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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.

Obama’s Phased Nuclear Deal with Iran: Kicking the bomb down the road?

This column is co-authored with Ilana Freedman who is a veteran intelligence analyst and specialist in counter-terrorism. Ilana is Editor of FreedmanReport.com.

When we posted late Monday night, February 23, 2015, on breaking news about the phased deal resulting from bilateral discussions between U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, we knew from our sources that more shoes would be likely to drop. Last night we received information from these reliable sources on the extent to which the Administration had strayed from its original mandate. The information was:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry is poised to sign a secret Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Iran that was completed by negotiators on Saturday, February 14.
  • The State Department has received a decision from Eric Holder’s Department of Justice that the MoU does not require approval by the U.S. Senate in the Constitutionally defined process of Advise and Consent for treaties between the United States and other nations, and that therefore Congress will not be consulted.
  • The agreement does not cover the subject of inspections, removing the requirements of having inspections at any of the sites covered by the memorandum.
  • The agreement will allow Iran to have 10,000 enhanced centrifuges that will increase their nuclear program capacity by upwards of 50%.
  • Of the 10,000 centrifuges allotted, all of Iran’s 6,000 existing centrifuges will be converted to the enhanced, next generation versions. The conversion can begin immediately after the agreement is signed. This will enable Iran to achieve a nuclear threshold state in less than two years. The balance of 4,000 centrifuges will, according to our sources, be supplied by Russia.
Alireza Jafarzadeh Deputy Director of Natioal Council of Reskistance of Iran National Press Club  @-24-15 Source AFP

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director, Washington Office of NCRI, National Press Club, Feb. 24, 2015.

It is not known whether other Iranian nuclear sites will likewise fall under this inspection exemption, including military test sites like Parchin and the secret parallel Lavizan site, which was disclosed in Washington on Tuesday, February 24th by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in a National Press Club briefing. At the NPC briefing, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the NCRI’s Washington D.C. office, reported on a secret test site which has been previously identified in reports of the Washington, D.C. based, Institute for Science and International Security.

“Despite the Iranian regime’s claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent … it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3,” he said.  Jafarzadeh said the site was hidden in a military base in the northeastern suburbs of Tehran.

According to the presentation, the complex was described as a facility 164 feet underground. The Lavizan-3 site was apparently constructed between 2004 and 2008 and has underground labs connected by a tunnel, and lead-lined doors to seal out radiation leaks.  The facility itself is heavily shielded from radiation and insulated against noise and radiation leaks to avoid detection.

“Since 2008, the Iranian regime has secretly engaged in research and uranium enrichment with advanced… centrifuge machines at this site,” Jafarzadeh said.

The NCRI called the existence of the site “a clear violation” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as UN resolutions and an interim November 2013 deal struck with the P5+1 group, he said.

When asked about the NCRI findings at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the bi-lateral discussions with Iran, Secretary Kerry commented:

That U.S. officials knew of charges related to the site prior to this week, but that “it has not been revealed yet as a nuclear facility.”

“It is a facility that we are well aware of, which is on a list of facilities we have,” the Secretary of State said during a Capitol Hill budget hearing on Wednesday morning. “I’m not going to go into greater detail. . . .But these things are obviously going to have to be resolved as we go forward.”

Rep. Brad Sherman, ranking Democrat on the House Affairs Committee replied to Kerry:

 “The MEK sometimes gives us accurate information.”

“They are the ones that told the world about the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Sherman said. “They now say that there’s a secret facility at Lavizan-3.”

A credible independent expert monitoring Iran’s nuclear program raised questions about the NCRI findings.  David Albright of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security commented in a USA Today article, February 27, 2015:

“The basic story raises questions about its authenticity. They may have answers but the questions raise further doubts,” Albright said. “The claims are so controversial that any manipulated evidence casts doubt on the whole story.”

The matter of possible violations of the P5+1 interim agreements, the lack of inspections of military applications facilities like Parchin, the Arak heavy water reactor and the Lavizan-3  site near Tehran underlines the evidence of Iran’s  retention of significant uranium enrichment  centrifuge capabilities under the suggested 10 year phase deal the Administration announced  earlier this week.  It begs the question of why any enrichment capabilities are provided to Iran under the proposed arrangement, given that the principal use of centrifuges is for enrichment of uranium into fissile materials for bomb making.

That was a point made by Dan Diker, executive producer of the Voice of Israel “National Security” program during a Middle East Round Table discussion on 1330am WEBY Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio, “Your Turn” with co-hosts Mike BatesJerry Gordon of the NER and Shoshana Bryen , senior director  of the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Policy Center.

Diker of the VOI noted:

The notion that Iran would be able to enrich any uranium is completely unacceptable.  The civilian nuclear programs around the world hosted by Canada and other western countries have nothing to do with centrifuges.  They are just not part of the nuclear file.  Many countries want to have peaceful civilian nuclear power.  The notion that the Iranians would claim that they need centrifuges to produce peaceful nuclear power is an absurdity.  The fact that the P5+1 have allowed any uranium to be enriched is an extremely dangerous proposition.  That is the message that Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to bring to the American people and by extension to the world community.

As to why President Obama and Secretary Kerry would sanction the phased program, Bryen of the JPC suggested:

“[The President’s] thinking appears to be that ten years from now the Mullahs will have fallen, young Iranian democrats will have taken over, and it will be OK.  The big piece of this that he missed is that the Mullahs only represent one part of the Iranian body politic and that is the religious part. Iran is also Persian and Persians are empire-oriented.  Even if we get rid of the Mullahs, even if we get rid of the religious basis for governance in Iran and we have secular people, secular people in Persia believe in a Persian Empire. If we kick this can down the road ten years and the Mullahs are gone, Obama thinks that will be a good thing. I’m not sure that’s true.”

Listen to the February 24, 21015 1330am WEBY Middle East Round Table discussion on the Iranian nuclear program: Segment 1Segment 2Segment 3Segment 4.

An article based on the 1330am WEBY Round Table program will be published in the March 2015, NER.

The WEBY panel will also be heard on a separate Voice of Israel “National Security” program, Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 1PM Israel Standard Time ( 6:00 AM EST in the U.S.).  A sound cloud of that VOI broadcast will also be available on March 1st.

Iran’s provocative activities during the so-called Great Prophet-9 maneuvers this week raised questions about the untimely demonstrations of force directed at the US Fifth Fleet presence in the Persian Gulf. The first episode was the destruction by Iranian cruise missiles on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 launched at a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier as a target near the international oil/gas choke point, the Straits of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.  Watch the video, here.

Then on Friday, February 27, 2015, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy announced the successful launch of a cruise missile from a submerged Ghadir midget-submarine with a range of 150 miles. Watch the video, here.   Sepah news service quoted Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of IRGC-N saying:

The new weapon would be critical in any future naval war against the U.S.

“The new weapon will have a very decisive role in adding our naval power in confronting threats,” he was quoted as stating in Sepah News.

Iran’s latest operations in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz raises many questions. Why mount exercises in which a mock US aircraft carrier is destroyed by the Iranian navy? Or launch cruise missiles designed to take out a US naval destroyer just as the US is about to give them everything they want without a shot fired?  It may be a show of arrogance, a finger in the eye of the Obama administration (which it believes to be weak and foolish), or a move beyond the MoU into a new level of saber rattling to show its neighbors the seriousness of its ambitions. Or it might be all three, a typical multi-dimensional Persian chess play by the IRGC.

What the US must learn – and fast – is that this is not an enemy one can toy with. As in most Middle East politics, the weak are despised and the game goes to the powerful. As the secrets of Obama’s secret negotiations are revealed (or leaked), and the truth comes out about our feckless policies of negotiations and appeasement, the outcome is likely to be devastating for the region and the world.  Iran revels in its possible conquest of American might and moves a giant step closer to achieving its nuclear ambitions with America’s assistance – and blessings.

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