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Is President Obama Imposing the ‘Auschwitz Border’ on Israel?

Introduction

On the cusp of the transition from the Obama to the Trump Administration, Israel has been in the crosshairs of actions at the UN and a Paris meeting convened on January 15, 2017 by outgoing French President Hollande.  Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority will be attending the gathering of 72 nations. The Quartet, as well as the 28 Foreign ministers of the EU will also be meeting on it and deciding what script is to be presented at the UNSC meeting on January 17th in New York. One ominous possibility might be a state of Palestine declaration.

Yet, a communique drafted by the U.S. and France and ‘leaked ‘widely proposes ‘coercively’ establishing borders that might imperil Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and its national security.   That is the pre-1967 June Six Day War border what revered Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban called “the Auschwitz border” dividing Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital.  Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based Jewish Policy Center in an interview with the co-authors called the proposed borders, “Indefensible. Because you have an eight mile waist between what will be Palestinian artillery in the hills and the Israelis living underneath them. Ronald Reagan explicitly rejected the pre- ’67 borders.”

UN Security Council Resolution 2334

The Paris meeting  was  triggered by the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334  on December 23, 2016  and a subsequent controversial  speech by outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department on  December 28th supporting  resolution 2334. Kerry in his State Department speech called Israel Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu  the head of “the most rightwing  regime in Israeli history, with “an agenda driven by the most extreme elements” for “unfettered settlement construction and  flagrant violation of international law” forcing the end of the peace settlement talks with the Palestinian Authority.  Kerry’s comments were objected to by Netanyahu as “obsessive, unbalanced, “saying that “most of his speech blamed Israel for the lack of peace.”  UK PM Theresa May criticized Kerry’s remarks saying, “We do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.”  Kerry was also criticized by a number of Republican and Democratic Senators and Congressional Representatives.

On  December 23, 2016, a crucial vote at the United Nation’s Security Council  passed an anti-Israel  Resolution 2334 by a vote of 14 to 0, with the US abstaining.  UNSC Resolution 2334 virtually abrogated Resolutions 242 and 381 passed in the wake of the June 1967 Six Days of War that reunified Israel’s capitol that had guaranteed Israel’s right to negotiate secure borders. Resolution 2334 stated that “Israel‘s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demanded that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”  While UN Resolution 2334 had no ‘coercive’ effect under international law; nevertheless, it represented the first action the Security Council passed since 2009 on this issue.  Moreover, it was the first abstention by a U.S. government since the Carter Administration in 1980.

On January 10, 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told a visiting U.S. AIPAC delegation in Jerusalem, that, we have unequivocal evidence the Obama Administration Led UN Resolution [2334] that marked a major break with US policy.”

Background of Israel’s Legal rights to the Land

Under UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338 Israel lawfully built what the Jewish nation’s opponents called ‘settlements’.  These were Jewish villages and towns built on lands in Judea and Samaria with deeds conveyed in the Ottoman era.  Nearly 90 percent of population in these Jewish villages and towns in the disputed territories were built on lands originally inhabited by Jews prior to the 1948 -1949 War of Independence for Israel.

In 1979-1980 there was a flurry of  UN Security Council resolutions  seeking to  declare  these disputed territories  part of a future Palestinian State and Jewish  ‘settlements’ illegal.  However,  Eugene Rostow, former  President Johnson era State Department official and  co-author of Resolution 242 with British Foreign Minister Lord Carrington, affirmed Israel’s legal right to the lands under the original British Palestine Mandate in 1922 that also declared the Kingdom of Jordan.   Professor Rostow noted this in an article published in The Yale Journal of International Law, “Palestinian Self-Determination: Possible Futures for the Unallocated Parts of the British Mandate.”  Rostow’s arguments presage what is now occurring at the UN Security and at the Paris meeting, as if this was “deja vu all over again,” as baseball legend Yoga Berra might  say in one of his famous malapropisms.

Rostow cited the precedent of the Palestine Mandate:

The Palestine Mandate was established under the authority of paragraph 8 of Article 22 of the Covenant, which authorized the League Council explicitly to define the terms of a Mandate when the broad general statement of paragraph 1 was insufficient.

The purpose of the Palestine Mandate was “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” The Mandatory government was required to facilitate Jewish immigration and “close settlement” in Palestine, subject to the proviso that the Mandatory government could “postpone or withhold” the application of these (and related) articles of the Mandate in the area of Palestine east of the Jordan River. This was done when Britain established Transjordan as an autonomous province of the Mandate in 1922. But Jewish rights of immigration and close settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, established by the Mandate, have never been qualified.”

Trump Obligations to Israel

During the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing of Trump nominee for Secretary of State, Lax Tillerson, retiring Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil, responded on questions regarding his views of US support for Israel. He said;

Israel is, has always been and remains our most important ally in the region. The UN resolution that was passed, in my view, is not helpful. It actually undermines a good set of conditions for talks to continue. As an attempt to ‘coerce’ Israel to change course that will not lead to a solution. The president-elect has already made it clear that we’re going to meet our obligations to Israel as the most important ally in the region.

One of the expressed obligations of President – elect Trump is the movement of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  While there have been US laws passed in 1990 and 1995 to implement this, waiver provisions were passed by the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administration every six months.  There appears to be momentum to finally achieve the move.  Sites have already been picked out. There is even a compromise solution to make the existing US consulate in Jerusalem as the seat for the US Ambassador effectively making two US consulates one in Jerusalem and the current Embassy in Tel Aviv. Objections to the prospective move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem were reflected in incitement preached at mosques in the Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem.  That may have motivated a Salafist terrorist to mount a truck ramming in Jerusalem’s Amona killing 4 young IDF officers, injuring 17 alighting from a bus. The perpetrator was killed by an armed guide with the group.

Against this background, Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio Station, 1330amWEBY host, Mike Bates and co-host Jerry Gordon, Senior editor of the New English Review, convened another Middle East Roundtable discussion with Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based Jewish Policy Center.

LISTEN to the Podcast of the January 10, 2017 broadcast.  Read the Transcript in two separate posts: Part 1 and 2.

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

Kerry: No Sanctions Against Conventional Arms and Missile Technology in Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of State Kerry appeared on a Reuters Newsmaker interview today with the apt title of Iran: Moment of Truth. He dropped another bombshell, this time about the lifting of UN sanctions barring Iran’s purchase of conventional arms and missile technology. Kerry indicated there would be snap back of arms sanctions. However, during a recent House Armed Services Committee Hearing, he admitted lifting of financial sanctions would enable deliveries of arms to terror proxies in the Middle East threatening both Americans and Israelis.

Iran demanded and the Administration negotiating team consented to lift bans on Iranian purchases of conventional arms and missile technology adopted under 2010 UN Security Resolution 1929. At the time of the adoption of those UN sanctions both Israel and the US had objected to the sale of the Russian S-300 system to Iran. This comes in the wake of a trip to Moscow on July 24th by Qod’s Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani to expedite the delivery of the advanced Russian S-300 air defense system . Russian’s Putin had lifted the ban in mid- April 2015 following the announcement of the framework for the final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  The JCPOA was announced in Vienna on July 14th and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council on July 22nd. This was just prior to Gen. Soleimani’s trip to Moscow to meet both Putin and Russian Defense Minister Shogui. Add to that the announced $10 billion dollar oil barter deal with China for stealth fighter jets and it would appear that once again, Iran has been allowed to breach conventional arms sanctions. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had suggested that expediting lifting these arms sale bans would enable sales would enable Iran and Syria to combat the Islamic State.

Reuters reported these latest revelations by Kerry:

Violations of an arms embargo by Iran or restrictions on its missile program would not force an automatic reinstatement or “snapback” of United Nations sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal, although other options would be available, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.

“The arms embargo is not tied to snapback,” Kerry said. “It is tied to a separate set of obligations. So they are not in material breach of the nuclear agreement for violating the arms piece of it.”

“There is a specific U.N. resolution outside of this agreement that prohibits them from sending weapons to Hezbollah. There is a separate and specific U.N. resolution that prohibits them from sending weapons to the Shia militia in Iraq,” he said.

Kerry added that similar U.N. restrictions banned arms sales to the Houthis in Yemen, North Korea and other potential recipients of weapons from Iran.

Tehran has consistently violated the U.N. arms embargo and missile sanctions. Since 2010, those breaches have been documented by the U.N. panel of experts on Iran.

Kerry said a new U.N. monitoring mechanism would have to be created to replace the panel of experts, suggesting that much of the monitoring work could be done by the United States and its allies on their own.

“We’re not dependent on the U.N. to do that and I think Israel and others are much happier that we’re not,” he said. “We will depend on our own intel community, on our own military, on our own information, we will work with Israel, and we will work with others.”

Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi made clear last month that Tehran had no intention of complying with the arms embargo and missile sanctions.

“Whenever it’s needed to send arms to our allies in the region, we will do so,” he said. “We are not ashamed of it.”

Watch the Washington Free Beacon YouTube video of Secretary Kerry’s Reuters Newsmaker interview:

Watch this response by Kerry to this issue in this C-Span video clip during a House Hearing Armed Services Committee Hearing:

Syrian made M-302 missiles captured by Israeli Naval Commandos from Klos-C March 2015  Ariel Schalit AP

M-302 missiles captured by Israeli Naval commandos on display in Eilat March 2014Source:  AP/Ariel Schalit.

Notwithstanding and even before the 2010 UN conventional arms sanctions were adopted, Israel has unilaterally intercepted shipments attacked arms deliveries to Iranian proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel is not waiting around for implementation of UN arms control and missile technology sanctions or any Presidential executive orders by the Obama Administration to defend against Iran violations. Israel naval commandos intercepted Iranian shipments of conventional arms and missiles in both the Mediterranean off Gaza and in the Red Sea.  In March 2014 the Klos C  was boarded by Israeli Naval commandos in the Red Sea and brought to the Port of Eilat.  Multiple IAF attacks on missile and other weaponry  prevented deliveries for proxy to Hezbollah in both Syria and Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

In an NER/Iconoclast post yesterday on” Obama’s Dangerous Spin on Iran Nuclear Deal,” this writer suggested the latest conventional arms sanctions by Iran with the connivance of both Russia and China may have jeopardized any military option by the U.S. or Israel. I 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 by both five and eight year  sunsets under the JCPOA.  It makes any military option harder by orders of magnitude. While both the U.S. and Israel aren’t without resources of their own, Iran’s  breaches of sanctions makes the decision to use American of Israeli military power more complicated.  Kerry’s Reuters Newsmakers interview comments today virtually confirmed that assessment.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in New York August 11, 2015. Source: Reuters/Brendan McDermid.

Kerry’s Double-talk on Iran

On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry held a video conference with a number of news media journalists on prevailing issues. Less than fourteen days remain till a definitive Joint Plan of Action might be available for Congress review under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). That is, if there isn’t a delay.This video conference revealed still yet another stunning concession on the critical element of Iran’s previous military developments (PMD): perfect knowledge of all prior nuclear developments making IAEA verification virtually impossible. Kerry was backtracking on his November 2013 and April 2, 2015 statements.

Watch the State Department video conference with Secretary Kerry:

Witness this exchange with Michael Gordon of the New York Times:

QUESTION: Sir, I’m Michael Gordon, New York Times. You mentioned that possible military dimensions, which is the term of art for suspected nuclear design work and testing of nuclear components, has to be addressed as part of a prospective Iran agreement. Do these concerns need to be fully resolved before sanctions are eased or released or removed or suspended on Iran as part of that agreement? Is that a core principle or is that also negotiable? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Michael, the possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in.

What we’re concerned about is going forward. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way. That clearly is one of the requirements in our judgment for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement. And in order to have an agreement to trigger any kind of material significant sanctions relief, we would have to have those answers.

Armin Rosen, writing in Business Insider considered Kerry’s answer contradictory to what the Secretary had said back in April:

This is a crucial question. Without Iran divulging the degree of its past work on nuclear weaponization, inspectors will have a harder time establishing a baseline for assessing Iranian compliance with the terms of a deal.

Disclosure on the nuclear program’s military dimensions is also an early yardstick of Iranian good faith.

The International Atomic Energy Agency submitted 12 queries to Iran about its weaponization work in 2011. Tehran had only responded to one of them as of February 2013, and the IAEA’s leadership has acknowledged that it doesn’t think Iran will come clean before the June 30 deadline.

That makes some sense from Iran’s perspective, as the country’s negotiators have deftly used the ambiguities surrounding the country’s weaponization work for negotiating leverage. But that rationale disappears once a deal is signed, at which point the sides will have spent whatever leverage they had while theoretically having a mutual incentive to make the agreement work. And it won’t work as well if inspectors don’t have an understanding of the full extent and history of Iran’s nuclear program.

Here’s why Rosen thought Kerry’s answer contradictory and problematic in understanding how a definitive JPOA was verifiable:

Kerry’s answer is puzzling for a number of other reasons. The administration’s assessment of the nuclear dimensions of Iran’s program is not just secret, but non-disprovable for anyone who hasn’t seen US or allied intelligence on Iranian weaponization.

Kerry’s answer doesn’t mesh with repeated IAEA claims that the Agency can’t verify “that all the activities in Iran are for peaceful purposes.”

And Kerry doesn’t elaborate about “what they did.” Was Iran testing nuclear detonators, or diverting fissile material to a weapons program? Is the extent of Iranian weaponization work greater or less than the public record — which establishes that Iran may have tested nuclear weapons triggers at the Parchin facility up until 2003, andmaintained a research group dedicated to weaponization activities?

Kerry’s statement raises more questions than it answers. But it appears that the Obama administration isn’t going to insist on full Iranian disclosure of the extent of its nuclear program as part of a comprehensive deal.

Here’s why:

That’s a shift from just two months ago; right after the parties reached a preliminary deal, when Kerry told PBS that Iran would need to divulge its past nuclear activities as part of any final deal.

“They have to do it. It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal; it will be done,” he said.

Whether it is collaborative research with North Korea on nuclear warheads or ICBM technology or another country in the axis of resistance, Iran will not permit any verification of prior military developments by the IAEA through inspection of the known military sites in country.  Going forward on that basis is impractical and unsafe.  Iran doubtless may already have achieved nuclear weapons capabilities.   Moreover upon lifting upwards of $50 billion in sanctioned funds, Iran may accelerate the means of delivering them, as well as, funding more chaos in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq.  The days are running down towards a debacle with an untrustworthy Iran, increasing the unease of Congress on the cusp of reviewing it under the INARA.  A negative vote which may trigger a veto by President Obama that the Congress may not have the votes to override.

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

U.S. Senator Cotton’s Letter to Iran’s Leaders Clarified

When Arkansas junior Senator Tom Cotton sent his open letter on Monday, March 9th to “The Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” signed by 46 other Republican colleagues, 7 declined, it caused a ruckus.

Cotton’s letter endeavored to  remind Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif of the Constitutional authorities.  The Executive Branch’s power in Article II, Sec.2 gives  it the right to negotiate foreign agreements. The Legislative Branch, in this case the Senate, must provide its “advise and consent” to treaties on a two-thirds vote and a three-fifths vote in the instances of Congressional-executive agreements. Anything not approved by Congress, such as the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei is deemed an executive agreement which could end with current term of the President in January 2017. Thus “the next President could revoke the executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

From the President to leading Democratic Senators, the short missive was rebuked as an unwelcome ‘stunt’ interfering with the Executive Branch of government prerogative of engaging in foreign relations.  President Obama considered it “ironic” considering  the signatories of the Cotton letter in league with those notorious hard liners in Tehran.  He alleged they were seeking to upend the MOU. The New York Daily News published a front page  picture of the Cotton letter accusing the signatories of being ‘traitors’.  For the first 48 hours that continued to be the criticism of Sen. Cotton and the GOP leadership in the Senate, with the exception of the 7 who agreed with the White House for different reasons. Senator Corker (R-TN) thought it was unhelpful as he was endeavoring to line up Democratic votes for his Senate Bill 615, The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 co-sponsored by embattled Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif while calling the Cotton letter, “a propaganda ploy” argued:

“I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law,” according to Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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.

That majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as “mere executive agreements” and not treaties ratified by the Senate.

That “their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments.”

Ayatollah Khamenei considered the Cotton letter reflective of the “US disintegration”. According to the Mehr news agency, the Supreme Ruler said:

Of course I am worried. Every time we reach a stage where the end of the negotiations is in sight, the tone of the other side, specifically the Americans, becomes harsher, coarser and tougher. This is the nature of their tricks and deceptions.

Further, he said the letter was ‘a sign of the decay of political ethics in the American system”, and he described as “laughable long-standing U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in terrorism.”

Jen Psaki 3-11-15  Legal Insurrrection

Source: Legal Insurrection

Notwithstanding the roiling criticism of the Cotton letter, comments by Secretary Kerry at a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Wednesday, echoed those of State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Tuesday who said, “historically, the United States has pursued important national security through non-binding arrangements.” Kerry said in his testimony that the Obama Administration was “not negotiating a legally binding plan” but one from “executive to executive,” Politico reported. Kerry insisted such a deal would still “have a capacity of enforcement.” Thus, he confirmed that the proposed Memorandum of Understanding  between the P5+1  and Iran was non-binding on the parties hinging on verification of conditions.  Something hitherto unachievable with the Mullahs who have a tendency to hide developments. This despite representations by President Obama that the negotiations in Geneva were making good progress towards that goal. Kerry said it was non-binding because we currently don’t recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran, passed embargoes arising from the 444 day Tehran US Embassy seizure and hostage taking in 1979 and adopted Congressional sanctions against its nuclear program. Further, the State Department considers the Republic a state sponsor of terrorism, something Ayatollah Khamenei categorically disagrees with as witnessed by his comments on the Cotton letter.  But seeing is believing when it comes to the Shia autocrats in Tehran proficient practitioners of taqiyya, otherwise known as lying for Allah. Iran ‘reformist’ President Hassan Rouhani suggested that diplomacy with the Administration was an active form of “jihad” equivalent to the 2,500 mile range cruise missile Iran unveiled this week.

Two legal experts on the matter of executive agreements disagreed with the position of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Secretary Kerry in the context of the Cotton letter. Daniel Wiser writing in the Washington Free Beacon asserted  that Cotton was correct and Zarif wrong. They concurred that future US Presidents could revoke the agreement over a bad deal, meaning, violation of provisions by Iran:

Jeremy Rabkin, a law professor at George Mason University and an expert in international law and Constitutional history, said in an email that “nonbinding” by definition means that the United States “will not violate international law if we don’t adhere to its terms”—contrary to Zarif’s assertion.

“In other words we’re saying it is NOT an international obligation, just a statement of intent,” he said.

“What Kerry seemed to say was not that his Iran deal would be in the same category but that it would not be legally binding in any sense, just a kind of memorandum of understanding,” Rabkin said. “I wonder whether he understood what he was saying. It was more or less conceding that what Cotton’s letter said was the administration’s own view—that the ‘agreement’ with Iran would not be legally binding, so (presumably) not something that could bind Obama’s successor.”

Cotton responded with a Tweet, saying:

Important question: if deal with Iran isn’t legally binding, then what’s to keep Iran from breaking said deal and developing a bomb?

Wiser then cites a National Review article by a second legal expert, John Yoo, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley and a former Justice Department official in the George W. Bush Administration:

The Cotton letter is right, because if President Obama strikes a nuclear deal with Iran using only [an executive agreement], he is only committing to refrain from exercising his executive power—i.e., by not attacking Iran or by lifting sanctions under power delegated by Congress. Not only could the next president terminate the agreement; Obama himself could terminate the deal.  Obama’s executive agreement cannot prevent Congress from imposing mandatory, severe sanctions on Iran without the possibility of presidential waiver (my preferred solution for handling the Iranian nuclear crisis right now). Obama can agree to allow Iran to keep a nuclear-processing capability; Congress can cut Iran out of the world trading and financial system.

But the fracas over Cotton’s letter continued unabated. An unidentified resident of Bogota, N.J.  “C.H.” shot off a petition to the Obama White House website, “We the People,” expressing the view that the 47 signers were in violation of the 1799 Logan Act and may have jeopardized achievement of a nuclear agreement with Iran.  Further “C.H.” contended that the Republican Senators might be subject to possible criminal actions brought under provisions of the hoary law that private individuals are barred from engaging in foreign relations. The petition took off like a rocket with upwards of 165,000 signatures heading for over 200,000 in less than 48 hours. That will allegedly require a response by the President, as witnessed by an earlier petition on support for medical marijuana.

But “C.H.” is wrong. Members of Congress in either chamber are exempt from that restriction. Moreover, there have been a number of instances where the many of the Democratic Congressional and Administration critics of Cotton and his Republican colleagues have engaged in private foreign relations episodes.  Among those who undertook such actions were Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry when they were Senators and current House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and the late Teddy Kennedy.  In Pelosi’s case, following her assumption of the House Speakership in 2006, she went off to Damascus in 2007 to sit with President Bashar Assad, despite the protestations of the Bush Administration who were trying to isolate the Syrian dictator.  However,  Republicans have done the same thing when it also suited their political purposes.

Finally, there was another groundswell campaign seeking to gain passage of Sen. Corker’s INARA.  Christians United for Israel (CUFI) flooded Capitol Hill with more than 57,000 emails from members across the US in support of passage of INARA because they were worried about Iran’s possession of nuclear capabilities.  The CUFI initiative was triggered by the March 3rd address by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu before a Joint Meeting of Congress  who made it abundantly clear that he believed the Administration’s 10 year phased deal was a “very bad deal.”

 writing in the Legal Insurrection blog about the Cotton letter controversy concluded:

And to think, all of that wailing and gnashing of teeth from Democrats wasted over a non-binding agreement, one that would have absolutely no legal sway over Iran.

RELATED ARTICLES:

What You Need to Know About the White House’s Talks With Iran

Is Obama Sidestepping Congress and Going to UN on Iran Deal?

Iranian President: Diplomacy with U.S. is an active jihad

Saudi Nuclear Deal Raises Stakes for Iran Talks

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) poses for photographers in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Source: Carolyn Kaster— AP.

Netanyahu Addresses Iran Nuclear Threat at AIPAC — Obama Administration Criticizes

An audience of 16,000 at the AIPAC Washington Policy Conference enthusiastically welcomed Israeli PM Netanyahu’s appearance, today.  Netanyahu’s speech was a prelude to his appearance before a joint Session of Congress tomorrow at 10:45AM EST. It will be televised by Fox-News and C-SPAN.  Fox will have commentary from a panel both prior to and following Netanyahu’s Congressional speech.  The Voice of Israel will broadcast it live via the internet with following commentary.

Some likened today’s remarks as a warm up to the main event on Tuesday, March 3rd. For many of us his AIPAC Conference remarks today were punctuated by his eloquent Churchillian cadences. Other lines echoed Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s 1938 Tish B’Av “Ihr Kommt” (they’re coming) speech to Jews in Poland warning them of their impending destruction during Hitler’s Final Solution, the Holocaust. Other lines were  reminiscent of Churchill’s caustic Parliamentary remarks on the Munich 1938 appeasement by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and  French Premier Eduard Daladier acceding to Hitler’s demand that Czech President Eduard Benes unilaterally cede Sudetenland thus dismembering Czechoslovakia. All while Chamberlain waved that scrap of paper upon arrival at Heston aerodrome saying that he had achieved “peace for our times”. That imagery was captured in Netanyahu’s lavish praise heaped on Czech President Zeman who was on the dais at the AIPAC conference. Netanyahu thanked Zeman for the country’s enduring support for Zionism espoused by Czech Republic founder Thomas Masyrk and the material support the Czechs provided post WWII to Israel during the 1948-1949 War for Independence. That was captured in Netanyahu’s reference in his speech to the Czech rifle he trained with as an IDF Sayeret Matkal member.

Netanyahu paid copious respects to AIPAC officials,  noted “no disrespect to President Obama”, and  pledged fealty to the long enduring bi-partisan US relations with ally Israel.  An Israel, as he pointed out, that shared common Western values of freedom, liberty, civil and human rights for the Jewish nation’s citizens. He noted as one example prominent women jurists on its High Court and as CEOs of Israeli companies.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 10_40_03 AM

Screen shot of  Global Map of Iran Terror used by  PM Netanyahu at 2015 AIPAC. For a larger view click on the map.

He spoke clearly about why he was in Washington:

The purpose of my address to Congress tomorrow is to speak up about a potential deal with Iran that could threaten the survival of Israel. Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Look at that graph. Look at that map. And you see on the wall, it shows Iran training, arming, dispatching terrorists on five continents. Iran envelopes the entire world with its tentacles of terror. This is what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons. Imagine what Iran would do with nuclear weapons.

And this same Iran vows to annihilate Israel. If it develops nuclear weapons, it would have the means to achieve that goal. We must not let that happen.

And as prime minister of Israel, I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there’s still time to avert them. For 2,000 years, my people, the Jewish people, were stateless, defenseless, voiceless. We were utterly powerless against our enemies who swore to destroy us. We suffered relentless persecution and horrific attacks. We could never speak on our own behalf, and we could not defend ourselves.

Well, no more, no more.

The days when the Jewish people are passive in the face of threats to annihilate us, those days are over. Today in our sovereign state of Israel, we defend ourselves. And being able to defend ourselves, we ally with others, most importantly, the United States of America, to defend our common civilization against common threats.

In our part of the world and increasingly, in every part of the world, no one makes alliances with the weak. You seek out those who have strength, those who have resolve, those who have the determination to fight for themselves. That’s how alliances are formed.

Watch this C-span video of Israeli PM Netanyahu’s remarks at the 2015 AIPAC Conference.

U.S. UN Ambassador Power, speaking at AIPAC today, accorded respect for the enduring US-Israel alliance.   She also said that the Administration would stop Iran from achieving a nuclear breakthrough:

            The United States of America will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, Period.

We believe diplomacy is the preferred route to secure our shared aim. But if diplomacy fails, we know the stakes of a nuclear-armed Iran as well as everyone here. We will not let it happen. There will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. Never.

 However, she tossed a barb at both Netanyahu and House Speaker Boehner for engaging in partisan politics with her remarks:

This partnership should never be politicized, and it cannot and will not be tarnished or broken. Debating the merits of a deal with Iran is legitimate. Politicizing that process is not. The stakes are too high for that.

 For her appearance as an Administration senior official, she received a standing ovation from the 16,000 attendees at the Washington Convention Center site of the Conference.

Watch this C-Span video of US UN Ambassador Power’s remarks at the 2015 AIPAC conference.

More of the same followed from another Administration senior official, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, when she mounted the podium at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to deliver her remarks.  Rice appeared to be toeing the Administration line saying, “sound bites won’t stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”  Rice essentially denied the possibility of ending Iran’s nuclear enrichment saying:

[ getting Iran to] forego its domestic enrichment capacity entirely… as desirable as that would be … is neither realistic nor achievable. The plain fact is no one can make Iran unlearn the scientific and nuclear expertise it already possesses.

She cautioned that it wasn’t a “viable negotiating position” to attempt to block Iran from using its nuclear capacity for domestic energy reasons.

Now I want to be very clear: a bad deal is worse than no deal,

We have Israel’s back come hell or high water.

Given Iran’s support for terrorism, the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region, and the danger to the entire global non-proliferation regime, Iran with a nuclear weapon would not just be a threat to Israel, it’s also an unacceptable threat to the United States of America.

Given Iran’s support for terrorism, the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region, and the danger to the entire global non-proliferation regime, Iran with a nuclear weapon would not just be a threat to Israel, it’s also an unacceptable threat to the United States of America.

We have Israel’s back come hell or high water.

On sanctions, Rice made it abundantly clear why the Administration opposed any new legislation, saying:

We cannot let a totally unachievable ideal stand in the way of a good deal [with Iran]. Sanctions, have never stopped Iran from advancing its [nuclear] program. New sanctions would blow up the talks, divide the international community, and cause the U.S. to be blamed for causing negotiations with Iran to fail.

Not unlike Power, Rice received a standing ovation ironically for policies that she opposes. Note what blog Twitchy reported:

The highlight of her speech was undoubtedly the standing ovation she received for acknowledging the desire for a complete halt to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. The look on her face while waiting for the cheers to die down so she could add “but” and finish her sentence: priceless.

Watch this You Tube video of the AIPAC audience applauding her and her befuddled expression:

That effectively shot down the faint hopes of many of the 16,000 in the Convention Center.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), co-author of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 with new sanctions, stormed up to the podium at AIPAC to rebut Rice.  He said:

Iran needs to understand that there are consequences to an impasse and those consequences are additional consequential sanctions.

As long as I have an ounce of fight left in me… Iran will never have a pathway to a weapon.

It will never threaten Israel or its neighbors, and it will never be in a position to star a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Not on my watch.

Secretary of State Kerry, speaking from Geneva, Switzerland  earlier today in the midst of   discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, voiced  concerns that ‘leaks’ by Israel might jeopardize the phased deal.  Kerry said:

We are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days. Doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get to a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly so is the security of all of the other countries in the region. So is our security.

 Kerry made a  brief appearance at the UN Human Rights Commission today in Geneva voicing concerns  about the panel’s  pre-occupation with isolating Israel, saying:

We will oppose any effort by any group or participant in the U.N. system to arbitrarily and regularly delegitimize or isolate, Israel. No country should be free from scrutiny on human rights, but no country should be subjected to unfair or unfounded bias.

President Obama in a Reuters interview several hours after Netanyahu’s speech at AIPAC expressed the view that the current discord would not seriously disrupt relations with Israel. Nevertheless he harshly criticized Netanyahu’s refrain about a bad deal emerging from the bi-lateral diplomatic discussions with Iran. He suggested the emerging 10 year deal with verifications was:

Far more effective in controlling their nuclear program than any military action we could take, any military action Israel could take and far more effective than sanctions will be.

He then took exception to Netanyahu’s criticism of the 2013 interim agreement with Iran:

Netanyahu made all sorts of claims. This was going to be a terrible deal. This was going to result in Iran getting $50 billion worth of relief. Iran would not abide by the agreement. None of that has come true. It has turned out that in fact, during this period we’ve seen Iran not advance its program. In many ways, it’s rolled back elements of its program.

Watch this video of the Reuters interview with President Obama on March 2, 2015.

The Administration still hasn’t fully understood the import of the Gallup poll of Americans, 84% of whom expressed distrust of Iran, while 77% believed Iran should be denied becoming a nuclear threshold state.  As one audience member said at a presentation in Northwest Florida, Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon was a threat not only to Israel, but America as well.

An expectant Israel and the world awaits Netanyahu’s address before a joint session of Congress tomorrow.

Listen to this Voice of Israel Sound Cloud of Netanyahu’s speech at AIPAC.  The full text of Netanyahu’s AIPAC remarks can be found in this release by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

RELATED ARTICLE: Iran says it rejects Obama’s demand for 10-year nuclear work halt

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu at AIPAC Washington Policy Conference taken on March 2, 2015. Source: GPO/Amos Ben Gershom.

Secretary of State Kerry views the Gaza Conflict through the prism of his Vietnam experience

Secretary of State John Kerry was dispatched last week to begin a new round of shuttle diplomacy between Cairo, Ankara and Qatar endeavoring to find some leverage with Hamas to obtain a longer cease fire. His latest attempt as of this writing was rejected by Israel as the offer he put on the table simply reiterated Hamas’ previously rejected terms. Those terms proposed by Hamas were based on the November 2012 cease fire agreement.  An agreement the Administration used to encourage Israel to relent to shipment of cement, steel and equipment for reconstruction of Gaza. This reconstruction was funded by $405 million from Qatar, a Hamas supporter. Israel’s fears about diversion of those resources were confirmed in the discovery of the elaborate fortifications and tunnel network during the current Operation Defensive Edge. Kerry returned to Washington this weekend via Paris, where he met with foreign ministers from Turkey, Qatar, France, the U.K. and the EU foreign relations commissioner, without the likelihood that further mediation between the warring parties could yield an agreement to return to calm.

Perhaps the lack of success in mediating a cease fire agreement may be that  Kerry views the Gaza conflict with Hamas through the prism of his Vietnam War experience over 44 years ago. The WSJ Weekend Edition “Notable & Quotable” had  this insightful  exchange between Israeli PM Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry drawn from a July 20th New Republic article by Ben Birnbaum  and Amir Tibon:

The prime minister opened the meeting by playing Kerry a video on one of his favorite topics: Palestinian incitement. It showed Palestinian children in Gaza being taught to glorify martyrdom and seek Israel’s destruction. “This is the true obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu told Kerry.

“It’s a major issue,” Kerry replied. “And nothing justifies incitement. I hate it. I’ve read Abbas the riot act about it. You know I have. But it is worthwhile to try to understand what life looks like from the Palestinian point of view.”

“This has nothing to do with the occupation and the settlements,” Netanyahu said.

Kerry pressed on: “When I fought in Vietnam, I used to look at the faces of the local population and the looks they gave us. I’ll never forget it. It gave me clarity that we saw the situation in completely different ways.”

“This isn’t Vietnam!” Netanyahu shouted. “No one understands Israel but Israel.”

Kerry tried explaining himself again: “No one is saying it’s Vietnam. But I’ve been coming here for thirty years, and I’m telling you, what’s building up in the Palestinians has only gotten worse. I’ve seen it. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong; it just is. It can’t be solved if you can’t see it how they see it.”

To get some sense of what Kerry was talking about in this exchange with Netanyahu, I went back to his April 22, 1971 testimony on the so-called Winter Soldiers Study of Viet Nam anti-war veterans before the Senate Foreign Committee, chaired by the late Sen. J.W.  Fulbright of Arkansas.  Here is an excerpt from the opening stanza of his testimony:

We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.

We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Vietcong, North Vietnamese, or American.

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw firsthand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag, as blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on ‘the Vietcong.

Fast forward to July 2014 and Kerry’s exchange with Israeli PM Netanyahu quoted in the New Republic  article. The contrast is that Netanyahu   knows his people are besieged with rockets and mortar indiscriminately raining down on four fifths of the Jewish nation from terrorist groups Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad controlling Gaza.  Further, that Hamas and its partner in the Palestinian unity government, PA President Mahmoud Abbas marinate young minds in hatred and violence seeking destruction of the Jewish dhimmi state that has shamed them.  If you substitute Hamas for Viet Cong or North Vietnam, you suddenly realize where Kerry’s head is at when it comes to mediating cease fire between two unmovable adversaries. Israel is the only reliable democratic ally in the region  combating  Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization designated by our State Department.

According to a report in The Times of Israel sources in Jerusalem accused Kerry of “completely capitulated to Hamas” in the proposed cease fire rejected by Israel.

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

Obama poised to essentially surrender Afghanistan

I think it might have been George Santayana who quipped, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to hear this quote over and over again.”

And so here we are as the International Forces Commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. meets with President Obama to propose his plan for a residual force in Afghanistan after 2014. Interestingly enough, General Dunford was joined by US Central Command Commanding General, US Army General Lloyd Austin. General Austin was the Commander of forces in Iraq who proposed his plan for a residual force in that combat theater of operations – and we see how that ended up.

As reported in the LA Times, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan will argue for keeping about 10,000 troops in the country after this year, “a subject that has exposed a fissure between some of President Obama’s top advisors and the Pentagon.” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. is recommending U.S. troops stay to help train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida-linked militants.

Coming on the heels of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ revelations in “Duty” regarding the distrust between the Obama administration and senior generals, the final decision will be interesting.

Lest we forget, when General McChrystal was the commander on the ground in Afghanistan, his requests for a troop “surge” operation were arbitrarily decreased by President Obama — and Obama summarily announced when the surge operation would end during his speech at the US Military Academy at West Point.

In order to placate Obama – and allow him to save face, General Dunford says the 10,000 should pull out by 2017, when Obama leaves office, according to two officials, confirming a Wall Street Journal report.

But, not to be outdone, that astute purveyor of military strategy, Vice President Joe Biden reportedly says:

The insurgency has been contained after 13 years of war and that Afghan security forces are strong enough to preserve security in urban and other key areas. He also says a stable Afghanistan is no longer critical to halting terrorist attacks against the United States, one official said.”

Biden and others in the Obama administration believe 1000 to 2000 troops would be sufficient, but anyone with common sense realizes those numbers would not be capable of any training or counter-terrorism mission and certainly hard-pressed for self-defense.

According to the LA Times report:

General Dunford recommended keeping only a few hundred U.S. troops if Obama rejects his plan for 10,000, officials said. Their mission would be to run an office in the U.S. Embassy that would manage military aid programs, the officials said, but not conduct training or operations.

If General Dunford’s plan is adopted, about one-sixth of the force — around 1,800 to 2,000 special operations troops — would be reserved for counter-terrorism operations. The rest would support, train and advise Afghan commanders, however they would be barred in most cases from participating in combat except for self-defense.

Most of the troops would work out of Bagram air base, north of Kabul, and at Kandahar air base in the south. A small contingent would be based around Kabul to help train Afghan forces at the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC).

The real question is whether or not President Obama will engage with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, or his successor to solidify a security agreement. Or will it be a rerun of President Obama and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, where no effort was exerted and al-Qaida is right back in western Anbar Province.

Once again, President Obama’s political, campaign promises and personal agenda may be more important than vital American strategic interests. He didn’t “end the war” in Iraq, he just ran away.

I have no idea what the purpose was behind supporting combat operations in Libya, but I do know al-Qaida in the Maghreb, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other “JV” Islamic terrorist groups have free reign and are influencing events there.

President Obama drew a “red line” in Syria and then said it wasn’t his red line. The bottom line is Obama proclaimed the US would “pivot away” from the Middle East thereby allowing Islamic totalitarianism and jihadists to fill the vacuum.

There is no possible way to negotiate with the Taliban unless you support Islamic fundamentalism, which is contrary to every principle and value for which America stands – at least as far as I know.

President Obama needs to study up on Carl von Clausewitz and realize that war is about the imposition of your will upon another. Warfare is fought to achieve annihilation, assimilation, or attrition of your enemy. And in case that’s too complicated for Obama to understand, there are only two ways to end a war: win or lose.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com. Photo courtesy of US Army.