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Cardin: Iran Deal Must ‘Snap Back’ UN Sanctions Upon Violation, Not Just Congressional

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A leading Democratic senator said an acceptable deal with Iran wouldn’t just “snap” back congressional sanctions when the deal is violated — but would require that UN sanctions return as they were, as well.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who was a co-sponsor of the Menendez-Kirk sanctions in the last Congress, told MSNBC today that “the best case is to have an effective arrangement with Iran where they give up their nuclear weapon ambition.”

“If they don’t, sanctions will be tightened. We will continue to isolate Iran as much as we can. We hope to have the type of cooperation from those who have been with us in these negotiations, to make sure that we not only have all of the sanctions and that we would have a snap back to what the — the relief we’ve already given Iran. But we would pass stronger sanctions in the United States Congress and we would hope the international community would follow us,” Cardin said.

Congress, he said, has “a responsibility to be involved in the oversight that agreement,” should the P5+1 and Iran arrive at a deal.

“It was Congress that imposed the sanctions. Only Congress can permanently remove the sanctions,” Cardin stressed. “But I think there’s two parts to this. First, we want to make sure that the agreement itself would prevent Iran from breaking out to a nuclear weapon in any short period of time. And secondly, that there is enforcement,that there is transparency in inspections and that if Iran does not follow its commitments, we have an immediate snap back, not only the U.S. sanctions, but the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.”

The prospect of the administration taking a deal to the United Nations first is drawing some heated objections from lawmakers.

“We respect the fact that the administration has the right to do whatever they wish with the U.N. Security Council sanctions that were imposed on Iran. That’s an executive activity. We respect the fact that there are executive sanctions they put in place,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said last week.

“Congress put in place a whole host of congressionally mandated sanctions that really brought Iran to the table. And so what we’re saying is, look, we want a good deal negotiated. But before you start unraveling the ones that Congress put in place, we want to make sure that you show us the deal. That we have access to those classified annexes. That we understand how we’re going to have accountability, enforceability and transparency. We want to know that those things are going to exist. And before you alleviate our sanctions, which means the entire sanctions regime basically unravels, we want to be able to say grace over that,” Corker told CNN.

“I think that’s a responsible place for the United States Senate and I would think that the administration, if they’re going to do a deal that will stand the test of time, move beyond their administration, they would want buy-in from the American people. We represent the American people.”

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Harf: ‘Absolutely’ There Can Be Iran Deal If They Don’t Ship Out Uranium Stockpile

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf insisted this morning that Iran never backed away from a key provision to send its uranium stockpile outside of the country, as reported by the New York Times, because the Islamic Republic never agreed to it in the first place.

“The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program, and we do not intend sending them abroad,” senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi is quoted in the NYT speaking to Iranian media. “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”

“Well, unfortunately, the details in that story actually aren’t accurate,” Harf told MSNBC this morning. “Obviously stockpile and what happens to it and how Iran gets rid of it is a key part of this possible agreement we’re trying to get to. But the notion that we had some agreement, that in the last 24 hours Iran has backed away from, just is factually inaccurate. There’s never been an agreement on that. We’ve been talking with them about a couple different ways they could do it. And we’ll see if we can get to agreement in the next 24 hours or so.”

Harf said the State Department has always stressed “that all of the details of this agreement are interrelated to each other.”

“And what we have also said is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” she said. “So on that specific issue of whether their stockpile will be shipped out to another country or will be diluted in country, we and Iran have not come to agreement on that, even tentatively. So the notion that in the last 24 hours there was some breakdown in that agreement on that issue just isn’t accurate.”

She said it wasn’t “assumed” by U.S. negotiators that Iran was in agreement with this provision.

So how is Iran going to get rid of its stockpile to push breakout time to a year, as the administration says is the goal?

“One way they can do that is shipping that overseas and another way they can do it is diluting it inside the country, as they’ve been doing under the joint plan of action. So we’ve been talking to the Iranians about what different versions of that might look like and how that might play out, but we don’t assume anything in these negotiations until we have agreement. I think people would probably agree that’s the right thing to do here,” Harf said.

Harf replied that there can “absolutely” be a deal if Iran refuses to ship its stockpile out of the country.

“. . . So we really need to see from the Iranians if they’re willing to get to yes here. We have put on the table proposals and ideas that meet our bottom lines, that should be acceptable to them, if, as they say, they only want a peaceful nuclear program. We don’t know if they can get to yes here, though.”

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United Arab Army Forms in Wake of Obama’s Iranian Negotiations

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The New York Times reports:

The Arab states said on Sunday that they had agreed to form a combined military force to counter both Iranian influence and Islamist extremism, a gesture many analysts attributed in large part to their drive for more independence from Washington.

The agreement came as American and other Western diplomats in Lausanne, Switzerland, were racing to beat a self-imposed deadline of Tuesday to reach a deal with Iran that would restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions. In response, Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the region have made clear that they are seeking to bolster independent regional security measures because they see the proposed accord as a betrayal of Washington’s commitment to their security.

In other words, not only does Congress not trust Barry. Not only does Netanyahu not trust Barry. Now nearly the entirety of the Arab world doesn’t trust Barry to the point that they’re uniting and forming their own military force?

Could it be that they feel Obama has declared a War on Muslims?

This wouldn’t be the first iteration of an Arab League coalition force. First formed in 1945, the force quickly disbanded after attacking and losing to the nascent Israeli Army in 1948.

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Iranian Editor Defects During Nuclear Talks, Says the U.S. Is Advocating for Iran in Negotiations

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by The Tatler

A media aide to the Rouhani regime in Iran has defected during the nuclear talks between the U.S. and Tehran, seeking refuge in Switzerland.

Defector Amir Hossein Motaghi revealed in an interview with a London paper “The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”

Secretary of State John Kerry at the Iran talks in Switzerland

Switzerland Iran Nuclear

Motaghi previously managed public relations for Hassan Rouhani during the 2013 election campaign. Iranian news agencies are reporting that Motaghi quit his job at the Iran Student Correspondence Association.

During his appearance with a London media outlet, Motaghi also revealed that he quit because he could only write what he was told to write by the regime.

“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations,” he told Irane Farda television. “But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels. My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.”

Rumors surround Motaghi’s reasons for defections. Writes the Telegraph, “One news website claimed he had been forced in to report to the ministry of intelligence weekly, and that he had been tipped off that he might be subject to arrest had he returned to Tehran.”

 

 

 

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Iran Threatens U.S. and Israel, Vows ‘Salvation of the Nations from Backwardness’

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The regime in Tehran marks Islamic Republic Day on April Fool’s Day, and Iran said today that its plans to spread its “salvation” across the globe are proceeding apace as it is poised to crush perceived threats to the Islamic Republic from the U.S. and Israel.

Tomorrow is the deadline for a nuclear negotiations framework between the P5+1 and Iran, who are at the table for marathon talks in Switzerland. Reports indicate that Iran has moved the goalposts again, backing off on a provision to ship their enriched uranium stockpile out of the country.

“The exit of enriched uranium from the country has never been and will never be on our agenda,” senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi told the Iranian media Sunday night. “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported today that the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces issued a statement noting it’s ready “to defend the values and ideals of the Islamic ruling system” with experience gained from enemy confrontations over the past 37 years.

“The Armed Forces will give a firm and remorsing response to any practical threat by the enemies, specially the US and the Zionist regime, in proportion to the level and type of the hostile attempts and within the framework of threat-against-threat,” the statement said in advance of the April 1 holiday.

“37 years after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the nations and communities have waken up and the Islamic awakening movement and flags of right-seeking and freedom-seeking have opened new horizons for the future of humanity; a future that will pave the way for the salvation of the nations from backwardness as well as political, economic and cultural captivity of the oppressing powers.”

Araqchi told reporters Sunday that the teams are “negotiating on two issues; confidence-building about Iran’s nuclear program which is demanded by the other side and respect for Iran’s nuclear rights and removal of sanctions which is demanded by us.”

“The negotiations have reached the final stage in terms of achieving solutions,” he said. “The negotiations are still continuing on two or three issues on which we have not reached a solution yet.”

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Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Mob Attacks Family of Coptic Christian Martyr Beheaded by ISIS in Libya

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

As the commemorative mass for the 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya was held on the 40th day after their deaths in the village of Al Our in the Minya region of Upper Egypt this past Friday, a mob identified by witnesses as Muslim Brotherhood protestors attacked the home of one of the martyr’s families, set fire to the car of one of the mourners, and later lobbed molotov cocktails at the site of the church being constructed in their memory. Al Our village was the home of 13 of the Egyptian Coptic martyrs.

Daily News Egypt reports:

On Friday, scores of mostly young Muslims gathered in the Minya governorate after midday prayer, demonstrating in front of a church under construction there. They chanted that there is no way the church would be built.

After a while, the crowd vanished, but later in the night a smaller number of anonymous militants attacked the church with Molotov cocktails. In the attack, seven people were injured, and one car was left burning.

In February, Copts in Minya’s Our Village called for a church to be established in the village honouring 20 Coptic Egyptian workers beheaded in Libya. They died at the hands of Islamic State militants in Libya, according to religious freedoms researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Ishak Ibrahim.

Thirteen of the beheaded Coptic workers were from the village. Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt that, during their funeral, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi agreed for the church to be built.

Coptic residents bought land and started the church’s construction, sparking protests from Muslim residents who were angered by the church. The Muslim residents were unhappy at the church’s proposed presence and its position at the entrance to the village.

A report yesterday by Al-Masry Al-Youm (AR) stated that the mob attacked the home of one of the martyr’s families with bricks and stones, and that a car belonging to a mourner who had traveled to the village for the memorial mass was set on fire. The article cited witnesses identifying the mob participants as members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that seven protesters had been arrested.

Following the murder of the 21 Christians by ISIS in Libya, senior government officials, including the prime minister, flocked to the village to give their condolences, and announced that that “the Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Country of al-’Our” would be built in their honor at state expense with the permission of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

And yet after this weekend’s attacks, the Coptic community in Al Our were forced by local authorities into an extra-judicial Islamic “reconciliation” meeting, where it was “agreed” that the church would be relocated, submitting to the violent protesters’ demands, and that the seven arrested protesters would be freed, prompting criticism on Twitter:

Minority communities complain that the “reconciliation” meetings in Egypt almost always result in minorities having to make concessions while Muslim offenders are freed without having to face any judicial proceedings, as appears true in the present case.

Non-Muslims also complain about the active discrimination built into the Egyptian constitution stemming from the Ottoman era that prohibits the construction of any new church building, or even the repair of existing buildings, without a presidential decree.

Islamist groups use this constitutional provision to instigate sectarian attacks, and continue to use it in several cases to prevent the rebuilding of churches burned down or damaged by the Muslim Brotherhood across the country in August 2013 after the government’s dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo.

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J Street Speaker Advocates Arab Palestine, Jewish Dhimmitude

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Should it come as any surprise that a J Street speaker would be applauded for proclaiming the myth that the Jews “took” the land of Israel from the Palestinians and are now “imposing” on it? No. Should it come as any surprise that said speaker advocates for the idea of Jews living as a “protected minority” in an Arab Palestine, or any other nation for that matter? No. But it is sadly ridiculous, nonetheless.

Check out commentary at the Algemeiner:

The moderator didn’t challenge her, and as far as I could tell neither did any other panelists.

Isn’t it interesting that at a conference that claims to be “pro-Israel, pro-peace” and that hammers away at how it wants a two state solution, there is no objection to this one-state solution where Jews are “protected” by people who want to kill them?J-Street refuses to let Alan Dershowitz, an advocate of a two-state solution since the 1970s, speak. But this crazy lady who thinks that Israel treats Arab citizens worse than Arabs would treat Jews is given a platform, without a single dissenting voice that I could find, either at the session or on Twitter afterwards, from J-Street members or attendees.

Marcia Freedman is a former Knesset member and a member of J Street’s advisory council. Perhaps it is time for J Street to remove “Pro-Israel” from their logo, since it is obvious that, for their membership at least, any state will do.

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Netanyahu Speaks with McConnell, Reid About ‘Dangerous for Humanity’ Iran Deal

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Warning that the P5+1 agreement unfolding in Switzerland must be stopped, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he conferred with Senate leaders about the way forward.

“I have just come from a conversation with US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Over the weekend I spoke with US Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid,” Netanyahu said at the start of today’s cabinet meeting, according to his office. “I heard from both of them about strong and continuing bipartisan support for Israel and of course this is very important.”

“I expressed to them our deep concern over the agreement being formulated with Iran in the nuclear talks,” he added. “This agreement, as it appears, confirms all of our concerns and even more so.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on his Facebook page that parties in the nuclear talks “have made progress in reaching acceptable solutions, but we still have to work on some important issues; the key to striking an agreement lies in this strategic choice that the other side should make: pressure and sanctions or interaction and agreement by the other side.”

Over the past few weeks, everyone from Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator to most of Iran’s legislative body to Ayatollah Khamenei himself have insisted that they will not sign a deal unless all sanctions are lifted first.

“In negotiations, both sides must show flexibility. We are ready to make a good deal for all. We wait for our counterparts’ readiness,” Zarif tweeted Saturday.

Netanyahu noted that “even as meetings proceed on this dangerous agreement, Iran’s proxies in Yemen are overrunning large sections of that country and are attempting to seize control of the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb straits which would affect the naval balance and the global oil supply.”

“After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is carrying out a pincers movement in the south as well in order to take over and conquer the entire Middle East. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous for humanity and needs to be stopped,” he said, referencing the Swiss city hosting the nuclear talks.

Even though the White House vehemently opposes two key pieces of Iran legislation — the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill and the Corker-Menendez bill to require congressional approval of a deal — Reid has repeatedly said that he’s not encouraging the Democratic caucus to vote one way or the other. Reid originally held up Menendez-Kirk at the request of the White House, yet announced Friday he’s retiring at the end of the 114th Congress. His choice for the next Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), signed on as a Corker-Menendez co-sponsor Thursday.

Congress just began a two-week spring break and is expected to take up Corker-Menendez after returning.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is heading to Israel this week.

“There are serious issues and activities going on in the Middle East, and I think it’s critically important for members of Congress to hear from foreign leaders, other governments, other parts of their government to get a real handle on the challenges that we face there,” Boehner told CNN this morning. “…And, frankly, part of my goal in going to Israel is to continue to strengthen the relationship that we have between America and Israel.”

“I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” Boehner said. “And I think that the pressure that they have put on him over the last four or five years have, frankly, pushed him to the point where he had to speak up. I don’t blame him at all for speaking up.”

The “one goal” in inviting Netanyahu to speak before Congress, the speaker added, “was to make sure that the American people heard and the Congress heard about the serious threat that Iran poses not only to the Middle East, but for the rest of the world, including the United States.”

“The president doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to talk about the threat of radical Islam and the fact that he has no strategy to deal with it,” Boehner said. “And when you begin to see all these leaks that have — that probably came out of the White House in terms of what the Iranian deal was starting to shape up to be, there’s a lot of concern in Congress on a bipartisan basis. And I’m glad that he was here. And, frankly, the speech that he gave was the clearest speech I have heard in 25 years about the real threats that face our country.”

He promised to move “very quickly” on Iran sanctions if there is no deal. “Frankly, we should have kept the sanctions in place, so that we could have gotten to a real agreement. And the sanctions are going to come, and they’re going to come quick.”

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This Week’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ Articles on Middle East, War on Terror

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

Want to know what’s happened this week in the Middle East and the War on Terror? Here are some articles to keep you up to date:

Well, I couldn’t keep it to a dozen this week, so here’s a few more:

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What’s Behind That 100-0 Iran Sanctions Vote — and Why Obama Should Worry

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Every member of the Senate last night went on the record supporting what could be described as an Iran sanctions-lite amendment to the budget.

The language from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-author of the tough Iran sanctions bill still pending with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), establishes “a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to reimposing waived sanctions and imposing new sanctions against Iran for violations of the Joint Plan of Action or a comprehensive nuclear agreement.” It was co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

The non-binding amendment, getting senators on the roll call, passed 100-0.

Menendez-Kirk imposes crushing sanctions if Iran does not agree to a deal by June 30. Another bill from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Menendez, which is coming to committee early next month, requires congressional approval of any deal. Both are vehemently opposed by the White House.

Democrats who oppose those bills and support the administration said the amendment reaffirmed the White House reasoning that sanctions can be turned back on if Iran violates an agreement. Menendez has warned, though, that sanctions can’t be turned on and off like a spigot.

The amendment actually pulled language directly from the Kirk-Menendez bill, the Illinois Republican said. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), though, claimed in an interview with Politico that it was inspired by her White House-approved legislation — which reinstates sanctions if President Obama says Iran violated the agreement. The final amendment says reimposed and new sanctions will come if Obama “cannot make a determination and certify that Iran is complying.”

“By passing the bipartisan Kirk-Brown amendment to impose sanctions on Iran, the Senate voted for the security of the United States and Israel and against making dangerous nuclear concessions to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,” Kirk said in a statement. “The unanimous vote for the Kirk-Brown amendment signals the Senate’s strong support for the Kirk-Menendez Iran sanctions bill, which stands ready now for a full Senate vote.”

That bill has 52 co-sponsors, including Democrats Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Gary Peters (Mich.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).

The Corker-Menendez bill’s co-sponsors include Democrats Michael Bennet (Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), and Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with the Dems. Blumenthal and Donnelly are also co-sponsors.

And Schumer signed on Thursday. “We must do everything to prevent a nuclear Iran and so any potential agreement must prevent Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon,” the senator said in a statement carried by Israeli media but receiving little press in the U.S. “Congress played a lead role in crafting the tough-and-effective sanctions regime that brought Iran to the table, and Congress should have a role on how those sanctions are altered in any final agreement with Iran.”

“This issue is far too important – for the United States, for Israel, for the entire Middle East – for Congress not to have any ability to review a nuclear deal with Iran.”

Twelve Democrats wrote to Obama on Jan. 26 in support of Kirk-Menendez, vowing to act if Iran “fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.”

Menendez charged yesterday that the latest report out of talks in Switzerland indicates “we are not inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position, but leaping toward it with both feet.”

The Associated Press cited officials saying the United States “is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”

“We have pivoted away from demanding the closure of Fordow when the negotiations began, to considering its conversion into a research facility, to now allowing hundreds of centrifuges to spin at this underground bunker site where centrifuges could be quickly repurposed for illicit nuclear enrichment purposes,” Menendez said. “My fear is that we are no longer guided by the principle that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’ but instead we are negotiating ‘any deal for a deal’s sake’.”

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Obama’s Middle Eastern Flameout Has Dems, Media Starting to Panic

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Don’t take it from me, take it from one of the major Democrat Party house organs, Politico:

Barack Obama faces a slew of Middle East crises that some call the worst in a generation, as new chaos from Yemen to Iraq — along with deteriorating U.S.-Israeli relations — is confounding the president’s efforts to stabilize the region and strike a nuclear deal with Iran. The meltdown has Obama officials defending their management of a region that some call impossible to control, even as critics say U.S. policies there are partly to blame for the spreading anarchy.

“If there’s one lesson this administration has learned, from President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech through the Arab Spring, it’s that when it comes to this region, nothing happens in a linear way — and precious little is actually about us, which is a hard reality to accept,” said a senior State Department official.

I imagine it is hard for the Barry Hussein administration to understand that not everything is about Barry Hussein. But wait — it gets worse:

Not everyone is so forgiving. “We’re in a goddamn free fall here,” said James Jeffrey, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and was a top national security aide in the George W. Bush White House.

For years, members of the Obama team has grappled with the chaotic aftermath of the Arab Spring. But of late they have been repeatedly caught off-guard, raising new questions about America’s ability to manage the dangerous region.

Obama officials were surprised earlier this month, for instance, when the Iraqi government joined with Iranian-backed militias to mount a sudden offensive aimed at freeing the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Nor did they foresee the swift rise of the Iranian-backed rebels who toppled Yemen’s U.S.-friendly government and disrupted a crucial U.S. counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda there.

Both situations took dramatic new turns this week. The U.S. announced its support for a Saudi-led coalition of 10 Sunni Arab nations that began bombing the Houthis, while Egypt threatened to send ground troops — a move that could initiate the worst intra-Arab war in decades.

Meanwhile, the U.S. launched airstrikes against ISIL in Tikrit after originally insisting it would sit out that offensive. U.S. officials had hoped to avoid coordination with Shiite militias under the direct control of Iranian commanders in the country. Now the U.S. is in the strange position of fighting ISIL alongside Iran at the same time it backs the Sunni campaign against Iran’s allies in Yemen — even as Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to seal a nuclear deal with Iran in Switzerland within days.

These people are the worst kind of amateurs: simultaneously cocksure and malevolent. Terrible things are coming our way, and, in the rubble, Obama will look around and find nobody left standing to blame but himself. Alas, we are all prisoners of L’il Barry’s coming of age. 

 

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GOP Chairman, Top Dem to Ambassador Power: Don’t Abandon Israel at UN

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have jointly asked UN Ambassador Samantha Power to not throw Israel under the bus.

The Obama administration — everyone from anonymous officials to spokesmen to President Obama himself — have said since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory that the U.S. will “re-evaluate” how it approaches two-state solution efforts. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle fear this could include not having Israel’s back at the United Nations when the Palestinian Authority tries to declare a state.

Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) told Power this week that they have “deep and abiding” support for U.S. efforts in the Mideast peace process “with the understanding that any lasting solution will be decided by the parties themselves.”

“We are concerned by reports that the Administration is ‘re-evaluating’ United States policy toward Israel. In the wake of comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made during Israel’s election last week—that he has now contextualized—the Administration appears to be considering new steps at the United Nations that could depart from our nation’s historic and principled defense of Israel at the United Nations against biased and one-sided resolutions,” they wrote.

Netanayhu has clarified that a two-state solution cannot happen while Hamas is in a unity pact with Fatah, along with other longstanding conditions about the recognition and security of Israel. This week, though, Obama said “even if you accept it, I think the corrective of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s in subsequent days, there still does not appear to be a prospect of a meaningful framework established that would lead to a Palestinian state, even if there were a whole range of conditions and security requirements that might be phased in over a long period of time, which was always the presumption.”

“And we can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen, at least in the next several years,” Obama said. “That is something that we have to — for the sake of our own credibility, I think we have to be able to be honest about that.”

Engel and Royce noted that “for decades, the U.S. has used its U.N. Security Council veto to protect Israel from undue pressure at the world body, which has historically exhibited selective and unjustified bias against Israel.”

“We join in the Administration’s efforts to encourage the parties to return to the negotiating table and take steps to assure the other side of their commitment to a more peaceful and secure future. However, it is difficult to see how such a shift in U.S. policy at the United Nations would bring the parties closer to peace,” they continued. “Both Republican and Democratic Administrations have recognized that efforts to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties, and in fact, can undermine these negotiations.”

“Given the serious threats facing both the United States and Israel, cooperation is needed now more than ever. We continue to support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority toward a two-state solution and will oppose any effort to turn to the Security Council for imposing the terms of this process. Only a solution negotiated directly between the Israelis and Palestinians can result in a lasting peace.”

Royce and Engel ask Power for her assurance “that the United States will veto resolutions at the United Nations that are biased and one-sided against Israel.”

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Menendez: U.S. ‘Leaping with Both Feet’ Toward Iran Demands, ‘Any Deal for a Deal’s Sake’

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A leading Democratic skeptic of the White House’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said the latest report out of talks in Switzerland indicates “we are not inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position, but leaping toward it with both feet.”

The Associated Press cited officials saying the United States “is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”

“The trade-off would allow Iran to run several hundred of the devices at its Fordo facility, although the Iranians would not be allowed to do work that could lead to an atomic bomb and the site would be subject to international inspections, according to Western officials familiar with details of negotiations now underway,” said the AP report. “In return, Iran would be required to scale back the number of centrifuges it runs at its Natanz facility and accept other restrictions on nuclear-related work.”

Menendez, whose Iran sanctions legislation and bipartisan bill have drawn veto threats from the Obama administration, has previously accused the White House of moving the goalposts to tempt Iran into a deal.

“We have pivoted away from demanding the closure of Fordow when the negotiations began, to considering its conversion into a research facility, to now allowing hundreds of centrifuges to spin at this underground bunker site where centrifuges could be quickly repurposed for illicit nuclear enrichment purposes,” he said in a statement moments ago. “My fear is that we are no longer guided by the principle that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’ but instead we are negotiating ‘any deal for a deal’s sake’.”

“An undue amount of trust and faith is being placed in a negotiating partner that has spent decades deceiving the international community; denying the International Atomic Energy Agency access to its facilities; refusing to answer questions about its nuclear-related military activities; and all the while, actively destabilizing the region from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq to Yemen,” Menendez continued.

“A good deal must meet our primary negotiating objective – curtailing Iran’s current and future ability to achieve nuclear weapons capability. If the best deal Iran will give us does not achieve this goal, it is not a good deal for the United States or its partners. A good deal won’t leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”

Menendez, the target of what many have noted is a conveniently timed Justice Department investigation, also sent a letter to President Obama asking what he plans to do about Bashar al-Assad’s latest use of chemical weapons — a deadly chlorine gas attack.

Last week, the towns of Sarmin and Qmenas were hit with chlorine bombs by Assad forces, video reviewed and confirmed by human rights groups. The Syrian Coalition said six were killed, including three children, and about 70 were injured, 13 seriously. Assad has been using chlorine since crossing Obama’s “red line” with other chemical agents.

“Bashar al-Assad and those forces backing his regime, including the government of Iran and its proxy force, Hezbollah, are once again challenging the world and testing the boundaries of the will of the international community to respond. As the Syrian civil war enters its fifth year, I urge you to reenergize the broad international coalition that is committed to a Syria without Assad. This includes exposing and targeting the tools of Russian and Iranian support for Assad’s bloody regime, and working with like-minded partners to increase pressure on him and his allies,” Menendez wrote.

“…Only a month ago, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2209 by a vote of 14-1 with the agreement of all permanent members including Russia. The resolution states that the use of chlorine gas is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and any future use would result in the imposition of Chapter VII measures. UN Chapter VII punishments could include additional sanctions and the use of force to prevent future attacks.”

The senator stressed that Obama’s deal to dispose of Assad’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles “has not prevented the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, nor has international pressure changed Assad’s calculus with respect to murdering his own people.”

“Worse, Assad’s supporters, including the Iranian regime, the Russian government, and Hezbollah have actually increased their support for the regime as these attacks have continued and increased in nature and scope.”

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GOP Senators: Obama’s ‘Obsession’ with ‘Placating’ Iran Led to ‘Mideast on Fire’

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

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Decrying that President Obama’s policies have pushed the Middle East to a “tipping point,” Republican senators accused the commander in chief of not acting against Iran’s aggression in Yemen and other places because of his “obsession” with placating the Islamic Republic during nuclear talks.

“Operation Decisive Storm,” launched at midnight Saudi Arabia time, bombarded Yemen’s Houthi rebels with the power of 100 Saudi fighters jets, 150,000 soldiers and naval units in the operation. The United Arab Emirates pitched in 30 fighter jets, Bahrain contributed 15, Qatar sent 10, Kuwait deployed 15 and Jordan contributed six. Even North Africa got into the game, with Sudan sending three fighter jets, Egypt supplying four warships and air support, and Morocco sending six fighter jets. Pakistan also provided naval and aerial support in the attack on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The White House said the U.S. provided “logistical and intelligence” support.

But it was revealed today that Pentagon officials were told about the coalition operation just a few hours before the Saudis struck. The Saudi ambassador to Washington announced the attack at their embassy in D.C. shortly after the military found out.

“The reality is that countries in the region no longer have confidence in or are willing to work with the United States of America,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) somberly noted at a press conference on the Hill moments ago.

“Look at where we have come from — our closest allies in the region no longer trust us that they wait to tell us a few hours before they begin a major military operation,” McCain said. “I understand why these countries did not notify us or seek our coordination. That’s because they believe we are siding with Iran.”

The Saudis launched the operation as the U.S. sat down with Iran in Switzerland for the latest round of negotiations. The Associated Press published an exclusive today revealing that Washington “is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told reporters that the administration is making a huge mistake by keeping Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and spread of influence through backing Shiite rebels in key countries off the negotiating table.

“You cannot divorce the two of them,” Ayotte said, stressing that “Iran’s backing of the Houthis has caused this situation to devolve where we had to evacuate from Yemen.”

She noted that another Iran target is home of America’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain. “They are backing Shia groups that are trying to undermine the government in Bahrain,” the senator said. “This will continue to spread further.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stressed that Obama’s “leading from behind” policy left the region poised for a “bloodletting between Sunnis and Shia that we haven’t seen in 1,000 years.”

“We’re on the verge of a full-scale proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Arab states” that threatens to spill over into the entire region, Graham said. “The Mideast is on fire and it’s every person for himself.”

All three senators made clear that they support the Saudi-led offensive — “the Saudis did the right thing,” McCain said — but, in the words of Graham, “categorically reject President Obama’s foreign policy that we believe has substantially contributed to this mess.”

Graham backed an international operation that would take out the Houthis and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula at the same time. “We’re not in the Sunni-Shia debate here,” he said.

“I think it’s fine that they did it themselves; the question is, what’s the reason for that?” McCain asked, adding it’s “unacceptable that we’re negotiating a bad nuclear deal and at same time turning a blind eye to Iranian aggression.”

McCain said he does not believe that the Saudis launched the offensive to derail the P5+1 talks.

“The saddest things about this whole series of events that have taken place over the past several years is we predicted every single thing that would happen,” he said, ranging from the effects of an Iraq pullout to a refusal to assist the Free Syrian Army in the early days of the war to the non-enforcement of the red line drawn by Obama when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his people.

Graham saw the red line as a “defining moment” as Obama “failed to act in a way the region saw as meaningful.”

“ISIS will never be destroyed on his watch,” Graham predicted. “…He’s afraid to disrupt negotiations by taking on [Iran's] puppet Assad.”

He further predicted that the Arab coalition “will probably not stop in Yemen and Iran will probably push back — God help us all.”

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The ISIS Tax: Budget Amendment Would ‘Temporarily’ Hike Taxes to Fight Islamic State

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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The Senate is plowing through a slew of amendments today expected to last until midnight, dubbed the “vote-a-rama” that precedes the budget vote.

One of those amendments would create an ISIS tax.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), backed by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), proposed a “temporary surtax” to help cover the cost of military operations against ISIS.

That would be discontinued, his office said without offering more details, “once relevant military operations have concluded” against the Islamic State.

According to yesterday’s congressional record, the amount collected would be $8,800,000,000.

“As our nation’s Armed Forces continue their critical mission to degrade and destroy ISIS, which is already months underway, we need to consider another part of our strategy–paying for the war. This is not a new concept. Our nation has a long history of paying for our military missions. In fact, every war since the Revolutionary War, to the first Gulf War, was paid for,” Coons said on the Senate floor last night.

“Through each of our nation’s armed conflicts, new revenue streams not only provided the resources our military needed, they reminded the American people that our country was at war and we all needed to contribute to the effort. But after 14 years and 2 wars that have cost our nation trillions of dollars, I fear we have forgotten this important lesson from our history,” he continued. “We cannot write another blank check for a war. Paying for a war against ISIS is the right thing to do. It is fiscally, morally, and militarily responsible. As we continue to debate this war authorization in Congress, we need to be honest with the American people and each other about what it will cost our nation. That is why, as we debate the budget this week, I have offered an amendment that requires us to raise the revenue to pay for the fight against ISIS. The American people deserve no less.”

“I urge my colleagues to join me on this amendment to pay for a critically important war against ISIS and ensure we fight this battle together as one country.”

Sanders said the GOP “has to end their hypocrisy with regard to deficits and the national debt.”

“They are going to have to be honest with the American people. Wars are enormously expensive, not only in terms of human life and suffering, but in terms of the budget,” Sanders said. “If the Republicans want another war in the Mideast, they are going to have to tell the American people how much it will cost them and how it will be paid for.”

UPDATE: The amendment failed this evening, but not by a lot — 46-54.

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Leaked Report Reveals EU’s 40-Point Plan to Force Israel’s Hand

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Israeli newspaper Yediot got their hands on the European Union’s 40-point plan to “pressure Israel into negotiations” in the wake of Netanyahu’s re-election.

An EU diplomatic source told Ynet that there was a definite chance that the recommendations in the report, which the member states have yet to approve, were more likely to be implemented following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement during his election campaign that a Palestinian state would not be created under his rule.

“We are on a collision course,” said the European diplomat. “It’s clear to everyone in Brussels that there must be a response to these statements.”

…”If Israel continues its policy beyond the Green Line, it will affect the relationship between European nations and Israel,” he warned.

Headings of the 40-point plan include, “Preserving the viability of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states” and “Strengthening the role, visibility and policy of the European Union.” The full report has been scanned and is linked via the Ynet story.

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Mecca, Medina. . . Dabiq? Why This Syrian Town Is Key to Understanding ISIS

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle
Dabiq

Dabiq – the ISIS propaganda magazine.

 

At TheRebel.media, Marissa Semkiw interviews world religions professor Dr. Tony Costa.

He explains why, next to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, the otherwise unremarkable Syrian town of Dabiq is one of the key places in Islamic mythology.

As the Muslim equivalent of “Armageddon,” Dabiq is the alleged site of the final battle between Islam and the infidels.

That’s why ISIS considers it so important.

(Note that they named their propaganda magazine after it.)

This concise video gives you a terrific layman’s overview of Muslim end-times theology.

(It’s especially timely for Canadians, since today Parliament begins debating Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proposed extension of Canada’s mission in Syria.)

You’ll feel smarter after watching it:

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Issa on Yemen: Obama ‘Must Acknowledge’ Any ‘Real Settlement with Iran is Impossible’

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The “Operation Decisive Storm” coalition that bombarded Yemen overnight now has full control of the country’s airspace, said Saudi officials, who unleashed 100 fighters jets, 150,000 soldiers and naval units in the operation.

The only regional country that stayed out of the fight was Yemen’s neighbor Oman. The United Arab Emirates pitched in 30 fighter jets, Bahrain contributed 15, Qatar sent 10, Kuwait deployed 15 and Jordan contributed six. Even North Africa got into the game, with Sudan sending three fighter jets, Egypt supplying four warships and air support, and Morocco sending six fighter jets. Pakistan also provided naval and aerial support in the attack on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC this morning that the Saudis decided “on their own” to launch the attack, “and the reason is simply that Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a long border.”

“And they have enlisted the support of other partners and allies of theirs in region, and they have asked the United States for some intelligence support that we can provide. And the president has agreed to that request and we are providing them support,” he said. “But the Saudis are in the lead in this military action they are taking to protect the interest they have along their border with Yemen.”

The White House has been urging a UN-backed diplomatic solution to the Houthi overthrow in Yemen.

But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) made clear that it was the administration’s policies that allowed this mess in the first place.

“The takeover of large swaths of Yemen by Iranian-backed Shia militants has forced our Saudi allies to take military action. Months of fairy tale negotiations and appeasement by this administration have led Iran to believe that it can act with impunity on an international scale,” Issa said in a late-night statement as the Saudis bombarded targets.

“Now, more than ever, it is clear that any real settlement with Iran is impossible, and the president must acknowledge this fact,” he said. “The continued easement or outright removal of sanctions against this rogue state will only further embolden Iran and facilitate its belligerent behavior. We must make it clear that we will support our allies and punish our enemies through steadfast resolve and decisive action.”

Earnest said this morning that the Iran-fomented instability and Saudi reaction shouldn’t affect nuclear negotiations in Switzerland. “There’s no doubt that we believe that it’s in the best interest of the United States, our allies in Israel, and our partners in the region, including Saudi Arabia, for us to try to find a diplomatic resolution to the concerns that the world has about Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), though, stressed to Fox that “this is about Iran, again, the source of instability in the region and many parts of the world.”

“These are Shia militias and Shia rebels making advances there. They are equipped, protected and supported by Iran. It’s part of their strategy to become the dominant regional power. It’s part of encircling Saudi Arabia, Sunni country. So you see their presence in Yemen. They basically invaded Iraq. Obviously, their influence they have in Lebanon. They control Assad in Syria. So, slowly but surely they are carrying out their master plan of regional dominance and Yemen is the latest piece of that puzzle,” Rubio said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said “clearly, the Saudis and their gulf partners have determined the situation in Yemen presents further danger to regional stability and their own territorial integrity.”

“I hope their intervention helps to restore some sense of security, but I fear Yemen may be too far gone to prevent an all-out civil war,” Burr said.

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The Radical Left Fishes for Israel, Uses Jewish Americans as Bait

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Jewish Americans are being baited by a radical Left that has sharpened their anti-Bibi fangs in the ready to rip apart the nation of Israel and the entire body of world Jewry. It’s a bold statement, but it’s an honest one. If you thought V15 would dissolve, their participants cashing in the last of the State Department’s change for a defeat party in Vegas, you’re wrong. The ideological fervor is stronger than ever. It has to be, because ideology is the only thing they have fueling their “hope and change” community-organizing momentum that is anything but.

Jonathan Mark at the New York Jewish Week succinctly catalogs the radical-Leftist Jewish bias against Bibi, noting that this isn’t the first time a right-wing leader’s victory has been condemned in the American media. “Begin as in Fagin” a 1977 Time magazine article explained, conjuring up one of the most insulting anti-Semitic stereotypes in history.

Today it is the J Street crowd sacrificing their pound of flesh by cutting themselves off from the “Jewish establishment” in a radical attempt to “directly take on Jewish organizations …complicit with Israel’s occupation” via the Obama method. If Israel won’t directly negotiate, they’ll just be forced into a solution …and what? Be told to deal with it, or else? According to reports, the conference was keynoted by Obama’s chief of staff and fueled nothing more or less than the “Bibi is racist” tagline.

Hannah Senesh wrote about the power of one match to light a fire. In this instance, the blaze is burning out of control in this radicalized segment of the Jewish world.

Mark adopts the Israeli attitude toward the radical Left’s recent drumming up of hostilities, concluding:

If Israel has to go alone, so be it, writes The Wall Street Journal’s Brett Stephens: “Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back…. The Israelis will need to chart their own path of resistance…. Israel survived its first 19 years without meaningful U.S. patronage. For now, all it has to do is get through the next 22, admittedly long, months.”

In the end, he is right. Israel has the self-determination and autonomy to weather the storm. The question is, will the Jewish American community rise to the occasion, or be consumed in the fires of its own outrageous fury, drummed up by a mad man who has no problem negotiating the Jewish people’s terms of destruction on an international scale?

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Saudis Unleash Strikes on Yemen After White House Promotes UN-Led Negotiations

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes into Yemen a short time ago, with the Saudi ambassador in Washington telling reporters that the aim is to “to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis.”

“The Gulf Cooperation Council countries tried to facilitate a peaceful transition of government in Yemen, but the Houthis have continuously undercut the process by occupying territory and seizing weapons belonging to the government,” Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said in a statement. “…The Houthis have reneged on every single agreement they have made and continue their quest to take over the country by violent means.”

“Based on the appeal from President Hadi, and based on the Kingdom’s responsibility to Yemen and its people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its allies within the GCC and outside the GCC, launched military operations in support of the people of Yemen and their legitimate government.”

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates said in a joint statement that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government had asked for help in battling the Iran-backed Houthis.

Reports Al-Arabiya:

Warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force bombed the positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia, destroying an airbase in Sanaa and most of the militia’s air defenses, Al Arabiya News Channel reported early on Thursday, citing Saudi sources.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the airstrikes on the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Thursday at 12 am Riyadh time, the news channel reported, adding that the kingdom’s air force was “fully in control of the Yemeni airspace.”

Shortly afterwards Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir announced that the kingdom had launched a military operation involving air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters who have tightened their grip on the southern city of Aden where the country’s president had taken refuge.

Al-Jubeir told reporters that a 10-country coalition had joined in the military campaign in a bid “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

“We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” Jubeir said.

Al-Arabiya also reported a cyberwar component, saying that several Houthi websites had crashed.

Yesterday, while appearing in Riyadh with the British foreign secretary, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal hit at Iran and the Houthis.

The prince stressed that “it is not possible to grant Iran an undeserved deal” in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations.

On Yemen, he said, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s “aim is to provide the vehicle for the president to return peacefully to Yemen and provide the leadership as required to bring this country back.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the “takeover of southern Yemen by the Iranian-supported Houthis has led to chaos, threatening the national security interests of our regional partners and the United States.”

“Regional states, led by Saudi Arabia at President Hadi’s request, are taking action from the air,” Royce said. “The United States should support our Saudi and Gulf partners with appropriate logistical and intelligence support to combat this threat.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement late Wednesday that President Obama “has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations.”

“While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support,” Meehan said. “At the same time, the United States continues to closely monitor terrorist threats posed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and will continue to take action as necessary to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens.”

“We strongly urge the Houthis to halt immediately their destabilizing military actions and return to negotiations as part of the political dialogue. The international community has spoken clearly through the UN Security Council and in other fora that the violent takeover of Yemen by an armed faction is unacceptable and that a legitimate political transition – long sought by the Yemeni people – can be accomplished only through political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all of the parties.”

The strikes came as the Obama administration resumed talks with Iran, which backs the Houthis, in Switzerland.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was pressed at the briefing earlier today on whether they still consider Yemen a model for counterterrorism success.

“What the United States considers to be our strategy when confronting the effort to try to mitigate the threat that is posed by extremists, is to prevent them from establishing a safe haven. And certainly in a chaotic, dangerous situation like in Yemen, what the United States will do and has done is worked to try to support the central government, to build up the capacity of local fighters, and use our own technological and military capabilities to apply pressure on the extremists there,” Earnest replied.

“There’s no doubt that we would like to see a functioning central government in Yemen. We don’t see that right now. And that is why we’re supportive of the U.N.-led process to try to put an end to the violence and instability; to bring the sides, you know, all sides together to the table to try to resolve their differences; to build up the capacity of the central government; to build up the capacity of local forces; and to continue to apply pressure to extremists.”

But, Earnest maintained, “We do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counterterrorism security relationship with the security infrastructure that remains in Yemen.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged earlier today that Saudis “have legitimate concerns about the possible impact of current events in Yemen to their security, given their proximity.”

On Yemen as a success, she said “we have had success working on counterterrorism operations, and we expect and hope that will continue.”

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Hoyer: U.S. Not So Innocent as It Accuses Israel of Spying

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who was notable among the lower chamber’s Democratic leadership for enthusiastically applauding during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress this month, suggested that the anonymous White House allegation of Israel spying on the Iran deal could be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

At a session with reporters on Tuesday, Hoyer was asked about the Wall Street Journal article alleging that Israel spied on Iran nuclear talks and fed information to Congress in an effort to influence opposition to the nuclear deal.

The article said the “espionage” upset the White House because Israel was allegedly sharing “inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program.”

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” the WSJ quotes an unnamed senior U.S. official.

A senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded, “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”

Hoyer said he was “not aware” of the allegations.

“I’ve heard about it. I have not read the article. I don’t know a lot about it,” he said, asking, “Did it say who they theoretically talked to?”

“Members of Congress,” he was told.

“Oh, members of Congress,” Hoyer replied. “I don’t anything about it, enough to comment.”

Pressed on whether the allegations matter, he said “it would depend upon what was done.”

“I mean, I don’t know whether they (Israel) talked to some of the other negotiators in their, their six countries represented on our side…. I don’t want to get too deeply in until I see what it alleged to have happened,” Hoyer continued.

“But I will say this: All nations try to get as much information as they can about what’s going on that affects them. Including the United States of America, as we know. Yes.”

Also on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and the top lawmakers at the House Intelligence Committee — Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — all said Israel didn’t feed them intelligence about Iran.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) quipped to reporters that he “kind of felt left out” by not getting the supposed Israeli intel. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he learned nothing from Israelis that Congress didn’t already know, then told reporters, “I hope we’re spying on the Iranians.”

Hoyer told MSNBC earlier this month that he’s been “urging the administration to follow its original premise, no nuclear armed capability by the Iranians. Period.”

“And I think that that view is shared by everybody in the Middle East, other than Iran. So, this is — and it’s shared by the United Nations. So, this is a view that is expressed by the world, and the P5+1 ought to accomplish that objective. And if we can’t, frankly, there ought not be a deal.”

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Rick Perry More of a ‘Netanyahu Guy’ than an ‘Obama Guy’ (VIDEO)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

Here’s the Texan who hasn’t declared he is running yet, but has been making a lot of moves that would seem to indicate he is thinking about it. Perry is also a fan of the fact that Bibi is critical of Team Lightbringer’s footsie negotiations with Iran.

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Reid: I’ve Gotten No Iran Intelligence from the Israelis

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today that he didn’t receive intelligence from the Israelis about Iran’s nuclear program.

“All the intelligence information I’ve gotten has come from America,” Reid declared to reporters outside of a caucus meeting on the Hill.

Reid confirmed that he’s met with the Israeli ambassador “over the years.”

“And we’ve heard his public — anything I’ve heard from him has been no different than his public pronouncements,” he said. “They don’t like the deal.”

Reid has recently said that he’s not discouraging Democrats from supporting bipartisan Iran bills under veto threat from the White House.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters today he was “shocked” to read a Wall Street Journal article alleging that Israel spied on Iran nuclear talks and fed information to Congress.

“I read that story this morning and, frankly, I was a bit shocked because there was no information revealed to me whatsoever,” Boehner said outside a closed caucus meeting.

The article said the “espionage” upset the White House because Israel was allegedly sharing “inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program.”

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” the WSJ quotes an unnamed senior U.S. official.

Israel called the allegations “utterly false.”

So far, no lawmaker has said they got any classified information with Israel.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told CNN he was also “shocked” by the report as he did not receive information from the Israelis. “If they were sharing information it wasn’t on our side of the aisle,” Nunes said.

Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) noted that he had a “number of meetings with Israeli officials” and in “none of those cases” did the Israelis discuss anything he deemed to be classified.

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki today called it “an absurd notion that Congress would have to rely on any foreign government to gain insight into the nuclear negotiations with Iran.”

“I think we’ve spoken in the past to our concern in the past has been about leaks of certain sensitive information. And obviously, we’ve taken steps to ensure that the negotiations remain private,” Psaki said. “But we still have ongoing conversations that are continuing with Israel and a range of countries Undersecretary Sherman has met over the past month with.”

A reporter told Psaki that the reason behind the administration’s “anonymous whining” isn’t understood.

“Well, I can’t speak to the reasoning or the motivation of an anonymous source. I think in the past, we’ve expressed steps we take in order to ensure that the talks remain private. We continue that,” Psaki replied. “…If I had the anonymous source, I’d be happy to have them up here. I don’t have any more information on the anonymous source quoted in the story.”

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Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media that U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group Harakat al-Hazm had disbanded, and their U.S.-provided TOW anti-tank missiles had ended up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria.

Today a video posted on YouTube by al-Nusra shows their operatives using the U.S. TOW missiles to attack Syrian army positions in Idlib. They also posted a statement to that effect on Twitter:

Here’s the video, with a TOW missile making its appearance ~ 0:43:

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When I reported on the collapse of Hazm earlier in the month, I noted that pictures had appeared of al-Nusra fighters posing with U.S.-provided weapons, including the TOW missiles.

Some D.C. analysts claimed that the TOW tubes in the pictures were empty, but it is apparent now that al-Nusra did get their hands on live rounds and acquired personnel trained in firing the TOW system.

This, undoubtedly, is one reason why former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, once one of the loudest cheerleaders for arming the Syrian rebels, has done a complete turn-around and is now openly critical of the Syrian opposition:

Robert Ford was always one of the Syrian rebels’ loudest cheerleaders in Washington, agitating from within a reluctant administration to arm vetted moderates to fight Bashar Assad’s brutal regime.

In recent weeks, however, Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria who made news when he left government service a year ago with an angry critique of Obama administration policy, has dropped his call to provide weapons to the rebels. Instead, he’s become increasingly critical of them as disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists.

The about-face, which is drawing murmurs among foreign policy analysts and Syrian opposition figures in Washington, is another sign that the so-called moderate rebel option is gone and the choices in Syria have narrowed to regime vs. extremists in a war that’s killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions.

Of course, some had argued, including myself, that this is where things were headed all along with the Obama administration’s policy of supporting, arming and training the so-called “vetted moderates.” And now Ford is admitting that the “vetted moderates” supported by the U.S. are collaborating with jihadist groups.

More smart diplomacy in action.

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Israeli Official Spills: We Knew Obama Wanted ‘Revenge’

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Times of Israel got it straight from an anonymous “senior Jerusalem official”: Obama wanted “revenge” in the wake of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Times of Israel that “it’s no secret” that the Obama administration had attempted to influence the outcome of the election…

…“The White House is driven by three main motives,” the senior official said. “The first is revenge [over the Congress speech]. The second is frustration: It’s no secret that they were involved in an attempt to bring down the Netanyahu government – something that we have clear knowledge of – and failed. The third [motive] is the administration’s attempt to divert attention from the negotiations with Iran to the Palestinian issue.”

Not only do Israeli policymakers have a full understanding of Obama’s involvement in Israeli elections, they have also already reasoned their way around Obama’s potential politicking at the UN:

…The White House will attempt to “punish” Israel at the UN or the Security Council, the senior Israeli official said Tuesday, alluding to intimations by US officials to the effect that Washington could change its policy of vetoing anti-Israel measures and even pursue a unilateral Palestinian statehood initiative.

“Congress is currently our only means of preventing a series of harmful initiatives, on both the Iranian and the Palestinian front,” the official said. “If the US government will permit the recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN, then Congress will brandish its knives and defund the UN.” On Sunday, Republic Senator John McCain threatened to do just that.

And are at ease portraying Obama as the hypocrite who is busy covering his tracks:

…“They come and accuse us of torpedoing negotiations even though they know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself said no [to a deal], twice — once to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2011, and once to Secretary of State John Kerry last year.”

The plans of the White House and shame of American Jewish Left aren’t bothering members of an Israeli administration who have higher priorities than being #1 on Obama’s popularity list.

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Obama: Netanyahu Relationship Not Matter of ‘Let’s All Hold Hands and Sing Kumbaya’

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama didn’t want to comment today on the allegations of unnamed White House officials that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been spying on the United States to undermine a nuclear deal.

“As a general rule, I don’t comment on intelligence matters in a big room full of reporters, and I think I’ll continue that tradition,” he quipped at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

But he was ready to throw out some more soundbites in regard to how he feels about Netanyahu.

“With respect to Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, I think it’s important to understand that the issue here is not what I believe, but it’s what the Palestinians and the parties in the negotiations and the Israeli people believe is possible. That’s the most important issue,” Obama said. “You know, I’ve said before and I’ll simply repeat, you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu in the election run-up stated that a Palestinian state would not occur while he was prime minister.”

“And I took him at his word that that’s what he meant. And I think a lot of voters inside of Israel understood him to be saying that fairly unequivocally,” he added.

Netanayhu has clarified that a two-state solution cannot happen while Hamas is in a unity pact with Fatah, along with other longstanding conditions about the recognition and security of Israel.

“Afterwards, he pointed out that he didn’t say never, but that there would be a series of conditions in which a Palestinian state could potentially be created, but, of course, the conditions were such that they would be impossible to meet any time soon,” Obama continued.

“So, even if you accept it, I think the corrective of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s in subsequent days, there still does not appear to be a prospect of a meaningful framework established that would lead to a Palestinian state, even if there were a whole range of conditions and security requirements that might be phased in over a long period of time, which was always the presumption.”

The president said nobody envisioned “that overnight you suddenly have a Palestinian state right next to Jerusalem and that Israel would not have a whole range of security issues that had to be met and that it would be phased in over a long period of time.”

“The question is, do you create a process and a framework that gives the Palestinians hope, the possibility, that down the road they have a secure state of their own, standing side by side with a secure, fully recognized Jewish state of Israel? And I think — it’s not just my estimation, I think it is hard to envision how that happens, based on the prime minister’s statements.”

His “re-evaluation” won’t focus on security cooperation, Obama said, adding he’ll “continue to do whatever I need to do to make sure that our friends in Israel are safe.”

“But I am required to evaluate honestly how we manage Israeli-Palestinian relations over the next several years… with some common sense, and we could resolve what has been a vexing issue and one that is ultimately a threat to Israel as well. And that possibility seems very dim. That may trigger, then, reactions by the Palestinians that, in turn, elicit counter-reactions by the Israelis, and that could end up leading to a downward spiral of relations that will be dangerous for everybody and bad for everybody.”

Obama said he’ll be talking with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to gauge their feelings on the issue, but “what we can’t do is pretend that there’s a possibility of something that’s not there.”

“And we can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen, at least in the next several years,” he said. “That is something that we have to — for the sake of our own credibility, I think we have to be able to be honest about that.”

Obama added that he’s “obviously” heard lots of “commentary” about his relationship with Netanyahu, and insisted that they have a “very businesslike relationship.”

“So the issue is not a matter of relations between leaders. The issue is a very clear, substantive challenge. We believe that two states is the best path forward for Israel’s security, for Palestinian aspirations and for regional stability. That’s our view and that continues to be our view. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has a different approach. And so, this can’t be reduced to a matter of somehow let’s all, you know, hold hands and sing Kumbaya. This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region. OK.”

On when that re-evaluation takes place, and if it may take the form of not backing Israel at the United Nations, Obama replied, “We’re going to partly wait for an actual Israeli government to form.”

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Boehner ‘Baffled’ by Allegation Israel Fed Iran Information to Congress

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters today he was “shocked” to read a Wall Street Journal article alleging that Israel spied on Iran nuclear talks and fed information to Congress.

“I read that story this morning and, frankly, I was a bit shocked because there was no information revealed to me whatsoever,” Boehner said outside a closed caucus meeting.

The article said the “espionage” upset the White House because Israel was allegedly sharing “inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program.”

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” the WSJ quotes an unnamed senior U.S. official.

A senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded, “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”

Boehner said he was “shocked by the fact that there were reports in this press article that information was being passed on from the Israelis to members of Congress.”

“I’m not aware of that at all,” he said. “…I’m baffled by it.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told CNN he was also “shocked” by the report as he did not receive information from the Israelis. “If they were sharing information it wasn’t on our side of the aisle,” Nunes said.

Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) noted that he had a “number of meetings with Israeli officials” and in “none of those cases” did the Israelis discuss anything he deemed to be classified.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), one of the co-sponsors of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 also known as the Corker-Menendez bill, told MSNBC that he didn’t have any knowledge of Israel spying and feeding information to lawmakers. King was going into a closed-door Intelligence Committee briefing but said all he knew about the “somewhat disturbing” allegations is what was in the article.

“It’s a real shame that we’re spending so much time and energy arguing with our strongest ally in the region,” King said. “I just — I think everybody has got to take a little bit of a deep breath here and step back.”

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Shot by Cops After Yelling Nazi Slogans? Depends on the Color of Your Skin

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle
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Calgary Muslims shout “Heil Hitler” at pro-Israel demonstrators (August 2014, via BCBlue)

 

Over at TheRebel.media, Ezra Levant continues to follow the ongoing saga of the cops in his hometown — Calgary, Alberta — and what seems like their weird double standard when it comes to troublemakers who shout Nazi slogans in public.

Last year, a bunch of Muslims yelled “Heil Hitler!” at a pro-Israel rally. 

The cops stood by and did nothing, and I’d argue that that was the right response. Free speech, right?

But over the weekend, a decidedly Caucasian-looking dude shouted “White power!” at some “anti-racism” demonstrators.

A run-in with police followed — and he was shot.

This comes shortly after the perps at yet another incident in Calgary — a Muslim-led riot during which a Jewish family was attacked in broad daylight — were finally sentenced to… write essays as punishment!

Ezra squeezes a lot into this short video, including revelations as to just who was behind that rather arbitrary “anti-racism” rally:

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The Racist Campaign Ad Israel’s Left Didn’t Want You to See

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

+972 is about as Left as you can get when it comes to political opinions on Israel, which is why kudos go out to blogger Edo Konrad for being the only English-language Israeli writer to draw attention to Isaac Herzog’s anti-Arab campaign ad. It’s just a shame he waited for the dust to settle on the false “Bibi is racist” claims before doing so, but then again, why would he have risked screwing his own party of choice before the election?

Konrad is high-minded in his ethics, enough to criticize Herzog:

…it was Herzog’s utter indifference toward Israel’s Palestinian minority, not to mention the 47-year military dictatorship in the occupied territories, that received little media attention.

In fact, the only time Herzog’s campaign really made an effort to spotlight Israel’s Arab citizens was in a video featuring IDF veterans who served alongside him in the prestigious Unit 8200, which is part of Israel’s vaunted intelligence corps. In the video, the veterans laud Herzog as someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”

But, don’t mistake Konrad’s commentary for caring an actual whit about Israeli Arabs. His conclusion as to why Bibi won and Herzog lost:

By warning against “buses full of Arabs,” Netanyahu crossed the line from Likud hawk to Marzel-type incitement. Herzog, on the other hand, remained strictly within the confines of “good taste” — and lost.

Disturbing to say the least. But not uncommon among Israel’s bruised and battered extreme Leftists who have decided to lash out in rage like abused, frightened animals in the wake of the Right’s overwhelming electoral victory. Which is probably why the Left is having such trouble unifying, something that inspired the following exchange between 2 Leftist friends on Facebook:

“The right and the left need to live with moderates.”

“I was thinking the right and left need to live with Xanax.”

So much for the hype that Jewish-American leftists will cut off their support for Israel in droves. If anything, perhaps they, too, will have the guts to look behind the green curtain and into the party’s psych ward.

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Iran’s Chief Nuclear Negotiator: Lift All Sanctions First, No Concessions

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator has stressed yet again that there is no deal with the P5+1 unless all sanctions on the Islamic Republic are lifted first.

In fact, there are “no concessions” on Iran’s part forthcoming, he said.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi said early this month that Tehran’s “principle position is that all sanctions are lifted at once.”

Last week, 260 lawmakers in the 290-seat Islamic Consultative Assembly wrote a letter demanding that all sanctions be removed as a prerequisite for signing a nuclear deal.

“As a guarantee for implementation, in case of any violation of obligations by the opposite side, the agreement will be declared null and void and enrichment will be resumed at any required level,” the lawmakers wrote.

And over the weekend, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will ultimately sign off on or reject any nuclear deal, tweeted his agreement. “We reject US fraudulent offer of reaching a deal w first then lifting sanctions. Lifting sanctions is a part of deal not its outcome,” Khamenei tweeted.

Now today, with more than two weeks of negotiations having passed since his original comments, Araqchi is reiterating that “Tehran’s confidence-building measures and removal of sanctions by the powers are the objectives of the ongoing nuclear talks between the two sides,” according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Fars reported that Araqchi stressed “Iran is not to give away any concessions”:

He described the present phase of the talks as “sensitive”, and said it was natural for certain people to make some remarks to influence the process of the negotiations.

However, Araqchi said, Iran is not to grant any concessions.

Commenting on the recent remarks of the US President Barack Obama who said Iran has not provided enough concessions yet, he said the American president is making the remarks to affect the negotiations.

He said none of the parties is expected to offer concessions, specially Iran.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said today at the Council on Foreign Relations and on the Senate floor that the Obama administration trying to repeal Iran sanctions at the UN and not coming to Congress would be met with a bipartisan “violent response.”

“The Iranians are going to demand immediate sanction relief, and I hope we’ll say no. Until the IAEA verifies what they’ve been doing in the past, I think it would be ill-advised to relieve the sanctions,” Graham said at the CFR event. “They’re going to ask for a research-and-development capability. That scares the hell out of me, and I hope we’ll say no. If they demand immediate sanctions relief, the deal probably falls. Then we’ll be in no-man’s territory. Just, we don’t know what will happen next.”

“And that’s the most dangerous time, because that’s when they’re most likely to break out. Whether they believe that Obama would use force to stop their breakout, after drawing the red line with Assad, I doubt it. Whether they believe that P5+1 would do it as a group, I doubt it after the way we’ve handled Russia and the Ukraine.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that they “have made pretty clear… that this deal will be predicated on serious commitments from the Iranians about resolving the international community’s concerns with their nuclear program and a commitment that they will comply with intrusive inspections.”

“And those are the kinds of commitments that we’re going to insist on before we even contemplate any sort of sanctions relief,” Earnest said. “And what we would envision is a demonstrated commitment to the — to compliance with the agreement before phasing the sanctions relief.”

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These Syrian Townspeople Brilliantly Called Out Kerry and Power

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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The Obama administration frequently notes that it made Syrian President Bashar al-Assad get rid of his chemical weapons, a deal struck with the help of Assad ally Russia after the ghastly 2013 attack on Ghouta.

That attack crossed the red line established by President Obama to take action to help the Syrian people, and once he struck the weapons disposal deal he considered it a most welcome line through an unpleasant confrontation on his to-do list.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough held the deal up during his speech to J Street today as a “political arrangement” where congressional approval is not needed, such as what they’re trying to achieve with Iran. “It’s how we—peacefully—removed Syria’s entire declared stockpile of chemical weapons,” McDonough said.

Despite the ambiguity of “declared” in a country where the majority is a strict no-go zone for weapons inspectors, Assad has continued his chemical weapons attacks with chlorine gas.

Last week, the towns of Sarmin and Qmenas were hit with chlorine bombs by Assad forces, video reviewed and confirmed by human rights groups. The Syrian Coalition said six were killed, including three children, and about 70 were injured, 13 seriously.

“Once again the Assad regime has used the chlorine gas against civilians in flagrant violations of the UN Security Council Resolution No. 2209 which bans use of chlorine gas in Syria,” Syrian Coalition Vice President Hisham Marwa said. “The UN Security Council must take all necessary measures that ensures the enforcement of the resolution No. 2209, which rules that chlorine gas is toxic and a chemical weapon, and that using it militarily represents a gross violation of international law and a flagrant violation of Resolution 2118.”

Secretary of State John Kerry put out a statement Thursday saying the administration was “deeply disturbed” that Assad used chlorine gas weapons “again.”

“What is clear is that the Assad regime continues to flout international standards and norms, including, if these latest allegations are verified, the Chemical Weapons Convention. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to such barbarism. As has been well documented, the Assad regime continues to terrorize the people of Syria through indiscriminate airstrikes, barrel bombings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, murder, and starvation. The Assad regime must be held accountable for such atrocious behavior,” Kerry said.

“…The Assad regime’s horrifying pattern of using chlorine as a chemical weapon against the Syrian people underscores the importance of investigating this allegation as quickly as possible, holding those who perpetrated such abhorrent acts in violation of international law accountable, and continuing to support the complete elimination chemical weapons in this volatile region.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t have “any predictions” on what holding Assad accountable might entail.

“Reports and video out of #Syria utterly horrific. Civilians, including kids, victims of an apparent chlorine gas attack,” UN Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted that day. “This is why #UNSC passed res affirming the weaponization of chlorine as viol of CWC&UN res. Long past time for attribution&consequences. Asad regime is only power with helos. Reports again are that gas attack came from the air. If it flies like a duck…”

That was enough for Syrians who have been bearing the brunt of these attacks.

 

 

The northwestern Syrian fig-and-olive-producing town of Kafranbel huddled together fairly early in the war and decided the best way to get their message to the outside world would be to pen signs in English, then spread them through the Internet and social media. Their signs have included see Obama as Pinocchio and a genocide enabler.

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Smart Diplomacy in Action: US Ambassador to Libya Abandons Twitter After Tweeting False Bombing Casualty Info

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah K. Jones retired from Twitter on Monday after tweeting out false information on civilian casualties of a bombing raid by military forces of the internationally recognized Libyan government:

Her tweet was picked up by Western media as the primary source for the information. See this Reuters article:

Eight civilians were killed in an air strike near Tripoli on Monday, the U.S. ambassador said, as Libya’s internationally recognized government pressed on with an assault to recapture the capital it abandoned to a rival faction last year …

“Terrible news today from Tarhouna where eight innocent displaced Tawergha killed in air strikes,” U.S. Ambassador Deborah Jones said in a tweet, referring to members of a minority group, thousands of whom were displaced after Gaddafi fell.

“This violence serves no one’s interests,” said Jones, who is based outside Libya since most diplomats were evacuated from Tripoli last year.

It turned out that the information was based on rumors and conflicting information from both sides:

The eastern chief of army staff said in a statement its planes had hit a Libya Dawn barracks, not a Tawergha camp, demanding an apology from Jones.

But Mohamed al-Tarhouni, spokesman of the town’s municipality, said nobody had been killed in the strike which he said had hit an empty farm near a camp of displaced Tawergha.

Jones and Louai El-Ghawi, an eastern lawmaker, said there were reports that several family members of a colonel opposed to Libya Dawn had been killed in Tarhouna in an apparent revenge attack, but details were unclear. The eastern chief of staff said Dawn supporters had killed eight members of the family.

A freelance reporter on the scene found nothing describing the info that Jones had tweeted out:

The Libyan Army condemned Jones’ statement:

Libyan Twitter users then began attacking the ambassador for floating false information:

The back-tracking then began in earnest:

But the damage had been done, and she announced her departure from Twitter:

Thus, America is even getting run off of Twitter.

Smart diplomacy in action. I blame that YouTube video.

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White House Chief of Staff at J Street: ‘Occupation’ by Israelis ‘Must End’

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough today called for an end to Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinians and vowed that the Obama administration won’t “pretend” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t make his campaign remarks about no two-state solution.

McDonough thanked the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” — as J Street bills itself — and pro-Palestinian lobbying group for the “important work you do around the country,” calling it “an organization that, in the best tradition of the American Jewish community, shares a set of values about the type of country that we are – a democracy where all of our people can access opportunity.”

“President Obama asked me to convey his deep appreciation to all of you for your partnership and your work on behalf of the U.S.-Israel relationship, especially building support for our efforts to advance a two-state solution,” he said.

McDonough spent much of his speech, though, on issues other than the Mideast: solar energy, the auto industry, job growth, energy independence, and the fifth anniversary of Obamacare. He also spent significant time taking shots at the new Republican budget.

“Of course, our relationship with Israel isn’t defined by numbers in a budget. Ours is a deep and abiding partnership between two vibrant democracies. We saw that democracy in action when Israelis of all backgrounds—Jewish and Arab, religious and secular–cast their ballots last week. At the heart of any democracy is the right of all citizens to participate equally,” he said. J Street lobbied heavily against Netanyahu and the Likud party.

McDonough said in Thursday’s congratulatory call from Obama to Netanyahu the president “committed to continuing consultations on a range of regional issues, including resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“No matter who leads Israel, America’s commitment to Israel’s security will never waver,” he said, noting money allocated by Congress and approved by the administration to spend on the Iron Dome missile defense system and next year’s delivery of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“We continue to believe that the best way to safeguard Israel’s long-term security is to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in security and peace,” he said, adding that’s why Netanyahu’s “comments on the eve of the election—in which he first intimated and then made very clear in response to a follow up question that a Palestinian state will not be established while he is prime minister—were so troubling.”

“After the election, the prime minister said that he had not changed his position, but for many in Israel and in the international community, such contradictory comments call into question his commitment to a two-state solution, as did his suggestion that the construction of settlements has a strategic purpose of dividing Palestinian communities and his claim that conditions in the larger Middle East must be more stable before a Palestinian state can be established. We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the prime minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations.”

Netanyahu clarified his comments to note that the conditions for a two-state solution currently do not exist as Fatah remains allied with Hamas and they refuse to recognize Israel or stop incitement.

“In recent days, some have suggested our reaction to this issue is a matter of personal pique,” McDonough told the crowd. “Nothing could be further from the truth. America’s commitment to a two-state solution is fundamental to U.S. foreign policy. It’s been the goal of both Republican and Democratic presidents, and it remains our goal today. Because it is the only way to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

That’s why, he said, Obama now wants to “re-evaluate our approach to the peace process and how we pursue the cause of peace – because, like all of you, we care deeply about Israel and its future.”

“In the end, we know what a peace agreement should look like. The borders of Israel and an independent Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps. Each state needs secure and recognized borders, and there must be robust provisions that safeguard Israel’s security. An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state.”

McDonough said the “truth” is “Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely.”

He insisted that Israel accepting a two-state solution “would deal a knock-out blow to calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions” and “would undercut efforts to isolate Israel in the international community and roll back de-legitimization efforts.”

The White House chief of staff also delivered the standard administration line on Iran negotiations, saying they won’t accept a bad deal but stressing that they’re pursing a deal that’s “both realistic and achievable.”

“Congress should not seek to undermine negotiations before a deal is reached,” McDonough said. “…I’m sure you heard about the letter some Republican senators addressed directly to Iran’s leaders.  It was a blatant political move—as the president said, that is not how America does its business.”

He called the letter “critically flawed in its legal reasoning” as the administration is “pursuing a political arrangement with Iran that does not require congressional approval.”

“Some senators have also proposed legislation that would torpedo diplomacy by suggesting Congress must vote on any deal and by stripping the President of his existing authorities to waive sanctions. Let’s be very clear about what this would do. It would embolden hard-liners in Iran. It would separate the United States from our allies,” McDonough said, adding “it would set a damaging precedent by limiting the ability of future presidents to conduct essential diplomatic negotiations.”

“…If a deal is reached, we will share the details and technical documents with Congress, at which point we welcome a full debate—after all, only Congress could terminate U.S. statutory sanctions on Iran during the duration of the agreement.”

McDonough was the administration representative to the annual conference, facing a much more friendly crowd than National Security Advisor Susan Rice did weeks ago at the AIPAC mega-conference.

 

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N.J. Senator Menendez May Face Charges Any Day Now

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Cross Barry, pay the price via his buddy at Justice, Eric Holder:

Federal investigators could file criminal corruption charges against Sen. Robert Mendendez of New Jersey as early as this week, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the investigation. Mendendez, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been under investigation for possible corruption and has denied wrongdoing, the paper reported Sunday.

Specific charges weren’t immediately clear, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating Mendendez for more than two years. Menendez is accused of using his political position to boost the business interests of a friend and Democratic Party donor, in exchange for gifts. Sources cited by the Wall Street Journal said Mendendez would be charged in his home state of New Jersey.

The Journal story is behind the pay wall, so this is from Fox News. But to put what’s happening in context, this story from the New York Times last month may be helpful:

When Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said last week that he would give President Obama two months before defying a veto threat and voting for new sanctions on Iran, he made it clear that the delay was not out of loyalty to his fellow Democrat in the Oval Office.

“I don’t get calls from the White House,” Mr. Menendez said when asked whether the president or his team had lobbied him for the reprieve. It was a frank acknowledgment of the rifts that exist between Mr. Obama and Mr. Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The divisions have burst into public view in recent weeks as Mr. Menendez, a second-term senator, has taken on Mr. Obama over Cuba and Iran.

Mr. Obama’s advisers say they speak with Mr. Menendez regularly, and the senator described his relationship with the White House as excellent. But deep policy and political divisions remain between Mr. Obama and the senator, one of the Democrats best positioned to defend the administration’s foreign policy in Congress.

Adios, Bob. It was nice knowin’ ya.

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367 House Members Send Letter to Obama on Iran’s ‘Pathway to Bomb’

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama just got a letter from 367 members of the House stressing that Iran must have no pathway to a nuclear weapon.

On Thursday, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said there were 360 signatures on the letter. The next day, as it was sent to the White House, there were a few more.

Engel and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) began circulating the letter around Congress earlier this month.

The letter to Obama notes that “of the 12 sets of questions that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been seeking, Tehran has answered just part of one. Just last week, the IAEA reported that it is still concerned about signs of Iran’s military related activities, including designing a nuclear payload for a missile.”

“The potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program should be treated as a fundamental test of Tehran’s intention to uphold the final agreement. Unless we have a full understanding of Iran’s past program it will be impossible for the international community to judge Iran’s future breakout time with certainty.”

The letter notes Iran’s “decades of deception” and said “any inspection and verification regime must allow for short notice access to suspect locations, and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program must last for decades.”

The hundreds of lawmakers also said the administration cannot split Iran’s “destabilizing role in the region and state sponsorship of terrorism from the nuclear deal.”

“Iran’s Supreme Leader has also called for an expansion of his country’s ballistic missile program, yet another dimension of the potential threat posed by Iran,” the letter continues. “Iran’s role in fomenting instability in the region — not to mention Iran’s horrendous repression at home — demonstrates the risks of negotiating with a partner we cannot trust.”

The lawmakers promise that only if “convinced” that a final deal’s terms “foreclose any pathway to a bomb” will Congress “consider permanent sanctions relief.”

“The United States has had a longstanding interest in preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.  Over the last twenty years, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation imposing sanctions on Iran to prevent that outcome, ultimately forcing Iran into negotiations. Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the letter, which was notably sent to Obama as J Street opened its conference in Washington. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is scheduled to speak to the pro-Palestinian lobbying group tonight.

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