Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dore Gold: Media Bias and Iran's 'Right' to Enrich Uranium

by Dore Gold

Last weekend, the International Atomic Energy Agency published one of its regular reports on the status of the Iranian nuclear program. This report was particularly important because it was coming out right before this week's critical meetings in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1, where it would be decided whether sanctions against Iran would be reduced in exchange for concessions on the Iranian nuclear program. Many experts wanted to know if the Iranians slowed down their program in any way as a good will gesture prior to the Geneva meeting.

But the real story was not only what the IAEA said, but also the popular reaction to its report in much of the international press. The Los Angeles Times ran a headline "Iran's nuclear program has slowed almost to a halt, IAEA says." The Washington Post was more careful in its headline, but its report by Joby Warrick still led with a sweeping generalization that "Iran appears to have dramatically slowed work on its atomic energy program since the summer." Even the normally conservative Wall Street Journal followed the rest of the journalistic pack with a headline that said: "U.N. says Iran has virtually frozen nuclear program in last few months."

So what did the IAEA really think about what Iran was doing? Two days before its report was made public Yukio Amano, the director-general of the IAEA, gave an interview to the Reuters news agency, which served as a kind of curtain-raiser for his agency's upcoming report. Looking at the previous three months coinciding with the period in which Hasan Rouhani came to power, Amano did not sound like the Western media. He simply stated: "I can say that enrichment activities are ongoing ... no radical change is reported to me." For the most part, the press ignored Amano, perhaps not wanting anything to break the momentum toward reaching an agreement in Geneva this week.

But Amano was right. Indeed, if the IAEA report is examined its becomes immediately evident why Amano was so careful in his assessment and did not join the cheering gallery with the Western press. According to its summary of the main developments of the last three months, the rates of production of low-enriched uranium, that is uranium enriched up to the 5 per cent level, remained "similar to that indicated in the previous report" which the IAEA published in August. Looking at the rates of production of uranium enriched up to the 20 per cent level, the IAEA concluded that it remained "similar to those indicated in the previous report."

So how did so much of the international press get it so wrong and reach the conclusion that Iran had "slowed down" or "frozen" its nuclear program? These media reports ignored Iran continuing enrichment activities. Instead they focused on the question of whether the Iranians were installing more centrifuges at their Natanz and Fordo facilities, especially the advanced IR-2m centrifuges that operate five times faster than the older IR-1 centrifuges, which they have used since 2007.

True, Iran did not install any new advanced centrifuges in the last three months, but that did not mean they had frozen their program. Since January, they have installed over a thousand of these new centrifuges, but they have not begun operating them. In the past, even during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after the Iranians increased sharply the number of centrifuges, they would let their growth level off for a few years while the new centrifuges were being brought online. No one interpreted this behavior in the past as indicating that Iran was slowing down its nuclear program.

Moreover, most newspaper reports covering the Iranian nuclear program have missed a key point made in the IAEA's latest report. It states that "preparatory installation work" has been completed for another 12 IR-2m cascades at Natanz. Since 2011, Iran has been installing these centrifuges in what experts call "cascades" of 164 centrifuges. That means that Iran is laying the groundwork for nearly another 2,000 advanced centrifuges, on top of the thousand centrifuges they have added during 2013. 
Not only has Iran been enriching more uranium, it has also been quietly working on the next big expansion of its Natanz facility. On top of this the numbers of the older IR-1 centrifuges have also grown in recent years. In August 2011, the Iranians had installed roughly 8,000 centrifuges in total; but by November 2013 the IAEA was reporting that Iran had a total of more than 18,000 centrifuges in both of its enrichment facilities.

These latest developments change the whole calculus of any future agreement in Geneva. International commentators on the Iran nuclear negotiations have been tirelessly repeating that any future agreement must deal with Iran's stockpile of 20 percent uranium while conceding to Iran that it can continue to enrich to 3.5 percent. The distinction was based on the assumption that if Iran wanted to make the last sprint to weapons-grade uranium, in what experts call "nuclear breakout," it would use its stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium.

But a sharp quantitative increase in the number of Iranian centrifuges, or alternatively the introduction of qualitatively superior fast centrifuges, totally changes this scenario. Gary Samore, who served on the U.S. National Security Council during President Barack Obama's first term, has in fact recently warned that all Iran has to do is massively increase its number of its older IR-1 centrifuges and it can pose a new threat to the West: "Ending production of 20-percent-enriched uranium is not sufficient to prevent breakout because Iran can produce nuclear weapons using low-enriched uranium and a large number of centrifuge machines." The installation of fast centrifuges, like the IR-2m, makes this even more of a challenge for the West.

Given Iran's new technical achievements, it becomes clear why Tehran is now so determined to get its "right of enrichment" recognized in any agreement that emerges in Geneva. For the Iranians have positioned themselves to get nuclear weapons from any level of enrichment that they are allowed. Of course there is no "right of enrichment" according to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which only speaks about "the inalienable right of all the parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

Past IAEA reports have noted that Iran is developing warheads that are to be fitted on its Shahab 3 missiles, that can strike Israel. Iran cannot argue that its uranium enrichment work is for peaceful purposes, in accordance with the NPT, and at the same time develop nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles, in violation of the NPT. In short, Iran cannot claim a legal right based on a treaty that it has systematically breached so flagrantly.

It is often forgotten that, starting in 2006, the U.N. Security Council passed six resolutions prohibiting Iran from engaging in any enrichment. These resolutions were specifically adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter and are legally binding under international law, adding further legal force to the argument that Iran has no legal right whatsoever to enrich uranium.

Thus for the West to acknowledge any Iranian claim to a right of enrichment is completely unnecessary and unwarranted. Given the technical developments in the Iranian nuclear program, such a concession would also be dangerous, for allowing enrichment at any level will make it extremely difficult for the West to be certain that Iran will not proceed to a nuclear weapon in the months ahead.

Dore Gold


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A Vastly Changed Middle East

by Caroline Glick

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about Syria during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister in Stockholm
Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

A week and a half ago, Syria’s Kurds announced they are setting up an autonomous region in northeastern Syria.

The announcement came after the Kurds wrested control over a chain of towns from al-Qaida in the ever metastasizing Syrian civil war.

The Kurds’ announcement enraged their nominal Sunni allies – including the al-Qaida forces they have been combating – in the opposition to the Assad regime. It also rendered irrelevant US efforts to reach a peace deal between the Syrian regime and the rebel forces at a peace conference in Geneva.

But more important than what the Kurds’ action means for the viability of the Obama administration’s Syria policy, it shows just how radically the strategic landscape has changed and continues to change, not just in Syria but throughout the Arab world.

The revolutionary groundswell that has beset the Arab world for the past three years has brought dynamism and uncertainty to a region that has known mainly stasis and status quo for the past 500 years. For 400 years, the Middle East was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. Anticipating the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the British and the French quickly carved up the Ottoman possessions, dividing them between themselves. What emerged from their actions were the national borders of the Arab states – and Israel – that have remained largely intact since 1922.

As Yoel Guzansky and Erez Striem from the Institute for National Security Studies wrote in a paper published this week, while the borders of Arab states remain largely unchanged, the old borders no longer reflect the reality on the ground.

“As a result of the regional upheavals, tribal, sectarian, and ethnic identities have become more pronounced than ever, which may well lead to a change in the borders drawn by the colonial powers a century ago that have since been preserved by Arab autocrats.”

Guzansky and Striem explained, “The iron-fisted Arab rulers were an artificial glue of sorts, holding together different, sometimes hostile sects in an attempt to form a single nation state.

Now, the de facto changes in the Middle East map could cause far-reaching geopolitical shifts affecting alliance formations and even the global energy market.”

The writers specifically discussed the breakdown of national governments and the consequent growing irrelevance of national borders in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

And while it is true that the dissolution of central government authority is most acute in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, in every Arab state national authorities are under siege, stressed, or engaged in countering direct threats to their rule. Although central authorities retain control in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Bahrain, they all contend with unprecedented challenges. As a consequence, today it is impossible to take for granted that the regime’s interests in any Arab state will necessarily direct the actions of the residents of that state, or that a regime now in power will remain in power tomorrow.

Guzansky and Striem note that the current state of flux presents Israel with both challenges and opportunities. As they put it, “The disintegration of states represents at least a temporary deterioration in Israel’s strategic situation because it is attended by instability liable to trickle over into neighboring states…. But the changes also mean dissolution of the regular armies that posed a threat in the past and present opportunities for Israel to build relations with different minorities with the potential to seize the reins of government in the future.”

Take the Kurds for example. The empowerment of the Kurds in Syria – as in Iraq – presents a strategic opportunity for Israel. Israel has cultivated and maintained an alliance with the Kurds throughout the region for the past 45 years.

Although Kurdish politics are fraught with internal clashes and power struggles, on balance, the empowerment of the Kurds at the expense of the central governments in Damascus and Baghdad is a major gain for Israel.

And the Kurds are not the only group whose altered status since the onset of the revolutionary instability in the Arab world presents Israel with new opportunities. Among the disparate factions in the disintegrating Arab lands from North Africa to the Persian Gulf are dozens of groups that will be thrilled to receive Israeli assistance and, in return, be willing to cooperate with Israel on a whole range of issues.

To be sure, these new allies are not likely to share Israeli values. And many may be no more than the foreign affairs equivalent of a one-night stand. But Israel also is not obliged to commit itself to any party for the long haul. Transactional alliances are valuable because they are based on shared interests, and they last for as long as the actors perceive those interests as shared ones.

Over the past week, we have seen a similar transformation occurring on a regional and indeed global level, as the full significance of the Obama administration’s withdrawal of US power from the region becomes better understood.

When word got out two weeks ago about the US decision to accept and attempt to push through a deal with Iran that would strip the international sanctions regime of meaning in return for cosmetic Iranian concessions that will not significantly impact Iran’s completion of its nuclear weapons program, attempts were made by some Israeli and many American policy-makers to make light of the significance of President Barack Obama’s moves.

But on Sunday night, Channel 10 reported that far from an opportunistic bid to capitalize on a newfound moderation in Tehran, the draft agreement was the result of months-long secret negotiations between Obama’s consigliere Valerie Jarrett and Iranian negotiators.

According to the report, which was denied by the White House, Jarrett, Obama’s Iranian-born consigliere, conducted secret talks with Iranian negotiators for the past several months. The draft agreement that betrayed US allies throughout the Arab world, and shattered Israeli and French confidence in the US’s willingness to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, was presented to negotiators in Geneva as a fait accompli. Israel and Saudi Arabia, like other US regional allies were left in the dark about its contents. As we saw, it was only after the French and the British divulged the details of the deal to Israel and Saudi Arabia that the Israelis, Saudis and French formed an ad hoc alliance to scuttle the deal at the last moment.

The revelation of Jarrett’s long-standing secret talks with the Iranians showed that the Obama administration’s decision to cut a deal with the mullahs was a well-thought-out, long-term policy to use appeasement of the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism as a means to enable the US to withdraw from the Middle East. The fact that the deal in question would also pave the way for Iran to become a nuclear power, and so imperil American national security, was clearly less of a concern for Obama and his team than realizing their goal of withdrawing the US from the Middle East.

Just as ethnic, regional and religious factions wasted no time filling the vacuum created in the Arab world by the disintegration of central governments, so the states of the region and the larger global community wasted no time finding new allies to replace the United States.

Voicing this new understanding, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday that it is time for Israel to seek out new allies.

In his words, “The ties with the US are deteriorating.

They have problems in North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Egypt, China, and their own financial and immigration troubles. Thus I ask – what is our place in the international arena? Israel must seek more allies with common interests.”

In seeking to block Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Israel has no lack of allies. America’s withdrawal has caused a regional realignment in which Israel and France are replacing the US as the protectors of the Sunni Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

France has ample reason to act. Iran has attacked French targets repeatedly over the past 34 years. France built Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor while Saddam was at war with Iran.

France has 10 million Muslim citizens who attend mosques financed by Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, France has strong commercial interests in the Persian Gulf. There is no doubt that France will be directly harmed if Iran becomes a nuclear power.

Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s meeting Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin did not bring about a realignment of Russian interests with the Franco- Sunni-Israeli anti-Iran consortium, the very fact that Netanyahu went to Moscow sent a clear message to the world community that in its dealings with outside powers, Israel no longer feels itself constrained by its alliance with the US.

And that was really the main purpose of the visit. Netanyahu didn’t care that Putin rejected his position on Iran. Israel didn’t need Russia to block Jarrett’s deal. Iran is no longer interested in even feigning interest in a nuclear deal. It was able to neutralize US power in the region, and cast the US’s regional allies into strategic disarray just by convincing Obama and Jarrett that a deal was in the offing. This is why Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei again threatened to annihilate Israel this week. He doesn’t think he needs to sugar coat his intentions any longer.

It is not that the US has become a nonentity in the region overnight, and despite Obama’s ill-will toward Israel, under his leadership the US has not become a wholly negative actor. The successful Israeli-US test of the David’s Sling short-range ballistic missile interceptor on Wednesday was a clear indication of the prevailing importance of Israel’s ties with the US. So, too, the delivery this week of the first of four US fast missile boats to the Egyptian navy, which will improve Egypt’s ability to secure maritime traffic in the Suez Canal, showed that the US remains a key player in the region. Congress’s unwillingness to bow to Obama’s will and weaken sanctions on Iran similarly is a positive portent for a post-Obama American return to the region.

But when America returns, it will likely find a vastly changed regional landscape. Nations are disintegrating, only to reintegrate in new groupings.

Monolithic regimes are giving way to domestic fissures and generational changes. As for America’s allies, some will welcome its return.

Others will scowl and turn away. All will have managed to survive, and even thrive in the absence of a guiding hand from Washington, and all will consequently need America less.

This changed landscape will in turn require the US to do some long, hard thinking about where its interests lie, and to develop new strategies for advancing them.

So perhaps in the fullness of time, we may all end up better off for this break in US strategic rationality.

Caroline Glick


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Why the Deal Is Bad: Iran Nuke Breakout

by Jonathan S. Tobin

The noises emanating from diplomatic sources in Geneva this week continue to assure the world that they are close to a breakthrough that will resolve the standoff between the West and Iran. How close they actually are remains a mystery as Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues are discovering the same truth about negotiating with Iran that their predecessors discovered long ago: those who make concessions to the ayatollahs are rewarded with more prevarications and delay, not signed agreements. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is still playing the optimist card in their attempts to beat back critics of their effort to craft a new era of détente with Iran. That was evident in their response to Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who spiced up a week of negotiations by giving a televised speech that abused both the U.S. and France but reserved, as usual, his main vitriol for Israel, which he described as “an illegitimate regime,” led by “untouchable rabid dogs.” While the French responded angrily to this provocation, the U.S. was unruffled and answered with the mildest of reproofs:
A senior Obama administration official was more circumspect Wednesday night in responding to the ayatollah’s speech, which also assailed the United States and France. “I don’t ever like it when people use rhetoric that in any way talks about the U.S. in ways that I find very uncomfortable and not warranted whatsoever,” said the senior administration official, who cannot be identified under the diplomatic protocol for briefing reporters.
“There are decades of mistrust between the United States and Iran, and we certainly have had many people in our society say difficult things about Iran and Iranians,” the official added. “So I would hope that neither in the U.S. nor in Iran would leaders use rhetoric that may work well in a domestic constituency, but add to the decades of mistrust on both sides.”
To term such a response to hate speech by a world leader seeking nuclear weapons as spineless would be an understatement, especially when the same administration is so fearful that actions by Congress could spook the Iranians away from the talks. But the main problem here isn’t so much the obsequious manner with which President Obama and Kerry are breathlessly pursuing a deal with Iran. It is that the deal they are seeking to entice the Iranians into signing would ensure that Tehran would have the chance to get the weapons the U.S. is seeking to deny them.

That conclusion flies in the face of the spin emanating from the administration and its defenders who continue to claim that their proposed deal with Iran will make this scenario less likely. But as Reuters pointed out in an analysis of the current situation, the best Kerry and company can claim is that they will “reduce” the threat of an Iranian nuclear breakout, not eliminate it.

What this means is that the deal Kerry is advocating as saving the world from Iranian nukes will preserve Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and allows them to hold onto all of their centrifuges and the rest of the nuclear infrastructure they have created during a decade of stalling futile talks with the West. That means that they will still possess enough nuclear fuel to build bombs and the capacity to “break out” and, within a relatively short period of time, take their non-weapons grade uranium and bring it up to the level needed for military use.

Supporters of the deal are unfazed by this possibility because they assume the West will always have time to react to an Iranian breakout. But this is a convenient fallacy for those whose main object appears to be to end the dispute with Iran rather than actually ending the threat of an Iranian bomb. Once an accord is signed and the U.S. can transition away from focusing on Iran and sanctions are lifted, the chances are that any shift to cheat by Iran will be dismissed by Western leaders who will not wish to be drawn back into a confrontation. Nor will there be any appetite to re-impose sanctions that neither President Obama nor Europeans desperate for Iranian oil and business wanted to enforce in the first place. Like the North Koreans who laughed at the West as they violated signed agreements to create their own nuclear breakout, Iran will have little trouble deceiving the West and will not worry much about a response from an administration that is more concerned about the Israelis than the ayatollahs.

Any nuclear deal with Iran that stopped short of a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, as President Obama promised during his foreign-policy debate with Mitt Romney last year, is a guarantee of future trouble. But an interim accord that started loosening sanctions even before Iran gave up any of their nuclear toys will make it all but certain that the peril will have not been averted.

While Washington is hoping to celebrate their détente with Khamenei, it’s hard to blame Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for railing at this seeming betrayal. Responding to Khamenei’s speech, he had this to say:
“This reminds us of the dark regimes of the past that plotted against us first, and then against all of humanity,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a meeting with Russian Jewish leaders during a visit to Moscow. “The public responded to him with calls of ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’  ” Mr. Netanyahu noted. “Doesn’t this sound familiar to you? This is the real Iran! We are not confused. They must not have nuclear weapons.”
Unfortunately, President Obama and Secretary Kerry are confused. Whether Iran signs this week or makes them wait some more while continuing the drive to achieve their nuclear ambition, they are the big winners in a diplomatic process that is now set up to fail to achieve its supposed goal.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Spain: Islamic Radicals Infiltrate the Military

by Soeren Kern

An investigation initiated by the American CIA and FBI in 2009 revealed that at least 100 Islamic extremists had infiltrated the U.S. military, and that some of these individuals had been in touch with Islamic radicals who had infiltrated military units in Spain, as well as Britain, France and Germany.
The military is an attractive employment option for many young Muslims born in Spain, where the unemployment rate is stuck at 27%, and the jobless rate for individuals under 25 exceeds 60%. Often, a stint in the military opens doors for civilian jobs with national or local police or other security-related occupations.

The Spanish military is quietly monitoring its Muslim soldiers in an effort to prevent the spread of Islamic radicalism within its ranks, according to a classified Defense Ministry document that has been leaked to the Spanish media.

The Spanish Army has also been systematically replacing its Muslim soldiers with new recruits from Latin America in an effort to reduce the potential for trouble in areas of Spain that have a large Muslim population.

Spain abolished the draft and transitioned to a professional military in 2002, but has been unable to find enough native Spanish volunteer soldiers to fill the ranks—due to a mix of apathy, pacifism and declining birth rates (Spain has a fertility rate of just 1.36 (2011), one of the lowest in the European Union).

Like other European countries facing a similar dilemma, the Spanish Defense Ministry, in a desperate search for soldiers, is increasingly relying on Muslim recruits. But the push to boost Muslim enlistment has been a double-edged sword: while Spain needs the extra manpower, it also worries that some Muslim soldiers harbor extremist ideologies.

The leaked document, entitled, "Measures to be Applied to Military Personnel Identified as Showing Signs of Radicalism," was issued by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Spanish Army, Lieutenant General Jesús Carlos Fernández Asensio, on October 24, 2013.

The document—classified as "confidential" and published by the Madrid-based newspaper El País on November 19—states that the Spanish Army has detected within its ranks "the existence of personnel with clear indications of radicalism (ideological, religious or criminal)…in their private and social lives." The document continues:
"The conduct of these individuals constitutes a vulnerability for the institution of the Army and poses a potential threat to national security. In an effort to neutralize or at least reduce this risk, the Army has instituted a series of measures that will be applied by unit commanders on suspected military personnel to be determined at any given moment."
The measures include revoking the security clearances of any soldiers suspected of radicalism, and preventing such individuals from holding any job position where they might pose a security risk in any form or may have access to sensitive information.

The document lists more than a dozen jobs or locations that should be off limits to suspected radicals:
"Military police and other security-related units; the general staff headquarters; any premises where classified documents are handled; armories, arsenals and weapons depots; communications centers and locations housing information systems; job positions involving drivers, escorts and bodyguards, as well as those involving sharpshooters or the deactivation of explosives; or any other location determined by the unit commander."
Military units are also charged with monitoring "everything related to a suspect's proselytizing activities or actions, their level of radicalism and their public activities (social media, Internet surfing, types of newspapers being read, etc.)."

Units are, additionally, responsible for keeping track of any civilian lawsuits or criminal proceedings that may involve a suspected soldier "outside the scope of the Armed Forces," as well as "any notices of plans by a suspect to travel abroad."

The Defense Ministry recommends the "application, as far as possible, of staff regulations relating to psycho-physical fitness requirements, anti-drug enforcement policies, as well as the disciplinary regulations of the Military Penal Code." Such procedures would apparently provide the legal basis for suspected radicals to be discharged from the Spanish military.

The document also proposes the "development of an extraordinary rating system" for any soldier who displays a "significant change in professional conduct." A negative performance evaluation would be grounds for such a soldier to be discharged.

Although the document does not specifically define what is meant by the term "radicalism," it almost certainly refers to Salafist Islam and the Spanish Defense Ministry's concern about the increasing number of Muslim recruits within the ranks of the military.

The military is an attractive employment option for many young Muslims born in Spain, where the unemployment rate is stuck at 27%, and the jobless rate for individuals under 25 exceeds 60%. Often, a stint in the military opens the door to civilian jobs with national or local police or other security-related occupations.

There are no official statistics as to how many Muslims are serving in the Spanish armed forces, which currently has 140,000 active duty service members and 5,000 reservists.

But the issue of Muslim troops serving in the Spanish military is especially acute in the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Morocco, which has long demanded that Madrid cede sovereignty of the territories over to Rabat.

Muslims constitute approximately 30% of the Spanish troops stationed in Ceuta and Melilla, where the real unemployment rate tops 40%.

In July 2012 it emerged that the Spain's National Intelligence Center (CNI) was investigating a tip it received from the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that al-Qaeda operatives had infiltrated Spanish military units based both in Ceuta and Melilla, territories the Algeria-based Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has long threatened to "reconquer" for Islam.

The alert resulted from an investigation initiated by the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in November 2009, after the U.S. Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an al-Qaeda sympathizer, fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others at Fort Hood in Texas. The investigation found that at least 100 Islamic extremists had infiltrated the US military, and that some of these individuals had been in contact with Islamic radicals who had infiltrated military units in Spain, as well as in Britain, France and Germany.

The carnage of the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

According to Spanish media reports, CNI investigators began searching for Muslim soldiers with a "non-classic" profile: individuals who show no special identification with Islamic culture and even appear to be "Westernized," who drink alcohol, smoke and eat without respecting the restrictions imposed by the Koran, and who do not participate in religious services of the local Muslim community.

As a result of the investigation, the Spanish military has replaced dozens of Muslim soldiers with recruits from Latin America. The mass discharges—due to "lack of trust or dubious loyalty"—have only increased tensions with the local Muslim community, who have distributed thousands of leaflets denouncing the "persecution of Spanish soldiers of the Muslim faith."

Worries over possible infiltration of radical Salafism in the Spanish military has dated back to at least December 2006, when a police investigation named Operation Dune (Operación Duna) dismantled a Salafi cell that allegedly planned to carry out attacks using explosives stolen by Muslim soldiers in Ceuta. The raid, which involved more than 300 police, resulted in the arrest of 11 Salafists, including ten Spanish nationals, at least three of whom were serving in the Spanish Army.

Since then, Spanish police have conducted more than 20 other raids across Spain in an effort to dismantle Salafist cells.

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook. Follow him on Twitter.

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Report: US Says Israel's Tough Stance on Iran will Lead to War

by David Brown and Lilach Shoval

White House official says Israeli position will "close the door on diplomacy" and lead to war • U.S. claims interim deal will benefit Israel • Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: If Iran gets stronger, Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad will get stronger.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry believes the interim deal will increase Israel's security
Photo credit: Reuters

David Brown and Lilach Shova


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American Betrayal 2.0

by Frank Gaffney, Jr.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt should have described November 16, 1933 as a day that will live in infamy.  As syndicated columnist Diana West notes in her splendid new book, American Betrayal, that date marked the beginning of a sustained and odious practice of our government lying to us about the Russians.  It appears that the Obama administration is determined to perpetrate a reprise of this practice.  Call it American Betrayal 2.0.

According to Ms. West, the betrayal syndrome began when FDR normalized relations with the Soviet Union on the basis of a written promise from the Kremlin not to subvert the United States.  Of course, the Soviets lied.  But, for years thereafter, so did our own government – with horrific effects – by insisting the Soviets were reliable friends, and even wartime allies.

Sound familiar?  Today, Team Obama is engaging in its own, serial and disastrous betrayals – from promising you can keep your health care to a deal that will allow Iran to keep its nuclear weapons program.  But two others regarding the Russians warrant special attention.

First, the New York Times reported on the eightieth anniversary of the infamous normalization deal (without, of course, noting the irony) that the U.S. Department of State was beavering away at a new arrangement that would allow half-a-dozen Russian facilities to be installed across the United States.  Ostensibly, these sites would be used to help the Kremlin build-out and operate its so-called Glonass satellite system, a counterpart to and competitor with America’s Global Positioning System (GPS).

There are several things wrong with this picture.  First, it is not clear why we would want to help the Russians compete with the GPS.  Second, the practical effect of the Red Army having its own global positioning system is that it may make ours a more certain target in the event of any future hostilities between us, or perhaps even between the United States and Russian clients.

Then, there is the problem that Glonass signals may interfere with those controlling our GPS satellites, especially if the Russian ground stations might be in proximity to the American ones.  Another serious concern has to be precisely what electronic equipment the Russians will put into these facilities.  Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, chairman of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, recently wrote three agency heads out of concern that, among other things, some of such gear might not actually be needed for Glonass – but be useful for espionage, electronic warfare or other activities inimical to our security.

According to the Times report: “For the State Department, permitting Russia to build the stations would help mend the Obama administration’s relationship with the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, now at a nadir because of Moscow’s granting asylum to Mr. Snowden and its backing of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.”

It is a travesty, but in keeping with past betrayals of America, that our State Department – presumably, with White House approval – believes that we need to make further concessions in response to bad behavior by the Kremlin.  The outrageousness of such an idea is compounded by the fact that the folks in Foggy Bottom neglected to secure its approval from either the Defense Department or the intelligence community.  Both are reportedly up in arms about it – as indeed they should be.  But will they prevail?

At the same time, the Obama administration has another betrayal in the works.  This one involves not only the nation as a whole, but several of its Democratic allies in the United States Senate.

It seems that Team Obama is intent on dismantling at least one squadron of fifty Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles as its preferred approach to meetig the reductions in nuclear forces required by the seriously defective New START Treaty with Russia.  A timeline provided to Congress indicates that, in order for that to happen by the “treaty compliance date” of February 5, 2018, the Air Force needs to begin the lengthy decommissioning process by launching an environmental impact assessment next month.

This should be a shock to Senators Max Baucus and John Tester of Montana and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.  They were assured by President Obama that the ICBM forces like those located in Montana and commanded by the Global Strike Command in Louisiana would not be affected by New START.  It was on the basis of such assurances that all three Senators voted for that accord.

These legislators and their colleagues from the other ICBM basing states – Republican John Hoeven and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Republicans Mike Enzi and John Barrasso of Wyoming – should take the lead in amending the National Defense Authorization Act scheduled to be considered on the Senate floor this week to ensure that, as the President promised, the land-based leg of our nuclear Triad is not further weakened.  That is especially advisable at a time when the Russians are aggressively beefing up their nuclear threat to this country and its allies.

America needs a reset, alright.  It should feature not further concessions to the Russians, however, but an end to the betrayals of our people to the benefit of the Kremlin that have been perpetrated now for eighty years.  No more.

Frank Gaffney, Jr.


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Vive la France!

by Michael Curtis

The greatest threat facing the world today is Islamic terrorism. If this is not always be [sic] appreciated by the White House it is fully comprehended by French President François Hollande. He has demonstrated this by his action in Mali in January 2013 when he sent French troops to oppose the Islamic forces that had tried to seize control of the north of Mali. He has displayed an equally robust policy against threats of terrorism in Libya, Syria, and now Iran.

In a speech in Paris on November 13, 2013 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius remarked cuttingly, if politely, "The United States gives the impression of no longer wanting to get drawn into crises that do not correspond to its new version of its national interest." Fabius informed the French Policy Planning Staff that it was French policy to try and steer the course of history to the extent of its capabilities. 

President Hollande illustrated that policy in November 2013 by his opposition at the first round of talks between six major powers and Iran to the undue eagerness of President Obama and the other leaders to reach a diplomatic solution about Iran's uranium enrichment program. The proposed compromise formula was to include relief from the economic sanctions on Iran that have adversely affected Iran's economy, especially its oil exports and the increase in inflation.

France has insisted that Iran's nuclear program is a menace not only to Israel, but also to the Middle East region and to the whole world. Therefore Iran must stop continuing to work on the plutonium reactor at Arak, and downgrade its stockpile of highly-enriched uranium. Economic sanctions against Iran must be maintained until this menace is removed.

Between France and Israel there have been deep and historic ties as well as some episodes varying in harmony and warmth. Speaking on arrival at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport at the beginning of his three day visit to the area on November 17, 2013 Hollande said, "I will always remain a friend of Israel." 

France formally recognized the State of Israel and January 12, 1949, and supported its admission into the United Nations. France was Israel's main supplier of weapons until 1962 when French troops withdrew from Algeria. It is relevant today that the main Israeli negotiator in this arms policy was Shimon Peres, always a Francophile and currently President of Israel. France sent Mirages, an advanced aircraft at the time, aircraft that became the model for the Israeli Kfir fighter aircraft. Recognizing the threat posed by President Gamel Abdel Nasser, who nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, France allied in a joint attack with Israel and Britain on Egypt, that led to the Israeli capture of the Sinai Peninsula.

The entente was not so cordial in 1967. Charles de Gaulle as president of France had welcomed Prime Minister David Ben Gurion four times, and had once referred to Israel as France's friend and ally. But in pique over Israeli's not following his advice which was not to start hostilities, de Gaulle in his press conference on November 27, 1967 referred to Jews as "an elite people, self-assured and domineering." De Gaulle ended French governmental support of Israel's nuclear program. He imposed a ban on French supply of weapons of an "offensive nature" to the Middle East, a ban that in reality applied only to Israel. 

Since de Gaulle, French presidents have varied in policy towards Israel. On his visit to Jerusalem in March 1982 François Mitterrand, the first president in office to visit Israel, spoke of French solidarity and friendship with Israel. He also called for the establishment of a Palestinian state though one that would recognize Israel's right to exist. Similarly, President Nicholas Sarkozy in his visit in 2008 expressed warm sentiments, though he later made an uncomplimentary remark about Netanyahu. 

The three-day visit of François Hollande is a important step in affirming a warm relationship in spite of some political differences. He was accompanied by a very large party, including 40 business leaders, among whom were the heads of Alstom Transport company, and Bonygues Construction company, and a fleet of journalists as well as political figures. At the formal dinner hosted by Netanyahu an Israeli chanteuse sang the songs of Edith Piaf. 

France has long had political and economic relations with Arab countries, especially the Gulf countries and including most recently a 1 billion euro defense contract with Saudi Arabia which is also investing heavily in sectors of French industry and agriculture. Politically, it has been concerned with Arab affairs: it has tried to protect the Maronites in Lebanon; France initiated in June 2003 the European Union dialogue with Tehran; it supported Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war; France voted in November 202 for Palestine to be accepted as a non-member observer state at the United Nations.

Hollande's visit in November to Ramallah as well as Jerusalem was a demonstration of a policy of "equilibrium." Hollande uttered a few words in both Hebrew and Arabic. He visited Yad Vashem and laid stones on the graves of Theodor Herzl, Yitzhak Rabin, and the victims who were murdered in the Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012 by an Islamist terrorist. Ten miles away at Ramallah, he visited the grave of Yasser Arafat who died in a hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004. 

Hollande has called for a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which would include the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israeli stoppage of settlement building in the disputed territories, and the sharing of Jerusalem in peace and security. This French policy is understandable in the context of France's domestic and international concerns. It has had a long history of relations with Lebanon, Syria, and the Maghreb countries, especially Algeria. It also has both the largest Jewish population in Europe, and a large and increasing Muslim population, which some estimate to be about 8 million. 

Even recognizing that political differences still exist between France and Israel, especially on the issue of settlements, the ties are strong and the countries are bound by common anxiety to the overriding issue, Islamic terrorism, and the threat of an Iran, infatuated with power in more senses than one. François Hollande recognizes this and, adapting the immortal words of Margaret Thatcher to George H.W. Bush in August 1990, understands that "this is no time for France to go wobbly."

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East


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UK Child Brides Victims of "Cultural Sensitivity"

by Abigail R. Esman

The original tale may be apocryphal, but the story of the silver spoon has saved the lives of hundreds of British Muslim girls being forced into marriage by their parents. "Put a spoon in your knickers," a counselor at the British organization Karma Nirvana told a young girl being sent abroad to wed against her will. Karma Nirvana attends to the needs of girls being threatened with forced marriage, many of whom are under the age of 17.

The idea behind the plot was simple, but ingenious: the spoon would set off alarms at airport security, whereupon the unwilling bride-to-be could explain her situation to a law enforcement officer who could then intervene to protect her.

The ploy evidently worked, and has been adopted since by other young women in the UK, most of them British-born, who are sent to their parents' original homes and villages in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and elsewhere to marry first cousins they have never met, conscribed to a life of servitude and worse.

It's a trick more and more girls seem to need. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Britain's Forced Marriage Unit took in 1,485 such cases in 2012. And that's just a drop in the proverbial bucket: Britain's Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal told the ABC, "There are probably between 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriage in the UK every year." Even more shocking, according to the FMU, of those, nearly 1,500, or "thirteen percent involved victims below 15 years [and] 22 percent involved victims aged 16-17." One victim was merely two years old; another, at the other end of the spectrum, was 71.

Almost half of these cases involve Pakistani families, many of whom reportedly take advantage of dual nationality rights so that British officials cannot intervene once the girl is on Pakistani soil, the BBC reported. Getting her there, however, is often the problem – one which generally involves either violence (a girl is beaten and locked into her room until she agrees to marry) or deceit (frequently, a girl will be told she will be attending a wedding in Pakistan during her summer holiday; only when she arrives does she learn that the wedding is her own). Because parents so often will use the summer school holidays to spirit their daughters away, officials have begun sending out alerts for airline officials to be on the lookout for young girls traveling to Southern Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Teachers are also being asked to watch for girls who do not return to school in the fall.
Other measures are also beginning to be put in place in the UK, including a law to criminalize forced marriages. And as Phyllis Chesler, an American scholar who writes frequently on the subject, told me, "The Special Prosecutor of honor-based crimes now has the power to return such girls if they can be found and say they are willing to be re-patriated."

But for now, the issue remains, and women and girls continue to be married off against their will to men they've never met, who usually do not share their values, mores, or world view.
Forced marriage, it should be noted, is not the same as an arranged marriage, in which bride and groom are both willing participants in a union organized by their parents. In forced marriages, one or both are unwilling; and girls particularly who refuse are often subjected to unspeakable violence, which at times has been known to end in an honor killing.

When they do submit, their "marriages" more often than not involve abusive husbands, in-laws who expect them to act as servants, and rape. Many become pregnant before they even turn 15, as was the case with one British-Pakistani girl, whose marriage a British judge recently refused to dissolve, citing legal restrictions.

Yet while many argue that these arrangements, like arranged marriages, occur in many cultures and across religions, statistics show another story, particularly in the West, where the vast majority of forced marriages occur in Muslim families. Almost all the UK victims, for instance, are Muslim along with some Sikhs, coming not just from Pakistan, but also from Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia.

For years, such marriages were organized in large part to bring the grooms and their families to the West, says Sameem Ali, author of Belonging, a memoir of her own forced marriage. And according to ABC, "Sometimes girls do not return to Britain until they are pregnant, the theory being that this may assist the process by which the husband seeks residency in the United Kingdom."

But as the immigrant population grows, more and more forced marriages are even taking place in British mosques – despite British laws prohibiting marriage below the age of 16. Soeren Kern, an analyst with the Gatestone Institute, recently described a situation in which one Muslim cleric, officiating at the forced marriage of a 14-year-old, declared, "She's 14. By Sharia, grace of God, she's legal to get married. Obviously Islam has made it easy for us. There is nothing against that. We're doing it because it's okay through Islam."

But if the problem lies within the immigrant community, Ali also blames the British, and specifically, the multiculturalists who, she says, are "afraid to tread on the toes" of the Muslim community. "I keep seeing professionals who say 'it's a cultural issue, why are we imposing our cultural values on this community?'" she tells me. "But that young girl is being forced into marriage, and that young girl needs help." Rather than focus on the religious or cultural aspect of these marriages, says Ali, "they should be attacking it for what it is: a child abuse issue."

But isn't it also a cultural or religious one?

Sameem Ali
Ali is adamant that this should not matter to the authorities. "It's for me, for those in the community, to worry about the culture," she says. "Everyone keeps using that as an excuse, that they don't want to be seen as treading on the toes of the Muslims. But why not? If the community didn't want to pick up Western values, then why have they moved to a Western country? The people of this country need to start asking that question."

That they don't, she believes, explains why both forced marriages and honor killings, also rampant in the British Muslim community, continue almost 30 years after her own grim experience. "If people had asked the right questions then, we wouldn't have the term 'honor killing' on everyone's lips now. We wouldn't have gotten to the point where everyone knows what that is," she says. "Too many Muslims use Islam as a way of putting people back into the Stone Age. It doesn't help when Western people use my religion to do the same."

Abigail R. Esman


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Sharia on Tour

by Ryan Mauro


If you live near Baltimore, Houston, Atlanta or Rochester and want to see a Sharia-promoting show, you’re in luck. The Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society, two groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, have announced four conferences featuring rock stars of the Islamist movement.

ICNA is identified as one of “our organizations and the organizations of our friends” in a once-secret 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo. It explicitly states the network’s “work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within…”

The organization is a derivative of the Jamaat-e-Islami group in Pakistan. One of ICNA’s former leaders, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, was recently sentenced to death in Bangladesh for his involvement in Jamaat-e-Islami’s war crimes. Unsurprisingly, ICNA is upset at the ruling.

The 2010 ICNA handbook advocates a gradualist strategy that culminates in a “united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah in accordance with the laws of shari’ah (Islamic law).” The Islamist leaders that the handbook looks to for guidance include the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Brotherhood’s current spiritual leader and the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami.

MAS was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America,” according to federal prosecutors in a 2008 case. Last year, a former U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leader testified that “everyone knows that the MAS is the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Both groups have held rallies to protest the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi in Egypt.

Houston is the first stop on the ICNA-MAS Sharia tour. From November 29 to December 1, they will be holding their joint South Central Convention at a JW Marriott Hotel. The overall theme is, “Blueprint for a Lasting Legacy.”

One of the speakers is Imam Khalid Griggs, the chairman of the ICNA Council for Social Justice. Former CIA case officer Clare Lopez found out that he used to be involved with the Islamic Party of North America, a group that explicitly preaches “a revolutionary Islam.” Its inspirers include Khomeini, Qutb, Qaddafi and Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Another speaker is Sheikh Omar Suleiman. According to his bio, he studied under Sheikh Salah As-Sawy and Dr. Hatem al-Haj. These are two Salafist clerics that lead the very radical Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. The closest the organization can bring itself to foreswearing violent jihad is to oppose it because “the Islamic community does not possess the strength to engage in offensive jihad at this time [emphasis added].”

On November 30, ICNA is holding its first conference in upstate New York at Rochester Riverside Convention Center, themed as “Islam: The Pursuit of Happiness.”

Speakers include the notorious Imam Siraj Wahhaj, whose version of “pursuing happiness” includes violent jihad and replacing Western democracy with Sharia Law.

Wahhaj has an undeniable, documented record of extremism that would make any genuinely “moderate” Muslim group sprint away from him. He’s had to tame down his anti-Americanism and support for violent jihad and theocracy in the post-9/11 atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean his beliefs have changed.

At the 2011 ICNA-MAS national convention, he advised Muslims to avoid talking to non-Muslims about Sharia because “we are not there yet.” More recently, the NYPD revealed that it had evidence that the security team at Wahhaj’s mosque was involved in illegal weapons trafficking, anti-police martial arts training and paintball trips described as preparation for jihad. Of course, Wahhaj and his allies accuse the NYPD of “racial profiling.”

Another speaker in Rochester is Jamal Barzinji, one of the founding fathers of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network. His home was raided in 2003 because he “is not only closely associated with PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad]…but also with Hamas.” The Justice Department reportedly cancelled a planned indictment of him in 2011.

If you live in the Atlanta area, you can get your dose of Islamist indoctrination at the joint ICNA-MAS Southeast Annual Convention on December 27-29 at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel. Its preachers include the aforementioned Wahhaj, Suleiman, Griggs and many others.

ICNA and MAS also announced that their 39th annual convention will be held on May 24-26 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland. Its speakers have not been decided yet but if the convention’s past content is any indication, then be ready for some subtle and not-so-subtle Islamist preaching.

As mentioned above, the 2011 convention included Wahhaj’s message to avoid conversations about Sharia for the time being. His recommendation was similar to another speaker at the 2002 convention who said, “We may all feel emotionally attached to the goal of an Islamic state…[but] we mustn’t cross hurdles we can’t jump yet.”

At last year’s convention, radical cleric Zaid Shakir preached that the U.S. Constitution had failed and Islam (meaning Sharia) provides a superior model of governance because it denies equality. He said:

“Secularism says we keep religion out. Why? Because if we have religion and religion is the basis of membership in the community, we can’t have perfect equality. We can’t have perfect equality. If Islam is the basis, the kafir won’t be equal with the Muslim. The Christian or the Jew will be a dhimmi. They won’t be equal with the Muslim.”

The Islamists are going on tour but if you miss them this time around, don’t worry—they won’t be retiring anytime soon.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy contributed to this article.

Ryan Mauro


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