Posts

Was the 98 to 1 U.S. Senate vote on the Iran Deal a “rebuke” of President Obama?

At a conclusion of an Iconoclast post on the Twitter battle between Iranian Foreign Minister and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), set against the backdrop of yesterday’s virtually unanimous vote for the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA), we wrote:

While [Senator] Cotton’s proposed amendment might void the Israel amendment of Rubio, it will make more complicated Majority Leader senator Mitch McConnell’s management of the INARA legislation as he seeks to assure passage early in the week of May 4th.  Stay tuned for developments.

The Hill, while trumpeting Thursday’s  Senate vote of 98 to 1, noted  what Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was forced to do to assure passage of the compromised version brokered by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD):

Republicans also expressed frustrations that they could not offer more amendments to the bill.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed a motion to end debate after Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cotton tried to force a vote on an amendment requiring Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist as part of a final deal.

The move was a reversal of the open amendment process Republican leadership pledged to bring to the Senate.

McConnell said Thursday that he would have preferred that amendments be added to the bill, but that it might have invited a presidential veto.

“If we didn’t face the threats of filibusters, or the blocking of amendments, or the specter of presidential vetoes, this bill would be a heck of a lot stronger. I assure you,: he said. “But the truth is, we do. That’s the frustrating reality.”

But note the actions of GOP 2016 Presidential Contenders, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX):

Rubio slammed the decision not to allow his amendment requiring Iran to support Israel as part of a deal to come up for a vote, saying that some senators are “terrified” of voting against it.

“Apparently there are senators terrified of voting against that amendment, so they’d rather not have a vote at all. So I am deeply disappointed by the direction this has taken,” he said.

But, he added that he would support the final bill, suggesting that it was better than nothing.

“At a minimum at least it creates a process whereby the American people through their representatives can debate an issue of extraordinary importance,” he said. “So I hope this bill passes here today so at least we’ll have a chance to weigh in.”

Rubio’s remarks separate him from his presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who said on Wednesday that the legislation is a “bad bill.”

But Cruz voted in favor of the bill after voting against ending debate on it.

“I voted no on cloture because we should have insisted on amendments to put real teeth in this bill,” the Texas Republican said. “Ultimately, I voted yes on final passage because it may delay, slightly, President Obama’s ability to lift the Iran sanctions and it ensures we will have a Congressional debate on the merits of the Iran deal.”

Cruz was joined in voting against ending debate by fellow GOP Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Mike Lee (Utah) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was absent for the vote.

In the end, Rubio and Cruz voted for the Corker-Cardin compromise. Given comments by House Speaker Boehner  the measure will easily secure House approval enabling INARA to go to President for his signature.  The measure will give the Senate a 30 day window for review of any agreement that surfaces from the current P5+1 negotiations  and  may require periodic review of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism and ICBM development. At best  INARA  will put a temporary hold on the President lifting sanctions including suggestions giving Iran  ‘signing bonuses” estimated at $30 to 50 Billion. Release of these impounded funds might enable Iran to achieve nuclear threshold status and develop both a nuclear warhead and an ICBM to deliver it for hegemonic purposes. However, should the Senate disapprove the measure on less than an unanimous level, the President can veto it and proceed with his plan to have it ratified by a UN Security Council Resolution.  This would achieve his questionable legacy of allegedly turning Iran from a rogue terror supporting global state terrorism  to a ‘respected member of the world community’. As the hoary English proverb  says: “ if wishes were horses beggars would ride”.

Would this near unanimous Senate vote have been rendered without Israeli PM Minister Netanyahu addressing a joint meeting of Congress  about a “very bad deal” over the objections of President Obama and Democratic Senators? The lone exception to the chorus of Democratic nay-sayers was the original co-sponsor of a tougher version of INARA, New Jersey  Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who was forced to step down as Ranking Member of Senate Foreign Relations because of a Department of Justice indictment for alleged corruption charges.  Or was action on INARA perhaps prompted by the outrage over Senator Cotton’s much maligned letter signed by 46 Republican colleagues  tweeted to Iran’s Islamic Republic leaders about Senate Constitutional prerogatives on approval of treaties and major international agreements?  His twitter war with Foreign Minister Zarif may have been a side show, but the message was clear about the lack of trust in any deal with Iran that isn’t verifiable and transparent.  Senator Cotton’s procedural amendments did precipitate the call for cloture on floor amendments by Majority Leader McConnell.  Cotton’s lone vote against the compromise version of INARA on his valued stand, that any P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran should be in the category of  a treaty requiring a two thirds vote by the senior chamber of Congress may also sent an important message.

Could his protest vote been a prescient warning to his Senate colleagues about the dangers inherent in any P5+1 deal to America and Israel that emerges for review after June 30th?  Again, stay tuned for developments.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Corker Bill, as passed, is worse than useless

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) after the near unanimous vote on Iran Nuclear Review Act (INARA), May 7, 2015.

Is President Obama questioning the loyalty of American Jews?

The Jerusalem Post published an article with a comment allegedly attributable to an Obama White House senior official that has caught the ire of American Jews and Israelis, “US perceives Israel as encouraging anti-Obama backlash among Jews”.  The JP article noted:

A US official close to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said both men are disturbed over what is being perceived in their inner circle as “Jewish activism in Congress” that they think is being encouraged by the Israeli government, Israel Radio reported on Thursday.

The official has informed Israeli government figures that the president and secretary of state are disappointed over repeated attacks made against them by leading members of the Jewish community in the US.

According to Israel Radio, Israeli diplomats and foreign officers have warned against this trend. According to officials based in foreign missions, the Israeli government is increasingly being viewed as fanning the flames among American Jews by encouraging them to promote the official government position while making no room for opposing viewpoints.

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon apologized after it was reported that he called Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic.”

In response to this JP report Stuart Kaufman sent an email to me and other colleagues with this comment:

This is dangerously close to the old anti-Semitic accusation of dual loyalty.  We are now on seriously perilous ground.  The rulers of the land are beginning the effort to isolate Jews – to set us apart.  I can’t stress how dangerous this is.  We Jews and those who are our friends must strike back hard.  This serpent can’t be permitted to grow without a major response.

What Kaufman was referring to was the emergence in 19th Century Europe of die Judenfrage, the Jewish question, criticizing Jewish subjects or citizens of being disloyal because of conflicts between nationalism and Zionism; the return of the Jewish people to what is now Israel.  It was from this well of hatred that anti-Semitism arose in the Vienna of the Habsburg Empire, Wilhelmine Germany and the fin de siècle France during the Dreyfus Affair.  It would become transformed into the international Jewish conspiracy forgery of the Czarist secret police, The Elders of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Later it becomes embedded in Hitler’s anti-Semitic tract Mein Kampf that lit the match for the Holocaust of Six Million European Jewish Men, Women and Children during World War Two. Mein Kampf is today one of the most popular books in the Arab Muslim world promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder Hassan al Banna was an acolyte of Hitler.

Watch this Youtube video of  Julius Streicher, the notorious publisher of the Nazi tabloid Der Sturmer, ranting about Anti-Semitic judenfrage:

In light of that, how callous was this alleged comment from the Senior White House aide in the Administration.  Is the White House really questioning the loyalty of American Jews? Or are the President and Secretary of State simply complaining about Israeli cabinet members and some “American Jews” criticizing them? Are the President and Secretary of State really against Americans, Jews and others, supporting Israel defending its hard won sovereignty against people who would destroy it?

Yesterday, we saw clear evidence of that threat with the World Economic Forum interview of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by Fareed Zakaria of CNN.  We heard translations of Rouhani  saying he would neither destroy 15,000 centrifuges nor stop building or swap  plutonium producing heavy water reactors at Arak for energy producing light water ones. He was also telling the West that sanctions were illegal.  The Obama White House  Press Spokesman Jay Carney said , in response to  reporters’ questions about President Rouhani’s CNN interview, that  Rouhani’s comments were for domestic consumption back home in Tehran.  AIPAC didn’t think so. They sent out a blast email containing  a link to the CNN interview with Rouhani for its members and others to view.

Rouhani’s CNN interview was a deliberate poke in the eyes of the P5+1 and the denizens of the West Wing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. To warn American Jews they better not defend their Jewish cousins in Israel from this threat was both dangerous and a blatant display of ingratitude towards an ally protecting our assets in the Middle East. Some thanks for Shin Bet saving Amb. Dan Shapiro and his striped pants and skirts brigade in Tel Aviv at the US Embassy and others at the Jerusalem conference center from Al Qaeda attacks orchestrated by Ayman al-Zawahiri’s local henchman in Gaza.  Even peace mongering nonagenarian Israeli President Peres at Davos in response to Rouhani’s interview called  for a boycott of Iran.

Perhaps Members of Congress concerned about these White House follies, both domestic and foreign can express their disdain for accusations like this from the Administration. They could politely sit on their hands and not applaud at the President’s State of the Union Address next Tuesday, the 28th when the President inevitably will do a victory lap about engagement with Iran over its nuclear program.  That would send a visual rebuke captured on national and international TV.  An image that would convey a message that even Iran’s President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei wouldn’t require a Farsi translation. The more courageous among US Senate members in the audience of the Joint Session could immediately take up the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, S. 1881 and pass it resoundingly next Wednesday.

After this episode we can understand former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ criticism of the mind numbing political apparatchiks in the West Wing inner circle portrayed in his memoir, Duty. Gates has been unfairly maligned by the liberal media reviewers for betraying his trust with the Obama team while Secretary of Defense by releasing his book prior to the end of the President’s term.  In sharp contrast Thomas Ricks published a praiseworthy review of Gates’ memoir, “In Command”, in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.  Note Ricks’ conclusion that provides a measure of the author:

But Gates is doing far more than just scoring points in this revealing volume. The key to reading it is understanding that he was profoundly affected by his role in sending American soldiers overseas to fight and be killed or maimed. During his four years as defense secretary, he states twice, he wept almost every night as he signed letters of condolence and then lay in bed and meditated on the dead and wounded. He was angry and disappointed with White House officials and members of Congress who appeared to him to put political gain ahead of the interests of American soldiers. Fittingly, he concludes the book by revealing that he has requested to be buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, the resting place of many of those we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More  than 10,000 American Jews serve in our military.  American Jewish servicemen and women have fought and died in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Perhaps they are buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery that Secretary Gates wrote about in his memoir.  Watch this Forward  Vimeo video about two  valiant American Jews who served honorably and fell  in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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