he was in Doha, Qatar seeking support for a cease fire in the current conflict, but without support from Egypt.  Today, 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed in a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade attack at a Libyan border checkpoint 300 miles West of Cairo, perhaps by Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist terrorists.  That may be a why Egyptian President el-Sisi’s government is blocking the Gaza- Egypt frontier  while blaming Hamas for the current conflict.

Here is the Freedman Report post:

UAE, Israel have secret meeting, UAE ‘offered to fund Israel’s Gaza offensive’

Posted on July 19, 2014 by the Peninsula – 19 July, 2014

The UAE knew in advance of Israel’s plans for an offensive in Gaza and even offered to fund the operation provided the militant Palestinian outfit Hamas was eliminated in the process. Israel’s Channel 2 claimed in a recent report, according to local Arabic daily Al Sharq. The daily says in a report published today that Israel’s leading national TV station (Channel 2 in Hebrew) disclosed details of secret parleys between the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, in Paris at the end of last month.

Both leaders met on the sly in Paris on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from the GCC states and Jordan with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israel’s foreign minister was also in the city.

The meeting was to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue.

Al Sharq said the UAE was aware of Israeli’s planned military action in Gaza beforehand and Al Nahyan, at his meeting with Lieberman, expressed his country’s keenness to fund Israeli’s Gaza offensive provided the Hamas movement was annihilated since it had close links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Al Sharq, Channel 2 reported that just a few days ago there was a meeting between Sheikh Abdullah and an Israeli minister in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Abdullah’s Security Adviser, Mohamed Dahlan, was also present. Dahlan, a Palestinian, is a former Fatah member expelled from the party and Gaza and now lives in the UAE.

Read the original article here.

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

“Zionism Unsettled” is a hatefilled document endorsed by Iran and David Duke

zionism unsettledA century ago the Presbyterian Church was among the leading Christian Zionists. These days a minority within  the Presbyterian Church USA is engaged in relentless delegitimization of Israel through a decade long BDS campaign. Their affiliate the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) released last month a 74 page guide, Zionism Unsettled (the Guide) that recently stoked the ire of the American Jewish community. A JNS.org story on the Zionism Unsettled guide cited Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s  Director of Intergroup and Interreligious Relations, who called it:

 A devastating distortion of Jewish and Israeli history, aimed at nothing less than eradicating the State of Israel.

The study guide is reminiscent of medieval Christian polemics against Judaism, with the authors claiming to know better than the Jewish community how Jews define themselves. This is another example of the ongoing effort to demonize Israel by a cadre of people who want to see the dismantlement of the Jewish state.

Here are some examples drawn from the Guide  that led to adverse criticism:

The Nakba (catastrophe) that befell the Palestinian people in the late 1940s should never have taken place. The Palestinian story is one of suffering at the hands of the international community, which authorized the division of Palestine in 1947, and at the hands of the Zionists who planned, organized, and implemented systematic ethnic cleansing.

Now, 65 years later, the Zionist quest for demographic control of the land in still underway – not only in the occupied territories, but within Israel itself.

Yesterday, the Guide received the endorsements of the Shiite Islamic Anti-Semitic Regime’s Press TV in Tehran and the American Anti-Semite, David Duke.  Duke has conducted outreach to Muslim Anti-Semitic groups in both Syria and Iran, to say nothing of his racist efforts here in the US.

Press TV’s report, “Zionism destroying lives of Palestinians, Jews” applauded the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP):

In a study guide on the Israeli regime released by the IPMN of Presbyterian Church (USA) last month, the authors argue that Jewish criticism of Zionism is on the rise, hailing the Jews who speak against the ‘supremacist’ movement.

“Contemporary voices are breaking the taboos that have stigmatized and punished critical examination of Zionism and its consequences,” says the study guide, calling on the brave Jews who criticize Zionism to resist a concerted effort by Pro-Zionist groups to silence them.

Press TV supported the Guide’s anti-Israel views:

A Presbyterian Church group has described Zionism as the single reason behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it is destroying the lives of both Palestinians and Jewish communities across the world.

Dexter Van Zile, Christian Media Analyst for the Boston-based Middle East media watchdog, CAMERA, cited praise for the Guide from David Duke in an Algemeiner article:

In a major breakthrough in the worldwide struggle against Zionist extremism, the largest Presbyterian Church in the United States, the PC (USA), has issued a formal statement calling Zionism “Jewish Supremacism” — a term first coined and made popular by Dr. David Duke.

The IPMN website has additional acclamation from leftist Anti-Zionist Ben Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon (no relation) and former Palestinian National Council spokesman, Professor Rashid Khalidi, holder of the endowed Edward Said Chair on Modern Arab Studies  at Columbia University:

Gordon said in his blurb:

In my work I am inspired by the great Jewish prophets’ struggle for justice and freedom, while simultaneously I am often astounded how certain strains in Judaism and Christianity invoke the Bible in order to justify oppression and social wrongs in Israel/Palestine. Therefore I welcome the effort to emphasize a conception of Judaism and Christianity that espouses universalistic ethics – whereby all humans are imago dei – and to use it to expose injustices carried out in my homeland.

Khalidi said:

The denial of the rights of the Palestinians is largely driven by the exemption of Zionist ideology and its real-world implications from any serious scrutiny. Zionism Unsettled explains accurately and concisely why it is essential to look at the theological roots of Zionism, and how it has appealed to both Jews and Christians, in order to understand the true nature of the long ordeal suffered by the Palestinian people, as well as the real roots of so much of the strife in the Middle East.

Today, the Presbyterian Church (USA ) entered the fray with a news release in the wake of this kerfuffle over the Guide:

 “Our church has a long history of engaging many points of view when it comes to dialogue on critical issues facing the world around us — it’s who we are, part of our DNA,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “There are likely as many differing opinions as there are Presbyterians — and, like many denominations, we don’t always agree.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy calls for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders. The church has condemned acts of violence on both sides of the conflict, as well as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements. Our church has categorically condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, we believe that condemnation of injustices perpetrated in the name of the State of Israel, including the violation of human rights, does not constitute anti-Semitism.

In 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formed the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) to help move the church toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine. The independent group — which speaks to the church and not for the church — recently published a study guide, Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study. The guide is intended to prompt discussion on the ever-changing and tumultuous issue of Israel-Palestine. The IPMN booklet was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“There are myriad voices within congregations, and some would like to see the church go beyond that stance,” added Valentine. “But we remain guided by the policies of the General Assembly, seeking peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Then it quotes the head of the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace:

There are a variety of voices and opinions within the Jewish community on this issue as well. Jewish Voice for Peace advocates for a peaceful and just solution among Palestinians and Israelis that respects human rights for all.

“We are in opposition to the settlements and occupation, and in favor of a true and just peace,” said Sydney Levy, director of advocacy for Jewish Voice for Peace. “And we are not alone in this — Jews, Christians, and Muslims join us in the prayer for peace.”

Is this the view of all members of the PCUSA?  Not by any means.  Robert Norvell, a Presbyterian Minister and counter-jihad activist in Jonesboro, Arkansas wrote in an email:

I believe 85% of all Presbyterians are adamantly opposed to this study. Is Israel perfect? No, but neither is the USA. But Israel is far superior morally to Hamas, Fatah and the other Muslim savages populating the neighborhood. They are our only reliable friends and allies in the region. I am embarrassed by the actions of a few Presbyterian extremists.

Dexter Van Zile in the JNS.org article corroborated Norvell’s comment saying:

The folks who lead this church in Louisville (site of Presbyterian Church USA’s headquarters) are quite willing to allow a small but vocal minority to demonize Israel and use the church’s brand-name to do it. They have behaved like this since 2004. Most of the denomination’s laity does not support these extremists, but their voice has not proven to be decisive.

When I wrote about a battle within the PCUSA over an anti-Israel BDS resolution at the annual conference in an American Thinker article in June 2006, “Divest Hate”, I noted who were among the Presbyterians opposing it:

Because grass roots opinion has been building among both pastors and their flocks against the leadership of the PCUSA on the divestment resolution. They want to eliminate hate and most importantly protect the religious freedoms of minority Christians in the Middle East from the real threat of Islamic fundamentalism. Their allies in this battle include leading grassroots Presbyterian groups like End Divestment Now!, founded by Jim Roberts.  Among vocal opponents of the BDS resolution was former CIA director, R. James Woolsey, a Presbyterian Elder,  and chairman of the Washington, DC-based foundation for Defense of Democracies..

Zionism Unsettled  is a hateful document that has had a spotlight thrown on it  by the endorsement of Iran’s Press TV and David Duke. As cited by Norvell, we trust that  a majority of Presbyterians will rise to the occasion and defeat another BDS resolution at the Church’s upcoming annual conference in June.  Whether they can remove the current PCUSA leadership and return to the moral high ground is another matter. Nonetheless, we wish the activist laity well in their battle to support the Jewish nation of Israel.

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