01/28/15
Snowed In

Watcher’s Council Nominations – Snowed In Edition

The Watcher’s Council

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-rqm3xursN8A/VMZUg-wsb3I/AAAAAAABqDc/beJ75C6IVPY/s1600/Boston%2Bsnow.jpg

Welcome to the Watcher’s Council, a blogging group consisting of some of the most incisive blogs in the ‘sphere and the longest running group of its kind in existence. Every week, the members nominate two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. Then we vote on the best two posts, with the results appearing on Friday morning.

Council News:

The Council In Action!

*Terresa Monroe-Hamilton of The Noisy Room was quoted quoted from coast to coast on Christian radio for a post at Right Wing News: For God and country’ recruiting poster was ordered removed by the US Army; ‘God’ is a problem in Obama’s military

*This week, Trevor Loudon, Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion, The Political Commentator and The Pirate’s Cove earned honorable mention status with some great articles.

You can, too! Want to see your work appear on the Watcher’s Council homepage in our weekly contest listing? Didn’t get nominated by a Council member? No worries.

To bring something to my attention, simply head over to Joshuapundit and post the title and a link to the piece you want considered along with an email address (mandatory, but of course it won’t be published) in the comments section no later than Monday 6 PM PST in order to be considered for our honorable mention category. Then return the favor by creating a post on your site linking to the Watcher’s Council contest for the week when it comes out on Wednesday morning.

Simple, no?

It’s a great way of exposing your best work to Watcher’s Council readers and Council members while grabbing the increased traffic and notoriety. And how good is that, eh?

So, let’s see what we have for you this week…

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Enjoy! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter… ’cause we’re cool like that! And don’t forget to tune in Friday for the results!

01/27/15
Trey Gowdy

Chairman Gowdy Questions State Department and CIA at Benghazi Select Committee Hearing

State Dept Benghazi Witness Gets Grilled About His Criticism Of Conservatives

Gowdy Opening Statement at Benghazi Select Committee Hearing

Letter of response from Chairman Gowdy and Statement from the Communications Director on release of letters by Democrats

Democrats accuse GOP of breaking promises on Benghazi panel

01/27/15
The Russian Bear

Oil Prices Changing The Face Of Global Geopolitics

In a documentary that aired recently on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s popular The Fifth Estate program, an allegory of Vladimir Putin was presented. The wily Russian president was described growing up in a shabby St. Petersburg apartment, where he would often corner rats.

Now, punished by low oil prices and Western sanctions against Russian incursions in Ukraine/ Crimea, Putin is himself the cornered rat. Many wonder, and fear, what he will do if conditions in Russia become increasingly desperate.

In the last six months oil prices have plunged over 50 percent and the Russian economy is hurting. The country now faces slowing economic growth, a depressed ruble, and runaway inflation estimated to be up to 150 percent on basic foodstuffs.

The Kremlin is counting on austerity cuts to help balance its budget, which has revenues coming in at $45 billion lower than earlier projections. The exception, significantly, is defense. With the military exempted from the austerity plan, it begs the question of whether Putin will “play the nationalist card,” such as he did in Crimea, in an effort to strengthen greater Russia during a period of economic weakness.

Georgia On His Mind

We are already seeing this to be the case. As Oilprice.com reported on Tuesday, Putin is set to absorb South Ossetia – Georgia’s breakaway republic that declared itself independent in 1990. Under an agreement “intended to legalize South Ossetia’s integration with Russia,” Russia would invest 2.8 million rubles (US$50 million) to “fund the socio-economic development of South Ossetia,” according to Agenda.GE, a Tbilisi-based news site.

The situation is analogous to Crimea because, like Crimea, South Ossetia contains a significant Russian-speaking population with ties to the Motherland.

If Putin succeeds in annexing the tiny province, it will be a real poke in the eye to the United States, which provoked Russia in the early 1990s by promoting construction of a pipeline between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia. The BTC pipeline moves oil from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then onward to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

BTC started operating in 2006. Then, two years later, Putin built his own pipeline to cut out Georgia. The South Ossetia pipeline run by Gazprom stretches 75 kilometers from South Ossetia to Russia.

The current move on South Ossetia is a way for Russia to assert its energy independence in the face of Western sanctions and low oil prices.

It comes as Russia announced plans to divert all of its natural gas crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey. As Bloomberg reported last week, Gazprom will send 63 billion cubic meters through a proposed link under the Black Sea to Turkey – after the earlier South Stream pipeline, a $45-billion project that would have crossed Bulgaria, was scrapped by Russia amid opposition from the European Union. By sending the gas to Turkey and on to Europe via Greece, Gazprom is in effect sending Europe an ultimatum: build pipelines to European markets, or we will sell the gas to other customers.

According to one observer, the proposed land grab in South Ossetia combined with the snub to Europe by shifting its gas to Turkey and bypassing Ukraine, is a classic Putin power play:

“Russia is preparing to absorb a province of neighboring Georgia, and delivering an ultimatum to Europe that it could lose much of the Russian gas on which it relies,” Steve LeVine writes in Quartz. “Putin has argued that the west is simply intent on ousting him and weakening Russia… Faced with these perceived attempts to undercut him and his country, Putin suggests that he has no choice but to pull around the wagons and stick it out. This could go on a long time.”

Iran: Falling Oil Prices Spur Peace Dividend

Some have speculated that the oil price crash was orchestrated by the Saudis, possibly in collusion with the United States and other Gulf states, to punish Iran, its main political and religious rival in the Middle East.

Whether or not that is true, there is no denying the effects of a low oil price on Iran’s economy. “Iran is already missing tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue due to Western sanctions and years of economic mismanagement under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” Bloomberg reported on Jan. 7. Like Russia, Iran is looking at spending cuts in next year’s budget, which is based on an overly-optimistic $72 a barrel crude oil price.

However, unlike Russia, which is “circling the wagons” and pulling further away from the West currently, the oil price drop could actually lead to more of a détente between Iran and Western countries. In a speech on Jan. 4, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s economy “cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world,” while at the same time, Iran’s foreign minister was negotiating a nuclear deal that could see the lifting of UN sanctions, the Washington Post observed.

Then there is the cooperation between the West and Iran over the terrorist group ISIS. The National Post’s J.L. Granatsein wrote in a column on Tuesday that Iran has deployed substantial numbers of its Revolutionary Guard elite Al Qods brigade into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, along with Western allies including the US, Britain, France and Canada. This is despite Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria’s president Assad.

“Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed, but not much can be stranger than this. Led by the Americans, hitherto the Great Satan to the Iranian leaders, the ties between the West and Iran are becoming tighter, each side reacting to the horrors of Islamist fundamentalism throughout the region,” Granatsein writes. “The Iranians have been hurt by sanctions, and they are being wracked even more by the falling price of oil. Easing curbs on trade and Iranian banks may mitigate the effects of the oil price collapse.”

Venezuela Bracing For The Worst

The other major loser in the oil price collapse, Venezuela, may not see such a positive outcome. Wracked by decades of economic mismanagement by Hugo Chávez, the South American oil producer was already struggling to pay its debts when new president Nicolás Maduro came to power.

Now, with inflation running at 60 percent and lines forming outside state grocery stores for food and other basic supplies, Maduro faces the specter of serious social unrest if conditions do not improve. The country has some of the world’s cheapest gasoline prices, but Maduro has refused to end fuel subsidies, fearing, no doubt, a repeat of widespread riots in 1989 that left hundreds dead after gasoline prices were allowed to rise.

Venezuela is even more dependent than Russia on the price of oil, earning some 96 percent of its foreign currency from oil sales, putting Maduro in the untenable position of either borrowing more, despite crushing debts, or slashing spending:

“With only $20 billion left in its reserves, and $50 billion in debt to China alone, Venezuela appears headed toward a choice between abandoning its oil giveaways and defaulting on its debts, or starving its own population to the point of revolt,” according to the Washington Post.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Crushing-The-U.S.-Energy-Export-Dream.html

By Andrew Topf for Oilprice.com

01/27/15
Gary Sinise

Gary Sinise dresses down Howard Dean

By: James Simpson
DC Independent Examiner


Perhaps we should give Howard Dean a break. He is a serial liar and goes off on unhinged rants based on “facts” with no more connection to reality than Disneyland. His behavior can often only be described as lunatic. So perhaps we should just pity the obviously deranged man, say a prayer for him to be restored to sanity, or at least the proper balance of meds.

Anyway, feeling it necessary to weigh in on the great American film, “American Sniper,” Dean said, “There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry.” He added, “I bet you if you looked at the cross-section of the tea party and people who see this movie there’s a lot of intersection…”

Now before we react, let’s remember that “American Sniper” is a movie about the heroic acts and hardships faced by Chris Kyle, our nation’s top-rated sniper. It accurately portrays his anguish about duty to country vs duty to his family. I can guarantee you Howard Dean never suffered such conflicts. Dean, like most Democrats, is only anguished when not getting his way – and collapses in episodes of screaming and temper tantrums when this happens. He’s a spoiled, selfish yuppie without the charm.

Actor Gary Sinise, who has done a lot for America’s veterans, had a quick response to Dean that was priceless:

To Howard Dean, I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person. You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Do you also suggest that everyone at Warner Brothers is angry because they released the film? That Clint Eastwood, Jason Hall, Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and the rest of the cast and crew are angry because they made the film? Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?

Yes Howard, what the Hell are you talking about? But there is truth to what Dean says. I am angry right now. I become so every time I hear a phony, fraud, corrupt, self-serving, slime ball like Howard Dean disgracing our country, its heroes and its people with spiteful, dishonest invective. It is a reminder – and we get more than enough every single day with the Zero-in-Chief – that Dean, Obama and people like them are literally destroying our country before our eyes, while shoving our tax dollars in their pockets as fast as they can. So in that sense, I guess maybe Dean has a point after all. I rarely take time to listen to these idiots, but when I do, I guess I understand Dean better, because I feel in need of meds myself.

01/27/15
Bobby Jindal

A No-go Zone for Truth

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

Accurately reporting on no-go zones dominated by Muslims in Europe is now a no-go zone. Our media have made a mess of the whole issue and are now afraid to dig themselves out. What a disgrace and disservice to news consumers.

Jumping on the pile, the left-wing Politico has published a story accusing Louisiana Republican Governor and possible presidential candidate Bobby Jindal of telling a “lie” about the no-go zones by saying they exist. But the story is itself based on a lie. Things are so twisted that Politico is doing the lying by denying that the no-go zones exist. How did we get in such a mess?

Let’s understand that the method in this madness is to accommodate the radical Muslim lobby and demonize politicians who talk about the jihad problem.

First of all, the evidence shows that the zones or areas do exist. We cited evidence for them, and numerous other outlets have done so as well. The confusion stems from a Fox News apology over the matter that should never have been made.

Steve Emerson made a mistake on one Fox show in saying that “in Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”

Acknowledging his error, Emerson tells WorldNetDaily that he is nevertheless appalled that the media have now decided that any and all reporting on no-go zones is wrong. “It’s outrageous for media outlets to apologize, saying ‘no-go zones’ don’t exist in Europe, when even the New York Times for years has published articles documenting Muslim ‘no-go zones’ do exist in European countries like France,” he tells WND reporter Jerome Corsi.

Corsi notes that “NBC News, the New York Times, the Associated Press and others were using the term ‘no-go’ zones for Muslim-majority neighborhoods in Paris when Muslim youth gangs were rampaging through the streets and setting cars on fire.”

We made the same point in our treatment of the issue, noting that Fox News suddenly altered its reporting of the Muslim riots in France in 2005, determining them to be “civil riots” instead. We saw then the power of the Islamists to alter Fox’s coverage.

Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz had a great opportunity on his Sunday show “Media Buzz” to set the record straight. Instead of confronting his own channel over the unnecessary apology, Kurtz praised CNN’s Anderson Cooper for making the same kind of apology. But then he mentioned that other outlets have been reporting on the no-go zones for years. So an apology wasn’t necessary after all! “The subject is complicated,” he said. No it’s not. Just tell the truth.

If all of this is unnecessarily confusing, it’s clearly because of the unnecessary Fox apology. It was a political apology. There is no other explanation. It is this kind of pandering that is becoming a pattern at Fox, which had earlier yanked anchor Bret Baier from a Catholic conference under pressure from the homosexual lobby.

Liberal special interest groups should not have this kind of influence on a news organization, especially one claiming “fair and balanced” coverage that is also supposed to be accurate.

Journalism 101 teaches that corrections or apologies are called for when errors are made. Since no-go areas do in fact exist, according to numerous sources, no apology was necessary. Yet, Fox News offered the view that since the no-go zones are not “specific” or “formal” entities, they really don’t exist. Fox was wrong. This is complete nonsense and a gross distortion of the concept.

Robert Spencer makes the observation, “The Fox apology is all the more curious in light of the fact that others, even on the Left, have noticed the no-go zones in France before some Fox commentators began talking about them in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.”

Citing just one example of many, he notes that David Ignatius had written in The New York Times back in 2002, “Yet Arab gangs regularly vandalize synagogues here, the North African suburbs have become no-go zones at night, and the French continue to shrug their shoulders.”

Spencer notes that Fox’s apology “only plays into the hands of leftists and Islamic supremacists who have a vested interest in rendering people ignorant and complacent about the reality of what is going on in these areas.”

He suggests that Fox “apologize for its apology.” That would perhaps further confuse matters, but it is the right thing to do.

Without an apology for the apology, those who apologize for the Islamization of Europe like Arif Rafiq will continue to claim, as he did in Politico, that Jindal, by even discussing the no-go zones, “has been repeating a lie that even Fox News was forced to apologize for.” The Fox News correction, or apology, though unwarranted, is now being cited as the media standard.

Politico headlined the piece, “Bobby Jindal’s Muslim Problem,” as if the governor has a bias against Muslims. So a Fox News apology has now been transformed into an indictment of a conservative political figure. Soon, Jindal will be denounced as an “Islamophobe,” another smear term used by the radical Islam lobby.

The liberal media won’t believe any of Fox’s normal day-to-day reports. But when the channel claims to have made an error that makes the rest of the media look good by comparison, that suddenly becomes the truth and the channel has to be believed. This is how reality is turned upside down.

The real story is why Fox made this unnecessary correction. The clout of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Council on American-Islamic Relations is the most likely explanation. Fox has undermined its own credibility by apologizing for something that was true. It is bizarre and was absolutely unnecessary.

Pamela Geller is correct that the major media are “failing us.” It’s terribly tragic that at a time when we were depending on one channel, Fox, to tell the truth, it has failed us, too.

01/26/15
Israel

A Corollary

Arlene from Israel

Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, with regard to his speaking to Congress:

“In coming weeks, the powers are liable to reach a framework agreement with Iran, an agreement liable to leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state.

“As prime minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weaponry that will be aimed at the State of Israel. This effort is global and I will go anywhere I am invited to make the State of Israel’s case and defend its future and existence.” (Emphasis added)

http://www.timesofisrael.com/amid-row-over-invite-pm-says-hell-go-anywhere-to-speak-against-iran/

~~~~~~~~~~

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, spoke yesterday as well, and he said (emphasis added):

The prime minister’s visit is “intended for one purpose: To speak up while there is still time to speak up. To speak up when there is still time to make a difference.”

Thus, it is Netanyahu’s “most sacred duty to do whatever he can to prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons that can be aimed at Israel.

“For Israel, a nuclear armed Iran would be a clear and present danger. Iran’s regime is both committed to Israel’s destruction and working toward Israel’s destruction.”

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israels-us-envoy-pms-planned-congress-speech-a-sacred-duty/
Ron Dermer (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Couldn’t be much clearer and unambiguous than this.

~~~~~~~~~~

And then we have Boehner’s response to the flap that has ensued following his invitation to the prime minister:

There’s nobody in the world who can [better] talk about the threat of radical terrorism — nobody can [better] talk about the threat the Iranians pose, not just to the Middle East and to Israel… but to the entire world — than Bibi (Benjamin) Netanyahu.”

Boehner went on to say he did not believe Obama was giving that threat the attention it deserved.

“The president didn’t spend but a few seconds (in his State of the Union address last week) talking about the threat, the terrorist threat that we as Americans face.

This problem is growing all over the world…the president is trying to act as though it’s not there, but it is there and it’s going to be a threat to our homeland if we don’t address it in a bigger way.” (Emphasis added)

http://www.timesofisrael.com/boehner-we-gave-white-house-heads-up-on-netanyahu/

Boehner has further said, by the way, that he did not “blindside” the White House, as he has been accused of doing.  He gave Obama “heads up” before news about the invitation to Netanyahu hit the press.

~~~~~~~~~~

But so insane is the election fever here, that everything is subject to attack.  The following column by Uri Avnery written just two days ago is so shockingly perverse that I simply had to call attention to it:

“…Two Israeli drones have bombed (or missiled) a small Hezbollah convoy, a few miles beyond the border with Syria on the Golan heights. 12 people were killed. One was an Iranian general. One was a very young Hezbollah officer, the son of Imad Mughniyeh…

“The killing of the Iranian general was perhaps unintended….

“The intended victim of the attack was the 25-year old Jihad Mughniyeh, a junior Hezbollah officer whose only claim to fame was his family name.

“IMMEDIATELY AFTER the killing, the question arose: Why? Why now? Why at all?

“The Israeli-Syrian border (or, rather, cease-fire line) has been for decades the quietest border of Israel. No shooting. No incidents. Nothing.

“SO WHY did Israeli drones hit a small convoy of Assad’s allies – Hezbollah and Iran? It is very unlikely that they had any aggressive intentions against Israel. Probably they were scouting the terrain in search of Syrian rebels.

“The Israeli government and the army did not explain. How could they, when they did not officially admit to the action? Even unofficially, there was no hint.

“But there is an elephant in the room: the Israeli elections.

“We are now in the middle of the election campaign. Was there, could there be, any connection between the election campaign and the attack?

“You bet!”

http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1422014990/

~~~~~~~~~~

WHAT?!! We have here a prime example of the morally corrupt and totally perverse position of the far left.  How shameful this is.

In terms of information, it is full of holes.  Jihad Mughniyeh’s claim to fame was NOT just his family name: he headed a terrorist cell directly funded by Iran that had already launched attacks.

And to say that it was “very unlikely that they [the convoy] had any aggressive intentions against Israel. Probably they were scouting the terrain in search of Syrian rebels”?  Does he truly imagine that even though a general from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was present, there was no ill intent towards Israel?  That Iran sends out a general to scout for rebels?

Nor is it true that the border with Syria has been consistently quiet. That was once the case, but no longer is.

Gush Shalom – which ran Avnery’s article – promotes “peace” based on all of the Palestinian Arab demands, including “right of return,” which means this is a group that supports the destruction of Israel.  It is beyond the pale. Uri Avnery is a founding member.

And this is what our prime minister must contend with, on his far left flank, as he works to defend the State and keep her safe.

~~~~~~~~~~

Now I turn to an article – “Israeli strike in Syria: A move in an unfinished game” – regarding that convoy in the Golan, written by the highly informed Jonathan Spyer (emphasis added):

”Firstly, the killings were a response to a clear attempt by the Iranians/Hezbollah to violate the very fragile status quo that pertains between these elements and Israel in Lebanon and Syria

Some analysis of the strike has suggested that the mission of the men killed in the attack involved preparation for placing sophisticated Iranian missile systems on the Syrian part of the Golan. Other accounts suggested that the mission was part of readying this area for the launch of ground attacks across the border against Israeli targets, perhaps using proxies.

In either case, the mission was a clear attempt to change the arrangement of forces in the north, in such a way that could be expected to ensure an Israeli response

The Iran/Hezbollah/Assad side has long threatened to develop the Golan as a front for possible ‘jihad duties’ against Israel. Both Syrian President Bashar Assad and Nasrallah, in the course of 2014, made unambiguous public statements threatening the opening of military activity against Israel in this area. Israel in turn has been very keen to make clear that such a move would constitute a violation of the status quo.

The strike on Sunday constituted a very kinetic further Israeli message intended to drive home this point.

What this means is that despite the death of a senior IRGC commander in the Israeli strike, the action by Israel should not be seen as a general casting aside of the rules of engagement by Jerusalem on the northern border – but rather an insistence on maintaining these rules, and a warning of the consequences to the other side of continued violation of them…”

http://www.jpost.com/landedpages/printarticle.aspx?id=388658

~~~~~~~~~~

In the above article, Spyer refers to the great unease the Lebanese have about what Hezbollah is doing:

”Responses by Lebanese political leaders and media to the event have been characterized by a sort of nervous, veiled request to Hezbollah not to bring down Israel’s wrath on Lebanon…”

The Israeli government, mindful of this situation, has speculated that the “retribution” from Hezbollah may come not via a frontal attack across the border from Lebanon into Israel, but rather via terrorism unleashed on Israelis abroad.

Thus, according to Al-Hayat, Israel has relayed a message to Hezbollah, delivered via indirect channels, that warns against such action: “Israel would hold Hezbollah responsible for any attack against its institutions and nationals [abroad], including areas known to be frequented by Israelis in far-off places around the globe.”

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Israel-sends-stern-warning-to-Hezbollah-Dont-dare-attack-our-targets-abroad-388948

~~~~~~~~~~

Coming full circle here…

We see that the Lebanese, who have not forgotten the damage they endured during Israel’s last war against Hezbollah, are not willing to support an attack on Israel by Hezbollah initiated from Lebanese soil.  And so the significance to Hezbollah (and to Iran, its sponsor) of establishing a base on the Golan for launching attacks on Israel from there becomes readily apparent.

Thus the necessity for Israel to forcefully “discourage” any such plans.

In other words, we did good.  Do not allow yourself to be disabused of this understanding.

~~~~~~~~~~

We will end with a good news piece:

“A breakthrough discovery by researchers at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem will allow early detection and possible prevention of colon and uterine cancers. According to the study, a genetic mutation related to Lynch syndrome has been shown to increase the risk of these types of cancers. The discovery of the mutation among members of certain population groups allows for a quick identification of at-risk patients.”

This discovery is being referred to as “of immense importance in the prevention and early treatment of cancer.”

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=22167

01/26/15
Israel

Priorities

Arlene from Israel

There is a colossal danger to the world coming down the road:  A nuclear Iran.  It’s scary as hell because of the radical jihadist intentions of the Iranian mullahs.

Right now the president of the United States and the Congress of the United States are at odds regarding how to respond to Iran.  Currently there is a “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) in place – an agreement between Iran and P5 + 1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – those nations in negotiations with Iran). This is a temporary agreement, scheduled to end on June 30, 2015 (having been extended from its prior expiration date of November 24, 2014).

JPOA outlines restrictions placed on Iran, and sanctions relief provided to Iran, for the course of negotiations regarding final understandings on Iran’s nuclear status.  It is theoretically the case that all negotiations are to be completed by that June deadline.

~~~~~~~~~~

Obama, in his State of the Union address, pledged to veto any legislation that imposes sanctions on Iran – a statement which is a direct challenge to the Congress. The president claims that such sanctions would be destructive to negotiations.  What he has done is to misrepresent the position of Congress – for the legislation that is being advanced calls for additional sanctions ONLY IF and ONLY AFTER negotiations had failed.

The bill –  sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) – has bi-partisan support.  In fact, it was Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has voiced the most vociferous criticism of the administration position.  Addressing administration officials in the course of a hearing on Iran, he said:

“I have to be honest with you, the more I hear from the administration…The more it sounds like talking points coming out of Tehran. And it heeds to the Iranian narrative of victimhood, when they are the ones with original sin: an illicit nuclear weapons program over the course of twenty years that they are unwilling to come clean on. I don’t know why we feel compelled to make their case…They get to cheat in a series of ways, and we get to worry about their ‘perceptions.’”

You can see him making this statement in a video here:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/01/21/dem_sen_menendez_obama_statements_on_iran_sound_like_talking_points_straight_out_of_tehran.html

~~~~~~~~~~

Against the background of this Congressional frustration with Obama, Speaker of the House Boehner invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress.

Why Netanyahu?  It’s obvious.  He is the world leader, bar none, when it comes to speaking out on the dangers of a nuclear Iran and the importance of sanctions.  What an honor, that the Congress wants to hear what he has to say on the matter.  Israel is not a minor league player here.  How significant, that he should speak out.

But do commentators notice any of this? Nahh…

In the US, the charge is that Boehner is “using” Netanyahu to “get back at” Obama.  Here, the criticism is that Bibi is “using” Boehner to help him get re-elected (as he will get a boost in the elections from this talk before Congress).  What a furor has ensued.

In the course of all of these charges and counter-charges, forgotten is the possibility that Netanyahu might help keep Congress strong – perhaps even strong enough to over-ride a veto.  Overlooked is the fact that stopping Iran is the ikar – the heart of the matter.

~~~~~~~~~~

The left here in Israel is accusing Bibi of “destroying” our relationship with Washington.  However, “Washington” also includes the Congress.

What is more, I have noticed that already the Obama administration is backtracking on this matter: The US has an “unshakable” alliance with Israel, the White House has declared. And on Meet the Press today, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said that:

”Our relationship with Israel is many-faceted, deep and abiding.  It’s focused on a shared series of threats, but also on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to overwhelm.”

http://www.timesofisrael.com/white-house-downplays-impact-of-netanyahu-speech-on-ties/

Well now… Can we please go back to talking about Iran and sanctions?

~~~~~~~~~~

From Omri Ceren of The Israel Project, I offer the following information:

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano spoke on Friday at the University of Indonesia.  His talk included this statement (emphasis in the original):

“As far as Iran is concerned, the Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared to us by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. But we are not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

https://www.iaea.org/node/10995
The Obama administration has made two basic arguments about the success of the JPOA interim agreement.

The first is that Iran’s program has been “halted” and its nuclear stockpile “reduced.”  But this simply is not the case. The JPOA allows Iran to enrich to 3.5% purity, which is about 60% of the effort needed to get to weapons-grade levels, provided the new material is stored as oxide. They’ve used the last year to create at least one bomb’s worth of enriched uranium and will use the rest of the extension to enrich enough for another one.

The second claim is that the JPOA provides “unprecedented” access/insight/monitoring/inspections into Iran’s nuclear facilities.  But the statement above from the IAEA Director General makes it clear that this is not the case.

~~~~~~~~~~

On January 15, 2015, Iranian president Rouhani announced that Iran was building two new reactors.  The State Department clarified that this is not prohibited by any Security Council resolutions, and is not in violation of the JPOA agreement.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/state-dept-iran-allowed-to-build-new-nuclear-reactors/

Clarified Omri Ceren:

The JPOA was supposed to freeze the Iranian program to prevent them from improving their position as talks proceeded. It failed. Instead the Iranians spent the last year building up their nuclear program – and their leverage – across all areas.

~~~~~~~~~~

Fervently do I wish that those who claim to be serious thinkers on the issues would get as excised over the dangers of Iran and the damage that Obama is doing to his own nation, Israel, and the world, as they do over imagined political intrigues.

Much more to come.

I close here with Caroline Glick’s latest piece on this issue, “Iran, Obama, Boehner, and Netanyahu.”

“The role of an Israeli leader is to adopt the policies that protect Israel, even when they are unpopular at the White House. Far from being ostracized for those policies, such an Israeli leader will be supported, respected, and relied upon by those who share with him a concern for what truly matters.”

http://carolineglick.com/iran-obama-boehner-and-netanyahu/

01/26/15
Hollywood Sign

No, Hollywood. Islam Does Not have a PR Problem.

By: Benjamin Weingarten
TheBlaze

Ever since the savage attacks in France, our pencil-waving, cartoon-pixelating media and Islamic theologian body politic have gone on an Islamic charm offensive.

In the face of 24,935 jihadist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, we are told over and over again that Islam, one of the world’s great religions, is peaceful and merely being distorted by misunderstanding violent extremists with no particular ideology.

Whether or not you believe this, in spite of Islam’s supremacist goals and history, Koran-endorsed strategic lying and deception by way of taqiyya, the totalitarian theopolitical doctrine of Shariah that compels the systematic persecution of women, gays and non-Muslims, the sermons of influential imams let alone the definition of Islam itself, “submission,” is besides the point and distracts us from the real issue at hand.

The real issue is that there are millions of Muslim jihadists, aiders, abettors and sympathizers in the world – including all throughout the West – working through means, overt and covert, violent and peaceful, to unite the world under the rule of Allah.

Not Islamophobia.

Not America’s support for Israel (pre-Obama at least).

Not drone strikes.

Not Abu Ghraib.

Not Guantanamo Bay.

Not a YouTube video.

Not a cartoon.

The fact that the largest casualties of jihadist savagery are Muslims, renders moot almost all of these points.

And the fact that only a small percentage of Muslims may be jihadists should give comfort to absolutely no one. If even 0.1 percent of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are jihadists, aiders, abettors or sympathizers, then 1.6 million people seek to destroy Western civilization.

As borne out by the latest Pew poll on Muslim views on suicide bombings from July 2014, 0.1 percent would in fact be a shockingly low figure:

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 6.50.21 PM

One other data point that the folks in Hollywood or Washington, D.C. would prefer not be printed: As of 2013, after New York City, Dearborn, Michigan — with a population of under 100,000, and the largest percentage of Arab-Americans in the country — had the highest number of individuals classified as “known or suspected terrorists” by our government. So it was with great consternation that I read an article in Variety that reflects so well why we are losing a war that only Islamic supremacists are fighting.

Behold:

Given the volume of terrorists who have committed hideous acts of violence in the name of Allah over the years, there will be those who will be convinced there is something intrinsically problematic about Islam if it is linked to so much hatred and bloodshed.

But that’s a leap in logic steeped in ignorance. And that ignorance is rooted partly in an unfamiliarity with Muslims.

Could Hollywood help remedy that? In the wake of a tragedy borne from a dastardly desire to silence freedom of speech, there’s a crying need for an artistic expression of a very different kind than Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire.

What is needed now is more depictions of average Muslims in popular culture. Not the kind ripped from the headlines that paints them as violent zealots but the kind that shows them to be the normal friends, neighbors, business associates, etc., that millions of them are all over this nation.

Got that?

According to Hollywood, the proper response to jihadist slaughter is to show Americans that not all Muslims are jihadists.

Islam just has a PR problem.

It is reminiscent of an Obama administration that blames demonstrably disastrous policies on the ignorance of those simple Americans, fooled by poor “optics,” or, when it’s taking responsibility, the administration’s failure to explain its policies well enough.

The author continues:

Would there even be a question of whether the evil radicals who took the lives of innocents were any kind of reflection on Muslims in general if more people, particularly non-Muslims in the U.S., had any sense of what average Muslims are actually like?

Lacking any normative alternative, it’s almost understandable that people lapse into lazy, dangerous stereotypes. Too many associate Islam with the actions of a radical fringe because of the absence of cultural signposts that modern Muslims exist, breathe, love and eat just like the rest of us.

Those bitter clingers are just not sophisticated enough to understand that Islam is peace.

Leave aside for a second the fact that folks in tolerant, progressive, diverse and clearly hypocritical Hollywood show profound ignorance of Islam as practiced throughout wide swaths of the world, where the very groups Hollywood purports to care about most are discriminated against and routinely slaughtered.

Leave aside for a second the fact that the America outside of the New York-Los Angeles-Washington, D.C. axis actually contains a far higher number of folks who have interacted with average Muslims in the flesh, while serving in our armed forces.

While Islamic supremacists are at war with us as part of a global jihad, why is Hollywood’s first obligation to make sure that all Muslims don’t get a bad name – to fight a PR battle that only exists because Muslims are killing people?

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Shouldn’t Hollywood’s job actually be to expose us to the truth that there are those in the world who pose an existential threat to our way of life, including the free expression on which Hollywood relies and cherishes?

What is wrong with America is not that as progressives would have us believe, ignorant bigots in flyover country are Islamophobes engaging in a hypothetical Teahadist crusade.

What is wrong with America is that people have been burying their heads in the sand for years, ignoring, whitewashing, and showing extreme cowardice – dhimmitude — in the face of Islamic supremacists carrying out a slow motion, mass ethnic cleansing against non-Muslims for decades.

While the comparison becomes tired, it must be asked of Hollywood: During World War II, would our response to Nazi aggression have been to script movies portraying Germans as moderate, peaceful people?

Regardless of what helps America’s elites sleep at night, in the real world, evil exists. And evil does not care for Western projection, whether it comes to the mullahs in Iran or the comrades of the Kremlin.

Culture really does matter, and Hollywood, which has already done a great deal of damage to the fabric of America in its promotion of moral relativism, victomology and other values antithetical to our Judeo-Christian heritage, will only make things that much worse by undertaking the efforts described in this Variety article.

What Hollywood should be doing is educating Americans on the actual nature of her enemies, not idealizing, coddling or humanizing them.

Where Hollywood should be placing its emphasis and empathy is on the victims of said enemies, not the victimizers, and the heroes like Chris Kyle who protect us from them.

The problem is not that the American people are ignorant of Islam, but that our media and government continue to distract us from the real threat, and are themselves Islamophobic – unable or unwilling to critically examine Islamic doctrine, facts and history.

It has and will continue to get Americans killed the longer we ignore it.