No other way for us to be: Heads up, eyes on what matters, resolve undiminished.
But oh, is it tough these days.
I want to return to Obama’s talk of last week, to consider a couple of additional matters. He does not simply provide a position, he attacks. And his attacks are crude, devious and low:
He implied, first, that on the issue of Iran, it was the whole world against Israel. His goal – to make Israelis feel isolated, to delegitimize what he chooses to represent at “the Israeli position” rather than as the position opposing the deal.
Consider: “…because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.”
Please note the qualifier “every nation in the world that has commented publicly…” That is hugely different from saying the whole world is with him, but undoubtedly he is betting most people won’t notice.
It is regrettable in the extreme that the Sunni Arab nations, which to a one detest this Iran deal, have not been more forthright in speaking out.
This is what commentator Yoram Ettinger has just written on the subject (emphasis added):
“Irrespective of Western attempts to portray Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt as supporters of the Iran nuclear deal, leaders of these countries, especially the House of Saud, consider the accord a colossal, lethal threat. They see it as a reckless, short-sighted and self-destructive policy, which will initially plague the Arab world and subsequently the Western one, including the US…
“While Saudi leaders are restrained in their official reaction to the Iran nuclear agreement, they voice their authentic concerns and assessments via the House of Saud-owned media, which has traditionally served as a convenient venue, providing the element of deniability, sparing diplomatic inconvenience.
“During a recent visit to Capitol Hill, I was told by legislators in both chambers, on both sides of the aisle: ‘While Israel is concerned about Iran’s nuclearization, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are panicky.’
“Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, the House of Saud-appointed general manager of Al Arabiya TV and former editor-in-chief of the leading Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat, dismissed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that ‘once fully implemented, the Iran deal will contribute to the region’s long-term security.’
“According to the daily voice of the Saudi king, the ayatollah regime ‘is like a monster that was tied to a tree and has been set loose. We are on a threshold of a bloody era … expecting the worst-case scenario. … Tehran does not intend to drop its aims of regional dominance and destabilizing neighboring Arab countries. The lifting of sanctions will facilitate the transfer of funds and the purchase and shipment of arms [to terror organizations]. … Tehran will become more dangerous.’”
Consider using this, when you write to your representatives in Congress and do your letters to the editor and Internet talk-backs.
But it is not just Israel that Obama tries to isolate and delegitimize. He goes after Republicans in the same manner. As Caroline Glick pointed out in her latest column, he also said:
“It’s those [Iranian] hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.” An incredibly vile accusation.
Please do read Glick’s entire column, for she also discusses other ways in which the Iran deal will generate a danger to the US (emphasis added):
“The terrorist threat to the US emanating from Iran’s terrorist infrastructure in Latin America will rise steeply as a consequence of the nuclear deal.
”As The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote last month, the sanctions relief the deal provides to Iran will enable it to massively expand its already formidable operations in the US’s backyard. Over the past two decades, Iran and Hezbollah have built up major presences in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia.
”Iran’s presence in Latin America also constitutes a strategic threat to US national security..
“Through its naval aggression in the Strait of Hormuz Iran threatens the global economy. While the US was negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran, the Revolutionary Guards unlawfully interdicted – that is hijacked – the Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris and held its crew hostage for weeks.
”Iran’s assault on the Tigris came just days after the US-flagged Maersk Kensington was surrounded and followed by Revolutionary Guards ships until it fled the strait.
”A rational take-home message the Iranians can draw from the nuclear deal is that piracy pays.
”Their naval aggression in the Strait of Hormuz was not met by American military force, but by American strategic collapse at Vienna…
“Then there is Iran’s 20-year partnership with Al-Qaeda…”
We are seeing a growing number of Democrats in Congress who are declaring that they will vote against the Iran deal, and yet it is still not clear that numbers are sufficient to overturn Obama’s veto.
Of particular note are the declarations to stand against the deal of Congressman Eliot Engel (D- NY 16th), ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Brad Sherman (D-CA 30th), second ranking Democratic of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), currently the third most powerful Democrat in the Senate, and widely anticipated to become Senate Minority Leader in 2017.
It is because of the position of influence that Schumer has that his declaration against the deal was widely sought – the assumption was that he would bring other Senate Democrats along with him. And so, his announcement is being widely celebrated.
But I must express my unease.
Senator Schumer laid out his reasons for deciding to vote against the Iran agreement:
“Using the proponents’ overall standard — which is not whether the agreement is ideal, but whether we are better with or without it — it seems to me, when it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it.”
But then he qualified the role he would play in working for the deal’s defeat (emphasis added):
“While I will certainly share my view and try to persuade them that the vote to disapprove is the right one, in my experience with matters of conscience and great consequence like this, each member ultimately comes to their own conclusion.”
As an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily declared (emphasis added):
“Sorry, senator, not good enough. And those who support you because of your past support for Israel will know it’s not good enough.”
If he truly believes this is a bad deal – bad for America, and Israel and the Western world, and he knows he has influence, why would he not use it?
I note the difference between Schumer’s qualified statement and that of David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee. After explaining why it was decided that the deal is a bad one, Harris wrote: “Therefore, AJC opposes the deal and calls on Members of Congress to do the same.” (Emphasis added)
But, of course, David Harris does not have to contend with a disgruntled Obama in the same way Schumer does. The senator is balancing the need to keep his constituency happy so that he can be re-elected, against the need to avoid so enraging his party’s leaders that he risks his political future as the most powerful Democrat in the Senate. Schumer’s position seems a qualified one of political expediency, and not a courageous one of determined conscience.
Yes, courageous decisions of conscience are rare in politics, but these are extraordinary times calling for extraordinary courage.
Mike DeBonis, writing in the Washington Post, observed that (emphasis added):
“…his decision came not in an impassioned floor speech, not in a private entreaty to his Democratic colleagues, not even in a YouTube video, but in an written statement posted online after the Senate has gone home for its month-long summer break…
“…there is little sign thus far that Schumer himself intends to participate in a broader public relations campaign against the deal, whether by lobbying against it on Sunday talk shows or holding town hall meetings or participating in rallies during the recess. If Schumer were dead-set on killing the deal, he would have made his intentions known weeks, if not months, ago.”
I have heard the rumors: That Obama – who is making much, publicly, of Schumer’s declaration – had agreed to give him the nod to vote against the deal so that he could protect his Senate seat, as long as there seemed indication that the deal would pass in Congress without Schumer’s support. I have heard other rumors indicating that Schumer will vote against the deal when the primary resolution comes before the Senate, but will not vote to override the veto of that resolution when the second, critical vote comes up.
Explanation: Congress, after consultations and deliberations for a period of 60 days, will bring forth a resolution regarding the deal. It is understood widely that this resolution will be for rejection of the agreement (with 60 votes required in the Senate to override an anticipated filibuster). But the president will veto it, and a 2/3 super-majority of the Congress will be required to override that veto. It is this second vote that matters.
(I’ve seen reports that Schumer will vote to override the veto, but these come from spokesman Matt House – the senator himself was not clear on this in his own public statement.)
Do I know with certainty that these rumors are true? I do not. And normally I am reticent about citing unsubstantiated rumors. But the senator’s tepid position gives pause. And the issue at hand is one of overwhelming significance. I am aware that there are other reports – that Obama deliberately announced Schumer’s decision before the senator could do so himself, to undercut him, and that Obama is very angry, etc. Could be. But politicians are not adverse to play-acting.
I want to advise Schumer supporters, who have so eagerly thanked him for his declaration, to let the senator know that they are disappointed that he is not working energetically to bring other Senate Democrats along, and to make it clear that his opposition to the deal absolutely must include voting to override the veto and that they would appreciate a public statement to that effect.
It is good news that two major donors to the Democratic party have now announced against the Iran deal. Most significant is Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban. Money of the sort provided by the likes of Saban speaks very loudly. Saban said it was a “very bad deal” and said “we still need to fight it.” Right on!
Billionaire Jack Rosen has also come out against the deal. He chairs the American Jewish Congress, which has now announced against the deal as well.
I appreciate a report on the Iran situation by Major General (res.) Ya’akov Amidror, who has served in significant roles that include director of the Intelligence Analysis Division in Military Intelligence, and National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He is clear-eyed and realistic without being apocalyptic.
Amidror wrote his detailed paper for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, where he serves as a senior research fellow. The Jerusalem Post has summarized main points (emphasis added):
“[The Vienna agreement signed between world powers and Iran will] likely and necessarily lead to the use of force against Iran, at some stage or another, in order to halt its race toward a nuclear weapons program…
“It is clear that the agreement was signed in order to delay the Iranian nuclear bomb program, not to end it. And thus, when the program rears its head again it will be a problem several times more serious and far harder to deal with….
“[However] there is no cause for hysteria. The agreement will not bring about Israel’s downfall, and in the best case scenario may even buy Israel some time to better prepare for confronting the Iranian challenge. Nevertheless, the map of reality should be read correctly, and not through rose-tinted glasses… The reality facing Israel (and the world) following the signing of the agreement is significantly more threatening than before…
“The Vienna agreement has made the situation more complex and dangerous, not less so. Even if Iran completely abides by the terms of the agreement, when restrictions and sanctions come to an end fifteen years hence, it will emerge much stronger, militarily and economically. This situation will almost assuredly lead to the use of force against Iran, because Iran undoubtedly will try to produce nuclear weapons; be much better able to withstand foreign pressures; and hold significant sway across the Middle East. The conflict that will ensue will take place in conditions far worse from a Western perspective than before the agreement, pitting the West (and/or Israel) against a much-stronger Iran…
“As a basis for discussion it is important to emphasize that the Iranian nuclear program has no civilian element, and no justification other than as a military program. This is the consensus of all the international experts, some of whom will only say so privately, but most of whom are explicit in this. There is no serious expert who thinks that Iran is developing its capabilities for civilian purposes.
“On the basis of this understanding, which was accepted by the American experts as well, American policy was initially clear: the agreement should dismantle Iran’s nuclear capabilities. This was the term used by the Americans themselves. But at some stage the US decided to move from a policy aimed at dismantling Iran’s nuclear capability, to a policy aimed at delaying Iran’s ability to achieve nuclear weapons by ten to fifteen years…
“As soon as the US decided to make do with delaying Iran’s getting the bomb, by a fixed time period, then Israel was left on the outside – not because of the strained relations between the president and the prime minister, but because of significant differences of opinion. Subsequently, although the American negotiators did make use of Israeli experts, Israel was not involved in the central deliberations…
“The fact that the powers signed an agreement must not be allowed to paralyze Israel. The country’s security is at stake, and on this issue we should take the advice of the current president of the US: ‘Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself; even if the agreement makes this a more complex proposal.”
Amidror predicts that for a year or two Iran, eager for sanctions relief, will abide by the agreement.
“The removal of sanctions will allow Iran to rebuild and significantly strengthen its economy as billions will flow into Iran, even though a proportion will be lost to the dark abyss of entrenched Iranian corruption.
“The lifting of sanctions will also serve to release a great amount of Iran’s energy and money which can be redirected toward furthering its interests in the Middle East and beyond. Here, the beneficiaries will be Iran’s allies – Hezbollah, Hamas, the Alawites in Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen.”
Following this, the Iranians may decide to wait until the sunset clause kicks in after 10 – 15 years, in the meantime strengthening their knowledge or capabilities.
Or, they may begin to cheat, “initially on peripheral issues, and then as they gain confidence, on more substantial issues.”
At the same time, “the quality of intelligence about Iran will deteriorate. After a while, once it is seen that Iran is indeed keeping to the agreement, there will naturally be a slow but steady transferal of intelligence resources to other burning problems…
“The result will be potentially disastrous for the agreement.
“It is clear that Iranian cheating will not take place at the declared facilities which are under IAEA inspection, but at sites unfamiliar to the international community, whose location can only be discovered through gathering high-quality intelligence. The combination of the American concession on surprise inspections of such sites, and the inevitable decline in intelligence quality, offers an excellent foundation for successful Iranian cheating.
“The IAEA, for its part, will be as unwilling as in the past to make use of external intelligence (even when presented with it) in order to conduct non-agreed inspections of sensitive facilities, out of fear of being accused of acting as an agent of Israel or the US. Hence it will need to invest a great deal of time and effort in order to build an independent dossier that will stand up to scrutiny, which will be sufficient for it to conduct more confrontational inspections at undeclared facilities. It is difficult to see how the IAEA might develop such capabilities.”
For all of these reasons, Amidror is seriously dubious of the American claim that “a year will be sufficient in order to respond appropriately” to Iranian cheating.
“It is not difficult to imagine US intelligence staff presenting information about Iranian violations and being rebuffed by decision-makers, using learned explanations. This would continue until they provide the impossible ‘smoking gun,’ or until it is simply too late. In most similar cases intelligence services have needed more than a year from the moment at which a violation begins in order to identify it, understand it, and persuade the decision makers about it, and for these to then decide and act.”
The General talks straight and provides information and insights you likely have not seen before. His words should be considered carefully and shared broadly.
The good news for today has to do with medical developments.
A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University, Israel’s Technion, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Sheba Medical Center have discovered what causes melanoma cells to turn into aggressive tumors. The scientists are convinced that it will soon lead to a breakthrough treatment.
Dancing can treat Parkinson’s. When Professor Rafi Eldor was told that he had Parkinson’s disease, seven years ago, he felt that the sky had fallen on him. Two years later he took up dancing and now watch him dance to the theme tune of the movie “Skyfall”.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.