Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Iran Deal is dead since Iran rejects access to military sites. Let’s see what way will Obama find to capitulate

So, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran “will not allow any inspections of military sites by foreigners”

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says any deal without access to military sites “will not be accepted” while Mark Fitzpatrick, International Institute for Strategic Studies analyst, calls it “politically indefensible”.

I do not think that Ayatollah Khamenei will change his mind. Now let’s see in what convoluted way will the West capitulate once again. Or will Obama let the stool collapse? But I doubt it, not for nothing did Bret Stephens call Obama  The Capitulationist.

It is now getting really interesting. The whole next month of negotiations is pointless. The Iran deal is dead. The Ayatollah will not change his mind - so what will Obama and the P5+1 do now?  Let's observe what the West is made of. 

Iran nuclear talks snag on access to military sites

Inspection of sites such as Parchin is something Western powers demand, but Iran is reluctant to allow

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks to the press at the Foreign Ministry in Athens, on May 28, 2015. Iran warned global powers against making "excessive demands" in talks aimed at sealing a ground-breaking nuclear deal, after France demanded access to its military installations.

VIENNA (AFP) — With the top US and Iranian diplomats meeting Saturday in Geneva one month before a deadline for a historic nuclear deal, demands for UN inspections of Iranian military bases appear to be becoming a problem.

Tehran is uneasy about letting foreigners go poking around such sites, saying that since no nuclear material is present, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) watchdog has no right to enter them.

But the six powers negotiating with Iran want the IAEA to be able to visit them in order to investigate claims of any suspicious activity — past and future — that could indicate attempts to build a bomb.

The Western powers cannot accept a deal that precludes IAEA access to military sites,” Mark Fitzpatrick, International Institute for Strategic Studies analyst, told AFP, calling it “politically indefensible”.

Last week supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran “will not allow any inspections of military sites by foreigners” or the “interrogation” of nuclear scientists by the Vienna-based IAEA.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius shot back on Wednesday, saying any deal without access to military sites “will not be accepted”.

This prompted a rebuke on Thursday by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who called on “my negotiating partners to refrain from making excessive demands”.

“People need to have their foot in reality, not in illusions,” said Zarif, who is due to hold talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on Saturday.

On April 2 Iran and the “P5+1″ — the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany — agreed to the main outlines of a deal that they hope will end the long-running crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

Diplomats as well as technical and legal experts have been working hard in Vienna and elsewhere since then to turn the outlines into a final accord by June 30.

If it can be finalized, the deal will see Iran dramatically scale down its nuclear activities to make any dash to make a bomb virtually impossible.

Iran maintains that its nuclear activities are only for peaceful purposes.

The deal will see the IAEA keep even closer tabs than it already does on Iran’s nuclear sites — which Iran accepts, according to April’s joint statement issued in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In return, painful sanctions will be lifted.

But the IAEA also wants Iran to address indications that before 2003, and possibly since, Iran’s nuclear program had what it calls “possible military dimensions.”

A probe into these allegations, rejected by Iran, has been stalled since August, an IAEA report confirmed Friday. One of the sites it wants to inspect is the Parchin military base.

In addition, the powers want the final deal to give the IAEA the right to probe any suspicious activity further down the line.

This may require the IAEA to visit locations not necessarily declared as containing nuclear material, some of them military, and to talk to certain Iranian scientists.

According to one Western diplomat, the issue of inspections is “one of the legs of the stool. It’s not the only one, but if it’s not there, the stool will collapse.”

“Kerry will underline to Zarif the importance of inspections to the six powers,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The catch for Iran is that it agreed in April to implement the “Additional Protocol” of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This document, IAEA head Yukiya Amano told AFP this week, gives the nuclear watchdog “the right to request access at all locations, including military ones”.

Comments this week in parliament from Abbas Araghchi, Zarif’s deputy, make clear that his team in fact accepts this.

But at the same time, with some Iranian hardliners seeing the mooted deal as going too far, Araghchi stressed that the IAEA would have only what he called “managed access”.

This means that any visit to a military base would be tightly controlled, with inspectors unable to wander around where they like inside a base, snapping photos as they go.

“The inspection regime that the parties have agreed to does not amount to ‘inspectors anywhere, anytime’, which no sovereign country would ever accept,” International Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez said.

“Iran has also already allowed the IAEA to conduct inspections at military sites at least 12 times. So to preclude that now would be moving backwards,” Fitzpatrick said.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Barack Obama flunks his own anti-Semitism test

"Goldberg raised the concern that the anti-Semitism at the heart of the world view of Iran’s dictator Ali Khamenei makes him irrational. Obama didn’t merely reject the notion, while denying the long history of eliminationist anti-Semitism, Obama rejected the notion that anti-Semitism can outweigh rational interests like regime survival and economic prosperity." See also Bret Stephens’s  The Rational Ayatollah Hypothesis

"Obama asserted that if you fail to recognize the danger that anti-Semitism constitutes for Israel’s survival, then you are an anti-Semite."  

Quod erat demonstrandum.

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on Jewish American History Month at the Adas Israel Congregation synagogue in Washington May 22, 2015. 

Is US President Barack Obama an anti-Semite? This question has lingered in the air since his first presidential bid in 2008. It first arose due to the anti-Semitic sermons that Jeremiah Wright, his pastor for more than 20 years, made as Obama and his family sat in the pews.

Throughout the six-and-a-half years of his presidency, Obama has laughed off the concerns.

But he has not dispelled them. And this failure has hurt him.

So last week, Obama went to significant lengths to answer the question about his feelings toward Israel and the Jewish people once and for all.

The timing of his charm offensive wasn’t coincidental.

Obama clearly believes he has to dispel doubts about his intentions toward Jews and Israel in order to implement the central policy of his second term in office. That policy of course is his nuclear deal with Iran.

Obama’s agreement with the mullahs is supposed to be concluded by the end of next month. 
Obama argues that his deal will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. But as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained in his address before the joint houses of Congress in March, from what has already been revealed about the nuclear deal Obama seeks to conclude, far from preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear arms, the deal will provide several pathways for Iran to at a minimum become a threshold nuclear state, capable of developing nuclear weapons at the drop of a hat. If Iran cheats on the deal, it can develop nuclear weapons while the agreement is still in force. If it abides by the agreement, it can develop nuclear weapons as soon as the agreement expires.

Beyond his desire to conclude a nuclear deal that will empower a regime that has pledged to destroy Israel, there are Obama’s reported plans for changing the way the US relates to Israel at the UN Security Council.

For the past half-century, the US has used its veto power at the Security Council to prevent substantive anti-Israel draft resolutions from passing. But Obama and his top advisers have hinted and media reports have provided details about his intention to end this 50-year policy.

Obama reportedly intends to enable the passage of a French draft resolution that would require Israel to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines.

As these two policies, which bear directly on Israel’s ability to defend itself and indeed, to survive, near implementation, Obama is faced with the fact that he has a credibility problem when it comes to issues related to the survival and existence of the Jewish state.

In a bid to address this credibility problem, last week he invested significant time and effort in building up his credibility on Jewish issues. To this end, he gave an extensive interview to Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, and he gave a speech before Adas Israel, a large, liberal Conservative synagogue in Washington, DC.

To a degree, Obama was successful. He did put to bed the question of whether or not he is anti-Semitic.

In his interview with Goldberg, Obama gave a reasonable if incomplete definition of what anti-Semitism is. Obama said that an anti-Semite is someone who refuses to recognize the 3,000-year connection between the Jews and the Land of Israel. An anti-Semite is also someone who refuses to recognize the long history of persecution that the Jewish people suffered in the Diaspora.

According to Obama, an anti-Semite is someone who refuses to understand that this history of persecution together with the Jews’ millennial connection to the Land of Israel is what justifies the existence of Israel in the Land of Israel.

Moreover, according to Obama, anti-Semites refuse to understand that Israel remains in mortal danger due to the continued existence of anti-Semitic forces that seek its destruction.

And that isn’t all. As he sees it, even if you do understand the legitimacy of Israel’s existence and recognize the continued threats to its survival, you could still be an anti-Semite.

As Obama explained to Goldberg, there is still the problem of double standards.

In his words, “If you acknowledge those things, then you should be able to align yourself with Israel where its security is at stake, you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.”

To his credit, Obama provided a clear, well-argued and constructive definition of anti-Semitism.

But there’s a bit of a problem. Right after Obama provided us with his definition of anti-Semitism, he endorsed and indeed engaged in the very anti-Semitism he had just defined.

As Goldberg, who is sympathetically inclined toward Obama, put it, Obama “holds Israel to a higher standard than he does other countries.”

Both in his interview with Goldberg and in his speech at the synagogue, Obama judged Israel in accordance to what he defined as Jewish values.

According to Obama, Jewish values require Jews to prefer the interests of others over their own interests in order to “repair the world.”

As Obama reads Israeli history, the state’s founders didn’t only seek to build a Jewish state.

They set out to build Utopia.

Obama explained, “I care deeply about preserving that Jewish democracy, because when I think about how I came to know Israel, it was based on images of... kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and the sense that not only are we creating a safe Jewish homeland, but also we are remaking the world. We’re repairing it. We are going to do it the right way. We are going to make sure that the lessons we’ve learned from our hardships and our persecutions are applied to how we govern and how we treat others. And it goes back to the values questions that we talked about earlier – those are the values that helped to nurture me and my political beliefs.”

In his address at the synagogue, Obama made his expectations of Israel explicit. As he sees it, Israel’s concerns for Palestinians should outweigh its concerns for itself.

“The rights of the Jewish people... compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity. That’s what Jewish values teach me.”

In other words, when Obama thinks about Israel, he cannot avoid blaming Israel for the feelings he assumes Palestinian children feel.

It is important to mention that in neither of his attempts to address concerns about his perceived biases regarding Jews did Obama note the behavior of the Palestinian Authority. He ignored its endemic corruption and authoritarianism.

He ignored the wild anti-Semitic incitement and indoctrination practiced at all levels of the Palestinian governing authority. He ignored the longstanding Palestinian refusal to accept an independent state that would peacefully coexist with the Jewish state.

So in the end, Obama’s charm offensive did provide a clear answer to the question of whether he is anti-Semitic.

It bears noting that the fact that Obama failed his own test of anti-Semitism doesn’t necessarily mean that he hates Jews. It is certainly possible that he likes Jews.

But loving Jews and being an anti-Semite are not mutually exclusive.

Consider anti-black bigots. Over the years, plenty of racists have professed, and perhaps even felt, love for black people.

They discriminated against blacks not because they hated them but because they believed that blacks were inferior to whites. It was due to their “love” for blacks that they insisted on holding them to lower standards than whites, or on segregating them from whites, lest they be embarrassed or set up for failure.

In other words, the fact of their “love” didn’t make them less bigoted.

Likewise, the possibility that Obama loves Jews doesn’t make his compulsion to judge Israel by a separate standard from other states and nations, including the Palestinians, any less bigoted.

On the other hand, both in his interview with Goldberg and in his speech at Adas Israel, Obama gave reason for concern that he harbors little goodwill for Jews or sensitivity to the unique dangers they face.

Goldberg raised the concern that the anti-Semitism at the heart of the world view of Iran’s dictator Ali Khamenei makes him irrational. Obama didn’t merely reject the notion, while denying the long history of eliminationist anti-Semitism, Obama rejected the notion that anti-Semitism can outweigh rational interests like regime survival and economic prosperity.

In his words, “Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.”

If that wasn’t enough to show that Obama rejects the notion that anti-Semitism can and often does serve as the deranged anchor of policy- making by anti-Semites, he proceeded to equate Iran’s annihilationist anti-Semitism with the country club anti-Semitism American Jews once were subjected to by their fellow Americans.

“If you look at the history of anti-Semitism...

there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” he said.

By rejecting the policy significance of anti-Semitism for the Iranian regime, Obama exhibited yet another anti-Semitic behavior. Obama asserted that if you fail to recognize the danger that anti-Semitism constitutes for Israel’s survival, then you are an anti-Semite.

Obama’s statements about the Palestinians also indicate that he feels little love for Jews. As has been his consistent practice since assuming office, in his charm offensive last week, Obama continued to ignore the fact that if the Palestinians were primarily interested in a state, rather than in the destruction of the Jewish state, they could have had one at almost any time since the release of the Peel Commission report in 1937 that first suggested partitioning the land west of the Jordan River between a Jewish and an Arab state. His consistent refusal to deal with this simple fact, and his insistence on blaming Israel for the Palestinians’ expressed misery despite Israel’s repeated offers to partition the land in exchange for peace raise serious questions about his intentions toward the Jewish state.

As Obama rightly understands, in the coming months, as he tries to sell his nuclear deal with Iran and his anti-Israel positions at the UN to the American public, the question of whether or not he is an anti-Semite will become more salient than ever before.

Now that he has answered the question, Israel needs to act in accordance with Jewish values, and choose life even at the expense of good relations with the Obama administration.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Rational Ayatollah Hypothesis

A street decoration in Tehran.


Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so.

So we learn from the president’s interview last week with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—the same interview in which Mr. Obama called Islamic State’s capture of Ramadi a “tactical setback.” Mr. Goldberg asked the president to reconcile his view of an Iranian regime steeped in “venomous anti-Semitism” with his claims that the same regime “is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality.”

The president didn’t miss a beat. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strategic objectives, he said, were not dictated by prejudice alone. Sure, the Iranians could make irrational decisions “with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool.” They might also pursue hate-based policies “where the costs are low.” But the regime has larger goals: “maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their country,” and getting “out of the deep economic rut that we’ve put them in.”

Also, Mr. Obama reminded Mr. Goldberg, “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” to say nothing of Europe. If the president can forgive us our trespasses, he can forgive the ayatollah’s, too.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a man with an undergraduate’s enthusiasm for moral equivalency (Islamic State now, the Crusades and Inquisition then) would have sophomoric ideas about the nature and history of anti-Semitism. So let’s recall some basic facts.

Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.

So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?

Maybe all this behavior serves Tehran’s instrumental purposes by putting the regime at the vanguard of a united Shiite-Sunni “resistance” to Western imperialism and Zionism. If so, it hasn’t worked out too well, as the rise of Islamic State shows. The likelier explanation is that the regime believes what it says, practices what it preaches, and is willing to pay a steep price for doing so.

So it goes with hating Jews. There are casual bigots who may think of Jews as greedy or uncouth, but otherwise aren’t obsessed by their prejudices. But the Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime is of the cosmic variety: Jews, or Zionists, as the agents of everything that is wrong in this world, from poverty and drug addiction to conflict and genocide. If Zionism is the root of evil, then anti-Zionism is the greatest good—a cause to which one might be prepared to sacrifice a great deal, up to and including one’s own life.

This was one of the lessons of the Holocaust, which the Nazis carried out even at the expense of the overall war effort. In 1944, with Russia advancing on a broad front and the Allies landing in Normandy, Adolf Eichmann pulled out all stops to deport more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in just two months. The Nazis didn’t even bother to make slaves of most of their prisoners to feed their war machine. Annihilation of the Jews was the higher goal.

Modern Iran is not Nazi Germany, or so Iran’s apologists like to remind us. Then again, how different is the thinking of an Eichmann from that of a Khamenei, who in 2012 told a Friday prayer meeting that Israel was a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut”?

Whether the Ayatollah Khamenei gets to act on his wishes, as Eichmann did, is another question. Mr. Obama thinks he won’t, because the ayatollah only pursues his Jew-hating hobby “at the margins,” as he told Mr. Goldberg, where it isn’t at the expense of his “self-interest.” Does it occur to Mr. Obama that Mr. Khamenei might operate according to a different set of principles than political or economic self-interest? What if Mr. Khamenei believes that some things in life are, in fact, worth fighting for, the elimination of Zionism above all?

In November 2013 the president said at a fundraising event that he was “not a particularly ideological person.” Maybe Mr. Obama doesn’t understand the compelling power of ideology. Or maybe he doesn’t know himself. Either way, the tissue of assumptions on which his Iran diplomacy rests looks thinner all the time.

Iran vs. Israel: Who's Making the Threats?

PressTV, The Debate
May 18, 2015

A speech by the Israeli defense minister sets the stage for a discussion of whether Jerusalem threatens Tehran or the other way around. Daniel Pipes debated Brian Becker of ANSWER Coalition. 

An excerpt from the conversation, at 12:45:

Pipes: Do I think the U.S. government should bomb the Iranian nuclear installations? Absolutely, and the sooner the better.

Moderator: No, should Israel do it?

Pipes: I would prefer the United States government do it but if the United States government won't do it, I hope the Israelis will do it, be otherwise we have madmen in Tehran controlling nuclear weapons that threaten the Iranian population, the Israeli population, the American population, and many other populations besides. Best to get rid of this in advance, such as the Israelis did in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007.

Here is the contents of the two pages Mr. Pipes showed the camera:

1. Iran finances and provides arms to Hamas which periodically attacks Israel.

2. Iran finances and provides arms to Hezbollah which periodically attacks Israel.

3. Khomeini called for "wiping Israel out of existence" on coming to power in. (1979)

4. Mohammad Khatami, president of Iran: "If we abide by real legal laws, we should mobilize the whole Islamic world for a sharp confrontation with the Zionist regime … if we abide by the Koran, all of us should mobilize to kill." (2000)

5. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region." (2001)

6. Hassan Nasrallah, a leader of Hezbollah: "If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." (2002)

7. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran: he repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." (2005)

8. Nasrallah: "Israel is our enemy. This is an aggressive, illegal, and illegitimate entity, which has no future in our land. Its destiny is manifested in our motto: 'Death to Israel.'" (2005)

9. Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps: "With God's help the time has come for the Zionist regime's death sentence." (2008)

10. Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, Khamenei's representative to the Moustazafan Foundation: "We have manufactured missiles that allow us, when necessary to replace [sic] Israel in its entirety with a big holocaust." (2010)

11. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij paramilitary force: "We recommend them [the Zionists] to pack their furniture and return to their countries. And if they insist on staying, they should know that a time while arrive when they will not even have time to pack their suitcases." (2011)

12. Khamenei: "The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor that will be removed." (2012)

13. Ahmad Alamolhoda, a member of the Assembly of Experts: "The destruction of Israel is the idea of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and is one of the pillars of the Iranian Islamic regime. We cannot claim that we have no intention of going to war with Israel." (2013)

14. Nasrallah: "The elimination of Israel is not only a Palestinian interest. It is the interest of the entire Muslim world and the entire Arab world." (2013)

15. Hojateleslam Alireza Panahian, the advisor to Office of the Supreme Leader in Universities: "The day will come when the Islamic people in the region will destroy Israel and save the world from this Zionist base." (2013)

16. Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative in the Revolutionary Guard: "The Zionist regime will soon be destroyed, and this generation will be witness to its destruction." (2013)

17. Khamenei: "This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated." (2014)

18. Hossein Salami, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guard: "We will chase you [Israelis] house to house and will take revenge for every drop of blood of our martyrs in Palestine, and this is the beginning point of Islamic nations awakening for your defeat." (2014)

19. Salami: "Today we are aware of how the Zionist regime is slowly being erased from the world, and indeed, soon, there will be no such thing as the Zionist regime on Planet Earth." (2014)

20. Hossein Sheikholeslam, the secretary-general of the Committee for Support for the Palestinian Intifada: "The issue of Israel's destruction is important, no matter the method. We will obviously implement the strategy of the Imam Khomeini and the Leader on the issue of destroying the Zionists." (2014)

21. Khamene'i called for Israel to be "annihilated." (November 10, 2014)

22. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard: "The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime ... We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region's geopolitics." (2015)

23. Mujtaba du Al-Nour, a senior figure in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards: Iran has rocketsthat can reach the heart of Tel-Aviv within six or seven minutes after being given the go ahead by the Supreme Guide, "even before the dust of rockets of the Zionists reach us". (February 23, 2015)

24. General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran's Basij militia in late March 2015: "Wiping Israel off the map is not up for negotiation." (April 1, 2015)

25. Mojtaba Zolnour, a Khamenei representative in the IRGC: The "government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has divine permission to destroy Israel. … The Noble Koran permits the Islamic Republic of Iran to destroy Israel. … Even if Iran gives up its nuclear program, it will not weaken this country's determination to destroy Israel." (May 12, 2015)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Alan Dershowitz flip-flops again

Two years ago Alan Dershowitz finally began to realize the immense danger of Obama’s policy on Iran and he wrote several articles: 

But now comes a piece in the Jerusalem Post that makes no sense.  Dershowitz cannot have it both ways. You cannot be a stringent critic of Obama’s Iran policy and then praise how Obama talked about “shared values between our country and Israel” because if these values had any significance to Obama he would not be enabling Iran to become a nuclear power and be pushing the world towards a nuclear war.  Apparently Dershowitz never really understood the catastrophe behind Obama’s appeasement of Iran or he thinks Israelis would still swallow this inconsistency in his thinking. But we do  live under an Iranian nuclear threat and we can just wonder how blind and insensitive or just dumb Dershowitz really is.          

Having just listened to Obama's speech at a conservative Jewish Congregation in DC, I was reminded why I supported him both times he ran for president, as well as when he ran for the US Senate.

I have been a strident critic   of President Obama’s policy toward Iran, especially how he and his team have been negotiating with that belligerent regime over its nuclear weapons program. But opposition to one aspect of the Obama policies should not be mistaken for opposition to President Obama himself or to the many achievements of his administration, particularly in the domestic area.

Having just listened to his speech at a conservative Jewish Congregation in Washington, DC, I was reminded why I supported him both times he ran for president, as well as when he ran for the United States Senate. Barak Obama is a good and decent person, who admires the Jewish people and supports Israel’s right to exist as the Nation State of the Jewish People as well as its right to defend itself against attacks, both domestic and foreign. He disagrees with the Netanyahu administration on several issues. On some of these issues, such as settlement building, I tend to agree with Obama. On other issues, such as the Iran negotiations, I tend to agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

On a personal level, I do not think that President Obama has handled his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu in a mature and productive fashion. Having been provoked by Speaker Boehner’s invitation to have Netanyahu speak to Congress, President Obama acted in a petulant manner that exacerbated the differences between them. I also disapprove of how President Obama handled Netanyahu’s statements regarding the two state solution. Recall on the evening of Netanyahu’s election, he made a statement suggesting that the time was not now ripe for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Immediately following his election, Netanyahu reasserted his commitment to the two state solution. Instead of reacting in a statesmanlike way by focusing on Netanyahu’s positive restatement, Obama reemphasized his opposition to Netanyahu’s previous negative statements. This was poor politics, poor statesmanship and poor psychology.

Regarding the deal with Iran, President Obama had said that as between accepting the deal and rejecting it, the only realistic option is to accept it. He may be right, but he was wrong to get us into the position where the only options may be bad and worse.

I will continue to be critical of President Obama and his administration where I believe criticism is warranted, but I will continue to express approval and admiration for our President when he acts in a positive fashion. 

President Obama’s speech to the Jewish Congregation in Washington DC was excellent. He talked about shared values between our country and Israel and between him and the Jewish community. His policies with regard to health care and many other domestic issues are consistent with those of a majority of American Jews. We should neither demonize nor lionize our President. We should criticize him where criticism is warranted, praise him where praise is justified and encourage him to be supportive of Israel. There is too much extremism at play when it comes to President Obama. People who hate him, hate him too much and without justification. Some people who love him, love him too much and without nuanced criticism.

So let’s continue to watch carefully how this administration deals with foreign policy issues, especially with regard to Israel and Iran and let’s be constructive and nuanced in both our criticism and our support.

In his speech to the Congregation, President Obama invited “scrutiny” of his foreign policy actions, particularly with regard to Iran. We should accept his invitation and offer good faith and constructive criticism.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Everything Is Awesome, Mideast Edition

With National Security Adviser Susan Rice at his side, Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes briefs the press


Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, has been offering a reassuring view of the Iranian nuclear deal in the face of some Arab skepticism. “If you can diplomatically and peacefully resolve the nuclear issue in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters last week, “we believe that will lead to a much more stable region.” Mr. Rhodes also contends that with a deal “there will be no need to see [a] regional arms race.”

So what’s more frightening: That Mr. Rhodes believes what he’s saying? Or that he does not?

Just for Mr. Rhodes’s benefit, here’s a refresher course on stability and the arms race in the Middle East since April 2, 2015, the day Mr. Obama announced his framework nuclear agreement with Iran.

April 2: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif immediately accuses the U.S. of “spin” and contradicts Mr. Obama’s key claims regarding the terms of the deal.

April 12: A Swedish think tank reports that Saudi Arabia registered the biggest increase in defense spending in the world
April 13: Moscow says it will deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later boasts that the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing” militarily against Iran.

April 14: Iran announces agreements with Russia and China to build additional nuclear reactors.

April 17: Iran dispatches an armed convoy of ships, believed to be destined to resupply pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo. The convoy turns back after the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier to the region to shadow the ships.

April 20: Jason Rezaian, the American-born Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran since July, is charged with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

April 20: The British government informs the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on Iran that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with two Iranian companies that are under international sanctions.

April 22: Saudi Arabia resumes airstrikes in Yemen despite administration pressure to maintain a cease fire.

April 28: Iran seizes the 837-foot long Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands flagged cargo ship with 34 sailors aboard, as it transits the Strait of Hormuz along an internationally recognized route. The ship is released a week later after Maersk pays a fine of $163,000.

April 29: Former Saudi Intelligence Minister Turki al Faisal tells a conference in Seoul that the kingdom will match Iran’s nuclear capabilities with its own. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.” The prince also accuses Mr. Obama of going “behind the backs of the traditional allies to strike the deal.”

May 8: Reuters reports that inspectors have discovered traces of sarin gas at an undeclared military research site near Damascus. The report puts paid to administration boasts that its diplomacy effectively solved the Syrian chemical crisis.

May 11: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman withdraws from the Arab summit meeting with Mr. Obama. The king of Bahrain follows suit, preferring instead to attend a horse show with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

May 13: Reuters reports “the Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology usable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions.”

May 14: Iranian patrol boats fire upon a Singapore-flagged oil tanker with machine guns as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. The ship makes it safely to Dubai.

May 17: Citing senior U.S. officials, the Sunday Times reports that “Saudi Arabia has taken the ‘strategic decision’ to acquire ‘off-the-shelf’ atomic weapons from Pakistan.”

Also on May 17, Islamic State fighters in Iraq seize the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. This is after Mr. Obama crowed in February that “our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.” Now the Iraqi government will turn to Shiite paramilitaries under Iranian control to try to retake the city, further turning the Baghdad government into an Iranian satrap.
I recount these events not just to illustrate the distance between Ben Rhodes’s concept of reality and reality itself. It’s also a question of speed. The Middle East, along with our position in it, is unraveling at an astonishing pace. Reckless drivers often don’t notice how fast they’re going until they’re about to crash.

We are near the point where there will be no walking back the mistakes we have made. No walking away from them, either. It takes a special innocence to imagine that nothing in life is irreversible, that everything can be put right, that fanaticism yields to reason and facts yield to wishes, and that the arc of Mideast history bends toward justice.

Ben Rhodes, and the administration he represents and typifies, is special.


 It is by now clear to most that the US is run by an incompetent fool. What is really surprising and scary is that the American political system of checks and balances is incapable of fixing the problem.