Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Iranian Agreement and the Strategy of Deterrence

by Abraham H. Miller

Iran is going to have nuclear weapons. Unless we are willing to launch a strategic bombing campaign against Iran, we cannot completely stop them. And this administration is not going to do that. We know it; the Iranians know it. 

Iran wants nuclear weapons for one purpose, and it is not to launch a first strike against Israel. The mullahs are neither stupid nor do they believe in the imminent eschatology they preach. People who believe in the end of times do not open foreign bank accounts and send their children to live opulent lives abroad.

Iran wants nuclear weapons to neutralize Israel's nuclear deterrence -- to being overrun by stronger and larger conventional forces. Iran wants to destroy Israel!

But Iran is not going to launch nuclear weapons against Israel. Iran is going to overrun Israel with massive conventional forces. It will weaken Israel by using its proxies in Lebanon and in a restabilized Syria. With America no longer providing assistance to the rebels and Russia and Iran providing increased assistance to the government, President Assad's victory is only a matter of time. Non-Western societies do not need to find immediate solutions to their political problems. Their cultural orientation teaches the value of being patient.

Those who perceive a future attack by Iran as impossible should consider that Iran, even in the face of sanctions, has dramatically increased its military budget in 2012 by 127%, causing expenditures to outrun Israel's. Iran's regular army numbers 425,000 with another 120,000 soldiers in the Revolutionary Guard. Israel's army is heavily based on its reserve capacity and possesses 176,000 active troops and 445,000 reservists.

The Revolutionary Guard controls the Basij, an organization of an additional 90,000 active troops and 300,000 reservists. Iran could ultimately mobilize another 11,000,000 men within the Basij structure.

Obviously, the number of troops itself does not determine the outcome of any war or Russia would have defeated Germany in the opening months of the Great War, and in terms of firepower delivery Israel outranks Iran, especially in the realm of airpower. But in terms of other military equipment, Iran far outranks Israel. The overall differences are not as great as proponents of Israel's military invincibility would like to think. Israel ranks 13th in the world in terms of overall firepower, while Iran ranks 16th. The differences are not substantial.

Defeating Israel, however, is a textbook exercise in military strategy because Israel is strategically vulnerable both in the north and at its narrow center. You overwhelm Israel by attacking first, breaking it up geographically, preventing its reserves from being fully mobilized, and crippling its air force. It takes inordinate planning, the willingness to accept incredible casualties, and the ability to acquire large numbers of soldiers and modern weapons. The Iranians do have the resources to accomplish that.

Israel's strategic vulnerability pushed its quest for a nuclear arsenal. Over the years, Israel has also developed a formidable second-strike capability, meaning that it could absorb a first strike and still launch a nuclear attack. The final option of Israeli military strategy is the Samson option, which is to be implemented if certain red lines are crossed by an invading army. Israel would then launch a devastating nuclear strike on the invading country. Whether the option literally means Israel would countenance its own destruction is a matter of speculation.

Iran perceives, correctly or incorrectly, that Israel will not be able to use its nuclear option because Iran will be able to neutralize that option. Israel would have been better off if the Obama administration had done nothing. All the agreement does is give legitimacy to Iran's nuclear enrichment, which will lead to a breakout to weapons capacity, and put another obstacle in the way of Israel taking action.

As Iran now appears on a trajectory to become a stronger power, increased pressure is being put on Israel to roll back its boundaries to the 1948 cease-fire lines, what Abba Eban appropriately called the "Auschwitz boundaries" because they are strategically indefensible. Israel is a country without strategic depth. It was strategic depth that enabled Russia to defeat both Napoleon and the Nazis. It was South Korean strategic depth that enabled the United Nations to rebuild its military force in the Pusan perimeter. A country that weakens its strategic depth invites its own destruction.

Obama has strengthened Israel's strongest enemy while attempting to weaken Israel. This has been part and parcel of the Obama administration's policy since the first term, when in 2009, it departed from established U.S. policy that affirmed Israel's nuclear ambiguity and exempted it from concerns of non-proliferation. For the first time, an American administration publicly named Israel as one of four nuclear powers that had not signed on to the non-proliferation treaty.

Iran will not attack Israel next month or even next year. Iran will bring Assad back to power, extend its reach through the creation of a Shiite Crescent to the Mediterranean, and build up its conventional military with Russian assistance. It will eventually build sufficient atomic weapons to neutralize Israel's nuclear arsenal. When Iran attacks Israel, there will be no calls for a ceasefire in the United Nations, not unless Israel is complete destroyed.

The foundations for Israel's destruction have been laid by the Obama administration. All that remains is the completion of Iran's nuclear program. For those who have long touted Israel's invincibility and its need to take risks for peace because of its nuclear arsenal, that invincibility will no longer exist. Israel will either bomb Iran now or await its own destruction later.

Abraham H. Miller


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Kerry in Israel: Give Up Jordan Valley — Count on Us

by P. David Hornik

Secretary of State John Kerry paid yet another visit to Israel on Thursday. Reports described him as hoping to “salvage” the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Many people, particularly in Israel, had already predicted that, with the Palestinians—just as in 1937, 1948, 2000-01, and 2008—incapable of coming to terms with the Jewish state’s existence, there would be nothing to salvage in the first place.
Kerry’s timing was flawed in a more specific sense as well, with Iran, in recent weeks, having “totally eclipsed” the Palestinian issue in Jerusalem. Kerry was described as reassuring Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that, despite the interim deal with the mullahs, the sanctions on Iran would not significantly erode.

On that score, there are about as many optimists among Israeli officialdom as there are Fatah members who celebrate Israeli Independence Day.

It was not enough, though, that Israel—like the Sunni states in the region—was stunned and appalled first by President Obama’s highly public flip-flop on Syria and then by the fatally flawed deal with Iran(retired Admiral James A. Lyons has given one of the best analyses of what’s wrong with it). In this atmosphere, Kerry also made it his business on Thursday to outline security arrangements for Israel—after the rise of the putative Palestinian state—in the Jordan Valley itself.

Israel’s Army Radio reported that officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development are already stationed in the Jordan Valley to learn about security arrangements. Kerry, in his press conference with Netanyahu, said U.S. Gen. John Allen had already been offering Netanyahu his “thoughts” on the issue.

If not for the Palestinians’ repeatedly demonstrated inability to reach an agreement even on the most generous Israeli terms possible, it would amount to a sinister attempt to ride roughshod over what Netanyahu—rightly—posits as a fundamental Israeli security need under any agreement: a continued Israeli, not foreign, military presence along the Jordan.

Meanwhile Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, blasted what she called—of course—“U.S. bias in favor of Israel….” Ashrawi also called for another Geneva conference—like the one two weeks ago that served up nuclear-threshold-state status to Iran—to “end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state….”

Anything else, Ashrawi warned, would “plunge the entire region into violence….”

One observation prompted by those words is that much of the region—particularly Syria and Iraq, but with Lebanon and Egypt hardly free of the affliction—is already “plunged into violence” without the slightest input from the “Palestinian issue” that somehow, despite all the slings and arrows reality can deliver, retains such mythic status in Washington.

Another is that, even with Washington already having pressured Israel into releasing batches of convicted Palestinian terrorists from prison, and now pressuring it to contract to a width of nine miles and give up its vital security border, the Palestinian accusation that the U.S. is actually taking Israel’s side, seasoned with a threat of cataclysmic violence, surfaces again in a way that is predictable, inevitable, de rigueur—and, for all that, ignored by those mystically convinced that securing Palestinian goals is a supreme interest.

And so, on Friday, John Kerry again flies off, leaving Israel to cope with regional reality. A reality in which Israel had been muddling through with the Palestinian issue more or less successfully—that is, until Kerry’s recent initiative revived tensions and instability; a reality in which Iran is laughing and gloating its way to a future without sanctions and with all its nuclear capabilities intact.

P. David Hornik


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Caroline Glick: The Politics of Subversion

by Caroline Glick

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Wednesday to put additional pressure on Israel to make more concessions in land and political rights to the PLO in Judea and Samaria. To advance his current effort, Kerry brought along retired US Marine Gen. John Allen.

According to media reports, Allen presented a proposal to address Israel’s security concerns and so enabled the talks about Israeli land giveaways to proceed apace. The proposal involved, among other things, American security guarantees, a pledge to deploy US forces along the Jordan River and additional US military assistance to the IDF.

These Obama administration proposals are supposed to allay Israeli concerns that withdrawing Israeli forces from the Jordan Valley and the international border crossings with Jordan will invite foreign invasion and aggression, and increased Palestinian terrorism.

By controlling the Jordan Valley, (and the Samarian and Hebron mountain ranges), Israel is capable of defending the country from invasion from the east. It can also prevent penetration of irregular enemy forces, and on the other hand, maintain the stability of the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Without control over the areas, Israel can do none of these things.

Facing these undeniable facts, Kerry and his supporters have two main challenges. First they need to present themselves as credible actors.

And second they have to give Israel reason to trust the Palestinians. If Israel trusts the US, then it can consider allowing the US to defend it from foreign aggression. If the Palestinians are real peace partners, then Israel can surrender its ability to defend itself more easily, because it will face a benign neighbor along its indefensible border.

Unfortunately, Israel cannot trust the US. Kerry and the Obama administration as a whole lost all credibility when they negotiated the deal with Iran last month.

After spending five years promising they had Israel’s back only to stab Israel in the back in relation to the most acute threat facing the Jewish state, nothing Kerry or US President Barack Obama says in relation to their commitment to Israel’s security can be trusted. The fact that Kerry had the nerve to show up here with “security guarantees” regarding the Palestinians two weeks after he agreed to effectively unravel the sanctions regime against Iran in exchange for no concrete Iranian concessions on its nuclear arms program shows that he holds Israel in contempt.

But then, even if Kerry had all the credibility in the world it wouldn’t make a difference. The real problem with the notion of an Israeli withdrawal to indefensible borders is that those indefensible borders will be insecure. Both the PLO and Hamas remain committed to Israel’s destruction.

They will never agree to Israel’s continued existence in any borders. So the whole peace process is doomed. Kerry’s attempt to dictate security arrangements is a waste of time.

This much was again made clear last Friday by the PLO’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. Speaking to foreign supporters, Erekat said that the Palestinians will never accept Israel’s right to exist.

Their entire existence as a people is predicated on denying Jewish rights and nationhood. And, as Erekat put it, “I cannot change my narrative.”

The people who should be most upset both about Obama and Kerry’s destruction of US strategic credibility and about the utter absence of Palestinian good faith should be the Israelis wedded to the two-state paradigm. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Labor Party leader Issac Herzog among others, should be so vocal in their opposition to the deal with Iran that they make Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu look like a pushover.

It is they, not Netanyahu and his voters, who have insisted that Israel can make massive concessions to the PLO and sit on the sidelines with regard to Iran because the US will defend us. For the past generation it was they, not the political Right, that preached strategic dependency rather than strategic sovereignty.

These peaceniks, rather than Likud supporters should also be the ones leading the charge against PLO support for terrorism, incitement against Israel and rejection of Israel’s right to exist. The Right never wanted a Palestinian state to begin with. That’s the Left’s policy. If Netanyahu abandoned his support for Palestinian statehood, he would become more popular, not less so. And unless Palestinian society and the Palestinian leadership fundamentally transform their position on Israel, there is no way that Israel can be expected to surrender its ability to defend itself.

There is no way that Israel can consider the PLO’s territorial demands. And there is no way a Palestinian state can be established.

But the peaceniks don’t seem to care about these things.

Olmert uses every open microphone to attack Netanyahu.

Last week Olmert went so far as to say that Netanyahu, “declared war on the American government,” by openly criticizing the deal with Iran.

Despite the fact that PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas didn’t even respond to Olmert’s peace offer in 2008, Olmert places all the blame for the absence of peace on Netanyahu and his government.

For his part, on the eve of Kerry’s visit Diskin launched an equally unhinged attack on the government.

Speaking to the European funded pro-Palestinian Geneva Initiative, Diskin claimed wildly that Israel is more at risk from not surrendering to PLO demands than from an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

Last month Livni attacked Netanyahu for criticizing Obama’s deal with Iran and then claimed vapidly that Israel will protect itself from Iran by giving away its land to the PLO. Ignoring the fact that the Arab world is already siding with Israel against Iran, Livni said, “Solving the conflict with the Palestinians would enable a united front with Arab countries against Iran.”

This week newly elected Labor Party chief Issac Herzog went to Ramallah and chastised the government.

Praising Abbas for his “real desire to achieve peace,” while remaining silent about Abbas’s daily statements in support of terrorism, Herzog pledged “to try to put pressure on the Israeli government to take brave positions to achieve peace and security for our children.”

As for the deal with Iran, shortly after his election to head the Labor Party last month, Herzog lashed out not at the deal, and not at Obama for betraying his pledge to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, but at Netanyahu. Netanyahu, he claimed, “has harmed our relations with the US and hasn’t brought about an improved agreement.”

Ignoring the fact that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran behind Israel’s back and then lied about the contents of what it had agreed to, Herzog seethed, Netanyahu “has created a total lack of trust between us and Obama rather than a trusting relationship.”

As polls taken over the past 20 years have shown, a majority of Israelis would be happy to make peace with the Palestinians, and pay a price in territory for doing so. But those polls have also shown that the public believes the Palestinians when they say they want to destroy the Jewish state. The Israeli public does not think people like Abbas, who praise mass murderers of Jews as national heroes, have “a real desire to achieve peace.”

And, as recent polls show, following the US deal with Iran, while the public continues to prize Israel’s alliance with the US, it no longer trusts the US government.

The fact that the likes of Olmert, Livni, Diskin and Herzog and their followers are not at the forefront pressuring the Palestinians to change their ways and demanding that the Obama administration demonstrate its trustworthiness, but rather have directed all their energies to attacking the government, indicates that peace with the Palestinians is not their primary concern.

Rather it would appear that their main concern is their personal power and prestige.

By siding with the Americans against the government, these senior figures seek to exploit the public’s support for the US. By presenting Netanyahu as anti-American, and claiming that he is responsible for Obama’s abusive behavior, they hope to convince the public to embrace them as guarantors of the strategic alliance. Certainly that is Olmert’s goal as he looks past his criminal prosecutions and begins to plot his course back to the center of power.

As for their support for the Palestinians against their government, here the motivation is external.

Israelis do not trust the Palestinians. And they certainly do not trust Abbas. But the Americans and Europeans have made Palestinian statehood the centerpiece of their foreign policies and view Abbas as the indispensable man.

Livni had no political future after she lost the Kadima party primary to Shaul Mofaz last year.

Her hopes of becoming prime minister had ended. But then she went to Washington, met with Hillary Clinton, and announced she was forming a new party and running on a pro-Palestinian, pro-Obama platform. She won a paltry six seats, which she took from other leftist parties.

But that was enough. Bowing to US pressure to prove he was serious about appeasing the Palestinians, Netanyahu appointed Livni justice minister and put her in charge of the talks with the PLO. If Livni had been less supportive of Obama or of the PLO, she would not be where she is today.

If the behavior of these people were just a matter of shameless jockeying for political power their actions would be bad enough. But they cause immeasurable damage to the country.

By accusing Netanyahu of blocking peace between Israel and the Palestinians, they embolden the Palestinians to escalate their political warfare against Israel, and maintain their steady anti-Semitic incitement. Indeed they lay the moral groundwork for justifying terrorism against Israel.

Livni, Olmert, Diskin, Herzog and their allies also give political cover to outside forces to adopt anti-Israel positions and policies. Why shouldn’t the European Union boycott Israeli goods when the former prime minister claims that Israel is the reason there is no peace? Why should Obama care what Netanyahu tells Congress when Olmert says Netanyahu is at war with the US? How can Israel justify attacking Iran’s nuclear installations when Olmert says it is strategically idiotic to even train for such an attack and Diskin says that we need a PLO state more than we need to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions? Diskin’s unhinged attack against Netanyahu on the eve of Kerry’s visit was hardly coincidental.

And we should expect more such displays as Obama becomes more open in his hostility towards Israel.

As long as we have a seemingly endless supply of senior officials willing to harm the country to advance their personal goals, domestic subversion will remain a key weapon in the international arsenal against us.

Caroline Glick


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Real Benghazi Scandal

by Jonathan S. Tobin

On the list of scandals that plagued the Obama administration this past year, Benghazi has been the one the White House, Democrats, and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media dismissed with the greatest of ease. Unlike the IRS scandal, which though it has faded from the news had obvious constitutional and political implications, or the various spying scandals involving news organizations and the National Security Agency, which outraged large numbers of ordinary Americans, Benghazi was put down as a manufactured story that had little traction. Part of it was due to the obsessive, though understandable, focus of Republicans on the lies about the 9/11/12 terror attack by members of the administration in the immediate aftermath of the incident. The claim that it was merely a spontaneous demonstration of movie critics that ran amok was outrageous and almost certainly motivated by the administration’s fears that the attack would hurt the president’s reelection campaign. But it didn’t speak to specific wrongdoing that led to the deaths of four Americans or how similar problems might be avoided in the future.

But 15 months after those four Americans died while waiting in vain for rescue that never came, there is a real Benghazi scandal that calls for more than lip service from the White House or quotes like former Secretary of State Clinton’s infamous “What difference does it make?” As the Washington Post reports today:
U.S. officials say efforts have stalled to capture about a dozen people secretly charged in the 2012 attack on the American compound in Benghazi that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The individuals have been charged in sealed criminal complaints filed in federal court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. They include one of the suspected ringleaders of the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala, a militia leader with ties to ­al-Qaeda,­ said several U.S officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
So far, none have been brought to trial and the lack of progress in capturing Khattala has frustrated U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers who want to see him and the others prosecuted. One official said that Khattala continues to operate in eastern Libya with impunity.
“He’s as free as a bird,” the official said.
This is, to put it mildly, outrageous. And it is all the more outrageous since the suspects are apparently living large in a country that was supposedly no longer a safe haven for terror after the Western-backed overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. If the administration hasn’t allocated sufficient forces to deal with this situation, Congress and the American people have a right to ask why.

The problem stems from the fact that, as with the prelude to the attack that was made possible by a lack of concern for the security of U.S. personnel on the part of the State Department, the investigation also seems to be a low priority. Moreover, rather than tasking U.S. military forces to deal with the problem of snatching or taking out these murderers, it has been treated as strictly a law-enforcement problem. The FBI may consider the Benghazi case a priority, but the bureau has found itself handicapped when operating under hostile conditions abroad as we learned when it was revealed that they were unable to adequately investigate the site of the attack for months.

That is not unrelated to the fact that, far from being proof of how administration policy has led to expanding U.S. influence and problems for terrorists, Libya is a mess. As the Post reports, attempts to capture some of the terrorists failed when the blowback from U.S. actions led to chaos including the kidnapping of the prime minister. Indeed, some have speculated that the administration has pulled back on the effort to capture the terrorists because of the fear that more U.S. actions would lead to the fall of the Libyan government.

The refusal of the State Department to adequately defend American personnel in Benghazi was a shocking failure. The lies told after the attack by administration figures were appalling. So, too, is the unwillingness of Hillary Clinton to truly take responsibility for what happened. But the administration’s seeming lack of interest in bringing those responsible to justice is a scandal of an altogether higher order. Unless the president orders sufficient personnel to Libya to get the job done, this is an issue that will continue to haunt his administration as well as the future presidential hopes of Mrs. Clinton.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Dore Gold: Iran and the West: Is the Talk about Rapprochement Warranted?

by Dore Gold

When describing the significance of the Geneva understandings between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany), the Arab world is not only concerned with sanctions and centrifuges. Articles in the Arab press caution that as a result of the agreement, their countries have reached a "historic turning point" in the Middle East in which their vital interests will be sacrificed as Iran acquires a free hand in the region. This will become possible, in their view, because Geneva represents no less than the beginning of an overall diplomatic rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. 

A "rapprochement" in international relations involves a general relaxation of tensions between two countries that were previously adversaries. Taken from French, it means to bring two parties together. Among the leaders in the Arab states, talk about a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement conjures up a troubling image of a "grand bargain" between the two sides, involving a set of understandings over a broad set of Middle Eastern issues. The pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat proposed that as a result of the breakthrough in the relations between the U.S. and Iran, the "political map of the Middle East as a whole" might change. 

Commentators in the region come to such a far-reaching conclusion for multiple reasons. Some write that the U.S. decision to refrain from attacking Syria, after Bashar Assad's massive use of chemical weapons, was the first sign of this new relationship between Washington and Tehran. Last week, Kuwaiti newspapers even reported that the U.S. was in contact with Hezbollah through British diplomats. Hezbollah did not deny the rumor. The actual evidence of this shift in U.S. policy may have been thin, but it undoubtedly raised eyebrows in the Arab world, where rumors of this sort can obtain enormous mileage even if they are not well substantiated. 

Hezbollah was never just a Lebanese organization but rather an arm of the Iranian security services; in recent years it has had a regional role, tipping the balance against the Sunni forces in the Syrian civil war and training Shiite militias in Iraq. The rumors of the Western dialogue with Hezbollah undoubtedly fed the sense that a major realignment of regional politics may be underway, in which Iran and its Shiite allies in the Arab world will be on the ascendancy. 

Some analysts in the Arab world are undoubtedly influenced by the rhetoric about the Geneva understandings in the American press. The director of the Brookings Institution branch in Doha, Qatar, Salman Sheikh, complained in an interview in the Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat that he was hearing Western scholars talking about the Geneva understandings as though they represent a "great transformation" comparable to end of the Cold War. There have also been comparisons between the meetings in Geneva and then-President Richard Nixon's famous visit to China. All of this hyperbole undoubtedly influences suspicions in the Arab world that something bigger is cooking between the U.S. and Iran.

A central question raised by all the talk about a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement is whether such a dramatic shift in their relations would be warranted at this stage, if it was at all being contemplated by anyone. Looking at the rapprochement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as a model, there were important developments that occurred before Washington was prepared to declare in 1991 that the Cold War was over. 

It wasn't the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev or his reforms, known as perestroika, that caused the West to rethink its approach to Moscow, but rather the modification of the Soviet Union's external behavior that made the difference -- starting, in particular, with the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan in 1988. Soviet adventurism in places like Angola, the Horn of Africa, and Central America was finished and Soviet forces even stopped intervening against the anti-Communist revolts that were began in Eastern Europe. 

The change in China involved not only the termination of the extreme radicalism of the Cultural Revolution but also a growing split between China and the Soviet Union and the outbreak of border tensions between them in 1969. China could no longer be considered to be part of a Soviet-led Communist bloc. These policy changes preceded Nixon's trip to China in 1972 and justified in the minds of U.S. officials at the time the efforts to secure a rapprochement between Washington and Beijing, which accelerated the deterioration of China's relations with North Vietnam, with which the U.S. was still at war.

Looking at the Iranian case today, there is no sign that Tehran is fundamentally changing its footprint in the Middle East as a result of President Hassan Rouhani's election or the more recent Geneva understandings. Iran's Revolutionary Guards are on the ground in Syria, not only helping as advisors, but actually taking part in combat operations against the Sunni Arab population and in the bloodbath they have created. 

Tehran is also making sure that its Hezbollah proxy remains in Syria and does not withdraw back to Lebanon. Moreover, Iran remains active in a number of Middle Eastern battlefields from Yemen to Iraq. Lately, Hamas has been seeking to rebuild its ties with Iran. As noted above, the Soviet Union set the stage for the end of the Cold War by withdrawing from Afghanistan, but Iran shows no sign of withdrawing its direct involvement in a host of Middle Eastern wars.

Yet Iran has a strong interest in portraying the Geneva understandings as a full rapprochement with the U.S. and the other western powers. Recently two former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that "if the impression takes hold that the U.S. has already decided to reorient its Middle East policy toward rapprochement with Iran" then the risk will increase that the sanctions will more quickly collapse. Kissinger and Shultz know what they are talking about when they write about rapprochement: They were each architects of earlier American rapprochements with Beijing and Moscow respectively.

As the U.S. and its P5+1 partners contemplate their next steps with Iran, it is imperative that they insist in parallel on very specific changes in Iranian behavior. How can commentators in the West herald a new era in relations between Washington and Tehran, when Iran is still backing what the U.N. has characterized just this week as "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" by Assad's forces in Syria? At a minimum, Iran must withdraw from Syria. It also must halt all support for recognized international terrorist organizations, from Hamas and Hezbollah to the Taliban. 

It is untenable that new agreements with Tehran will follow, while Iranian governmental bodies still call for death to America or death to Israel. What continuing Iranian involvement in all these activities indicates is the fact that its hostile intent remains unchanged. Under such conditions, any nuclear understandings will not represent a rapprochement between former adversaries, as is being presented in Western capitals, but only a brief cease-fire that won't last in the struggle that Iran will continue to wage.

Dore Gold


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Common Core’s Anti-Gun Lessons on Sandy Hook

by Mary Grabar

The pundits may have thought that Barack Obama’s efforts to exploit the Sandy Hook School tragedy on December 14, 2012, where a mentally ill young man killed 20 elementary school students and 6 teachers, had been tabled for lack of support.  Now we learn that Obama’s Organizing for Action super pac is exploiting the one-year anniversary with fake memorials in order to resume the push for gun control.

Along with the efforts to reach adults are those to reach children in schools.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major funder of Obama’s education initiative called Common Core (recently admitted to be an “Obama initiative” by David Axelrod) is aiding in the effort to eviscerate the Second Amendment by emotionally manipulating and indoctrinating students.

An Education Week article touts free “anti-violence” lesson plans for students in grades 4-12 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting.  Education Week is full of handy “tips” and “news” for teachers, but is really a Gates Foundation-subsidized Common Core propaganda outlet, as I noted in my report on Common Core for Accuracy in MediaEducation Week articles are frequently linked in the U.S. Department of Education’s newsletter, The Teachers Edition.

The “anti-violence” Common Core-aligned lesson plan that Education Week is promoting could hardly be more propagandistic.  It is written by shooting victim Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona Congresswoman, and Nicole Hockley who lost her son Dylan at Sandy Hook.   It claims the ostensible purpose of “turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation” and “To be open to all possibilities.”  It says students should be “Open to those with the most opposing views.”

But the only views teachers are told to give are those that advance an anti-gun rights agenda.
To prime students emotionally, teachers are asked to show a School Tube video from Roma High School to demonstrate how a student-led vigil can “show how people can come together after tragic events to make the world a better place.”  (No empirical evidence is given about the cause and effect.)

There is very little reading required in the lesson, but what there is a USA Today article by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, chiding “special interests,” like the NRA, which they claim is “advancing the interests of an ideological fringe” and “cow[ing] Congress” into refusing to take action on “common sense reforms.”  The other is an article linked to Giffords’s and Kelly’s lobby group called Americans for Responsible Solutions.  (There is an attachment for additional reading from Slate Magazine for “older students” that unscientifically aggregates the number of gun deaths by asking readers to send in news about gun deaths in their towns.)  Teachers are advised to have students read the “Sandy Hook Promise” from the website and discuss “why they feel the promise was created.”

Teachers are told that the first two paragraphs of the promise are “most helpful.”
These are the first two paragraphs:

“Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, non-profit organization led by community members and several parents and spouses who lost loved ones in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. . . .

Our intent is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation.”

Teachers are told to have students “brainstorm” on the question, “How can we work together to make the United States a safer place?”

Teachers are offered the suggestion of having students trace their hands on construction paper and then making cut-outs.

On these they should write one-sentence statements, beginning with the words, “I hope.”
As models, photographs of the lesson plan writers’ own construction paper hands are presented: ”I hope for a country that can work together to prevent gun violence,” wrote Gabby Giffords on her hand.  “I hope parents can come together to build a future for our children safe from gun violence,” wrote Nicole Hockley on hers.

Show students the other postings on UClass [a “global lesson exchange” for teachers]. Have them comment positively on other students’ hands that have been posted on UClass. Urge them to do at least one thing to make the United States a better place.
Teachers are assured that the lesson plan follows the new Common Core education standards.

For grades 3-8, the “Correlating Common Core Standards” are:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
It gets a little more rigorous for high school students:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
In case the difference in these two academic standards is not obvious, students in upper grades are asked to “create a plan for their own anti-violence campaign” (words in bold in original). In other words, high school students should become activists.

The promoters of Common Core have repeated sales points about “high standards,” “rigor,” “close reading,” and including “critical thinking.”  Really?  Do you remember tracing your hand on construction paper in high school?

The lesson on Sandy Hook is typical of those now being produced and advertised as meeting Common Core requirements.

Of course, we know that many teachers have been using classrooms to indoctrinate students for decades now.  What is different under Common Core is that the lessons are even more ideological.  They profit the multinational publishing companies as they rewrite materials to adhere to Common Core.  And they advance the agendas of left-wing non-profits and the federal government.

The construction paper hands being produced in grades 4 through 12 to commemorate Sandy Hook show how Obama’s Common Core initiative is working (pardon the pun) hand in glove with his political pac.

Mary Grabar


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Why Should Anyone Believe Kerry?

by Jonathan S. Tobin

Secretary of State John Kerry was back in Israel today with a three-part task. One was to reassure the Israeli government that the weak nuclear deal the administration cut with Iran is not threat to the Jewish state’s security. The second was, as I wrote on Wednesday, to present the Israelis with a detailed plan about the future of the West Bank after a peace deal with the Palestinians is achieved. The third was to convince the Palestinian Authority to play along and to accept the scheme that theoretically guarantees Israel’s security by the stationing of U.S. or other foreign troops along the Jordan River.

Kerry may be still riding the rush he got from succeeding in persuading the Iranians to sign a deal that he has tried to represent as a diplomatic triumph, but he’s likely to strike out on all three counts in the Middle East–and for reasons that are not unrelated to his diplomatic coup. The Israelis now have even less reason to trust Kerry and the U.S. than they did before. And having watched how the Iranians were, despite the enormous economic and military leverage the U.S. had over them, able to hold out and retain all of their nuclear infrastructure and stockpile, there is absolutely no reason for the Palestinians not to be just as patient with Kerry, confident that they need never give up their demands for territory, Jerusalem, lack of security guarantees for Israel, and even right of return for refugees. Though he can pretend that he has made the world safer with his Iran deal and contend that the peace negotiations he has promoted will also solve the region’s problems, the parties involved no longer believe a word he says.

Leaving aside the obvious shortcomings of the Iran deal from the point of view of those who believe that it does nothing to prevent the Islamist regime from gaining a nuke in the long term, there is tremendous irony in Kerry arriving in Israel to ask the Netanyahu government for more concessions on the heels of the Geneva signing. For years the Israelis had been told that if they were more accommodating to the Palestinians, it would convince the West to do its best on the Iranian nuclear threat. Though the logic of such linkage was faulty, it was at least a coherent argument. But after having trashed years of American pronouncements (including President Obama’s campaign promise to force the Iranians to give up their nuclear program) by legitimizing Iran’s nuclear program and right to enrich uranium, Kerry has effectively destroyed that argument. Having embarked on what appears to be a misguided attempt to achieve d├ętente with a hate-spewing, terrorist-sponsoring nuclear scofflaw state, the U.S. assurances about having Israel’s back ring hollow. While there is no alternative to the U.S. alliance, the Netanyahu government knows that it is on its own with respect to security issues in a way that it may not have felt in decades. As much as Israel has always been dubious about putting its safety in the hands of anyone, this is hardly the moment to be selling it on the notion that it can rely on Washington.

By the same token, the Palestinians have also been paying attention to the Iran talks. And the evidence for this came almost as soon as Kerry arrived when it was reported that the Palestinians rejected the security measures that the U.S. envisions out of hand. Palestinian sources told the Times of Israel that the plan, which was predicated on the notion of a complete Israeli withdrawal from strategic areas of the West Bank along the 1967 lines and a new partition of Jerusalem, was unacceptable because it would prolong “the occupation.” That should alert the Americans to the fact that the Palestinians have little interest in peace talks since in this context “occupation” seems to be referring to pre-1967 Israel and not to West Bank settlements. Nor, as I wrote earlier this week, are the Palestinians budging from their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, something that would signal the end of the conflict rather than merely a pause in it.

If the Palestinians’ genuine goal is a two-state solution and peace, their rejectionist attitude is as crazy as their previous three refusals of statehood. But even if we were to believe despite abundant proof to the contrary that they do want a two-state solution, with Kerry on the other side of the table, why should the Palestinians be any less tough in these talks than the Iranians were in theirs?

Kerry’s ego may have been stroked by the Iranian deal, but his already shaky credibility is shot. There is no reason for Israel to believe American assurances and even less reason for the Palestinians not to think that they have more to gain from saying no than yes. But the consequences of this diplomatic farce are more far-reaching than the souring of relations between Israel and the United States. By setting the Middle East up for certain diplomatic failure, Kerry has set the stage for a third intifada and threatened the Israelis with it himself. He may think he can blame Israel with the violence that may come after the negotiations blow up but, like the almost inevitable Iranian betrayal of the nuclear talks, what follows will be largely on his head.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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France: Muslim Woman Sues Over Burqa Ban

by Soeren Kern

The law [banning the veil] also liberates women because the wearing of veils "is totally incompatible with the very idea of equality," according to Annie Sugier, head of the International League for Women's Rights.
"[H]er aim is not to annoy others but to feel at inner peace with herself." — Part of Court's summary of the case.
The court has deemed the case to so important that it has taken the unusual step of referring it to the Grand Chamber, the Court's highest chamber.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has opened a landmark hearing to consider the legality of France's ban on wearing Islamic veils in public spaces.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR enforces the European Convention on Human Rights and its jurisdiction is compulsory and binding for all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

The court's ruling—expected to be issued sometime during the middle of 2014—will determine the fate of the debate over so-called burqa bans (here, here, here, here and here) that have been raging across Europe for many years.

This is the first time the supra-national ECHR has agreed to consider the legality of the face-covering niqab or the body-covering burqa in public spaces in a European country.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The ECHR is considering the legality of France's restrictions on wearing the Islamic veil in public. (Image source: CherryX/WikiMedia Commons)

The court has deemed the case so important that it has taken the unusual step of referring it to the Grand Chamber, the court's highest chamber that handles the most significant and leading-edge questions affecting the interpretation and application of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court began hearing the case—which is being brought by a 23-year-old French Muslim woman identified only by her initials S.A.S.—on November 27.

According to a summary of the case published by the court, S.A.S. sued the French State on April 11, 2011, when legislation banning people from covering their faces in public places came into force. 

The document states:
"In the applicant's submission, she is a devout Muslim and she wears the burqa and niqab in accordance with her religious faith, culture and personal convictions. As she has explained, the burqa is a full-body covering including a mesh over the face, and the niqab is a full-face veil leaving an opening only for the eyes. The applicant also emphasizes that neither her husband nor any other member of her family puts pressure on her to dress in this manner. She adds that she wears the niqab in public and in private, but not systematically. She is thus content not to wear the niqab in certain circumstances but wishes to be able to wear it when she chooses to do so. Lastly, her aim is not to annoy others but to feel at inner peace with herself."
S.A.S. argued that the French law violates six articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. These are: Article 3 (no one shall be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment); Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life); Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion); Article 10 (freedom of expression); Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association); and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

France's "burqa ban" entered into force on April 11, 2011. The law—which prohibits the wearing of Islamic body-covering burqas and face-covering niqabs in all public spaces in France—was enacted amid rising frustration that the country's estimated 6.5 million Muslims are not integrating into French society.

With certain exceptions, anyone in France covering their face on the street and in parks, on public transportation, in public institutions such as train stations and town halls, and in shops, restaurants and movie theaters, will be subject to a fine of €150 ($210). Exceptions to the ban include the covering of one's face with a motorcycle helmet, sunglasses, a bandage, a welding mask, a fencing mask or a fancy dress mask.

More severe penalties are in store for those found guilty of forcing others to cover their faces by means of "threats, violence and constraint, abuse of authority or power for reason of their gender." Clearly aimed at Muslim fathers, husbands or religious leaders, anyone found guilty of forcing a woman to wear an Islamic veil against her will is subject to a fine of €30,000 ($40,500) and one year in jail, or €60,000 ($81,500) and up to two years in jail if the case involves a minor.

The ban does not apply in private homes, hotel rooms and office buildings, except for elevators, conference rooms and lobbies and/or other spaces open to the public. The law also defines the inside of an automobile as a private space exempt from the measure.

Polls show that French citizens back the burqa ban by a very wide margin. A survey conducted by French pollster BVA and published in the daily Le Parisien on March 25, 2013 found that 86% of French people back introducing legislation that would ban "all signs of religious or political affiliation" in private schools and nurseries. According to the same poll, 83% support imposing a law making it illegal in all privately-owned businesses.

Around 300 women have been issued fines since the face-veil ban took effect. However, recent attempts to enforce the ban in Paris have resulted in rioting and violence against the police. In July 2013, hundreds of Muslims went on a rampage in Trappes, a suburb of Paris, after police checked the identity of a Muslim woman who was illegally wearing a full-face Islamic veil in public.

In the southern French city of Marseille, a Muslim mob attacked police in July 2012 after the officers ordered an 18-year-old woman Muslim woman who was wearing a niqab to show her identity card. The woman refused, saying, "I don't obey the laws of the French Republic."

At the ECHR's hearing in Strasbourg on November 27, a lawyer for the French government, Edwige Belliard, advanced four arguments to defend the burqa ban: 1) it is the result of a long democratic debate; 2) the prohibition against concealing the face is an imperative of public policy, a minimum requirement of life in a democratic society; 3) the public space is a place in society where a person must be able to connect with others; and 4) burqas and niqabs deny women their dignity and identity.

Belliard called on the European judges "not to fall into the trap set by SAS's lawyers: it is not an anti-religious law; its aim is simply to promote harmony in society." She added that the burqa and the niqab are "an obstacle to social life in a democratic, open and egalitarian society."

"Wearing the full veil not only makes it difficult to identify a person, it makes her indistinguishable from other full veil wearers and effectively erases the woman who wears it," she told the court.

In a letter to the court, Annie Sugier, the head of the International League for Women's Rights, a leading French feminist group, urged the ECHR to uphold the ban, arguing that it is "in no way contrary to freedom and dignity, but is in fact a law of liberation and of civil concord." The law also liberates women because the wearing of veils is "totally incompatible with the very idea of equality."

"The full-face veil, by literally burying the body and the face, constitutes a true deletion of the woman as an individual in public," Sugier argued. "How can one not see that to wear the full veil is also a symbolic violence to other women?" she added. "Those who do not wear it feel insulted by this sight reminding them of the enclosures suffered in the past."

Sugier asks: "Can one still speak of dignity when a human being, having consented or not, finds herself reduced to a mere shadow in the street, an object and no longer a person able to exchange with fellow human beings?"

But Ramby de Mello, the British lawyer representing SAS, said the law violated his client's rights to freedom of religion, free speech and privacy and made her feel "like a prisoner in her own country." The veil is "as much part of her identity as our DNA is of ours," he argued.

In a separate case, an appeals court in Paris on November 27 upheld the dismissal of a Muslim nursery worker who was fired for wearing an Islamic headscarf to work, in violation of an internal dress code banning religious garments.

The decision overturned a lower court's ruling that the Baby Loup daycare center, situated in the Parisian suburb of Chanteloup-les-Vignes, was guilty of religious discrimination when it sacked Fatima Afif in December 2008.

The appeals court ruled that the daycare center, which takes care of infants from 55 different nationalities, had a right "to impose neutrality on its personnel."

The lawyer defending Baby-Loup, Richard Malka, welcomed the ruling because it "reaffirms the strength of the principle of secularism."

But the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), a Muslim rights group, denounced the ruling as "a veritable judicial scandal" that meant "nobody is protected against being judged by one's religious, ethnic or social origin."

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 Estrat├ęgicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook. Follow him on Twitter.

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U.S. to Offer Missile Defense to Gulf Sheikdoms

by Cliff Thier

First we set the killers lose in the neighborhood and then we offer to sell window grates. Julian E. Barnes writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday will announce an initiative designed to improve cooperation among Persian Gulf kingdoms and beef up the region's missile defenses.
Mr. Hagel will outline a U.S. plan to sell missile defense equipment, including early-warning sensors, to the Gulf Cooperation Council, an organization of energy-rich Arab kingdoms, according to advance excerpts of his speech.
The new U.S. offer, which Mr. Hagel will unveil in a speech at a security conference here, comes during a trip to reassure allies in the Persian Gulf concerned about the international nuclear deal with Iran and upset over what they see as an American retreat from the region.

Considering one of Obama's first acts as President was to break a US promise to put missile defense against Iran in Poland and the Czech Republic I wonder whether we have much credibility anywhere with a promise of missile defense.

Cliff Thier


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Give the Baby his Bottle

by Gonen Ginat

Years ago, the following joke made the rounds in Israel: Two friends hadn't seen one another in a long time. When they met, one of them learned that the other had a baby boy.
"Is he speaking yet?" he asked.

"Yes," his friend answered. "Now we're trying to teach him how to shut up."

According to the urban legend, the child grew up, was drafted into Israel's Internal Security Agency, the Shin Bet, learned how to keep his mouth shut, climbed the ladder to the top of the organization and, a few years ago, resigned. He dreamed of being appointed by the prime minister to head the Mossad, and when he didn't get the appointment, he started talking again. And he hasn't stopped since.

Does Yuval Diskin know what he is talking about? Well, when talking about the Iranian nuclear program his experience in the area is about the same as that of a regular person reading the newspapers. The Shin Bet does not deal with the Iranian threat. Diskin has no more knowledge of how dangerous the heavy-water reactor at Arak is than your average grammar teacher.

In contrast, when it comes to the Palestinians, the head of the Shin Bet most certainly has experience. The problem is that he has a problematic motive: At the end of his term as Shin Bet chief, Diskin wanted to be appointed to lead the Mossad. He could have become the strongest person in the defense establishment. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided he preferred someone else at the Mossad's helm. The blow to Diskin did not end there: To succeed him at the Shin Bet, Netanyahu chose Yoram Cohen over Diskin's recommended candidate. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces at the time, also did not have his term extended, effectively neutralizing the power alliance of Diskin, Ashkenazi and then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, which posed a challenge to Netanyahu.

And then Diskin and his two friends saw the light and understood that Israel has two primary enemies: the Iranian nuclear threat and Benjamin Netanyahu. Not necessarily in that order. They preached that matters pertaining to Iran's nuclear ambitions should be left to U.S. President Barack Obama. This theory, meanwhile, has come crashing down. Now they need to focus on the person who had it right -- Netanyahu.

The main danger posed by Diskin's comments, similar to Dagan's comments before him, does not stem from the revelation of military secrets. The problem is with Israel losing its deterrent capability. Because what are senior Palestinian officials saying among themselves when they hear Diskin? And what are Iranian intelligence officers saying among themselves? They are scratching their heads and saying: If this is the quality of their security personnel, we'll be fine.

Gonen Ginat


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