» Middle East

The PJ Tatler

Obama: ‘Fundamental Misjudgment’ of Netanyahu to Demand Iran Recognize Israel

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
YouTube Preview Image

President Obama grinned in an NPR interview when asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request that Iran recognize the state of Israel in a final nuclear deal.

“Well, let me say this. It’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy. And I’ve been very forceful in saying that our differences with Iran don’t change if we make sure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon. They’re still going to be financing Hezbollah. They’re still supporting Assad dropping barrel bombs on children. They are still sending arms to the Houthis in Yemen that have helped destabilize the country,” Obama said.

“There are obvious differences in how we are approaching fighting ISIL in Iraq, despite the fact that there’s a common enemy there. So there’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti- Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime,” he continued.

“But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”

Obama said that “if suddenly Iran transformed itself into Germany or Sweden or France, there would be a different set of conversations about their nuclear infrastructure.”

“The key here is not to somehow expect that Iran changes, although it is something that may end up being an important byproduct of this deal, but rather, it is to make sure that we have a verifiable deal that takes off the table what would be a game changer for them if in fact they possess nuclear weapons,” he added.

His message to the Israeli people?

“You are right to be suspicious of Iran. There’s no reason why you should let your guard down with respect to Iran. We have to make sure that Israel has the capabilities to protect itself, not only from Iran but also proxies like Hezbollah. But ultimately, Iran is deterrable, and it is deterrable not just because of Israelis — Israel’s superior military and intelligence capabilities but also because you got a really strong ally in the United States of America,” Obama said.

“And if, over time, there are opportunities in which we see changes in the Iranian regime, all the better. But we don’t have to count on that. We have to make sure that even if Iran doesn’t change the Israeli people are safe.”

Obama stressed that despite the statements of potential GOP presidential candidates to the contrary — most recently Gov. Scott Walker — he’s confident that they won’t end up overturning the Iran agreement.

“I am confident that any president who gets elected will be knowledgeable enough about foreign policy and knowledgeable enough about the traditions and precedents of presidential power that they won’t start calling into question the capacity of the Executive Branch of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries,” the president said.

“If that starts being questioned, that’s going to be a problem for our friends and that’s going to embolden our enemies. And it would be a foolish approach to take, and, you know, perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”

Read bullet | 22 Comments »

A Tale of Two Stories on Iran Sanctions: Repealed or Wait-and-See?

Monday, April 6th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The Obama administration is saying that there’s not really a discrepancy with Iran over when sanctions are lifted, asserting first that sanctions would be rolled back upon completion of the deal terms and now saying that the timing of sanctions still needs to be negotiated.

A senior administration official on Thursday, after the deal was announced in Switzerland:

“The main principle is that we’ll be matching our sanctions with the completion of all of Iran’s major nuclear steps.  So, in other words, like the Secretary said, they can do it as fast as they want, and it’s in fact in our interests if they do it as fast as they can and get their breakout timeline extended as quickly as possible.”

But after the White House and State Department released a fact sheet on the deal, Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was firing off a series of tweets:

“The solutions are good for all, as they stand. There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on.”

“Iran/5+1 Statement: ‘US will cease the application of ALL nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions.’ Is this gradual?”

“Iran/P5+1 Statement: ‘The EU will TERMINATE the implementation of ALL nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions’. How about this?”

Iran, after all, had demanded — in weeks of public statements via its nuclear negotiators, parliament and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — no less than the lifting of all sanctions the moment the deal, which is due at the end of June, went into effect.

So what exactly was negotiated, then, when Zarif stepped out victoriously to announce Iran had what it wanted from marathon negotiations?

The White House trotted out Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at today’s press briefing to explain the nuts and bolts of the nuclear framework. On Sunday, Moniz told CBS “the sanctions relief really kicks in only when they have complied with the core nuclear restrictions.

“And that’s what gets us to this two-month to one-year breakout time. So that’s when the sanctions relief will really kick in,” Moniz added.

Today press secretary Josh Earnest was peppered with questions about the sanctions discrepancy, replying:

“This issue that you have highlighted is one of those that still needs to be negotiated; that there are still details about the phase-out, if you will, of the sanctions that have not yet been agreed to.

And it is the strong view of the administration that it would not be wise and it would not be in the interests of the international community to simply take away sanctions, take away all of the sanctions on day one. It is our view that based on Iran’s history, that it would be most conducive to the success of the agreement for Iran to continue to have an incentive for complying with the agreement. And that is why we believe that this sort of phased approach is the best one. And it certainly is one that we will insist upon.

There are many of those who are sitting around the negotiating table — on our side of the negotiating table — who share that view. And that’s what we will insist upon. The reason that you’re hearing a slightly different message out of Iran is that this is — the details of this arrangement have not yet been agreed to.

This has been the negotiating position of the Iranians for some time. So I don’t think there’s anybody that’s particularly surprised about the fact that they continue to hold the negotiating position that they’ve had for some time.

…I don’t want to leave anybody with the impression that I’m suggesting, again, that the Iranian regime is somehow lying about this aspect of the negotiations. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that it is clear what their negotiating position is.”

A reporter noted “that is different than what you guys have said before, in that before, you said we’re not going to relieve sanctions until they take concrete steps, now what you’re saying is we would — we would start relieving sanctions as long as we’ve got an agreement on,” to which Earnest interjected, “No, no, no, no. No, no, no.”

“What I’m saying is, I’m talking — I’m talking about in the context of the talks, right? That as you sit down at the negotiating table, item 1 on the agenda at the negotiating table was not and could not be sanctions relief because sanctions relief would only be offered in exchange for significant commitments from Iran about curtailing their nuclear program. So the focus of the negotiations for more than a year now has been on what steps Iran is going to take, what commitments is Iran going to make to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon, right?

But that’s where we have to — we have to work all that out first and then we can get to the question of, well then once you have established what steps they’re going to take, then you can start laying out what steps will be matched with which sanctions relief. And so this is just a sequencing argument, but our view on this — just to go back to your question — our view on this has not changed. We are going to see specific commitments and follow-through from the Iranians as a part of our sort of phase down of sanctions relief.”

And the word from Iran?

Zarif said Saturday on state TV that Iran officially protested the U.S. statements to the EU negotiators. One of Iran’s top negotiators, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, said “the Lausanne statement explicitly states that the sanctions will be annulled; all nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions will be removed in the first stage.”

Iran President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday: “We have never negotiated the suspension of sanctions and if it were the case, there would be no agreement” without full removal.

Commander of Iran’s Basij Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi today in Tehran: “The comments made after the Lausanne negotiations once again showed the United States’ strong grudge against the Iranians and proved that the US officials are liars and untrustworthy. After 9 days of breathtaking nuclear negotiations in Lausanne, the US president and other officials now deny the principal agreements and present opposing interpretations.”

In a Monday meeting between parliamentarians and Zarif, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported, “the immediate annulment of sanctions, safeguarding the nuclear rights and continued Research and Development (R&D) activities in the nuclear field were among the issues emphasized by the MPs.”

Summed up Iran Press TV, “no Iranian nuclear facility will be shut down or suspended while all sanctions against the Islamic Republic will be terminated.”

Read bullet | 16 Comments »

U.S. Advised Citizens Stuck in Yemen to Fly Out of Closed Airports, Board Ship That Can’t Dock

Monday, April 6th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department has a Yemen problem beyond the fall of the country to Houthi rebels and evacuation of U.S. diplomatic facilities.

It’s told U.S. citizens to get out, but they can’t. And the first U.S. citizen was just killed in the conflict: Jamal al-Labani of Hayward, Calif., was killed by shrapnel from a mortar round in Aden.

His family told CNN that he was trying to get out of the country, as directed by the State Department, but didn’t know how. He’d talked about crossing the border by land into Oman and then flying to Egypt, but was killed before he could put that plan into action.

The State Department suspended embassy operations back on Feb. 11. On April 1, the embassy sent a message to U.S. citizens in Yemen indicating there were “no plans for a U.S. government-sponsored evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time” and encouraging U.S. citizens “to monitor the news and seek available departure options from Yemen, via air, land, or sea.”

The travel warning for Yemen was updated on April 3. “We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely. U.S. citizens wishing to depart should do so via commercial transportation options when they become available.”

An emergency message sent to citizens on Sunday said they “may be able to leave Yemen from either Aden or Mokha and cross into Djibouti by boat.”

“The Djibouti Foreign Minister confirms that Djibouti stands ready to receive any nationality and all evacuees from Yemen into Djibouti. Anyone who wishes to leave should possess either a U.S. or Yemeni passport,” the message continued. “Currently, there is a French frigate just off the coast of Aden called the Acronit. It’s a smaller boat that can accommodate a few hundred people and its mission is to transport all people who have a passport and can get to the boat. The boat is not in the port, therefore people will have to find their own way to get out to it. The window of time for when the boat may leave is uncertain.”

The situation grew so desperate that the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) launched StuckInYemen.com to gather information about Americans who need help evacuating from Yemen.

“All citizens are entitled to protection from their government. The United States government has an obligation to protect their citizens in foreign nations. This is one of the fundamental reasons for the existence of U.S. consultates and embassies in foreign nations. Unfortunately, the United States government and embassies abandoned Yemeni Americans in February 2015,” the site states, offering an intake form that includes questions about whether the embassy gave proper travel documents to citizens before it closed.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf clarified at today’s press briefing “it’s not that we can’t” evacuate Americans, as other countries are doing for their citizens stuck in Yemen, but they’re not.

“The airports are still closed, is my understanding, which is part of the challenge when we evacuate citizens from countries. Sometimes we do it commercially through aircraft or through chartered aircraft, so that’s obviously not a possibility at this time there,” Harf said.

“When you said that you alerted them to opportunities to leave the country, what are those opportunities now? Swim?” a reporter asked.

“We are alerting people to — these are mainly maritime opportunities,” Harf replied, referring to the boat that wouldn’t be able to dock.

Today India offered to help evacuate Americans from Yemen, including with flights out of Sana’a and ships from Aden. The first rescue flights are scheduled to leave Tuesday.

“The Department of State cautions that U.S. citizens should consider carefully the risks of traveling to or within Sana’a and Aden in order to board evacuation transport given security conditions in both cities,” the U.S. embassy said in its message to U.S. citizens with India embassy contact information.

Read bullet | 40 Comments »

Dem Senator: ‘There’s No Way Congress Is Not Going to Weigh in’ on Iran Deal

Monday, April 6th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A Senate Democrat vows that “there’s no way that Congress is not going to weigh in” on the nuclear deal with Iran.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is an original co-sponsor of the Corker-Menendez bill to require congressional approval of a deal. The legislation is expected to move forward when Congress returns from spring break next week.

“Look, Iran is not a friend. Iran right now is a deep enemy. So the question isn’t are they a friend or an enemy. It’s whether you want to have an adversary with a nuclear weapon or without a nuclear weapon,” Kaine told CNN this morning. “The diplomatic effort underway has been to make sure this adversary does not have a nuclear weapon. ”

“And while I strongly that Congress needs to say grace over an ultimate deal that touches on Congressional sanctions, I do see many elements of the framework announced Thursday that are quite positive. Now, they have to be reduced to a deal that can be verified by the end of June. But the administration’s diplomatic effort here has, I think, produced some positives thus far and we need to just continue to monitor that.”

Kaine acknowledged that the success of the deal hinges on inspections. “The inspections are the guarantee that Iran doesn’t cheat,” he said.

“And frankly the inspections also gives us significant intel so if they were to cheat we could take more targeted military action against them. And so this is not about trusting Iran. This is about depriving them of a nuclear weapon so that they can’t harm Israel or other nations in the region or in the world,” he added.

The senator questioned the commitment in the deal framework for Iran to slash their stockpile of enriched uranium. “How are they going to do it? Can we trust them to do it? Can we inspect them to make sure that 300 is the limit? But if that sticks in an ultimate deal, that is a huge concession by Iran,” he said.

Kaine stressed “the stakes are high… but also fundamentally this is negotiation about what must Iran do to get out from under Congressional sanctions.”

“I think it strengthens the hand of the negotiators to say here’s the rules under which Congress is going to consent to this deal. We have to sell it. Frankly, I think it already has led to some strengthening of the deal, and we’ll see going forward. But I think if Congress establishes clear rules for the road about how we will engage, that will not weaken our negotiating hand, it will strengthen it.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Graham: Hillary Could Forge Better Iran Deal, But Rand Probably Couldn’t

Monday, April 6th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the best that may be hoped for at this point is locking in the interim nuclear agreement with Iran and “allow a new president in 2017, Democrat or Republican” to “take a crack at the Iranian nuclear program.”

Graham told CBS on Sunday that he thinks the framework announced last week by the P5+1 and Iran is “probably the best deal that Barack Obama could get with the Iranians, because the Iranians don’t fear or do they respect him and our allies in the region don’t trust the president.”

“Obama is a flawed negotiator. His foreign policy has failed on multiple fronts. Nobody in the region trusts him. The Iranians do not fear or respect him, so he will never be able to get the best deal,” he said. “The best deal I think comes with the new president. Hillary Clinton would do better. I think everybody on our side, except maybe Rand Paul, could do better.”

“That is one way of looking at this program, keeping the interim deal in place that’s been fairly successful and have a new crack at it with a new president that doesn’t have the baggage of Obama.”

Graham said the question should be whether Obama should be negotiating with Iran at all, “given his miserable foreign policy failure.”

“Does anybody really believe the Iranians will take the billions of dollars that we’re about to give them and build hospitals and schools? How many centrifuges should a nation have whose military leadership called for the destruction of Israel during the negotiations?” the senator said. “How many centrifuges should a nation have who is still the largest sponsor of state terrorism? Does anybody in their right mind believe that Iran’s behavior is going to change because you give them more money and more centrifuges to eventually make a bomb? What will the Arabs do in response to this deal? This deal doesn’t dismantle one centrifuge. It doesn’t close one site.”

“And I believe there is a better deal. I don’t want a war, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to give Iran the tools and the capability to continue to destroy the Mideast and one day attack us by building bigger missiles. And until they say they will not destroy the state of Israel, until stop their provocative behavior, I think we would be nuts to give them more money and more capability.”

Graham added that the Bush administration was also “a miserable failure when it came to controlling Iran’s nuclear ambition.”

“Having been at the table was result of sanctions that the Congress passed 100-nothing. If there’s nothing else from this interview, please understand the following. I think Congress will require any deal negotiated with the Iranians to come to the Congress for our review before we lift congressional sanctions,” he said.

“I don’t mind giving the administration the time between now and June to put this deal together, because when you listen to the Iranians and Secretary Kerry, you’re almost like you’re talking to two different deals.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Feinstein: Netanyahu Should ‘Contain Himself,’ Iranian Foreign Minister ‘Sincere’

Monday, April 6th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) opined that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to “contain himself” in his criticism of the Iran nuclear negotiations framework.

Netanyahu did the rounds on CNN, ABC and NBC yesterday to protest the terms of the agreement. He shared that he’s talked with “about two-thirds” of the House and an equal share of the Senate about the next steps.

Feinstein is not a supporter of the Menendez-Kirk sanctions legislation or the Corker-Menendez bill to require congressional approval of a deal, and disagreed with the invitation for Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress a month ago, though she attended.

She told CNN on Sunday that the deal doesn’t threaten the survival of Israel.

“A precondition has to be that there’s going to be a real rededication in the IAEA to do the kind of work that’s going to be necessary to do 24/7, 365 days a year in the various facilities. But I think that, having watched this for a long time and knowing this particular foreign minister, I think this is the best that’s going to get done,” Feinstein said of Iran.

“It’s a framework. It has to be wrapped into a final agreement. There still can be some changes. But I don’t think it’s helpful for Israel to come out and oppose this one opportunity to change a major dynamic, which is downhill, a downhill dynamic in this part of the world.”

Netanyahu, she said, has “said what he’s had to say.”

“And, to be candid with you, this can backfire on him. And I wish that he would contain himself, because he has put out no real alternative, in his speech to the Congress, no real alternative, since then, no real alternative,” Feinstein said.

She said Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is “sincere”.

“I believe that this foreign minister and this Iranian president, both of whom are moderates, really want to show that there is another way for Iran, and, therefore, giving up this program is worth it,” the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee continued.

“I believe [Zarif] is sincere. I believe that President Rouhani wants this. And it looks like the supreme leader will be agreeable,” Feinstein added. “Now, having said that, we have got everybody jumping to conclusions in the Congress. This agreement has to be written up into a binding kind of agreement. And that’s the document that we all need to see, the final document.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Netanyahu Talks with ‘About Two-Thirds’ of House, Equal Share of Senate About Bad Iran Deal

Monday, April 6th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the rounds on the Sunday news shows to argue that the framework nuclear agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran will turn out even worse than the failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program.

“The entire world celebrated the deal with North Korea. It deemed to be a great breakthrough, it would bring an end to North Korea’s nuclear program, you’d have inspectors. That would do the job. And of course everybody applauded it, but it turned out to be a very, very bad deal and you know where we are with North Korea. I think the same thing would be true in the case of Iran, except that Iran is a great deal more dangerous than North Korea,” Netanyahu told NBC.

Iran, he stressed, is “a militant Islamic power bent on regional domination, in fact, bent on world domination, as it openly says so.”

“They just chanted ‘Death to America’ a few days ago on the streets of Tehran, the same streets where they’re rejoicing right now,” Netanyahu said. “Don’t give the preeminent terrorist state of our time the access to a nuclear program that could help them make nuclear weapons. It’s very bad for all of us.”

The prime minister stressed on ABC that the billions to be quickly unlocked by the lifting of sanctions will be used “to pump up their terror machine worldwide and their military machine that is busy conquering the Middle East now.”

“It’s not even been on the table, nor have ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, that they can use to propel their nuclear weapons to any part of the world, including the United States,” Netanyahu said. “Nothing has been asked of Iran, to change its aggressive and terrorist policies, nothing. And I think it’s important to change the deal, to toughen up the deal, to get a better deal, because we all prefer to find a solution but it has to be the right one.”

Pressed about whether he’d launch airstrikes at the Islamic Republic to take out their nuclear program, he said, “I never talk about our military option or anyone else’s.”

“Once they’re at the table, why let up on those sanctions? In fact, that’s the time to increase the pressure and to get tomorrow what you can’t get today.”

On CNN, Netanyahu called “standing firm, ratcheting up the pressure, until you get a better deal” the “third alternative.”

“And a better deal would roll back Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure and require Iran to stop its aggression in the region, its terror worldwide, and its calls and actions to annihilate the state of Israel,” he stressed. “That’s a better deal. It’s achievable.”

Regarding the absence of ICBMs from the deal, the prime minister noted, “Those missiles are only used for you. They’re not used for us. They have missiles that can reach us and are geared for nuclear weapons.”

“I wouldn’t bet the shop on inspections, because totalitarian regimes have a way of cheating,” he said. “Iran has cheated in the past. North Korea — they said the same arguments about North Korea. It will make them peaceful, it will make them moderate, it will make them abandon their program. And the opposite has happened.”

Netanyahu said he’s talked to “about two-thirds” of the House and an equal proportion of the Senate about derailing the deal. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) visited last week with a delegation.

“This is not a partisan issue. This is not even solely an Israeli issue,” he said. “This is a world issue, because everyone is going to be threatened by the preeminent terrorist state of our time, getting, keeping the infrastructure to produce not one nuclear bomb, but many, many nuclear bombs down the line. That’s a palpable danger to the peace of the world. And I think it should concern everybody, Republicans, Democrats, independents, I don’t care, and the citizens who want a peaceful world from every nation.”

“And I don’t think this is a personal issue, not between me and the president, or the president and me. We have — we had a respectful hour-long conversation the other day, as befits two allies, two democracies. And Israel views the United States as its great ally. And I think America has no greater ally in the world than Israel. But we do have a difference – it’s a difference of policy, not a clash of personalities.”

Asked if he trusts President Obama: “I trust that the president is doing what he thinks is good for the United States. But I think that we can have a legitimate difference of opinion on this, because I think Iran has shown to be completely distrustful. It’s not a country that you can place your trust in. And it’s not a country that you’re going to resolve its congenital cheating.”

Read bullet | 8 Comments »

State Department Wanted to Engage ‘Moderate Jihadists’ in Libya

Saturday, April 4th, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

During the final years of the Bush administration and throughout the Obama administration I’ve been reporting here regularly on the bipartisan call from the U.S. foreign policy elite and their media sycophants to engage “moderate Islamists” in the Middle East. In conservative circles, embracing this view warranted you being deemed among the “smarter hardliners on the Right” by the establishment media.

As I’ve repeatedly noted, whether in Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Gaza, Lebanon, Turkey, or Syria (as well as many others), this policy has had catastrophic and massively fatal consequences.

Now Eli Lake and Josh Rogin at Bloomberg have this scoop:

According to a March 2 cable from the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones — described to us by a U.S. counterterrorism official — the State Department has been considering outreach to other, supposedly more moderate elements of the militia-aligned opposition forces in an effort to balance U.S. influence and cover all political bets.

The cable, according to our source, didn’t go over well with other U.S. government agencies, and as of now U.S. policy remains to deal exclusively with the Tobruk leadership.

Of course, this policy worked out so well in Benghazi in September 2012, when the “moderate Islamist” February 17th Martyrs Brigade was charged with defending our consulate there. Interestingly, the February 17th Martyrs Brigade in Benghazi is now in open alliance with Ansar al-Sharia, the group the Obama administration has fingered for the Benghazi attack.

Just a few weeks ago I reported here the push amongst the “smart set” for the U.S. to engage “moderate Al-Qaeda.”

As I noted:

Understand, this is a continuation of a popular theme amongst the foreign policy “smart set.” See the “moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” which just a month ago declared all-out jihad on the Egyptian government. Or the New York Times, pitching “moderate” elements of the Iranian regime. Or current CIA director “Jihad” John Brennan calling for the U.S. to build up Hezbollah “moderates.” Or hapless academics proclaiming the “mellowing” of Hamas. Or the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups that, as I have reported here, regularly fight alongside ISIS and al-Qaeda and have even defected to those terror groups.

At this rate can the calls for engaging “moderate ISIS” be far behind?

Read bullet | 11 Comments »

Cowardly Flesh-Eating Parasites Attack Brave ISIS Mujahideen in Syria!

Saturday, April 4th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Islamic State scum being afflicted by flesh-eating bacteria? Bring it on:

The self-declared Islamic State capital is currently in the throes of an epidemic and a number of members of the Islamic State have reportedly been infected. Efforts are reportedly being made to prevent the further spread of the Leishmaniasis skin disease, which is highly virulent, in the IS stronghold.

Although organisations began work to combat the disease, this became impossible after IS is claimed to have closed down their city offices. They also confiscated equipment and arrested officers trying to help fight the condition which can be deadly. The first case of the disease, which is caused by protozoan parasites, was discovered in September 2013. By the middle of 2014 500 people had been affected, according to a network of activists ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.’

Gee, that’s too damn bad.

The disease is spread by flies that are attracted by the rubble and rubbish of war. It can sometimes be fatal and can also cause significant damage to parts of the body it affects. This comes after World Health Organisation reported that Syria’s health system had collapsed, meaning that disease was spreading rapidly through a country already plagued by violence.

Islam: improving the lot of humanity since the 7th century.

Read bullet | 7 Comments »

When Jews Flee, Christians Become the Target

Saturday, April 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Israel National News reports on Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor’s latest speech to the United Nations Security Council regarding the grotesque mistreatment of Christians in the Islamic world:

Amb. Prosor began by explaining that these days, as the Jewish Passover approaches, there is a terrible new “exodus” that is plaguing the Middle East, one “driven by a plague of [Islamic] persecution aimed at Christians, Kurds, Yazidi, Bahai, and of course, the Jews.”

He related that after the Muslim countries murdered thousands of Jews and forced hundreds of thousands to leave the host Muslim countries, the Muslims had no one left to persecute. So, the “extremists have turned on the Christians.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Christians comprised 26% of the Middle East’s population. Today, that figure is less than 10%.” In ISIS-plagued Iraq, “Christians were given the grim choice of converting to Islam or face death by beheading, stoning or crucifixion. Fearing for their lives, tens of thousands of Christians have fled to northern Iraq and taken refuge in Kurdistan.”

Amb. Prosor stated on behalf of the Israel government that “The Kurds are the leading force in the fight against ISIS. They have shown tremendous courage and fortitude. The Kurds need the support of the international community and they deserve political independence.”

Prosor’s speech is a timely reminder that as both Jews and Christians sit down this weekend to celebrate freedom and tune into The Ten Commandments, redemption, like slavery, is as much a physical act as it is a spiritual one. Not only does it require a good, hard look at reality, it also demands the willingness to unify in order to cross the great divide.

Read bullet | Comments »

Arab TV: Reports on Jews Using Children’s Blood for Passover Matzos

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by The Tatler

Reprinted with permission from MEMRI.

On April 14, 2015, MEMRI and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, in conjunction with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, will hold the sixth annual Lantos Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial Archives Commemoration at the U.S. Capitol, sponsored by Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner.

At the event, MEMRI will present, and release, its annual report on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world, covering both the proponents of these hateful messages in the region and the courageous voices speaking out against this phenomenon. A video compilation of MEMRI TV research from this past year will be screened and also released.

The following are a number of the clips on the blood libel added to the archives in the past year that will be shown at this year’s event.



·  Top Hamas Official Osama Hamdan: Jews Use Blood For Passover Matzos

· Syrian Commentator Hussam Shoei’b: Zionists Burned Jordanian Pilot, Just Like They Knead Passover Matzos With Blood

· Former Jordanian MP Abd Al-Mun’im Abu Zant: Jews Permit Cannibalism, Use Human Blood In Passover Matzos

· Friday Sermon By Former Jordanian Minister: Jews Use Children’s Blood For Their Holiday Matzos


MEMRI TV Clip No. 4384

Top Hamas Official Osama Hamdan: Jews Use Blood For Passover Matzos

In a recent TV interview, Osama Hamdan, top Hamas representative in Lebanon and a member of the Hamas political bureau, said: “We all remember how the Jews used to slaughter Christians, in order to mix their blood in their holy matzos.”

Following is an excerpt from the interview, which aired on the Lebanese Al-Quds TV channel on July 28, 2014.

Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV

Osama Hamdan: “The Israelis concentrate on killing children. I believe that this is engraved in the historical Zionist and Jewish mentality, which has become addicted to the killing of women and children.


“We all remember how the Jews used to slaughter Christians, in order to mix their blood in their holy matzos. This is not a figment of imagination or something taken from a film. It is a fact, acknowledged by their own books and by historical evidence. It happened everywhere, here and there.”


View The Clip


MEMRI TV Clip No. 4775

Syrian Commentator Hussam Shoei’b: Zionists Burned Jordanian Pilot, Just Like They Knead Passover Matzos With Blood

Syrian commentator Hussam Shoei’b recently said that the immolation of the Jordanian pilot was “a clear demonstration of the barbarity of the Zionist entity,” adding: “In the past, they used to knead [Passover] matzos with human blood and eat them.” The statement was made on Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV on February 6, 2015.

Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV


Hussam Shoei’b: “What is being done by all these criminal gangs – ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham, and all these groups with their Islamic names – cannot even be labeled ‘Israeli.’ It is downright Talmudic. The immolation of the Jordanian pilot is a clear demonstration of the barbarity of the Zionist entity, and of the Talmud throughout history. One of their principles is that God can only be satiated by blood. In the past, they used to knead (Passover) matzos with human blood and eat them. This is exactly what is happening in Syria today for the whole world to see.”

View The Clip


MEMRI TV Clip No. 4498

Former Jordanian MP Abd Al-Mun’im Abu Zant: Jews Permit Cannibalism, Use Human Blood In Passover Matzos

Following are excerpts from an interview with former Jordanian MP Sheikh Abd Al-Mun’im Abu Zant, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on September 7, 2014:

Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV

Abd Al-Muni’m Abu Zant: “We have to understand the true nature of the Jews, because the entire world is deceived and tormented by them. The Holy Koran has revealed their true nature, as expressed by our masters, the prophets.



“One could go on forever about the deceptiveness of the Jews. They are liars. They allow cannibalism, and the eating of human flesh. Check their Talmud and religious sources. On their religious holidays, if they cannot find a Muslim to slaughter, and use drops of his blood to knead the matzos they eat, they slaughter a Christian in order to take drops of his blood, and mix it into the matzos that they eat on that holiday.”


View The Clip


MEMRI TV Clip No. 4454

Friday Sermon By Former Jordanian Minister: Jews Use Children’s Blood For Their Holiday Matzos

In a Friday sermon delivered in Amman, Jordan on August 22, 2014, Sheikh Bassam Ammoush said that the Jews slaughter children to use their blood for matzos. Ammoush, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader who was expelled from the organization in 1997, was appointed minister of administrative development that year, and became Jordan’s ambassador to Iran in 2001. In 2011, King Abdullah appointed him to the Jordanian Senate. The sermon aired on the official Jordanian TV channel.

Following is an excerpt:

Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV


Sheikh Bassam Ammoush: “In Gaza we are dealing with the enemies of Allah, who believe that the matzos that they bake on their holidays must be kneaded with blood. When the Jews were in the diaspora, they would murder children in England, in Europe, and in America. They would slaughter them and use their blood to make their matzos.

“So it should come as no surprise, after they occupied our lands, in complicity with the [Western] enemy… Now they have all these women and children in front of them, so it should come as no surprise. This is their faith.

“They believe that they are God’s chosen people. They believe that the killing of any human being is a form of worship and a means to draw near their god.”


View The Clip

Read bullet | 11 Comments »

Netanyahu: Iran Deal on Current Framework ‘Would Threaten the Survival of Israel’

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

After speaking with President Obama today about the framework agreement reached between the P5+1 and Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned “a deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel.”

“Just two days ago, Iran said that ‘the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable,’ and in these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement posted by the prime minister’s office.

“This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond,” he said. “Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it. It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.”

Netanyahu said the alternative is “standing firm and increasing the pressure on Iran until a better deal is achieved.”

The White House, in a readout of the call from Air Force One, said Obama “emphasized that, while nothing is agreed until everything is, the framework represents significant progress towards a lasting, comprehensive solution that cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and verifiably ensures the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward.”

“He underscored that progress on the nuclear issue in no way diminishes our concerns with respect to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and threats towards Israel and emphasized that the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to the security of Israel,” the administration said. “The President told the Prime Minister that he has directed his national security team to increase consultations with the new Israeli government about how we can further strengthen our long-term security cooperation with Israel and remain vigilant in countering Iran’s threats.”

While delivering a heated defense of the agreement earlier in the Rose Garden, Obama said, “It’s no secret that the Israeli prime minister and I don’t agree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue.”

“If, in fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option,” Obama added. “And I believe our nuclear experts can confirm that.”

Read bullet | 18 Comments »

‘Chamberlain Got a Better Deal from Hitler’: Key Senators Sound Off on Next Iran Steps

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said now that the Obama administration has reached a framework deal with Iran, it’s time for Congress to do its duty and take steps to weigh in.

Menendez’s statement didn’t go into details of the deal, though he’s previously spoken out about things that were included in it — from enrichment capability to the length of the deal to the folly of thinking that sanctions can be snapped back into place.

The senator said the plan announced by the administration “deserves rigorous review and analysis.”

“In the coming days, this preliminary understanding will receive close scrutiny, and for that reason, Congress must fulfill its oversight responsibilities. That begins with taking up on April 14 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” he said, referencing the Corker-Menendez bill that gained Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a co-sponsor last week.

“If diplomats can negotiate for two-years on this issue, then certainly Congress is entitled to a review period of an agreement that will fundamentally alter our relationship with Iran and the sanctions imposed by Congress,” Menendez continued. “The best outcome remains a good deal that ends Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program. That requires a strong, united, and bipartisan approach from the Administration and Congress.”

His co-sponsor on sanctions legislation, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), declared in a statement that “Neville Chamberlain got a better deal from Adolf Hitler.”

“Under today’s deal, the United States and its international partners will dismantle the sanctions regime against Iran, while Iran, the world’s biggest exporter of terrorism, will be allowed to keep vast capabilities to make nuclear weapons,” Kirk said.

Menendez’s co-sponsor on the review legislation, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said they “must remain clear-eyed regarding Iran’s continued resistance to concessions, long history of covert nuclear weapons-related activities, support of terrorism, and its current role in destabilizing the region.”

“If a final agreement is reached, the American people, through their elected representatives, must have the opportunity to weigh in to ensure the deal truly can eliminate the threat of Iran’s nuclear program and hold the regime accountable,” Corker said. “Rather than bypass Congress and head straight to the U.N. Security Council as planned, the administration first should seek the input of the American people.”

The chairman stressed “growing bipartisan support” for his bill. “I am confident of a strong vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes it up on April 14,” he said.

And the Democrat taking over Menendez’s top spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), stressed “there is no trust when it comes to Iran.”

“Congress has a role to play in this process and I look forward to reviewing all the details of this long-sought agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry and our allies have negotiated,” Cardin said.

Another key Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said he “will advocate that Congress have an appropriate role in scrutinizing this framework and any final agreement.”

“This framework may reflect progress towards stopping a nuclear-armed Iran – a vital national interest – but it must be carefully reviewed and assessed,” Blumenthal said. “As a supporter of strong and strengthening sanctions, I believe these strictly-enforced economic measures brought Iran to the table. My views on best next steps will depend on an in-depth review of the framework’s details.”

And yet another Dem, Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), said he looks “forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that Congress’ voice is heard in this process.”

“As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have urged Administration officials to not make any concessions on breakout timeline and capacity, centrifuge research and development, or the duration of any deal,” Coons said. “While I support the Administration’s efforts to seek a negotiated path towards ending Iran’s illicit nuclear program, I have also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who shot to mainstream media fame and MSNBC derision probably faster than any freshman senator after he helmed an open letter to the leaders of Iran, said “there is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons.”

“Iran will keep a stockpile of enriched uranium and thousands of centrifuges—including centrifuges at a fortified, underground military bunker at Fordow. Iran will also modernize its plutonium reactor at Arak. Iran won’t have to disclose the past military dimensions of its nuclear program, despite longstanding UN demands. In addition, Iran will get massive sanctions relief up front, making potential ‘snap-back’ sanctions for inevitable Iranian violations virtually impossible,” Cotton said.

“…These concessions also do nothing to stop or challenge Iran’s outlaw behavior.  Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.  Iranian aggression is destabilizing the Middle East.  And Iran continues to hold multiple Americans hostage.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) found it “unsettling” that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would remain in place. “Congress needs to weigh in on any decision to soften sanctions on a country whose leader has recently said ‘death to America,’ while simultaneously requesting additional nuclear capability,” Burr said. “This deal could lay the foundation for a nuclear arms race in the most unstable region in the world.”

Read bullet | 24 Comments »

‘We Will Continue Enriching’: Iran Deal Reached with ‘Comprehensive Lifting of All Sanctions,’ ‘Announced’ Inspections

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The P5+1 agreed to the “key parameters” of a nuclear deal with Iran after marathon talks in Switzerland, including “ceasing application” of all sanctions — a must-have demand of Iran at the negotiating table.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, appearing at a press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, said parties agreed to a “comprehensive lifting of all sanctions” in the deal that is “laying the agreed basis for the final text for the Joint Plan of Action.”

The deal will be for 10 years and allow Iran to keep about 6,000 centrifuges.

Mogherini said the agreement leaves “no other enrichment facility than Natanz” and allows International Atomic Energy Agency inspections that are “mutually agreed” upon.

Fordow will become “a nuclear physics and technology center,” she said. “There will not be any fissile material at Fordow.”

Construction of the Arak heavy water reactor will continue; Mogherini said it “will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.”

They agreed on a “set of measures to monitor provisions” of the deal, including “announced access” to permit IAEA inspections.

Iran will take part in civilian nuclear energy programs, she said, including international efforts on nuclear safety and security.

The European Union and the United States “will cease the application of all sanctions,” Mogherini said, upon verification by IAEA of implementation.

The deal reportedly includes a “snap-back” provision to reimpose EU and U.S. sanctions if Iran violates the deal, though congressional lawmakers have consistently pointed out that these sanctions regimes take months or years to take effect.

“None of those measures include closing our facilities; the proud people of Iran will not accept that. We will continue enriching,” Zarif declared. “…We will focus our enrichment in Natanz” and “focus on other activities” at Fordow while keeping centrifuges there.

“When we implement our measures, there will be no sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Zarif stressed “there is an agreement that all Security Council resolutions will be terminated.”

President Obama emerged in the Rose Garden to declare victory on his “historic agreement” with Iran.

“If this framework leads to a final comprehensive deal it will make our country, our allies and our world safer,” Obama said. “…Because of our diplomatic efforts, the world stood with us.”

“It is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives” and cuts off “every pathway” to a nuclear weapon. “If Iran cheats, the world will know it.”

Obama said the sanctions relief will be “phased” without being clear on a timeline. Iran insisted on no less than sanctions relief as soon as the deal is signed.

He protested against a sanctions regime as something that has made Iran “not capitulate,” and argued against military action, stating that Iran won’t give up its nuclear weapons “because we command it to do so.”

The president generally addressed the “inevitable critics” of the deal, saying they should ask if it’s a “worse option than another war in the Middle East.”

Obama said he would be calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later today and called Saudi King Salman earlier.

“In the coming days and weeks my administration will engage Congress once again,” he said, promising lobbying against Iran bills likely to come to the floor after recess, calling the deal “bigger than politics, these are matters of war and peace.”

“This is not simply a deal between my administration and Iran,” Obama said. “If Congress kills this deal… then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. International unity will collapse.”

Obama’s remarks were carried live on state TV in Iran.

Secretary of State John Kerry waited until after Obama spoke to deliver remarks in Switzerland, calling the agreement a “solid foundation for the good deal we are seeking.”

“Simply demanding that Iran capitulate makes a nice soundbite, but is not a policy,” Kerry said, adding he has “no illusion that we have a ways to travel before we arrive at the destination we seek.”

“I sincerely hope that members will continue to give us the time and space that we need to explain the agreement that we’ve reached,” he said of congressional efforts.

Neither Obama nor Kerry mentioned the four Americans held in Iran: Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, and Bob Levinson.

Read bullet | 53 Comments »

Syrian Rebel Group Ahrar al-Sham Executes Christians in “Liberated” Idlib

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Patrick Poole

A report from a Christian human rights group in Syria claims that the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) executed two Christian men for violating Islamic law after the capture of the city of Idlib last week. Idlib is a regional capital in northwest Syria.

MCN News reported yesterday:

According to the Assyrian Observatory for Human Rights in the city of Idlib in northern Syria, an armed group called Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement executed two citizens in the city Tuesday, Elias Naguib, 83, and his son, Nael Elias, 44. The two citizens were owners of a liquor store. The incident took place on Saturday, March 28, 2015, in the city of Idlib in northern Syria.

Remarkably, the New York Times erroneously reported on Sunday that Jabhat al-Nusra had been responsible for the killings, and that Ahrar al-Sham had set up checkpoints to protect Christians in the newly “liberated” city:

Tensions are already evident in Idlib over the treatment of Christians, a bellwether issue. Two activists, who asked not to be identified out of fear for their safety, said that foreign fighters from Nusra had killed two Christians after hearing they worked in a liquor store.

They said that fighters from Ahrar al-Sham had rebuked the foreigners and set up checkpoints to protect Christians from them.

Abdullah Mohamad Al-Muhaisini, a Saudi Islamic law jurist traveling with the fighters, used Twitter to construct a complex argument against killing Christians who do not resist.

Not killing Christians is apparently a “complex” issue. But NYT reporter Anne Barnard took to Twitter yesterday to correct the record and clarify that Ahrar al-Sham was being fingered for the killings:

Reuters reported earlier today on an audio released by the head of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, promising to bring Islamic law to Idlib:

What makes the reported role of Ahrar al-Sham in these executions noteworthy is that the group has been the darling of the Washington D.C. foreign-policy think-tank community.

As I noted here at PJ Media a few weeks ago, in January 2014 former Bush and Obama administration officials took to the pages of Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the Council on Foreign Relations, to debate “The Good and Bad of Ahrar al-Sham,” contending that the U.S. needed to “befriend” the Syrian jihadist group as some kind of counter to more extreme jihadist groups, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and deeming this jihadist group, “an Al Qaeda affiliate worth befriending”:

Ahrar al-Sham1Yet, Ahrar al-Sham joined forces with Jabhat al-Nusra in the taking of Idlib. As I previously noted, at the time they wrote this, one of Ahrar al-Sham’s top leaders was a lieutenant for al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri who openly declared himself a member of al-Qaeda. After most of their leadership was wiped out in a bombing in September, they gravitated closer to the jihadist groups they were supposed to counter and their positions have been bombed by the U.S. – much to the consternation of other “vetted moderate” rebel groups.

The jihadist takeover of the important city of Idlib gives additional evidence that the war encouraged by the Obama administration and the bipartisan DC think-tank cheerleaders is most likely far from over, compounding the misery of the Syrian people all around.

And while the execution of these two Christians is just a drop in the ocean of blood spilled in this conflict, that the crime was committed by the darlings of the DC think-tank community demonstrates that those who encouraged befriending “moderate Al-Qaeda” either: 1) have no earthly idea what they’re doing or whom they’re supporting, or; 2) have no reservations about supporting objective evil.

Read bullet | Comments »

Iran Says Talks Now ‘Very Difficult’: P5+1′s ‘Will Has Always Been in Trouble’

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Iran’s foreign minister told reporters today that, after an extension of the framework deadline and marathon hours at the negotiating table, “the opposite party’s political will has always been in trouble.”

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that Zarif complained negotiations have grown “very difficult.”

Iranian officials told Press TV yesterday that they’d essentially gotten what they want on sanctions save for a few sticking points. Over the past few weeks, various officials in Iran — including the senior nuclear negotiator, a supermajority of parliament, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — have said there will be no concessions from Tehran on sanctions and demanded all sanctions on the Islamic Republic be lifted before Iran signs a deal.

But Fars quoted an anonymous official saying this morning that “despite their earlier indications that they are ready to remove the sanctions, the US and France have once again shifted course.”

“The Iranian team has taken several goodwill measures to work out a deal, but the United States and France insist on keeping the pressures in place despite the Geneva interim deal which envisaged a removal of the sanctions under a final agreement between Iran and the world powers,” the source said, according to Fars.

Iran’s deputy lead negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi told Iran’s Channel One that “progress has been made with regard to the removal of the sanctions, but it is not complete yet.”

He also added that a framework deal would be presented as nothing more than a “press release on the progresses made in the negotiations.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that “progress is being made” at the Switzerland talks, but insisted the U.S. is ready to “walk away” if need be as “these conversations are not open-ended.”

“While the talks have been productive, we have not yet received the specific tangible commitment that the international community seeks,” Earnest said.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius walked away from the negotiating table early this morning. “He will come back as soon as it’s useful,” a spokesman said, according to Reuters.

“The socialist government of France is drawing a harder line than the president is right now,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox last night. “The president needs to stop, take stock of the mistakes that got us to this point and work with Congress to re-impose tougher sanctions so we can once again negotiate from a position of strength, not of weakness.”

Read bullet | 8 Comments »

Netanyahu, Boehner Meet ‘Where States are Imploding and Fanaticism Is Exploding’

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson


House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the halls of Congress last month despite the firestorm of White House objections, and today Netanyahu welcomed Boehner to Jerusalem.

“Your visit is an opportunity for me to thank you and your colleagues from both Houses of Congress and from both sides of the aisle for the warm welcome you gave me in the U.S. Capitol. And today it’s my great pleasure to welcome you and your delegation to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel and the capital of the Jewish people for three thousand years,” Netanyahu said at the start of their meeting.

Bibi said the U.S.-Israel bond is more important than ever as the Middle East is “plagued by anti-Western, anti-democratic and anti-American extremism.”

“Terrorists brutally behead their shackled captives before video cameras. Despots lead their people in chants of ‘death to America’ while building intercontinental ballistic missiles to reach America,” he added in a nod to ISIS and Iran.

“In this violent and unstable region, where states are imploding and fanaticism is exploding, one thing remains rock solid: Our friendship, our alliance, our partnership. It makes both our countries stronger. It makes both our countries safer. And it’s the anchor for our shared hopes for peace and stability in this region.”

Netanyahu also quipped that, as one of 12 children, Boehner “came to the right place: We are the descendants of the twelve children of Jacob, also known as Israel.”

Boehner has spent five days since Congress recessed for spring break traveling through the Middle East, meeting with U.S. allies.

“And regardless of where in the Middle East we’ve been, the message has been the same. You can’t continue to turn your eye away from the threats that face all of us,” Boehner said. “And as you said, the bonds between the United States and Israel are as strong as ever. Our two countries cooperate on many different levels. And while we may have political disagreements from time to time, the bonds between our two nations are strong and they’re going to continue to be strong.”

“It’s been an historic trip, and frankly it’s an historic opportunity to be here in Israel at this time.”

In Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Boehner sat down with the Interior and Defense ministers to express “our appreciation and full support for the campaign the Saudis are leading to defeat the Houthis in Yemen.”

“Looking at the trends of instability and violence in the region, we also discussed the need for an overarching strategy to defeat the terrorist threat,” Boehner said in a statement on the meeting.

In Iraq on Monday, Boehner sat down with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss how the U.S. “must carefully manage the mission to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL to ensure it does not come at the expense of ceding Iraq’s strategic independence to Iran, which does not seek to keep the country whole.”

In Jordan on Sunday, Boehner met with King Abdullah and Queen Rania. “We share the belief that defeating ISIL and stopping the spread of the terrorist threat will require a comprehensive approach,” Boehner said.

Joining Boehner in the delegation are Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East & North Africa and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, & Human Services, and a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water, Martha Roby (R-Ala.), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction & Veterans Affairs, and George Holding (R-N.C.), a member of the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Oversight.

Read bullet | Comments »

Did the U.S. Just Give Iran What They Wanted on Immediate Sanctions Relief?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

As CNN reports that France is threatening to walk away from the P5+1 talks, Iran’s Press TV is reporting that Iran has secured its demand of getting sanctions lifted when an agreement is signed.

Over the past few weeks, various officials in Iran — including the senior nuclear negotiator, a supermajority of parliament, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — have said there will be no concessions from Tehran on sanctions and demanded all sanctions on the Islamic Republic be lifted before Iran signs a deal.

Now, Hamid Baeidinejad, the director general for political and international security affairs at Iran’s Foreign Ministry and a senior member of the negotiating team, tells his home country’s media that they were successful.

“Sanctions have many aspects, there are unilateral sanctions, US sanctions, EU sanctions, UNSC sanctions… I should say that many of these aspects have been resolved, but still there are some limited areas that also need to be resolved, and we are now concentrating on those remaining technical aspects with regard to the sanctions,” Baeidinejad told Press TV.

The report said Baeidinejad “added that oil, gas, and banking sanctions will be lifted as soon as a comprehensive deal is implemented, noting, ‘The termination of oil sanctions, gas sanctions, financial banking… many of them have been resolved… But still there are a limited number of areas that are still under negotiations, which we hope we can resolve them and then we can admit that the whole issue of sanctions is resolved.’”

“We are now concentrating on some limited aspects of issues related to the overall sanctions, particularly sanctions of the UNSC, and only we are concentrating on those limited aspects now,” Baeidinejad added, according to the report.

The deadline for a framework agreement was supposed to be today, but it was extended by a day.

France has recently criticized the rush to a deadline as incentive to rush into a bad deal, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has insisted his country “wants an agreement, but a robust one that really guarantees that Iran can have access to civilian nuclear power, but not the atomic bomb.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t get into details of negotiations today, stressing “nothing is agreed to until every element of the agreement has been agreed to.”

Earnest did tell reporters today that they still favor “the phased reduction in sanctions after Iran over a period of time demonstrates sustained commitment to the agreement.”

“And that is the way that we believe the agreement should be structured. There’s not — there’s some difference of agreement about this in Iran. Iran would like to see those sanctions removed right away, because they’re having a debilitation impact on their economy,” he said.

“But the United States, again, given Iran’s past history, and their questionable compliance with previous international agreements, we’re gonna make sure that Iran demonstrates sustained compliance to the agreement before we even contemplate removing the kinds of congressional sanctions that have been so effective in compelling Iran to the negotiating table.”

Read bullet | 15 Comments »

Poll: American Support for 2 State Solution in Israel Hits 20 Year Low

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Stephen Kruiser

So much for that story.

Support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at nearly a 20-year low among Americans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Only 39 percent of respondents in the poll expressed support for a two-state solution, down from 58 percent in 2003, according to a Gallup Poll.

It is worth noting that Politico is running a huge picture of a Code Pink anti-Israel protest. That’s a powerful, not-so-subtle attempt to undermine the very news in the post running below the picture.

Also, it’s rather difficult to ascertain if Americans are losing hope, realizing that this is a part of the world that will always be in turmoil.

One thing is certain: the relationship between the United States and Israel is going to need a lot of repair when President Fundamentally Transform finally exits the arena. If he stays around to muck up the works like Jimmy Carter has all these years, things may never be patched up.

Read bullet | 11 Comments »

Obama Lifts ‘Executive Holds’ on Military Deliveries to Egypt

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House said President Obama told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi today that he’s lifting blocks on military deliveries that were put in place after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.

The move comes as el-Sisi, former commander of the country’s armed forces, racked up support for his idea of a joint Arab force.

According to al-Ahram, Algeria and Iraq have “reservations” going into Sunday’s start of meetings on the joint force. El-Sisi first called for the force after ISIS slaughtered 20 Coptic Christians in February, but the proposal picked up steam as Saudi Arabia hustled together nine allies to attack Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Operation Decisive Storm.

The White House said Obama spoke with el-Sisi today “regarding the U.S.-Egyptian military assistance relationship and regional developments, including in Libya and Yemen.”

“President Obama informed President al-Sisi that he will lift executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits. The President also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt. Beginning in fiscal year 2018, the President noted that we will channel U.S. security assistance for Egypt to four categories – counterterrorism, border security, Sinai security, and maritime security – and for sustainment of weapons systems already in Egypt’s arsenal,” said a readout of the call.

“The President explained that these and other steps will help refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests in an unstable region, consistent with the longstanding strategic partnership between our two countries.”

As the administration has consistently put in a plug for “inclusiveness” from the Egyptian government — the Muslim Brotherhood is banned — the relationship between Washington and Cairo has suffered.

“President Obama also reiterated U.S. concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials,” the White House continued. “He encouraged increased respect for freedom of speech and assembly and emphasized that these issues remain a focus for the United States. The two leaders agreed to stay in touch in the weeks and months ahead.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t commit today to U.S. support for a joint Arab force.

It would “obviously depend a lot on how, what sort of — what the command structure looks like, how decisions would be made about deploying the force,” Earnest told reporters.

“Obviously, the United States has strong relationships and in some cases even strong military to military relationships with many of the countries that have entered into this, you know, broad agreement,” he added. “So, we’re obviously going to watch closely what additional steps the countries take to put this together. It’s obviously something that we will watch closely and have conversations about.”

The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying it “regrets the situation” in Yemen “and the unfortunate developments in our country as a result of political parties failing to reach a mutually-acceptable political solution, due to the insistence of some parties to resort to use of force to resolve differences.”

Read bullet | Comments »

California Dem: ‘Push the Politics Out of This,’ Pass New Sanctions on Bad Iran Deal

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A California Democrat warned that an Iran deal would have to be “spectacularly good” — and “I’m not hearing that at all,” added Rep. Brad Sherman — for Congress to change course on Iran sanctions.

The deadline for a framework with Iran is today. Congress returns from spring break in two weeks.

“So the most the president will be able to deliver is that he’ll suspend the sanctions for the rest of his presidency and when we get a new president, and we’ll have to see who that is and what their platform is,” Sherman told MSNBC.

He acknowledged that the power to override President Obama’s expected veto rests on the shoulders of his party.

“I would hope that Congress would push the politics and the personalities out of this, and evaluate the deal,” he said. “And if it’s a bad deal, pass new sanctions.”

Sherman stressed that “anything is better than returning” to a policy of doing “nothing to sanction Iran and Iran went full speed ahead with their centrifuges,” as in the past.

“If this deal breaks apart, we can’t just walk away, do nothing and say, well, the sanctions that were strong enough to quote, bring Iran to the table will be sufficient to get them to suspend their program,” he said. “Obviously, if these talks break down, it’s proof that that wasn’t the case. So if the talks don’t go forward, we need a new program. We can’t just continue what we’re doing.”

There is broad unity in Congress about having a voice in any final deal with Iran.

“It sounds like it’s going to get pushed now, again, to June about, you know, the number of centrifuges, inspections monitoring where the stockpiles that they currently have go,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told Fox this morning. “But I think the really important thing to focus on is the breakout period and that’s how long would it take for Iran to acquire a nuclear capability. That’s going to be of great interest to the Saudis and the Egyptians, everybody in the region.”

“…You’ve heard now the administration saying it may go to the United Nations to get this thing ratified or approved. And that would be a big mistake, because Congress does represent the collective voices of the American people who I think have great concerns and should about what this might mean, not only to the region and a lot of our allies, but certainly, obviously, the national security interests of the United States, as well.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Ad Warns Obama Not to Go All Neville Chamberlain on Iran

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s This World: The Values Network took out a last-minute ad warning President Obama against running down the path of appeasement in last-minute nuclear talks with Iran:


Boteach has been leading a full-court press against the Islamic Republic, with a February ad featuring Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel imploring Congress to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session, followed a couple of weeks later by an ad warning that National Security Advisor Susan Rice “has a blind spot” when it comes to genocide.

Wiesel then appeared on the Hill at the beginning of the month with Boteach, where he warned, “When our enemies make threats, take them seriously.”

The new ad ran in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

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.”

Read bullet | Comments »

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.”

Read bullet | Comments »

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.

Read bullet | 5 Comments »

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.”




Read bullet | Comments »

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.”

Read bullet | Comments »

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.

Read bullet | 6 Comments »

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.

Read bullet | Comments »

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.”

Read bullet | 16 Comments »

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:

Read bullet | Comments »

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’.”

Read bullet | 12 Comments »

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. 


Read bullet | 54 Comments »

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.”

Read bullet | Comments »

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.”

Read bullet | 30 Comments »