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Sweden would defend any county ‘except Israel’

When the Social Democrats swept into power in Sweden in 2014 led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a prominent member of his cabinet was a self-styled ‘feminist’ Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom. Both Lofven and King Carl Gustav XVI got more than they bargained for the new Foreign Minister.

Socialminister Margot Wallström (s)

Social minister Margot Wallström (s)

Wallstrom’s controversial comments about Saudi Arabia’s misogyny required a tet e tet between the Swedish and Saudi monarchs to preserve the country’s status as the 12th leading exporter of arms.  Sweden has more than 700,000 Muslims amongst the Nordic country’s population of 12 million. The Muslim presence in Sweden has given rise to reports of gang rape of Swedish women and a spike in anti-Semitism, especially given the Muslim majority in the country’s third largest city, Malmo. With Sweden admitting thousands more Muslim migrants and asylees from the conflicts in Syria, North and sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, it has become even more problematic.

However, major contretemps were occasioned by the Lofven government’s recognition of the corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority as a state, when it doesn’t meet the internationally recognized definition of the 1933 Montevideo Convention. That set Israel’s Foreign Ministry on edge, given that Sweden was buying into the victimhood mantra and hate- filled incitement  of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Wallstrom is currently the center of approbation given her controversial accusations that Israel has engaged in “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians and Israel Arabs in response to the daily toll of knifings, car rammings and shootings.  According to a Reuters report on the Wallstrom Israel controversy, the toll since October “includes 24 Israelis and a U.S. citizen. Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 143 Palestinians, 91 of whom authorities have described as assailants.” Wallstrom said in Swedish parliamentary debates on January 12th, “It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.” Reuters noted that Wallstrom “earlier described the Palestinians’ plight as a factor leading to Islamist radicalization – comments seen in Israel as linking it to the November gun and bomb rampage in Paris.”

These latest comments by Wallstrom triggered actions by Israel’s Foreign Ministry capped by remarks, January 14th by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in an Arutz Sheva article calling her accusations, “scandalous”, “immoral” and “foolish ”.   Sweden Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser was called in by Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Aviva Shir-On for a reprimand.  According to a Jerusalem Post, report:

 Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wallstrom would not be welcome to visit Israel. His comments served as a clarification to remarks made earlier in the day by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely who said Israel was closing its door to visits from Swedish officials in the wake of Wallstrom’s words. Israel was sending in the clearest manner possible a very sharp message to Sweden saying that it is backing terrorism and giving a tail wind to the Islamic State to act throughout Europe.

Wallstrom’s comments were a “bad combination of folly and diplomatic stupidity, and Israel will close its door to official visits from Sweden.”

Wallstrom was essentially deemed persona non grata and Swedish officials would be barred from any future deliberations in Israel regarding the Palestinian conflict.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the new CEO  and national  executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, was prompted to send a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Lofven. According to a report in The Algemeiner, Greenberg wrote:

We urge you to ensure that official Swedish statements demonstrate respect for, and knowledge of, Israel’s proven commitment to the rule of law, support for its security challenges, even as it faces armed threats on a scale which Sweden is fortunate not to know.

Sweden is joining the worst Palestinian incitement suggesting Israel is randomly shooting innocent Palestinians in the streets and planting knives in their hands to frame them.

Kent Ekeroth, Sweden Democrat Jewish deputy

Kent Ekeroth, Sweden Democrat Jewish deputy,

None of this controversy surprises the opposition in the Swedish parliament, especially, Kent Ekeroth, the Jewish deputy in the right wing, Sweden Democrat party. An Algemeiner report on  December 9, 2015 had these  comments by Ekeroth about Wallstrom made during an Israeli Channel 2 interview following a debate with her in Sweden’s Parliament:

Sweden has always had misconceptions about Israel, but it has become more extreme. Our government, and especially [Foreign] Minister [Margot] Wallstrom have different standards when it comes to anything related to Israel.

Sweden would defend any other country, but “because we’re talking about Israel,” Sweden “attacks.”

“Either [Wallstrom] doesn’t know that [the Palestinians] support terrorists or she’s just lying,” said Ekeroth. “The foreign minister is carrying out false propaganda and accuses Israel of everything. It’s amazing she doesn’t understand the logic that Israel is defending itself from terrorists. She’s anti-Israel and tries to defend terrorists.”

Ingrid Carlqvist in a Gatestone Institute article, “Sweden’s Walking Diplomatic Disaster”, published, January 14th  presented extensive background on the swirl of controversies surrounding Wallstrom.   She cited this assessment of the Social Democrat Lofven government  from former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel:

Zvi Mazel, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden from 2002-2004, wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on December 14, that,

“The Swedish Social Democratic Party is not known for its sympathy toward Israel. Its current duo of leaders, however, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, have gone overboard and are waging a systematic campaign against Israel. Although the recognition of a Palestinian state was a continuation of the Swedish left’s hostile policy toward Israel, it was also aimed at the country’s large Muslim minority — comprising about 700,000 people — with the aim of attracting Muslim voters to the party in the next elections. During my diplomatic tenure in Sweden in the early 2000s, all my efforts to conduct a dialogue with that party fell on deaf ears. … the two countries’ relations have turned into a cycle of altercations.”

In  Carlqvist’s  Gatestone Institute  article was this  excerpt from a parliamentary debate between her and Ekeroth:

In early December, two members of Parliament, Mathias Sundin of the Liberals and Kent Ekeroth of the Sweden Democrats, had demanded that Wallström explain why she had not condemned the rampant Palestinian knife attacks against civilian Israelis with so much as a syllable. The ensuing debate ended with Wallström saying that she trusts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas implicitly, because he told her he wants peace, and she believes him. She also leveled new accusations against Israel, which, according to Wallström, is engaged in “extrajudicial executions.”

Kent Ekeroth wondered how Wallström views President Abbas and his Fatah party. The Foreign Minister replied:

“The government supports moderate forces in Palestine, the government supports the Palestinian Authority and others who recognize Israel’s right to exist and seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict, enabling Israel and Palestine to live side by side with peace and security. I find that President Abbas has made it his life’s goal to replace the way of violence with a diplomatic struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I also note that President Abbas, apart from his denunciation of terrorism, has also spoken against cries for violent resistance against the Israeli occupying force.”

Ekeroth retorted:

“Wallström portrays Abbas as a pacifist who has denounced terrorism. He might condemn terrorism when it is French citizens who are killed, but when it is Israelis being killed there are no problems. He has not condemned a single one of the murders of 20 Israelis during the last few months. On the contrary, many of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leaders have glorified the killers. A member of the Fatah Central Council told Palestinian TV in October that he congratulates all those who have carried out the attacks. He is proud of them, and thought that knife attacks should be taught in Palestinian schools. Your own ‘golden boy’ Mahmoud Abbas said in September, regarding the violence against Israelis, that ‘We bless every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem’, and we know that every Palestinian assassin apprehended by Israel is rewarded by the Palestinian Authority. So how can Wallström claim that he denounces terrorism, when he is actually rewarding it with money from the Swedish taxpayers?

“Wallström is either ignorant about Abbas’ celebrations of and rewards to murderers, or she is lying. Neither alternative is very flattering. I would therefore like to ask two questions: Is Wallström aware of the praising of terrorism? Is Wallström aware of the rewards paid to terrorists? Yes or no?”

Wallström replied that she certainly condemns “all acts of violence, regardless if they are carried out by Palestinians or Israelis, and I have emphasized the importance of bringing those responsible to justice and not engaging in extrajudicial executions.”

Wallström further thought that one should not attempt to interpret or translate what Abbas says, because there are so many different ways to do this. “I do not think we should do that, the important thing is that we condemn violence and I myself have heard Abbas do this, so I know he renounces violence.”

Ekeroth shot back: “One does not reward terrorists with recognition, and one does not pay them using Swedish taxpayers’ money.” He then proceeded to show a number of printouts of Fatah’s official Facebook page, where murdered Israelis are displayed and the killings celebrated. “You need to understand that Abbas speaks two languages — one to gullible [Western] politicians, where he says he wants peace, and another to Palestinians, where he promotes, glorifies and rewards terror. Wallström needs to stop listening to what Abbas tells her and instead start listening to what he tells his own people.”

WATCH  this sub-titled video of the Wallstrom Ekeroth debate on December 4, 2015:

RELATED ARTICLE: Swedish Woman Murdered by Muslim Refugees that she Supported!

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

PODCAST: The War against the Infidels

LISTEN to this podcast of the January 10, 2016 Lisa Benson Show on KKNT 960 The Patriot.  Lisa Benson and New English Review Senior Editor Jerry Gordon co-hosted this show with the assistance of Board of Advisors member, Richard Cutting.

Col. Richard Kemp, (ret.) CBE, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and noted commentator on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, discussed why Israel is the outpost of civilization in the Middle east. He urged Queen Elizabeth to visit Israel in 2017, the 100th Anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Turks to honor ANZAC fallen.  He drew attention to British Prime Minister Cameron who has spoken before Israel’s Knesset and his designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group.  He suggested that perhaps the Administration might follow suit.

He considers the Muslim Brotherhood as an evil organization seeking to spread Islamist hatred of Israel Europe and the West. Hamas he pointed out had links to the Muslim Brotherhood with objectives similar to that of ISIS.   An ISIS he said was spreading its barbaric Islamic doctrine across the Muslim Ummah from Syria and Iraq to North and sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia.

With regard to the resurgence of the Taliban in a 14 year war in Afghanistan with NATO forces, he said that some of it was attributable to the role of Pakistan intelligence service.  The Pakistanis and Afghans he noted are enemies.  He called attention to the internecine war between the Taliban and ISIS endeavoring to gain power as enemies of the democratic government in Afghanistan. A government plagued with corruption hobbling the country’s security forces.  He called attention to a generational long struggle against Islamist Jihadism in which the West cannot relax. It must stand up and fight.   He noted in passing that the US Administration has taken its eye off the ball with outreach to an enemy, Iran. He attributed some of the present difficulties in the Middle east and South Asia to both the pullout of US forces in Iraq and pull down of ISAF troops in Afghanistan.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka addressed the number one issue in polls taken of Americans, national security and domestic Islamic terrorism.  He suggested that the Administration had to jettison the canard of lone wolf terror acts. The Boston Marathon Bombers, the shooting in Chattanooga, the massacre in San Bernardino and the recent attempted murder of a police officer by a convicted felon and convert to Islam in Philadelphia he said was reflective of the connective tissue of Global Jihad doctrine. That doctrine viewed America and the West as antithetical to Jihadist aims.

He viewed the ability of the US and the EU to vett the millions of migrants and refugees flooding the west as well nigh impossible.  While referencing the intense scrutiny of his parents, refugees from the 1956 Hungarian rebellion against Soviet Communism, he suggested that could only be done under intense and repeated questioning by counterterrorism security echelons using a data base to check documents and bona fides.  He suggested that the US is hobbled by the lack of manpower and a data base to vett, for example, the stream of Syrian Refugees.

Having visited a Syrian refugee camp during the recent Christmas New Year’s holiday, he was struck with two takeaways. He commended the Kingdom of Jordan, without the resources of oil revenues of an incredible job of s country of 6 million handling an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees. He tasked the oil rich Gulf States and Saudi Arabia to offer financial and resettlement assistance.  He said there was no sense to send Syrians to the EU or the US. Rather it was incumbent on the contending powers, especially the US, to resolve the conflict, hereby enabling the Syrians in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon to return home.

Regarding the recent settlement between New York City and Muslim and civil liberties advocacy groups ending  the NYPD Muslim community profiling program, Gorka  said in a recent House Armed  Services Committee testimony  that after 9/11, the NYPD had been let down by Federal law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies. The NYPD he noted undertook to build perhaps the best counterterrorism intelligence and surveillance program to monitor and protect the Muslim community in New York against Islamist inroads. Effectively he commented to the House Committee that politics continued to get in the way of national security.

When asked about the current rising Sunni Shiite divide between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he referred to a comment from Israeli PM Netanyahu, who said it was a Game of Thrones pitting the Saudi Wahabbist Sunni Caliphate against the Mullahs of the Shia Mahdist Caliphate in Nuclear Iran.

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

PODCAST: Pakistani Terrorist Camps in the United States

Listen to this podcast of the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show on KKNT 960 AM Radio – The Patriot. Lisa Benson and New English Review Senior Editor Jerry Gordon co-hosted this show with the assistance of Board of Advisers member, Richard Cutting.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Foundation of Islam and Democracy and the U.S. Commission for international religious discussed the recently launched Freedom Muslim Reform Movement, the deteriorating situation inside Syria and U.S. failure to contend with NATO ally Turkey under Islamist President Erdogan in the war against ISIS.

Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center, addressed allegations in a recent Wall Street Journal expose of NSA spying on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Congressional Members and American Jewish leaders, Israeli preparedness against ISIS threats in Syria and the Sinai and the tacit cooperation with Egypt and the fascinating understanding struck with Putin’s Russia to contain Hezbollah. We will be posting Bryen’s written responses to these and other questions, separately.

Jamaat ul-Fuqra fbi

FBI agents embracing members of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a Pakistani based terrorist group in the United States.

Ryan Mauro, National Security Analyst at The Clarion Project addressed the terrorist training camps established in both Canada and America by radical Pakistani Sufi Sheik Mubarak ali Gilani, who has not been investigated by the FBI despite his founding a network of Jamaat ul-Fuqra/Muslim of America (MOA) paramilitary camps in both Canada and the U.S. that conveyed extremist Islamist ideology and provided weapons training for prison converts to Islam. These MOA camps fostered a three decade record of attempted assassinations, criminal activities supporting terrorism akin to that of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino massacres. Yet, as Mauro pointed out, Sheik Gilani does not support ISIS.

Our usually astute European listener had these comments on the January 3, 2016 Lisa Benson Show:

To hear Dr. Jasser state the plan to reform the religion of Islam was very interesting. The Sharia Islamic law actually promoted by Sunni Islam is both political and religious. For these extremists their ideology requires them to conquer the world and forcefully ask all the non-Muslims to convert to Islam or become third class citizens of their caliphate.

What Dr. Jasser is proposing is to separate religion state from religion in Islam. A modernized religious law will take a lot of time.  However, this is the only way to advance eliminating extremist Islam from all around the world. Dr. Jasser should not call this reform a new Sharia law, but the New Moslem Religious law. The word Sharia has another meaning for all Moslems. It will be interesting to watch how many mosques and Imams would adopt Dr. Jasser’s propositions because many are still funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Moslem Brotherhood. Let us not forget that Muslim Brotherhood/CAIR members have been engaged by the Administration in such policy considerations.

Dr. Jasser has to be congratulated for the dangerous and wonderful work he is doing.

Wonderful to hear Shoshana Bryen giving her opinion and analysis. The Israelis know that they are being tapped and they know quite well what encryption services they can use for their communications which are Top Secret. Shoshana knows all about what is going on and she writes about it explicitly.

The details that Ryan Mauro provided are diagnostic of the chronic illness of these Islamist Muslim of America camps.  It is unbelievable that the FBI, even with limited resources, has not taken the necessary steps to indict all those who are embedded in these groups. I sincerely hope that there will not be a major terror attack in the US perpetrated by members of these Islamist camps.

I think the radio show is really getting better and better. The American public needs to hear these comments to wake up and contact their law makers in order to have a safe America.

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

National Security Agency: Spying on American Jews, Israel and the U.S. Congress

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director at the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center.  She has been a frequent guest on The Lisa Benson Show regarding US-Israel relations, the Obama Administration and national security.  On the first program of the New Year, January 3, 2016, she appeared  to address allegations raised by a Wall Street Journal article about NSA spying on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and by happenstance, Members of Congress and American Jewish leaders, “US Spy Net  on Israel Snares Congress. “  She also responded to an NER Iconoclast post on whether the Israel Defense Force was prepared to meet the threat of ISIS affiliates on both the Syrian frontier and the Egyptian Sinai. She also spoke of an emerging relationship with Putin’s Russia allowing Israeli freedom to attack Hezbollah targets in Syria.

Listen to the segment with Bryen on the Benson show Podcast of January 3, 2016 starting at the 20 minute mark:

As is our practice in producing the weekly Benson Show, we send our guests a set of suggested questions requesting they select a limited number to respond in what a fast is paced packed 44 minutes.  Bryen prepared written responses to the original of set of questions. Below are her astute and illuminating responses.

What is real story behind the Wall Street Journal report alleging NSA spying on Israeli PM Netanyahu, Congressional members and American Jewish Leaders?

Bryen:  The administration was spying on Congress; maybe still is.  The White House tried to put a layer of protection between itself and illegal NSA activity by saying “do what you want.” If there was a problem or a lawsuit over this, the White House position wouldn’t hold up. NSA was spying on Israel and vice versa – nothing new.

The real targets were Congress and American Jews. I don’t see that Congress knew about this specific spying. Surely no one up there is naive and they know they are listened to. This is important for the next points. That makes the idea that they would get on the phone with Israeli Ambassador to US Ron Dermer and allow him to bribe them over the wire totally ridiculous. Whatever NSA got, they did not get it from tapping Dermer’s phone. They probably also did not get it from tapping Congressional phones because Congress assumes it is tapped and no one was discussing bribery.  What could you bribe a Congressman with to get his/her vote on this?

There was no collusion between Ron Dermer and the American Jewish community. I was part of the machinations opposing the nuclear deal with Iran, although the Jewish Policy Center does not lobby; we are only in the information business. “The Jews” knew their talking points and didn’t need Dermer for anything. If they talked to him, that is one thing.  However, needing him for “talking points,” again, that is ridiculous. If there are intercepts of American Jews talking to Congressional members it would have to come from bugging Congress. Lee Smith, of The Weekly Standard makes the point that if there was bribery or attempted bribery involved, there would already be criminal cases. There are none, of course. So, where does that leave us?

NSA spying is only supposed to be done for issues of National Security. One can make the argument that if the US government thought Israel was going to bomb Iran, it would rise to that level. However by 2013, the US was positive Israel was not going to do that. What comes after is political.

Are the enemies of the White House are Congress and the Jews? Congress because Obama knew it opposed the deal. That is why the talks needed to be secret. Also, the talks leading to the talks needed to be secret. They were worried that Israel would spill the beans. Israel didn’t.

There were several incidents in which the Administration let people know what the problems were.  Lee Smith points in his article to a Jon Stewart interview with the President. There is also The New York Times (NYT) editorial that accused Jews of being more loyal to a foreign government than to the US. Senators Schumer and Menendez were damned as “beholden to donors” – code word for Jews.

Obama told Stewart: “If people are engaged, eventually the political system responds. Despite the money, despite the lobbyists, it still responds.” Stewart said, “What do you mean by lobbyists?” The President didn’t answer, but after the signing of the JCPOA, he said Congress would evaluate this agreement fairly, “not based on lobbying, but based on what is in the national interests of the United States of America.”

The NYT reported on a Democratic Issues Conference in Baltimore where the President said he understood the pressures that senators face from “donors and others.” However, according to the NYT, Obama urged the lawmakers to “take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain,” meaning money and Jewish support. Menendez was offended.

Smith actually thinks there was no specific bugging going on, but just an attempt to intimidate Congress and the Jews. I disagree.  They think they are above the law on these things. And they may be, but it doesn’t appear to matter.

Why are media accusations unfounded that American Jewish leaders and U.S. Congressional friends of Israel take their cues from the Israeli Embassy?

Bryen:   Because those accusations presume American Jews NEED someone to tell them how they are supposed to feel about a political issue. On its face that is ant-Semitic. American Jews are a sophisticated community of Americans – although I have some disagreements with where they come out on some issues – they don’t need anyone, particularly a foreign government, to tell them what to think or what to do about issues.

Have these disclosures impacted on US- Israel intelligence cooperation and weapons deliveries to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge?

Bryen:  No, there is no present impact that I can discern. First, all intelligence agencies assume that they are being spied on by both friends and enemies. It’s nothing new. Second, the relationship works both ways – the American intelligence services rely on Israel for information in the region.

What options does Congress have to bar lifting sequestered funds of Iran now that the Administration announced delays in new sanctions in view of Iran’s violation of ballistic missile testing under UN Resolutions?

They’re talking about new sanctions laws in Congress after the holiday recess. Note that Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is the loudest voice on this. He voted FOR the JCPOA and he’s figured out that the deal was a disaster and Secretary Kerry’s “snapback sanctions” were a joke.

Congress can pass any law it wants – sanctions included. Iran’s public interpretation of the deal is that any new sanctions would violate the JCPOA and leave Iran free to withdraw from it – or actually, continue to violate it. The White House appears to be siding with Iran including on the secure visa procedure, which is absolutely an obligation of Congress. Iran remains on the State Sponsor of Terror list because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas. If the White House does not want more sanctions, it will threaten a veto.  Then you will have the extraordinary spectacle of a U.S. government shielding the world’s top sponsor of terror from the United States Congress.

How prepared is the IDF to contend with threats from ISIS in both Syria and the Sinai?

Bryen:  Israel is in a continual state of readiness.  For years they have had to closely identify and track the threats. They are helped by the determination of Egypt in Sinai – with which the US government should be thrilled. It is the actual implementation of the Camp David Accords. The problem for the US in the Sinai is that we have the Multilateral Force and Observers there – MFO – primarily manned by Americans. It is a holdover from Camp David designed to ensure that the Egyptians don’t move military equipment into Sinai in quantities larger than Camp David permitted. Now it is a target for ISIS and affiliated Bedouin groups.

Israel is helped on the northern front by the fact that at the moment neither the Assad government nor Hezbollah wants to open another front and Russia would not permit it. The Israel-Russia relationship is fascinating.  It is mutually beneficial right now and has the seeds of longer-lasting cooperation.

As for ISIS, while in theory killing Jews would be fine, it doesn’t need a second front either. There is a growing threat of ISIS-inspired organizations on the Syrian border, where multiple local factions have pledged allegiance to ISIS leadership. The more immediate risk, however, is most likely related to ISIS’ possible impact on Israeli Arab youth, both within Israel and in Judea and Samaria.

Given the latest killings of Israelis in Tel Aviv by an Israel Arab, what can the Netanyahu government do to prevent such deadly attacks?

Bryen: We don’t’ have all the information, including whether or not it was actually terrorism. It didn’t have the usual “fingerprints.”  The perpetrator was an Israeli Arab citizen who had served five years for a previous attack on an IDF solider. He used a firearm deliberately hitting two people, not spraying the restaurant for maximum casualties. The attack was in the heart of Tel Aviv and he fled the scene.  Israeli Police hedged on whether it was simply a criminal act. If it was a terrorist, it appears to be of the “lone wolf” variety, which means Israel has the same problem the U.S. does.

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

Obama’s Dangerous Spin on the Iran Nuclear Deal

There was a spirited panel discussion on  the August 9, 2015 Lisa Benson Radio Show for National Security stemming from President Obama’s  remarks on the Iran nuclear deal  during  his interview on CNN’s Farid Zakaria’s Global Public Square (GPS) Sunday morning program.  Panelists Barry Shaw in Israel, Shoshana Bryen of The Jewish Policy of the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center and this writer. The interview was recorded last Thursday following the President’s speech at American University and contentious meeting with a select group of American Jewish leaders. It was alleged that he told them that “if they left  off criticizing his deal, he would leave off criticizing them. That was a warning to the major American Jewish lobby group , the American Israel Political Action Committee. (AIPAC) and an affiliate, Concerned Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran have funded a multi-million ad campaign opposing the President’s Iran nuclear deal up for a vote in Congress in  Mid-September.

President Obama  also asserted during the interview that the Republican opposition to the Iran nuclear deal was ideological and political and not dissimilar from so-called hardliners in Iran. In response to a question on this from Zakaria he said:

The reason that Mitch McConnell and the rest of the folks in his caucus who oppose this jumped out and opposed it before they even read it, before it was even posted, is reflective of an ideological commitment not to get a deal done. And in that sense they do have a lot in common with hard- liners who are much more satisfied with the status quo. What I said was that there are those who, if they did not read the bill before they announced their opposition, if they are not able to offer plausible reasons why they wouldn’t support the bill or plausible alternatives in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon other than potential military strikes, then that would indicate that they’re not interested in the substance of the issue, they’re interested in the politics of the issue.

Zakaria asked, “Is it appropriate for a foreign head of government ( a reference to Israeli Pm Netanyahu] to inject himself into a debate that is taking place in Washington?“  The President  responded:

You know, I’ll let you ask Prime Minister Netanyahu that question if he gives you an interview. I don’t recall a similar example. Obviously the relationship between the United States and Israel is deep, it is profound, and it’s reflected in my policies because I have said repeatedly and, more importantly, acted on the basic notion that our commitment to Israel security is sacrosanct. It’s something that I take very seriously, which is why we provided more assistance, more military cooperation, more intelligence cooperation to Israel than any previous administration.

But as I said in the speech yesterday, on the substance, the prime minister is wrong on this. And I think that I can show that the basic assumptions that he’s made are incorrect. If in fact my argument is right that this is the best way for Iran not to get a nuclear weapon, then that’s not just good for the United States, that is very good for Israel. In fact, historically this has been the argument that has driven Prime Minister Netanyahu and achieved consensus throughout Israel.

So the question has to be, is there in fact a better path to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon than this one? And I’ve repeatedly asked both Prime Minister Netanyahu and others to present me a reasonable, realistic plan that would achieve exactly what this deal achieves, and I have yet to get a response. So, as I said yesterday, I completely understand why both he and the broad Israeli public would be suspicious, cautious about entering into any deal with Iran.

Notwithstanding the President remarks in the CNN Zakaria interview, New York Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer and Bronx New York House Member, Elliott Engel, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Relations Committee and several other leading Democrat members of both the New York and California delegations have also opted to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action announced in Vienna on July 14th and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security on July 22nd.  Congress will reconvene after Labor Day for more Hearings and a vote to either approve or reject the Iranian nuclear deal. President Obama has threatened veto it if a majority of both the Houses of Congress vote to reject it.

Watch these CNN Video clips of President Obama interview with Farid Zakaria on August 9, 2015

On Israeli PM Netanyahu

On Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei

On his American University Speech

LBS Soundcloud August 9 correctedThe following were important takeaways from  the August 9th Lisa Benson Radio Show:

Israel’s History of Unilateral Actions against Iraqi and Syrian nuclear programs despite US Objections.

Barry Shaw speaking from Israel drew attention to Israeli attacks on the Osirak reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1981 and Syria’s al-Kibar reactor in September 2007. He noted that Israeli PM Menachem Begin suggested that  his order for the so-called Raid on the Sun in Iraqi would set a precedent for future similar actions by his successors.  Shaw noted the objections by the Reagan Administration and even US media  characterizations of Israel’s actions  as state sponsored terrorism . However a decade later in the 1990’s Dick Cheney , then Secretary of Defense expressed  the thanks of the US  for Israel’s action in 1981 during the Gulf War in 1991.  Following, the 2007 Syria reactor raid, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Israel for not exhausting diplomatic efforts. Shaw noted that following the raid Syria let in the IAEA to inspect the reclaimed site of the former Al-Kibar nuclear bomb factory Shaw also reflected the views of a  significant majority of Israelis backing PM Netanyahu’s intervention criticizing the Iran nuclear pact.

The Dangers of Obama’s Withdrawal of US Assets in the Region.

Shoshana Bryen drew attention to the dangers of withdrawal of US military assets in the Persian Gulf abetting the hegemonic objectives of Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei  and the Islamic Regime IRGC. As of the fall, the US will have no carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf for the first time in decades. She went to note  the President postulated that Saudi Arabia and Iran might find themselves coming closer on certain issues. If the Gulf States see their future with Iran, rather than with the US, we will not have a base in the Persian Gulf. The US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and US facilities in Kuwait and Oman may not be able to use those facilities to attack Iran if, in fact, their governments see Iran as the key power for the future.

Military Option  may have been  taken Off the Table with Iran Weapons Purchases from Russia and China.

This  writer  drew attention to the Moscow trip of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani to meet with Russian President Putin and Defense Minister Shogui to speed up deliveries of the S-300 air defense system and the $10 billion oil barter deal with China for delivery of stealth fighters.  He suggested that this was a breach of both UN travel bans on the Quds Force Commander as well as the UN resolution 1929 sanctions against purchase of conventional  weapons and missile technology precluded on both five and eight sunsets under the JCPOA.  It makes any military option harder by orders of magnitude. While both the US and Israel  aren’t without resources of our own, Iran breaches  of  sanctions  makes the decision to use American military power more complicated.

Iran North Korea Nuclear and ICBM Development Cooperation may already have developed a bomb

Host  Lisa Benson drew attention to a recent American Thinker article co-authored by Bryen and her husband,  Stephen, “Does Iran Already Have Nuclear Weapons?”  The Bryens suggest that Iran may already have developed a nuclear weapon in cooperation with North Korea.  This writer interviewed analyst Ilana Freedman regarding the same issue in a March 2014  NER article, “Has Iran Developed Nuclear Weapons in North Korea ?”   The Bryens postulate that Iran may already have a small nuclear bomb that might be used  as a threat in the region to provide a nuclear cover for hegemonic objectives. The motivation on the part of the North Korean, who earn hard currency through illicit transactions is receipt of funds from Iran, a member of the same original A.Q. Khan network that provided techno logy for the North Korean bomb making and Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges.

Plan B –Restoring Military Funding in support of National Security Objectives in the Middle East and NATO Allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States Threatened by Putin’s Russia

Notwithstanding , a possible veto of a Congressional  resolution rejecting the Iran nuclear deal, Bryen and Gordon suggested that the Congress has to stop the hollowing out of our military capabilities under sequestration. That should be addressed in September when National Defense Act Appropriation bills come up for approval in both chambers.  Bryen noted Plan B is precisely to end sequestration – which has to happen for American national security reasons including Iran and beyond Iran. The size of the Army has to increase (it is projected to decrease by another 40,000) and the drain of mid-level officers (Captains, Majors and LT Colonels) has to stop. Our Navy has to begin to restore ship building. She noted the fleet size is he smallest since WWI.

Poland and the Baltic States have requested a stronger NATO presence out of fear that Russia will do to them what it did to Ukraine. Ukraine was NOT a member of NATO, so there were mixed ideas about what to do, but Poland and the Baltic States are. If Russia thinks it can intimidate or even occupy parts of those states, simply because it sees the US as a waning power, NATO will be finished. With that, the remnants of American influence will be finished. We have to put troops in those places and do exercises in those places and we should reconsider installing the radars that President Obama declined to place in Poland and the Czech Republic when he first took office.

Listen to the Soundcloud of the August 9, 2015 Lisa Benson Radio Show

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.

Obama’s Unrealistic View of Israelis

General Kuperwasser

Israel Gen Kuperwasser (Ret.) Former Director General, Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Source: Honest Reporting

Gen. (Ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser is an  Israeli Intelligence expert and former Director General of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. He wrote Jeffrey Goldberg, these remarks following the latest Atlantic interview and Obama’s appearance at Goldberg’s synagogue in Washington, Adas Israel on Friday morning, May 22nd. The President  received applause from the 1,200 who attended  his address, a day prior to the Shavuot Jewish holiday. Shavuot  celebrates  the  reading of the law by “Moshe rabbenu’ (Moses the teacher) before the assembled Exodus multitude  gathered under the Mountain. Perhaps the President had that it mind on the occasion of his address to the assembly of Washington Jewish notables at Adas Israel who like Goldberg profess to be “progressives” like the President. After all, Obama said that many in the audience considered him  the equivalent of “the First Jewish President.”

Others distant from Washington, like our colleague  Dr. Richard l. Rubenstein; noted theologian, former university president ,author of seminal works on post holocaust period,including  Jihad and Genocide  consider Obama “the most radical President ever.”  To Goldberg’s credit, he published  in the latest edition of The Atlantic  Kuperwasser’s ‘realistic” views, as an Israeli expert of record, contrasting them with the President’s “optimistic” views . I have to thank my friend Pat Rooney here in Pensacola for sending me them.  Coming as they do before tonight’s airing of an interview with the President of Israel Channel 2 extolling  his view why the P5+1 deal with Iran is in Panglossian terms – the best of all possible options. A deal considered a bad one by a bi-partisan panel of former Senators, ex-CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and experts from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in an update from the Iran Task Force on Capitol Hill, yesterday.  French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius ‘considers  the current P5+1 deal  “useless” as both he and Gen. Hayden know that nothing will be verifiable as the fissile material will be hidden at military sites that Iran’s Supreme Ruler has denied access to UN IAEA inspectors.

I posted on my Facebook page yesterday this comment that may reflect  what many Israelis and Gen. Kuperwasser may believe about the President:

Obama says there is no military option, but a tough verifiable deal for Iran’s nukes. When asked if PM Netanyahu would exercise a military option, he said “I wouldn’t speculate.” He also suggested he “understood the fears and concerns” of Israelis. When this airs on Channel 2 in Israel Tuesday night the silence will be deafening. This President does not have either Israel’s or this country’s back in dealing with an untrustworthy Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Goldberg prefaced Kuperwasser’s response by offering that he agreed with less than half of them.  Here are excerpts from The Atlantic article, A Critique of Obama’s Understanding of Israel.

President Obama’s anger toward Netanyahu is misplaced, especially given his extraordinary lack of criticism of Palestinians for far more egregious behavior. The Palestinians, after all, are the ones who refused to accept the president’s formula for extending the peace negotiations. It is Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) who have called for “popular resistance,” which has led in recent years to stabbings, stonings, and attacks with cars and Molotov cocktails against Israelis. Since the PA ended the peace negotiations, there has been a sharp increase in attacks and casualties in Israel. Hamas, for its part, openly calls for the extermination of Israelis and sacrifices a generation of children towards that goal.

In response to these threats, all the president had to say at Adas Israel was that “the Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.” Rather than recognizing how fundamentally different Palestinian political culture is, the president offered slogans about how Palestinian youth are just like any other in the world. This is a classic example of the mirror-imaging—the projection of his own values onto another culture—that has plagued most of his foreign policy.

This excerpt from the president’s speech in Jerusalem in 2013 is emblematic of his mirror-imaging, and the problems with that perspective:

“… I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters. They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say, I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. … Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people—politically, religiously, I believe that they must seem a world away. But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want. They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning. The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.”

Yes, we want a prosperous life for our neighbors, but unlike the president’s daughters, there are some Palestinian children who are educated to have a completely different set of priorities. Our core values are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this world, but Hamas proclaims “We love death more than you love life.” Happiness will be reached in the next world, according to the Hamas ideology.

So why does Obama pick on Netanyahu and not on Abbas? The most likely reason is directly related to a conflict in the West between two schools of thought, both dedicated to defending democratic and Judeo-Christian values: Optimism and realism. Obama is a remarkable proponent for the optimist approach—he fundamentally believes in human decency, and therefore in dialogue and engagement as the best way to overcome conflict. He is also motivated by guilt over the West’s collective sins, which led, he believes, to the current impoverishment of Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular. He believes that humility and concessions can salve the wound, and Islamists can be convinced to accept a global civil society. “If we’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to us,” Obama thinks.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, is a realist. Due in part to Israel’s tumultuous neighborhood, he has a much more skeptical attitude of Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian President Rouhani’s government. Netanyahu does not see these groups as potential moderates, willing to play by the international community’s rules; instead, he acknowledges their radicalism, and their intent to undermine a world order they consider a humiliating insult to Islam. The major difference between the Islamists and the extremists, according to Netanyahu, is one of timing. The Islamists are willing to wait until the time is ripe to overthrow the existing world order.

Western realists worry that optimists are actively aiding Islamists in the naïve hope that they will block out the extremists. The realists believe that a resolute stance, with the use of military force as an option, is the best way to achieve agreed-upon Western goals. Obama both prefers the optimist approach and believes that his hopeful dialogues will achieve the best possible outcome. Netanyahu, on the other hand, whose nation would feel the most immediate consequences from Western concessions, does not have the luxury of optimism.

This helps explain why Obama targets Netanyahu for criticism. The prime minister’s insistence on the dangers of the optimist approach threatens to expose the inherent weakness of Obama’s worldview and challenge the president’s assumption that his policy necessarily leads to the best possible solutions. For Netanyahu and almost everybody in Israel, as well as pragmatic Arabs, the president’s readiness to assume responsibility for Iran’s future nuclear weapons, as he told Jeffrey Goldberg, is no comfort. The realists are not playing a blame game; they are trying to save their lives and their civilization. To those who face an existential threat, Obama’s argument sounds appalling.

          […]

Does it make sense for Israel—in the face of an aggressive Iran, the rise of Islamic terror organizations across the Middle East, and the fragmentation of Arab states—to deliver strategic areas to the fragile and corrupt PA, just to see them fall to extremists?

Should Israel at this moment aid in the creation of a Palestinian state, half of which is already controlled by extremists who last summer rained down thousands of rockets on Israel, while its leaders urge their people to reject Israel as the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people? Should it aid a movement that follows these five pillars: 1) There is no such thing as the Jewish people; 2) The Jews have no history of sovereignty in the land of Israel, so the Jewish state’s demise is inevitable and justified; 3) The struggle against Israel by all means is legitimate, and the means should be based simply on cost-benefit analysis; 4) The Jews in general, and Zionists in particular, are the worst creatures ever created; And 5) because the Palestinians are victims, they should not be held responsible or accountable for any obstacles they may throw up to peace?

In short, even though Israel, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, remains committed to the formula of “two states for two peoples, with mutual recognition,” the implementation of this idea at this point is irrelevant. The PA’s poor governance and the general turmoil in the Middle East render any establishment of a Palestinian state right now unviable. President Obama admitted as much, reluctantly, but continued to criticize Netanyahu instead of betraying his optimist paradigm. Netanyahu’s realism would stray too far from the path Obama, and other Western leaders, have set in front of them. But while Obama and the optimists offer their critiques, Netanyahu and the realists will be on the ground, living with the consequences the optimists have wrought.

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

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.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Unanimously Approves Iran Nuke Review Legislation

Our Iconoclast post title about a denouement today on the P5+1 Iran Nuke agreement review legislation was realized this afternoon in a unanimous Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote approving a compromise measure. The Committee action reasserted   Constitutional prerogatives forcing President Obama to relent his opposition. The vote was 19 to 0 based on the compromise language worked out between Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). Assenting to the new version of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review  Act of 2015, originally co-sponsored by embattled  New Jersey U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Sen. Corker, were two Committee Members, announced GOP Presidential Contenders, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  Corker had not been a signatory to Arkansas Tom Cotton’s letter that was sent to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic in Tehran apprising them of the Senate’s advice and consent on major treaties and agreements.

This legislative victory preserves the right of the Congress to review changes in the prevailing sanctions against Iran occasioned by the presentation of the Administration of any definitive agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran by the intended date of June 30, 2015.  Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif announced at a ministerial meeting in Spain today, that negotiations leading towards a possible definitive agreement would start April 21st in Lausanne, Switzerland.  U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the House would approve the veto proof measure. A vote on the measure should reach the floor of the Senate shortly, at which time Amendments might be introduced for possible consideration.

Tower report noted:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the committee, said that the legislation, which passed 19-0, “absolutely, 100% keeps the congressional review process — the integrity of it — in place.”

The compromise language, which was worked out by Corker and ranking Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.), shortened the amount of time of Congress would get to review a nuclear agreement with Iran from 60 days to 30, and softened some other provisions of the bill.

The bill is consistent with a poll released today by Suffolk University showing that Americans favor congressional review of any nuclear deal with Iran by a wide margin—72% to 19%.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that President Barack Obama would sign the compromise bill, reversing the administration’s longstanding objection to any congressional oversight of a potential nuclear deal with Iran.

The New York Times reported how quickly Administration opposition to the legislation had folded:

Why Mr. Obama gave in after fierce opposition was the last real dispute of what became a rout. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Obama was not “particularly thrilled” with the bill, but had decided that a new proposal put together by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made enough changes to make it acceptable.

“We’ve gone from a piece of legislation that the president would veto to a piece of legislation that’s undergone substantial revision such that it’s now in the form of a compromise that the president would be willing to sign,” Mr. Earnest said. “That would certainly be an improvement.”

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the committee’s chairman, had a far different interpretation. As late as 11:30 a.m., in a classified briefing at the Capitol, Mr. Kerry was urging senators to oppose the bill. The “change occurred when they saw how many senators were going to vote for this, and only when that occurred,” Mr. Corker said.

Mr. Cardin said that the “fundamental provisions” of the legislation had not changed.

But the compromise between him and Mr. Corker did shorten a review period of a final Iran nuclear deal and soften language that would make the lifting of sanctions dependent on Iran’s ending support for terrorism.

The agreement almost certainly means Congress will muscle its way into nuclear negotiations that Mr. Obama sees as a legacy-defining foreign policy achievement.

Under the agreement, the president would still have to send periodic reports to Congress on Iran’s activities regarding ballistic missiles and terrorism, but those reports could not trigger another round of sanctions.

The Times reported possible floor actions that might resurrect original provisions:

The measure still faces hurdles. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, fresh off the opening of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, dropped plans to push for an amendment to make any Iran deal dependent on the Islamic Republic’s recognition of the State of Israel, a diplomatic nonstarter.

But he hinted that he could try on the Senate floor.

“Not getting anything done plays right into the hands of the administration,” Mr. Rubio said.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, abandoned an amendment to make any Iran accord into a formal international treaty needing two-thirds of the Senate for its ratification, but he, too, said it could be revived before the full Senate.

The measure will be brought up for a floor vote later this month and is expected to pass both the Senate and the House in near veto proof form.

It is clear that the victors in this battle are the Republican Majority and concerned Democrats who have been monitoring polls and constituent opinions regarding Congressional Review prerogatives.  In retrospect  Sen. Cotton’s letter and the March 3rd address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a Joint Meeting of Congress alerted  Americans to problems with the P5+1 framework for a deal  announced on April 2nd despite the objections of President Obama and certain leading Democratic minority members of both the Senate and House. Perhaps the diktats announced last Thursday by Ayatollah Khamenei demanding the lifting of all sanctions upon signing of an agreement and denial of intrusive IAEA inspections of military nuclear weapons development sites conveyed to Senate Democrats that there were different opinions about the two Facts Statements. The one released by the State Department versus that of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Add to that was Monday’s removal of a 2010 moratorium on the sale of an advanced Russian S-300 air defense system to Iran an indication that President Putin and Ayatollah Khamenei could void weapons sanctions agreements at will.

The losers in this episode are Secretary Kerry and President Obama. How those negotiations go starting April 21st will determine if Congress will have anything to review on June 30th.

RELATED ARTICLE: Commentators On Arab TV: Obama Supports Iran Because His Father Was A Shi’ite

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). Source: Politico

Major Gaps between P5+1 and Iran on Framework Agreement

This Passover Easter weekend, the media was abuzz in speculative commentary on President Obama’s announcement in the Rose Garden on Thursday April 2nd of the P5+1 Framework for a nuclear deal with Iran. Problem is no one really knows what is involved in drafting let alone concluding a definitive technical agreement between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran by June 30, 2015, 90 days from now. President Obama extolled the virtues of the deal saying:

Good afternoon, everybody. Today, The United States, together with Allies and Partners, have reached a historic understanding with Iran, which if fully implemented, would  prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, As President and Commander in Chief, I have no great responsibility than the security of the American people. I’m convinced that if this framework leads to a final a final comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world, safer. This has been a long time coming. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been advancing its nuclear program for decades.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Read the opening stanza of former President Bill Clinton on October 18, 1994, when he announced a previous nuclear framework agreement that failed to stop North Korea from eventually creating a stockpile of nuclear weapons and nuclear tipped missiles:

Good afternoon. I am pleased that the United States and North Korea yesterday reached agreement on the text of a framework document on North Korea’s nuclear program. This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula.

This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the threat of nuclear spreading in the region. It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.

In the words of baseball great Yogi Berra, “its déjà vu all over again.”

Today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd interviewed Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said:

“I’m not trying to kill any deal. I’m trying to kill a bad deal…The current plan “leaves the preeminent terrorist state of our time with a vast nuclear infrastructure.” It would spark an arms race among the Sunni states, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” the Israeli leader warned. “And the Middle East crisscrossed with nuclear tripwires is a nightmare for the world. I think this deal is a dream deal for Iran and it’s a nightmare deal for the world.”

Netanyahu stressed that when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capabilities, he prefers a “good” diplomatic solution to a military one.

He outlined such a solution as “one that rolls back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and one that ties the final lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program with a change of Iran’s behavior” and insists that Iran stops “calling for and working for the annihilation of Israel.” He also called for further sanctions on Iran as a way to get the country to take a deal that contains no concessions.

Watch the NBC “Meet the Press” segment with Israel PM Netanyahu:

Sen_ Chris Murphy

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Connecticut Democratic  Senator Chris Murphy, member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee  who followed Netanyahu on Meet the Press  found the agreement announced by the President, “remarkable. “ He remarked that  “sanctioning Iran into submission is not what the partners signed up for. When the question of changing Iran’s behavior on support for global terrorism and violations of human rights came up, Murphy basically followed the Administration line of let’s get the nuclear agreement done first. The Washington Post reported  Murphy saying:

It’s true that this deal doesn’t turn Iran from a bad guy into a good guy”. “But it’s a little bit of rewriting of history to suggest these negotiations were about all of the other nefarious activities of Iran in the region. These negotiations were about ending their nuclear program, such that we can start to lift up the moderate elements … [and] talk about all these other issues.

You take this issue [the nuclear program] off the table and you empower people like Rouhani and Zarif, who may see a different path for Iran — less as an irritant, more as a member of the global community.  “And you may see a pathway to solving some of these other problems (ballistic missiles, support for terrorism and human rights violations) and you can do it potentially without new rounds of traditional sanctions.

Ehud Yaari

Ehud Ya’ari Israeli Middle East analyst and Channel 2 TV Commentator.

More emerged about the differences in the announcement about the framework parameters between the State Department Fact Sheet and Farsi statement of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. Noted Israel Middle East analyst, Ehud Ya’ari, a Washington, DC Institute for Near East Policy Fellow and Israel TV Channel 2 commentator, identified six major gaps The Times of Israel reported:

  1. Sanctions: Ya’ari said the U.S. has made clear that economic sanctions will be lifted in phases, whereas the Iranian fact sheet provides for the immediate lifting of all sanctions as soon as a final agreement is signed, which is set for June 30. (In fact, the US parameters state that sanctions will be suspended only after Iran has fulfilled all its obligations: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” By contrast, the Iranian fact sheet states: “all of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.”)
  2. Enrichment: The American parameters provide for restrictions on enrichment for 15 years, while the Iranian fact sheet speaks of 10 years.
  3. Development of advanced centrifuges at Fordo: The US says the framework rules out such development, said Ya’ari, while the Iranians say they are free to continue this work.
  4. Inspections: The US says that Iran has agreed to surprise inspections, while the Iranians say that such consent is only temporary.
  5. Stockpile of already enriched uranium: Contrary to the US account, Iran is making clear that its stockpile of already enriched uranium — “enough for seven bombs” if sufficiently enriched, Ya’ari said — will not be shipped out of the country, although it may be converted.
  6. PMD: The issue of the Possible Military Dimensions of the Iranian program, central to the effort to thwart Iran, has not been resolved, Ya’ari said.

The U.S. parameters make two references to PMD. They state, first: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.”

They subsequently add: “All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordo, Arak, PMD, and transparency).” The Iranian fact sheet does not address PMD.

The differences between the sides became apparent almost as soon as the framework agreement was presented in Lausanne on Thursday night. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a series of tweets late Thursday, for instance, that protested the U.S. State Department’s assertion that the nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers would only see sanctions on the Islamic Republic removed “in phases.”

If this weekend is an example, the controversy about the framework “parameters” await the details from the final agreement targeted for June 30th. Problem is those negotiations may extend well beyond the current deadline, perhaps may spark further negotiations and may be incapable of resolution unless the Administration caves into all of Iran’s demands. In the meantime Swiss and French trade delegations are in Tehran discussing possible deals, the Germans have already held theirs, and, of course, Russia and China, have already conducted business with the Islamic Republic. Despite Turkey’s Erdogan expressing pique at Iran’s hegemony in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, he will soon hold trade talks again in Tehran on more gas deals.

Thursday’s announcement sent the Tehran Stock Exchange skyrocketing Friday. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif are smirking over their victory contemplating keeping all of its nuclear, missile and military applications under wraps. Besides they also have four bargaining chips; three imprisoned Americans and a fourth missing for eight years.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of the P5+1 plus Iran and EU Foreign Relations Commissioner in Lausanne, Switzerland 4-2-15.

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

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

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

You may register and listen live to the VOI here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen Live here.

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

Senator Tom Cotton’s Open Challenge to Ayatollah Khamenei and President Obama on Nuclear Deal with Iran

Tall Lincolnesque Arkansas Junior Senator Tom Cotton did his constituents and all Americans proud.  His open letter to Iran’s Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei signed by 47 fellow Republican Senators was a ringing Constitutional declaration of Senate authority to review major international treaties. A rather remarkable achievement for the youngest US Senator  in the 114th Session of Congress following his electoral victory  on November 4, 2014  over incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor.  His letter put on notice the theocratic tyrant in Tehran that the US Senate had the right under Article II, Sec. 2 of our Constitution to advise and consent on treaties negotiated by the Executive branch of our government.  Moreover it put the Supreme notice that Congress has the right to vote on the lifting of any sanctions passed under existing legislation and signed into law by President Obama. Further, it basically informed Iran’s Supreme Ruler and its President that any bilateral agreement entered into by executive order by the President would be null and void upon his leaving office and the end of his second and final term.

Josh Rogin in his Bloomberg report captured the essence of this latest riposte to President Obama in the headline, “Republicans Warn Iran — and Obama — That Deal Won’t Last.”  He noted:

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Arms-control advocates and supporters of the negotiations argue that the next president and the next Congress will have a hard time changing or canceling any Iran deal — — which is reportedly near done — especially if it is working reasonably well.

Cotton told Rogin:

Iran’s ayatollahs need to know before agreeing to any nuclear deal that … any unilateral executive agreement is one they accept at their own peril.

Rogin went on to note an ironic precedent by Vice President Biden;

Vice President Joe Biden similarly insisted — in a letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell — on congressional approval for the Moscow Treaty on strategic nuclear weapons with Russia in 2002, when he was head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He further noted that Cotton’s letter came against the backdrop of recent review legislation:

The new letter is the latest piece of an effort by Senators in both parties to ensure that Congress will have some say if and when a deal is signed. Senators Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, Tim Kaine and the embattled Bob Menendez have a bill pending that would mandate a Congressional review of the Iran deal, but Republicans and Democrats have been bickering over how to proceed in the face of a threatened presidential veto.

The relevant language of Article II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution reads:

[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.

Article II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution:

Gives the Senate a share in foreign policy by requiring Senate consent, by a two-thirds vote, to any treaty before it may go into effect. The president may enter into “executive agreements” with other nations without the Senate’s consent, but if these involve more than minor matters they may prove controversial.

The emerging so-called phased P5+1 deal to forestall Iran from becoming a threshold nuclear state is anything but “minor.”  The Islamic Republic’s possession of nuclear weapons is a threat to Israel, America and the World.  In the hands of an apocalyptic Mahdist Shiite Islamic Republic nuclear weapons would foment chaos.  The chaos these madmen are eager to trigger they bizarrely believe would bring  about the rise from his slumber their moribund Messiah, the 12th Imam, from the Holy Well in the Holy city of Qom, Iran.  Just recall the first action of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad was to have his cabinet sign a letter to this effect that was deposited in that well in Qom.  Those possible Iranian nuclear weapons and the means of delivery could result in Islamic domination of the World and the possible destruction of both the reviled Great Satan (the U.S.) and Little Satan (Israel).

The reaction from Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif about the open letter to Iran’s leadership was:

In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.

The Democrats in the Senate were apoplectic.  Senate minority leader Harry Reid said, “Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs.”  White House press Spokesman Josh Earnest said in reaction to the Republican Senate “open letter”:

Just the latest in an ongoing strategy, a partisan strategy, to undermine the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

President Obama said:

It’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran.

Sen. Cotton issued this statement following Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address before a Joint Meeting of Congress on March 3rd:

I am happy to welcome a truly courageous leader to address the Congress today.  There is no one better equipped to discuss the danger posed by a nuclear Iran than Prime Minister Netanyahu. For decades, Iran has had as its expressed goal for Israel to be ‘wiped off the face of the earth’ and has been a lead financier and arms supplier of terrorist organizations dedicated to destroying Israel. If Iran is allowed to retain their nuclear program, the United States will find itself in a similar position.

The Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran have become an endless series of concessions. Any deal reached at the end of this month will inevitably empower our enemies and put our national security at risk. It is up to Congress to stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel and restore the credible threat of force against Iran to permanently end their nuclear program.

We wrote this about Senator Cotton when he was elected on November 5, 2014:

Cotton, reading a profile of him by retired Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), had a career that resonated. He was a highly educated double Harvard graduate who voluntarily served as an Infantry officer in the US Army during the Iraq-Afghanistan conflict.  Wisse’s WSJ op-ed   was an unabashed endorsement, “Vote for Tom Cotton—and Redeem Harvard”.

[…]

Cotton is a sixth generation Arkansan from a cattle raising ranching family in the small community of Dardanelle, Arkansas. A graduate of both Harvard College and Law School, motivated by the events of 9/11, he rejected a JAG Commission. Instead, he volunteered   to go through OCS at Fort Benning and trained at both the Infantry and Ranger Schools.  Cotton served from 2005 to 2009. He had two tours, one in Iraq and a second in Afghanistan with the famed Screaming Eagles, the 101st Airborne, rising to the rank of Captain and received a Bronze Star for his combat actions. At 6’5″, he was selected as Platoon Leader at the Old Guard that provides the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.

Perhaps the Senator Cotton’s open letter to Iran’s leadership was a forthright confirmation that the Republican leadership in the Congress heard PM Netanyahu’s message.  The letter represented a Constitutional challenge to the Administration asserting the Senate’s rights of review on any agreement that might be reached with Iran by March 31st that also called for lifting Congressional passed sanctions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Israel, Jews, and the Obama Administration

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Arkansas Republican U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.

Schaden Freude Alert! Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Rushed to Hospital in Critical Condition

Schaden Freude Alert! This is NOT Purim Shpiel.  Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei rushed to hospital in critical condition. This may be evidence that sometimes Ha Shem does work in less than mysterious ways. The report of Ayatollah Khamenei’s ‘critical condition gives heft to the magnificent address by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s address before a joint meeting of Congress.

Purim-groggerIf confirmed it should bolster support for the real deal that Bibi spoke of – regime change in Tehran. That message should not be lost on President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the rest of the P5+1 intent on cutting a deal with this malevolent apocalyptic Mahdist regime fomenting chaos to awaken the moribund Twelth Imam in the holy well in the holy city of Qom, Iran. We trust that my cioreligiionists last night shook that grogger  (Purim noisemaker) (during the reading of Esther’s Megillah, but substituted Khamenei for Haman. Chag Purim Sameach.

Note  this Israel National News report on this ‘revoltin’ development, Report: Iran’s Supreme Leader Hospitalized in Critical Condition:

Just in time for Purim, the Jewish holiday celebrating the redemption of the Jewish people from plots of genocide in ancient Persia, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was reportedly hospitalized in critical condition on Wednesday.

According to Arab media reports cited by Israel Hayom, Khamenei was urgently brought to a hospital in Tehran after several of his bodily systems had already failed.

The reports add that the 76-year-old supreme leader of the Islamic regime has undergone surgery and remains in critical condition.

Recently it has been reported that he was suffering from prostate cancer which had spread to additional parts of his body, and due to his poor health condition he had largely ceased taking part in public events.

The hospitalization comes just days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed Congress on Tuesday to warn of the existential threat to Israel and the world that Iran poses, urging America to avoid the deal being formed on Iran’s nuclear deal ahead of a March 31 deadline for talks.

Lending some credence to the reports is the fact that Khamenei’s official Twitter account hasn’t been updated since Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday, when he wrote the “US is now facing a #dilemma. It should either stop unlimited services to #Israel or they’ll lose more face in the world.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Admiral “Ace” Lyons: The Threat is not “Radical Islam, it is Islam Itself”

 

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

Israel is not ‘sightless’ in Gaza

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Destroyed home of Mohammed Deif in Gaza city, August 20, 2014. Source: AFP

Yesterday in Jerusalem, with visiting American Congressman Darrell  Issa (R-CA) at his side, Israeli PM Netanyahu heaped considerable praise on Shin Bet-Israel’s General Security Service – for the targeted  killings of senior Hamas commanders in Rafah. The International Business Times(IBT) quoted Netanyahu saying:

The “hard work and professionalism” of Shin Bet had enabled the Israeli military to “carry out this operation against the Hamas leaders who plotted fatal attacks against Israelis,” Netanyahu reportedly said, referring to pre-dawn air strikes in Rafah that killed the three Hamas commanders.

“In the name of every Israeli citizen, I thank the Shin Bet, the heads of the intelligence and operational units, and the chief of the organization, Yoram Cohen,” he said, according to Ha’aretz. Meanwhile, the Israeli military said that it had killed six militants of the Islamic Jihad — a Palestinian Islamist organization — as they were “about to launch rockets into Israel.”

Possibly in retaliation, today, Hamas,  publicly executed 18 ‘collaborators’. These public executions come in the midst of a rising wave of ‘collaborator’ executions in the terrorist stronghold of Gaza.  Israel National News  reported a series of such reprisals in an article, “Hamas Goes on an ‘Israel Collaborator’ Killing Spree”:

Majd, a website close to Hamas, on Thursday reported that Hamas’s military wing,the Al-Qassam Brigades, executed three Gaza residents and arrested seven others for ‘collaborating’ with Israel during Operation Protective Edge.

No date was given for the executions or arrests, but the Hamas security official quoted in the report said the three were killed after “revolutionary procedures” were completed against them.

The same website reported on August 6 that “a number” of Arab collaborators had been killed, again without giving a date.

In the last week of July, Palestinian sources reported that over 30 Gazans were executed by Hamas, most of them in the Shejaiya neighborhood. In that case too, Hamas claimed that they were collaborators with Israel.

The Times of Israel reported a revelation by a Lebanese publication that a phone call between Hamas leader Khalid Mashal in Qatar and  Mohammed Deif, the elusive  head of the Hamas military wing, may have  provided Israel with intelligence that sealed the fate of both he and his family.  According to the TOI  Mashal may have broken protocol to discuss a possible cease fire with Israel. The Deif residence in Gaza was hit with several bunker buster bombs which  cratered  the structure. That resulted  in a massive funeral purportedly for Deif’s wife and children. Hamas spokesman persist in conveying the impression that Deif escaped the fatal attack, and yet have not provided any proof of life.  That attack signifies, as one source told me, that the IAF is flying missions with small bunker buster bombs, in just such a  instance to make  an instantaneous attack.

MohammedDeif

Mohammed Deif, Hamas military leader.

A report by the Shaham Palestinian news service published a picture of Deif along with this statement:

“The bodies arrived at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, after the occupation planes attacked the al-Dalo home, in the Rimal neighborhood in the north, in Gaza City, last night,” the report said. “The document we obtained was confiscated by an armed squad of the Al-Qassam brigade from Shifa’s archive, and also changed the check-in information in the hospital to erase Deif’s name from the list.”

“We at Saham News are forced to tell the Palestinian nation, with great sadness, of the death of Deif,” it concluded. “We belong to Allah, and to him we return.”

Shin Bet is also to be credited for its role in uncovering  the Hamas  power play against Fatah in the West Bank with funds  and arms caches. Many observers believe this may have been a key part of the Rosh Ha Shanah attack plan by Hamas that included infiltration of suicide commandos through  the terror tunnels dug across the frontier between Gaza and Israel. The joint IDF-Shin Bet Operation Brother’s Keeper that detained hundreds of Hamas operatives in the search  for three murdered Jewish Yeshiva students may have provided the intelligence resulting in disclosures of the thwarted plot. Senior Hamas representative ensconced in Turkey, Salah al-Aruri,  announced his role in orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish yeshiva students. The Jerusalem Post reported:

SalahalAruri

Hamas Military leader in Turkey, Salah al-Aruri.

A senior Hamas official admitted for the first time on Wednesday that the organization’s armed wing, the Kassam Brigades, was behind the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah in the West Bank in June, Channel 2 reported.

The Hamas official, Salah al-Aruri made the comments during a conference of Islamic clerics in Turkey. He praised the “heroic action of the Kassam Brigades who kidnapped three settlers in Hebron.”

Israeli lawyer, Nitsana Darshan Leitner of Shurat ha Din (Israel Law Center) asked US Attorney  General Eric Holder to invoke the extradition treaties between the US and Turkey to bring to justice al-Aruri for the murder of Israeli-American, Fraenkel.  Meanwhile, PA President Abbas is reported to have had heated conversations in Doha, Qatar with Mashal triggered by Hamas’ plans to overthrow Fatah . Further, there are indications that pressure  is building  on the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to eject Mashal from his luxurious palace in Doha.  Qatar has been a major funder of Hamas, supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and  ISIS, along with Erdogan’s Turkey. If that eventuated Mashal might then be subject to apprehension and possible trial in Egypt. Lest we forget, PM Netanyahu was caught in an embarrassing position in 1998, when an attempted assassination of Mashal by Mossad agents was disclosed by the late King Hussein of Jordan.  Mashal also could have been taken out, while a resident in Damascus, before his departure for Qatar at the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Witness the Mossad assassination in February 2008 of Hezbollah terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyeh.

Whether it is human intelligence through cultivation of assets, or ELINT ears and eyes in the skies over Gaza, these targeted assassination episodes by the IDF with assistance from Shin bet have succeeded in decimating  the military leadership of Hamas. These actions clearly indicate that unlike the Biblical Shimshon, Samson the Nazerite, Israel is not ‘sightless’ in Gaza.

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