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



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.”



Obama: “Iran Can Be A Successful Regional Power” by The Elephant's Child

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President Obama, in his most direct response to the Republicans about their open letter to Iran, said that he’s “embarrassed for them.”

”For them to address a letter to the ayatollah — the supreme leader of Iran, who they claim is our mortal enemy — and their basic argument to them is: don’t deal with our president, because you can’t trust him to follow through on an agreement… That’s close to unprecedented,” he said in an interview with VICE News.

Back in 2008, the Bush administration, along with the “six powers” was negotiating with Iran about their country’s nuclear arms program. The Bush administration’s objective was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On July 20, the headline in the New York Times read “Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock.” According to the Times, Iran responded with a written document that did not even address the main issue — demands that it stop enriching uranium. Iranian diplomats considered the issue nonnegotiable.

On June 3, Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination. At some point around that date, but before the election, he secretly let the Iranians know that he would be easier to bargain with than the current president. Michael Ledeen reported on it in August:

The actual strategy is detente first, and then a full alliance with Iran throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It has been on display since before the beginning of the Obama administration. During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign. …

The central theme in Obama’s outreach to Iran is his conviction that the United States has historically played a wicked role in the Middle East, and that the best things he can do for that part of the world is to limit and withdraw American military might and empower our self-declared enemies, whose hostility to traditional American policies he largely shares.

So in the face of Iran’s struggle to obtain nuclear weapons, and the depredations of ISIS in the Middle East, Obama’s core strategy is to create a U.S.−Iranian alliance that makes Tehran the major regional power and leaves America as a friendly adviser. Assuming that we still exist after Iran develops nuclear weapons. Did you know that Iran has a major national holiday called “Death to America Day?” We have Christmas and the Glorious Fourth, they have “Death to America Day” celebrated on the day they took fifty-two American diplomats and citizens hostage, November 4, 1979, whom they held for 444 days.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described his country’s diplomacy with the United States as an active “jihad” that is just as significant to Tehran’s advancement as the slew of new weapons and missiles showcased by the Islamic Republic’s military.

Rouhani praised the country’s military leaders for standing “against the enemy on the battlefield” and said as president, he would carry out this “jihad” on the diplomatic front.

Why does Mr. Obama assume that when Iranians have made their triumph over America into a national holiday, that they don’t mean it? The Shiia believe that the return of the hidden imam will bring about Armageddon followed by heavenly bliss for believers.

Foreign Minister Jarad Zarif said that Iran is the winner, whether the negotiations yield results or not. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that cannot be retaken.”
Dignity and self-esteem come from sitting down at the same table to negotiate with the Great Satan America and the other major countries. To the people who were once the most advanced civilization in the world and controlled a vast empire and have fallen so far behind, that is a very big deal indeed. Not likely to be satisfied with minding the Middle East  and being “advised” by America.

ADDENDUM: Here are some links to articles about Iran that may help a little in trying to understand what is going on.

“Trust Iran Only As Far as You Can Throw It” by Michael Weiss @ Foreign Policy.com

“Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy” by Michael Doran in Mosaic

The Obama-Khamenei alliance” by Michael Ledeen in The Hill

“Obama’s Inner Nixon”by Michael Ledeen at PJMedia.

Follow Michael Ledeen at PJMedia. He writes often about Iran and the Middle East, and is deeply knowledgeable.



Iran Proceeds Resolutely On It’s Way, Ignoring the Talks. by The Elephant's Child

AP080923010567 Iran on Sunday unveiled their new cruise missile that it claimed would extend the Islamic Republic’s potential range to 2,500 kilometers, placing cities like Budapest, Warsaw and Athens within striking difference. Their intercontinental ballistic missiles are not part of the nuclear talks with Iran, we are told. Tehran has refused to include their growing missile-development program as part of the negotiations. It is not any part of the deal, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded us last week in his speech to Congress.

The Soumar missile, as it is known in Iran, is a copy of the Soviet Kh-55 which was stolen from the Ukraine in 2001 and apparently reverse engineered in Iran. It flies at low altitude and is thus hard for radar to detect. The payload is reportedly in the 200-kilogram range, not yet capable of delivering a nuclear device. It does, however raise the question of U.S. plans to station missile defense systems in Europe. Russia has long contended that Iranian missiles threaten neither Europe nor the U.S.. This is an interesting development, if it was taken without Russian consent.

Back when he as a mere candidate, Barack Obama said that diplomacy with rogue regimes was an important issue “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them… is ridiculous,’ he declared in 2007. “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” he told Al-Arabiya. He has been so determined on a deal that he hasn’t let anything stand in the way — not Congress, not our allies, and especially not the facts.

Unfortunately, the State Department does not conduct after-action reports, forcing participants to confront their mistakes, like the Army does. The State Department has no clear metrics for such measurement. Michael Rubin notes that:

Too many American diplomats dismiss the need to consider mistakes. Instead, many are committed to the belief that talking is a cost-free, risk-free strategy. Testifying before the Senate in support of Obama’s outreach to Iran, Nicholas Burns, the second undersecretary of state for foreign affairs under George W. Bush, promised, “We will be no worse off if we try diplomacy and fail.”

We project our American understandings onto other countries with different cultures — who see entering into discussions as a weak response, and lifting the sanctions as complete surrender. Ignorance of an adversary’s true intentions can kill. Obama seems to believe that Iranians are reasonable people who really want the same things we do. Obama’s foolish rush into a deal with Iran would be disastrous.

Every U.S. administration has attempted to bring Iran into the family of nations in spite of its rhetoric and in spite of its actions. It’s hard for nations who yearn for peace to understand those that yearn for the apocalypse. In the  year before Obama agreed to talks with Iran, the Iranian economy had shrunk by 5.4 percent. To bring them to the table, Obama has released more than $11 billion to Iran. The only two times Iran has reversed course after swearing to a course of no compromises have been when Iran was close to collapse. Michael Rubin says — Only one thing will deter Iran: “forcing the regime to choose between its nuclear ambition and its survival.” Pretending to delay them for ten years is pathetic.

Does Obama think his deal will deter Iran? Does he believe that ten years will let him off the hook? Or does he simply have no understanding of the consequences of his actions nor consider the possibility that he might indeed be wrong.



Congress Is Supposed to Meddle in the Iran Talks. That’s Their Job. by The Elephant's Child

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Put aside the overheated spat about the wisdom of inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress this week. The deeper constitutional issue involves the insistence by President Barack Obama that the House and Senate have no business floating sanctions bills that might upset the administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. The truth is that there’s nothing remotely unusual going on. Congress has pressured presidents to change their approaches to foreign policy for as long as the country has existed. This sort of interplay among the branches is exactly what the Framers expected.

This is Stephen L Carter, writing for Bloomberg last Thursday. Do read the whole thing. It’s particularly nice to see a professor of law, once again, clarifying the relationship between the executive office and Congress. The people often complain that Congress just seems to fight. Why can’t they just get along, and get stuff done?

Nancy Pelosi supposedly fumed about Congress’s “insult” to the president by inviting Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress. Congress does not have to ask the permission of the president to invite anyone they want to speak to them, and Ms. Pelosi knows that perfectly well.

Congress has not only the right to disagree with the President, but it is their duty when they believe he’s off on the wrong track. The founders intended for Congress to debate and fight and expose all sides of the questions before them. Laws are not to be made by presidents, that’s Congress’s job, and laws are not to be made in haste but after the problems have been hashed out to the extent possible.

Professor Carter cites numerous recent examples that make it clear that struggles between the legislative and executive branches have occurred “over how to deal with everything from attacks on U.S. ships by the Barbary states to Russian expansionism in North America.”

This unambiguous history makes it all the more remarkable that members of the Obama administration continue to insist that there is something constitutionally troubling about, for example, the proposed Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015, which would require the president to submit for congressional approval whatever agreement he reaches with Tehran. “I don’t think there ought to be a formal approval process,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in congressional testimony last month. “I believe this falls squarely within the executive power of the president of the United States in the execution of American foreign policy.”…

We can argue long and hard over the proper contours of the final deal with Tehran. But it’s wrong to suggest that Congress is misbehaving when it insists on protecting its prerogatives. Battles between the executive and legislative branches over foreign policy are as old as the republic. If the outcome of the current fight is a restriction on the freedom of this or a future president to go his own way, that’s a feature, not a bug.

Stephen L.Carter is a professor of law at Yale University, who teaches courses on contracts, professional responsibility, ethics in literature, intellectual property, and the law and ethics of war, and writes good thrillers as well.



Obama’s Lies And Misrepresentations Have Invited Chaos. by The Elephant's Child

Resident boy Adeel, 8, plays in front of the compound where U.S. Navy SEAL commandos reportedly killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad

Documents seized in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan directly contradict what we have been told by the Obama Administration. There was one story designed to influence the 2012 election with a view of bin Laden as dead, his network decimated and terror in the world receding due to the efforts of Barack Obama.

The nation was riveted when the early-morning mission of May 2, 2011 was revealed, sending a small team of military and intelligence professionals into the mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan that held the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The assignment was to capture or kill bin Laden and gather as much intelligence as possible about bin Laden and his terrorist network. Bin Laden was killed with a shot to the head, and the Sensitive Site Exploitation efficiently went to work:

It was quite a haul: 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cellphones. There were DVDs, audio and video tapes, data cards, reams of handwritten materials, newspapers and magazines. At a Pentagon briefing days after the raid, a senior military intelligence official described it as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”

An interagency team led by the CIA did a hasty scrub on a small portion of the documents and produced more than 400 reports based on the information in the documents. They had the al Qaeda playbook. What happened next was stunning. Nothing. Analysis stopped, Documents were untouched.

In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”

The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.

The trouble with that story was that it simply was not true. It was Obama’s preferred scenario, and the one he wanted to deal with, not the one that was a true threat that he might have to actually do something about. Do read the whole thing. It’s an excellent column by Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn on the status of al Qaeda. It is behind a subscription paywall at the Wall Street Journal or can be accessed at Google here.

One of the pillars of Obama’s campaign for reelection was that he had essentially decimated al Qaeda, the terror network was on the path to complete defeat.  He described them as ‘decimated’ or ‘on the path to defeat’ something like 32 times.  To date, the public has seen only two dozen of the 1.5 million documents captured in Abbottabad.

The fight over the documents continues, for the contents are directly relevant to today’s challenges from the Iran nuclear deal to the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the rise of Boko Haram, and the trustworthiness of senior Pakistani officials.

Here General Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, that President Barack Obama’s “policies have failed” and allowed al Qaeda to “grow fourfold in the last five years.” A video is available at the link.

Keane said, “As you can see on the map, al Qaeda and its affiliates exceeds Iran and is beginning to dominate multiple countries. In fact, al-Qaeda has grown fourfold in the last five years. Third, the Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS, is an outgrowth from al-Qaeda in Iraq which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS emerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012.”

“Is it possible to look at that map in front of you and claim that the United States policy and strategy is working? Or that al-Qaeda is on the run? It is unmistakable that our policies have failed,” he added.

Daniel Greenfield writes of “Our Crucial Choice of the War on Terror.” He says “There are two models for fighting terrorism. We can see the terrorists as an external invading force that has to be destroyed or as an internal element in our society to be managed.”




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