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Iran Violates Sanctions

Fox News reported that Quds Force Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani visited Putin shortly following UN Security Council unanimous approval of the Iran nuclear pact, Exclusive: Quds Force commander Soleimani visited Moscow, met Russian leaders in defiance of sanctions:”

The shadowy Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani recently visited Moscow to meet with senior Russian leaders, according to two Western intelligence sources, despite a travel ban and U.N. Security Council resolutions barring him from leaving Iran.

On July 24, one week before Secretary of State John Kerry testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee and faced questions about the newly struck nuclear deal, Soleimani arrived in Moscow for meetings with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin. It was not immediately clear what the Iranian leader discussed, but the revelation comes as the United Nations and European Union arms embargo against Iran is slated to be lifted in five years as part of the comprehensive nuclear agreement announced July 14 from Vienna.

Soleimani was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 for his role as a supporter of terrorism. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. The Quds Force is the Special Forces external wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxies across the Middle East. It reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Watch this FoxNews video report:

You remember Secretary Kerry telling Senator Cotton at a Senate Iran deal Hearing that Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani would never be taken off travel bans and asset restrictions? It was when it was confirmed that Soleimani was among the list of 800 individuals and institutions to have their sanctions lifted included in an annex to the JCPOA. Now it is revealed that following the unanimous endorsement of the Iran nuclear pact by the UNSC Soleimani traveled to Moscow to meet Putin and senior Defense Ministry officials. This demonstrates contempt for Obama and Kerry illustrative of how incompetent they were in negotiating the Iran nuclear pact. As our colleague Omri Ceren of The Israel Project pointed out in our August NER interview Soleimani has the blood on his hands of 500 Americans killed in Iraq. Ceren referenced a Weekly Standard article by Lee Smith about Obama and Soleimani:

Smith’s argument in The Weekly Standard article is that Obama likes Soleimani and admires his work. Smith goes on to cite the President telling Arab officials that they really need to get their business together and “learn from Iran’s example.” Qasem Soleimani stands in for the idea that Iran is taking over the region. The fact that we’re lifting his travel ban and unfreezing his assets is being read by a lot of people as evidence that this deal is explicitly designed to reintegrate Iran into the regional structure of the Middle East and into the community of nations. The President sees the Islamic Republic as a stabilizing force. Lifting the travel ban and asset restrictions on Qasem Soleimani more than anyone else, stands in for Iran’s regional expansionism and its efforts to take over the Levant, to take over the Gulf and bring the entire Middle East under Iran’s thumb.”

We’re waiting for Sen. Cotton’s response, as he originally confronted Kerry. The JCPOA deal has been effectively shredded by Iran before Congress even votes to accept or reject it in September.

Is the ball game over for President Obama on this misadventure of his foreign policy legacy?  Stay tuned for developments.

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

Kerry: U.S. Obligated to Prevent Israeli Sabotage of Iran’s Nuclear Program

Armin Rosen in a Business Insider article wrote about Florida’s US Senator Marco Rubio’s provocative question that generated a troubling response from Secretary Kerry at yesterday’s testy Senate Foreign Relations Hearing on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program. It had to do with the dilemma facing the Administration about a commitment by the world powers to defend the Iranian nuclear program against attack.

Rubio raised the hypothetical of what would be the U.S. obligation under a provision found in an Annex III to the agreement, if Israel might undertake a possible cyber attack.  An attack akin to the malworm, Stuxnet that disabled Iran’s enrichment centrifuges temporarily setting back their nuclear program.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) questions U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz (not pictured) before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington July 23, 2015.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing July 23, 2015. Source:  Reuters-Gary Cameron.

The Business Insider article laid out the quandary:

Republican presidential candidate and US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) asked about a provision of the agreement that seems to obligate the US and its negotiating partners to help protect Iranian nuclear sites against potential outside attack.

According to Annex III, the agreement’s section on “civil nuclear cooperation,” the signatories commit to “co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems.

This provision of the deal doesn’t mention any countries by name. But Rubio wondered if this was included in the deal because of Iranian concerns related to a specific US ally.

“If Israel decides it doesn’t like this deal and it wants to sabotage an Iranian nuke program or facility, does this deal that we have just signed obligate us to help Iran defend itself against Israeli sabotage or for that matter the sabotage of any other country in the world?” Rubio asked.

[Secretary of Energy] Moniz replied that “all of our options and those of our allies and friends would remain in place” after the deal goes into effect.

Kerry then jumped in to explain the provision’s specific purpose: “To be able to have longer-term guarantees as we enter a world in which cyberwarfare is increasingly a concern for everybody that if you are going to have a nuclear capacity, you clearly want to be able to make sure that those are adequately protected.”

Rubio posed the key question to Kerry:

If Israel conducts a cyber attack against the Iranian nuclear program are we obligated to help them defend themselves against an Israel cyber attack?

Kerry responded:

I don’t see any way possible that we would be in conflict with Israel with respect to what we might want to do there and we just have to wait until we get until that point,” Kerry said, cryptically — “that point” referring to a future time at which Israel believes it’s necessary to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. It seems that at that juncture, the US would have to determine whose side to take.

The background of this troubling JCPOA provision was explored in our July 14, 2015 1330 amWEBY interview with Omri Ceren of The Israel Project and Shoshana Bryen of The Jewish Policy Center to be published as an article in the August edition of the New English Review.

Note this exchange between Mike Bates of WEBY and Bryen:

sbryen-804443500

Shoshana Bryen of The Jewish Policy Center.

Bates:  Shoshana.  Because with a deal in place, Iran will be free to covertly develop nuclear weapons without consequence.  …However, if the day comes when Israel has valid reasons to believe that a nuclear weapon is in the hands of the Iranians, or is imminently so, Israel is going to have no choice but to act unilaterally.  When they do, they will be excoriated and vilified.  … I think this makes it more dangerous, because the military option, as I see it, Shoshana, is off the table.

 Bryen:  I’m not sure it wasn’t always off the table.  Starting in the Bush Administration,the United States and Israel had a divergence of opinion about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. The Bush administration was in favor of sanctions and believed in squeezing them to death.  They were not in favor of military activity.   The Israelis always had believed that military action was best done in conjunction with the United States. Once they began to understand that there was no way, that even their good friend George W. Bush was not going to help them do this.   The military option became less viable.  You have to think about it from the point of view of a small country, Israel, and a large country, Iran, which has air defenses. Iran will now have better air defenses, because the Russians have sold them better air defenses.  The Iranians had more time to bury and harden their facilities.  They’ve had more time to dig them under populated places.  If you have to drop a bomb on something, the collateral damage there will be very heavy. I’m not sure that there was a great military option, to begin with.  However, you are right to the extent that if there was a facility you felt was absolutely crucial, I believe Israel could destroy it.

Omri Ceren

Omri Ceren, The Israel Project.

Note the following exchange between Bates and Ceren:

Bates:   I’m more concerned about the 8 million people living in Israel; the 300 millionpeople in the United States.  I’m concerned that Iran has been given a pathway to a bomb that is unobstructed.  This takes the military option off the table.  Even if Israel believes their existential threat is imminent, they can hardly attack militarily to stop it.  …I think the concessions are so much bigger than that.  Am I wrong, Omri?

Ceren:  Let me say that Shoshana’s answer was very compelling…Which is the military option was never Israel’s main option.  Sabotage and subterfuge were Israel’s real options, which is why it is so concerning that this deal puts the Iranian nuclear program under international sponsorship.There is an annex to the deal that says the EU-3 and their partners will teach them how to harden their nuclear assets against sabotage.  Specifically, against nuclear sabotage. In effect we’re protecting them,as they build up their program.  Forget protecting them in the last five minutes from Israeli action.  Thisdeal protects them from Israeli action throughout the entire lifetime of the deal

These exchanges between Senator Rubio and Secretary Kerry at yesterday’s Senate Foreign Relations Hearing and the excerpted WEBY interview exchanges with both Bryen and Ceren in the forthcoming New English Review article demonstrate how the JCPOA constrains both the US and Israel’s options to deal with the Iran nuclear threat. All due to the concessions made by Kerry and the negotiating team at both Lausanne and in Vienna. It explains why the Republican majority in both Houses of Congress and even some minority Democrats oppose the nuclear pact with Iran. Further, why Israel PM Netanyahu called the Nuclear pact with Iran a very bad deal in his speech on March 3,2015 before a Joint Meeting of Congress. We commend Republican Senator Rubio for asking the tough question that forced Secretary Kerry’s verification of how bad this deal is.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Secretary of State Kerry with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and Energy Secretary Moniz, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, July 23, 2015. Source: AP/Andrew Harnik.

Obama: Opening the Pandora’s Box of Nuclear Proliferation?

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, former Ambassador to the U.S., was a target of a failed bombing plot by the Iran’s Quds force at a Washington restaurant. He was at the State Department yesterday in preparation for a meeting with President Obama today regarding the Kingdom’s concerns about the announced nuclear pact with Iran.

The White House committed a faux pas on announcement of the Iran nuclear deal when it first suggested that the Quds force commander, General Qassem Suleymani, was not on a list of 700 Iranians whose travel bans and asset restrictions were lifted. General Suleymani had been deemed responsible for hundreds of U.S. Service personnel casualties during the Iraq War and now is involved with advising Iraqi Shiite militias fighting ISIS.  The Iran FARS news agency and ABC News both confirmed that the legendary head of the Quds Force was indeed on the list. We trust that President Obama will apologize when he meets with Foreign Minister al-Jubeir today. A Wall Street Journal report set the stage for today’s meeting:

Saudi Arabia is the largest of the Arab states that have been deeply skeptical of Mr. Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran.

The Saudis have been deeply worried about the Iran agreement; both because of fears it won’t stop the Iranian nuclear program and because of broader concerns that it will allow Iran to grow as a regional power when it receives the financial windfall from the end of sanctions under the accord.

The Sunni Saudi government already is locked in a proxy battle with Iranian allies in neighboring Yemen. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran Yemen’s capital earlier this year and were targeted by a Saudi airstrike campaign backed by the U.S. In addition, Shiite-led Iran is the most important backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; Saudi Arabia is committed to his removal.

However, there is the overarching issue of Saudi Arabia and other Middle East Sunni countries opting to secure their own nuclear infrastructure and weapons.  A  WSJ  op ed in today’s edition  by Karen Elliot House, former publisher and Pulitzer Prize winner for her coverage of the Middle East, addressed what many observers belief is a potential nuclear Pandora’s Box, “Obama Pours Gas on the Mideast Fire”:

The short subdued statement this week by Riyadh’s embassy in Washington again calling for “strict sustainable” inspections speaks volumes about the kingdom’s precarious position and the lack of good options.

[…]

A final option open to the Saudis: Get a nuclear weapon as soon as possible. Prince Turki al Faisal, the kingdom’s former head of intelligence vowed in the spring that “whatever the Iranians have, we will have.”

[…]

The nuclear deal with Iran will stoke more Sunni-Shiite violence, and the Saudis may go shopping for nukes.

On Tuesday, July 14, 2015, a Middle East Roundtable discussion was convened by Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio 1330 AM WEBY’s co-hosts  of “Your Turn,” Mike Bates and this writer. Our panelists were Omri Ceren, Managing Director for Press and Strategy of The Israel Project (TIP) and Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.  Bryen was calling in from Washington, D.C.  Ceren was calling in from Vienna, Austria where he had spent 19 days working with journalists covering the final deliberations of the nuclear pact with Iran. Ceren had also been in Lausanne, Switzerland covering the April 2nd announcement of a framework for a final JPOA.  The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming August 2015 New English Review article on the Iran nuclear agreement based on the radio panel discussion. This excerpt reveals the dangers that could result should nuclear proliferation spread in the Middle East, beginning with Saudi Arabia. The arguments presented here are the opinions of Ceren and not necessarily those of TIP.

Omri Ceren(1)

Omri Ceren, Managing Director at the Israel Project.

Jerry Gordon:   What is the risk in this region that non-proliferation ends and the opposite occurs?  Is this the opening of a Pandora’s Box?

Omri Ceren:  Not just the obvious, but the well nigh undeniable. We talked earlier of what a lot is dangerous about this Administration’s communications with American lawmakers and the American public is that they just don’t tell the truth.  They make excuses for Iranian cheating. But another aspect that has been widely remarked upon is they say insulting things in order to defend their policies. One great example is their answers to the potential that Saudi Arabia will respond to a bad deal by going nuclear.  Let’s be clear, Saudi Arabia will respond to a bad deal by going nuclear. They have not been bashful and have told us in as many words that they will not wait to gain their own nuclear capabilities till the Iranians get a nuclear bomb. They’ve said that they will respond with their own infrastructure when they believe that it is now inevitable that they will get a nuclear bomb.  And they have said that this deal makes it inevitable that Iran gets its nuclear bomb, which is correct. You then have these very clear declarations from a traditional American ally that sits in the center of the world’s energy markets that they intend to go nuclear in response to this deal. If they go nuclear then the entire deal is trashed because there is no chance that the Iranian military will permit the Sunnis to get a bomb without their having a nuclear bomb.  They will respond by backing out of the deal. Now obviously this is a worst case scenario for the White House.  Yesterday, you were in a world where you had no deal and no Iranian bomb. Now you have a deal and you may have an Iranian bomb. What have been their responses? I don’t want to overemphasize this but it is difficult not notice that we have a scenario that will trash everything that the Administration has hoped to create, all costs and no benefits.  What is their answer? They say two things about the Saudis. One is that the Saudis lack the resources  to go nuclear which is insane given the example of North Korea and given what we know about Saudi Arabia’s GDP and how they allocate their resources. The second is what one of the top hands at the NSC wrote in a pamphlet was that the Saudis will never go nuclear because they are afraid of an international oil embargo. I’m sorry but that is not a sophisticated argument. The entire success of the deal and the potential that the deal will fail could leave an entire nuclear Middle East in its wake.

RELATED ARTICLE: UN Set to Adopt Iran Nuke Deal Monday in Obama Blitzkrieg

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

Senator Cotton Defends Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran

We posted several times this week on the controversy that erupted following  publication of letter on Monday, March 9th, 2014, authored by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) and signed by 46 other Republican colleagues that was tweeted to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Seven Republican Senators for various reasons declined to do so.  It drew the ire of the President, Secretary of State Kerry and most Democratic Senators.  It triggered several White House website “We the People” website petition campaigns. One requested charges of “treason” be filed while the other accused Sen. Cotton and the 46 Republican signatories of violating the 1799 Logan Act suggesting they could be sued for illegally conducting foreign relations when Members of Congress are exempt from the hoary law. Further, both sides of the aisle have done so historically, including then Senators Kerry and Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. That didn’t stop some media like the New York Daily News and others from suggesting Republican signatories of the Cotton Letter were acting in a traitorous manner in an editorial  and front page headline, “GOPers Sabotage Bam Nuke Deal”.

The letter  has been called “mutinous” by a former Army General cited by the Washington PostPolitico blamed Sen. Cotton for “getting us a hard-line Supreme Ruler.” President Obama found it “somewhat ironic” that the Cotton letter may have aligned them with so-called hardliner opposition in Iran to the nuclear deal. Others contended that the letter was “ misguided”  and ”disrespectful” of the Presidential perogatives under our Constitution for negotiations of treaties and executive agreements. In our most recent post on the controversy on Friday, we wrote:

Two independent legal experts confirmed the Constitutional requirements for review of foreign treaties and Congressional executive agreements. Sen. Cotton’s letter also pointed out that any executive order signed by the President may not survive past the end of his term in 22 months and might be modified or terminated for cause by any successor. That raised a question of why the Memorandum of Understanding was non-binding. That provoked responses from both Foreign Minister Zarif and Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Khamenei.  While the latter railed in rhetoric about how the GOP initiative reflected “the disintegration of the US” and why our representations can’t be trusted and laughing at the State Department citing Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. It was left to Foreign Minister Zarif, to reveal that Congress wouldn’t have to approve anything saying: “The executive agreement was not bilateral but rather multi-lateral with the rest of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, subject to a resolution of the Security Council.”

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu wrote in a Jewish Press article published today, “U.N. Security Council’s lifting of sanctions and endorsement of a deal might make Congress irrelevant.” He then cites the observation of Omri Ceren, Communications Director for the Washington, DC-based The Israel Project:

The letter forced the Administration to explain why they’re icing Congress out of Iran negotiations, and now that explanation has ignited a firestorm. The administration looks like it intentionally chose a weaker, non-binding arrangement, rather than a treaty, to avoid Senate oversight.

Ken Timmerman, whose FrontPageMagazine article, we cited noted the reason for Zarif’s and presumably the Administration position:

The Obama administration has told Congress that it won’t submit the nuclear agreement with Iran for Congressional approval, but now Zarif is saying that it will be submitted to the United Nations, to form the basis of a United Nations Security Council resolution, presumably aimed at lifting UN sanctions on Iran.

That prompted Sen. Coker (R-TN) and Foreign Relations Senate Committee chair co-sponsor of The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 to write President Obama Thursday:

There are now reports that your administration is contemplating taking an agreement, or aspects of it, to the United Nations Security Council for a vote.

Enabling the United Nations to consider an agreement or portions of it, while simultaneously threatening to veto legislation that would enable Congress to do the same, is a direct affront to the American people and seeks to undermine Congress’s appropriate role.

bill bennetSen. Cotton was interviewed on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America program on Wednesday, March 11th, 2014 in the midst of the continuing controversy. He presented the salient background and rationale for the letter.  Among points regarding his letter he made during the interview were:

He indicated that the letter took shape following Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a Joint Meeting of Congress that, in his opinion, raised questions about what sort of deal the Administration was entering into among both his Republican and many Democratic colleagues, as it did not preclude Iran from achieving a nuclear capability.

His letter was directed at informing Iran’s leaders of the Constitutional authorities for Senate review of foreign treaties and executive agreements and that they may be terminated by end of President Obama’s term or modified by succeeding Presidents or Congress under existing related sanctions legislation.  He thought that the response from Iran’s foreign minister reflected his lack of understanding of Congressional review and ratification  requirements as regarding any Memorandum of Understanding on Iran’s nuclear program that the US P5+1 might enter into.

He illustrated the ability of President to rescind executive agreements of predecessors with reference to the 2004 letter of former President Bush to the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reaffirming Israel’s rights under UN Resolution 242 to “secure and defensible” borders and that Jerusalem was Israel’s undivided capital. President Obama, according to Sen. Cotton, rescinded that executive agreement by suggesting that Israel might divide Jerusalem along the lines of the pre-1967 1949 Armistice Line.

The President’s objective, endeavoring to conclude so-called verifiable agreements on Iran’s nuclear agreements in their current form, would be a bad deal as reflecting in Israeli Prime Minister’s address comments before a Joint Meeting of Congress on March 3rd as it could allow Iran to continue developing a nuclear capability, not preclude it.

He suggested that President Obama’s motivation for pushing for the Iran nuclear deal was to achieve a strategic rapprochement with Iran. This despite the Islamic Republic cited by our State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism. Among specific examples cite by Cotton during the interview  were the 1979 US Embassy hostage taking and terrorist attacks by proxies  over several decades that resulted in deaths and injuries to hundreds of American diplomats and service personnel in Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

On the Matter of the Administration’s new Authorization for the Use of Military Power submitted to the Senate, he called it seriously restrictive. He pointed to the collapse of Iraq and rise of the Islamic State following the Administration’s failure to conclude a status of forces agreement with Iraq on the termination of the Iraq War in 2011.

When asked about Iran’s involvement in the current battle for Tikrit with Iraq national security forces and Iranian controlled Shia Militia, Cotton noted the role of the Quds Force, a combination of Special Forces and its CIA and its ubiquitous commander Qassem Suleymani. He accused Suleymani’s Quds Force of involvement in American casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. It also reflected Iran’s rapidly expanding sphere of influence over four Arab countries in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and more recently, Yemen.

Sen. Cotton’s Bennett program interview came just before revelations about the implications of Foreign Minister Zarif’s remarks suggesting the non-binding Memo of Understanding reflected resort to UN approval of any appraisal arising from the multilateral negotiations with the P5+1. You may listen to the Bennett interview with Sen. Cotton, here.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is courtesy of CNN.

Obama faces Veto Dilemmas at the United Nations and 114th Congress

As 2014 was closing a vote on a draft resolution introduced by the Jordanian UN Ambassador at the Security Council hit what may be a temporary speed bump for PA President Abbas. He is striving g to impose a draconian solution to the long simmering dispute on the Jewish nation of Israel. The draft resolution failed to achieve the requisite 9 votes, losing by one vote.  The US and Australia voted no.  Five others abstained including the UK, Lithuania, South Korea and Nigeria. France, Luxembourg, Russia, China, Jordan, Chile, Argentina, and Chad voted in favor of the draft resolution. The draft resolution sought to fix a one year deadline for negotiations on declaration of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem based on the infamous War 1949 Armistice line. What fabled Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban deemed the “Auschwitz line”.  The draft resolution would require the end of the alleged ‘occupation’ of the West Bank by Israel losing its control over the Jordan Valley approaches and protection of over 350,000 Israelis in both Samaria and Judea.

Virtually on the announcement of the vote, PA President Abbas, now serving in the tenth year of an elected four year term, signed 20 UN covenants including the Rome Treaty making it eligible for observer status at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. That would enable it to bring a charge of war crimes against Israel. This will confront the ICC with a choice between recognition of anti-Israel issues versus international law matters. Further, the unilateral move by Abbas will likely cause the incoming GOP led Congress to consider retaliatory legislation further consternating Administration diplomacy in the region.  Israeli PM Netanyahu countered saying:

The one who should fear the International Criminal Court at The Hague is the Palestinian Authority, which is in a unity government with Hamas, a declared terrorist organization like ISIS that commits war crimes.

We will take steps in response and we will defend the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world. We will repel this latest effort to force diktats on us, just as we have repelled the Palestinian turn to the UN Security Council.

 US UN Ambassador Power blasted the PA vote because it precluded consideration of security guarantees outlined in UNSC Res. 242 for Israel to have defensible borders.  She noted in her remarks, “The deadlines in the resolution take no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.” The State Department director of its press office, Jeff Rathke, criticized  the PA saying:

 We are deeply troubled by today’s Palestinian action regarding the ICC. Today’s action is entirely counterproductive and does nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state.

Palestinian Resolution reprise Veto

Besides the ICC ploy, the PA was anything but supine. The change in the non-permanent membership of the UNSC might afford them another opportunity to re-submit the draft resolution, possibly obtaining the requisite 9 votes.   As former US UN Ambassador John Bolton in a Wall Street Journal op Ed published today, “The U.N. Vote on Palestine Was a Rehearsal,”   wrote, “An influx of new Security Council members means a likely ‘yes’ vote – and a veto dilemma for Obama.” Obama, as we have noted previously in Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic interview gave a broad hint that the US might abstain.

Bolton notes in his WSJ op ed the elements of this dilemma that may shortly face the Administration:

A firmer U.S. strategy might have prevented the dilemma from arising. The White House’s opening diplomatic error was in sending strong signals to the media and U.S. allies that Mr. Obama, wary of offending Arab countries, was reluctant to veto any resolution favoring a Palestinian state. Secretary of State John Kerry took pains not to offer a view of the resolution before it was taken up. Such equivocation was a mistake because even this administration asserts that a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict requires direct negotiations and agreements among the parties themselves.

No draft resolution contrary to these precepts should be acceptable to the U.S., or worth wasting time on in the diplomatic pursuit of a more moderate version. This American view, advocated for years and backed by resolute threats to veto anything that contradicted it, has previously dissuaded the Palestinians from blue-smoke-and-mirror projects in the Security Council.

Bolton addresses how the reprise could shortly occur:

Several factors support a swift Palestinian reprise. First, they obtained a majority of the Security Council’s votes, even if not the required supermajority of nine. In today’s U.N., the eight affirmative votes constitute a moral victory that virtually demand vindication, and sooner rather than later.

Second, the text of Jordan’s resolution was wildly unbalanced even by U.N. standards—for example, it demands a solution that “brings an end to the Israeli occupation since 1967,” and calls for “security arrangements, including through a third-party presence, that guarantee and respect the sovereignty of a State of Palestine.” A few meaningless tweaks here and there and several countries that abstained could switch to “yes.” Third, on Jan. 1 five of the Security Council’s 10 nonpermanent members stepped down (their two-year terms ended), replaced by five new members more likely to support the Palestinian effort.

Consider how Wednesday’s vote broke down, and what the future may hold. Three of the Security Council’s five permanent members (France, China and Russia) supported Jordan’s draft. France’s stance is particularly irksome, since it provides cover for other Europeans to vote “yes.” The U.K. timidly abstained, proving that David Cameron is no Margaret Thatcher; the abstention signals that a more “moderately” worded resolution might be enough to flip London to a “yes.”

Washington cast the only permanent member’s “no” vote, which is characterized as a veto only when nine or more Security Council members vote in a draft resolution’s favor. Will President Obama now have the stomach to cast a real veto against a U.N. Charter majority backing the Palestinians? Is this the point where the “liberated” Mr. Obama allows a harsh anti-Israel resolution to pass?

Happy New Year, Jerusalem.

He notes the lineup of new rotating non-permanent members in the UNSC that could tip the vote over the required 9 votes:

Three “yes” votes came from Jordan, Chad and Chile, which all remain Security Council members in 2015. Two additional supporters, Argentina and Luxembourg, have been replaced, respectively, by Venezuela (no suspense there) and Spain. Spain narrowly won election in October, defeating Turkey after three ballots. Madrid might be expected to support Washington, but not necessarily, given recent EU hostility to Israel and the appeasers’ argument to soothe wounded Muslim feelings about Turkey’s loss by backing the Palestinians.

Only Australia joined the U.S. in voting “no.” Its successor, New Zealand, would either have abstained or voted affirmatively, according to Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

South Korea abstained, but its replacement, Malaysia, is a certain affirmative vote. Angola, taking Rwanda’s seat, is an abstention at best. While abstainers Lithuania and Nigeria remain, Nigeria’s Boko Haram problem could easily move it to “yes” as an olive branch to the Muslim world. And Lithuania, as a new member of the euro currency union, could well succumb to arguments for EU solidarity, especially if Britain also surrenders.

Bolton notes in conclusion:

The Obama administration can only prevent what it dreads by openly embracing a veto strategy, hoping thereby to dissuade pro-Palestinian states from directly confronting the U.S.

And if that fails, the veto should be cast firmly and resolutely, as we normally advocate our principles, not apologetically. As so often before on Middle Eastern issues, a veto would neither surprise nor offend most Arab governments. If the Administration had courage enough to make clear that a veto was inevitable, it would minimize whatever collateral damage might ensue in Arab lands. But don’t hold your breath.

Iran Sanctions Veto

However, this is not the only veto dilemma facing the Administration in 2015.   On Tuesday, December 30, 2014, Reuters reported  that Undersecretary of The Treasury for Finance and Terrorism, David Cohen issued new financial sanctions “against nine targets who Washington says have helped Tehran avoid existing sanctions or commit human rights abuses.”    The IRNA news agency noted these comments by an Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham saying: “At a time negotiations are underway with P5+1, such a move raises doubts about America’s intentions and violates the good will principles” “This action is for mere publicity and will have no bearing whatsoever on our commercial policies,”

Just prior to the onset of Republican control of the 114th Session of Congress on January 6, 2015, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk gave an interview on December 28, 2014  on Fox News Sunday following statements by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham that new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program may be brought up for an early vote.

That followed an NPR interview with President Obama that he might be prepared to use his veto authority on specific legislation passed by the new Congress.  Kirk in the Sunday Fox interview indicated that 17 Democrats, including New Jersey’s Bob Menendez and New York’s Charles Schumer may have the requisite votes to pass new stronger sanctions legislation against Iran’s nuclear program in view of the Islamic regime fobbing off failed P5+1 negotiations . Those 17 Democratic Senate votes would make such a measure veto proof. This puts President Obama in a difficult situation regarding his engagement of the Islamic Regime in Tehran. A regime that has successfully outmaneuvered the P5+1 and Administration and likely has already achieved nuclear breakout. Omri Ceren chronicled this in a Commentary article,“Enabling Iran’s Nukes” saying, “The lies began at the very beginning with American assurances had secured a ‘halt’ in Iranian nuclear program.”   This is a matter of great concern to Israel’s PM Netanyahu who would support such Congressional action on tougher Iran sanctions.  Watch the Fox News interview with Sen. Kirk.

Iran is feeling the ravaging of its economy due to the loss of revenue from oil and gas production.  Given the precipitous fall in world energy prices, due in part to the drop in demand and the vaulting of US energy production to first rank in 2015.  That has forced Iran to suggest that fellow OPEC member Saudi Arabia cooperates to cut production. This is an unlikely prospect since the Saudis are unwilling to relent given their $750 billion dollar hard currency reserve cushion.

We shall shortly see whether President Obama will issue vetoes at the UNSC against a reprise of the Palestinian draft resolution and another against tougher sanctions legislation passed on a bi-partisan basis in the new Republican controlled Congress against the Iranian nuclear program.

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