American Elephants


Some Days the “Information Age” Is Really Troubling by The Elephant's Child

Do we have too many aspiring reporters chasing too little real news? To much news and they can’t sort out the important from the trivial? Or only that the loons are now in charge? The “deal” that was supposed to emerge from the negotiations in Lausanne by today isn’t going to emerge so they were going to put it off for one more day, but then somebody in the White House said Eeew, tomorrow is April Fools Day. Very bad political PR, and so they decided to put the deadline off till June.

The Governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, responded promptly to the Religious Freedom kerfuffle in Indiana by banning any travel to Indiana, apparently unaware that his own state of Connecticut has long had a similar RFRA law. And nobody has bothered to read the law, but only act on others’ talking points.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, who is gay, declared religious liberty protections that exist in 30 states as “dangerous” and the sure path to a semblance of “days of segregation and discrimination marked by ‘Whites Only’ signs on shop doors, water fountains and restrooms.” RFRA simply established the balancing test that courts must apply in religious freedom cases. Which indicates only that Mr. Cook has no idea what the laws actually say, and yet Apple happily sells their products in countries where homosexuality is illegal, and is punishable with the death penalty. ISIS throws gays off the roofs of tall buildings, but they may be too busy killing people to buy iPhones.

One of Hillary’s campaign supporters came up with a list of words that may not be used in reference to Hillary because they are ‘sexist’ and got a day’s worth of attention, but Hillary is running to be the “first woman president” while emphasizing that her particular qualifications are her work for women’s rights and for girls.  Seems as if there is some disconnection here, but nevermind, she has wiped her server of anything that might be incriminating.

The Washington Post reports that by a 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restricts the nation’s nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.   Huh? What was the question?

Q: Thinking now about the situation with Iran – would you support or oppose an agreement in which the United States and other countries would lift major economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons?

Apparently unmentioned was the notion that the “best deal” would be to extend to one year the time it would take for Iran to perfect a nuclear bomb.

Mohammad Reva Naqdi, head of the Basij militia unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards turned up to reassure the world that “erasing Israel off the Map” is very much on the table on the eve of the P+5 nuclear talks, and will never be negotiated away as part of any nuclear deal with President Obama.

John Kerry, Energy Sec. Moniz and Wendy Sherman did not rise from their chairs and say, well we’ll just have to put some extremely severe sanctions back on and walk out, but offered to continue talking till June, and what else could we give up to get a deal—any deal?

Breitbart is reporting that an Iran deal has been reached after a long night session, and details are to come, or it’s not a final accord, or?

Iran under the Mullahs believes that Armageddon is much to be desired because it will ring about the return of the Mahdi, the Messiah, which will be followed by total bliss, or paradise. Yet that remains unmentioned in the ‘news’ at all.

One story contradicts the other. What is Real?

Strange Day



Man The Lifeboats, The Ship of State is Sinking by The Elephant's Child

Why Yemen Matters: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times 3/28/15

Last Thursday, the Middle East Kingdom of Saudi Arabia led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country of Yemen. And they didn’t bother to tell the White House what they were doing because they don’t trust them. Saudi and Egypt have been active in a Yemen war before, but on opposite sides. It is striking that they should join forces, not against Israel, but against Iran.

Uncertain of Obama, Arab States Gear Up for War: David Schenker and Gilad Wenig, Wall Street Journal, 3/29/15

“Few organizations boast a reputation of dysfunction comparable to the Arab League’s. Over seven decades the Arab League has distinguished itself through infighting and fecklessness. But now, with the Obama administration seen as missing in action in the Middle East, the alliance of 22 countries is undergoing a renaissance. Over the weekend, the Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and endorsed the creation of an intervention force to fight terrorism in the Middle East.

Regional backing for the force came days after a mostly Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes targeting the Iran-backed, nominally Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, who last week sacked the provisional capital of Aden and drove Yemen President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.”

Obama Admin Threatens U. S. Allies for Disagreeing with Iran Nuke Deal: Adam Kredo, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“LAUSANNE, Switzerland—Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.”

Richard Engel: Military Officials Say Allies No Longer Trust  Us, Fear Intel Might Leak to Iran: Daniel Bassali, Free Beacon, 3/27/15

“Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don’t trust the United States any more, don’t trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn’t feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that’s a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,” Engel said.

Obama’s Latest Concession Guts What’s Left of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Jonathan Tobin, Contentions 3/26/15

“The Iranians were holding their ground on yet another key point in the negotiations and, to no one’s surprise, the Obama administration is preparing to give in to them again. This time the issue is Iran’s refusal to open its facilities up to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors eager to see how much progress they’ve made on military research for the nuclear program. But instead of threatening to walk away from a process that appears on track to ending sanctions on the Islamist regime over this key point, the administration is preparing to amend the current draft of the deal to allow the Iranians several years’ leeway before they’d be required to give a full reckoning about how close they are to a bomb. What this amounts to is the West waving the white flag on effective verification of Iran’s nuclear activities. And that means that not only will Iran be able to cheat their way to a bomb, but they may very well get there even while observing the agreement that is expected to be finalized by the end of the month.”

Free Fall in the Middle East: Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest, 3/27/15

“But as President Ahab glances around his deck, few of his shipmates are manning their posts—in fact, most seem to be scrambling for the lifeboats. Oh well, there’s always that trusty tar, Unnamed State Department Official, to rely on for a friendly quote in Politico:

“There’s a sense that the only view worth having on the Middle East is the long view. […] We’ve painfully seen that good can turn to bad and bad can turn to good in an instant, which might be a sobriety worth holding on to at moments like this. The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region.”…

James Jeffrey, Obama’s former Ambassador to Iraq, cuts through the commentary on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a certain pithiness:”

“We’re in a goddamn free fall here.”



Another Fine Day in the Middle East. Terror, Killings and Destruction, and a New Civil War in Yemen. by The Elephant's Child

Yemen

To Briefly Sum Up:

On Monday, the Obama White House dismissed the Ayatollah Khamenei’s “Of course Death to America” rhetoric, telling CNN that it was just something “intended for a domestic political audience,” and thus can reasonably be ignored. Josh Earnest had just explained that such rhetoric provided even more reason for negotiating a deal with Iran.

How does that work? Iran has been proclaiming themselves an implacable enemy of America ever since 1979 and the Iranian revolution. If you think that although they are a major oil-producing state, they just want nuclear energy to keep the lights on, ask yourself why they also have been developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In spite of every effort made by the White House to prevent Bibi Netanyahu’s reelection, the Israelis gave him a significant vote of confidence and reelected him resoundingly. Obama is furious.

Obama has a bucket list of accomplishments that he expects will prove to the world that he did too deserve that Nobel Peace Prize, and go down in history as one of the greatest presidents. It’s not going too well. Getting the troops out of Iraq was a big one, and that has gone sour. Closing Guantanamo has not gone well, but he’s still determined. He’s just given in a little on getting the troops out of Afghanistan, but only till the end of the year — politely letting the Taliban know just how long they have to wait, with his usual lack of understanding of basic strategy.

He was determined to be the American president who made peace between Israel and Palestine with a two-state solution, forcing Israel to give up their borders, their safety, and their future to a bunch of terrorists supported by the peaceful state of Iran.

And now he’s determined to make a completely worthless deal with Iran, and will obviously give up anything and everything to get a deal, any deal. Iran has no intention of accepting any restraint on their activities. They have refused surprise inspections, or any inspections for which they cannot easily prepare. Since Obama reduced the sanctions, they have no reason to agree to anything. They don’t need to.

We’re told in the meantime that they could probably have a nuclear bomb within 45 days, but the UN nuclear inspectors have said that there is not much that they are actually sure of.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening the Baltic states with Russian submarine activity and a rising cruise-missile threat, Obama has been unable to find the time to meet with NATO’s new Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The new idea is that he only has time for our enemies, but not for our allies.

Stoltenberg was twice prime minister of Norway, and is well aware of increasing Russian bomber patrols that include mock attack runs on NATO members’ warships. Our nation is pledged, as a NATO member to defend other NATO members. A meeting with the prime minister might be in order, but then Obama has dumped the eastern Europe missile defense and refused to send lethal weapons to Ukraine. And Stoltenberg might remind him of America’s binding NATO pledge.

Yemen has melted down. We got our people out, but apparently left $500 million worth of advanced weapons for al Qaeda, along with secret files about U.S. counter-terrorism operations. Saudi Arabia has launched military operations against the Iran-backed Houthi Rebels in Yemen. The Royal Saudi Air Force has bombed the positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia and destroyed most of their air defenses. In a joint statement Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait will repel Houthi militias, al Qaeda and ISIS as the coup in Yemen represents a major threat to the region’s stability.



“Let’s Make a Deal” vs. “Of Course, yes, Death to America” by The Elephant's Child

436c1a3e-ef75-4fcc-8820-11966b177712We have a bit of a hiatus in the nuclear arms talks with Iran, for the Persian New Year (Nowruz) on Thursday. And then for the weekend. because President Rouhani’s mother died.

President Obama released a happy Nowruz video timed for the celebration, and urged Iran’s  people to push the regime in Tehran to agree to the “reasonable deal” that he is offering the on its nuclear weapons program.

“Iran’s leaders have a choice between two paths,” Mr. Obama says on the video. They can accept his deal, or stay on “a path that has isolated Iran, and the Iranian people, from so much of the world, caused so much hardship for Iranian families, and deprived so many young Iranians of the jobs and opportunities they deserve.”

Obama is clearly hoping that young Iranians have forgotten how in June 2009, he met their appeals for support when they were protesting the election stolen from them by then President Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. Young Iranians took to the streets in huge numbers and they were ruthlessly crushed. When the violence became too bloody to ignore, Obama did say he was “deeply troubled.” His message was not really for young people who have no influence, but about the March 31 deadline for a deal.

Supreme leader Ali Khamenei responded “Of course yes, death to America because America is the original source of this pressure. They insist on putting pressure on our dear people’s economy” he said, referring to economic sanctions aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear  program. “What is their goal? Their goal is to put the people against the system. The politics of America is to create insecurity,” he added.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that “France wants an agreement, but a robust agreement. That is to say, an accord that really guarantees that Iran can obviously have access to the civil nuclear (program.)”  “But to the atomic bomb? No.”

French diplomats have been urging their counterparts not to give in on key elements, like easing sanctions before serious progress is made, and arguing that the March 31 deadline was an “artificial” deadline.

Officials said the Obama administration is looking for a deal that commits Iran to a 40 percent cut in the numbers of centrifuges used to enrich. They want a deal that stretches the time Tehran would need to make a nuclear weapon from the present two or three months to a least a whole year.

That’s their goal?

The break-even price for Iranian oil is somewhere in the vicinity of $130 a barrel. Iran subsidizes gasoline for its citizens. How far can they go in deficit spending?

According to MEMRI, Ali Shirazi, the representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps elite Qods Force promised at a Feb. 26 ceremony attended by the families of martyrs that:

We will not rest until we have raised the banner of Islam over the White House. The Islamic nation is determined to enter the arena with all its force, backed by Allah’s will and his grace, and to stand fast against the world of arrogance. They will not suppress us with sanctions and threats. You did not succeed in harming the regime on the day it emerged, and now that the regime is 36 years old, you, the enemies of Islam, must expect and realize that every day [you] will be beaten, across the world.

Myron Magnet, City Journal’s editor-at-large reminds us of the history of Jimmy Carter ‘s dealings with Iran, and offers another historical remembrance:

So now President Obama wants to make an agreement that will ensure that Iran can produce an atom bomb essentially overnight. He has not seen fit to explain his reasoning to the American people, and it is hard to imagine what it might be. But all I can think of is Churchill’s rebuke to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain when he returned from his infamous appeasement of Hitler in Munch in 1938. “You were given the choice between war and dishonor,” Churchill thundered in Parliament. “You chose dishonor, and you will have war.” Certainly President Obama is choosing dishonor. What kind of war he might unleash, the world watches with dread.

In an important Wall Street Journal piece, Douglas Feith adds:

Iranian leaders have a long record of shameless dishonesty. Their aid to the tyrannical Assad regime has been massive since the Syrian civil war began, but they routinely deny it. And they make a practice of lying to United Nations weapons inspectors. Commenting on how the inspectors have repeatedly been surprised by what Iran hides, Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, told this newspaper in 2013, “If there is no undeclared installation today . . . it will be the first time in 20 years that Iran doesn’t have one.”



The World Crisis of a Nuclear Iran: They May Already Be There. by The Elephant's Child

Iran-Military-Chief-AP

Here’s your chilling paragraph for today:

Suspected for years of plotting to dismantle the U.S. electric grid, American officials have confirmed that Iranian military brass have endorsed a nuclear electromagnetic pulse explosion that would attack the country’s power system.

American defense experts made the discovery while translating a secret Iranian military handbook, raising new concerns about Tehran’s recent nuclear talks with the administration.

In the article was a link to the website of Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) with the headline “Franks Launches Caucus to Address EMP Threat, Introduces “SHIELD Act,” which seemed a positive step, but then I noticed the date was February 16, 2011 — 5 years ago!

So I went to the congressman’s website, and apparently he has just introduced another bill, “encouraged by last year’s unanimous House vote.” So was this one of those bills that Harry Reid tabled to be sure no one had a chance to vote for it? As with all congressional offices, they don’t want to hear from you if you don’t live in their district.

A further search turned up an article written by Dr. Peter Vincent Fry, Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both Congressional Advisory Boards. Senior advisers to President Reagan warned that Iran has nuclear capability already:

“Iran should be regarded by national security decision makers as a nuclear missile state capable of posing an existential threat to the United States and its allies.”

“Iran has orbited four satellites, some weighing over one ton, demonstrating it can deliver a nuclear weapon anywhere. Iran has been secretly working on nuclear weapons for over twenty (20) years.

…The IAEA has also repeatedly warned that it has only partial access to Iran’s nuclear program and does not know what is going on in several underground facilities suspected of nuclear weapons development. …

Thus, Iran with a small number of nuclear missiles can by EMP attack threaten the existence of modernity and be the death knell for Western principles of international law, humanism and freedom.  For the first time in history, a failed state like Iran could destroy the most successful societies on Earth and convert an evolving benign world order into world chaos.”

Barbarism, he says, can triumph over civilization without war. The capability to make an EMP attack, means Iran can inflict Assured Destruction on the United States using a single warhead, cancels all the credibility of U.S. security guarantees. Iran with nuclear missiles is a world crisis comparable to Islamic conquests during the Dark Ages, the rise of Nazi Germany, or the Soviet threat during the Cold War.

It’s a long article, but you should read the whole thing. And  you might do what you can to get your congressional representatives moving on this. Iran does not need an agreement. Why are they stringing the president along?



President Obama is not Commander in Chief of Foreign Policy by The Elephant's Child

Alan M. Dershowitz wrote this week that  “Politicians should stop referring to the President of the United States as the Commander in Chief. And Barack Obama frequently refers to himself in those terms. Mr. Dershowitz has tried to clarify the situation:

But the president is not the Commander-in-Chief for purposes of diplomatic negotiations. This characterization mistakenly implies that President Obama — or any president — is our Commander, and that his decisions should receive special deference. This is a misreading of our constitution, which creates a presidency that is subject to the checks and balances of co-equal branches of the government. The president is only the commander in chief of “the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.” This provision was intended to assure civilian control over the military and to serve as a check on military power.

The only people he is empowered to command are soldiers, sailors and members of the militia — not ordinary citizens.

This important limitation on the president’s power is highly relevant to the current debate about Congress having the authority to check the president’s decision to make the deal that is currently being negotiated with Iran. The Constitution is clear about this. The President is not the Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s foreign policy. When he is involved in “high-stakes international diplomacy,” his involvement is not as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, but rather as negotiator-in-chief, whose negotiations are subject to the checks and balances of the other branches.

As President, he cannot even declare war, though he can decide how a war should be fought after Congress declares it. He cannot make a treaty without the approval of 2/3 of the Senate. He cannot appoint Ambassadors without the consent of the Senate. And he cannot terminate sanctions that were imposed by Congress, without Congress changing the law. Were he the “Commander-in-Chief” of our country — as Putin is of Russia or as Ali Khamenei is of Iran — he could simply command that all of these things be done. But our Constitution separates the powers of government — the power to command — into three co-equal branches. The armed forces are different: power is vested in one commander-in-chief.

A president is the head of the executive branch, one of three co-equal branches. As head of the executive branch, he can negotiate treaties, agreements and other bilateral deals, but Congress has a say in whether to approve what the president has negotiated. If the deal constitutes a “treaty” within the meaning of the constitution, then it requires a formal ratification by congress. Executive agreements can be undone. Any impression that the president alone can make an enforceable and enduring deal with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program is incorrect.

Alan M. Dershowitz is a Professor of Law emeritus from Harvard Law, and a frequent commenter on matters legal and constitutional.

 



Much of the World Envies Free Democratic Elections In Israel. by The Elephant's Child

We take regular elections for granted, as do most countries in the West, as does Israel, even if we find their multitude of political parties more confusing than enlightening. But in the Middle East many were envious that it even took place. Remember triumphant Iraqi’s holding aloft their purple-stained fingers to show that they had voted, and how the votes cast by Iraqi women shook the Middle East?

Evelyn Gordon writing at Contentions raises the issue:”Nowhere was this truer than among Palestinians who haven’t had an election in 10 years—not because Israel is preventing them from doing so, but because their own leadership is. And anyone who actually cares about the peace process ought to be far more worried by the Palestinian elections that didn’t happen than by the outcome of the Israeli one that did.”

A veteran Palestinian journalist from Ramallah summed up the prevailing sentiment succinctly. “We say all these bad things about Israel, but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy,” he told Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh before the election. “We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don’t want elections. They want to remain in office forever.”

Ghanem Nuseibeh, an East Jerusalem Palestinian now living in Britain, put out an illuminating series of tweets throughout Election Day, including, “Over a million Arabs take part in Middle East’s most democratic elections today”; “The Arabs in Israel are the only Middle East Arab group that practices true democracy”; and “Israel is secure not because it will elect Bibi or Buji, but because of what it is doing today.” He was rooting for Isaac Herzog (“Buji”) and deplored Benjamin Netanyahu, but after acknowledging that his candidate had lost, he nevertheless tweeted, “Israel is the world’s most vibrant democracy” …. “If an Arab country had the same wide spectrum of political parties as Israel does, it would be fighting a civil war unseen in human history.”

Astoundingly, even Hamas in Gaza issued numerous tweets urging Israeli Arabs to vote for the Arab parties’ Joint List. One can only imagine what Gaza residents must have felt at seeing Hamas urge Palestinian Israelis to exercise a right Palestinians in Gaza are denied by their own Hamas-run government.

Evelyn Gordon adds: “If Western leaders are serious about wanting Israeli-Palestinian peace, working to rectify; the lack of Palestinian democracy would be far more productive than wringing their hands over the choices made by Israel’s democracy.”

The media is incorrectly trumpeting that Mr. Netanyahu said he wasn’t interested in any peace process or two-state solution with the Palestinians. He said not right now. When the Palestinians quit shooting rockets and making suicide attacks on Israel policy, and are willing to recognize the Israeli state, then they would be interested. in a two-state solution.

Gaza-v-Israel-copy

(Click to enlarge)




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