Wednesday, August 12, 2015

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: The anti-peace administration
In his briefing with Israeli reporters, the high-level US official rejected the importance of the détente between Israel and its Arab neighbors because he claimed the Arabs have not changed their position regarding their view of a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
But this is also nonsense. To be sure, the official position of the Saudis and the UAE is still the so-called Arab peace initiative from 2002 which stipulates that the Arabs will only normalize relations with Israel after it has ceded Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan and allowed millions of foreign-born Arabs to freely immigrate to the shrunken Jewish state. In other words, their official position is that they will only have normal relations with Israel after Israel destroys itself.
But their official position is no longer their actual position. Their actual position is to view Israel as a strategic ally.
The senior official told the Israeli reporters that in order to show that “their primary security concern is Iran,” then as far as the Arabs are concerned, “resolving some of the other issues in the region, including the Palestinian issue should be in their interest. We would like to see them more invested in moving the process forward.”
In the real world, there is no peace process. And the Palestinian factions are fighting over who gets to have better relations with Iran. Monday we learned that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas wishes to visit Iran in the coming months in the hopes of getting the money that until recently was enjoyed by his Hamas rivals.
Hamas for its part is desperate to show Tehran that it remains a loyal client. So today, no Palestinian faction shares the joint Israeli-Saudi-Egyptian interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear armed regional hegemon.
The administration showed its hand in that briefing with the Israeli reporters last week. For all their talk about Middle East peace, Obama and his advisors are not at all interested in achieving it or of noticing when it has been achieved.
Jeffrey Goldberg: Why Iran’s Anti-Semitism Matters
The meeting was ending, and I did not have a chance to follow up with another question that has been nagging at me, which is this: Why does it seem to a growing number of people (I count Chuck Schumer in this group) that an administration professing—honestly, from what I can tell—to understand Jewish anxieties about the consequences of anti-Semitism in the Middle East does not appear to understand that the way some of its advocates outside government are framing the Iran-deal fight—as one between Jewish special interests, on the one hand, and the entire rest of the world, on the other—may empower actual anti-Semites not only in the Middle East, but at home as well?
Again, it seems to me that a plausible case could be made that this deal, as John Kerry has enthusiastically argued, is actually in Israel’s best interests—not only when compared to the alternative, but especially when compared to the alternative—and that the administration can make great hay out of the pro-Israel argument, and counter arguments that blame Israel’s well-meaning supporters in the United States for political difficulties surrounding the deal. I suspect that opponents of the deal in the American Jewish community are wrong in their views, but this does not make them warmongers, in the way Charles Lindbergh once understood Jews to be warmongers.
I know a number of things from my email traffic relating to this issue. The first is that, believe it or not, there are non-Jews who are worried about the Iran deal (more worried than I am, certainly). The second is that Jewish supporters of the Obama administration are beginning to feel scapegoated; the third is that supporters of the deal appear to be as sure of their position as those who supported the Iraq War (yours truly among them) were of theirs.
This last point is particularly interesting to me: The deal negotiated by John Kerry and his team may very well prevent Iran from gaining possession of a nuclear weapon for a very long time—and rejection of the deal now by Congress is unlikely to lead to a good outcome—but the risks here are huge: The administration, and supporters of the deal, are mortgaging the future to a regime labeled by Kerry’s State Department as the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world, and a regime that seeks the physical elimination of a fellow member-state of the United Nations and a close ally of the United States as well. Given that there is so much risk and uncertainty in what the United States is doing, it would be useful for the administration to make absolutely clear that it understands the nature of the regime with which it is dealing.
Michael Bloomberg: Supporters of Iran Nuclear Deal are “Resorting to Intimidation and Demonization”
The approach by advocates of the nuclear deal with Iran has been “disappointing” due to supporters “resorting to intimidation and demonization, while also grossly overstating their case,” former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote in an editorial Monday for Bloomberg News.
Last week, President Barack Obama said that it was not a difficult decision to endorse the agreement. I couldn’t disagree more. This is an extraordinarily difficult decision, and the president’s case would be more compelling if he stopped minimizing the agreement’s weaknesses and exaggerating its benefits. If he believes that the deal “permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” as he said in his speech at American University last Wednesday, then he should take another look at the agreement, whose restrictions end suddenly after 15 years, with some of the constraints on uranium enrichment melting away after just 10.
Overstating the case for the agreement belies the gravity of the issue and does more to breed distrust than win support. Smearing critics is even less effective. In his speech, the president suggested that critics of the deal are the same people who argued for the war in Iraq. The message wasn’t very subtle: Those who oppose the agreement are warmongers. (Of course, those who voted for the Iraq War resolution in 2002 include Obama’s vice president and secretary of state.) …
The White House’s behavior is especially disappointing given the way the negotiations unfolded. Every negotiation comes with give-and-take. This one was no exception. Significant concessions were made at the last moment, including on ballistic missiles and arms. These were surprising changes and they come with large implications that require careful scrutiny.

Iran debate devolves with charges of ‘dual loyalty’ and ‘dog whistles’
The dredging up of the dual loyalty charge — that lawmakers who reject the Iran nuclear agreement and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is lobbying against it, are more closely aligned with Israel than the United States — illustrates just how tense the debate over the deal has become.
The charge came to the fore after Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the highest-ranking Jewish Democrat in the Senate, announced last week that he was opposing the deal reached July 14 between Iran and six world powers. A weekly cartoon on Daily Kos, a liberal website, depicted Schumer as a woodchuck, and in the course of a TV interview, the flag in the woodchuck’s office changes from American to Israeli and the moderator, a basset hound, calls Schumer a traitor. The cartoonist, Eric Lewis, has had drawings published in the New Yorker.
The cartoon has drawn outraged responses.
There is room for a legitimate debate on the Iran deal, however charges” of disloyalty “against Senator Schumer — and any other members who articulate on fact-based but alternative views — are beyond inappropriate,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the new national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Times of Israel.
With most Republicans against the deal, Democrats have become the battleground — and Schumer has been under especially intense scrutiny. Congress has until late September to decide whether to reject the agreement.
The Democratic caucus generally defers to those within the party with the biggest stake in an issue, and traditionally has looked to its Jewish caucus, some 27 members, for leadership on Israel-related issues. Six have declared against the deal and 10 have declared for it. But Schumer’s coming out in opposition was seen as a watershed because he is line to succeed Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the party’s leader in the Senate who is retiring next year.
I can’t stand Bibi but he’s right on Iran, says eminent US intellectual
Defending his vocal opposition to the Iran nuclear deal during a recent briefing with Israel’s diplomatic correspondents, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited an article by Leon Wieseltier, an American-Jewish intellectual who is usually fiercely critical of his policies.
“There is an American journalist who has incessantly attacked me for decades. This man hasn’t written a single good word about me in the 30 years we know each other. And yet, he agrees with me that this is a bad deal,” Netanyahu said.
Last week, speaking to the same group of Israeli reporters at the sidelines of a baseball game in Washington, DC, Wieseltier endorsed both his dislike for Netanyahu the person and his support for Netanyahu the opponent of the nuclear agreement.
“I’ve almost never written a good word about him, so he’s right not to like me,” Wieseltier, one of America’s leading political commentators, said.
“But I agree with Bibi on Iran. He is right about the deal.”
Despite skepticism, US confident it can monitor Iran deal
Iran’s intelligence agencies have penetrated CIA front companies, executed Western agents and captured a sophisticated US drone.
So why should anyone believe American intelligence officials when they express confidence that they can monitor Iran’s compliance with the just-completed nuclear agreement?
The main reason, according to a classified joint intelligence assessment presented to Congress, is that the deal requires Iran to provide an unprecedented volume of information about nearly every aspect of its existing nuclear program, which Iran insists is peaceful. That data will make checking on compliance easier, officials say, because it will shrink Iran’s capacity to hide a covert weapons program.
“We will have far better insight (into) the industrial aspects of the Iranian nuclear program with this deal than what we have today,” James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told an audience last month at the Aspen Security Forum.
Outside experts don’t dispute that. But they question — considering past blunders of US intelligence in the Middle East — whether American spying will really be able to detect every instance of Iranian cheating.

Schumer: Can’t trust European nations to make Iran inspections
Sen. Charles Schumer blasted the Iran nuclear deal as “fatally flawed” Tuesday, saying he doesn’t trust European nations to conduct thorough inspections of the sensitive facilities.
In his most extensive comments since announcing his opposition to the agreement last week, Schumer questioned whether the inspections could be effective, and laid out a litany of reasons why he thinks the deal won’t hold.
“There are parts to bomb making that don’t involve nuclear isotopes. Even if you find nuclear isotopes [through inspections], you don’t know exactly what they are doing,” he said.
“You know, the Europeans, once they have these economic relationships with Iran — which we know they are very eager to have — are going to be reluctant to ask for an inspection, so I was troubled by that,” Schumer said after a speech at NYU.
Schumer — the presumptive next Senate Democratic leader and the only declared Democratic opponent to the deal in the Senate — also labeled the “snapback” provisions meant to restore sanctions if Iran cheats “complicated and awkward.”
Schumer nevertheless called his opposition, reached after high-pressure lobbying on both sides, “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make.”
Schumer: If US quits deal, US sanctions still will hurt Iran
Schumer also said that sanctions aimed at companies that do business with Iran could force US allies and trade partners back to the negotiating table.
“Let’s not forget, those secondary sanctions are very powerful,” Schumer told reporters in New York as he detailed a decision he first announced last week.
He said these sanctions alert corporations, such as the French oil company Total, that if it deals with Iran, it cannot deal with the United States.
“We have that powerful tool, and if used, I think that’s a better, better chance in a very difficult world than an agreement that is so totally flawed,” Schumer said.
Schumer’s opposition was seen as a blow to the Obama administration, but since Schumer’s announcement, a handful of Senate Democrats and several House Democrats have announced their support.
Why is the Administration Attacking Schumer?
One simple answer might be that it is merely a function of the president’s vindictive nature. It’s no secret that this is a leader who runs a top-down administration that does not encourage vibrant debate within its ranks. Obama is notoriously thin-skinned and seems to take criticism or opposition even more personally than most of its predecessors.
But that only goes so far in explaining why Obama is not respecting Schumer’s need to stay within the pro-Israel fold. After spending years covering for the president’s efforts to pick fights with the Jewish state by claiming that he will always be the guardian (shomer in Hebrew) of the U.S.-Israel alliance, you’d think Schumer was entitled to be cut some slack on Iran.
But that is not what is happening. The White House isn’t content to merely whip Democrats on the issue in an effort to obtain the one-third-plus-one votes they need to sustain a veto of a resolution of disapproval for the Iran deal. Instead, they are sending a rather pointed message to the pro-Israel community that no one, not even a good Democratic soldier and future leader like Schumer, can get away with crossing the president when it comes to his plans for détente with Iran.
Rather than merely another Obama tantrum at the chutzpah of critics, the singling out of Schumer seems to be the beginning of an effort to rid the Democratic leadership of a staunch pro-Israel figure. If we assume, as perhaps we should that the Iran deal will not be stopped, the White House may have already skipped ahead to fighting future battles with Israel over what will happen once the pact is put into effect. Obama has already done his best to isolate Israel and its government and to brand opponents of Iran détente as either mindless GOP partisans or guilty of dual loyalty to Israel. The logical next step is to ensure that no one like Schumer becomes Democratic leader, or at least to inflict the sort of beating on him that will ensure that no many members of his party ever challenge his effort to create daylight with Israel again. The attacks on Democratic opponents of the deal illustrate the depths to which the administration is prepared to sink to win this fight. But it also reflects its desire to downgrade the alliance with the Jewish state and start chipping away at the heretofore solid and bipartisan pro-Israel consensus.
Report: Schumer Not Lobbying Senators against Iran Deal
Schumer has spoken to 20 to 30 fellow Democrats since announcing opposition to deal but is not trying to sway them.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been “quietly reaching out” to dozens of other Democratic colleagues to explain his decision to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, but he has also been assuring them he would not be whipping opposition to the deal, according to Democratic senators and aides who spoke with congressional news site Politico.
Since news of his decision to vote “no” on the Iran deal leaked Thursday night – apparently from President Obama, whom he had informed of his decision – Schumer has spoken to “20 to 30” of his colleagues about why he will vote against the deal, sources told the news site.
In these conversations, Schumer has been “walking through his position” on the deal reached between the leading world powers and the Iranian government. He is, however, “not lobbying his colleagues to vote with him against the agreement when the Senate takes up a “resolution of disapproval” in September, several undecided senators told Politico.
From Bennet to Wyden: the Democrats Who'll Decide Deal's Fate
The Hill reports that support for the Iran nuclear agreement is building among Democrats, with 18 out of the total of 44 Democratic senators now publicly supporting the deal.
Congress has until September 17 to vote on the deal, which places temporary limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. A formal resolution of disapproval is expected to come up for a vote as well.
Since Obama is expected to veto any legislation that kills the deal, two-thirds of lawmakers are needed to block the agreement. Assuming all Senate Republicans oppose the deal, 13 Democrats will also be required to override the veto.
The Obama administration is pressuring Democrats to back the deal, and key senators including Tim Kaine (Va.) and Jack Reed (R.I.) have announced they support the agreement. Nearly half of the Senate Democrats are publicly undecided, however. The one Democrat who has come out solidly against the deal is Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
The Hill lists 19 others who are still undecided or whose positions are unclear, along with quotes from them regarding the deal:
AIPAC: Obama administration peddling ‘inaccuracies’ about us
AIPAC said the Obama administration is peddling inaccuracies about the pro-Israel lobby’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.
AIPAC President Robert Cohen emailed the organization’s activists on Monday, linking to a New York Times article published last week about tensions arising between the lobby and the administration, and said it reflects “multiple inaccuracies stemming from claims by the administration.”
AIPAC’s facts, Cohen said “are well-substantiated and accurate.” President Barack Obama has said that opponents to the deal have peddled arguments distorting or omitting elements of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached July 14 between Iran and six major powers.
An AIPAC affiliate, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, has run a TV ad addressing the substance of the deal.
Major Jewish Groups Slam White House, Allies for Use of Antisemitic Language in Debate Over Iran Nuclear Deal
The language seemed to escalate when Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is Jewish, became the latest and most prominent Democrat in Congress to announce his opposition to the Iran deal.
Pro-Iran lobby the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which reportedly has ties to the Iranian regime, explicitly accused Schumer of being more loyal to Israel than America, the Free Beacon said.
Abraham Foxman, who just stepped down from his longtime role as national director at the Anti-Defamation League, said Obama was using language — saying those opposed to the deal were cynically motivated to bomb Iranian nuclear sites — that fueled the antisemitic stereotyping of Jews as warmongers.
Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, accused the Obama administration of bullying, telling the Free Beacon that the language used was an “outrage” and that he was “grateful” Schumer and other American Jews were fighting to get Congress to oppose the deal.
“I don’t fear the crock of dual loyalty,” he said. “I am ashamed by those who cannot bring facts to the table so they attempt to bully.”
Pro-Israel watchdog Honest Reporting asked if critics of the Iran deal were getting “unfairly smeared” with the dual loyalty charge
The group pointed to a CNN segment with Fareed Zakaria in which he claimed that Schumer’s calculations were based on money and the risk of losing “core supporters” who are apparently involved in or coordinating the “well-financed campaign against” the deal.
Christian-Jewish Group Launches Massive Campaign to Fight Iran Nuclear Deal (VIDEO)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (known as “The Fellowship”) has launched a massive interfaith lobbying campaign to rally Christians across the U.S. to urge Congress to nix the Iran nuclear deal.
According to The Fellowship, the campaign seeks to capitalize “on the mutual understanding between Jews and Christians that Iran and its Islamic fundamentalist allies have been persecuting Christian and Jewish minorities in recent years and cannot be trusted to abide by international law.”
As part of the campaign, The Fellowship has launched a video reminiscent of the Cold War-era “Daisy” television ad that was used in the 1964 presidential campaign.
“If this agreement is ratified, Americans will—for the first time in a generation—understand what it means to have a credible threat of annihilation looming over the heads of our children and grandchildren, and in that way will understand better than ever the threat that hangs over Israelis every day,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship.
Say No to a Nuclear Iran

Veterans Launch Devastating Campaign Against Iran Deal
A group of Iraq war veterans has launched a campaign opposing President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.
"Every politician who is involved in this will be held accountable, they will have blood on their hands," says retired staff sergeant Robert Bartlett, the veteran featured in the first ad who was severely wounded by an Iranian bomb in Iraq in 2005. "A vote for this deal means more money for Iranian terrorism. What do you think they are going to do when they get more money?"
According to the executive director of Veterans Against the Deal, the 501(c)(4) is attempting to "challenge those people who are on the fence."
"Our main argument is that veterans know Iran better than Washington, D.C., does," VAD's Michael Pregent, a former intelligence adviser to Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, told Bloomberg. "You’ve got a lot of veterans out there who are pretty upset about this, so we are looking to capture their voices and make sure they are heard." (h/t Alexi)

Surrender to Obama on Iran Détente Isn’t an Option
Israel is faced with a dilemma. From right to left, its leading parties agree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Iran nuclear pact is a disaster for the Middle East and the Jewish state. But given the absolute determination of the Obama administration to get its way on the pact, some are asking at what point does this battle reach the point where Israel’s opposition becomes a self-destructive last stand that could affect the future of its relationship with its sole superpower ally. The ruthless manner with which the president has chosen to insult all critics of the pact and to single out Israel for opprobrium on the issue is a matter of grave concern not only for the government but for AIPAC and those who have worked to build and strengthen the vast bipartisan pro-Israel consensus in the United States. Since President Obama is likely to win the fight to sustain a veto of a resolution opposing the deal, that has caused even some in Israel and in the pro-Israel community here who oppose Obama on Iran to wonder whether it is time to wave the white flag or at least tone down their opposition. But while it is reasonable to think seriously about the impact of the current battle on the future of the alliance, now is not the time for supporters of Israel to back down. That’s because the debate isn’t merely about a nuclear deal but whether the U.S. is opting out of the fight against Iranian-backed terrorism and its ambition for regional hegemony.
The worries of those who think Israel and AIPAC are engaging in a fight they are bound to lose are not unreasonable. The president has not hesitated to call in political markers and exert brutal pressure on Democrats to back him on the deal. Indeed, the White House has not been content to merely escalate its feud with Prime Minister Netanyahu or to smear Republican opponents as mindless partisans. In the last week, it has even tacitly sanctioned the labeling of members of his party who are opposing it as exhibiting dual loyalty. Having staked his foreign policy legacy on a move that is predicated more on a belief in détente with Iran than the strength of the deal, the president has not hesitated to tell Israel and its supporters that their opposition will undermine the alliance.
Under the circumstances, a lot of the Jewish state’s friends are thinking at this point that discretion is the better part of valor. If Obama is going to win anyway — and the odds are, he will twist the arms of enough weak-willed Democrats to ensure that he gets one-third plus one of the votes in either the House or the Senate to sustain his veto of a resolution of disapproval — then maybe Israel will get better terms from a vindictive president if it surrenders or at least tones down its opposition before the vote is held. Indeed, the administration has been trying to get Netanyahu to do that for months with reports of it offering a large bonus in terms of arms and aid that might not still be sitting on the table once Obama has won his battle for the nuclear deal. So far the Israelis have refused even to talk about accepting what amounts to a bribe to gain their silence since to do so would be signaling that it is accepting its new role in the post Iran deal world.
Thomas Friedman asks: 'What would I think of the Iran deal if I was Israeli?'
New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman says that the Israeli government would be better off urging the US government to bolster its deterrence capacity against Iran rather than fighting the Obama administration through its allies in Congress.
In his latest op-ed piece in The New York Times, Friedman says that while Israel's anxieties over Iran are understandable, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "has no credible alternative" to the nuclear deal.
Friedman also writes that Netanyahu "downplays the internal threat" of Israel ruling over a Palestinian majority in the absence of a two-state solution.
"If my lobbyists in Washington actually succeeded in getting Congress to scrap this deal, the result wouldn’t be a better deal," wrote Friedman, who is considered close to the Obama administration. "It would be no deal, so Iran would remain three months from a bomb — and with no intrusive inspectors, with collapsing sanctions and Israel, not Iran, diplomatically isolated."
 Kerry: Dollar could suffer if US walks away from Iran deal
The dollar may lose its place as the world's reserve currency if the US Congress votes to kill the Iran nuclear deal, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.
In a forum hosted by Reuters news service, Kerry predicted that foreign powers would lose faith in the word and commitment of the United States— and would balk at the notion of reimposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic, just weeks after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had been successfully brokered.
Kerry's appearance was part of a broader push by the Obama administration to take its case for the deal to the American public, which appears skeptical of the agreement, according to several national polls. Congress will vote to approve or disapprove of the agreement in September.
"If we turn around and nix the deal and then tell them, 'you're going to have to obey our rules and sanctions anyway,' that is a recipe, very quickly," Kerry said, "for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world."
CAMERA: What Intell Tells about Iran, Contrary to Baltimore Sun Commentary
The Baltimore Sun published an evasive opinion piece by a conspiracy theorist in favor of the nuclear weapons deal reached by negotiators for the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany with Iran. It did not publish CAMERA's rebuttal letter, so here it is:
"Commentary writer Ray McGovern (“No more ‘military option,’” July 21, 2015) omits essential details regarding a prepared U.S. intelligence report on Iran and its purported nuclear program. By failing to note documented problems with the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the program and omitting geopolitical context, the author misleads readers on an important issue.
"McGovern—who routinely expounds conspiracy theories regarding the Iraq War and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (some of which appear at a “9/11 truth” Web site)—claims the 2007 NIE “concluded in November 2007 that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed that work.” Yet, he fails to note an important factor that may have influenced this alleged Iranian decision. By the end of 2003 large U.S. military forces had overthrown regimes in two countries that border Iran—Afghanistan and Iraq—and remained in place.
"Nor does McGovern reveal that even now the U.S. cannot be certain that Iran did in fact stop its program in 2003. That’s because the recent agreement reached between the Islamic Republic and the United States and its partners fails to commit Tehran to fully disclosing the history of its nuclear effort.
"McGovern, a former intelligence official turned fringe activist, also omits problems that can be found within the pages of the NIE itself. One big one: A footnote to the line proclaiming “in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program” clarifies that the estimate defines "nuclear weapons program" to exclude "Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment." Knowledge gained in such activity can be transferred, at least in part, to weapons development.
"Sun readers deserve more than a superficial gloss like McGovern’s when it comes to Iran’s alleged nuclear program.
Zarif in Beirut: Nuke deal ‘historic opportunity’ to face Israeli threats
The Iran nuclear deal presents an “historic opportunity” to combat Israeli “threats,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah during a Tuesday meeting in Beirut, Hezbollah’s al-Manar television station said Wednesday.
“Zarif said from Beirut that the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers created a historic opportunity to [sic] for regional cooperation to fight extremism and face threats posed by the Zionist entity,” al-Manar reported.
Along with the Syrian regime, the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah is funded by Iran. Hezbollah has dispatched thousands of fighters to support embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s five-year civil war.
The foreign minister arrived in Beirut on Tuesday for a two-day visit. He was also set to meet his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday.
He also met Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam in Beirut Tuesday, in their first official meeting since Salam took office last year.
“We value the major role played by the prime minister in providing security, fighting terrorism and creating cooperation,” Zarif told reporters after their 35-minute meeting, according to al-Manar.
'We object to Israeli policies, not its existence,' Iranians tell US Jewish journalist
Despite extremist rhetoric by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian government officials and clerics object to Israeli policies rather than its existence, according to an American Jewish journalist who was granted a rare reporting visa to the Islamic Republic.
In a special dispatch from Iran, Larry Cohler-Esses, the assistant managing editor for the Jewish Forward weekly newspaper, wrote that Iranians are far more moderate and eager to engage with the world than outsiders think.
Cohler-Esses, who is believed to be the first American Jewish journalist from an overtly pro-Israel newspaper to be granted permission to report from Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, authored a 7,000-word article in which he quotes a number of Iranians who aren't shy about expressing critical opinions about their government.
"During the course of my conversations with several senior ayatollahs and prominent political and government officials, it became clear that there is high-placed dissent to the official line against Israel," Cohler-Esses wrote. "No one had anything warm to say about the Jewish state."
Obama Defends Self to Uncertain Israeli Citizen: Heard of Iron Dome?
Recently sitting down with liberal outlet over the latest Iran deal, President Obama fielded questions from readers. One question from an Israeli citizen put the president on the defensive.
The pointed question from Sam Grossberg, 30, was this:
As an Israeli citizen, it’s very obvious that you oppose our prime minister. You’ve made a lot of promises in regards to our security as a people and as you know Hamas is right now basically at our doorstep. Why should we, as the Israeli people, trust you?
Obama, with feathers obviously ruffled, jumped -- again -- at the chance to assure that no other president in history has done more to provide for Israel's security than he. Bringing Grossberg's attention to the Iron Dome missile defense system, the president hoped to show that his commitment to Israel's safety is unprecedented. He also mentioned that there are "a whole range of issues" besides the nuke deal with Iran that he and Benjamin Netanyahu are in agreement over -- so it's not like the two leaders oppose each other "across the board" or anything.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Says Iran Interfering With Arab Countries
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, stated on Monday that Iran has been blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of several Arab countries. On Monday in Berlin, Al-Jubeir said that Iran was continuing to interfere with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen; his comments were made during a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Despite the Iran nuclear deal that was signed with the six world powers in July, Al-Jubeir stated that Iran will go ahead and manufacture nuclear weapons, according to a news report in the Saudi Gazette. The Saudi foreign minister said he based his belief upon the fact that Tehran has consistently refused to allow nuclear inspectors to visit some of its military installations.
“The Kingdom is closely monitoring Iran’s quest for uranium enrichment,” Al Jubeir remarked.
The Saudi Gazette also reported in an article last month that Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, a former head of the Kingdom’s intelligence services, had written a newspaper opinion piece where he related his assessment of the nuclear deal, stressing that the Iran deal would allow it to “wreak havoc in the region.”
What ISIS Owes Iran, and Vice-Versa
Perhaps the world's most infamous terrorist movement—the Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS), owes something to the world's foremost state-sponsor of terrorism—the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet, most major media outlets have failed to note the complex history between theocratic, Shi'ite-ruled Iran and the Sunni group describing itself as the Islamic State. Instead, coverage has often fixated on sectarian differences and the simple narrative that Shi'ite Iran is fighting Sunni ISIS. This omits the important role that Iranian mullahs and their policies have played in providing support—originally direct but now indirect in the wake of open conflict—to the Islamic State.
Currently ISIS is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but the group's origins can be traced to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist who founded Tawhid wal-Jihad (“Monotheism and Jihad”). The Tawhid wal-Jihad terror cell eventually expanded into the Islamic State's progenitor—al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
After fleeing Afghanistan following the arrival of U.S.-led coalition forces in Operation Enduring Freedom, Zarqawi was “based in Iran and northern Iraq” for “about a year.” After a brief arrest by Iranian authorities, he was allowed to “move freely” throughout the region to recruit, according to Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan in their book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. The authors assert that according to Jordanian intelligence services, “it wasn't Baghdad America should have been looking at [for links to Zarqawi's group]…it was Tehran.” (pg. 17)
“The Iranians have a policy: they want to control Iraq. And part of this policy has been to support Zarqawi, tactically but not strategically….In the beginning they gave him weapons, uniforms, military equipment, when he was with the army of Ansar al-Islam [a Sunni terror group based in northern Iraq]. Now they essentially just turn a blind eye to his activities, and to those of al-Qaeda generally.”
Somewhat prophetically, a Jordanian official stated, “The Iranians see Iraq as a fight against the Americans, and overall, they'll get rid of Zarqawi and all of his people once the Americans are out.” (pg.18) (“The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” July 2006, The Atlantic)
Iran, Russia Hold Wargames
Iranian and Russian naval forces on Tuesday staged a series of war drills in the waters near northern Iran, in another joint show of force meant to display the two nations’ control of nearby waterways.
An Iranian destroyer and team of Russian warships staged a series of war drills and engaged in joint training exercises, according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled press.
Two Russian warships docked over the weekend in Iran’s northern Anzali port in anticipation of the wargames.
The military exercises come just weeks after Iran and global powers signed a nuclear accord that will provide Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief and lift restrictions on the country’s ballistic missile program.
At least 200 Iranian naval forces also will participate in the war drills, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.
Iran’s Syria plan: Hezbollah withdrawal, Assad as toothless leader
Iran’s latest plan to end the five-year civil war in Syria includes a withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters and and keeping Bashar Assad as a powerless head of state, according to pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to visit Syria on Wednesday to discuss a “new plan” by the Islamic Republic to help resolve the conflict there, his spokeswoman said.
Iran is Assad’s main regional ally, providing him with both financial and military support. It will be Zarif’s first visit to Damascus since Tehran signed a nuclear deal with world powers on July 14, and comes as part of a regional tour.
During his visit, Zarif will raise “Iran’s new plan to help solve the Syrian issue,” spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said.
Asharq al-Awsat cited sources as saying that Zarif had planned in his Tuesday visit with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon to convey “Iran’s support for Hezbollah, which is still a main player, like other main players.”
Palestinians Offer to Mediate Syria Conflict (not satire)
Palestinian officials have met their Syrian counterparts as well as Syrian rebels in an effort to mediate a solution to the long-running civil war in Syria, Palestinian officials told The Media Line. The offer came after Saudi Arabia asked Abbas, who has good relations with Syria, Iran, and Russia to push forward a Saudi proposal for a deal in Syria.
Abbas met the Syrian officials in Cairo recently when Arab leaders gathered to celebrate the opening of the newly expanded Suez Canal. He was acting on a request from Saudi officials, Tayseer Khaled, a longtime member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) told The Media Line.
“We are suggesting the formation of a transitional government in Syria with broad powers,” he said. “All sides should stop using weapons, and there should be elections for a new president.”
He said that a constituent assembly should be elected for one year to draft a new constitution which would mark the beginning of a transition to a democratic state, and that parliamentary elections would be held under the new elected legislative authority.”
Khaled Abu Toameh: PA to present UN Security Council with resolution to end Israeli 'occupation'
The Palestinian Authority is planning to present a new resolution to the UN Security Council calling for ending Israeli “occupation” and providing international protection for the Palestinians, PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki announced on Tuesday.
“The actions of the Israeli government show that it has no intention to end occupation,” said Malki
“Nor is it prepared to end settlement activities or put an end to the terror of settlers. On the contrary, the Israeli government is helping, inciting and protecting settlers who commit crimes.”
Malki said that the Palestinians, together with the Arab League, have begun consultations with Security Council about the new resolution.
Malki condemned Israel’s policy on settlements, dubbing it the “worst form of terrorism.” He said that the Palestinians were working toward convincing the US and other countries to add settler groups to the list of terror organizations.
Leaked documents raise anger over PA corruption
Documents leaked online detailing two attempts by Palestinian officials to misuse public funds have triggered outrage, highlighting the corruption and mismanagement critics say remains rampant in the Palestinian government.
The furor over the documents comes as the Palestinian economy is stagnating and Palestinians grow increasingly displeased with government services. Palestinian Authority officials have defended their record on stamping out corruption, saying they’ve recovered millions of dollars in misspent funds.
A senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t allowed to discuss the leak, confirmed the documents’ authenticity to The Associated Press. They have offered a rare glimpse into the wheeling and dealing of the Palestinian government, long bogged down by rivalries.
One document signed by Majdi al-Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who accompanies him on his trips to world capitals, asked Bahrain’s foreign minister for $4 million to fund a private neighborhood complex for Palestinian officials in an upscale area of Ramallah in the West Bank. He insisted the complex was “meant to resist the Israeli settlements,” even though there are no settlements where the complex was built.
Islamic State says it beheaded Croatian hostage
An online image circulated Wednesday purported to show a Croatian hostage held by the Islamic State group’s Egyptian affiliate beheaded.
The still image, shared by Islamic State sympathizers on social media, showed the apparent body of Tomislav Salopek, a married 30-year-old father of two, wearing a beige jumpsuit looking like the one he had worn in a previous video. A black flag used by the Islamic State group and a knife were planted in the sand next to him.
The photo carried a caption in Arabic that said Salopek was killed “for his country’s participation in the war against the Islamic State,” and after a deadline had passed for the Egyptian government to meet their demands.
This comes after the Islamic State affiliate set a Friday deadline for Egyptian authorities to free “Muslim women,” a term referring to female Islamist prisoners detained in a sweeping government crackdown following the 2013 military ouster of an Islamist president.
The picture also contained an inset of two Egyptian newspaper reports, with one headline declaring Croatia’s support of Egypt in its war against terrorism and extremism and another saying Croatia reiterated its support for the Kurdistan region.

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