Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Representative Trey Gowdy, the head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, several days ago broke the news that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has erased all information from the personal email server she used while serving as the nation’s top diplomat. Gowdy said Friday : “We learned today from her attorney that Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server.” He said while it’s “not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.” Gowdy received the news about Clinton erasing the server after he sent a letter to Clinton’s attorney asking that the email server be turned over to a third party in the hope that an investigation could recover about 30,000 emails that her team deleted before turning the rest over to the State Department. Gowdy said : "it is clear Congress will need to speak with the former Secretary about her email arrangement and the decision to permanently delete those emails. Not only was the Secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server, ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest.” ~~~~~ Today, Gowdy asked to speak to Mrs. Clinton, requesting her to appear for a private interview about her exclusive use of the personal email account when she was Secretary of State. Gowdy noted that Mrs. Clinton’s “email arrangement with herself is highly unusual, if not unprecedented." He added that Clinton’s disclosure last week that all of the emails from the personal account had been deleted “only exacerbates our need to better understand what the Secretary did, when she did it, and why she did it." ~~~~~ Hillary Clinton has maintained that the deleted messages were personal in nature, but Gowdy and others have raised questions over whether she might have deleted those messages that could damage her expected White House run. Clinton said at an early March press conference : “I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department." She said she had searched through more than 60,000 emails from her time at State and determined that roughly 30,000 of them were public records that should have been maintained. Clinton said the rest were messages related to private matters, such as her daughter’s wedding or her yoga class schedule, and didn't need to be kept. Gowdy's view is that, given Clinton’s “unprecedented email arrangement with herself and her decision nearly two years after she left office" to permanently delete information, his panel would need to talk with her and then to work with House leadership as it “considers next steps.” There were reports earlier this month that House Speaker John Boehner would announce an investigation into Clinton's use of a private email account, but that has yet to happen. Meanwhile, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz has suggested his panel could hold hearings over Clinton's use of private email, emphasizing his committee's jurisdiction over violations of the Federal Records Act. ~~~~~ The Obama White House was not overwhelmingly supportive of Mrs. Clinton's situation. Today, Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest reacted to the news that Chairman Gowdy has requested an interview with former Secretary of State Clinton to review the use of her private email address and her home server by saying that the issue was now in the hands of Clinton and her lawyers as well as the leaders of the congressional committee. Earnest said : “I don’t have an opinion on it.” Earnest then reminded them that the former Secretary of State was acting as a “private citizen” now : “Ultimately if the committee makes a request and Secretary Clinton in her capacity as a private citizen decides that she wants to once again go above and beyond in terms of trying to provide them with information and access, then that would be a decision for her to make." He confirmed that the White House believed it had “done enough” to clarify the nature of her communication. ~~~~~ And, the negative news that has filled the "Hillary Clinton space" for a month has had an impact on her polls. Voters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania question Clinton's trustworthiness and honesty, according to a new Quinnipiac University survey taken after the controversy surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email server for government communications. Her favorability ratings are down in all three states, where Clinton’s previous leads have shrunk. In the key delegate state of Florida, former Governor Jeb Bush leads Clinton, 45% to 42%. Clinton edges Senator Marco Rubio, 46% to 44%, and leads Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, considered another early frontrunner, 46% to 40%. Pennsylvania, a key state that has been elusive for Republicans recently, could be competitive for the GOP this cycle, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul narrowly topping Clinton 45% to 44%. Clinton beats Bush by six percentage points, Walker by five and Rubio by four in the Keystone State : “A red flag in blue state Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton, seemingly invincible before the email scandal, ends up tied with Rand Paul,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a press release. Clinton seems to do better in Ohio at this early stage of the campaign, although her margins are smaller than they were last month. In the closest matchup there, Clinton leads Paul, 46% to 41%. She tops Walker by 11 points in Ohio and leads Bush and Rubio by nine points. But Peter Brown, an assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, says the Hillary Clinton team has “something to worry about : 36% of independent voters in the key state of Ohio say they are less likely to vote for her because of the email controversy." ~~~~~ Dear readers, we all know that in American politics, a week is a lifetime. It was not possible for Hillary Clinton to be crowned 2016 Candidate-in-Chief. In the days before Barack Obama's dismal performance made anybody else standing look like a star, Hillary had favorability ratings around 50% -- and the 50% who disliked her were very vociferous. That seems to be where we are headed again. And that makes Hillary a human being once more. No pedestal. No crown. Only those nagging suspicions that she is a less than truthful woman drunk on power and ready to do whatever it takes to gain it. Even create and then erase a questionable email server. The act of a questionable wannabe candidate.
Monday, March 30, 2015
We are rapidly approaching a decisive moment in President Obama's plan to re-arrange the current Middle East balance of power. It is clear that Barack Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei are going to agree to a preliminary nuclear deal in Lausanne later this week. How do we know? Because the Ayatollah's messengers have told us there will be a deal. That is already the first big shift in the Middle East power base. We shouldn't be fooled by the noise coming from the White House and Secretary Kerry's staff that Iran must now agree to the Obama P5+1 terms -- that is Obama's equivalent of ground cover while the main force advances. And, make no mistake, the force advancing is Obama marching in lock-step with the Iranian Ayatollah and his mullahs. Somehow, Barack Obama has manoeuvered America's allies and the UN into believing they can unilaterally rewrite the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Normally, the Obama-led P5+1 could not agree to anything relating to Iran's nuclear program. Iran and all the members of the P5+1 group are signatories to the NPT. Iran should not be developing nuclear weapons and it should be making available unannounced access to inspectors. Obama and his P5+1 team seem to be rewriting the NPT with no mention of getting the okay of other NPT signatories -- including the US Congress because the NPT is an international treaty that tge Constitution says must be agreed to by the Senate -- or the okay of the UN. ~~~~~ Obama has aligned himself with the state often cited as the greatest disseminator of terrorism in the world today. Last week, the chant “Death to America” exploded in a Teheran crowd awaiting the appearance of Khamenei - Barack Obama’s diplomatic partner in Iran. The chant began in 1979 when radical shiite Islamists seized power and held American hostages for 444 days, until Ronald Reagan freed them. Last week, Khamenei appeared and shouted back to the crowd : “Of course yes, death to America,...because America is the original source of this pressure” to end Iran’s nuclear arms program. This came from the mouth of the other head of state in the negotiations that President Obama has tried so hard to keep going. Obama and Kerry have hitched the security of the US and the very existence of our allies in the Middle East - especially Israel - to the belief that we can trust Iran to stick to a deal and not produce nuclear weapons, even though it would give them a significant advantage in the region to do so. The White House response to Khamenei’s "Death to America" was to say it was “intended for a domestic political audience," dismissing the idea that it was significant in terms of the deal Obama and Kerry are pursuing. The White House took a distinctly less charitable approach to the domestic political comments of Benjamin Netanyahu, when he was fighting for re-election in Israel. Netanyahu told voters there that he could no longer support a two-state solution under the current conditions of Palestinian leadership and warned Israelis that outside activists had attempted to boost voting of Israeli Arabs in an attempt to defeat Likud, urging Israel’s Jews to turn out more heavily for him. The White House did not have an “intended for a domestic political audience” comment. Of course not. Obama said he "takes the prime minister at his word....Given his statements prior to the election, it’s going to be hard to find a path where people seriously believe, when it comes to negotiations, that those are possible.” This is another major indication of Obama's plan to shift the Middle East balance of power -- away from America's staunchest ally, the democratic Israel, and away from Saudi Arabia -- toward the treacherous terrorist mullahs and Ayatollah of Iran. ~~~~~ Obama is often accused of creating incoherence in American Middle East foreign policy. But, there is a reasonable argument that President Obama knows exactly what he is doing. In Syria, Obama remains committed to removing the Iran-supported al-Assad regime, the Alawite branch of shiite Islam, but he is supporting the fight against al-Assad’s enemies, who are sunni and supported by Saudi Arabia, America's long term Middle East ally. In effect, Obama is aligned with shiite Iran. Just a few days ago, Secretary of State Kerry acknowledged : “In the end, we have to negotiate with Assad." That is the same al-Assad who is Iran's protégé, denounced for years by Washington. ~~~~~ In Iraq, Obama is providing air support to shiite militias in their fight against ISIS and training the Iraqi army -- but given its evident uselessness, Obama is dependent on Iran’s leadership of the militias. The US military says this is very worrisome for the longer term because Iran could quickly and publicly take over Iraq. ~~~~~ In Yemen, where the US-backed government recently fell to the Iran-backed Houthi militias, Obama quickly ordered the evacuation of all US military personnel, including special operations units, leaving the US military and the Saudis "blind" to Iranian and Houthi actions in Yemen. Obama now supports the Saudi-led Arab air campaign against the shiite Houthis, but from afar, providing surveiilance and other long range support. ~~~~~ Dear readers, an Obama settlement with Iran and the undoing of the ties with Israel were destined to occur. Barack Obama has from the beginning supported the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, favored the 1967 pre-war borders for the Palestine Authority, poured money into Hamas programs in Gaza, and withdrawn all US troops from Iraq in 2011 against his own military's advice. Obama's personal animosity toward Benjamin Netanyahu has made it easier for him to attack Israel -- one hesitates to say that Barack Obama is anti-semitic, but that case would be easy to make. The rift now is unprecedented in the history of the relationship and Obama’s policy people show no sign they are equipped to refashion ties constructively. So, we are destined to watch American President Barack Obama forge ties with terrorist jihadist Iran, throwing Israel and Saudi Arabia to the shiite wolves. Only the US Congress stands in his way -- backed by 85% of the American people. It is time to act. Write and email your Senators and Majoriry Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner. Rally. Organize a march to Washington. Because it is America's good name that is being tarnished and stained by Obama's despicable actions. Make it clear to him and to the world that America does not agree.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
It's Saturday -- time for our weekly report on your emails. This week, the key topic continues to be Iran, with the Saudi-led operation in Yemen at the top of your list, followed by your questions about the Obama logic driving the Iran nuclear deal, and how the White House animosity toward Benjamin Netanyahu fits into the Obama-Iran deal. So, let's tackle your comments and questions. ~~~~~ You wondered how I could possibly be right in saying that the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen would protect Israel. For me, the rapprochement between Israel and the sunni Arab world is one of those unspoken seminal alliances that may never be made public but that will fundamentally change the balance of power in the Middle East. In Charm el-Cheikh today, Yemen President Hadi called the shiite Houthi rebels who are leading a civil war in Yemen, and have temporarily forced him to flee the country, "stooges of Iran." Hadi openly blamed Iran for the chaos in Yemen and demanded that his Arab neighbors continue their airstrikes against rebel positions until the Houthis surrender. Unnamed diplomats at the meeting say the Saudi-led and Egypt-backed Arab military airstrikes in Yemen could go on for months -- until stability is restored, according to Saudi sources who say that this is Saudi King Salman's goal. One diplomat says : "Ultimately the whole idea is to achieve the political objective, which is the return of legitimacy of Yemen and a return to the political process." Another diplomat says there are 5,000 Iranian trainers and group leaders with the Houthis. Imagery from Yemen has shown the repositioning of Scud missiles to aim them toward Saudi Arabia, whose airstrikes have so far destroyed 21 of them. Surprisingly, some Iran supporters have begun to step away from endorsing its actions in Yemen. Today, the terrorist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, issued a statement that offers support for Hadi, as opposed to the Iran-backed rebels. What does this have to do with the Arab-Israel relationship. A lot. First, Israel is protected simply by the sunni Arabs turning their significant military attention to Iran's aggression in Yemen. Second, it would be counter-productive to defeat and drive Iran out of the southern Arabian Peninsula only to have them pop up aggressively in or near the Saudi and Egyptian borders -- which are also Israel's Sinai or Palestinian / Syrian borders. So, the stronger the sunni Arab coalition becomes and the more aggessively it pursues Iranian territorial expansionist moves in other areas touching Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their sunni allies, the safer Israel will be. An unspoken protective alliance. ~~~~~ Turning to your questions about the blog on Obama's grudge against Netanyahu -- you wondered how the very public battle between Obama and the Israeli prime minister could influence Obama's position vis-à-vis Iran. The logic is this : Obama was hoping that America's devotion to Israel and the Jewish people would focus them so intently on that aspect of Obama's faulty foreign policy that he could slip an Iran deal in unnoticed. It didn't happen. America and its Congress are perfectly capable of watching two problems at the same time. And America has help. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters today that the talks have been "long and difficult. We've advanced on certain issues, not yet enough on others." Fabius hopes a “robust” nuclear agreement can be made with Iran but that any deal must include "real transparency on Iran’s future nuclear activities" and a "control mechanism" to ensure Teheran honors its promises. Fabius and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier joined the nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland this morning, as this round of negotiations fast approaches its March 31 deadline to tie down a political understanding for a nuclear deal. This would allow the P5+1 and Iran to continue working toward a June 30 deadline for a final, detailed accord. The foreign ministers of Russia, China and Britaini will also arrive in Lausanne this weekend, but diplomats at the talks say their presence does not necessarily mean a deal is almost done. Steinmeier says, "The endgame has begun." Fabius says that France is not yet satisfied on all technical points. One thing is clear. France can delay this round's finish, but it is unlikely to torpedo it completely. Nevertheless, France's at-the-negotiating-table hesitation will add weight to Israeli, Saudi and world concerns that Obama is marching toward a bad deal that will inevitably permit Iran to have a nuclear bomb. So, as with most Obama foreign initiatives, his attack on Benjamin Netanyahu has backfired. Instead of sidetracking everyone's attention, Obama's attack on Israel and Netanyzhu has in reality focused everybody even more intensely on his dangerous dealings with Iran. ~~~~~ Well, dear readers, that's our email bag for this week. If you haven't yet joined our conversation, please do. Just rmail your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking forward to hearing from you before next Saturday.
Friday, March 27, 2015
President Obama's actions toward Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Treacherous. Vindictive. Dangerous. Unbalanced. ~~~~~ And more important. Unbecoming : "Uniform Code of Military Justice. ARTICLE 133. CONDUCT UNBECOMING AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN. Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct." The elements of the offense are: 1. That the accused did or omitted to do certain acts; and 2. That under the circumstances, these acts or omissions constituted conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman. -- Here "officer" includes commissioned officers, cadets, and midshipmen of both sexes, hence the more common term unbecoming. A gentleman is understood to have a duty to avoid dishonest acts, displays of indecency lawlessness, dealing unfairly, indecorum, injustice, or acts of cruelty. ~~~~~ Barack Obama loves to refer to himself as Commander-in-Chief. We would be entitled to expect that he would hold himself to the same high standards demanded of every United States military officer. If he had done that, he would not have taken his vengeful line of attack against America's best friend, Israel, simply because Prime Minister Netanyahu sided with 85% of Americans and most of the world in disagreeing with the Obama-Iran nuclear deal. Perhaps until now, we might have simply wondered if Obama's revenge was "Unbecoming." But, in declassifying and revealing Israel's nuclear program, there is no doubt that "Commander-in-Chief" Obama has engaged in "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman." ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is more than clear that Congress will not act to rein in this imposter living in the White House by raising Articles of Impeachment. But, since the UCMJ is an act adopted by Congress and codified in Title 10 of the United Sates Code, perhaps Congress would consider proceeding with raising Articles of Impeachment under 10 USC §933, which is UCMJ Article 133, Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman. It would provide a framework that many of Obama Unbecoming impeachable acts would fit into. Or could we hope that the military would express its distaste in a court martial? This seems extremely unlikely since Obama controls the military. So, once more, Americans will have to keep the flame of constitutional process alive. Conduct Unbecoming. Use this phrase to describe President Obama's profoundly unpresidential behavior -- at every opportunity.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
The situation in Yemen, the mountainous tribal country at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, is rapidly deteriorating. In order to try to salvage Yemen, keep Iran from gaining a foothold in the Peninsula through their Houthi foot soldiers, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia last night launched air strikes against the shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying it is "defending the legitimate government" of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Saudi jets targeted Houthi positions in the capital Sanaa overnight, along with missile batteries and warplanes. Security officials told the Associated Press that the targets included a missile base controlled by the Houthis, as well as a nearby fuel depot. A camp for a US-trained special forces unit loyal to ousted Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is backing the rebels, was also hit, along with targets in the northern Houthi stronghold area, and in Taiz and Aden. ~~~~~ The Houthis have said their aim is to replace President Hadi's government, which they accuse of being corrupt, and to implement the outcomes of the National Dialogue that was convened when former President Saleh was forced to hand over power in 2011 following mass protests led by the Houthis. Last night, a Houthi spokesman warned the coalition that it risked provoking a wider war. Shiite leading power Iran, which sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia accuses of backing the rebels, also demanded an immediate halt to the strikes, calling them a violation of Yemen sovereignty and vowing to use every effort to "control the crisis in Yemen," according to Iranian Foreign Secretary Zarif, who is currently negotiating for Iran to get a nuclear deal with President Obama and the P5+1. ~~~~~ Adel al-Jubair, the Saudi Ambassador to the US who acted as spokesman for the Kingdom last night, said the operation would begin with air strikes, but vowed : "We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling." Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported that the coalition includes the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan Morocco and Sudan -- who are sending aircraft -- while Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan are ready to take part in any ground offensive. Oman is the only Gulf Arab state not participating. The US said it was providing "logistical and intelligence support." ~~~~~ Former President Hadi was being held in house arrest by the Houthis, who overran the Yemen capital, Sanaa, in January. He recently escaped and fled to Aden. Hadi had asked for Western support last week, but his appeal for help became urgent yesterday when the rebels overran al-Anad air base, a large military facility that is only 60km (37 miles) north of Aden. President Hadi was subsequently moved to a "secure location" after another air raid on his palace and the capture of Aden's international airport by pro-Saleh police. Senior aides insisted that he remained in the city and had no plans to leave, but security and port officials later told the Associated Press that he had left by boat. ~~~~~ A troubling outcome of the rapid Houthi takeover of Yemen is that intelligence files on American operations in Yemen are now in the possession of the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen. This was confirmed by US officials yesterday. The names of US informants and counterterrorism strike plans were given to Iranian officials by Yemeni officials who switched allegiance to Houthi militias, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. The newspaper reported that the compromised intelligence files, which were taken from Yemen’s National Security Bureau, influenced President Obama’s decision to evacuate personnel from the US Embassy in Sanaa last month and to pull US special operations forces from the region last weekend. ~~~~~ It is hard to imagine that Yemen, the country supported by the US, who trained and provided aid to its military, has so rapidly fallen to Iran-led Houthi rebels. “The news from Yemen is all bad,” Represrntative Adam B. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Los Angeles Times. “I have to think that given the magnitude of the support we have given and the rapidity with which large portions of Yemen fell to Houthis, that a significant portion of military support is now in the hands of people who are not our friends,” Schiff added. Sunni leaders in Iraq have warned the US and its regional allies that Iran is poised to take over Iraq in the same way. And, while Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, has not yet declared its position in the Saudi operation, AQAP is sunni and would perhaps be expected to side with Saudi Arabia. But anything is possible in this volatile and dangerous escalation that brings Iran and Saudi Arabia face-to-face in a war they have heretofore fought through local proxies. ~~~~~ Several elements stand out. The Saudi move has been strongly backed by the US, which is providing “logistical and intelligence support”. It is impossible to think that the Saudis would propose launching a ground offensive into Yemen with 150,000 troop without prior American agreement and support. While US forces seem to be not directly involved - yet - the Saudis have given the name “Storm of Resolve” to their operation, reminiscent of the joint operation involving US and Saudi ground forces, Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 war to drive Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. And, the Saudis unveiled the international coalition in Washington, not Riyadh, another clue that the Obama administration may be the driving force behind the intervention, while avoiding any public admission of participation -- a role President Obama would reject while negotiating with Iran, even though the Iranian foreign minister Zarif has called the Saudi operation "a US-led aggression." It paints a bizarre picture of Secretary of State John Kerry meeting his Iranian counterpart this week in Lausanne to try to finalize a nuclear deal with Teheran while the two countries take opposite sides over Yemen. However, the Saudi operation in Yemen may also be a strong message to Obama that the nuclear deal is dangerous and Teheran is not to be trusted. Such a message would certainly resonate in Israel. This Saudi-led Arab coalition is an escalation in the already established trend toward Arab countries cooperating in their own defense, which would be a powerful collective message to Iran -- keep out of Arab affairs. That Gulf Arab states jo the coalition is to be expected, but Sudan has also indicated support, as well as Turkey. It seems clear that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decided to fully assume its position of leadership, in this period when the rise of extremist groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS represent an existential threat to them, just as Iran represents the same existential threat to both Israel and the Arab / sunni world. Wouldn't it be ironic if Iran's actions, meant to weaken the sunni world and destroy Israel, finally have the opposite effect -- strengthening Saudi resolve and bringing Israel under the protective wings of an Arab world determined not to be defeated by Iran. It would make President Obama's cosying up to Iran somewhat less menacing.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
March 25th -- a day of religious and political significance. ~~~~~ March 25, 1821, was decided upon as the traditional date of the start of the Greek War of Independence, often called the Greek Revolution. The date was chosen in the early years of the Greek state so that it falls on the same day as the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, strengthening the ties between the Greek Orthodox Church and the newly founded state. By the end of March 1821, the Peloponnese was in open revolt against the Turks of the Ottoman Empire and by October 1821, the Greeks had already captured Kalamata and Tripolitsa, and the first of the Greek local governing councils held its inaugural session. A Peloponnesian assembly convened and elected a Senate. Other assemblies adopted local statutes, including the Charter of Western Continental Greece and the Legal Order of Eastern Continental Greece. The statutes provided for the creation of local administrative organs. The First National Assembly wrote the first Greek Constitution and appointed the members of executive and legislative bodies that were to govern the liberated territories. It all had started with the Fall of Constantinople on 29 May 1453, when Venice lost control of the eastern Mediterranean, and the subsequent fall of the successor states of the Byzantine Empire marked the end of the sovereignty of the Byzantine Church. After that, the Ottoman Empire ruled the eastern Mediterranean. Orthodox Christians were granted some political rights, but they were considered inferior subjects. Greek intellectuals and humanists, who had migrated west before or during the Ottoman invasions, began to call for the liberation of Greece. They called on Venice and "all of the Latins" to aid the Greeks against "the abominable, monstrous, and impious barbarian Turks." However, Greece was to remain under Ottoman rule for several more centuries. The 1821 Greek Revolution was the final step after several failed attempts at regaining independence in the Ottoman era, beginning in the 17th century. The first great uprising was the Russian-sponsored Orlov Revolt of the 1770s, which was crushed by the Ottomans. Afterward, Moslem Albanians ravaged many regions in mainland Greece. During the Second Russo-Turkish War, the Greeks rose again, financing a small Trieste fleet that was a nuisance for the Ottoman navy. At the same time, a number of Greeks enjoyed a privileged position in the Ottoman state as members of the Ottoman bureaucracy and controlled the affairs of the Orthodox Church through the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, since the higher clergy of the Orthodox Church was mostly Greek. Thus, as a result of the Ottoman system, the predominantly Greek hierarchy of the Patriarchate controlled the Empire's Orthodox subjects and the Greek Orthodox Church played a pivotal role in the preservation of national identity, the development of Greek society, and the resurgence of Greek nationalism. From the 18th century, members of prominent Greek families gained considerable control over Ottoman foreign policy and eventually over the bureaucracy as a whole. As Greeks grew in wealth, their children went to European intellectual centers and came home determined to create a Greek Enlightenment. The Greek cause began to draw support not only from the large Greek merchant diaspora in both Europe and Russia, but also from Western European Phil-hellenes. This Greek movement for independence, resulting in the 1821 Greek Revolution, was not only the first movement of national character in Eastern Europe, but also the first one by Christians against the Moslem Ottoman rulers. The spirit of the ancient Greek civilization was rekindled and is today fighting against its latest captors. ~~~~~ In 421, Venice was founded at twelve o'clock noon, according to legend, the exact time of the dedication of the first church, that of San Giacomo at the islet of Rialto, on 25 March 421. Venice had been a city for centuries by then, and since 166 A.D. had been the refuge of Romans fleeing the pagan germanic invaders who eventually sacked Rome and controlled Venice for some time. The Venetian governmental structure was from the beginning republican. The Republic of Venice, as it called itself, was similar to the republican system of ancient Rome, with an elected chief executive (the Doge), a senate-like assembly of nobles, and a mass of citizens with limited political power, but who originally had the power to grant or withhold their approval of each newly elected Doge. Church and various private properties were tied to military service, which was kept separate from politics. Venice grew in influence and wealth based on its commercial fleets, its importance in protecting the eastern Catholic Church from Moslem attacks until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and its independence, based on its isolated position. It was only in 1797 that Napoleon's juggernaut was able to conquer Venice and end the Republic. But, after 150 years of sinking into ruin, Venice has once again become La Serenissima, the most beautiful city on Earth. ~~~~~ On March 25, 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a patent to colonize Virginia, and Jamestown was founded in 1607. In 1620, the Puritans set off from England for Virginia, but landed by mistake at Plymouth, Massachusetts. On March 25, 1634, the first settlers arrived in Maryland. The English colonists prospered as merchants, commercial seafarers and lovers of their liberties and freedom of religion. Their Christianity filled their political acts and organized their daily lives. They begzn to call thrmselves Americans. They revolted against a King's taxation without representation. The rest, as we say, is history. ~~~~~ Dear readers, what are the common threads in these histories? Commercial success. A common political identity built around commercial and personal liberties. Christianity as a unifyiing moral principle. Why dwell on this today? Because we are in the midst of a similar set of circumstances. In Europe, the trauma is centered on the ingrained sense of tolerance that welcomes waves of non-democratic non-Christians, who aggressively use the European values that welcome them as immigrants to demand the weakening of those same European political and religious values. In America, commercial and political identities are being challenged by a huge federal secular government that has cast aside the Christian values of 75% of the population, turning constitutional guarantees of equality and separation of church and state inside out. Americans resent what they see as a hostile government marginalizing them while taxing them to support small minorities whom they believe are threatening the American way of life. This is what makes Ted Cruz important. He understands the threat. He sees the solution. He refuses to become bogged down in fixing a system that has become profoundly anti-American. There are times when a "last straw" is felt by a majority of a country. The Ottoman Empire suppressing Greek identity. The Republic of Venice saving itself from ruin. America? Has it felt the last straw? Are Americans at the tipping point? Do they care enough about their American civilization to reach out courageously to save it? These are Ted Cruz's questions. America has 18 months to dig deep into its soul and find its answer.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
As members of Congress continue to muster opposition to a potential Obama - Iran nuclear deal, the Wall Street Journal reports that soon after the P5+1 powers entered negotiations last year on Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned that Israel was spying on the secret talks. According to the WSJ, the spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations in order to build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former US officials said. The WSJ allegation comes in a period of increasing tensions between the US and Israel, and just weeks after Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech to Congress at Speaker John Boehner's invitation, in which Netanyahu warned against the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. ~~~~~ Before the speech, the Speaker privately met with Netanyahu, but Boehner said Israeli officials had never shared intelligence about the Iran talks with him : "I read that story this morning, and frankly, I was a bit shocked," Boehner told reporters. "There was no information revealed to me whatsoever." Asked to clarify his reaction to the story, Boehner replied : "I'm shocked by the fact that there were reports in this press article that information was being passed on by the Israelis to members of Congress. I'm not aware of that at all. I'm baffled by it," Boehner added. The WSJ reported that the spying on the closed-door nuclear negotiations didn't anger the White House as much as revelations that Israel was sharing the information with US lawmakers in an effort to derail the agreement. “It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other," a senior US official told the newspaper. "It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy." ~~~~~ In a comment that supports Boehner's position and casts doubt on the WSJ article, both the Republican chairman and the Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee told CNN's Wolf Blitzer today that while they hold briefings and have conversations with Israeli officials regularly, neither of the House members, among the most likely to receive such information, has ever received information about the Iran negotiations from their Israeli contacts. ~~~~~ Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has confirmed that Israel didn't spy on the US, but obtained information through other participants : "All the information we obtained is from a different side and not through the United States." Lieberman said Israel decided years ago not to spy on the United States, directly or indirectly. "I have never encountered anyone who breached this directive in the past two decades," he said. ~~~~~ Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said "there is no way" that Israel spied on its closest and most important ally. Yaalon, a former military chief and head of military intelligence, added that Israel has received no complaints from the US, which he said would be expected if Israel had been spying on the US. According to Yaalon : "There's no such thing that Israel spies on the Americans. It has been strictly forbidden by all of the political leadership that I have known, already for two decades, especially the current one, and no Israeli intelligence organization spies on the Americans....but apparently someone has an interest in sparking a dispute, or creating a bad atmosphere in our relations.~~~~~ And it seems that Israel would have had little reason to resort to spying. Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked at a congressional hearing whether the US has kept Israel fully abreast of the negotiations. "Yes, we have," Kerry answered. But Kerry also has complained that details about the negotiations that have leaked have not been helpful in the sensitive talks meant to curb Iran's suspect nuclear program. Kerry did not single out Israel. ~~~~~ Prime Minister Netanyahu's office has called the spying report "utterly false," saying Israel "does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel's other allies." ~~~~~ So, it appears that nobody except the 'US officials" cited by the Wall Street Journal believes that Israel has been spying on the Iran nuclear negotiations. Who could these US officials be? Usually a reference to officials means high-ranking bureaucrats or administration appointees. Well, yesterday White House chief of staff Denis McDonough spoke at the annual J Street conference. Founded in 2008, J Street has positioned itself as an anti-Netanyahu liberal alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, a pro-Israel group that has opposed Obama over Iran’s nuclear program : “We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made or that they don’t raise questions about the Prime Minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations,” McDonough told the J Street conference, to a standing ovation. McDonough was clear that the Obama administration stands behind a two-state solution : “We continue to believe that the best way to safeguard Israel’s long-term security is to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That’s why the Prime Minister’s comments on the eve of the election in which he first intimated and then made very clear in response to a follow up question that a Palestinian state will not be established while he is prime minister were so very troubling.” ~~~~~ The White House is keeping the pressure on Netanyahu by saying it is weighing whether to change the United States’ longstanding policy of providing unconditional support for Israel at the United Nations. Netanyahu, meanwhile, has expanded on his comments since winning reelection, telling MSNBC that he backs a “sustainable peaceful two-state solution” under the right circumstances. Those comments have done little to pacify the White House. President Obama has suggested that Netanyahu’s comments since reelection are not enough to prove that he backs the creation of a Palestinian state : “We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership.” Obama's anger at Netanyahu was called a "temper tantrum" by Senator McCain. The administration has sent representatives to every J Street conference since taking office in 2009. Officials appearing have included Vice President Biden and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. Recently, the administration sent national security adviser Susan Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Power to the conference held by AIPAC. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said there was no “message that is trying to be sent” by dispatching a higher-ranking official to the J Street conference. ~~~~~ Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is expected to formally task Netanyahu with forming a coalition on Wednesday. But, Rivlin has made national unity a priority and has called for "as wide a coalition as possible to ensure the representation of all groups in Israeli society." For now, both Netanyahu and his chief leftist adversaries are saying a "unity government" is out of the question. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we must ask if Obama's public pounding of Netanyahu could in fact be directed at President Rivlin and the fears in Israel that without US support, the Jewish state could be destroyed. Indeed, with Obama's policies, the Iranians already control Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and much of Bahrain, and have surrounded the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. And, US embassies in three Arab countries - Syria Libya and Yemen - have been forced to close. Arabs, and even Palestinians, recognize that, under the current circumstances, a Palestinian state would sooner or later be controlled by jihadists and Islamic terrorists. Netanyahu sees this, too. Obama should embrace Netanyahu, as his Arab neighbors have done, and seriously examine the potential fallout of an independent Palestinian state, for both regional and international security. The last thing the Middle East, Americans and Europeans need is another Islamic extremist country that exports terrorism. The real enemy is not Netanyahu. President Obama and his advisors need to understand that the real enemy is Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, ISIS and the Islamic State of Iran. Unfortunately, Obama seems to want to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state that would pose an existential threat to it and become the source of instability and tensions in the region. Obama refuses to face the fact that because of his withdrawals and neglect, the situation in the Middle East today, with the rise of ISIS, the Houthis and other terror groups, is much worse than it was even five years ago. Israel, Arab states, the Middle East, Europe, America and the world do not have time for the childish antics of an American President who mistakes his personal grudge for foreign policy.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Michelangelo said : "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." Five hundred years later, David ben-Gurion put it more succinctly : "To be a realist, you must believe in miracles." ~~~~~ Michelangelo and ben-Gurion were both talking about vision. We had another glimpse of vision last week when General David Petraeus spoke out about the failure of current American Middle East policies. Without ever mentioning President Obama, Petraeus put the lack of vision in Obama's efforts in Iraq at the heart of our troubles there : "Where I think a broader comment is perhaps warranted has to do with the way we came to think about Iraq and, to a certain extent, the broader region over the last few years. There was certainly a sense in Washington that Iraq should be put in our rearview mirror, that whatever happened here was somewhat peripheral to our national security and that we could afford to redirect our attention to more important challenges....In retrospect, a similar attitude existed with respect to the civil war in Syria - again, a sense that developments in Syria constituted a horrible tragedy to be sure, but a tragedy at the outset, at least, that did not seem to pose a threat to our national security. But in hindsight, few, I suspect, would contend that our approach was what it might - or should - have been. In fact, if there is one lesson that I hope we’ve learned from the past few years, it is that there is a linkage between the internal conditions of countries in the Middle East and our own vital security interests. Whether fair or not, those in the region will also offer that our withdrawal from Iraq in late 2011 contributed to a perception that the US was pulling back from the Middle East. This perception has complicated our ability to shape developments...shaken many of our allies...made it harder to persuade them to support our approaches. This has been all the more frustrating because, of course, in objective terms, we remain deeply engaged across the region and our power here is still very, very significant." We might say that General Petraeus believes that for lack of a vision, Iraq has been temporarily lost, and with it, the Middle East. ~~~~~ When President Obama is reminded of his lack of vision and subsequent failures, he becomes angry and defensive. This is at the heart of his "temper tantrum," as Senator McCain described it yesterday, aimed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When Netanyahu stood before the US Congress and said : "For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves. This is why - this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand. But Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel. You stand with Israel, because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to history’s horrors." Obama had no answer for those visionary words because he has no vision of a "better" world or his place in it. And so he lashed out in anger. ~~~~~ Americans see the lack of vision. They speak out for it in every opinion poll and election. They may mention taxes or Obamacare or same sex marriage -- these are markers for their broader quest, and they often use one word as a repository for all their fears and desires. The word? Constitution. Why do Americans today cry out for allegiance to the Constitution when in earlier crises they were satisfied to demand specific actions? Because there is no visionary leader on the American national political scene today. There is no Washington...no Jefferson...no Lincoln...no FDR...no Robert Kennedy...no Ronald Reagan. There are only political tradesmen who can "fix" -- fix taxes, fix healthcare, fix education, fix job creation. But those fixes are not tied to the larger dream...to the American vision of itself. That is why there is no thrill of having discovered the perfect 2016 candidate in either party. Hillary and Jeb and Rand and Scott are all political tradesmen. ~~~~~ But, today we heard from a visionary...a man who spoke in simple, stirring terms about the America he loves, the America that changed the world, the America he wants to restore, that he says can be restored. The longest word in his entire speech was the word "Constitution." The man was Senator Ted Cruz. He has been a Supreme Court clerk, led a Houston-based firm's Supreme Court practice, taught litigation at the University of Texas and was charged with representing the state before the high court as its Solicitor General. He also served in the George W. Bush administration, at both the Federal Trade Commission and as an Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department. So, while his detractors who like to make him out to be an addle-brained quixotic extremist say he lacks experience, they are wrong. And his experience has led him to the heart and soul of the living US Constitution. But instead of getting tied up in the legal niceties of his experience, Ted Cruz wants simply to return the Constitution to the American people. He said this today in clear Reaganesque terms : "From the dawn of this country, at every stage America has enjoyed God’s providential blessing. Over and over again, when we face impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge. You know, compared to that, repealing Obamacare and abolishing the IRS ain’t all that tough....It is a time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States. I am honored to stand with each and every one of you courageous conservatives as we come together to reclaim the promise of America, to reclaim the mandate, the hope and opportunity for our children and our children’s children. We stand together for liberty. This is our fight. The answer will not come from Washington. It will come only from the men and women across this country, from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, from people who respect the Constitution. It will only come, as it has come at every other time of challenge in this country, when the American people stand together and say we will get back to the principles that have made this country great. We will get back and restore that shining city on a hill that is the United States of America." ~~~~~ Dear readers, Ted Cruz has a long march ahead of him. But one thing is certain -- there is no other presidential candidate of either party who can match his eloquent call to share in the vision promised to every American in 1789. The Constitution -- Liberty - Independence - Respect for all Mankind. ~~~~~ (Here is a site that contains the transcript of Senator Cruz's speech. It tells a personal story that is well worth the reading. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/transcript-ted-cruzs-speech-at-liberty-university/2015/03/23/41c4011a-d168-11e4-a62f-ee745911a4ff_story.html)
Saturday, March 21, 2015
It's time for our Saturday report on your emails. This week, the key topic continues to be Iran, Israel and the Middle East. Last week, you focused on the likelihood of a deal with Iran and the Israel-US relationship. But with the Lausanne negotiations moving ahead and the Israeli elections behind us, you are now focused on the potential damage an Iran deal will cause, and the threats being issued from the White House in Benjamin Netanyahu's direction. These are hefty topics. Let's try to handle them. ~~~~~ First, as you so rightly say, there will be an Obama-Iran deal. The US President has cleverly surrounded his pre-ordained decision with what he calls the P5+1 -- countries either publicly on Iran's side (Russia and China) or European countries whose dependence on the US-supported NATO for military cover and whose anti-semitism and dislike of Israel makes them perfect yes-men (Britain, Germany and France, which is possibly the only independent voice in the entire negotiating team). So, it should have been no surprise that this past week in Lausanne, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif negotiated alone while the rest of the P5+1 were briefed after the sessions. In Obama's inexplicable eagerness to sign any deal with Iran, he is willing to allow it to achieve nuclear capability, and the US State Department has removed Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah -- two of the world's most open promoters of terror -- from its Terror Threat Report. The European Union did its part, removing Hamas, the Moslem Brotherhood's Palestinian branch, from its list of designated terrorist organizations. Yet, barely a week ago, Egypt designated the entire Hamas movement a terrorist organization. Hamas supports ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula and within Egypt itself, attacking government, security and civilian targets. Was all this whitewashing done at Iran's request? It would be a small gesture compared to Obama's decision to permit it to build its nuclear bomb "for peaceful purposes," - a first, even for diplomats - while at the same time, Obama is looking the other way while Iran takes over Yemen and completes its new nuclear-capable "defensive" missiles that will be able to reach Europe and be fired from submarines. ~~~~~ To get to your second point, nobody's happy except Obama and the Ayatollah. This has led to the extraordinary circumstance in which Arab leaders, the US Congress and Israel have "gone public" to try to stop what they see as a gathering storm of catastrophe. Republican Senators sent a letter to Iran warning that any agreement with the US would have to be endorsed by Congress. The Iranians used it to claim that the United States is so weak it is about to fall apart. The king of Saudi Arabia said that if the US did not halt Iran's nuclear program, Saudi Arabia would begin enriching its own uranium, to acquire a nuclear potential equal to that of Iran. The members of the Arab League met in Riyadh to warn America of the approaching disaster. And, even the president of the Christian human rights organization Voice of the Copts, has entered the debate by asking House Speaker John Boehner to invite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to address Congress and warn America of the mistake it clearly intends to make. ~~~~~ That's a lot of public commentary from countries and leaders who rarely say anything in public. Why is the world so fearful? That's your third question. Fear is everywhere because the agreement between Iran and the United States will not only abandon traditional US allies - the sunni Arab states and Israel - to their fates, it also makes inevitable a nuclear arms race involving sunni states, carried out in the tenuous hope that they will be able to contain the shiites before they launch a nuclear Armageddon on the Middle East. And - something seldom mentioned in Western media - there is also the rumored approaching death of Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei. Thus, instead of focusing on the role of Congress, which will be reasoned and thoughtful, the sunnis and Israel focus on what they know -- that any agreement signed with the Iranians now won't be worth the paper it is printed on, because no one knows who will replace Khamenei or whether his replacement will agree to honor any commitments signed by the previous regime. The sunni Arabs and Israel know what Obama refuses to believe -- Iran has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about the status of its nuclear program and its goal of suppressing the sunnis, annihilating Israel and creating a shiite hegemony in the Middle East. Arab fears run so deep that some of them agree with a theory making the rounds in the Middle East -- that Obama's behavior supports the rumor that he is a secret Moslem Brotherhood supporter. Why do they give credence to such a rumor? Well, instead of supporting sunni states, such as Egypt and the Gulf States, which are exploring an innovative moderate, contemporary Islam, Obama has chosen to support the Moslem Brotherhood, which tells him and the West it is not doing its utmost to weaken those moderate states. ~~~~~ And finally, Obama labels Israel's failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians as the only important problem in the Middle East, using Europe and the P5+1 to turn Israel into a pariah state, as if it is Israel's bound duty to bring the Palestinians to the table and force them to sign a peace agreement -- even if the Palestinians refuse to talk, lob rockets into Israel and send their agents to every corner of the earth to smear Israel's reputation with insinuations and lies. Sunni Arabs may have political and cultural reasons to keep Israel at arm's length. But they respect Netanyahu, who was willing to accept personal, political and diplomatic risks in order look after his people's security by speaking before Congress. As one analyst in the Middle East said : "Throughout history, prophets have often been without honor in their own countries and have been rejected by the very people who should pay attention to them. There is, it seems, in every culture, a deep and real wish to kill the messenger. The West would do well to understand that anyone really interested in fighting terrorism needs to outlaw the Moslem Brotherhood movement -- all its branches, wherever they are. Even more, it needs to paralyze Iran, rather than appease it." ~~~~~ Dear readers, the times are heavy with foreboding about the disaster that will be set in motion by the Obama deal with Iran. It's sad that Western leaders -- whether naive or deliberately bad actors -- are going to agree to a deal that appeases Iran, just as a deal was made to appease Hitler in 1938. It is striking how often the analogy to the Chamberlain Munich agreement of 1938 is used today to describe Obama's determination to appease Iran. What is shocking is that Europeans -- who paid severely for believing in the efficacy of appeasement in 1938 -- should make the same mistake in 2015. Only Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel are standing up to Obama's folly and its promise of a Middle East war that could easily engulf the world. We should respect their courage and speak up for them whenever we can, because our future may very well depend on their success. (Hope to hear from you before next Saturday...join the discussion any time...French and Spanish welcome...at email@example.com )
Friday, March 20, 2015
Today, four suicide bombers hit a pair of mosques controlled by shiite rebels in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, ripping bombs through crowds of worshippers, killing at least 137 people and wounding 350 in the deadliest violence to hit the fragile war-torn nation in decades. The attack came during Friday prayers, the most crowded time of the week. Both the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques are controlled by the shiite Houthis, but also are used by sunni worshippers. Another attempt to attack a mosque was prevented in the northern city of Saada - a Houthi stronghold. Scenes from the two mosques showed devastation, with children visible among the dead. A prominent shiite cleric, al-Murtada al-Mansouri, and two senior Houthi leaders were among the dead, the TV channel reported. The first bomber was caught by militia guards at the mosque entrance and he detonated his device at the outside gates. In the ensuing panic, a second bomber entered the mosque and blew himself up in the crowds, according to the official news agency SABA. Many were injured by shattered glass falling from the mosque's large hanging chandeliers. ~~~~~ The rebels, known as Houthis, who have taken over much of Yemen, now control the capital. They represent 30% of the population and have taken advantage of the vacuum left when the US withdrew its diplomatic and military support forces, leaving the US-allied government almost helpless. This has led to direct fighting between sunni al-Qaida militia and shiite Houthis. ~~~~~ ISIS claimed responsibility online for today's suicide bombings, but this was not independently confirmed. The influence of ISIS, the group that holds much of Iraq and Syria, has spread to Yemen, where a powerful wing of the rival militant group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, already operates. The ISIS claim of responsibility was posted on the same website where an ISIS affiliate in Libya claimed responsibility for Wednesday's deadly attack on a museum in Tunisia. A spokesman for the Houthis, an Iran-backed anti-government shiite rebel group in Yemen, said his group was not behind Friday's attack. He pointed to earlier statements by Houthi leaders that prohibit striking mosques and markets. AQAP also said it did not carry out the attack. The ISIS branch in Yemen that claimed responsibility for the attack said that the four Sanaa suicide bombers blew themselves up among crowds of Houthis. The online message said the attack was just the first of an "upcoming flood, God willing. We swear to avenge the bloodshed of Moslems and the toppling of houses of God." ~~~~~ In late-breaking news, Yemeni security officials said AQAP has taken control of the southern city of al-Houta, the capital of Lahj province, after security forces surrendered. AQAP seized the security force barracks, the governor's office, and the intelligence headquarters, which houses prisons holding al-Qaida detainees. Forces loyal to deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh surrendered to the militants without resistance. Those who resisted at the governor's office were executed, according to unnamed officials. Neither the current president Hadi, who supports the Houthis, nor the former president Saleh, who supports al-Qaida, was in the city. ~~~~~ The White House commented Friday, saying that US officials haven’t confirmed ISIS involvement in the Yemen attack. Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said other groups have made similar claims of responsibility for propaganda value, and that American officials are investigating. “There’s no evidence that there is an operational link” between the attack and ISIS extremists, Earnest said, while acknowledging that extremist groups are trying to capitalize on instability there. US officials also are analyzing information on the massacre yesterday at the Bardo museum in Tunisia, where ISIS militants killed 23 people and wounded many others in a Kalachnikoff attack. ~~~~~ The most significant part of the ISIS statement about its Yemeni attack was its vow not to rest "until we have uprooted (the Houthis), repelled their aggression, and cut off the arm of the Iranian project in Yemen," it said, referring to claims that shiite powerhouse Iran is backing the rebels. While sunnis and shiites have been fighting each other in Iraq and Syria for a long time, today's action brings the leader of the sunnis, Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the shiites, Iran, together in the collapsing ruins of Yemen, the poor, loosely knit tribal country at the bottom of the Arabian peninsula - the Saudi Kingdom's homeland and the site of all Saudi oil. The Kingdom has built a large fence on its border with Yemen, but Iran may be positioning itself for a different run at Saudi oil fields and access to their output. ~~~~~ Bab Al Mandab is the key strait that passes through the Gulf of Aden, linking the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean. It serves as the world’s main oil transit waterway and main shipping lifeline through the Suez Canal. If the Houthis were to secure Bab Al Mandab and the sea in the Al Hudaydah governorate, another strategic waterway, they would control the traffic from the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf, a sobering prospect for those worried about increasing Iranian influence in the region. And, Saudi Arabia isn't the only country watching the straits at Bab Al Mandab. In February, the head of Egypt's Suez Canal Authority said his country would send troops to Yemen if any group attempts to block the Bab Al Mandab strait. Lieutenant General Mohab Mamish said Egypt "will not accept" closure of the waterway which "directly affects the Suez Canal and national security." Mamish said events in Yemen are under constant review and that the military is ready to intervene if the strait is blocked. Egypt and Saudi Arabia together guarantee access to oil and other commodities for an arc that reaches from Scandinavia to Japan. Their control of the eastern access to the Mediterranean Sea means that if Iran wants to challenge them, it would face not only Egypt and Saudi Arabia but all of Europe, as well as America. Most ships that pass through Bab Al-Mandab are either going to or coming from Egypt's Suez Canal, one of its main sources of income and foreign currency flow. Today's attack by ISIS simply adds more fuel to an already-hot fire. ~~~~~ ~~~~~ Add to this simmering pot the fear and anger bubbling in the sunni Middle East over President Obama's determination to sign a nuclear deal with Iran. With a late March deadline for amthe Iran deal approaching, Saudi Arabia last week signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with South Korea that includes a plan to study the feasibility of building two nuclear reactors in the Kingdom. The Saudis have also signed nuclear co-operation agreements with China, France and Argentina, with the intention of constructing 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years, so the nuclear race caused by Obama's actions has already begun. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, flew to Riyadh earlier this month to reassure Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab allies that America would not accept any deal unless it prevented Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Sources say he was told that they find Iran's support for armed shiite groups in regional conflicts as troubling as the prospect of an atomic bomb. Saudi Prince Turki said : "Iran is already a disruptive player in various scenes in the Arab world, whether it's Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, or Bahrain. So ending fear of developing weapons of mass destruction is not going to be the end of the troubles we're having with Iran." Saudi Arabia is concerned about Iran's backing of Iraqi shiite militias in the fight against ISIS. That role has become more public during the battle over the Iraqi city of Tikrit, where General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, is openly guiding shiite forces. Prince Turki said : "Now it seems that Iran is expanding its occupation of Iraq and that is unacceptable." The Kingdom has also long been frustrated with America's refusal to arm the Syrians against the al-Assad regime, Iran's closest Arab ally. "Inevitably I believe fighting ISIS is fighting Assad," Prince Turki declared. "It's because of Assad's treatment of his people that ISIS has taken advantage of the situation…so the enemy is both ISIS and Bashar al- Assad," Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence chief, added. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the Middle East pot is almost boiling -- without any neutral force to turn down the fire. With Obama siding with Iran and its shiite followers, there is no one to support and lead the sunnis, America's longtime allies. The surest conclusion is that no leader for Saudi Arabia and its allied sunnis will appear until the US elects a new President. Until then, a coalition of the US Congress, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will have to hold the situation together so that it will still be salvagable in January 2017.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
As the Obama administration moves toward an unprecedented nuclear deal with Iran, former Democratic Senator and vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman has written an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal to warn President Obama about "the Constitution and history" argument that says Congress should be able to review any agreement with a foreign power that affects national security. In the piece, Lieberman supports the bipartisan legislation proposed by Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez that would allow Congress to approve or reject an accord with Iran. Lieberman says : "The legislation now before the Senate, which may be taken up as early as next week, would allow Congress to assume its rightful role in a responsible, measured way....The White House has threatened a veto, arguing that a deal with Iran would be a 'nonbinding' executive agreement and therefore congressional review would represent an inappropriate intrusion. Not so....The Constitution and history, not to mention common sense, argue that it is entirely proper for America’s elected representatives in Congress to review a far-reaching agreement with a foreign government of such national-security significance....Congress has clear constitutional standing and an institutional prerogative not to be cut out of the process....a nuclear deal with Iran would represent an historic and highly controversial strategic commitment - precisely the kind of national decision in which congressional involvement is most warranted." Lieberman added that Congress should also scrutinize an Iran agreement "because the sanctions under negotiation are overwhelmingly the creation of Congress -- put in law through bills passed by large bipartisan majorities. Given that Congress built the sanctions against Iran, it is unreasonable to bar it from any review or oversight in how that architecture is disassembled." Lieberman warned President Obama that the country’s most successful leaders have recognized the need to ensure the support of the American people : "Congress has every right to review any agreement with Iran that the Obama administration reaches. The administration would benefit greatly if any deal it negotiates passes muster on Capitol Hill as well as in Teheran." ~~~~~ Why did the respected Senator Lieberman feel compelled to give his analysis the high profile of a WSJ article? Because he, like almost every American and ally, sees the folly in the few details leaking out about the highly secretive negotiation that many characterize as a sellout to a sworn enemy of America at the expense of her own citizens and friends around the world. ~~~~~ The Fiscal Times published an article yesterday that spells out the problem in trusting Iran, as Obama obviously does. From Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's urgent message to Congress to resist Iran, to the open letter by 47 Republican Senators to tell Iranian leaders that Congress will need to approve any deal Obama may make with Teheran over its nuclear program, to the Portman-Menendez bill that would force Obama to bring any Iran deal to Congress. As US politicians try to stop Obama from agreeing to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Iranian regime is buying power and influence in neighboring Iraq and across the Middle East. In the contest for regional dominance with the sunnis led by Saudi Arabia, Iran’s shiites have extended their reach across an “arc of power,” a Shia Crescent -- encompassing Iraq, where Iran now leads the fight to defeat ISIS; Syria where Teheran has kept President Bashar al-Assad in power throughout the country’s four-year civil war; Lebanon, where Iran-backed Hezbollah is the unquestioned power pushing to take political control; and, Yemen, where Iran-sponsored shiite Houthi rebels have taken control of the government. Iran’s influence has increased while America's has diminished. The main reason is what Obama calls “war fatigue.” But this is simply his catch-phrase justification for pushing ahead with granting Iran nuclear bomb capability -- opposed by 84% of Americans. How did we get here? ~~~~~ We are near the end of a long game that Obama started at his inauguration in 2009 : “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” The terrorist Iranian regime knew that Obama was offering an opening. Iran had been since the return of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, and under his successor Khamenei, a killing machine -- hundreds executed, thousands targeted for assassination in other countries, including the Buenos Aires bombing that killed 85 Jews and wounded 300, and the 2011 attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador, under Obama's nose in Washington. Khamenei interpreted Obama’s 2009 words as weakness. Six months later, he brutally suppressed the Green Revolution. When Obama did nothing, Khamenei knew he was right. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he now regrets the restraint; they were advised by the CIA and the State Department that too powerful an American voice might enable the regime to say the protesters were American puppets. Could be. But the inaction was also an expression of Obama's strategy of conciliation. Khamenei's reaction to Obama's restraint was to build an underground bunker at Fordo for the enrichment of uranium - a violation of agreements under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. That gave Obama an opportunity to follow the angry French lead and react forcefully. But, as Obama hesitated, Khamenei chose to be "reasonable," agreeing that the Iranians would ship their stockpiles of low-grade fissile material to Russia in exchange for fuel rods for energy. Obama took the bait. He resisted congressional hawks, but Congress voted 99 to 0 to enact the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act. Once again, Khamenei reneged on his promise, and recently the Iranians insisted that no transfers of enrichzd uranium occurred. Iran kept its uranium, although Iran's failure has not been the subject of headline news. Obama's reaction to the Iranian treachery seems to have been to change his mind about attacking Iran's protégé al-Assad over his use of chemical weapons. Instead Obama retreated from the red line he had drawn and decided not to equip Syrian rebels. Later, Obama opened a secret bilateral channel to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime, according to Mosaic’s Michael Doran. Major concessions were offered on ending sanctions and permitting the Iranians to continue enriching uranium to 5% levels. Six UN Security Council resolutions had ordered Iran to cease all enrichment and reprocessing. Iran refused. But, Obama was prepared to end the economic sanctions on Iran entirely and allow the Iranians to enrich uranium in perpetuity, Doran wrote. ~~~~~ Obama is so singleminded in his pursuit of a deal with Iran that he has also not been forthright with the American people. In reporting on the November 2013 interim agreement, he boasted that it had “halted” Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, major American concessions were traded for Iranian gestures of temporary restraint. Instead of halting the Iranian program, the agreement allowed Iran to continue increasing the efficiency of their centrifuges and to master the use of modern, more effective centrifuges. No nuclear plant is being dismantled, another Obama lie to America and the world. The Iranian foreign minister even said in a TV interviewer that there was not a single word in the agreement that resembled dismantling. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani went further, saying Iran had refused to destroy centrifuges and would never destroy them, contrary to the implicit suggestion by President Obama that the agreement would force the Iranians to dismantle 15,000 centrifuges. Khamenei is betting that Obama will accommodate Iran even if it pursues a full-scale nuclear program. And, Obama has apparently retreated again -- agreeing Iran could have $700 million a month in revenues, reportedly allowing Iran to retain in one form or another its facilities in Natanz, Fordo and Arak, built in deliberate violation of the non-proliferation treaty, and running 6,000 centrifuges. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it's easy to see why Americans and the world feel Obama explains his Iran negotiations in evasive and untruthful terms. Obama withholds details from Congress. He has threatened Netanyahu not to divulge any details.This week, John Kerry talks to his Iranian counterpart while the other members of the P5+1 wait 'outside.' Obama is not believed now because he has spent six years playing fast and loose with the truth -- about Iran and many other topics. His foreign policy - if it ever existed - is in shreds. It has come down to giving Iran a sure path to nuclear weapons. Never has America or the world been so badly served by an American President. Let us pray, "Never again."
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
How does President Obama spell his touted "transparent" administration? "SECRET." ~~~~~ The Associated Press reports today that for the second consecutive year, in 2014 the Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them under the US Freedom of Information Act. And, according to the AP analysis, the government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn't find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be related to "breaking news." It said that 1/3 of the time, when the administration was challenged legally, it said its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law. That was the highest reversal rate in at least five years. Its backlog of unanswered requests at year's end grew by 55% to more than 200,000. The government's new report, published Tuesday, covered all requests to 100 federal agencies during fiscal 2014 under FOIA, which is held up worldwide as the standard for transparent government. Citizens, journalists, businesses and others made a record 714,231 requests for information last year, and the US spent a record $434 million responding. The government answered 647,142 requests, a 4% decrease over 2013. The administration more than ever censored materials, including blocking out whole pages, when it turned them over, but often fully denied access to them, in 250,581 cases or 39% of all requests. On 215,584 other occasions, the government said it couldn't find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be unreasonable or improper. Despite this, the White House touted its success under its own analysis -- that routinely excludes instances when it couldn't find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper under the law -- saying it released all or parts of records in 91% of requests - still a record low since President Barack Obama took office, even using the White House's own math. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas. It cited such exceptions a record 554,969 times last year. ~~~~~ Records obtained by the AP last year revealed police efforts to restrict airspace to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In addition, records released to AP showed Veterans Affairs doctors concluding that a gunman who later killed 12 people had no mental health issues despite serious problems and encounters with police during the same period. They also showed the FBI pressuring local police agencies to keep details secret about a telephone surveillance device called Stingray. "What we discovered reaffirmed what we have seen all too frequently in recent years," AP CEO Gary Pruitt wrote in a column published this week. "The systems created to give citizens information about their government are badly broken and getting worse all the time." ~~~~~ I don't know why this latest FOIA report should surprise us. President Obama has a history of stonewalling congressional requests for information -- Benghazi, the IRS scandal, Fast and Furious gun running -- and saying the President knows nothing about a matter, only to have to backtrack later when proof surfaces that he actually did know. ~~~~~~ The AP earlier this month sued the State Department under FOIA to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State. The government had failed to turn over the files under repeated requests, including one made five years ago and others pending since the summer of 2013. And this weekend, the NY Post's Ed Klein said sources have told him that President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address when she was Secretary of State, doing it through people outside the administration, so the story couldn’t be traced to her or the White House. In addition, Jarrett told the State Department to launch a series of investigations into Hillary’s conduct at State, including the use of her expense account, the disbursement of funds, her contact with foreign leaders and her possible collusion with the Clinton Foundation. Six separate probes into Hillary’s performance have been going on at the State Department. Klein quotes a source who said Bill Clinton told him : "They are out to get us any way they can." So, what is the truth? President Obama said he read about the private email account when the story broke a couple weeks ago. Then his press director said Obama had received a few private emails from Hillary. Now, the unconfirmed story is that the White House leaked the existence of the private email account. ~~~~~ Another FOIA request by AP to the State Department led to the information that Hillary Clinton did not sign an OF-109 form when she left the Department in February 2013. No investigation or other effort at compliance has been undertaken. State Department spokesperson Jan Psaki says there are no mandatory penalties for failure to sign the OF-109. However, for most State employees, failure to sign a formal separation agreement and the OF-109 can have dire consequences, such as the withholding of retirement benefits and possible investigations conducted by State into why the employee declined to sign the form. By signing an OF-109, agency employees affirm that they have turned over all records -- classified or unclassified, emails or physical documents -- pertaining to official government business. So, through FOIA, we learn that Mrs. Clinton -- who used a private email account hosted on a private server to conduct official business, which raised serious questions about full disclosure -- did not sign the one document that would have shown that all documents and emails were turned over, as required. Another Obama laxity -- because the big question is whether he and Mrs. Clinton decided why and how to cover up their poor Benghazi response. ~~~~~ House Democrats have their own "secrecy" issue with President Obama's administration, criticizing the President for holding a classified briefing on trade with them, saying it's an attempt to push a trade program in secret. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and US Trade Representative Michael Froman will meet with House Democrats today in a classified briefing to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Members will be allowed to attend the briefing on the proposed trade pact with 12 Latin American and Asian countries with one staff member who possesses an “active Secret-level or high clearance” compliant with House security rules. Democrat Representative Rosa DeLauro told The Hill that the administration is being “needlessly secretive. Even now, when they are finally beginning to share details of the proposed deal with members of Congress, they are denying us the ability to consult with our staff or discuss details of the agreement with experts,” DeLauro told The Hill. Democrat Representative Lloyd Doggett condemned the classified briefing : “Making it classified further ensures that, even if we accidentally learn something, we cannot share it. What is USTR working so hard to hide? What is the specific legal basis for all this senseless secrecy?” Doggett told The Hill : “Open trade should begin with open access. Members expected to vote on trade deals should be able to read the unredacted negotiating text.” In an interview with The Hill earlier this year, House Minority Leader Democrat Nancy Pelosi said Obama could attract a lot of Democratic votes on trade -- if handled in the right and "transparent" way. ~~~~ Dear readers, it's rather fitting that Nancy Pelosi -- who, when she was Speaker, told Congress that if it wanted to know what was in the Obamacare law, they'd first have to pass it -- now wants transparency from President Obama. All of America wants Obama to be transparent. But it isn't going to happen. And, the biggest information black hole of all is the nuclear negotiation with Iran. But that requires a whole blog....one day later this week. For now, as my grandmother used to say : "Oh what twisted webs we weave when first we practice to deceive."
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
"We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don't want elections. They want to remain in office forever." — Veteran Palestinian journalist from Ramallah. ~~~~~ It'll be a few hours before we hzve the results of today's Israeli parliamenrary elections. And it'll take some negotiating before we know who will be asked by Israel's president to form a new government. BUT, we already know one thing -- four Israeli elections have come and gone since their neighbors, the Palestinians, held their last election. It was in 2005 that Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah group was elected president of the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah in the West Bank. That was shortly after the death of Yasser Arafat, and if it seems a long time ago, well, it was. And the next year in 2006, Gaza Strip Palestinians held the election that brought the terrorist jihadist Hamas to power. And all has been silence for Palestinian voters ever since. ~~~~~ So, while Israel, including the 20% of its citizens who are Arab Israelis, goes about ensuring the democratic right to vote for all Israelis, Palestinians languish, at the mercy of the infighting between Fatah and Hamas, neither of which is very interested in democracy or voting. ~~~~~ The truth is that neither Fatah nor Hamas wants to hold new parliamentary and presidential elections. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are wondering whether they will ever again have the privilege of holding their own free and democratic elections. The average age of the Fatah leadership is 75. The same men have been in control of Hamas for the past 20 years. When Palestinians last went to the ballot boxes in January 2006, they voted for a new parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, resulting in a victory for the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform list. One year earlier, in 2005, the Palestinians held a presidential election, which brought Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to power. The next parliamentary elections were supposed to be held in 2010, with a presidential vote scheduled for 2009. But the Palestinians have failed to hold new parliamentary or presidential elections because of the dispute between Fatah and Hamas, which reached its peak with Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. ~~~~~ Today, Fatah and Hamas continue to blame each other for the long delay in holding elections. Last week, Fatah's Abbas spoke to the Central Council in Ramallah, telling them that he's prepared to call new elections if Hamas agrees. But, said Abbas, Hamas is not interested in holding elections. In response, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Abbas was the one who was obstructing new elections and "violating the reconciliation agreement" he had signed with Hamas last year. It appears that, in reality, neither Fatah nor Hamas want to hold parliamentary and presidential elections. Abbas's Fatah has severe internal divisions that have only gotten worse since the death of its former leader, Yasser Arafat, in November 2004. Several senior Fatah officials have been expelled from the group in recent years, for challenging Abbas and the old-guard representatives. The anti-Abbas faction in Fatah is led (and perhaps funded) by Mohamed Dahlan, a former security commander in the Gaza Strip who currently lives in the United Arab Emirates. Dahlan has accused Abbas of hindering efforts to hold new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They contend that Abbas's only goal is to remain in power for life. Fatah leaders answer that it would be impossible to hold new elections while Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip, insistsing that there are no guarantees that Hamas would allow a democratic and free vote, especially at a time when it is continuing to crack down on Fatah supporters in Gaza. Hamas takes the position that it is opposed to new elections because it does not trust Abbas and Fatah, saying there can be no free elections while the Palestinian Authority security forces continue to arrest dozens of Hamas supporters in the West Bank every week. ~~~~~ Tired of the delays and bickering, some Palestinians have launched an initiative to pressure the two parties to end their dispute and agree on new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in a campaign that demands free and democratic elections. But the campaign seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Dunya Ismail, one of the organizers of the campaign, said : "Every Palestinian should rid himself of despair and frustration, and take part in the drive to put pressure on the political leadership to hold new elections as soon as possible." She and her colleagues have taken to the streets to spread their message, but with little success. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it seems that the Palestinians are not likely to have new elections, at least not in the foreseeable future. All that's left for them is to sit and watch with envy as voters in Israel practice their right to elect new representatives. "We say all these bad things about Israel but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy," remarked the veteran Palestinian journalist from Ramallah. "We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don't want elections. They want to remain in office forever." So, dear readers, the next time you hear a Palestinian leader or one of their supporters in Europe or the UN praise Palestinians for simply wanting to join the company of nations, remember the fate of ordinary Palestinians -- trapped between two terrorist factions who use them as shields in their fight to see who can win the right to take all the UN, US and international funding and use it to try to destroy a democratic Israel, whose only fault is that it wants to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks and live in peace. Sometimes, it is indeed difficult to see the good faith in the world's favoring the Palestine Authority.
Monday, March 16, 2015
"Any terms that world powers grant Iran under a nuclear deal will be sought by Saudi Arabia and other countries, risking wider proliferation of atomic technology." ~~~~~ Are these the words of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu, trying to stir up voters before tomorrow's parliamentary elections in Israel? NO. They are the words of a senior Saudi prince, warning the world in a BBC interview today. Prince Turki al-Faisal, who has previously served as head of Saudi intelligence and as Riyadh's ambassador to Washington and London said : "I've always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same." Saudi Arabia sees Iran as its regional rival and fears that an atomic deal would permit Teheran to gain a nuclear weapon and ease political pressure on Iran, giving it more space to back Arab proxies opposed by the Kingdom. ~~~~~ Iran and the international community seem headed toward a nuclear deal that Netanyahu fears could destroy Israel. He also sees a resolution to the Palestinian issue as distant as ever because Palestinian Authority leader Mahoud Abbas demands that Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 war borders before talks begin -- a demand impossible for Israel because it would divide Jerusalem and expose the country to close range attack from Syria, which would thereby control the Golan Heights. Because US President Obama agrees with Abbas, the world mindlessly turns more and more against Israel's reasonable position. Netanyahu's focus on Israel's many security challenges -- he has long called for zero tolerance of terrorism and supported Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the opposition and the outside world detest -- stem from his desire to provide defensible borders for Israel in any peace accord. Netanyahu said in his speech to the US Congress earlier this month : "We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves." His stern rhetorical style, often compared to Churchill, fell on very receptive ears in Congress. The style has served him well during a three-decade career that has included time at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, as ambassador to the United Nations, a series of senior Cabinet posts and a stint as opposition leader. He has spent a total of nine years as prime minister since 1996. ~~~~~ But, after enjoying a surge of popularity following last summer's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu is struggling. Despite his speech to Congress, his efforts to halt the Iranian nuclear program - which he describes as the mission of his lifetime - appear to be stumbling, since the US seems determined to make a deal with Iran at any cost to its or the world's future safety. The speech, delivered over White House objections, has worsened an already troubled relationship with President Obama, a relationship not likely to change in the final two years of Obama's term, no matter who is elected. While he is seen by the Israeli public as the candidate more suitable to be prime minister, based on his image as the "responsible adult" running the country, the gap between him and his main rival, Isaac Herzog, is closing, according to the last pre-election opinion polls. Israelis vote for parties not individual candidates, so Herzog could be given the first chance to put together a majority coalition in the 120-member parliament. A poor finish for Likud could set the stage for an internal party coup. Yoaz Hendel, Netanyahu's chief spokesman from 2011 to 2012, said his former boss can point to key accomplishments : he built a fence along the Egyptian border that has halted an influx of African migrants, he helped guide Israel through the aftermath of the 2008 world financial crisis, his warnings about Iran's nuclear program - and threats to attack it - pushed the issue on the international stage. But Hendel believes that if Netanyahu leaves office, he would not be satisfied with the outcome of the two most pressing issues : Iran's nuclear program and the lack of resolution with the Palestinians. When asked about his legacy, Netanyahu answered, "You are being judged on your record." ~~~~~ Netanyahu has attacked what he calls funding "from abroad" of an activist group which has pushed for Netanyahu's ouster. The activist group OneVoice, which says none of its US State Department grants are being used in Israel. OneVoice is working with V15, a grassroots anti-Netanyahu Israeli activist group, in building online lists, voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. OneVoice's president is Jeremy Bird, President Obama's former national field director in the 2012 reelection campaign effort, raising serious questions about the reality of Barack Obama's official veil of neutrality in the Israeli election. ~~~~~ At his last large conservative rally in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu warned : "This is a fateful struggle, a close struggle. We must close this gap. We can close this gap," which met with roaring applause from his supporters. "We will preserve Jerusalem's unity in all its parts. We will continue to build and fortify Jerusalem so that its division won't be possible and it will stay united forever," Netanyahu said : "Likud's victory is the only thing that can ensure the continuation of a national leadership and will prevent the establishment of a left-wing government." Netanyahu, who emphasized his support for east Jerusalem settlement construction, called the potential for a government led by Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni "a real danger." Meanwhile, Herzog has been rising in the polls on a campaign that promises to repair ties with the Palestinians and the international community and also bring relief to the country's struggling middle class. Herzog talks about a "crucial" vote for the country. ~~~~~ Dear readers, I cannot recall a foreign election that is so important both for its own citizens and for the United States. And its three themes are critical worldwide -- the US-Israel relationship that is the linchpin of democratic and pro-West alliances in the Middle East; the US-led P5+1 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons capability, in an atmosphere of Iranian aggression toward its sunni Arab neighbors and Israel; and peace between Israel and Palestine, whose success is key for Middle East stability. US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent comment that he hopes whoever wins the Israeli elections, it will lead to the revival of the peace process shows that he remains oblivious - or indifferent - to the reality in the Middle East, particularly concerning the Palestinians, who are today divided into two camps -- one, Hamas, that wants to destroy Israel through terrorism and jihad, and the other, the Abbas Palestinian Authority, whose international program aims to delegitimize and isolate Israel, forcing it to its knees. As Kerry was talking about the revival of the peace process, Hamas announced that it has completed preparations for the next confrontation with Israel, including rebuilding its tunnels near the Israel border. And we now see an influential Saudi prince, the brother of the Kingdom's Foreign Minister, support Netanyahu's position that the Obama nuclear deal with Iran will lead to a Middle East nuclear arms race. In addition, war-weary Israelis seem to be following the left's siren song -- just negotiate a peace with Palestine and all will be well. Nothing could be more wrongheaded. Now is the time for Israel to stand tough, to turn away from fairytale promises that say if one side wants peace, it will come. War weary America did that in electing Obama and it has brought the US to its knees. But, America has understood. It is facing down Obama and his dangerous Iranian and Middle East policies. The re-election of Likud and Netanyahu will help America, even as it protects Israel from the existential threats lurking behind the election campaign ideas of leftist Israeli politicians. We have only 18 months to wait for our liberation from Barack Obama's foolhardy policies. Stay the course with America and with your own destiny.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
It's time for the first Saturday report on your emails. I've received several, and the key topic was Iran, Israel and the Middle East. To summarize, you wrote to ask if the US will actually sign a nuclear deal with Iran and whether that will have a serious impact on US - Israel relations. Let's review the situation. ~~~~~ There is wide concern about the American-led P5+1 negotiations with Iran. Not all is negative, because some analysts agree with President Obama that any control is better than no control at all over Iran's nuclear program. Other analysts, probably a majority, think that easing economic sanctions and allowing Iran to continue operating centrifuges, given its past refusal to grant access to activities at all its sites, will simply give Iran a long window in which to complete its nuclear bomb delivery technology and fuel. It's interesting that no analysts support Iran's assertion that it is not making a nuclear bomb. So, we are facing an Iran determined to have nuclear weapons. That is the concensus. Can Iran's nuclear bomb goal be controlled or prevented? ~~~~~ A government-sponsored investment trade fair just wrapped in the Egyptian seaside resort of Charm-el-Cheikh. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was there on his way to a fresh round to talks with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland, told reporters it is unclear whether an interim agreement over Iran's nuclear power program is possible : "I can't tell you whether or not we can get a deal, whether we are close....The purpose of these negotiations is not just to get a deal, it is to get the right deal," he said. The P5+1 team -- the US, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia -- hope to get agreement on a framework by the end of the month. The two sides would then seek to negotiate an accord by which Iran would halt most sensitive nuclear activities for at least 10 years. In exchange, sanctions on Iran would gradually end. Kerry repeated that a letter to Iran last week from Republican senators may have undermined the talks, saying he would assure Iranian negotiators and European allies during the upcoming talks that Congress does not have the authority to change the deal. Kerry was formal that Congress cannot stop the Iran deal: "As far as we're concerned, Congress has no ability to change an executive agreement." This opinion may very well be tested at the US Supreme Court, if a deal is actually signed, a result that Kerry constantly hedges, as he did in Charm-el-Cheikh, adding that "important gaps" still remain between the sides. ~~~~~ And, President Obama and Secretary Kerry have another worry over their goal of an Iran nuclear deal. Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Obama was negotiating a "bad deal" with Iran. Before the GOP Senators wrote their "Open Letter," House Republicans invited Netanyahu to speak about Iran, without consulting the White House or Democrats. But, Kerry would not be drawn about Tuesday's Israeli elections, saying the United States hoped that whatever the outcome, it would help "push forward the peace process with Palestinians." The last opinion polls permitted before the election show Israel's center-left opposition poised to upset Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party. But, the issues driving Israeli opinion are more closely tied to domestic econonics than Iran. Kerry offered again the American preference for a two-state solution : "President Obama remains committed to a two-state solution...he remains hopeful that whatever choice that people of Israel make, that there will be an ability to be able to move forward on those efforts." But Kerry refused to offer a date for resuming the peace talks, which broke down in April 2014 after nine months of Kerry-led negotiations. Kerry met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday on the sidelines of the investment conference in Charm el- Cheikh. The meeting included Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. ~~~~~ However, while Secretary Kerry tries to calm the international waters, President Obama has a much more vocal set of opponents at home. GOP conservatives maintain that Obama is so obsessed by his legacy that he will negotiate any agreement that restrains Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. So, according to these critics, Obama is not pushing back against Iranian aggression all over the Middle East. They say Iran is destabilizing Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain. They insist that the nuclear negotiations have affected US policy decisions in the region. Kerry said at a congressional briefing recently that the White House is "deeply concerned" about Iran's actions : "But if you're concerned about it now, think of what happens...if they had a nuclear weapon." Republicans point to the destabilizing regional activities of Iran -- IRAQ, where Iran-backed shiite militias are fighting alongside Kurds and the Iraqi shiite army in Tikrit; Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, is directing the battle; US Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the US worries that the militia, who are shiite, eventually might turn against sunni and Kurdish Iraqis, further destabilizing the country. SYRIA, where Iran-backed Bashar al-Assad, who has waged an unrelenting campaign against his own people for four years and is fighting against 'moderates' trying to topple him; Teheran has sent al-Assad advisors and billions of dollars in aid, as well as shiite militias from Hezbollah, the Lebanese shiite arm of Iran, and from Iraq. YEMEN, where shiite Houthi militia backed by Iran, seized the capital, Sanaa, from a US-backed leader who supported American drone strikes against al-Qaida figures; Nick Rasmussen, director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Yemen's American-funded army failed to oppose advancing Houthi rebels, and that the government's collapse surprised the US. (Does this remind you of the Iraqi army's collapse?). BAHRAIN, where the US Navy's 5th Fleet is based, is led by a sunni monarchy struggling with shiite protests demanding greater rights and equal treatment; leaders in Bahrain say Iran is helping shiite militia; Iranian leaders accuse leaders in Bahrain of supporting anti-Iranian forces there. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently said : "Iran is now in Baghdad and Beirut and Damascus and meanwhile this President and Secretary of State pursue the mirage of a nuclear agreement." Senator Lindsey Graham says if he were President, he would halt all nuclear talks until Iran stops "destabilizing the region and invading its neighbors." Kerry always looks for ways to defend the Obama administration position. Late last year, he told the Senate that the US and Israel tracked and interdicted a shipment of missiles going from Iran to Palestinian militants. Kerry said that the US also helped the Bahrain Coast Guard interdict a ship carrying weapons of Iranian origin bound for its proxy groups. And, Kerry added, late last year, Obama designated the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council as eligible for foreign military sales, meaning they can purchase weapons as an entity in order to lay the groundwork for them to deal with challenges that they feel from Iran. ~~~~~ So, dear readers, to return to the questions -- Will Obama sign a nuclear deal with Iran? Yes. The only way this might be avoided is for Secretary Kerry to convince the rest of the P5+1 that it is a "bad deal," as he and Obama label a negative result. This would be very delicate diplomacy, more like Metternich or Kissinger than Kerry. However, even if a deal is signed, expect some Republicans to use every legal means possible to stop it. Will US - Israel relations be impacted if an Iran deal is signed? No. But...a big but...Israel will continue to have the best intelligence on the status of Iran's nuclear bomb project and if it seems that Iran is close to having a nuclear warhead, you can be sure that Israel will act. Being threatened with nuclear annihilation has a way of concentrating a nation's resolve to survive. ~~~~~ (Hoping to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org).