Friday, July 31, 2015
The BBC was first to report yesterday that dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been refused a six-month visa by the British government that claimed he lied on his visa application form. Ai posted a letter on Instagram stating his entry to the UK had been restricted because he failed to declare his "criminal conviction." But Ai, who was detained in China for 81 days in 2011, has never been charged with or convicted of a crime. Britain did, however, grant the artist a 20-day visa to attend the opening of his London show. But, it may mean he cannot supervise the installation of the landmark solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, which has a private preview on 15 September. ~~~~~ The letter to Ai Weiwei from the visa section of the British embassy in Beijing stated that Ai's entry to the UK "has been restricted to the requested dates of travel...because you have failed to meet the business visitor rules." The document, signed by an entry clearance manager from the UK Visas and Immigration department, added : "It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China, and you have not declared this. While an exception has been made in this instance, any future application you submit must be completed as accurately as possible." The letter concluded that the artist might otherwise face a 10-year ban if he did not comply. In a separate post on Instagram, Ai stated that he "has never been charged or convicted of a crime" and had "attempted to clarify this claim with the UK Visas and Immigration Department and the British Embassy in Beijing over several telephone conversations." But, according to Ai, the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit that a mistake had been made. This decision is "a denial of Ai Weiwei's rights as an ordinary citizen," Ai's Instagram entry said. In a statement, Britain's Home Office in London said visa applications are considered "on their individual merits and in line with the relevant legislation," but Home Secretary Theresa May is looking into the matter. It added : "Mr Ai has been granted a visa for the full duration of his requested dates of travel." The British Embassy in Beijing has not yet commented. Royal Academy director Tim Marlow told the BBC that Ai was "bemused and irate" at the "irritating bureaucratic mix-up." He said he wouldn't be surprised if the artist decided, "'well, fine, I just step back and I don't come to Britain.'" Ai flew to Munich on Thursday to visit his son, who lives in Germany, because Germany granted him a multiple-entry 4-year visa. ~~~~~ Last week, Ai's passport was returned to him after it had been confiscated by Chinese authorities four years ago when he was arrested in 2011 during a government crackdown on political activists. He was held for 81 days over allegations of bigamy and tax evasion but was later released without being charged. Ai has emphasized in interviews that he was never formally arrested and that the tax case was brought against his design firm, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., and not him personally. His wife, Lu Qing, was the legal representative of the firm at the time of the tax case. “It’s not on me, it’s on the company,” according to Ai. He was fined 15m yuan ($2.4m, £1.55m) for tax evasion in a civil case in 2012. The artist lost an appeal against the fine - which he says was politically motivated in retaliation for his criticism of the Chinese government. ~~~~~ Interestingly, Ai's 20-day visa means he will not be in the UK when China's President Xi Jinping makes a high-profile state visit in October - potentially avoiding any diplomatic embarrassment at a time when the UK is trying to improve relations with China. His detention in 2011 caused an international outcry, and his tax evasion charge caused supporters to send him contributions to help pay the fine. Perhaps the visa affair is the result of a bureaucratic blunder, high profile to be sure -- and that British bureaucrats processing his visa missed the fact that Ai was never charged criminally. The UK embassy in Beijing has not yet commented about whether it actually considers Ai to be a convicted criminal. ~~~~~ The decision to grant a 20-day visa that will require Ai Weiwei to leave the UK before the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, rightly or wrongly, will be seen by some, including Ai Weiwei's international supporters, as a UK attempt to curry favor with China. The New York Times reports that British Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticized for his foreign policy based on trade considerations at the expense of human rights. After the Chinese reacted strongly to his meeting in May 2012 with the Dalai Lama, Cameron had to cancel a visit to Beijing planned for a year later when he was told that no Chinese leader would be free to see him. Pressed by his governing coalition Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, Cameron subsequently distanced Britain from the Dalai Lama and other controversial issues involving China. For example, he said little during last year's student protests about what many regarded as a violation of China’s agreement with Britain to protect democratic rights in Hong Kong. ~~~~~ Ai Weiwei has consistently used his art to speak out against China's poor human rights record. The extent to which human rights are recognized and protected in China is a matter of dispute between its government and external governments, organizations and individuals. Chinese authorities claim that existing policies and enforcement measures are sufficient to guard against human rights abuses. But, other countries, such as the United States, Canada, and India, as well as international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Human Rights in China and Amnesty International, and dissidents inside China say authorities in China regularly sanction or create human rights abuses. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the US State Department have accused China of violating the freedoms of speech, movement, and religion of its citizens and of others within its jurisdiction. Chinese authorities claim that human rights are being improved. But, human rights groups have publicized human rights issues in China that they say the government is mishandling, including : the death penalty, the one-child policy, the political and legal status of Tibet, and lack of freedom of the press in mainland China. Other areas of concern include the lack of legal recognition of human rights and the lack of an independent judiciary, rule of law, and due process. Other issues raised include severe restrictions on worker's rights, the absence of independent labor unions, and allegations of discrimination against rural workers and ethnic minorities, as well as the lack of religious freedom for Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong religious groups and Christians. Some Chinese activist groups are trying to expand these freedoms, including Human Rights in China, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, and the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. But, Chinese human rights attorneys who take on cases related to these issues often face harassment, disbarment, and arrest. ~~~~~ Ai is the son of one of China's most famous poets, Ai Qing, a Communist Party member revered today despite being sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution. The family lived in China's far north-west, until Ai Qing was formally rehabilitated and allowed to return to his Beijing home. There Ai Weiwei studied at the Beijing Film Academy and was a founder member of an art group called The Stars. He then spent more than a decade in the US before returning to China. It was his involvement in the design of Beijing's Olympic Birds Nest stadium that brought him international attention. ~~~~~ Dear readers, that Ai Weiwei is treated relatively well compared to other Chinese dissidents can be attributed to his father, to his international stature as a talented artist and to his wide-flung network of supporters who regularly intervene in the media and with China and other governments on his behalf. The cat-and-mouse game that China is playing with Ai Weiwei is clearly meant to wear him down psychogically and physically. He was able to get a 4-year multiple entry visa for Germany so that he can see his 6-year-old son after 4 years of being involuntarily held in China, but for some reason, Britain refused him a normal 6-month business visa. What we know is that China's cat-and-mouse game with Ai Weiwei continues and that Britain has become a pawn. Willing or unwilling? We don't know. We can only hope that the Home Secretary grants Ai Weiwei his normal business visa. Some things are more important than business deals with China. Human rights, for example. But that didn't stop the IOC from awarding naturally snowless Beijing the 2022 Winter Olympic Games today.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Afghanistan said yesterday that Mullah Omar, the leader who founded the Taliban, has been dead since April 2013. One of the most wanted men in the world for over a decade, Omar was also one of the most elusive, seldom seen of leaders, even when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. Only a handful of foreigners ever saw him and little is known about him. Omar was born in 1959 or 1960 in a small village near the southern city of Kandahar, and had to care for his family from an early age after his father died. He became a cleric before joining the resistance against the Soviet-backed government between 1989 and 1992, and he lost his right eye when hit by shrapnel. Omar's rise was born from frustration at abuses perpetrated by armed resistance factions in the chaotic early 1990s, and he and his hardline Islamist Taliban movement seized power in 1996. Today, the Taliban movement fights to topple the Afghan government that took over when it was routed in 2001 by US-led forces in the aftermath of Omar's refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attack. ~~~~~ Yesterday's announcement came just before a second round of peace talks had been tentatively scheduled. News of the death in Pakistan of the one-eyed Omar could increase already serious Taliban divisions over whether to fight or pursue negotiations with Kabul and how to stop defections from Taliban ranks to the younger, more "attractive" ISIS. There has been speculation for years that Omar was either incapacitated or dead. A senior Afghan Taliban commander based in neighboring Pakistan said Omar had died of natural causes, although he did not specify when. A Pakistani newspaper has reported that a former Afghan Taliban minister and current leadership council member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told their reporter that Mullah Omar died from tuberculosis, that Omar's son had identified the body, and that he was buried in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan presidential palace made a simple announcement : "The government...based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban, died in April 2013 in Pakistan." No details were released. Instead, the announcement focused on the proposed peace talks : "The government of Afghanistan believes that grounds for the Afghan peace talks are more paved now than before, and thus calls on all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process." The Taliban's regular spokesman could not be reached by the media for comment. The White House said it was aware of reports of Omar's death and believed them to be "credible." Spokesman Eric Schultz said US intelligence continued to investigate the matter. ~~~~~ Preparations had been under way for the next round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, preliminarily planned for today or Friday in an unnamed location. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants a settlement with the insurgents, who have been gaining territory. The intensified Taliban attacks on both military and political targets have killed thousands of civilians and security personnel. And, the violence has become worse since NATO withdrew most of its forces from Afghanistan at the end of 2014. White House spokesman Schultz called on the Taliban to end the bloodshed : "They can accept the government of Afghanistan's invitation to join a peace process...or they can choose to continue fighting Afghans and destabilizing their own country," he said. ~~~~~ Omar and the Taliban suffered setbacks after the Taliban No. 2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured in Karachi in early 2010 in a joint operation by the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. US officials said Baradar produced useful intelligence on the group's operations in Afghanistan. Baradar, who was close to Omar, was the main day-to-day commander of the campaign against US and NATO troops, plotting suicide bombings and other major attacks. In his statements since 2008, Omar was more conciliatory, ordering fighters to stop beheading those accused of spying for the United States and insisting a Taliban government would not be a global threat. In one statement attributed to him, Omar said : "We want legitimate relations with countries of the world and we are not a threat to anyone." ~~~~~ Omar's death obviously has not affected Taliban operations on the ground, and the internal tug-of-war for power around the decision about who will replace him has apparently been settled quickly. The faction within the Taliban that wanted the promotion of political leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour to head the Taliban has won. Mansour, who has been among those who support peace talks, has been chosen to replace Omar as Taliban leader. One of Omar's sons, from the other more bellicose faction, has been named as Mansour's deputy, thus pasting the two factions together, at least for the time being. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Mullah Omar led a Taliban organization known for its brutal interpretation of sharia law that denied women education, health care and jobs, forcing them into the enveloping blue burqas that feature grills to enable women to see sufficiently to walk, on the few occasions when they were permitted by the Taliban to leave their homes. The Taliban hallmarks under Omar were suicide bombings, beheadings, executions and amputations carried out in public -- and the destruction of thousand-year-old irreplaceable statues of Buddha. The US military victory forced Omar and his leaders into hiding, from where they continued to coordinate raids against the Afghan government and NATO troops stationed there to restore stability. But, the unraveling of the US victory came as President Obama pursued his goal of ending the presence of US ground troops in the Middle East -- first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, universally seen by military analysts as unready to defend themselves. But, Obama told them to do just that -- with little or no help for Iraq until it faced collapse in 2013, and with only training and support for Afghanistan from the greatly reduced US advisory military units left in the country. So, while no one celebrates another human being's death, we can temper our reaction in the knowledge that Mullah Omar left behind him a Taliban with a record of inhumanely mistreating and terrorizing their fellow human beings - most of them fellow Moslems. He began by sanctioning beheadings, amputations and hangings based on a barbaric, primitive interpretation of the already-draconian sharia law. He protected Osama bin Laden from having to face justice for his crimes. Mullah Omar has been called "pious." His followers like to tell the story of his wrapping himself in the Prophet's robe - taken from a Kandahar shrine - and standing on a rooftop to declare jihad against Afghanistan's president. Mullah Omar's life describes perfectly the difference between being "pious" in a perverse sense and being "holy," as a true man of God always is.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
The US government may give its opinion about whether the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority must post a multimillion-dollar bond, which they have resisted doing, while they appeal a jury's finding that they supported terrorist attacks in Israel. The US Department of Justice disclosed its potential interest in the case in a letter filed Monday in Manhattan federal court, six months after 10 American families won a $655 million verdict against the PLO and Palestinian Authority. If the Justice Department actually files a so-called statement of interest, it would mark the US government's first formal role in the diplomatically sensitive lawsuit, which was filed in 2004. The Justice Department said it would decide by August 10 whether to make a statement of interest to the court and declined to comment further to Reuters. ~~~~~ On Tuesday, lawyers for the families urged a federal judge to add $165 million in pre-judgment interest to what they won at trial. The families had won $218.5 million in damages, a sum automatically tripled under the 1992 US Anti-Terrorism Act -- in this case to $655.5 million. Defense lawyers said adding the requested interest would, after tripling, boost the total award to $1.15 billion. "This could be the end of the Palestinian Authority," Mitchell Berger, its lawyer, said in court. "And that's why we're here to argue over the judgment." They have also argued that any judgment should be stayed pending appeal with no requirement to post a bond. The families have requested that the defendants be required to deposit $30 million per month with the court. US District Judge George Daniels did not rule, but signaled he would not impose interest on the award, although he would require a bond pending the appeal. "There needs to be some meaningful demonstration that the defendant is ready and willing to pay the judgment," Daniels said. ~~~~~ The jury in the case found the PLO and Palestinian Authority liable over six shootings and bombings between 2002 and 2004 in the Jerusalem area, attributed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas. Those attacks killed 33 people, including several US citizens, and injured more than 450. One of the attacks was the July 2002 bombing at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem that killled 5 American students and others, and injured over 100. The suit against the PLO and Palestinian Authority and another against the Jordan-based Arab Bank had been stalled for years as the defendants challenged the American courts’ jurisdiction. Recent rulings found that the cases should go forward under the Anti-Terrorism Act, a law that allows victims of US-designated foreign terrorist organizations to seek compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and other hardship. ~~~~~ Last year, a Brooklyn jury decided that Arab Bank, based in Jordan, should be held responsible for a wave of Hamas-orchestrated suicide bombings that left Americans dead or wounded. The lawsuit was based on claims that the financial institution knowingly did business with Hamas after it was officially named a terrorist organization in 2003. It was the first time a terror-financing claim against a big bank had gone to trial under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The jury found that Arab Bank knowingly provided material support to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah by facilitating millions of dollars in direct transfers to the families of suicide bombers and other terrorist operatives from the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada al Quds and the Al-Shahid Foundation, and that Arab Bank knowingly provided material support to Hamas by maintaining accounts for a dozen Hamas-controlled organizations in the Palestinian Territories. The damages portion of the trial is ongoing. ~~~~~ Dear readers, these verdicts add a new dimension to the never,ending Middle East conflict. Terrorist organizations now know that US courts are watching their actions. Big banks are now on notice that knowingly handling terrorist funds can result in liability. And that may to some extent counterbalance the European effort to make Israel the bad guy in the Israel-Palestine relationship -- a European position divorced from all reality. Consider. Israeli military records show that since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, terrorists have fired more than 11,000 rockets into Israel. Over 5 million Israelis - 70% of the Israeli population - are currently living under threat of rocket attacks because most rockets launched from Gaza into Israel are capable of reaching Israel’s biggest cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. More than half a million Israelis have less than 60 seconds to find shelter after a rocket is launched from Gaza into Israel. In addition, since 2005, more than 375 terrorist attacks carried out inside Israel have killed at least 375 and wounded 3,500. These rocket and bomb attacks are fortuitous - without provocation on the part of Israel. While European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is in Teheran to talk about the P5+1 nuclear deal, she should also raise with Iranian leaders their continuing supply of rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas -- to be fired from the Golan Heights and Gaza into Israel. Israel occasionally intercepts rocket shipments going to Lebanon from Iran, but the onus should be on Iran to stop making rockets available to recognized terrorist groups. This is just one more opportunity -- along with repatriating American hostages being held in Iranian jails and an Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist -- missed by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry in their rush to cut a deal that will one day allow Iran to put nuclear tips on those rockets aimed at Israel civilians. In 2005, after 65% the Israeli people had voted in agreement with Ariel Sharon's Disengagement from Gaza, on the hope of a achieving peace, Sharon's Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resigned and urged the Knesset to reject the Disengagement : "Only we in the Knesset are able to stop this evil. Everything that the Knesset has decided, it is also capable of changing. I am calling on all those who grasp the danger: Gather strength and do the right thing. I don't know if the entire move can be stopped, but it still might be stopped in its initial stages. Don't give [the Palestinians] guns, don't give them rockets, don't give them a sea port, and don't give them a huge base for terror." Netanyahu was right then in his realistic analysis of a Gaza freed from Israeli control. He is right now about an Iran freed from meaningful international control. The rockets fired almost daily from Gaza into Israel are just one part of the abundant proof.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Iranians act on Khamenei's advice to continue their disruptive Middle East intervention. ~~~~~ Bahrain said on Saturday that it stopped an attempt to smuggle explosives into the country. Two Bahraini suspects were arrested after the Bahrain Royal Naval Force intercepted a vessel heading towards Bahrain, the Interior Ministry said. The Ministry named the suspects as Mahdi Subah Abdul Mohsen Mohammad, 30, and Abbas Abdul Hussain Abdullah Mohammad, also 30. Initial inquiries showed that Mahdi received military training in Iran during August 2013, included how to manufacture and use explosive ordinance and improvised explosive devices, as well as firearms training. The training occurred at an Iranian Revolutionary Guards camp, the Ministry said in a statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA). The suspects also received funds to assist in the failed smuggling operation, according to Ministry information as reported by BNA : "The two suspects arrested attempted to dispose of the materials they received off the coast of Bahrain; however they were later recovered by the Bahraini Coast Guard and were found to contain a lethal mix of materials, including 43.8 kg of the powerful explosive C4, eight automatic assault rifles (Kalashnikov), 32 Kalashnikov magazines, and ammunition and detonators. The two suspects have admitted receiving the shipment from Iranian handlers outside Bahrain’s territorial waters." According to the Ministry, investigations also revealed that Mahdi was recruited by a Bahraini citizen, Jaffar Ahmed Salman, currently a fugitive in Iran. He is said to have facilitated the travel, financing and training. The Ministry said the incident is the latest in a number of failed attempts to smuggle explosive materials into Bahrain recently. Last month, Bahraini Police reported the discovery of a weapons stash containing large quantities of internationally sourced explosives and bomb-making materials in the Dar Kulaib area in the south of the country. Bahraini authorities said those arrested have been referred to the Public Prosecution while investigations continue. ~~~~~ Following the Bahrain announcement, Iran accused sunni-ruled Bahrain of raising tensions in the Gulf by making unfounded allegations against it. Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Iran foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying : "It is clear that the government of Bahrain, by repeating unfounded allegations, seeks to create a climate of tension in the region. Such methods are not constructive, and do not diminish the Islamic republic's commitment to continue its policy...and regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism." That announcement came within hours after Bahrain, which has a shiite majority, said it was recalling its envoy from Teheran in protest at "hostile" comments by Iranian leaders. Last Sunday, Bahrain summoned Iran's acting charge d'affaires to protest against its supreme leader Ayatollah Al Khamenei voicing support for "oppressed people" across the Middle East, including in Bahrain. Iran supports the shiite majority that is ruled by a sunni minority royal family. Iran doesn't hide its support for the shiite protest movement in Bahrain, but rejects accusations of interference in Bahrain's internal affairs. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Kuwait on Sunday on a regional tour that will include Qatar and Iraq, urged Iran's Gulf Arab neighbours to cooperate against the common threat of "terrorism, extremism and sectarianism." Zarif also denied as "baseless" Bahrain's claims that it had detained two men for trying to smuggle weapons from Iran : "I openly say the claims are totally wrong....The timing of the announcement is an attempt to prevent any progress in cooperation between Iran and other Gulf states." ~~~~~ And, yesterday, Bahrain's protector, Saudi Arabia, responded. Saudi Foreign Minister Ade al-Jubeir accused Iran of making threats against Riyadh's ally, Bahrain, which he said showed that the Islamic republic was harboring hostile designs against its Middle East neighbors. Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Jubeir said Saudi Arabia had raised the issue with her. He said the comments showed that Iran is intervening in its neighbors' internal affairs : "It does not represent the desire of a state for good neighborly relations but that of a state which has aspirations in the region and which carried out hostile act like this." He added that Iran's hostile actions could be linked to the terms of the agreement with world powers on its nuclear program and possibly to setbacks suffered by Iran's Houthi allies in Yemen and by President Bashar al-Assad's forces in Syria. "We reject their comments and reject the hostility they show towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the countries of the region," he said. Relations between regional sunni leader Saudi Arabia and shiite rival leader Iran have long been hostile, with Riyadh accusing non-Arab Iran of trying to expand its influence to its Arab neighbors and allies. Saudi Arabia, a Western ally, and the Gulf Arab states are concerned that the nuclear deal will encourage rapprochement between Iran and the US that could embolden Iran to increase support for paramilitary groups across the Middle East. ~~~~~ And who's going to try to calm the troubled waters in the Gulf? The very person who agitated them by maklng a deal with Iran. US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Egypt and the Gulf this weekend for talks on the recent Iran nuclear deal and the fight against ISIS militants. Kerry will be in Cairo on August 2nd for a session of the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue -- a forum that "reaffirms the United States’ longstanding and enduring partnership with Egypt," the State Department said yesterday. On August 3rd, he will travel to Doha to meet with counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar -- for talks US officials say wil concentrate on the Iran nuclear deal, the war n Syria and the battle against ISIS. In Doha, Kerry will also meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Kerry said last Friday that he and Lavrov plan to discuss combatting ISIS militants and the role Iran could play after Turkey agreed to step up its effort and to allow US jets launch air strikes from a base near the Syrian border. Russia has been trying to ease relations between the Syrian al-Assad government and regional states, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to forge an alliance to fight ISIS. ~~~~~ Dear readers, today a bomb attack killed two Bahraini policemen on duty in the mainly shiite village of Sitra, south of the Bahrain capital Manama. The Interior Ministry announced the attack just days after the government said it had disrupted an arms smuggling plot linked to Iran. Reuters reports that the Ministry posted on its Twitter account : "A terrorist bombing targeted policemen on duty in the Sitra area, resulting in the deaths of two of them and seriously wounding a third." It added that five more policemen had received light to moderate injuries and were being treated in hospital. Is Iran so sure of its position with the UN and Europe that it feels free to insult the intelligence of the US Congress as it decides the fate of the Iran deal in America? Or is Iran's terrorist program so advanced and well-financed that it matters little to the Ayatollah what Congress does? We hear how sanctions have strangled Iran economically -- but it has continued its nuclear program and now very likely has the essentials of a bomb; it has coopted Iraq by supplying military men and weapons while Obama hesitates; it is preparing to buy an advanced anti-missile system from that other sanctions "pauper," Russia, whose pummeling of Ukraine continues. Sanction-riddled North Korea is reported ready to launch its first working ICBM later this year. Why is the West so sure that sanctions work anywhere? The evil intentions are carried out. The threat to annihiliate the West and Israel is ever closer and more real. Are sanctions only doing what any ordinary person could predict -- impoverishing and starving citizens with no clout while the war machine is fed. A 45-kg cache of C4 in Bahrain is far from an endgame, but the message is clear. Weapons and determined fanaticism beat sanctions every time. Only when the US and Europe step up to this home-truth and muscle up their sanctions with real military punch will Khamenei and his terrorist gangs be stopped. If you don't believe me, ask Turkey -- it just "got religion" about how to deal with jihadist terrorism. Cleaning out terrorists and creating buffer zones are done with military power, not sanctions.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Eurotunnel resumed "normal service" on Sunday. British police said they had lifted traffic management measures around the Channel Tunnel, put in place after migrants in France disrupted travel on Saturday - one of the busiest days of the year. British vacationers on trains passing through the Channel Tunnel were delayed because migrants - trying to stow away on trucks - approached the tracks. Such disruption has become common since 5,000 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, set up camp around the northern French port of Calais, which they use as a staging point to try to board train and ferry services to Britain. Crossings were back to normal on Sunday because of reduced migrant activity. Eurotunnel officials warned that further disruption is possible because of the large number of migrants gathered in Calais, who time their attempts to get into Britain with the flow of trucks and freight. Eurotunnel is calling for more support from the authorities particularly in France, to stop the flow of migrants and remove those already in the area. ~~~~~ The illegal immigrant problem is growing in the UK, where net immigration is at 318,000 so for 2015, while the British government set a goal of 100,000. Prime Minister Cameron has called for EU-level action, partly because more EU citizens are legally moving Britain than ever before. Net immigraiton has now jumped 52% in a year, from 209,000 to 318,000. In addition, Cameron will soon announce plans to 'root out' illegal immigrants, calling for new legislation, under which illegal workers' pay would be seized and foreign criminals would be tagged and tracked by GPS. ~~~~~ Italy is also struggling with illegal immigrants. For example, when their inflatable boat began to disintegrate and sank near the Libyan coast, survivors who reached Italy told the UNHCR refugee agency on Thursday that 40 had drowned. All the dead came from sub-Saharan countries such as Senegal, Mali and Benin. The 283 survivors were delivered to Sicily after being rescued by a German navy vessel. Two other boats brought a further 669 immigrants to Sicily and southern Italy on Thursday. Italy has become one of the main entry points in Europe for immigrants - most from Africa and the Middle East - who reach the country via the Mediterranean on delapidated boats. The UN estimates that 1,900 would-be migrants have died or drowned thus far this year. ~~~~~ Italy is struggling to absorb the daily influx of immigrants. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is under pressure to stem the flow and his government are fighting to calm tensions. Migrant arrivals have already exceeded 85,000 this year, following a total of 170,000 in 2014. While many of the newcomers move swiftly to wealthier northern Europe, about 85,000 are housed in Italian shelters - up from 60,000 last year. To relieve pressure on Italy's southern regions, where boat immigrants are initially brought after being rescued, the government is trying to disperse them more evenly in central and northern Italy. But, migrants arriving at a new shelter outside Rome needed riot police to protect them from far-right activists and furious residents. In the north, locals vandalized a home to keep asylum seekers from moving in. Every day, Italian news reports rescues, shipwrecks, drownings or crimes by immigrants. Some far-right northern governors are urging mayors to resist the government's efforts to open new migrant shelters in their cities, warning of an "Africanisation" of the territory. Renzi has appealed to the values of his centre-left and Catholic base, which has generally supported sea-rescue efforts on moral grounds. Instead of rightist opponents, Renzi says, "our real adversary is fear." ~~~~~ Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday there was a clear link between illegal migrants heading to Europe and a rising threat of terrorism, justifying his conservative government's tough anti-immigration stance. Hungary is part of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone, making it a magnet for migrants coming through the Balkans. It has received 80,000 migrants so far this year, nearly double the number in all of 2014. Most are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, Hungary plans to complete a four-meter-high (12 feet) fence along its southern border with Serbia by November to stem the flow of migrants. But, Serbia and the UNHCR have objected. There is a clear link between illegal migrants coming to Europe and the spread of terrorism," Orban said in a speech : "It is obvious that we simply cannot filter out hostile terrorists from this enormous crowd.....we would like to preserve Europe for Europeans....But there is something that we would not only like but we want : to preserve Hungary for Hungarians." Hungary's parliament has passed legislation defying UN criticism, to shorten the time for screening asylum claims and to reject applications from migrants who have passed through third countries it considers safe without seeking asylum there. Orban, whose Fidesz party is losing ground to Hungary's far-right eurosceptic anti-immigrant Jobbik party, said the "human rights fundamentalism" of the West provide more encouragement to migrants. European Union policies are not robust enough to defend its own citizens from the threats posed by rising immigration, Orban said. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, European leaders have scrapped plans for a system of quotas to spread the burden of the soaring numbers of migrants reaching Europe from Libya, the Balkans and the Middle East. In reality telling Brussels to mind its own business on the politically dangerous issue of immigration, a late June EU summit ignored calls for an equitable system across the 28 countries. Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, said : “We have no consensus among member states on mandatory quotas for migrants....It will take much time to build a new European consensus on migration.” Instead, the EU leaders focused on how to keep people out and deport those who get in. “The idea that Brussels imposes quotas is not going to fly,” a senior EU official said. In a token gesture to Italy, which is bitter about being left alone to cope with the immigration crisis, EU countries tried to agree on how to share 40,000 asylum seekers - 24,000 from Italy and 16,000 from Greece. The scheme, however, will be voluntary and officials predicted infighting among interior ministers negotiating the details. The 40,000 scheme will have little impact, since 600,000 people sought asylum in the EU last year. And, the number of first-time asylum seekers in the EU in the first quarter of 2015 almost doubled compared with the first three months of 2014, according to Eurostat, the EU statistics agency. EU development funds, trade agreements and diplomatic pressure are to be used as leverage on the migrants’ countries of origin to encourage them to sign readmission agreements with the EU. “Structured border zones” or “hotspots” are also to be established in southern Italy to quarantine those arriving, fingerprint and register them and expedite the deportation of those deemed to be illegal or economic migrants who have no right of asylum. European police and border agencies are to be granted new powers for implementing immigration policies. ~~~~~ Twice as many refugees are expected in Germany this year compared to the 200,000 who sought entry last year. More than 85,000 arrived in the first quarter alone, most from Kosovo, Albania Serbia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the weekend, volunteers from organizations including the Red Cross began setting up tents for refugees who could not be housed in designated shelters because there was no more space. There have also been clashes between far-right protesters against refugee shelters and counter demonstrators in east German cities, resulting in several people being wounded. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the dilemma of illegal immigrants and refugees flooding into Europe is provoking national political shifts to the right and giving a "legitimate" platform to ultra-nationalist parties. It is also highlighting the EU's fragility when trying to form a consensus about politically explosive issues like immigration. In the United States, Donald Trump has made it the "hot button" in the 2016 presidential race. Whether or not Trump remains a candidate, the illegal immigrant issue will influence the November 2016 presidential election. At stake in both Europe and the US are fears over loss of jobs to illegal low-wage workers, insupportable burdens on housing, schools and health services, and the worry that a rapid influx of immigrants with very different cultural, language and religious backgrounds will threaten their way of life -- and the fear that terrorists will enter by hiding among refugees. Appeals to human values won't work. Can the West "wall out" illegals? Probably not. But nobody seems to have a better solution.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
It's Saturday email bag time and this past week, most comments focused on aspects of the Iranian nuclear deal and the future of the Middle East. While reviewing regional events, of course the latest news from Turkey fills the space and has weighty consequences not only for the Middle East but for Europe. ~~~~~ Turkey confirmed today that its fighter jets hit militant camps of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - regarded as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the US - in northern Iraq overnight, and Turkish ground forces hit PKK and ISIS fighters in northern Syria. Fighter jets hit PKK targets in several locations in northern Iraq, including warehouses,"logistic points," living quarters and storage buildings, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's office said. Turkish fighter jets bombed three ISIS targets in Syria on Friday, trying to pre-empt a planned attack on Turkey, according to a senior Turkish government official. Turkey's security operations will continue for as long as it faces a threat, Davutoglu said on Saturday. "These operations are not 'one-point operations' and will continue as long as there is a threat against Turkey." Earlier, Turkey gave permission for both unmanned and piloted American warplanes to conduct strikes against ISIS from two Turkish air bases. The Turkish airstrikes on Friday were the first by Turkish warplanes against ISIS targets inside Syria. The office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said three F-16 jets bombed two command centers and a rendezvous point across the border from Kilis in southern Turkey without entering Syrian airspace. “We received intelligence about stockpiles of weapons and a gathering of Islamic State militants very close to our border,” the spokesman said. The Turkish government also announced on Friday that it had arrested 297 people, including 37 foreigners, who were suspected of having ties to terrorist organizations. The arrests were made in simultaneous raids in 13 provinces, according to officials. Arrested in the raids was Ebu Hanzala, a Salafist cleric considered to be one of the spiritual leaders of the ISIS in Turkey. Hanzala has been arrested before in counterterrorism operations, but Turkey has never had enough evidence to prosecute him. ~~~~~ Prime Minister Davutoglu said all "terrorist groups" will be fought equally. Turkey's more active role comes after a suspected ISIS suicide bomber killed 32 people, some of them Kurds, this week in the border town of Suruc. That touched off a wave of violence in the mainly Kurdish southeast, with the PKK killing at least two police officers, calling it retaliation for the suicide bombing. Many Kurds and opposition groups have suspected Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party of covertly backing ISIS against Kurdish fighters in Syria, which Turkey has always denied. Erdogan took a political risk in starting peace talks in 2012 with the Kurds, who represent nearly 20% of Turkey's population, but they now blame him for backtracking on promises. On Friday, Erdogan said he had told US President Obama that the PKK would be a focus for attacks. Areas of northern Syria cleared of Islamic State militants will become a "safe zone," Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday, after Turkish warplanes pounded jihadist positions in a series of strikes : "When areas in northern Syria are cleared of the (ISIS) threat, the safe zones will be formed naturally....We have always defended safe zones and no- fly zones in Syria. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe zones." ~~~~~ Hurriyet Daily News is an established and respected English-language Turkish newspaper. Today one of its Opinion section essays said : "Following a telephone conversation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a day before, US President Barack Obama told the BBC on July 23 that there were two aspects of a strategy against ISIL. The first was to stop the foreign terrorist fighters’ traffic in and out of Syria and “shrink” their operational environment, mainly with Turkish and Jordanian cooperation. The second was interesting: “Pushing al-Assad, the Russians and the Iranians recognize that there’s going to be a political transition, before Syria pulls the entire region into what could be even a longer and bloodier conflict.” The Opinion piece said that according to unnamed diplomatic sources, there is a US Plan under way for some months to send Assad and his family outside the country, keeping the regime without creating a further power vacuum that would let radical groups to take over. The sources also say that the issue was broached with the Iranians in late May during the nuclear talks in Geneva, but rejected because both Russia and Iran continue to support al-Assad. ~~~~~ Obama’s statement to the BBC shows that attempts to find a solution to the Syrian civil war without al-Assad and his family are still there, as they have been since the Syrian civil war began. But it is Turkey's decision this week to join the war against ISIS that puts the whole Syrian situation in a new phase. The shift comes after months of pressure from Turkey’s Western allies. American officials welcomed the decision on Thursday, calling it a “game changer.” Senior United States military commanders say the agreement to allow American aircraft to fly missions from Turkey greatly shortens the time and distance to their targets, providing "additional flexibility and agility in addressing this enemy ISIL that we’re dealing with in Iraq and in Syria,” according to General Joseph L. Votel, head of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command. Erdogan described the airstrikes as “a first step” against Islamist, Kurdish and leftist militants. He called on terrorist groups to lay down their arms and said they would “face consequences” if they failed to do so. ~~~~~ Dear readers, what is Erdogan's real motivation? An attempt to hold on to his compromised political power? An effort to prevent Turkish domestic guerrilla war between ISIS/PKK and Turkish forces? A realization by sunni Erdogan and Turkey that the Iranian deal means eventual greater beefing up of al-Assad by his shiite Iranian cousins? All of the above?"Whatever his motives, Erdogan has helped Europe. Turkey's western borders are with Greece and Bulgaria. Thousands of illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are crossing Turkey to enter Europe through Greece and Bulgaria. They wait on Turkey's western borders "for an occasion to cross,” says Marc Pierini, an expert on Turkey and the Middle East at Carnegie Europe, a foreign policy analysis group. “If you talk about returning jihadists, you are talking about dozens. I have seen such fighters here with my own eyes....I have talked to them." Both Greece and Bulgaria are building barriers along their Turkish borders to keep these clandestines out. Bulgaria’s border police have recorded a 300% increase in 2015 of illegal immigrants entering from Turkey. In the first three months of 2015, a total of 3,200 people have been captured trying to access Bulgaria from Turkey. Bulgaria is building a 160-km razor wire barrier to stop this influx. Greece reported 8,735 illegal immigrants arrested by Greek port authorities on the Island of Lesvos during the March-April 2015 period, compared to 1,345 immigrants during the same period last year. Samos' illegal immigrants’ arrests increased 534%, reaching 2,410, compared to 380 in all of 2014. Greece estimates that it has 500,000 illegals, many passing through Turkey. So, while the West is thankful that its NATO member Turkey has joined the war on ISIS, Europe should rejoice twice -- and wake up to the fact that jihadist terrorists are flooding in while it cannot decide on EU-wide policies to deal with illegal-entry terrorists, its own existential problem. Europe should wake up before it's too late.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton are beginning to feel the legal heat generated by their flamboyant and self-declared 'proper' lifestyle. ~~~~~ In late May, a Florida federal judge set a trial date in a racketeering case against the Clinton Foundation and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Judge Donald Middlebrooks of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida ordered the racketeering, influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) case to trial on January 20, 2016. The order came days after a civil suit filed by Larry Klayman, who has filed dozens of lawsuits against the Clintons and other prominent politicians, alleged that the former first couple and their family philanthropy traded political favors for donations or generous speaking fees for Bil Clinton while his wife was the nation's chief diplomat. Klayman's court filings said : "Negotiations by email about influencing US foreign policy or US Government actions to benefit donors to...the Clinton Foundation or sponsors of speaking engagements would not be captured on a US Government email account because her emails would not be with a US Government official." Klayman, in reality, suggests the former first couple and their Foundation used their political clout to drum up foreign donations to the Foundation and exchanged lavish diplomat favors for contributors while Hillary was Secretary of State. Klayman also asked the judge to order a "neutral forensic expert...to take custody and control of the private email server and reconstruct and preserve the official US Government records relating to the conduct of US foreign policy during Defendant Secretary Clinton's term as Secretary of State." While the Clinton legal team could settle the case or enter a variety of motions in an effort to end the lawsuit before trial, the judge's swift decision means the matter could go to court before the February 1 Iowa caucus and February 9 New Hampshire primary. Klayman's request that the court seize Hillary Clinton's email server has not yet been acted on by the judge. In June, the Clinton Foundation filed motions asking the federal judge to toss out the lawsuit. ~~~~~ And today, another Hillary Clinton email server problem was referred to the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The decision on whether to move forward with an investigation lies with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and carries risks for the Obama administration. If an investigation goes ahead, it might turn up even more embarrassing information about Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. However, if the DOJ decides not to investigate, it could lead to accusations of a politically motivated cover-up in an election year. The referral comes from two inspectors general. who have asked the DOJ to open a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account for her work as Secretary of State. The story was first reported by the New York Times yesterday. The federal government inspectors general, who were not clearly dentified in the Times's report, have asked the DOJ to decide whether Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic contender for the 2016 presidential election, mishandled classified information while she was the nation's chief diplomat. Clinton has repeatedly said she broke no laws or rules by avoiding a standard government email account for her State Department work. The request to the DOJ follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.” The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the Under Secretary of State for Management. It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them. A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign declined to comment when asked by the New York Times. At issue are thousands of pages of State Department emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private account, which she said she used because it was more convenient. BUT, it also shielded her correspondence from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests. She faced sharp criticism after her use of the account became public, and she subsequently asked the State Department to release her emails. Later, a US DC District Court judge in a FOIA case brought by Judicial Watch ordered the State Department to release all the 55,000 pages of emails as quickly as possible in batches. A first batch of 3,000 pages was made public on June 30. In the course of the review of the 3,000 pages, portions of two dozen emails were redacted because they were upgraded to “classified status.” But none of those were marked as classified at the time Mrs. Clinton handled them. In a second memo to Mr. Kennedy, sent on July 17, the inspectors general said that at least one email made public by the State Department contained classified information. The inspectors general did not identify the email or reveal its topic. In the memos that were provided to the New York Times by a senior government official, the inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations. In March, Mrs. Clinton insisted : “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email....There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.” Later, in May, the FBI asked the State Department to classify a section of Mrs. Clinton’s emails that related to suspects who may have been arrested in connection with the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. The information was not classified at the time Mrs. Clinton received it. ~~~~~ On Monday, a federal judge sharply questioned State Department lawyers at a hearing in Washington about why they had not responded to Freedom of Information Act requests from The Associated Press, some of which were four years old. Judge Richard J. Leon of the US DC District Court said : “I want to find out what’s been going on over there -- I should say, what’s not been going on over there.” ~~~~~ Two days later, lawmakers on the Republican-led House Special Committee investigating the Benghazi attacks said they plan to summon Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff to Congress to answer questions about why the department has not produced documents that the panel subpoenaed. That hearing is set for next Wednesday. Committee Chairmen Trey Gowdy said : “The State Department has used every excuse to avoid complying with fundamental requests for documents.” Gowdy said that while the committee has used an array of measures to try to get the State Department to hand over documents, the results have been the same. “Our committee is not in possession of all documents needed to do the work assigned to us....The State Department has sought to delay the hearing, citing continuing efforts to brief members of Congress on the details of the nuclear accord with Iran." Republicans have said the department is trying to protect Mrs. Clinton. ~~~~~ Dear readers, that brings us to the Quunnipiac polls conducted July 9-20 in the three states. In Colorado, Clinton is behind Rubio 38% to 46%, Bush 36% to 41% and Walker 38% to 47%. In Iowa, she trails Rubio 36% to 44%, Bush 36% to 42% and Walker 37% to 45%. In Virginia, Clinton polls closer to her Republican opponents, where she falls behind Rubio 41% to 43%, Bush 39% to 42% and Walker 40% to 43%. And the bad news doesn’t end there. In all three states, Clinton’s rating as a strong leader has dropped by between four and ten points compared to earlier polls. Clinton is barely above 50% in this key category in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia, underscoring voters’ perception of her questionable leadership abilities. Devastating negative favorability ratings in each critical state, 35% favorable to 56% unfavorable in Colorado, 33% to 56% in Iowa, and 41% to 50% in Virginia, reflect how weak her image is in these swing states. "She has lost ground in the horse race and on key questions about her honesty and leadership," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a release : "On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50% in each of the three states." Has her past finally caught up with Hillary Clinton? The lawsuits and rapidly falling polls suggest that it has. Where do the Democrats go now? Not to self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, who may be doing well in leftist Iowa but who has little chance of winning the general election. Is it time for Joe Biden to salvage the Democrat debacle by announcing his candidacy? Stay tuned.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
The head of the World Jewish Congress has chastized German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, saying his recent visit to Iran put business interests before morals and calling his approach to Teheran naive. Gabriel, who is also Germany's Vice Chancellor, visited Iran from Sunday to Tuesday, meeting President Hassan Rouhani and his top ministers. A German business delegation traveled with Gabriel, including the heads of Linde and BASF. The trip irritated Israel, with whom Germany has cultivated a close relationship since World War Two, when the Nazis killed six million Jews. The Israeli ambassador to Germany privately voiced his concerns about Gabriel's visit to the German government. The remarks of Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress were public : "It is somewhat irritating that Germany's vice chancellor and economics minister waited only five days before flying to Teheran with a delegation of German business leaders." Lauder said Gabriel's offer to function as a bridge builder between Iran and Israel was naive, given what he described as ongoing agitation from Iran against Israel and the United States. "It would have been much better to make new commercial relations with Iran dependent on a change in the regime's stance toward Israel," Lauder said. Gabriel defended his visit to Iran, saying the nuclear deal was a "good basis" for a normalization of relations, according to a ministry spokeswoman, who added that Gabriel coordinated his plan to visit Iran with Chancellor Angela Merkel. On his trip, Gabriel, head of Germany's Social Democrat coalition partner of Merkel's conservatives, told Iran it is important that it improve ties with Israel and acknowledge its right to exist. Iran has since rejected Gabriel's advice. The timing of Gabriel's trip was also a source of debate within the German government. Some felt it would have been better if Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who helped negotiate the agreement, had gone to Iran first, so as not to give the impression that Germany's priority was striking business deals. ~~~~~ At the same time that Germany is being attacked for rushing to Teheran in the pursuit of business, the German/Merkel-led European Union has now agreed to label Israeli goods made in settlements in the West Bank, a move that troubles the Israeli government. But, there are proposals that go much further, targeting Israeli banks. In a paper titled "EU Differentiation and Israeli Settlements" to be published this week, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), whose proposals frequently become the basis for EU policy-making, argues that the EU is in breach of its own laws and must move more firmly to distinguish its dealings with Israel from Israel's activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. European diplomats have long said that labeling is only the first in a series of steps the EU could take against Israel over its settlements policy. The Jerusalem Post says in financial terms, labeling will have a relatively minor impact on the Israeli economy. But the new proposals would reach into banking, loans and mortgages, qualifications earned in settlement institutions and the tax-exempt status of European charities that deal with Israeli settlements. The most significant proposal suggests that large Israeli institutions that have daily dealings with major European banks, while also providing loans and financing to Israeli businesses and individuals based in the settlements, violate EU law. Under 2013 European Commission guidelines, EU-and member-state-funded lending cannot be provided to Israeli entities operating in the West Bank. The ECFR report asks : "Do day-to-day dealings between European and Israeli banks comply with the EU requirement not to provide material support to the occupation?....Under its own regulations and principles, Europe cannot legally escape from its duty to differentiate between Israel and its activities in the...Palestinian territories." The report argues that by pushing more to separate the EU's dealings with Israel from the settlements, it will force Israel to decide what sort of relationship it wants with Europe and in turn encourage it to return to talks with the Palestinians on a two-state solution to the conflict. ~~~~~ Another area in which the report says the EU may be in violation of its own rules relates to European tax-exempt charities that use funds to support activities in the settlements, which the EU regards as illegal under international law. The report also questions whether Europe should accept degrees from academic, medical and other Israeli institutions based in the West Bank, given that it does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the territory, as well as whether the EU should be dealing with Israeli institutions - such as the Ministry of Justice and the national police headquarters - which are based in east Jerusalem. Mattia Toaldo, one of the authors of the ECFR report, says the EU must explain more clearly the legal obligation when it comes to differentiation. And the ultimate aim, he said, should be to urge Israel towards a two-state solution."Differentiation is a legal prerequisite for the EU in order to avoid violating its own laws," he said. "You have to do it legally and by the book, but it is also beneficial to the peace process because it changes the calculations by the Israelis." ~~~~~ Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Alon Lavi pointed out that the proposals are being made by a European think tank, not by the European Union itself. Lavi raised the left-wing position of several report writers, and the existence of earlier ECFR papers calling on the EU to take a more confrontational stance toward Israel. Lavi might also have noted the book "Global Think Tanks: Policy Networks and Governance" which reports that ECFR, which is not funded by the EU, like most other global think tanks, operates a diverse funding base -- including the Soros Foundation Network. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is hard to justify a German-led Europe that rushes to do business with a defiantly terrorist Iran while considering sanctions against Israel. It is hard to accept a Germany whose drive for commercial success and influence has led it to trample on political and human truths. Has Europe once more been fooled by an imperialist, aggressive Germany that hides its true character behind the soft words of its Iron Chancellor Merkel. Where is the ordinary German citizen outrage over recurring German-EU attempts to prefer terrorist Palestine over democratic Israel? Where are German and French actions to support their flowery words condemning anti-Semitism? Where is any EU effort to force a bad-faith Palestine to negotiate with Israel? And where is America's voice in support of Israel? If Germany is once more Europe's anti-Semitic "Sick Man," all of Europe seems to have been infected. It is painful to watch Europe refusing to stand up and be counted with Israel and the Jewish people, preferring to fall into line behind Merkel and Germany in a wrong-headed, wrong-hearted attack on Israel rather than confronting the real criminals, the Palestine Authority and Hamas.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Words have meaning. The words in the Iran nuclear deal have meaning, forcing changes in the Middle East that are already being felt all over the region. ~~~~~ Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif talked to Iran's parliament to defend the nuclear deal he reached with the P5+1 powers. Before Zarif spoke, parliament hardliners criticized the deal. But, Zarif told the conservative MPs yesterday that most if not all of Iran's conditions had been respected : “We don’t say the deal is totally in favor of Iran. Any negotiation is a give and take. We have definitely shown some flexibility. I tell you as I told the Supreme Leader, we did our best to preserve most of the red lines, if not all." As Zarif defends his deal, Supreme Leader Khamenei has not given a hint of his decision, although one of his senior aids has told Iranians to respect Zarif's work. Indeed, it is hard to imagine why Khamenei would reject $100 billion in released funds combined with the ability to pursue Iran's nuclear program. ~~~~~ The unanimously agreed UN Security Council resolution recognizing the P5+1 deal with Iran allows all UN sanctions to be re-imposed if Iran violates the agreement during the next 10 years. If Iran adheres to the terms of the agreement, then all provisions of the UN resolution would end in 10 years. But in an attempt to get at the UN what they could not get from Iran during negotiations, the P5+1, and the European Union told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that after 10 years they plan to seek a five-year extension of the mechanism allowing sanctions to be re-imposed. Abbas Araqchi, one of Iran's deputy foreign ministers, rejected this : "Our priority is our national interests, not UN Security Council's resolutions....The resolution says clearly that the timeframe of agreement is 10 years, and Iran’s case will be closed in the Security Council after that." Araqchi said Iran will not accept any extension of sanctions beyond 10 years, adding Iran would do 'anything' to help allies in the Middle East, emphasizing Khamenei's message that despite the deal, Iran will not change its anti-Western foreign policy. This is not exactly how Obama describes his "snapback." ~~~~~ While Zarif defends his deal and Araqchi fights against sanctions, Chinese President Xi and President Obama talked by phone. Xi told Obama China would work with the US and other parties to ensure the implementation of the Iran agreement, China's foreign ministry said yesterday. According to China, the agreement sends a positive message to the world that the international community can resolve major disputes through talks. China and the US worked closely together during the talks and Obama thanked Xi for this. But we should keep in mind that China has commercial relations with Iran, including buying its oil, and has lobbied long and forcefully against any Iranian sanctions. Commercial ties and a suspected shadowy military relationship, can now proceed. ~~~~~ And in another corner of the Iran deal roadmap, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter - after leaving Israel on a friendly agree-to-disagree basis - flew to Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Salman and his security leadership. Carter's goal is to reassure yet another US ally of America's support after Obama's nuclear deal with Saudi's arch-rival Iran. Carter has said he will discuss US strategy to counter "Iranian aggression" in the region, as well as the fight against ISIS. Officials say the talks will cover cooperation with Saudi Arabia in missile defense and cyber and maritime security. But, in light of Obama's deal, Saudi Arabia is now considering whether to speed up its own nuclear power plans for creating an atomic infrastructure that could later be weaponized. Experts say it's uncertain whether the Saudis could build an atomic bomb in secret or withstand the political pressure if its plans were revealed. Jamal Khashoggi, head of a Saudi news channel owned by a prince, said : "I think Saudi Arabia would seriously try to get the bomb if Iran did. It's just like India and Pakistan. The Pakistanis said for years they didn't want one, but when India got it, so did they." The Kingdom worries that the nuclear deal will free Iran to support its stable of proxy terrorists across the region. Saudis close to the ruling family have also warned that if Iran weaponizes its nuclear program, then the Kingdom will have to follow suit despite the possible costs -- becoming a pariah state and cutting ties with the US. Many analysts think the Kingdom would risk developing nuclear weapons -- because of the life-and-death importance of the Saudi struggle with Iran, and because Saudi doubts that meaningful sanctions could be re-imposed on Iran, whose economy depends on trade, and whose released massive oil exports will become critical for global energy markets. What senior Saudis have consistently said about the Iranian nuclear deal is that they will demand exactly the same terms -- that means a nuclear fuel cycle that could produce material for a bomb. Saudi Arabia has avoided using its ability to upset the world economy for political gain, but that could change if it felt threatened enough. It may bet that fears of a repeat of the 1973 oil embargo would stop any real international pressure over its nuclear plans. "I'm sure Saudi Arabia is ready to withstand pressure. It would have moral standing," said Khashoggi, adding that he believed Saudi oil exports would immunize it from press attacks. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television, US Secretary of State John Kerry said a speech by Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei on Saturday vowing to defy American policies in the region despite a deal with world powers over Iran's nuclear program was "very disturbing." Kerry said : "I don't know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that's his policy....But I do know that often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different. If it is the policy, it's very disturbing, it's very troubling." On Saturday, Khamenei assured supporters that US policies in the region were "180 degrees" opposed to Iran's : "Even after this deal our policy toward the arrogant US will not change." Gulf Arab states have long accused non-Arab Iran of interferring, including financial and armed support for jihadist movements in Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon. Kerry told Al Arabiya the US believes its Arab allies have the ability to confront Iranian interference in the region : "I think President Obama's belief and our military assessments, our intelligence assessments, are that if they organize themselves correctly, all of the Arab states have an untapped potential that is very, very significant to be able to push back against any of these activities." On Monday, Kerry voiced what seems to be the basic rationale for making a deal - almost any deal - with Iran. Kerry told National Public Radio : "Well, let me tell you exactly what happens. If the United States Congress says, "No, this deal isn't going forward," and they actually got enough votes to kill the deal, there's no deal. If there's no deal, there are no sanctions, there are no inspections, there's no regime hanging over Iran - except the existing IAEA, which wasn't enough to get the job done, which is why we negotiated something further. And Iran will say, "Aha, you see!" The Ayatollah will say, "I told you, you can't trust the West. I told you, you can't negotiate with these guys. They will lie to you, they will cheat you, and here they are - they led us down the path and the Congress walked away. They have 535 secretaries of state; there's nobody to negotiate with." And our European allies will walk away saying, "Well, we tried our best, now we trust Iran and we're going to go do something." And they'll cut their own deal. We're finiished. I'm telling you, the US will have lost all credibility. We will not be in the hunt, and if we then decided to use military, do you believe the UN will be with us? Do you think our European colleagues will support us? Not in your life. They'll say "you guys just walked away from something we spent four years negotiating with you." This will be a travesty, and Iran will begin enriching, claiming it is a right which they only gave up in the context of negotiations - but since the negotiations are dead, they're going to resume their rights." ~~~~~ Dear readers, if you don't feel the panic in Kerry's outpouring, you don't understand words. What we now know is that Obama and Kerry were so afraid of war with Iran that they sought any deal to prevent it. They blamed conservatives in Congress of having only one alternative to the deal - war. We now learn that Obama is so afraid of war that he agreed to a deal that will very likely provoke a war. But that will be the next President's problem, not his. He hopes. That is the existential dilemma Obama's fear has unleashed on the Middle East and the world.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
The Cuban flag now flies over Havana’s embassy in Washington. It was raised on Monday for the first time in 54 years as the United States and Cuba formally restored relations. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over the reopening of the embassy, a milestone in the diplomatic thaw that began with the simultaneous announcements by US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raoul Castro last December 17. Rodriguez took yesterday's opportunity to urge Obama to use more executive powers to dismantle the economic embargo, the main stumbling block to full normalization of relations. Obama has used executive orders to ease some business and travel restrictions but the broader 53-year-old embargo remains in place because only Congress can lift it, and most congressional Republicans are unlikely to do that soon, despite Obama's appeal for the embargo to be eliminated. With Rodriguez beside him later on Monday at the State Department, US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed a "new beginning" in relations but said there is still much that divides the two governments and that the path to complete normalization may be "long and complex." White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the administration was "hopeful" that Cuba in coming years would start to show respect for basic human rights. ~~~~~ The reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana is the culmination of more than two years of negotiations between the long-hostile governments. At the reopening ceremony, Rodriguez noted : "The historic events we are living today will only make sense with the removal of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which causes so much deprivation and damage to our people, the return of occupied territory in Guantanamo, and respect for the sovereignty of Cuba." But, Secretary Kerry answered that the United States has no intention at this time of altering its existing lease arrangement for its naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Speaking at a news conference with Rodriguez, Kerry noted that the issue was a clear difference between the two nations. Rodriguez told reporters that the military base along with remaining issues over the trade embargo remained top concerns for Cuba. ~~~~~ Secretary Kerry will visit Cuba on August 14 to attend the ceremony that will open the US embassy in Havana, an unnamed US source said yesterday. The American flag will not fly in Havana until then. The State Department said that Kerry's expected visit would be first by a US Secretary of State to Cuba in 70 years. ~~~~~ Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is the largest island in the Caribbean and is only 90 miles away from the south Florida coast. Cuba was inhabited by Amerindian tribes before Christopher Columbus landed there in 1492 and claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a Spanish colony until the Spanish–American War of 1898, after which it gained nominal independence in 1902 as a de facto US protectorate. The fragile republic experienced increasingly radical politics and social strife, and despite efforts to strengthen its democratic system, Cuba came under the dictatorship of US-backed Fulgencio Batista in 1952. Growing unrest and instability led to Batista's overthrow on New Year's Eve in January, 1959, by the July 26 movement, which then established a revolutionary socialist government under Fidel Castro, who had led the guerrilla campaign against Batista's military and security forces. Since 1965, Cuba has been governed by the Communist Party of Cuba. With over 11 million inhabitants, Cuba is a multi-ethnic country whose people, culture and customs come from diverse sources, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, America, and a close relationship with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. ~~~~~ The Communist Party, now headed by Castro's brother Raoul, continues to govern Cuba today. The Cuban Revolution has had powerful domestic and international repercussions. In particular, it reshaped Cuba's relationship with the United States, which led to the embargo against Cuba that continues today. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Castro began a program of nationalization and political consolidation that transformed Cuba's economy and civil society, impoverishing Cubans, destroying businesses and infrastructure, and eliminating all personal and political liberties. The revolution also ushered in an era of Cuban intervention into foreign military conflicts, including the Angolan Civil War and the Nicaraguan Revolution. Scholars and political analysts have tried to arrive at an estimate of the number of Cuban dissidents killed by the Castro regime. Armando Lago, a PhD in Economics from Harvard University, continues working on his book "CUBA The Human Cost of Social Revolutions : The Black Book of Cuban Communism," documenting the deaths caused by Castro's regime from 1959 to the present. According to Dr. Lago's ongoing research, the total number of deaths currently ranges between 90,827 and 102,722 (much higher, for example, than the 3,000 attributed to Chile's Augusto Pinochet). ~~~~~ Dear readers, Americans are understandably ambivalent about President Obama's recognition of Castro's Cuba. The Cuban people have long immigrated to America. Before Castro, they welcomed American tourists and business people to Havana. American music and popular culture have absorbed Cuban influences. Rum and Coca Cola - called a Cuba Libra - owes its existence to Havana. And Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his greatest novels while living in Cuba. So, most Americans feel a kinship with the Cuban people and want their suffering under Castro to end. But, most Americans would greatly prefer that the Cuban people, and not the Castro family and regime, benefit from a renewed US-Cuba diplomatic and commercial relationship. And like so much spin produced by his administration, Obama has glossed over the realities of his recognition of Cuba. Seeing the butchers Raoul and Fidel Castro elevated to a fake respectability -- watching them, much like the Ayatollah Khamenei, try to bully Obama into dangerous concessions because they know that he has abandoned the interests of America and the world in his rush to build his "legacy" -- that is repugnant to all of us who must watch the current collapse of the American presidency into a personal fiefdom . It is simple -- the Cuban people "yes" -- but the Castro brothers "no."
Monday, July 20, 2015
If Iran Already Has a Nuclear Bomb, Why the Obama Negotiating Charade? If Iran Doesn't Have a Bomb, Why Does Obama Want to Give It One?
Arriving in Tel Aviv Sunday evening, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said his goal is not to convince Israeli leaders to drop their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, but instead to emphasize that the accord imposes no limits on what Washington can do to ensure the security of Israel and US Arab allies : "Our ability to carry out that strategy is unchanged." Carter told reporters aboard his plane en route to Tel Aviv : "Friends can disagree but we have decades of rock-solid cooperation with Israel." Carter added that the Obama administration reserves the right to use military force against Iran if necessary, although he said the nuclear deal is intended to preclude that by resolving the issue diplomatically. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, President Obama sent his nuclear agreement with Teheran to Congress on Sunday, at the same time that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged US lawmakers to reject the deal that he said would only feed an "Iranian terror machine." Netanyahu told US television Sunday political talk shows : "I think the right thing to do is merely not to go ahead with this deal....There are many things to be done to stop Iran's aggression and this deal is not one of them." Speaking to his cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu quoted the Iranian Supreme Keader Ayatollah Khamenei : "The Iranians are not even trying to hide the fact they will take advantage of the hundreds of billions they will receive via the agreement to arm their terror machine....And they say explicitly they will continue their struggle against the United States and its allies, Israel of course above all." ~~~~~ If Congress says 'No' to the deal, it will require a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate to override the expected Obama veto, so the Obama administration is working to win over enough of Obama's fellow Democrats to offset strong Republican opposition. In a rare gesture, Obama took three Democratic congressman golfing with him : Joe Courtney of Connecticut, Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and John Yarmuth of Kentucky. The President more often takes aides and friends for weekend golfing. Obama has stressed that taking the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon off the table increases the security of Israel, the United States and its allies. US officials have also signaled they are not changing a longstanding US defense strategy that is underpinned by the threat of a hostile Iran. Carter said Sunday : "Neither the deal nor everything else we're doing to advance our military strategy in the region assumes anything about Iranian behavior. There’s nothing in those 100 pages that places any limitations on the United States or what it does to defend...its friends and allies, including Israel." ~~~~~ Carter's assurances to Israel about defense cooperation have long been backed up by US actions. The US has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Israeli air defense system known as Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets, mortars and artillery shells fired into northern Israel from southern Lebanon and into Israel's south from the Gaza Strip. The US has worked with Israel on anti-missile systems and a wide range of other defenses. Two years ago the Pentagon committed to providing advanced radars for Israel's fleet of fighter jets and KC-135 refueling aircraft, and making Israel the first country to buy the V-22 Osprey hybrid airplane-helicopter. And the Pentagon has suggested that the $3 billion annual defense budget for Israel will increase following the Iran deal. ~~~~~ On Sunday, Carter was welcomed by his Israeli counterpart. Today, the American defense chief is meeting at Israel's defense headquarters with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who thanked Carter for his contributions to Israeli security and said Israel appreciates its friendship with the US. Tomorrow, Carter will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Carter will also visit Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both of which regard the prospect of increasing Iranian influence in the region with great suspicion. ~~~~~ While Carter is plying US Middle East allies with assurances and promises of beefed up defense cooperation, the first concrete sign of European determination to quickly rebuild economic and political ties with Iran after a 12-year standoff came as German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel arrived in Teheran with an economic delegation. Other European powers were expected to follow. Gabriel, who is also German Vice Chancellor, urged Iran at the start of a three-day visit to improve its relationship with Israel if it wants to establish closer economic ties with Germany and other western powers, saying that Germany would like to act as a mediator : "You can't have a good economic relationship with Germany in the long-term if we don't discuss such issues too and try to move them along." Gabriel was speaking to a gathering of German and Iranian business people in Teheran. "Questioning this state's (Israel's) right to existence is something that we Germans cannot accept," Gabriel said. "Really stable, good relationships with Germany will only be able to develop if this is accepted in Iranian politics. I will keep making that clear during my trip to Iran," Gabriel said,adding that now that Berlin and Teheran can re-establish closer ties, it will be necessary to talk about human rights. Gabriel, who will hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and several ministers, said he wanted to talk to human rights representatives in a country that the UN says is guilty of human rights violations against women, religious minorities, journalists and activists. There is a lot at stake for Germany. German industry groups have said exports from Europe's largest economy to Iran could as much as quadruple in the next few years following the nuclear deal. Companies like Volkswagen and Siemens, as well as thousands of smaller family-owned firms, are eager to claw back their dominant role in shipments to Iran; Germany was once Iran's leading supplier from outside the region but in 2007 it lost that position to China, which now sends 15 to 20 times as many goods to Iran as Germany does. Eric Schweitzer, head of Germany's DIHK chambers of trade and commerce, said Gabriel's trip was "a very good sign" for business and while German-Iranian trade would not immediately soar, it could more than double to a value of €6 billion within two years. In the medium term it could even jump to €10 billion, Schweitzer said. ~~~~~ Today, British Prime Minister David Cameron said world powers could now press Teheran on other issues such as its involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad. "We shouldn't be naïve or starry-eyed in any way about the regime that we're dealing with," he said in an interview with NBC News. Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the US delegation to the talks with Iran, was asked on Fox News Sunday why the deal did not provide for inspections anywhere anytime. Kerry said : “The fact is, that in arms control, there is no country anywhere on this planet that has ‘anywhere, anytime’," he said. "There is no such standard within arms control inspections." ~~~~~ Dear readers, we have entered a new era in the Middle East. No amount of promises from Ashton Carter can hide the fact that Israel is now exposed to an existential military and nuclear threat from an Iran that defiantly rejects any form of arms control while welcoming western trade delegations with open arms. The 80 million Iranians are a market too enticing for customer-hungry Europe to ignore. Thinking that any later "snap back" option for economic sanctions can be implemented is just one more fantasy spun by Obama to pull in what he must consider to be a gullible American Congress and public. The truth is that even if Congress stands firm and rejects the Iran deal, Obama has promised to exercise his veto in order to allow Iran's nuclear program to advance while erasing economic sanctions. And the UN Security Council will have adopted a binding resolution to seal the deal internationally. Obama fooled America once by lying about Obamacare and the result has been a serious degradation of available health services that now cost more. With Iran, we are not just talking about the cost and availability of health care, important as they are -- we are talking about ballistic missiles aimed at Israel, Europe and America. Obama will be gone when the threat arrives, and Kerry may have a Nobel Peace Prize sitting on his mantle. But, the threat is there now and will grow. Today, Khamenei twitted that Iran's policy toward Israel will not change. Why would the world - why would President Obama - even consider giving terrorist thugs like the Iranian Ayatollah a nuclear bomb and ICBMs? There is no reasonable answer. German trade deals and the Obama "legacy" cannot be worth the real danger that at some point the West will be annihilated by the Iranian terrorist regime.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
It's Saturday Email Bag time (join at email@example.com) and this week there was only one topic -- the Iran nuclear deal. Is it good...bad...a danger to Israel...likely to break up the normal Middle East American alliance with Arab states and Israel. ~~~~~ President Obama is pressing for acceptance of his Iran nuclear deal in various ways. He had his own disastrous news conference, in which his timid words suggested that the US was the junior member at the table, tiptoeing so as not to anger a big bad Iran. ~~~~~ Obama has also sent National Security Advisor Susan Rice to talk to the media in the same way he sent her to Sunday political shows to talk about Benghazi. Rice spun tales about a video causing the Benghazi attack and death of Ambassador Chris Stevens -- spin that proved to be untrue, casting doubt on the truthfulness of Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Obama. Rice must have learned some sort of lesson from the Benghazi farce, because she seems to be brutally frank in her comments about the Iran deal -- leaving behind her a swath of negative impressions about the ability of the Obama/Kerry team to negotiate any terms that protect the US, the EU, sunni Arab states or Israel from Iran's nuclear-terrorist intentions. In Rice's long interview with Reuters, she said the only goal of the Iran deal was to prevent its having a nuclear bomb. Yesterday, Rice talked to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, telling him that the US will not be part of Iran inspection teams. Blitzer was clearly astounded by Rice's admission. Here is the key segment of their conversation. **BLITZER: “Let’s clarify a few points as far as the nuclear deal with Iran is concerned. I take it that all of the IAEA inspection teams all inspectors who go in will have to be from countries that have formal, full diplomatic relations with Iran. As a result, no Americans will directly be involved in any on the ground inspections in Iran -- is that right?” **RICE: “Wolf, yes. The IAEA, which is a highly respected international organization, will field an international team of inspectors. And those inspectors will in all likelihood come from IAEA member-states, most of whom have diplomatic relationships with Iran. We of course are a rare exception.” **BLITZER: “No Americans - I want to be precise on this. Sorry for interrupting. No Americans will be on the ground in Iran actually inspecting?” **RICE: “No Americans will be part of the IAEA inspection teams.” **BLITZER: “Will Americans be outside? ” **RICE: “There are Americans in Iran on a daily basis, Wolf. I’m not sure what you are asking.” **BLITZER: “American government officials or military officials who could be inspecting?” **RICE: “There are not going to be independent American inspectors separate from the IAEA. The IAEA will do the inspections on behalf of the United States and the rest of the international community.” **BLITZER: “I know there are American tourists and Americans who go visit family members in Iran. I’m talking US government-sent people, diplomats or others to go in there and see what is going on. I take it they will not be doing that?” **RICE: “I don’t anticipate that, no.” ~~~~~ Friday, Secretary of State Kerry appeared on MSNBC to defend the 24-day delay in the "managed" inspections between the time the IAEA asks for an inspection and Iran grants it. The deal allows IAEA inspectors to visit suspect Iranian facilities, but the inspections may only take place 24 days after a request. American allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, see this as a major flaw and a loophole for concealing forbidden nuclear work. But Kerry insisted that UN inspectors will have plenty of time to detect any Iranian bid to cheat : “I can assure you our intelligence community is completely comfortable that 24 days is not enough time for them to be able to evade our technical means, our capacity to observe." Susan Rice had already 'explained' it in her Reuters interview, saying the deal would not give Iran any room to oppose inspections if Washington or others had information believed to reveal a secret site. They would take their information to the IAEA for review, according to Rice : "If the Iranians said, 'No, you can't see that site,' whether it's a military site or not, the IAEA, if it deems the site suspicious, can ask for access to it. If Iran refuses access but five of the eight international signatories to the deal demand an investigation under a newly created joint commission, Iran must comply. It's not a request. It's a requirement. Iran would be bound to grant that access." Rice has clearly never heard of Iran's suspected military nuclear facilities that the IAEA has been trying to get access to for ten years. ~~~~~ Obama is also sending Defense Secretary Ash Carter to Saudi Arabia to convince skeptical allies about the benefits of the Iran nuclear deal. Carter's trip next week, which the White House had announced, will now include a stop in Israel this weekend. Carter will, according to Rice, also look at ways to deepen US security cooperation with Israel : "We will...be looking forward, if the Israelis are interested and willing, they haven't said so yet, to discuss with them how we might further deepen and strengthen our security and intelligence cooperation," Rice said. Really! We might wonder whether Susan Rice sees Israel as an ally or a fly in the Iran ointment. ~~~~~ ~~~~~ Listening to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, we might also wonder whether he sees America as a fly in the P5+1 deal ointment. Today, he withheld his verdict on the nuclear deal, and in a defiant address vowed enduring opposition to America and its Middle East policies, saying Washington sought Iran's 'surrender.' Speaking at a Tehran mosque, Khamenei joined in the crowd's chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel." Khamenei said he would not allow the disruption of Iran's revolutionary principles or defensive abilities : "Whether the deal is approved or disapproved, we will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. Even after this deal, our policy toward the arrogant US will not change." Khamenei's remarks reflect a broad mistrust of US intentions, as he declared that if war broke out, America would come off worst, nursing "a broken head." He said the slogans of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" show what Iranians think. "We have repeatedly said we don't negotiate with the US on regional or international affairs; not even on bilateral issues. There are some exceptions like the nuclear program that we negotiated with Americans to serve our interests." He said US policies in the region were "180 degrees" opposed to Iran’s policies. ~~~~~ And finally, last Friday in Teheran, just as the P5+1 were in Vienna wrapping up their deal with the Iranians, on the streets of Iran crowds were celebrating "Al-Quds Day," the day -- inaugurated by the late Ayatollah Khomeini and named for the foreign component of the Revolutionary Guard -- when anti-Israel and anti-American activity is highlighted even more than usual. Tens of thousands of Iranians march in the streets calling for the end of Israel and "Death to America." Israeli and American flags were burned. "Moderate" Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared at one of the parades to see the Israeli and American flags being burned. Did he intervene? Did he explain to the crowd that they were behind the curve? No. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we are up to our waists in alligators. An uninformed, anti-history White House team led by a naive, timid President has been hustled by Iran's experts at diplomatic sleight of hand. Obama is not Steve McQueen coming back to beat the Hustler another day. This is Obama winding up like the Sundance Kid...driven off a cliff by outlaw militia who pretend to be legitimate. There is no tomorrow. In the P5+1, Germany and Britain will buckle. The UN joined the Hustlers long ago. Russia and China have always been Hustlers. Obama, Kerry and Rice are fighting to save not the world but the Hustlers -- in the name of "Legacy," a word that should be stricken from presidential vocabularies. I have called for a real Middle East coalition to save themselves because Obama will not save them. The frightening truth is that Obama will not save the West or America, either. For reasons buried too deep inside him to be adequately analyzed, Barack Obama has joined the Iranian Hustlers. America and Europe must now look to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to save them. With sufficient voter pressure, Congress may stand tall, but nothing is less sure. A new Republican President in 2017 will still have a chance to reverse this suicidal trend, but not just any GOP President -- it must be the person who both undersrands the depth of the crisis and has the backbone to face it down. Chamberlain proved it once. Obama has proved it twice. Appeasement does not work. Where is our Churchill?
Friday, July 17, 2015
Today's Middle East News.~~~~~ Israeli aircraft hit militant targets in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip early yesterday after a rocket from Gaza landed in southern Israel, the Israeli military said. A passerby was lightly hurt in Gaza, according to residents. No damage or injuries were reported in Israel, where warning sirens sounded and the rocket struck open ground near the city of Ashkelon before dawn. Rocket launchings have become an almost weekly occurrence from Gaza recently but no militant group has taken responsibility for the attack. "The repeated rocket fire at Israel...is a deliberate decision to target civilians. No person should live under the threat of terrorism," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement. ~~~~~ Egypt's ISIS affiliate 'Sinai Province' said yesterday it fired a rocket at an Egyptian naval vessel in the Mediterranean near the coast of Israel and the Gaza Strip. 'Sinai Province' has focused on attacking Egyptian soldiers and police in the Sinai peninsula, killing hundreds since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. Photos put online by the group appear to show a rocket heading toward a ship and setting it on fire at impact. Reuters, which reported the story, could not verify Sinai Province's version of events. The Egyptian military said in a statement that a coast guard launch had exchanged shots with "terrorist elements," causing the vessel to catch fire. It said there was no loss of life. Egypt is battling an increasingly brazen Islamist onslaught in the Sinai and recently engaged in a confrontation that killed 100 militants and 17 Egyptian military. ~~~~~ Russia plans to supply Syria with 200,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) per year via the Crimean port of Kerch, according to two Reuters trading sources involved in the deal. The plans are another sign of cooperation between Russia and Syria, despite western hopes that Russia would stop protecting President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow had been shipping significantly lower volumes of LPG to Syria via Kerch before Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. The United States and the European Union, which say the seizure of Crimea violates international law, have imposed sanctions on individuals and businesses in Crimea, which include restrictions on use of the Kerch port. Russia is a staunch ally of Syria and exports arms to the al-Assad regime. ~~~~~ With nearly half the length of Syria's border with Turkey now in Kurdish hands, Ankara fears that the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria could raise separatist sentiment among Turkey's own Kurdish population. Turkey accuses Kurdish fighters in Syria of having links to the PKK militant group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 30 years. Some Kurds say fear among refugees is being whipped up by Turkey to discredit them. Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, a member of the Turkish parliament from the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP says : “This is a psychological war waged against Kurds. The (Turkish) government said that it doesn’t want the (Kurdish) cantons to be united, and when it happened they are now trying to create negative public opinion because they are angry. They’re playing a dangerous game by igniting nationalistic feelings." ~~~~~ Iraq is closing its main border crossing with Jordan on Thursday for an indefinite period, days after security forces and shiite militias launched an offensive to reclaim the western province of Anbar from ISIS militants. An Iraqi army officer who saw a copy of an Interior Ministry letter sent to his brigade told Reuters that authorities closed the Tureibil crossing to deprive ISIS of funds raised from truck drivers forced to pay a tax on each cargo coming in from Jordan. ISIS claimed responsibility for an April triple suicide bombing at the Tureibil crossing. ISIS controls most of Anbar and large tracts of northern Iraq, captured in a rapid offensive last summer. On Monday, Iraq's shiite-led government announced the start of operations to "liberate Anbar," the province west of Baghdad whose sunni cities and towns along the Euphrates have become ISIS strongholds. Sunnis living in Falluja, which Iraqi government shiite forces are preparing to retake from ISIS, say they are terrified, trapped between ISIS and shiite military, both of whom they fear. ~~~~~ While Saudi security officers were manning one of the security checkpoints on Ha'er Road in Riyadh yesterday, they directed the driver of a suspected car to stop. The driver initiated an explosion which led to his death," the ministry said in a statement. The road runs south from Riyadh to Ha'er prison that holds 1,375 largely militant detainees. The Ekhbariya state TV station, citing unidentified sources, said the 18-year-old driver had killed his uncle that afternoon, and then ran off with his car. The driver tried to bypass the checkpoint, then set off the explosive as security forces tried to surround him. The detention of thousands of Saudi sunni Islamists accused or convicted of militancy over the past decade has angered many conservative sunnis who launched a series of protests from 2011 to 2013. The two Saudis involved in the Kuwait mosque bombing last month participated in those protests, according to Saudi officials. ~~~~~ Today's White House News.~~~~~ Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in an interview yesterday : "I also want to make sure people understand that this deal was never about trying to prevent Iran from using proxies in the region, or destabilizing the region. This was always about our principle and primary concern as shared by the government of Israel and their neighbors in the region...that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is an existential threat. We are addressing that threat directly and effectively in this deal. But we understand that Iran has played a very destabilizing role in the region, it continues to foment unrest and to have supported terrorism, so we want to do what we can to bolster the capacity of our allies and partners in the region to resist that." ~~~~~ President Obama at a news conference yesterday to support his Iran deal said : “And my hope is that building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave. But we’re not counting on it.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, every news story in today's blog has a common thread : Iran-supported proxies - or Russia, Iran's protector - terrorizing sunnis or Israelis. Juxtapose these Iran-backed terrorist acts with the bizarre comment of Susan Rice -- it's laughable that she is called Obama's National Security Advisor -- admitting that the only goal of the US in the Iran negotiations was to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon, although she knew that Iran "has played a very destabilizing role in the region," that it continues to foment unrest and to have supported terrorism, so "we want to do what we can to bolster the capacity of our allies and partners in the region to resist that." This sounds like an ostrich whose head is very deep in the sand, sending a message to traditional Middle East allies : 'don't call us -- Iran terrorism is your problem.' Even worse, President Obama admitted that he sees no prospect of Iran changing its terrorist behavior. Yet, he has agreed to a deal that promises Iranian nuclear weapons development and that frees up more than $100 billion so that Iran can rachet up its terrorist network to destroy sunni Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf Emirates -- and destroy Israel as well -- all the while talking about how the Obama administration will protect Israel from every enemy and preserve the sunni Arab states in the Middle East. In reality, Obama is giving an aggressive regime access to conventional arms, billions of dollars and a nuclear infrastructure that has traumatized and alienated American Middle East allies. But, Americans were also thrown under the bus along with Arabs and Jews. Obama said he deliberately didn't raise the issue of four Americans held as political hostages by Iran for fear it would make Iran think it could get more "concessions from the Americans." Besides, Obama said : “it’s not the job of the President of the United States to solve every problem in the Middle East,” adding that he couldn’t end the Syrian civil war without “buy in” from Russia and Iran. He acknowledged that the nuclear deal might mean more money for Hezbollah, but said, “Is that more important than preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon? No.” A Washington Post headline blared out yesterday : "The Obama News Conference Was a Case for American Weakness." We should all pray with Voltaire : "May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies."