Hat Tip: BB
Because first things must come first, I begin by marking National Unity Day.
As Michelle Napell of One Family Fund wrote in a message:
“We prayed for them, we cried for them and now we remember them.
“It has been one year since terrorists kidnapped and murdered Israeli teenagers, Gil-ad Shaer z’l, Eyal Ifrach z’l and Naftali Fraenkel z’l. As thousands of Israelis searched for them last summer, Jews from around the world united in an unprecedented way to support the boys’ families as they coped with uncertainty, pain and loss.
“Today, the 16th of Sivan 5775 – June 3rd 2015, Unity Day has been designated to remind us that regardless of our challenges, there will always be far more that unites us than divides us.”
We, the people of Israel, are indeed remarkable in how we respond to tragedy.
My prayer – and let it be the prayer of everyone – is that we come together like this, by the hundreds of thousands, the millions, ultra-Orthodox and secular, Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrachi, young and old, to celebrate peace and blessings upon the nation.
A clarification, prompted by questions from a couple of readers:
I did not write yesterday that the US has never sold bunker busters to Israel. Indeed, it has. But those bunker busters are smaller ones, such as BLU bunker busters. The BLU 109 weighs 2,000 pounds and the BLU 113 weighs 5,000 pounds. Both of these munitions, were, I believe, recently acquired by Israel from the US to augment existing stores, but are a very far cry from the MOP, which weighs 30,000 pounds.
What the US has provided cannot break into the underground reinforced nuclear facilities of Iran, or pierce through the mountain at Fordow. The MOP, which can, the US will not sell to Israel.
The full interview of Obama, which I wrote about yesterday based on highlights, was released last night. When I wrote, I discussed what he said about Iran. But there was a second major theme he touched upon: “the peace process.” I had hoped to come back to this today even before the full interview was released. Now what he said about negotiations has been featured in news stories, and a response is even more important.
I find it fascinating, that some sources refer to Obama’s interview as a “charm offensive.” But I? I do not find him charming at all. (Major understatement.) He spoke about being there for Israel, and understanding how Israelis feel, and having concern for Israeli wellbeing, etc. Facile words. Let’s look a bit closer. He said (emphasis added):
“I think Netanyahu is someone who is predisposed to think of security first; to think perhaps that peace is naïve; to see the worst possibilities as opposed to the best possibilities in Arab partners or Palestinian partners. And so I do think that, right now, those politics and those fears are driving the government’s response.”
He was concerned, he said, about Israel having a “politics that’s motivated only by fear,” which could stand in the way of “peace” with the Palestinians Arabs.
What motivates Netanyahu is a prudent and highly realistic assessment of the situation. Regrettable – no, despicable – that Obama chooses to demean this realism.
Every time Israel has withdrawn from territory, radical terrorist groups have moved it. This is not “fear;” it is historical fact.
Hamas, which overthrew Fatah (the PA) in Gaza eight years ago, is itching to do the same thing in the Arab areas of Judea and Samaria. There is a strong Hamas presence there, and the only thing that prevents them from pushing over Abbas – who is extraordinarily weak and unpopular – is the presence of the IDF. The IDF does operations daily (actually, nightly) – uncovering weapons caches and exposing places where weapons are manufactured; arresting wanted terrorists and foiling plans for terror attacks.
Were we to pull out of Arab areas of Judea and Samaria, we would have a terrorist entity in our midst. A fact that is of no concern to Obama, obviously. Obama, who cares for Israel.
There is more: the terror entity at our border in the end might not be Hamas, but jihadist groups that make Hamas operatives look like peaceniks.
Take a look at this map:
Jordan is to Israel’s east. At Jordan’s north and north-east are Syria and Iraq – hotbeds of instability and fierce violence, home to ISIS and other savage jidhadist groups.
The king of Jordan sits uneasily on his throne, for there are radical elements in his nation already. Should he fall, and radicals take control, they would quickly move into Judea and Samaria, if that region, or part of it, was controlled by the PA. No way PA forces could repel them. Only the IDF could stand against them. If radical jihadist were to move into Judea and Samaria, they would bring with them rockets that could easily reach the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. And life as we know it in a thriving, vibrant Israel would come to a halt.
Obama demonstrates unmitigated gall to suggest that it is an inappropriate and unconstructive “fear” that prevents Netanyahu from risking this scenario by “taking a chance on peace.”
As Obama exposed his intentions towards the Iranian negotiations by taking the military option off the table, so does he here expose his true disregard for Israel.
And still there is more, as Obama also said that Israel is losing its “credibility” with its “intransigence” – “so many caveats, so many conditions, that it is not realistic to think that those conditions will be met anytime in the near future.”
When asked about maintaining anti-Israel vetoes at the UN, he hedged:
“Well, here’s the challenge. If in fact there is no prospect of an actual peace process, if nobody believes there is a peace process, then it becomes more difficult to argue with those who are concerned about settlement construction, those who are concerned about the current situation.
“It is more difficult for me to say to them, ‘Be patient, wait, because we have a process here.'”
This is a veiled (or not so veiled) threat: go back to the table or I may not support you at the UN.
Obama’s entire representation of the situation is distorted. He puts the onus on Israel, ignoring the many compromises that have been made by Netanyahu over time – compromises not in Israel’s best interest, such as release of prisoners, and freezing of construction in Judea and Samaria. At the same time, he fails to mention the enormous intransigence of Abbas, and that it was Abbas who walked away from negotiations the last time around.
You can see the text of the entire interview here:
Having said this about Obama, I now make comments about Netanyahu, as well:
Just the other day, I wrote about this, as I have many times before. It is not enough, to refuse to negotiate a state with the Palestinian Arabs because of the security risk – as legitimate as this reason is.
Now is the time: Our government must declare the fact of Israeli rights to the land.
The message Obama delivered in his interview was, undoubtedly, the motivating factor for Netanyahu’s recent statement that “two states for two people” is the only possible solution. It is time to stop appeasing, to stop turning into a pretzel in order to demonstrate how willing Israel is to negotiate. We cannot win this way. We simply weaken ourselves.
It is time to start telling Obama and the greater Western world:
- that Abbas doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he refers to “the 1967 border”
- that there never was a Palestinian state
- that we are not occupiers in Judea and Samaria
- that international law gives this land to the Jews
- that Judea and Samaria represent the historical Jewish heartland
It is time to go on the offensive. And to start talking about alternatives to “the two state solution.”
Abbas repeatedly refers to his intention to seek statehood via the UN. But what he is doing abrogates the Oslo agreements. Israel has simply chosen not to call him on this. The fact that we have no obligations under Oslo any longer also needs to be said loud and clear.
I close here with on remarkable statement by Abbas that should be sent to Obama by about 10,000 people.
Abbas was in Amman, to smooth over some tensions. In the course of statements he made, Abbas, cited directly by Al Quds, said that the relationship between Jordan and Palestine is the relationship of “one people living in two states.”
How about that? Then there is no “Palestinian people” after all, huh? Abbas ought to know.
This is the subject of a conference currently being held by Shurat Hadin, the Israeli Law Center, founded and run by the amazing Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.
Current laws of warfare are outdated, she explained in her introductory remarks. The Geneva Conventions never envisioned the asymmetrical warfare that is waged today. We must redefine the laws of warfare, so that democratic states can adequately fight back. Today, terror groups attack civilians, and when democracies fight back, their defense is referred to as a war crime. Terrorists should not be able to apply to international courts as if they were victims when they are the perpetrators.
The IDF must be able to fulfill its mission of protecting the people of Israel and we we must protect our soldiers, as well.
The conference is not being held with the expectation that it has any ability to change the rules of war. Rather, the goal is to stimulate an international dialogue on the issue. What I will do here is summarize key speakers, and offer significant thoughts garnered throughout the day.
Participants are Israelis, Brits and Americans with legal and military expertise/experience.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, immediate past Chief of Staff of the IDF, provided the opening keynote speech.
Credit: Telegraph (UK)
His words were particularly powerful, as he spoke from experience in the field, addressing both strategic and moral issues.
Warfare in the past, he explained, took place on a battleground, on which military forces met each other. That battlefield has now disappeared and new dimensions have inserted themselves. As never before, we see the involvement of civilians – both as targets and human shields. How does a soldier even determine who the enemy is, when he is not wearing a uniform?
As far as the international community is concerned, Israel has lost before even starting. Israel has no desire to hurt others who are not combatants but must protect the Israeli people. A human dilemma.
There are broad similarities with regard to the situations in Gaza and Lebanon. In all instances, hostilities have been started by the terrorists, with Israel holding its force until there is no choice. In both instances, the enemy fighters are allied with the ruling powers, and operate from inside civilian society. A house in a village in Lebanon will have a livingroom, but also a missile room; in the garden a launching pad may be hidden. Shifa hospital in Gaza has served as headquarters for Hamas terrorists.
We – as a moral nation – must update our legal tools. The soldier today is subject to uncertainties as he faces a complicated situation.
Second speaker, Lt. Gen. David Fridovich, Former Deputy Commaner, US Special Operations Command, asked: Can you deter terrorists? He thinks not. Americans do not get it, he declared. They are shielded by the media.
The first panel addressed the problem of human shields – civilians who protect weapons. What we are dealing with here is military necessity vs. humanitarian needs. We cannot attack civilians as such or use indiscriminate force. but there is an obligation upon the enemy (in principle only as it is never honored) to separate civilians from combatants and from military operations.
Said Prof. Richard Jackson, Special Assistant to the US Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War, eyes must stay on the target, with fire adjusted one round at a time, using precision weapons. The enemy is trying to provoke a response that uses overwhelming force. What is needed then is a modulated response.
The next member of the panel to speak was Col. Richard Kemp, Former Commander, British Forces in Afghanistan, and one of Israel’s staunchest friends.
Credit: militaryspeakers (UK)
The use of human shields is rapidly increasing, he said:
– there is a greater prevalence of asymmetrical power, with the weaker side using civilians
– this is a means of political warfare against the Western powers (Israel included), a way to undermine democracies and democratic armies
– there is influence by the media
– this hinders direct attack, restrains democratic armies ability to operate
Today human shields are used as primary weapons. Greater blame is placed by the world on those who hit human shields than on those who use them.
The use of human shields continues, said Kemp, because this works. He suggested here that if democracies had greater reluctance to be deterred by human shields they might be employed less. He is not suggesting wholesale slaughter! but wonders if perhaps there is a need to permit greater collateral damage. The proportionality calculus must change, and it needs to be codified.
Human shields lose their status as protected persons because they enhance the enemy’s goals. But only if they are serving as shields voluntarily. (More on this follows.)
Death of human shields must be considered the responsibility of those who use them. It is illegal to use human shields. In fact, the law requires moving civilians from a combat area.
Kemp suggested that over-all military objectives, and not just the immediate situation, must be considered when deciding on how to respond to human shields. If there is greater collateral damage permitted in one operation, perhaps in the long term it would discourage use of human shields.
Bassem Eid, a courageous Palestinian Arab Human-Rights activist, followed with some comments on what Kemp had suggested.
The civilians in Gaza must wake up, he declared: their leaders do not have the right to do as they do. However, Hamas coerces people, pays them to motivate them to stay put, and charges those who flee an area that Israel is about to attack with being Israeli collaborators.
International human rights organizations do not raise the issue of human shields: “No Jews, no news.”
Hamas cares nothing about civilians or reconstruction – only about new tunnels and a stronger military.
I want to move here to the panel that discussed the critical issue of proportionality. Proportionality is not about how many deaths were suffered on each side – which is how the topic is frequently represented. It is rather a question of what is a proportionate amount of collateral damage for a given military advantage. In the end, this is a principle that requires interpretation. The rule of proportionality is the most misunderstood and misapplied.
Prof. Yuval Shany, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Hebrew University, says that democracies do not normally utilize indiscriminate force or kill civilians on purpose. But there remains a host of related questions. Regarding, for example, weapon choice: do you act quickly, even though there will be collateral damage? Or do you lose valuable time and wait until a more accurate weapon is brought in? Risk to the soldiers serving under a commander must be considered by him, as must issues of military necessity.
On these questions, “reasonable minds may disagree.”
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, Northwestern University School of Law, asked how one measures proportionality. The law does not define what the proportion is. Who decides? In international law, there is no final legal decider.
Prof. Geoffrey Corn, of the South Texas College of Law, provided insights on this matter that were clear and enormously useful.
We are dealing, he said, with the hypocrisy of double standards. The law is not going to change, but we should not allow it to be distorted: if properly understood, there is flexibility.
The keyword is excessive: a significant imbalance. Commanders must anticipate the risk, and make an assessment regarding whether it is worth it.
The commander must be judged on conditions that prevailed when he made his decision. Many tactical factors will have weighed into the equation.
Instead, the commander is criticized based on the results. No commander, no matter how moral, can always make the right decision.
Professor Corn prefers to think in terms of the rule of precautionary obligations. This provides objective evidence of good faith and morality. Did the commander take into consideration different weapons, different timing, how much warning to give? Etc. etc. If all these measures have been weighed, then it is possible to move ahead with lethal force to defeat the enemy.
Prof. Corn says that the moral considerations need to be ramped up when fighting the most immoral of enemies – otherwise all moral footing is lost. The moral well being of our combatants at the end of the war must be considered.
These are exceedingly heavy issues that must be struggled with in real time. We know that down the road – soon – we will be confronting these situations again.
I close here by noting that it was remarked several times during the course of the day that there is no more moral army in the world than the IDF. No other army takes the extraordinary measures that ours does to warn civilians before we attack. At the same time, we take the most heat from the world.
It is highly likely that when I next post it will be to discuss the formation of the coalition. The deadline for Netanyahu is almost upon us. It has not been a happy scenario, but I believe he will pull it off somehow by Wednesday. The news today is that Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu and until now foreign minister, is declining to participate in the coalition.
By: Benjamin Weingarten
What, if anything, would cause President Barack Obama to step away from the negotiating table with Iran?
This is the question I find myself pondering in light of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy Patrol’s unchecked act of aggression on Tuesday against America’s interests in the Straits of Hormuz – an act that in a sane world would in and of itself put an end to the president’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran.
As of this writing, reports indicate that the Iranian Navy Patrol fired shots at and ultimately seized a commercial cargo ship, the M/V Maersk Tigris, which flies under the Marshall Islands flag. Some believe Iran was even targeting a U.S. vessel.
In a helpful dispatch, commentator Omri Ceren notes the significant implications of such an action given that the U.S. is: (i) Treaty-bound to secure and defend the Marshall Islands, and (ii) Committed to maintaining the free flow of commerce in the strategically vital waterways of the Middle East — as affirmed just one week ago on April 21 by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf and Pentagon Spokesman Col. Steve Warren.
The U.S. fulfilling its obligations to its protectorate, and acting to ensure vital shipping lanes remain open are not trivial matters.
Further, this act can be seen as a brazen test of the sincerity of U.S. resolve, as it was timed to coincide with the opening of the Senate’s debate on the Corker-Menendez Iran bill.
Yet there is a broader and perhaps more important context in which to consider what Ceren calls an act of “functionally unspinnable Iranian aggression.”
Even if we ignore the history of Iranian aggression against the U.S. and its allies since the deposal of the Shah in 1979, the firing upon and seizing of the Tigris marks the latest in a long series of such provocations that Iran has undertaken in just the last few months. Consider:
- On February 25 the Iranian Revolutionary Guard blew up a replica U.S. aircraft carrier during defense drills
- On March 24 it was reported that the Iranian regime had increased its naval threats against the U.S., including “[T]hreats to take over and sink American aircraft carriers and other warships; to close the Strait of Hormuz and Bab El-Mandeb; to carry out large-scale missile attacks inside and outside the Persian Gulf; and to mine the Persian Gulf”
- On March 31 Basij militia chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard stated that “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable”
- On April 1 it was reported that an Iranian military observation aircraft had “buzzed” an armed U.S. navy helicopter over the Persian Gulf during March 2015
- On April 12 it was reported that Iran had been working to deliver surface-to-air missiles to the Houthis in Yemen
- On April 13 it was reported that Iran had increased arm shipments to Hezbollah and Hamas
- On April 14 Russia lifted its ban on the sale of missiles to Iran, no doubt with the firm support of the Iranians
- On April 17 it was reported that Iran was sending an armada of seven to nine ships – some with weapons – toward Yemen
- On April 18 Iran celebrated Army Day with calls of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”
- On April 19 the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s deputy leader Gen. Hossein Salami declared that there would be no inspections of military sites under any nuclear deal, threatening “We will respond with hot lead [bullets] to those who speak of it…;” and
- On April 24 the Iranian Navy Patrol intercepted the Maersk Kensington, a U.S.-flagged vessel
This rhetoric and action comports with Iran’s historic hostility toward the U.S. since the fall of the Shah. Lest we forget, this list of atrocities includes, but is certainly not limited to:
- The 1983 bombing of the U.S. army barracks in Beirut
- Aiding and abetting Al Qaeda with respect to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on our nation
- Funding, training and arming terrorists responsible for slaying American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
Would Iran’s most recent actions in the Strait of Hormuz coupled with the litany of other recent and historical bellicose acts lead one to question whether it is in the United States’ interest to continue negotiating with the mullahs?
Put more directly: In what respect can the U.S. consider Iran to be a reliable, honorable negotiating partner?
Concerning the content of the nuclear deal being negotiated, it should be noted that the Iranians have stated the agreement accomplishes the very opposite of what the American public been led to believe. With respect to sanctions, Iran says they will be fully lifted upon the execution of the accord. As MEMRI notes, in an April 9 address, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini gave a speech in which he called America a “cheater and a liar” and
publicly set out the negotiating framework for the Iranian negotiating team, the main points of which are: an immediate lifting of all sanctions the moment an agreement is reached; no intrusive oversight of Iran’s nuclear and military facilities; the continuation of Iran’s nuclear research and development program; and no inclusion of any topics not related to the nuclear program, such as missile capability or anything impacting Iran’s support for its proxies in the region.
It is no wonder then that the nuclear deal has been lambasted on a bipartisan basis, including at the highest levels of the national security establishment. Even former Secretary of State James Baker is highly critical of the Iran deal – and his animus toward Israel, perhaps the primary casualty of the deal, may be second only to that of President Obama.
As to whether Khameini’s portrayal of the deal is accurate, former CIA analyst and Iran expert Fred Fleitz asserts that under the terms of the agreement, Iran will (i) be able to continue enriching uranium, (ii) not have to disassemble or destroy any enrichment equipment or facilities, (iii) not be required to “permit snap inspections and unfettered access to all Iranian nuclear facilities, including military bases where Iran is believed to have conducted nuclear-weapons work,” (iv) be able to continue to operate its Arak heavy-water reactor, a plutonium source, in contravention of IAEA resolutions and (v) be subjected to an eased sanctions regime that will be incredibly difficult to re-impose.
If this were not enough, so intent is the Obama Administration on reaching a deal that it has been reported that for signing this agreement, Iran may even receive sweeteners including a $50 billion “signing bonus.”
The contorted logic used by the president in defense of his progressive stance towards Iran is worthy of Neville Chamberlain. During an interview with New York Times soulmate Thomas Friedman, Obama opined:
Even for somebody who believes, as I suspect Prime Minister Netanyahu believes, that there is no difference between Rouhani and the supreme leader and they’re all adamantly anti-West and anti-Israel and perennial liars and cheaters — even if you believed all that, this still would be the right thing to do. It would still be the best option for us to protect ourselves. In fact, you could argue that if they are implacably opposed to us, all the more reason for us to want to have a deal in which we know what they’re doing and that, for a long period of time, we can prevent them from having a nuclear weapon.
Sen. Tom Cotton provides a necessary corrective in a recent interview:
I am skeptical that there are many moderates within the [Iranian] leadership … I think it’s kind of like the search for the vaunted moderates in the Kremlin throughout most of the Cold War, with the exception that we could always count on the Soviet leadership to be concerned about national survival in a way that I don’t think we can count on a nuclear-armed Iranian leadership to be solely concerned about national survival.
As for Lord Chamberlain, Sen. Cotton – he of that irksome letter to Iran — takes a more charitable view, noting:
It’s unfair to Neville Chamberlain to compare him to Barack Obama, because Neville Chamberlain’s general staff was telling him he couldn’t confront Hitler and even fight to a draw—certainly not defeat the German military—until probably 1941 or 1942. He was operating from a position of weakness. With Iran, we negotiated privately in 2012-2013 from a position of strength … not just inherent military strength of the United States compared to Iran, but also from our strategic position.
To those who recognize reality, this deal – coupled with our weak response to the ongoing provocations of the Iranian Government — not only threatens our national security and that of our allies, but reflects an utter dereliction of duty to uphold the Constitution, and protect our people against foreign enemies.
In a word, it is treasonous.
Anyone who is tracking the news these days, and genuinely cares for the security of Israel and the future of the US – not to mention Europe and the Mideast – has got to have an extremely heavy heart. We are facing some very dark times.
With regard to Israel, serious thinkers are pondering the best way to survive the 22 months until Obama is out of office. But the problem is actually a great deal bigger than the issue of how Obama is behaving towards Israel – as much as this remains huge for us here.
Obama. In addition to his irrational and venomous attacks on Israel, there is his courting of Iran. One is the flip side of the other: Alienate Israel, buddy up to Iran.
We are now a mere two days away from the presumed deadline on a signed framework deal between Iran and P5 + 1. (In reality this is a negotiation between Iran and the US, as the other negotiating partners, with the exception of France, have largely pulled back.) How likely it is that a deal really will take place depends on whom you ask. What is clear is that Obama – and Kerry, operating in his stead – are doing all they can to achieve this “diplomatic success.”
Because of Obama’s eagerness, what we are seeing is the stuff of nightmares. Definitely nightmares, as it’s hard to believe this could be happening in the light of day. The Iranians – recognizing very well with whom they are dealing – have consistently stonewalled on US demands. Last Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal broke with a story on yet another US pullback, each in turn design to conciliate the Iranians (emphasis added):
“Talks over Iran’s nuclear program have hit a stumbling block a week before a key deadline because Tehran has failed to cooperate with a United Nations probe into whether it tried to build atomic weapons in the past, say people close to the negotiations.
“In response, these people say, the U.S. and its diplomatic partners are revising their demands on Iran to address these concerns before they agree to finalize a nuclear deal, which would repeal U.N. sanctions against the country.”
The issue is “possible military dimensions” (PMD). As Omri Ceren of The Israel Project has explained (emphasis added):
“PMD disclosure is about base-lining all of Iran’s nuclear activities – not just its known civilian parts – as a prerequisite for verifying that those activities have been halted under a nuclear deal. Iran has uranium mines; some are civilian and some are military. It has centrifuges; some are operated by civilians and some by IRGC personnel. It has uranium stockpiles; some are maintained by civilians and some by the military. There’s no way for future inspectors to verify that Iran has shuttered its mines, stopped its centrifuges, and shipped off its stockpile – for instance – unless the IAEA knows where all the mines and stockpiles are.
“No PMDs mean no verification.”
And there’s more. On Thursday, AP reported (emphasis added):
“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…”
As Ceri explains here (emphasis added):
“Allowing the Iranians to enrich at Fordow means they could kick out inspectors at any time and have a fully-functioning enrichment facility hardened against military intervention. Since sanctions will be unraveled by design at the beginning of a deal, that means the West would have literally zero options to stop a breakout…
“The White House started out promising that Fordow would be shuttered, then that it would be converted into an R&D plant where no enrichment would take place, and now they’ve collapsed.”
Add to the above the fact that the US is ignoring the violent hegemonic encroachment of Iranian proxies across various areas of the Middle East – as if it were only the issue of nuclear capacity that must be dealt with.
There are, of course, Syrian president Assad, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon (and Syria). But most recently what we’ve seen is the takeover of Yemen by the Shiite Houthis, also supported by Iran. Houthi control of Yemen has enormous importance because of its strategic location, adjacent to Saudi Arabia. From the Yemenite port city of Aden, the straits of Bab el-Mandeb, which are only about 20 miles wide, can be controlled. The straits constitute a major chokepoint – so the party that controls the area has the capacity to block marine traffic from the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.8 million barrels of oil and refined petroleum products pass through the straits daily on their way to destinations in Asia, Europe and the US.
This is before we mention that increased Iranian backed presence in the Middle East is worrisome to Israel.
But the US is not paying a whole lot of attention. US special forces fled Yemen a while ago, and US negotiators are not raising this issue. There are commentators who believe that the US should have walked out on negotiations until Iran withdrew support for the Houthis. But that might have jeopardized the deal, which has first priority for Obama – the rest of the world be damned.
You want to know how crazy it is? While Obama is promoting diplomatic ties with Iran and “reaching out” to the Iranians, we can see in a MEMRI video that Iranian leader Khamenei cries “Death to America.”
Amir Hossein Motaghi is an Iranian journalist who was supposed to be covering the negotiations, but has defected because he could not longer tolerate Iranian demands that he write his reports according to their specifications.
In a TV interview, he has now said:
“The U.S. 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.”
If this does not blow your mind, you are not getting it.
What I really cannot grasp – even beyond the question of how a man such as Obama secured two terms in the White House – is why the other negotiating nations are being so passive, when Iran is a threat to them, or why the American people are not truly up in arms (meant figuratively here).
There are just a small number of possible recourses with regard to this situation:
The first is the US Congress, many of whose members – Republicans, but a handful of Democrats as well – indeed are grievously distressed by what is going on. What is required is a sufficient number of votes in the Senate to over-ride a veto by Obama, so that sanctions to weaken Iran can be put in place appropriately. We are seeing signs that this may be possible.
“The U.S. Senate voted unanimously on Thursday for a non-binding amendment to a budget bill intended to make it easier to re-impose sanctions if Iran violates a nuclear deal.
“The vote was 100-0 for the amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Mark Kirk, which would establish a fund to cover the cost of imposing sanctions if Tehran violated terms of an interim nuclear agreement now in effect, or the final agreement negotiators hope to reach before July.”
And then there is Israel.
According to Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) there is time between the signing of a framework agreement now and the final agreement in June – at which point details would be factored in – when diplomatic maneuvering can still be done. This would involve, it seems to me, key communication with France first – as France has the greatest unease about what is taking place.
Beyond this, there is the military option, with the moment of truth advancing rapidly. We are now probably past the 11th hour, perhaps at about 15 minutes to midnight.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, again and again, that he will never permit Iran to become a nuclear power. He has also made it clear that Israel is not bound by the terms of a very bad P5 + 1 deal with Iran.
Just today, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a close Netanyahu associate, declared on public radio that Israel “will not be bound by an accord concluded by others and will know how to defend itself.” (Emphasis added)
What our government will do in the end, and what our military is capable of doing, remains to be seen. Israel cannot take out Iran’s capacity for nuclear development entirely – but can, as I understand it, do considerable damage.
The scuttlebutt is that Netanyahu wants to attack, although I know people who are convinced he never will. (Please, do not write to share opinions on this.) Some months ago, information was revealed indicating that at one point Defense Minister Ya’alon was opposed to an attack but has now changed his mind.
A key factor here is the readiness of Saudi Arabia, which is absolutely enraged with Obama’s inaction on Iran, to lend passive assistance, at a minimum, should Israel decide to attack. The Saudis would be delighted – make no mistake about this. This assistance might make a difference in the end. Because the other piece of the story is that Obama is trying his best to track Israeli intentions and to block us.
Leon Panetta – former director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense under Obama, gave an interview to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC three days ago that merits mention here. Put simply, what he said was that he learned at the CIA and Defense that “The Iranians can’t be trusted.”
This is the bottom line. Said Panetta (emphasis added):
“…the real test is going to be, and the whole world will be looking at it — the test will be have we truly made sure that Iran can be stopped from developing a nuclear weapon. And to do that in my book demands transparency and it demands accessibility so that we have a firm inspection regime that will guarantee they cannot do this.”
Precisely! And that is never, ever going to happen.
I recently encountered an article that asked, in its lead: Which side is Obama on? That, my friends, is a rhetorical question. It is clear that he is on Iran’s side.
That being the case, it is inevitable that the president would come down on Netanyahu in every way possible. He wants to discredit him, and weaken him, and delegitimize his position, for Netanyahu is the key stumbling block to what he is trying to achieve. There is no way for Bibi to make it “right” with Obama. It’s not really about the negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs or other related issues.
And facing the truth straight on also helps explain why Obama worked so hard behind the scenes to defeat Netanyahu in the elections, and why he is so frustrated now.
Just a moment here, then, to look at what is happening at home. I wrote last week about the apparent halting of building scheduled for Har Homa in Jerusalem (and indeed I’ve received no information that it was anything else such as a bureaucratic mix-up). That did not sit well. Since I wrote about that, information has surfaced about Israel agreeing to release to the Palestinian Authority tax monies that had been collected – with some held back against money owed to Israel for electricity and other services. On top of this, there is apparently a deal for Israel to sell gas to Gaza, with Qatar paying the bill.
This did not sound good. Really not good. Certainly at first blush it looks like a caving to Obama under pressure, because there is so much talk about Israel’s “readiness’ for a “two state” deal.
But that’s at first blush, and I’ve been struggling with this long and hard over the last couple of days. Because there is another way to look at this. If Netanyahu is making concessions to please Obama it is the height of foolishness, a terrible weakness, as nothing will please Obama where we are concerned. The only way to respond to him is with strength. Anything that smacks of weakness will simply invite more pressure.
But suppose Netanyahu is doing this to remove some of the poison spewed by Obama (Netanyahu is a racist, he does not want peace, etc.), in order to deal more placidly with others? Suppose he wants to approach Democrats in Congress conveying the image of someone who is willing to compromise for peace, so that they will hear him on Iran? Suppose he wants to speak with French leaders – who are eager for “two states” – from a position that will make them more amenable to his message? Or with other European countries? Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz suggests several nations are uneasy about the deal.
In light of the enormous weight of what our prime minister has to deal with, I prefer to cut him some slack here, for the moment, and see how the situation evolves. Today he told the Cabinet:
“This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that.”
I had hoped to discuss some matters related to the formation of the coalition here, but will table this. Before closing, I want simply to look at a couple of relative bright spots in an otherwise grim picture.
Saudi Arabia, alarmed by the Houthi take-over in Yemen, and absolutely furious at Obama for opting out of involvement, decided to act, in concert with other Sunni allies. This was promising, as the Iranian takeover by proxy in Yemen is being pushed back as a result of Saudi airstrikes that are being hailed a success. There is further talk of ground forces in Yemen, although my information is that it will not be necessary, as there are tribal groups in Yemen that are ready to act on the ground against the Houthis.
Even further, the Arab League, at the closure of a meeting in Egypt, has announced in principle the creation of a joint Arab rapid response force. Egypt, which would be a prime mover in the establishment of such a force, declared that it would consist of some 40,000 elite troops, backed by jets, warships and light armor. What this means is that even though the US has totally abdicated its role of confronting Iranian regional aggression, there are Sunni Arab states presumably ready to step up, lest the feared and detested Iran take over the region.
Then see this report that says Hezbollah – operating at the behest of Iran – has been stopped by paramilitary rebel forces from establishing a major presence on the Golan directly adjacent to the Israeli border.
Hat Tip: BB
By: James Simpson
DC Independent Examiner
President Obama has ushered in a world that defines the statement “truth is stranger than fiction.” Defying his oath to “support and defend the U.S. Constitution…” Obama has in a few short years turned the world upside down. He has sided with our enemies against our friends in the Middle East, and has worked assiduously to “negotiate” a deal allowing Iran to obtain the bomb. He supported the successful effort to depose Hosni Mubarak, one of our most loyal Arab allies, and more importantly, promoted his replacement with the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the rise of al Qaeda and practically every other Islamic terrorist organization in the world. In Libya Obama forced America to side with al Qaeda linked groups to overthrow Qaddafi – an action which eventuated in the murder of an ambassador, two US Navy SEALS and one other American. Now one of those Islamist “friends” has become ISIS’s representative in Libya.
You simply can’t make this stuff up. It is difficult to conceive of an American president being so consistently incompetent, unless it is something else. While Obama doubtless coasted through Columbia and Harvard on the strength of his many communist connections, as opposed to any real intellectual rigor, he is not stupid. The only thing more treacherous in my mind is the level of complicity he receives from the American press, which assiduously refuses to explore these mind-blowing developments.
So it is not surprising that our Arab friends have begun to look on Obama as a danger more than a friend. Despite all their oil money, the Arab world has always been a dangerous place for the Arabs – from some of their own. Obama’s outreach “to the Muslim world” appears to be reserved specifically and exclusively for that part of the Muslim world dedicated to Islamic terrorism – the same component looking to overthrow the various Arab kingdoms, especially the terror supporting Iran, now a nascent nuclear power thanks to Obama.
Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress was historic. It was an object lesson to Obama about how to actually lead. Obama may not have paid attention, since “leading” in the generally accepted meaning of the word is not his intention, but the Arabs did. And they approved! Truth is stranger than fiction, but when your friend becomes the friend of your enemy and turns his back on the free world, then everyone has something to worry about. Here are some pithy quotes about Netanyahu’s speech from the “Muslim world” that Obama claims to appeal to. From Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief, Al Arabiya English:
President Obama, listen to Netanyahu on Iran. In just a few words, Mr. Netanyahu managed to accurately summarize a clear and present danger, not just to Israel (which obviously is his concern), but to other U.S. allies in the region.
The Israeli PM managed to hit the nail right on the head when he said that Middle Eastern countries are collapsing and that “terror organizations, mostly backed by Iran, are filling in the vacuum” during a recent ceremony held in Tel Aviv…
What is absurd, however, is that despite this being perhaps the only thing that brings together Arabs and Israelis (as it threatens them all), the only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger of the situation is President Obama, who is now infamous for being the latest pen-pal of the Supreme Leader of the World’s biggest terrorist regime: Ayottallah Ali Khamenei. (Although, the latter never seems to write back!)
From Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj, Columnist, Al-Jazirah:
Since Obama is the godfather of the prefabricated revolutions in the Arab world, and since he is the ally of political Islam, (which is) the caring mother of (all) the terrorist organizations, and since he is working to sign an agreement with Iran that will come at the expense of the U.S.’s longtime allies in the Gulf, I am very glad of Netanyahu’s firm stance and (his decision) to speak against the nuclear agreement at the American Congress despite the Obama administration’s anger and fury.
I believe that Netanyahu’s conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents…
“One of the worst American presidents.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, although it might be better to describe him as one of the most effective traitors in American history, because in that one sense, he truly is a masterful success. If Obama’s treasonous betrayal of our nation, our friends and allies is not plainly apparent to you, you are just not paying attention.
By: Cliff Kincaid
This program is a unique look into the activities of one of America’s most important intelligence agencies from someone who was inside for 35 years.