Monday, March 30, 2015

From Ian:

Jeffrey Goldberg: What to Worry About in an Iran Nuclear Deal
Here are a few questions that have, helped by various news stories about the talks, repeatedly crossed my mind in recent days. I would prefer to see a nuclear deal struck, of course, but unsatisfactory answers to these issues would be cause for real worry:
1) What will Saudi Arabia do in response to a deal? If the Saudis—who are already battling the Iranians on several fronts—actually head down the path toward nuclearization, then these negotiations will not have served the underlying purpose President Obama ascribed to them. The president has warned, in interviews with me and others, that a nuclear Iran would trigger a nuclear arms race across the Middle East, the world’s most volatile region. One goal of these talks is to assure the rest of the Middle East that Iran cannot achieve nuclear status. If Saudi Arabia (and Egypt and Turkey and the U.A.E.) does not believe that a deal will achieve this, then it will move on its own to counter the Persian nuclear threat.
2) If the underground enrichment facility at Fordow—which had been hidden from Western view for several years, and which the U.S. and Europe have repeatedly said needs to be closed—is allowed to run centrifuges, even to spin germanium and other elements that cannot be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, then doubt could legitimately be sown about the strength of this deal. Already-spinning centrifuges in a maintained, guarded, and fortified bunker can be retrofitted to handle uranium, should the Iranians choose to break their agreement. It would be better to see Fordow filled with cement, or otherwise crippled.

3) The Iranians have never answered most of the questions put to them by the International Atomic Energy Agency about the possible military dimensions—the so-called PMDs—of their nuclear program. These questions must be answered before sanctions are even partially lifted. Otherwise, the West will never get answers.
4) The proposed speed of sanctions relief is, of course, something to watch carefully. The Iranians want immediate sanctions relief, but the West should only agree to a stately pace of sanctions-removal, predicated on 100-percent Iranian compliance on intrusive inspections, among other issues.
5) The largest question in my mind concerns the matter of break-out time—how long it would take for Iran, once it made a decision to violate the terms of a deal and go for full nuclearization, to actually make a deliverable weapon. The goal of the Obama administration is to make sure that it would take Iran at least a year to cross the threshold. The assumption is that a year would give the West time to devise a response—including, if necessary, a military response. This will be among the issues of greatest controversy because this is an easily misunderstood and distorted matter, one that is both devilishly complicated and, in many ways, theoretical.
Elliott Abrams: President Carter and Israel -- again
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter writes about (that is to say, against) Israel once again in Friday's Washington Post, in a column titled "Rebuild Gaza, and avert the next war."‎
Why is Gaza not being rebuilt? Two reasons. First, Carter says, because Hamas and Fatah ‎are fighting and donors are not delivering: "The $5.4 billion pledged for rebuilding was ‎predicated on the Palestinian Authority asserting itself in Gaza. However, relations between ‎Hamas and its political rivals, Abbas' Fatah party, remain fraught. The authority has ‎proven unwilling or unable to govern in Gaza. As a result, the promised reconstruction ‎money has not been delivered." True enough. Unless and until donors pony up the cash ‎they promised, there will be little rebuilding. Carter's solution is international pressure "to ‎implement reconciliation agreements between Fatah and Hamas." (He does not seem to ‎realize that this "reconciliation" between the PA and a terrorist group would doom any ‎possible negotiations between Israel and the PA, but that's a different subject.)‎
Then Carter adds this second explanation for Gaza's troubles:‎ "The shortage of funds is the most immediate problem, but it is not the only one: Israel has ‎restricted access to Gaza."‎
So he calls for "sustained pressure ... to end Israel's closure of Gaza. It is incumbent on the ‎world to engage at the highest levels with the Palestinians, Egypt and Israel to push this ‎process forward."‎
That sentence is the sole reference to Egypt, and it shows what is wrong with Carter's ‎analysis. The fact is that Gaza has a border not only with Israel, but with Egypt, and that ‎border with Egypt has been closed by the government in Cairo -- for security reasons, as it ‎fights Hamas smuggling and terror in the Sinai.
Biden: American Jews Can Only Rely on Israel, Not US
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reveals in the April issue of The Atlantic how at a Rosh Hashana event in Biden's home last fall, the vice president told Jewish leaders and Jewish officials in US President Barack Obama's administration how he met former Prime Minister Golda Meir when he was a young Senator.
"I’ll never forget talking to her in her office with her assistant - a guy named (Yitzhak) Rabin - about the Six-Day War,” he recalled. “The end of the meeting, we get up and walk out, the doors are open, and...the press is taking photos. ...She looked straight ahead and said, ‘Senator, don’t look so sad...Don’t worry. We Jews have a secret weapon.'"
Biden states he asked Meir what the weapon was, noting "I thought she was going to tell me something about a nuclear program" - an ironic comment given the US's recent declassification of documents revealing Israel's nuclear program in a breach of understandings with the Jewish state.
But according to Biden, "she looked straight ahead and she said, ‘We have no place else to go.'" Addressing his guests at Rosh Hashana, Biden paused for effect and repeated, "we have no place else to go."
"Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones," Biden said. "You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States...there’s only one guarantee."
"There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel," he stated.

Exclusive: In exchange for freed tax funds, PA won’t pursue Israel over settlements at ICC
The Palestinian Authority will formally join the International Criminal Court on April 1, but – following Israel’s decision on Friday to release frozen tax revenues – is not expected at this time to take steps against Israel in the ICC regarding settlement construction.
In addition, The Jerusalem Post has learned that while the ICC prosecutor has – at the PA’s request – opened a preliminary examination on alleged Israeli war crimes during Operation Protective Edge over the summer, the PA is not expected at this time to take additional legal steps in the ICC regarding the Gaza operation.
As a result of Israel’s decision to free up the funds, the PA also does not intend now to stop its security cooperation with Israel, the Post also learned.
It was the PA’s steps to join the ICC at the end of December that led Israel to freeze the monthly tax transfers in the first place.
Palestinian Tax Revenue Unfrozen, I Can Get The Yacht I Wanted By Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator (satire)
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to finally release the tax revenue Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority is certainly an important step in reducing tension, one that never should have been necessary – but it carries even more importance than the mere political, since those millions of dollars are now available for me and other Palestinian officials to spend at will. Me, I’ve got my eye on a new yacht.
The entire time Israel refused to hand over the money that, under the Oslo agreements, it collects on our behalf, the Palestinian Authority has been restricted in its spending. We’ve had to make some tough decisions on priorities. Let me tell you, it’s no picnic having to limit Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s stay at that five-star resort in Gaza to only a few days, when he and his entourage could have really enjoyed themselves for much longer. And having to cut infrastructure maintenance expenditures in order to keep payments to the families of suicide bombers at 100% makes everyone uncomfortable. So gaining this bit of fiduciary breathing room really helps us maintain our customary practices.
Which brings me to that yacht. For a while there I was afraid I’d have to make do with some secondhand boat that some sheikh almost never used. It reached the point that I had basically resigned myself to looking at what was available along the French Riviera. That would have been shameful. Imagine me, a respected international dignitary, lounging on the deck of a yacht I didn’t even commission? But that disaster has been averted, thanks in no small part to American pressure on Israel. I can now calmly and resolutely browse more extravagant yacht options worthy of my stature. This is a pattern that I could get used to.
Obama’s next earthquake
The first is which parameters for Palestinian statehood to include in a U.N. resolution. The administration’s language would probably stipulate that Palestine’s territory would be based on Israel’s pre-1967 borders with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with territorial swaps to allow Israel’s annexation of some Jewish settlements. Most likely it would declare that Jerusalem would be the capital of both nations.
Israeli officials, who are aware of the U.S. draft, say that while these terms, much sought by the Palestinians, would be very specific, some of Israel’s biggest priorities would be covered by much vaguer language. A description of security arrangements would glide over the question of exactly how the West Bank and Gaza would be prevented from becoming a launching pad for attacks on Israel, while the thorny question of Palestinian refugees would be dispatched with a call for an “agreed solution.” The result could be to complicate any eventual trade-off of Israeli concessions on territory for Palestinian give on the “return” of refugees, since the Security Council would already have mandated Israel’s position.
The U.S. draft probably would have one element that would please Netanyahu and infuriate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, however: a stipulation that Israel would remain the homeland of the Jewish people. Abbas’s categorical rejection of that principle helped to cause the breakdown of Kerry’s diplomacy, and it would almost certainly mean that the Palestinians would join Israelis in rejecting the resolution.
Why go forward with a text that both sides would spurn? Obama’s hope would be that his initiative could win unanimous support from the Security Council and thus set the terms of reference for a future settlement, presumably under different Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He could eventually become the grandfather of Middle East peace; at a minimum, diplomats who now talk of the “Clinton parameters” from 2000 would henceforth speak of the “Obama framework.”
Apocalyptic Betrayals
President Obama’s far-reaching efforts to facilitate Iran’s march to nukes amount to nothing less than apocalyptic betrayals of U.S. voters and allies that will make the world exponentially more dangerous.
Obama has ignored the countless reasons to doubt that the ayatollahs will make and keep a nuclear accord that prevents them from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here are just a few of those reasons:
1) Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani boasted about his own role in exploiting diplomatic talks to advance Iran’s nuclear program,
2) Iran hid its nuclear facility in Qom until it was exposed in 2009 and continues to cover up its nuclear work in Parchin),
3) Iran recently tried – in a single transaction – to buy know-how for nukes and impunity for one of its biggest terrorist attacks.
4) Iran is actively developing more advanced, long-range cruise missiles.
5) Iran continues to stonewall IAEA inquiries intopotential military dimensions of its nuclear program, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929.
The Saudis have warned that the current deal will spark a Mideast nuclear arms race. It could also hasten the era of nuclear terrorism. There are already reports that ISIS has resorted to attacks with chemical weapons (hardly surprising after Obama’s “red lines” on chemical weapons use turned white). Iran could provide nuclear material – in addition to a nuclear umbrella – to its proxy terrorist group, Hezbollah. For these and other grave concerns, Netanyahu risked his political career on a speech that explained why the deal is so bad.
Former intelligence official: Obama’s Middle East policy is ‘willful ignorance’
The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency on Sunday described President Obama's Middle East policy as one of "willful ignorance," saying the administration needs a clearer strategy for dealing with conflicts emerging across the region.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday" that recent developments in the Middle East are moving in a bad direction for the United States, with Iran "clearly on the march" to influence events in a "regional sectarian war."
Critics of the administration have pointed out that the United States appears to be siding with Iranian-backed rebels against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria but opposing such fighters in Yemen.
“At the end of the day, we have just this incredible policy confusion — never mind what our strategy is to execute that policy," Flynn said. "We have to stop what we’re doing and take a hard look at everything going on the Middle East because it’s not going in the right direction."
Obama, Not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution
From Obama’s point of view, though, it’s all about the current distribution of power and resources. Israel, Obama believes, controls the land, has a prosperous economy, and is robustly protected by a first-class military that enjoys a close, productive relationship with its American counterpart. It also has the support of America’s influential and prosperous Jewish community, which further cements the distinctive relationship between the two nations. And yet, despite all those advantages, Israel refuses to see that a complete moratorium on construction activities in Jewish communities in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem is in its best interests, thus fueling the anger of extremists who oppose the peace process, thus leading to repeated wars in Gaza, thus provoking international condemnation and isolation, and so on and so forth.
We cannot compel Obama to see things differently. But I do fear that his legacy, as it applies to Israelis, will be a wholly negative one: namely, to kill off any remnants of support for a two-state solution.
After all, it’s not just about the last seven years. The Oslo process, the second Palestinian intifada, the withdrawal from Gaza, and the assaults from Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, have all persuaded Israelis that hard, territorial compromises can actually bring more war, rather than less conflict. Yes, a good number of Israelis might dislike Netanyahu personally, and think that he bears a portion of the blame for the fractious relationship with the White House. But that does not imply their support for a peace process that defines Israeli concessions as the main yardstick of progress—suggesting, at the same time, that the compromises they’ve already made, like the 10-month freeze on settlement building that was implemented in late 2009, are worthless.
“Each man kills the thing he loves,” wrote Oscar Wilde. And the president bears him out. Obama’s zeal to create a Palestinian state, and his elevation of that quest to the most important goal of American policy in the region, has been profoundly disquieting for Israel. Not only do Israelis perceive Obama as placing undue pressure and censure upon Netanyahu, but they also perceive him as an appeaser of the Iranian mullahs and of the Assad regime in Syria. Should the phrase “two-state solution” become a permanent metaphor for a failed policy, Obama’s contribution on that score will have been decisive. But he will choose to blame Israel and its wily leader instead. That, after all, has been one of the few constants of this administration’s Middle East policy.
Boehner Says White House ‘Animosity’ Toward Netanyahu is ‘Reprehensible’
House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday condemned President Obama and the White House for its latest attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the Israeli leader’s successful reelection earlier this month.
“I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” Boehner told CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union. “And I think that the pressure that they’ve put on him over the last four or five years have frankly pushed him to the point where he had to speak up.”
“I don’t blame him at all for speaking up,” he added.
New York Times Ed Board Member Questions Whether GOP More Loyal to Israel than United States
A member of the New York Times editorial board suggested that pro-Israel Republicans were more loyal to Israel than to the United States on Friday.
“Should loyalty b 2 US or Israel? [U.S. and Israel’s] interests not always same: GOP, in Shift, Demand Lockstep Support for Israel,” tweeted Carol Giacomo, who covers foreign affairs issues for the editorial board. Giacomo linked to an article originally headlined “Republicans, in Shift, Demand Lockstep Support for Israel” that was published in the Times on Friday. The article’s headline was later changed to “For G.O.P., Support for Israel Becomes New Litmus Test.”
The article highlighted how support for Israel has grown among Republicans in the two decades since the George H.W. Bush administration. It also reported that likely presidential contender Jeb Bush has faced backlash over one of his foreign policy advisers, former secretary of state Jim Baker.
Baker, who has a long history of supporting anti-Israel policies, gave the keynote address at the annual J Street conference earlier this week. Bush has spent the past few days doing damage control.
The mainstream GOP shares a common view with the current Israeli administration on Iran’s nuclear program and Islamic terrorism, in addition to seeing support for the Jewish state as “a measure of American reliability with its friends,” former Obama adviser and Baker aide Dennis Ross told the Times.
Hillary Clinton: US, Israel must preserve 'special' ties
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about the importance of US-Israel relations on Monday, amid tensions between the White House and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a host of issues – from policy differences towards settlements in the West Bank to nuclear negotiations between world powers and Iran to comments made by the Israeli premier both before a joint session of Congress in March and in the final days of his re-election campaign.
“We need to all work together to return the special US-Israel relationship to constructive footing," Clinton said during a phone conversation with Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, "to get back to basic shared concerns and interests.”
Israel can "never" become a partisan issue, said the presumed front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination who also urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks. "We must ensure that."
Obama to dial back Israel critique after Jewish Dems push back — report
Jewish Democratic lawmakers are reportedly calling on the White House to tone down its critique of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing the Obama administration of unfairly distributing blame for the impasse in peace efforts.
A dozen House Democrats met with deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes last week, according to Politico, where he was told President Barack Obama was seen as casting the blame for a lack of a diplomatic process with the Palestinians on Israel alone and offering no criticism of the Palestinians’ conduct.
At the same time, a White House official indicated that Washington was satisfied it had conveyed its message in disparaging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disavowal of the two-state solution, and would cool its criticism of Israeli policies until a new coalition was formed, according to the Politico report.
EU not reassessing relationship to Israel… yet, envoy says
Unlike the United States government, the European Union is not currently reassessing its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the group’s top envoy to Israel said Sunday.
But if the incoming Israeli government continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and build in East Jerusalem, Brussels will intensify its efforts to pressure Israel, Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen warned. He also said the EU supports in principle a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding the speedy creation of a Palestinian state.
“What the US says is a reflection of US policy. Our view remains that we would have to judge the [Israeli] government on the actual actions that it is taking. Since the government is not formed yet that remains to be seen,” the ambassador told The Times of Israel. “Obviously, we are committed to the two-state solution, so we will be carefully monitoring what actions the government is taking that in our view are conducive or not conducive to a two-state solution. And that will be the basis on which we evaluate this government.”
Faaborg-Andersen reiterated Brussels’ staunch opposition to settlement construction. “We made clear time and again that settlement expansion is very detrimental to final-status talks. And obviously if it continues we will take appropriate action.”
EU Denounces Unfair Treatment of Israel at UN's Israel-Bashing Session, But Participates Anyway
The European Union criticized Israel at a U.N. Human Rights Council session specifically devoted to condemnation of Israel, despite admitting that the session unfairly ignored human rights abuses by Palestinian groups. At this session, known as Agenda Item 7, the EU representative stated:
"...Item 7 should be addressed by this council as any other specific country situation ... [The EU] reiterates its reservation regarding this mandate which is limited to 'investigate Israel's violations' only whereas we believe that all alleged human rights violations and abuses, regardless of the offending party, should be subject to scrutiny and investigated in accordance with international standards."
What Syrian Refugees Mean for the 'Jordan is Palestine' Argument
What’s more is that many of those Iraqis who went to Jordan were from the Iraqi middle class. Many are thought to have blended into the population using their financial resources, making it hard to track them down. Add to this another million Sunni refugees from Syria, and you have a much more diverse demographic landscape in Jordan.
“Jordan is now witnessing a tremendous demographic change,” remarks Inbari. “It’s not farfetched to imagine they might demand rights, for example to build Shiite mosques or be recognized as a sect. This does not even speak to the possible security infiltration by terrorists.”
A plethora of militias were fighting in Iraq when those refugees arrived in Amman; the same is true of Syria today. But what could be significant to Israel in the long term is that this might secure King Abdullah II’s resistance to letting Jordan be "too much" of the solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“That means the Palestinian percentage of the Jordanian population is declining,” said Inbari in an article referencing the phenomenon last June. “And indeed it is now doubtful whether it can still be asserted that Jordan has a Palestinian majority.”
That might allow Jordan a number of options, but mainly puts to rest the argument that Jordan could somehow become the Palestinian state, he says.
JPost Editorial: Reverse course
The Obama administration is averse to confronting the Iranians, fearing that doing so would anger them and endanger negotiations. But choosing delusions over reality has led to more anarchy, with longtime US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt – doubting American resolve to stop the Islamic Republic – choosing to operate on their own.
We are witnessing the beginning of a war in Yemen between Sunni states and Iran, and we may also be on the verge of a Sunni-Shi’ite nuclear arms race as well. In Riyadh, Cairo and Istanbul, Sunni political leaders – already threatened by nuclear-free Iran’s expansionism – will not stand by idly as Iran’s influence is augmented by a nuclear weapons umbrella. The P5+1 must awaken from their self-induced delusion. The French are already showing signs of life. The Yemen fiasco provides a perfect opportunity for a reassessment.
Iran cannot be allowed to continue to deceive the world about its nuclear program as it sows violence and instability throughout the region.
The March 31 deadline has not yet arrived. There is still time to reverse course.
David Horovitz: Peace for our time
Doesn’t it trouble you, just a touch, Mr. President, that you might have this all wrong?
Isn’t there a nagging little voice, somewhere right at the back of your mind, warning you that, maybe, just maybe, you ought to be listening seriously to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei when he calls out “Death to America,” rather than insistently tuning him out?
Do you not have the slightest fear that, when history comes to judge you, it will bracket you alongside Neville Chamberlain? “The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace,” the British prime minister declared on September 30, 1938 — precisely 76 and a half years ago. “This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine… We regard the agreement signed last night… as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again… I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”
Does that inane rhetoric, that tragic rhetoric, not chill you as you read it all these decades later, knowing what happened next, and as your dutiful secretary of state seeks desperately to finalize the agreement you have sought with Iran — an agreement with a regime that makes no secret of its desire to see the elimination of Israel, an agreement with a regime that is expanding its hold on country after country in our region, an agreement that falls far, far short of dismantling Iran’s nuclear program? Do you not hear a grim historical echo, and ask yourself whether you are not risking the abandonment of another small, embattled democracy, and the emboldening of another ruthless would-be superpower, motivated by another hideous ideology?
Netanyahu: 11th-hour Iran talks reward ‘aggression’
Meanwhile in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Western powers that any agreement with Tehran would be seen as a reward for the country’s alleged “aggression” in Yemen.
“The agreement being formulated… sends a message that there is no price for aggression and, on the contrary, that Iran’s aggression is to be rewarded,” Netanyahu said, referring to Iranian support for Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“The moderate and responsible countries in the region, especially Israel and also many other countries, will be the first to be hurt by this agreement,” said the prime minister, who has waged a campaign against the emerging nuclear deal with Tehran, arguing that it will pave the way “to an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
“One cannot understand that when forces supported by Iran continue to conquer more ground in Yemen, in Lausanne they are closing their eyes to this aggression,” Netanyahu said. “But we are not closing our eyes and we will continue to act against every threat in every generation, certainly in this generation.”
WaPo Editorial: Nuke Deal Would Reward Iran for Past Violations
The question of whether to trust Iran’s claims that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes can be answered by a single issue: “Iran’s failure to deliver on multiple pledges to answer questions about its suspected research on nuclear warheads,” a staff editorial in The Washington Post asserted on Saturday.
The editorial recounts how both in 2007 and 2013, Iran agreed to clear up any questions about possible military dimensions of its past nuclear research, but “it then stonewalled inspectors, refusing to answer questions or permit access to sites.” After Iran refused to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access its Parchin military base, where nuclear weapons research is suspected to have taken place, “the IAEA published an extensive report detailing what it already knew about the illicit bomb work and listed 12 outstanding issues.” The government of President Hassan Rouhani agreed to address these outstanding issues.
The problem from hell in an Iran deal: Verification
The first challenge will be the detection of violations. US National Security Advisor Susan Rice told AIPAC earlier this month that “we’re not taking anything on trust.” Instead, she made the case that “we’ve insisted upon — and achieved — unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear program,” including “daily access” to the nuclear sites at Natanz and Fordow.
Any deal, she implied, would be based on a “distrust and verify” approach.
Tellingly, though, the unparalleled access has failed to impress the International Atomic Energy Agency – a UN body that seems to have staked out territory to the right of the Obama administration. In February, the agency said it “remains concerned” about the possible existence of military components of Iran’s nuclear program, “including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, told the Washington Post last week that “we would like to have access” – to the military installation at Parchin, where Iran allegedly conducted weaponization tests – “and we would like to clarify.”
MEMRI: Tehran Has Not Backed Down On Any Part Of Its Initial Negotiating Positions; The March 31, 2015 Deadline Means Nothing To It
In light of their November 2014 failure to bridge the gaps and arrive at an agreement, Iran and the P5+1 group together decided to extend the validity of the November 24, 2014 Geneva Joint Plan of Action by an additional six months, to June 2015.
Following this agreement, the U.S. planned a two-stage continuation of the talks, as follows:
1. Three months (by the end of March 2015) to reach a framework agreement
2. Three additional months (by the end of June 2015) to agree on the technical specifications of this agreement.
However, in a February 18, 2015 speech, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced that he completely disagreed with this procedure, and determined that an agreement would be arrived at not in two stages but in one stage to be completed by the end of June 2015, and that the agreement would include the removal of all sanctions on Iran. This means that the March 31, 2015 deadline is completely unimportant to Khamenei.
Saudi Arabia's 'United Arab Army' Aimed at Iran, Not Israel
The Saudis have now taken it one step further, announcing the creation of a "Unified Arab Force" (UAF for simplicity's sake). Arutz Sheva asked Professor Joshua Teitelbaum Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies if he saw this as more of a specific threat to Iran or something that Israel itself might need to worry about in the future.
"This is entirely aimed at Iran. Israel has nothing to fear from this," says Teitelbaum. "There is more positive here for Israel than negative."
The idea of a UAF of sorts has been floated for decades, only spurned by the lack of unity among Arab states.
"Yes, this happened during the lead-up to the Six Day War. But coordination in such matters is always problematic."
Outside of Israel, there was also little common cause or purpose for such a force. After Israel indisputably defeated an Arab alliance in 1967, prospects for that army became dim. Jordan refused to participate in the Yom Kippur War, which saw Israel pull off a historic "comeback" which saw it threaten both Cairo and Damascus as the sides agreed to a ceasefire.
The Saudis Should Break Iran’s Weakest Link: Assad
I posit that the Yemeni’s Houthis military position in Yemen is now Iran’s strongest military link in its daisy-chain of Persian evil. On the other hand, Iran’s governor Assad in Syria is Iran’s weakest military link. Assad is also currently the greatest mass-murderer of Sunni women and children in the world. Hence, the Sunnis best course of action is to militarily harass and degrade the Houthis and Saleh by blocking Iran’s air and sea resupply of the Houthis, while liquidating Iran’s Assad on the ground.
Here are the reasons:
First, in total opposition to Obama’s “I-love-the-Shiite-Iran” US policy, no less a great US general than General Petreaus recently testified that the Shiite Iran is the greatest danger to the world, not the Sunni ISIS. Therefore, Shiite Iran is the greatest danger to the Sunni Arabs (and even the Shiite Arabs for that matter). The Sunni world must expose Obama’s anti-Sunni, pro-Shiite policy shift, and his love-affair with Iran, the world’s greatest state-sponsor of Islamic terror. The Saudi rallying cry should be “It isn’t not a Shia-Sunni war, it’s Persian-Arab war.”
And, in fact, in Iraq and Lebanon, Obama is repeating the same Yemeni empower-Shiites/bomb-Sunnis game-plan. In Yemen, Obama’s drones only spied on and attacked the Sunni terrorists, but fed intelligence to and protected the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi terrorists, helping them take over Yemen.
Saudi Foreign Minister Slams Putin: Russian Arms Responsible for Catastrophe in Syria
On March 29, 2015, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal strongly criticized Russian President Putin, asking: "Aren't we entitled to ask him how he can call for a peaceful solution [in Syria], while at the same time continuing his support for the Syrian regime?" Al-Faisal was speaking at the Arab League Summit in Sharm Al-Sheikh, responding to the reading of Putin's letter earlier to the participants.

Iran Now Major Cyber-Threat
Iran’s nuclear program may be only one of two frightening threats to the United States and the West; after President Hassan Rouhani took over the government in 2013, he handed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) an annual cybersecurity budget of almost $20 million. Now the Iranians’ cyber-attack skills rival Russia and China’s according to David Kennedy, founder of information security firm Trusted Sec.
The Stuxnet worm, which destroyed roughly 20% of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in 2010, prompted Iran to turn its cyber experts away from confronting internal dissidence and directing their energies toward attacking the West. The Middle East Media Research Institute reported IRGC commander Hossein Hamedani saying in November 2010 that the Basij Cyber Council had trained 1,500 cyber-warriors.
Last November, Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, told The Hill, "Out of any country on the planet, I can't think of a country that has been more focused than Iran from the high levels of government on cyber, and that includes the United States.”
Report: As Nuclear Deal Closes, Iranian Troops Headed to Israel’s Border
Iran is close to putting its forces on Israel’s northeast border for the first time, as its allies crush rebel groups in the Golan Heights area of Syria.
The prospect of Iranian troops being posted on a frontier that has been calm for decades is causing alarm in Israel, and comes as international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions near a climax.
'Influx of advanced weapons flowing into Syria, Lebanon unprecedented,' navy source says
Advanced weaponry, much of it supplied by Iran, is flowing into Syria and Lebanon, a senior Israel Navy source warned on Sunday.
The Navy is spending a large chunk of its operational time dealing with advanced weapon smuggling, according to the source, who added, “Such weapons pose a challenge to all Western navies in the area.”
He said the northern front has become unified, and that Lebanon and Syria can not be viewed as separate entities anymore.
“What happens in Syria, happens in Lebanon [in terms of weapons availability], and vice versa. I’ll go a step further and say that everything that happens in Iran can end up in Syria, which can then end up in Lebanon,” the source stated. “In the event of war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, I’m not sure Syria will remain on the sidelines. Hezbollah assists the Assad regime, and the help is mutual.”
Shin Bet arrests Jerusalem man for joining ISIS in Syria, warns trend is a threat to Israel
An Israeli Arab resident of east Jerusalem has been arrested for allegedly traveling to Syria to join the ranks of the Islamic State terror group before returning to Israel, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Monday.
The Shin Bet said that the incident is an example of a troubling trend by which Israeli Arabs gain training in terror activities abroad and return to Israel with skills that could be used to carry out terror attacks within the borders of the Jewish State.
The Shin Bet and Israel Police arrested Halil Adal Halil Halil, 25, an Israeli citizen from A-Tur in east Jerusalem on March 1. He had previously worked as a medical assistant at the Eitanim psychiatric hospital outside of Jerusalem.
Tour guide beaten, called ‘dirty Jew’ during school trip
A tour guide leading a group of yeshiva students on a school trip was violently beaten by dozens of youths from the Arab city Umm al-Fahm, the news site NRG reported Sunday.
Guide Avraham Snir was leading eight 11th-graders from the Mateh Binyamin yeshiva high school in the Beit El settlement on a trip to the Banias reserve in northern Israel last Wednesday when the group passed three Umm al-Fahm students. According to Snir, the teens started cursing at the yeshiva students, so the guide asked them to continue on their way while he continued on his.
“We are a thousand and one, and you are nothing, just you wait,” the Umm al-Fahm students said, according to the guide.
Snir kept his group moving, but as he rounded a corner minutes later, he saw a group of 40-50 students waiting for him. “They began saying in Arabic, ‘Where is he? Where is he?'” Snir recalled.
“I saw the three I argued with below and they said to me, ‘Are you a man? Let’s see what you’re worth now.'”
PA Report: Gaza 'Fat Cats' Driving Up Price of Gas
Hamas has generally accused Israel of making life miserable for Gazans, even though it's been nearly a decade since Israel abandoned the Strip, and Hamas has been in charge since 2007. In general, Hamas has blamed Israel for the high level of poverty in Gaza, as well as the many social problems in Gazan society.
However, one thing, it turns out, is not Israel's fault: The high price of cooking gas. A Hamas publication this week discussed the high price of gas and pointed the finger of blame at local gas companies, who, it says, are fostering artificial shortages in order to drive up the price of gas.
According to the report, the companies make a fat commission on each gas canister they sell to distributors, to the extent that they earn over $4000 for 20 cubic tons of gas – far more than home gas sellers elsewhere. The distributors, in turn, hike the price for consumers, resulting in very high costs for home gas in Gaza. Apparently, the report said, the companies charge less in Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, where they also do business.
Palestinian charged with murdering Israeli Arab wife after learning she was pregnant
A Palestinian from Hebron residing in Israel illegally was indicted Sunday morning for the murder of his Israeli wife after she told him she was pregnant with his child.
Faiz Rajoub, 43, was already married with children when met 32-year-old Marin Haj Yahia from Taibe last June. Two months later he took her as his second wife and moved in with her to an apartment in Ashkelon.
According to the indictment filed at Lod District Court, Rajoub hit Yahia with a blunt object and then set her on fire.
Egypt Uncovers 'Longest Tunnel' from Sinai to Gaza
Egyptian border guards claimed on Sunday to have uncovered a 2.8 km-long tunnel under the yards of three homes in Rafah, near the Gaza border.
Egyptian military sources told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency that the tunnel was three meters underground and was being used to smuggle people, ammunition, weapons and goods.
The sources further said it was the longest tunnel uncovered between Egypt and the Gaza Strip since the start of operations near the border to crack down on smuggling.
Earlier this month, the Egyptian army said it had demolished over 1,000 houses in Rafah as part of the second stage of the establishment of a buffer zone along the border.
Hamas Changes Relationship Status with Amnesty International to “It’s Complicated” (satire)
Reacting to Amnesty International’s release of a report indicating that the Gaza terror organization actually killed more Palestinians civilians than Israeli civilians (clearly illustrated in the image above) during the 2014 conflict, a shocked and disappointed Hamas has change its relationship status with the human rights monitor to “it’s complicated.”
A bewildered and visibly distraught Hamas commented “For years we’ve felt that we could really count on Amnesty. Whether we were blowing up busses or children’s birthday parties, torturing dissidents or using aid money to build terror tunnels, Amnesty International always had our back. They’d always explain why it was Israel’s fault. I mean we’ve been killing Palestinians for years. Amnesty always just, you know, looked the other way.” After several sobs, Hamas explained, “now all of sudden Amnesty cares about facts! Everyone knows that facts are a Zionist invention! I ask you, where’s the loyalty? I guess at least we’ll always have the BBC.”
On the bright side, sources reveal that Hamas’s new relationship status has encouraged other potential suitors. Human Rights Watch has posted “thinking of you” with a sexy winking emoji on Hamas’s Facebook page. Meanwhile, TID learned that The Carter Center has sent Hamas ten copies of their favorite book – The Protocols of The Elders of Zion – along with an encouraging poster of a kitten hanging onto a tree limb. Some sources report that the kitten is dressed in a suicide vest.

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