American Elephants


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.



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

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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)



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 Has Declared Victory in Its Contest With the West. by The Elephant's Child

Iran minister says sanctions must be lifted before nuclear agreement “Iran’s foreign minister and chief negotiator in the nuclear talks with the West declared victory for his country, stating that no matter how the negotiations end, Tehran has come out “the winner,” according to remarks made on Tuesday and presented in the country’s state-run press.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to the country’s Assembly of Experts, declaring that the nuclear negotiations have established Tehran as a global power broker.

“We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not,” Zarif was quoted as saying before the assembly by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”

I’m not sure that this is what President Obama has in mind as ‘his legacy.’

When the world’s most powerful nations began their effort to negotiate away Iran’s nuclear program in 2003, the Islamic Republic had 130 centrifuges. These machines convert uranium into a form that can set off a chain reaction. That chain reaction in turn can either create nuclear energy or be set off to explode the most destructive bomb the world has ever seen. By November 2013, when Iran reached a so-called interim accord with the United States and other nations to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the relaxation of tough sanctions, the Islamic Republic had deployed nearly 20,000 centrifuges.

Estimates suggest those centrifuges could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in as little as 45 days—the so-called breakout period. They have already generated a stockpile of low-enriched uranium sufficient to produce as many as seven nuclear bombs. Some believe that Iran could convert a bomb’s worth of uranium into the payload of a crude nuclear device in perhaps a few months.

Negotiators could not reach a final deal by the initial November 2014 deadline, so extensions were devised. The new deadline comes at the end of June. Press reports and administration statements are providing us with a picture of what America and the other nations in the negotiations are now hoping to achieve. They are trying to use various technical means and human oversight to slow down Iran’s breakout time from a few months to one year and ensure that a deal lasts at least a decade. In exchange for these concessions, they appear ready to enshrine Iran as a threshold nuclear state.

This is what President Obama has in mind as his legacy. All the concessions fit a long-term pattern. “If a nuclear deal is imminent, that is largely because over the past 13 years of on and off negotiations, the great powers of the world have slowly gut surely given in to Iran’s demands. …Instead of ending the threat of Iranian nuclearization, negotiators have apparently limited their ambitions to an attempt to regulate it.” Instead of a “legacy” this can be more accurately called wishful thinking.

The core factor for the past 13 years has been the desire to avoid military confrontation at all costs — and especially during the Obama administration — the fear of even threatening it. With no credible threat, you get nothing, a pretend agreement, collapse, doesn’t matter. You can guess what the Obama response is —Bush’s fault. He left us with no options. Sorry, a president is confronted with the problems that exist. They don’t disappear by blaming your predecessor. You have to deal with what is, not cowardly kick the can on down the road. To understand the three-pronged strategies involved, read the whole thing here. It is an important discussion. As the administration lifted the sanctions, Iran, now able to support its nuclear program again, had refused to reduce its nuclear capacity. We now have no leverage, we gave it all away.

There are those among the Iran Watchers  who believe that the negotiations have worked and a deal could lead to “a more engaged Iran.” Obama’s goal of reconciliation has been constant. He ignored the Green Revolution in favor of a new relationship with Iran that would define regional order and speak to the brilliance of the Obama presidency.

On the other hand, the Green Revolution indicated that ordinary Iranians are not all that happy with the leadership of the Mullahs. Did we ignore that at our peril? I don’t know. The IAEA record with nuclear proliferation is — North Korea, Pakistan and India — all a surprise when they became nuclear states. Iran works closely with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs.

The Middle East is a hotbed of clashing religious beliefs, including small sects currently being eliminated by ISIS. There is, however, a special danger in the Shiite doctrine held by the leaders of Iran. The return of the hidden Imam will bring the war that ends the world and creates heavenly bliss for believers. Bernard Lewis, America’s leading expert in Mideast Studies, wrote that during the Cold War, Mutual Assured Destruction was a deterrent that worked. Today it is an inducement.

James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said:

Iran now is either very close to being able to field a nuclear weapon or it should be regarded as already having that capability. …

Consequently, even one nuclear warhead detonated at orbital altitude over the United States would black out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for months or years by means of the electromagnetic pulse it would create. The Congressional EMP Commission assessed that a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill nine of 10 Americans through starvation and societal collapse. Islamic State-like gangs would rule the streets.

Just such a scenario is described in Iranian military documents.

I have no sense that the Obama administration has even considered such possibilities. The Arab nations are deeply worried.




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