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Benghazi and Iran: The Two Faces of Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is much in the news as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee given the release Wednesday of the long-awaited bi-partisan Benghazi Report.  Contrast that with her withering criticism of  the  nearly veto-proof  new Iran Sanctions legislation.  On Tuesday she rose on the floor of the US Senate to give a ringing condemnation of the bipartisan Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act (S. 1881), seeking standby sanctions authorities,  as unnecessary and dangerous legislation acceding to saber rattling by our ally Israel.  She castigated it for disrupting the Administration’s diplomatic initiative with Iran with what she deems a ‘strong’ P5+1 agreement triggered by concerns over Israel’s security.  She observed:

 And let me acknowledge Israel’s real well founded concerns, that a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten its very existence. I don’t disagree with that. I agree with it, but we’re not there yet. While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war. By stating that the United States should provide military support to Israel in a former resolution should it attack Iran, I fear that is how this bill is going to be interpreted.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in a release yesterday, upbraided Sen. Feinstein for these remarks. Matt Brooks, RJC executive director said:

Senator Feinstein is within her rights to disagree with a bipartisan majority of her colleagues who support Kirk-Menendez, but her suggestion that those colleagues have ceded control over ‘when and where the United States goes to war’ to Israel is outrageous, inflammatory and completely baseless.

[…]

We are deeply troubled to see Senator Feinstein making such incendiary and inaccurate remarks on the Senate floor. We call on her to retract this reckless and false charge and apologize to her colleagues and to the millions of Americans who support a comprehensive, robust strategy to prevent the Tehran regime from obtaining nuclear weapons capability.”

Watch Sen. Feinstein’s Senate floor speech on this C-SPAN video clip.

Contrast Sen. Feinstein’s Senate Floor remarks on NWFIA with the news that followed the release of yesterday’s Benghazi Report by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Benghazi Report, according to The Wall Street Journal in a lead article in today’s edition, “Benghazi Report Spreads Blame”, lambasted both the State Department and the Intelligence community.  It indicated that this was a “preventable attack” that took the lives of four Americans including the late Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens.  These valiant Americans may have died because of the lack of State Department attention to requests for enhanced security that might have been provided prior to the September 11, 2012 attack.  That could spell trouble for former Secretary of State Clinton  poised many believe to seek her party’s nomination for the Presidency in 2016.  Senator Feinstein in remarks captured in a  Global Affairs blog article of The Hill, “Feinstein rejects NYT on Benghazi, lent the impression that the attack may have been perpetrated by a local terrorist group, Anshar al-Sharia  ‘influenced’ by  Al Qaeda. The Global Affairs blog noted both her comments:

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that key conclusions of a recent New York Times investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack are wrong.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) rejected the Times’s conclusion that al Qaeda wasn’t responsible for the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. She also took issue with the notion that the Libya strike was sparked by a U.S.-made anti-Islam video online.

“I believe that groups loosely associated with al Qaeda were” involved in the attack, she told The Hill last week. “That’s my understanding.”

She also disputed the notion that the Sept. 11, 2012, assault evolved from a protest against the video, which was widely disseminated by Islamic clerics shortly before the attack.

Given  her Senate floor speech on NWFIA and Israel, Sen. Feinstein  might address the objections  of RJC executive director Brooks by heeding the comments made during the January 14th Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) conference call – listen to this excerpt on You Tube – by both former Israeli Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, Dr. Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Sarah Stern, EMET’s executive director.

Commenting  that  Iran’s nuclear threat is directed at the US, Amb. Ettinger said:

 I think that when it comes to Iran the top priority is to send a message to legislators, you don’t do that for Israel.  You do it for America, namely Israel’s best friends on Capitol Hill are being told today by Israeli leaders and by friends of Israel, please have the back of our ally in the Middle East.  It is the wrong approach.  Israel should not be part of any Iranian related activity on the Hill.  It is America which is the number one target for Iran and not Israel. Once American legislators realize that we are going to see a sea change of attitudes on the Hill which could be the element stopping Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Stern of EMET  then drew attention to just such an initiative by her group:

We at EMET are working on a television campaign with exactly that message to go all over the United States without even mentioning Israel.  Instead, we talk about the annual November 4th ‘Death to America Rallies’ when they burned the American flag, etc…  Iran has actually said that by 2015 they will develop a Shahab missile to reach the Eastern seaboard of the continental United States.

In an Iconoclast post in late November 2013 on the cusp of the P5+1 agreement, we raised the issue of “Could Iranian missiles threaten Florida by 2015?”  I was acutely aware of this danger as a young US Army intelligence officer who  lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.  Sen. Feinstein was a young adult when the Soviet-backed threat nearly brought catastrophe to this hemisphere, prevented only because we were militarily prepared to act.  In our blog post we drew attention to that eerie precedent. We cited current comments from Mark Regev spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and a Clarion project briefing with IDF Brig. Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog on the Iranian missile threat to the US.  We also referred to international investigative reports that a company owned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps was allegedly building a possible missile base equipped with those Shahab missiles Stern referred to on the Paraguaná peninsula in Venezuela.

As head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Feinstein may have also been briefed on the same information. For her to disregard this clear and present danger by Iran to the US and her constituents is myopic, misleading and dangerous.  The stronger stand by sanctions authorization under S. 1881 with near veto-proof bi-partisan support buttresses the diplomatic initiative the Administration is seeking to achieve.  Sen. Feinstein needs to correct her Senate speech mistakes and apologize to her fellow Senators, all Americans and to our ally Israel.  We must be realistic about the “catastrophic apocalyptic” threat that Iran’s nuclear program poses to regional and world peace.  The current generation of Americans doesn’t have to live through another nuclear crisis as many of us and Sen. Feinstein did 52 years ago.

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

Stopping the Academic Boycott of Israel

Yesterday, at the Modern Language Association (MLA) annual meetings in Chicago there was Panel 48, one of more than 800 on this year’s program. The MLA has a membership of more than 30,000 university and college academic specialists in English, literature and history. This panel in particular has drawn media attention and controversy because of the theme, “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine”. It is reflective of the furor raised over recent resolutions favoring Academic Boycotts passed by both the 5,000 member American Studies Association (ASA) and even smaller 1,700 member Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) in mid-December 2013. These academic groups are a distinct minority in the groves of American Academia.

Moreover the Academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions is a two edged sword, as it would bar contact with a number of similarly minded Israeli academics.  The uproar has led to formal rejection of the academic boycott  of Israeli  institutions by more than 150 American Universities, including some of the universities where MLA Panel 48 members are affiliated.  Six of the objecting Universities have withdrawn department affiliations with the ASA. Further the 47,000 member  American Association of University Professors (AAUP), with 500 local campus and 39 state chapters, has opposed the ASA and NAISA Israel academic boycotts on the grounds of denial of academic freedom as contained its 1940 protocol and 2005 restatement.

Across town in Chicago another panel was convened under the auspices of the Chicago Jewish Federation to express opposing views from pro-Israel advocates including Hillel International (HI), the Israel Campus Initiative (ICI), and StandWithUs.  Pro-Israel and anti-boycott advocates had protested the denial of opportunities to present opposing views  at the MLA panel.  Moreover as noted in a January 2, 2014 JNS.org release on the contretemps the MLA had advised them that counter panels would have had to file by the deadline, April 1, 2013.  The JNS.org release noted the exchange between MLA executive director Rosemary G. Feal who wrote ICC director Jacob Baime, “We do not rent space at our convention for nonmembers to hold discussions.”  To which ICC‘s Baime and HI’s Neusner replied:

“We believe the members of the MLA deserve to hear a far more diverse set of perspectives on the issue of academic freedom in Israel and nearby countries. The MLA members, as academics, certainly can appreciate the value of multiple perspectives on what is a very controversial issue,” ICC’s Baime said.

“MLA has its policies, as any organization is privileged to do. We are disappointed that they wouldn’t make room for us at the convention,” Noam Neusner, a spokesman for Hillel International said.

Panel 48 presenters included Samer M. Ali, Univ. of Texas, Austin; Omar Barghouti, Independent Scholar; Barbara Jane Harlow, Univ. of Texas, Austin; David C. Lloyd, Univ. of California, Riverside; and Richard M. Ohmann, Wesleyan Univ.  Samer Ali of Texas University presided at MLA Panel 48. He indicated that the genesis was the unsuccessful intervention by New York City politicians and Mayoral candidates to prevent pro-BDS advocates from appearing at Brooklyn College in February 2013.

Weekly Standard article by American Enterprise Institute Fellow Max Eden, “Why this Boycott is Not like the Others” provided background on the panelists. Eden wrote:

The panel on Thursday will feature four belligerent anti-Israel activist advocates and a moderator who makes the panelists look like Likudniks. Barbara Harlow has already publicly endorsed an academic boycott. Richard Ohmann has declared that our “taxes have for years supported Israel’s project of ethnic cleansing.” David Lloyd wrote in the Electronic Intifada, a website devoted to Israel’s destruction, “It is not only that … all Israeli institutions are complicit in the occupation. It is that the occupation and its practices are the truth of Israel itself.” Omar Barghouti, the fourth panelist, is a co-founder of the BDS movement who says “the white race is the most violent in the history of mankind.” In a hypocrisy nearly too great to be believed, Barghouti earned a Master’s degree from Tel Aviv University and is currently pursuing his second Master’s there.  The university was overwhelmed by a petition with more than 175,000 signatures calling for Barghouti’s expulsion, but it stood on principle and refused.

The panel moderator is UT-Austin’s Samer Ali, whose public Facebook page gives away the game. One of his posts reads: “Our enemy is not radical Islam. It is global capitalism.” This page features multiple posts depicting Iranians as morally superior to Republicans and a link to a video highlighting Ayatollah Khomeini’s alleged personal generosity.

Three separate reports provide coverage  of what transpired at the dueling sessions in Chicago yesterday:  Inside Higher Ed blog article, “The Two Session Solution”;   Ha’aretz, report  “Israel boycott debate sows dissent at annual MLA convention“; and, JNS.org coverage, “Dueling panels debate BDS inside and outside of MLA convention.  They provide a  comprehensive picture of the proceedings  and  the proposed resolution of MLA Panel 48 to be introduced at Saturday’s plenary session.. That resolution condemns Israel for barring American scholars from pursuing academic engagements with Palestinian universities in Gaza and the West Bank.  The Forward noted in its article on the MLA contretemps, “Israel Battle Roils the Modern Language Association”, the language for the proposed resolution of MLA Panel 48:

MLA urges the U.S. Department of State to contest Israel’s arbitrary denials of entry to Gaza and the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.

The Panel 48 resolution is to be introduced at the plenary session Saturday by Ohmann of Wesleyan University and Columbia University English Professor Bruce Robbins.  We know Robbins because of the debate that roiled the Morningside Campus with the release of the Columbia Unbecoming documentary about intimidation of Jewish students by members of Middle East Arts Language and Culture faculty. That was crystallized by the controversial tenure appointment of pro-Palestinian Professor Joseph Massad.  Robbins, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia was quoted during the episode saying, “The Israeli government has no right to the sufferings of the Holocaust” and has “betrayed the memory of the Holocaust.”

Cary_Nelson

Professor Cary Nelson, University of Illinois. Former AAUP head and anti-Boycott advocate.

Former AAUP President and University of Illinois professor, Cary Nelson, who appeared at yesterday’s second panel, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Another AntiIsrael Vote Comes to Academia in which he laid out the issues confronting academia.  His conclusion was:

A truer indication of the real goal is the boycott movement’s success at increasing intolerance on American campuses. Junior faculty members sympathetic to Israel fear for their jobs if they make their views known. Established faculty who grasp the complexity of Middle East politics hold their tongues for fear of harassment by those who are more interested in offering lessons in contemporary demonology than in sound history. The politically correct stance in many academic departments is that Palestinians are victims and Israelis are oppressors. Period.

The fundamental goal of the boycott movement is not the peaceful coexistence of two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, but rather the elimination of Israel. One nation called Palestine would rule from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Those Jews not exiled or killed in the transition to an Arab-dominated nation would live as second-class citizens without fundamental rights.

There is no political route toward a one-state solution. But some American professors are too blinded by hatred of Israel—or too naive—to see that they are inadvertently advocating for armed conflict.

At the MLA panel 48 discussions, Barghouti took Nelson to task, by suggesting that AAUP’s long standing Academic Freedom standards did not comply with the  lesser ones of the United Nations.  Nelson at the second opposing panel countered suggesting that the arguments of Barghouti and others on the panel  were “delusional and irrational”:

…praising Barghouti for at least admitting that he was calling for academics to give up some freedom.

Nelson said that was the least of the problems with the boycott as envisioned by Barghouti and the ASA. Nelson noted that the groups have left open the possibility of working with Israeli scholars deemed to be supportive of the Palestinian cause. However one feels about that cause, Nelson said, the idea of creating lists of acceptable and unacceptable scholars can’t be taken seriously as consistent with academic freedom.

This system creates “the right to suppress people he doesn’t like,” Nelson said. “This is selective academic tyranny.”

Russell Berman, director of German studies and professor of comparative literature at Stanford University and former MLA President drew attention to the selective anti-Semitic stands of the Israeli academic boycott supporters, saying:

That when boycott defenders talk about facing false charges of anti-Semitism, they are engaged in “an attempt to silence the Jewish community.” When pro-boycott people criticize the “Zionist lobby,” they are trying to question the right of anyone affiliated with certain groups to participate in the debate.

[…]

What does it mean, Berman said, if boycott supporters have “come around to Jew counting?”

According to the JNS.org account of yesterday’s session less than 125 of the 4,000 conference attendees were at the Israeli Academic Boycott MLA Panel 48.  Perhaps, that may be a forecast of a possible defeat for the misguided resolution at Saturday’s plenary session of the MLA.

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

French Court Bans Performances of Anti-Semitic Comic Dieudonné

Pictured: French Anti-Semitic Comic Dieudonne’ and French Soccer star Nicolas Anelka in Nazi-like quenelle salute

French Court of the State re imposed a ban on the performance of controversial comic Dieudonne’ within minutes of an administrative tribunal decision in Nantes lifting it.   Dieudonné was in the midst of a tour of several major French cities, despite having over 9 convictions with penalties of $80,000 for violating French hate laws.  These violations are regarding his comments about the Holocaust and Jewish personalities that some, including his former Jewish comic sidekick, consider Anti-Semitic.  His performance in Nantes had been banned by a local French government official in furtherance public order issued by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, Tuesday.  Valls said  today:

“This is a political battle and not just a legal one. We must not let these intolerable statements go unanswered.” The Socialist politician said Dieudonné’s anti-Semitic and racist outbursts were “not an opinion, but a felony” and underlined that “the action I have undertaken has the advantage of mobilizing everyone, including the offices of the State.”

On Tuesday French President Hollande said:

I am calling on all representatives of the state, particularly its prefects, to be on alert and inflexible. No one should be able to use this show for provocation and to promote openly anti-Semitic ideas.

A World Jewish Congress (WJC) report noted:

Earlier this week,  Interior Minister Valls said racial and anti-Semitic remarks in Dieudonné’s show were legal infractions and “no longer belong to the artistic and creative dimension”. In a three-page circular letter sent on Monday to prefects and mayors across France, Valls said that the show contained “disgraceful and anti-Semitic words toward Jewish personalities or the Jewish community” and “virulent and shocking attacks on the memory of victims of the Holocaust.”

[…]

World Jewish Congress Vice-President Roger Cukierman, the head of the French Jewish umbrella body CRIF, told ‘France Info’ radio on Tuesday morning that he was satisfied that the French government had now acted. He called on French citizens to speak out against Dieudonné’s anti-Semitism. “No, France is not an anti-Semitic country, but therefore, one has to put stop to [Dieudonné’s] actions and prosecute him wherever possible.” Cukierman is among eight persons and institutions against who Dieudonné has threatened a defamation suit.

Even a right wing Political Leader, Marnie Le Pen of the National Front, expressed “shock’ at Dieudonné’s behavior in remarks to Le Figaro, although hedging that perhaps the French government may have gone too far with this ban.

Much of the controversy surrounding Dieudonne arises from his use of an alleged pro-Nazi gesture, the quenelle.  The WJC report noted:

The ‘quenelle’ gesture – holding one hand to the chest or shoulder, with the other extended rigidly downward, [is] like a lowered Nazi salute. Dieudonné’s companion Noémie Montagne has patented the gesture, as well as the use of its name for beverages, a television network and a public relations company.

The quenelle gesture was used by Nicolas Anelka, French Soccer star of the West Bromwich Albion English Premier League Soccer, team when scoring goals in a West Ham match.  Anelka Tweeted: “This gesture was a special dedication to my friend Dieudonné.”That gave rise to a Tweet from French Sports Minister, Valerie Fourneyron, who called it “Provocative”.   A WJC report cited European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor  urging  football’s governing bodies to punish Anelka as if he “had made the infamous outstretched arm salute” of the Nazis.

Dieudonné’s  loyal followers believe today’s legal battles, denied him  free speech.  In the US it could e considered protected speech under the First Amendment upheld under several Supreme Court decisions, beginning with the Brandenburg v. Ohio decision in 1969.

Prior to the reinstatement  today of the ban by the French Court of State, Dieudonné’s counsel Jacques Verdiersaid  was  cited by AFP  hastily saying:

 The judge’s ruling amounted to a “total victory”. A statement from the court said it did not regard the show as having “an attack on human dignity as its main object”.

Over 5,600 held tickets to the performance at the Zenith Theater in Nantes. Mayors in Bordeaux, Marseilles and Tours have banned Dieudonne’s performances in response to the order from French President Hollande and Interior Minister Valls.

Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala is the son of a French mother and Cameroonian father. He has made a career engaging in anti-Semitic references about the Holocaust, international Jewish control and inventing a Nazi-like gesture, the quenelle, mimicked by his followers. He has courted both far-right and far-left groups, as well as African and Muslim émigré communities in France.  Dieudonné had a Jewish partner, Eli Semour,  on TV and live performances. Dieudonné would appear in a KKK white sheet costume, while Semour would be decked out in a Nazi SS uniform. That was years ago. Now Semour is appalled at the depths of his former partner’s anti-Semitic routines.

One example of Dieudonne’s attacks on Jewish personalities was the case of French radio personality Patrick Cohen. The Wall Street Journal in its coverage of the most recent Dieudonné contretemps reported:

The latest controversy began last month, when state television channel France 2 broadcast footage captured by a hidden camera and showing Dieudonné commenting about French-Jewish radio anchor Patrick Cohen during a private performance.

“Me, you see, when I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I think to myself: Gas chambers…too bad,” the comedian was shown saying on stage. Dieudonné’s lawyers don’t dispute the video’s veracity.

Dieudonné’s remarks followed a previous remark by Mr. Cohen on a TV show that he was against hosting a number of “sick brains” in his morning radio shows, listing Dieudonné among others.

Later in December, Paris prosecutors said they had launched a preliminary probe against Dieudonné. In a TV interview, Mr. Cohen said he wouldn’t comment on the legal process. Dieudonné says the latest episode shows that France’s mainstream media has double standards over alleged racism.

“When it’s about blacks, people laugh, nobody bothers even though the pain and the misery are at least as deep,” Dieudonné said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

Coinciding with this breaking news on Dieudonné and rising French Antisemitism, we interviewed yesterday Michel Gurfinkiel.  He is French journalist, author, founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative  think-thank in France. He is a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.    Among issues covered in the conversation were French Jewry, rising anti-Semitism, French government initiatives and multi-cultural and Muslim émigré problems including the current controversy over Dieudonné.

At one point in our conversation we discussed a separate initiative by the Hollande government that was controversial. This was a draft posted on the government’s website directed at cultivating the anti-racist, African and Muslim émigré voting constituencies. The draft fostered recognition of multi-cultural origins of these groups effectively denying integration with French history, language and cultural values.  The ruckus the proposal caused led to the withdrawal of the draft.  Gurfinkiel characterized it as one more step towards national suicide. Meanwhile, he noted that young French Jews are increasingly committed towards aliyah to Israel, while others are moving into predominately safer Christian areas in France.  As Gurfinkiel put it, French Jewry, transformed by Holocaust survivors and émigrés expelled from former French Muslim possessions and other Islamic countries, feel threatened.  The Dieudonné episode is another expression of that threat.

Look for more insights from Gurfinkiel in our interview with him in the February 2014 edition of the NER.

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

The Growing Missile Threat to Israel

Dr. Ronen Bergman, intelligence and military columnist for Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth confirmed, Wall Street Journal reports that Syria and Iran’s Qod’s Force may have successfully disassembled and  transferred  to Hezbollah 12 Russian Yakhont anti- ship cruise missiles. See New York Times article, “Hezbollah Moving Long-Range Missiles From Syria to Lebanon, an Analyst Says”.

This despite the IAF five attacks conducted against Syria facilities and supply trains in 2013 using advanced missiles fired on targets from Lebanese airspace. The IAF attacks reported to have destroyed a shipment of  advanced mobile air defense  Russian SA-17’s in January 2013, Iranian Fateh-110 surface to surface missiles in May and  a shipment of  Russian Yakhont missiles in July. Further, according to the New York Times account, Bergman said:

Hezbollah, which is also Lebanon’s strongest political party, has a network of bases that were built inside Syria, near the border with Lebanon, to give the group strategic depth and to store the missiles, Mr. Bergman said. But with a nearly three-year insurgency threatening President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, an ally of Hezbollah, keeping the missiles in Syria is no longer as secure, Mr. Bergman said.

The missiles being moved, he said, include Scud D’s, shorter-range Scud C’s, medium-range Fateh rockets that were made in Iran, Fajr rockets and antiaircraft weapons that are fired from the shoulder.

Bergman also noted the comments of former Mossad head, Meir Dagan about Hezbollah bases in Syria during the Second Lebanon War in 2006:

 Meir Dagan, advised the government not to start an attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon without first hitting the militia’s bases in Syria, which were built on the strategy that Israel would not dare to strike Syria. The bases were believed to contain much of Hezbollah’s long-range missile capability,

The Wall Street Journal report,  “Hezbollah Upgrades Missile Threat to Israel” noted the potential game changer on Israel’s strategy to counter this missile threat on its doorstep:

Hezbollah already has around 100,000 rockets, according to Israeli intelligence estimates, but those are primarily unguided weapons that are less accurate. Its longer-range rockets are spread across Lebanon, meaning Israel’s next air campaign—should one come—would have to be broad, Israeli officials have told their U.S. counterparts, according to American officials in the meetings.

Hezbollah’s possession of guided-missile systems would make such an air campaign far riskier.

Current and former U.S. officials say Iran’s elite Quds Force has been directly overseeing the shipments to Hezbollah warehouses in Syria. These officials say some of the guided missiles would allow Hezbollah to defend its strongholds in Lebanon, including Beirut, and attack Israeli planes and ground targets from regime-controlled territory in Syria.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system can intercept and destroy short-range rockets. Its Arrow missile-defense system can intercept the sort of long-range ballistic missiles Iran possesses. A third system the Israelis are developing to deal with mid range guided missiles, called David’s Sling, won’t be operational until 2015 at the earliest.

                                 Arrow Anti-Missile System

Coincidentally, Israel completed another successful test of the  Arrow III anti-Missile system over the Mediterranean today. The Arrow III is a joint development of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Boeing. According to a Defense News, article,  “US-Israel Arrow-3 Marks Milestone Test”, “ IAI also provides the Super Green Pine fire control radar, while Elbit’s Tadiran provides the system’s battle management control center.” Defense News  further reported:

The US-Israel Arrow-3 upper tier intercepting missile passed another developmental milestone with a successful exo-atmospheric maneuvering flight after launch over the Mediterranean Sea on Friday.

In a joint statement, Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said the Arrow-3 “successfully launched and flew an exo-atmospheric trajectory through space, according to the test plan.”

The fly-out of the two-stage, hit-to-kill missile marked the second in a series of developmental milestones aimed at readying the system for a full-up intercept test in early 2015. It follows a successful maiden flight in February 2013.

Planned for initial fielding in late 2015 or early 2016, Arrow-3 is designed as Israel’s first line of defense against emerging threats from Iran. Supported by the samefire control radar and battle management systems developed for Israel’s operational Arrow-2, the smaller and much more agile Arrow-3 aims to destroy advanced, maneuvering, unconventionally tipped Shahab-class missiles in space before they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Hezbollah with upwards of  80,000 rockets and missiles would be a formidable threat for Israel to reduce to assure that its rocket and missile  defense umbrella can safeguard its population should it elect to undertake a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This is presuming no final agreement is reached with Iran under the current P5+1 interim agreement.  Moreover, a recently introduced bi-partisan US Senate bill, the Nuclear  Weapons Free Iran Act directed at prodding  Iran to reach an agreement  may be posed for action when Congress returns from its holiday recess. Given Iran’s addition of so-called hard liners to the Islamic regime’s negotiating team, the prospects for achievement of a definitive agreement  quickly seized upon by Obama Administration could be illusory.

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

The Military Option may be the Only Way to Stop Iran’s Nuclear Program

The other night I attended a Shiva (Memorial Service) for a revered member of the local Jewish community here in Pensacola. During the collation that followed I was approached by two acquaintances, and asked for my views on the US engagement with Iran.  There was a lunch and learn session sponsored by the local Federation the following day on the Iran P5+1 interim agreement to halt its nuclear program. In response to this question from my acquaintances, I said I believed in the reverse of the Reagan doctrine, i.e., “verify then trust’”. I cautioned one of my acquaintances how can you trust a country whose Islamic extremist rulers never miss an opportunity to spout propaganda to wipe the Zionist enterprise off the map of the world.

What I also expressed is that the US and the West has been consistently deceived about the Iranian  nuclear program and intentions. Witness the infamous National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that noted Iran’s temporary stoppage of their nuclear program when the US and Coalition forces invaded Iraq in 2003. Or the trumpeting by current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that he fooled the West in the period from 2003 to 2005 when he was the Islamic Regime’s  chief nuclear  negotiator.  “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.  Perhaps multiple times given what has been revealed in the wake of the roll back in sanctions, part and parcel of the P5+1 agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.

US and EU Sanctions may have worked to bring Iran to the table given estimates that the Iranian economy suffered a 1% drop in GDP, and nearly a halving of its oil revenues.  While the Obama Administration said that sanctions relief for Iran was in the neighborhood of $6 to 7 Billion, according to independent estimates by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) it may exceed $20 billion.  Let’s take one example, the lifting of auto trading sanctions.  Mark Dubowitz and Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of FDD in an Iran Sanctions Analysis noted:

The White House fact sheet on the JPA notes that this relief, plus the easing of “certain sanctions” on gold, other precious metals and petrochemicals, will provide Tehran with “approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.” Of those funds, the White House projects that easing auto industry sanctions will yield only $500 million over the six-month interim period.

Note what Dubowitz and Schanzer reported happened after the lifting of the auto trade sanctions:

Shortly after the signing of the Joint Plan of Action, Iran held an international automotive conference attended by representatives from German, Indian, Japanese and South Korean auto companies. France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault SA have expressed optimism that they will be able to reap significant benefits in the coming months. A spokeswoman for Renault recently said, “Renault is satisfied by the signing of this accord… If the sanctions are lifted, our activity which is currently slowed could return to its normal course.” For Renault, this “normal course” could mean the sale of approximately 100,000 vehicles in Iran, while for Peugeot it could mean more than 450,000 vehicles.

The bottom line FDD estimate of auto trading relief in the six month time frame of the P5+1 is:

Even if Iran’s auto sector contributed only ten percent of the sector’s previous $50 billion annual contribution in GDP to Iran’s overall economy, that would be worth $2.5 billion in additional economic activity over the next six months not included in the White House’s calculations.

By helping to revive the auto industry, the most important economic sector after energy, the Obama administration may end up providing far greater economic benefits to the Iranian government, and to the IRGC, than previously believed.

Yesterday, the National Journal (NJ) drew attention to a new push for strengthened sanctions by US Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), “Iran Sanctions Bill is Coming”. This despite Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and  Banking Chairman Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) acceding to White House and Secretary of State Kerry requests  to a ‘pause’ in new sanctions  legislation  until we see what eventuates in the P5+1 six month interim discussions with Iran.  The NJ noted:

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois told reporters on Tuesday that he’s optimistic an Iran sanctions bill will come out soon and that members involved can push it forward.

Kirk said that the timing of a bill rollout and any consideration in the Senate will be up to his top Democratic partner on sanctions, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and of course Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“The timing will be up to Harry and Bob,” he said. “It’s coming up.”

[…]

Kirk sought to debunk perceptions that intense Obama administration lobbying has had a chilling effect on interested members, particularly Democrats.

Morton Klein and Dr. Daniel Mandel of The Zionist Organization of America in an Algemeiner op ed argued  in the opposite direction  that the P5+1  deal  and  a restart with strengthening of sanctions will simply afford time for Iran to reach nuclear breakout, “With Geneva, Military Force Only Remaining Option to Stop Iranian Nukes”.

Their principal argument was:

The Geneva interim agreement permits Iran to retain intact all the essential elements of its nuclear weapons program.

Klein and Mandel cite Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton Bernard Lewis who said, “MAD, mutual assured destruction … will not work with a religious fanatic. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement.”

They concluded:

It will be extremely hard now for President Obama to credibly threaten military action: if he failed to honor his red line and take military action when Syria actually murdered thousands with chemical weapons. Iran is unlikely to take seriously any red line he might lay down now on building nuclear weapons. Yet he should do so without delay. But even if he does, there is now probably no way Iran can be prevented from going nuclear, except through military action.

Even Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a recent meeting in the Gulf Emirates indicated that diplomacy alone would not bring Iran to heel, without the equivalent of a steel fist in a velvet glove approach.

The realities of how rapier like military action can work against rogue nuclear powers is reflected in a Wall Street Journal Letter to the editor  today from the writer,  Bill Bloomfield of Manhattan Beach California,  “What’s Worked for Limiting Nukes?”:

What worked? Limited military action, in the case of Syria and Iraq. While both countries are still a hotbed of violence and political strife, fortunately they don’t have nuclear weapons to make matters much worse. Their reactors were destroyed by Israel. In the case of Ukraine, economic strangulation worked. The arms race bankrupted the Soviet Union, leading to its breakup. The newly independent Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, all former Soviet republics, gave up their nuclear weapons.

What didn’t work? Threats of economic retaliation, in the cases of India and Pakistan, and negotiation, in the case of North Korea. In 1994, the Clinton administration traded aid for a North Korean promise to give up its nuclear activity—a promise it did not keep. If history is our guide, it will take more than diplomacy to keep Iran free of nuclear weapons.

I hope this answers my acquaintances in Pensacola and across America asking why military force coupled with improved sanctions may be the only option that brings the Islamofanatics in Tehran to heel.  Israel demonstrated that in both Iraq (Operation Opera 1981) and Syria (Operation Orchard 2007). Despite initial criticism, the US subsequently showed begrudging respect. That is not lost on the worried Saudis and the Gulf Emirates, critical of US policies in the roiling Middle East.

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