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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We find it astonishing how not even the Alternate Media sees the whole picture. The Glenn Greenwald following article is surely a great further contribution to his efforts to open hidden content – but even he missed a more up-to date point – the fact that January 27, 2015 happens to be the date much of Europe commemorates the freeing 70 years ago, January 27, 1945, of the Auschwitz death camp by the Russian Army. Simply put – even at the UN – January 27 is HMD – Holocaust Memorial Day while quite a few Muslim/Islamic States are effectively Holocaust deniers something outlawed in civilized States. I am just not sure where the Saudis present and past stand on this issue.

Many European leaders will be at Auschwitz that day but Putin will not be there. Oh well – he just was not invited by the Poles! Now come the news that President Obama will be in Ryadh! Ryadh of all places? A town where Jews are not allowed even as tourists – in 2015?

We did not condemn President Obama for not going to the Paris reunion of Heads of State after the ISIS/AQAP attacks on that Jewish supermarket and Charlie Hebdo. We felt that he was right to let the Europeans deal with this by themselves – rather then make a token appearance – but Auschwitz is just another matter. It was the US that took on the responsibility to save Europe from itself, and at that time the World at large as well. And that is something that calls for the US participation at highest level at this 70th commemoration that happens to be when the World is threatened again – and this time by Islamic fanatics – and don’t forget it – that started out in Saudi Arabia – and the White House and Congress choices seem all wrong.
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So far we read that Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck, France President Francois Hollande, King Willem-Alexander of the Niederlands and Queen Maxima, Crown Princess Viktoria of Schweden, and Crown Prince Haakon von Norway are among the Heads of State that are going to Auschwitz for the January 27, 2015 memorial. Then the announcement that President Obama and Vice-President Biden go to Ryadh. President Obama even shortened his all-important trip to India to pass on the way back through Ryadh. This seemingly detours now also President Hollande and Prime Minister Cameron who seemingly will switch from going to Auschwitz and go to Ryadh instead. Oh well – this smells of oil. Today this means that the new Saudi King will be asked to reciprocate by continuing the policy of cheap oil that hurts mainly Iran and Russia while being a boon to short-sighted industrial economies.

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It seems like somebody had an after-thought in the White House – and voila:

The White House – Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2015
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to Attend the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Oswicim, Poland, to attend the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 2015.

The Honorable Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation:

The Honorable Stephen D. Mull, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Poland, Department of State

The Honorable Crystal Nix-Hines, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Department of State

The Honorable David Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Department of State

Dr. Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Council

Mr. Nicholas Dean, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Department of State

Ms. Aviva Sufian, Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services, Department of Health and Human Services

Mr. Israel Arbeiter, Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor

Mrs. Irene Weiss, Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor

Mr. David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

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But this is a Jewish delegation headed by the White House Jewish appointee – this is not the political delegation that the hour demands. Why is the trip to the family of the Tyrant King more important to President Obama and then – seemingly also Congress – did not yet think of sending someone to the Auschwitz Memorial?

————

Another e-mail we just got is from Antony Beevor of the Guardian
–  www.theguardian.com/commentisfree…he tells us that Putin does not go to the Auschwitz Memorial because the Poles did not invite him – and this is a terrible mistake of the Europeans – to let the Poles take such a stand.

The note starts: “Why Vladimir Putin should be at the Auschwitz memorial ceremony.
We should forget neither the Soviet Union’s role in liberating the camps nor its antisemitic blind spots.”

It continues: “On 27 January 1945 a reconnaissance patrol from the Soviet 107th Rifle Division emerged from the snow-laden forest 70km west of Kraków. The soldiers were mounted on shaggy ponies, their submachine guns slung across their backs. In front of them stood Auschwitz-Birkenau, the grimmest symbol of modern history. Officers gazed around in disbelief, then called in medical teams to care for the 3,000 sick prisoners left behind.

It is a great shame that Vladimir Putin, having not been invited, won’t be present at a memorial ceremony next week to mark the 70th anniversary – at the very least, it would have reminded the world that the advance of Stalin’s Red Army forced the SS to abandon the extermination camps in the east. And yet the muted row over the Russian president’s absence is a reminder that this particular chapter in Russia’s second world war history was, and remains, full of contradictions.

. The first death camp to be liberated by the Red Army was Majdanek just outside Lublin, in July 1944. The novelist and war correspondent Vasily Grossman was on the spot with the 8th Guards Army, which had defended Stalingrad, but an order came down that he was not to cover the story. The job was given instead to Konstantin Simonov, a favourite of the regime, who managed to avoid mentioning that any of the victims in Majdanek were Jewish. Grossman, despite warnings from his friend Ilya Ehrenburg, had been slow to believe that antisemitism could exist within the Soviet hierarchy during the death struggle with Nazism. But in 1943 he had noticed that any reference to Jewish suffering was being cut from his articles. He wrote to complain to Aleksandr Shcherbakov, the chief of the Red Army political department. Shcherbakov replied: “The soldiers want to hear about [Russian military hero of the Napoleonic era] Suvorov, but you quote [German 19th-century poet] Heine”. Grossman joined Ehrenburg on the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to chronicle Nazi crimes, unaware of how dangerous this might prove to be. Several of their colleagues were murdered by the secret police.

Certain truths about the Shoah could never be published in the Sovet Union. When Grossman wrote about the extermination camp of Treblinka, he could not reveal that the auxiliary guards were mostly Ukrainian. Collaboration with the enemy was a taboo subject since it undermined the rhetoric of the Great Patriotic War.


As the end of the war approached, controls became even stricter. Auschwitz may have been liberated at the end of January 1945, but no details were released until the final victory in May. The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee soon found that its work was in direct opposition to the party instruction: “Do not divide the dead!” Jews were not to be seen as a special category of suffering. They were to be described only as citizens of the USSR and Poland. Thus in a way Stalin was the first Holocaust denier, even if his antisemitism was not quite the same as that of the Nazis. It was probably based more on a xenophobic suspicion of international connections than on racial hatred.

Soviet propaganda, while designating those killed at Auschwitz in collectively anonymous terms as “victims of fascism”, also portrayed the extermination camp as the ultimate capitalist factory, where the workers were murdered when no longer useful.

And there was a further twist away from the truth. The Stalinists emphasised how many Poles had died there to distract attention from their own crimes against the Polish people, both following the Red Army’s unprovoked invasion in 1939 under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and its brutal occupation from 1944. They portrayed Auschwitz as the place of martyrdom for the Polish nation. By talking only of the Polish Catholics who had died there, they hoped that the Poles might focus any anger at their bitter fate entirely against Germany and not against the Soviet Union.

Few Poles were taken in during those postwar years of Soviet oppression. And now Putin’s ill-disguised attempts to reassert Russian control over Ukraine have of course reminded the Polish people all too clearly of what Soviet “liberation” meant for them in 1945. It is not therefore surprising that we should be seeing a certain amount of diplomatic shadow-boxing in the background, while both sides insist everything is normal.

The Kremlin is pretending not to have been snubbed by the fact that President Putin has not been asked to the commemoration event; meanwhile, the Polish government insists it was not issuing formal invitations. The Auschwitz international committee, which includes a Russian representative, was simply asking each government who would be representing them.

Putin made a speech at Auschwitz 10 years ago on the 60th anniversary, and no doubt he will again proclaim in Moscow on 9 May – Russia’s Victory Day – that the Red Army’s defeat of “the fascist beast” saved Europe from Nazi slavery. {and we think he is right to claim that but this is obviously only a half truth as the Soviets did in effect exchange one slavery for another.}

But those countries, especially Poland and the Baltic states, that experienced the ensuing 40 years of Communist dictatorship glance nervously now east once more.

Russia, obsessed for centuries by a fear of encirclement and surprise attack, has always felt justified in dominating its “near abroad”. It was Stalin’s shock at Hitler’s invasion in 1941, and his consequent determination to create a defensive cordon, that led to the cold war. Putin, fortunately, is a very pale imitation of his hero.

• Antony Beevor’s next book, Ardennes – 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble, is out in May 2015.

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AND THE VIEW FROM THE ALTERNATE MEDIA THAT GOT US INTERESTED IN THIS – WHY INDEED DID PRESIDENT OBAMA AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS NOT CHOSE TO GO TO OSWIECIM (Auschwitz-Birkenau) AND ARE GOING TO RYADH INSTEAD? This being written after reading next story:


Glenn Greenwald | Compare and Contrast: Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chavez

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 24 January 2015

Greenwald writes: “The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch.”

Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela four times from 1998 through 2012 and was admired and supported by a large majority of that country’s citizens, largely due to his policies that helped the poor. King Abdullah was the dictator and tyrant who ran one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch. My Intercept colleague Murtaza Hussain has an excellent article about this whole spectacle, along with a real obituary, here.

I just want to focus on one aspect: a comparison of the statements President Obama issued about the 2013 death of President Chávez and the one he issued today about the Saudi ruler. Here’s the entire Obama statement about Chávez (h/t Sami Khan):

Statement covering the reaction from President Obama regarding the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (photo: The Guardian)

Statement covering the reaction from President Obama regarding the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (photo: The Guardian)

One obvious difference between the two leaders was that Chávez was elected and Abdullah was not. Another is that Chávez used the nation’s oil resources to attempt to improve the lives of the nation’s most improverished while Abdullah used his to further enrich Saudi oligarchs and western elites. Another is that the severity of Abdullah’s human rights abuses and militarism makes Chávez look in comparison like Gandhi.

But when it comes to western political and media discourse, the only difference that matters is that Chávez was a U.S. adversary while Abdullah was a loyal U.S. ally – which, by itself for purposes of the U.S. and British media, converts the former into an evil villainous monster and the latter into a beloved symbol of peace, reform and progress. As but one of countless examples: last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron – literally the best and most reliable friend to world dictators after Tony Blair – stood in Parliament after being questioned by British MP George Galloway and said: “there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway]”; last night, the very same David Cameron pronounced himself “deeply saddened” and said the Saudi King would be remembered for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”

That’s why there is nobody outside of American cable news, DC think tanks, and the self-loving Oxbridge clique in London which does anything but scoff with scorn and dark amusement when the US and UK prance around as defenders of freedom and democracy. Only in those circles of tribalism, jingoism and propaganda is such tripe taken at all seriously.

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And Some of the Comments:

+37 # wrknight 2015-01-24 10:53
Democracy has never been a factor in determining whether a nation and its ruler are allies or enemies of the U.S.. All that matters is whether or not the ruler of that country allows U.S. Corporations to exploit their resources and/or their people.

Witness the fact that the U.S. has engineered the overthrow of numerous democratically elected presidents, while simultaneously supporting numerous ruthless dictators. The difference? The “allies” opened their markets to U.S. Corporate exploitation while the “enemies” put constraints on U.S. Corporations, nationalized U.S. Corporate assets or closed their markets entirely.

The pattern is consistent throughout U.S. history, is easily verified, and clearly tells who really dictates U.S. foreign policy.

+17 # reiverpacific 2015-01-24 11:22

So when has the US EVER NOT supported or imposed upon other nations trying to establish Democracy, a feudalist, regressive, violent or right-wing death-squad-enf orced regime, before but figuratively starting with Mossadegu’s Iran in 1953, Arbenz’s Guatemala in 1954 and almost annually since, most recently supporting the Oligarchy-drive n removal of Zelaya in Honduras, whilst high-handedly proclaiming it’s superiority, democracy and exceptionalism worldwide (for exceptionalism, substitute “‘Cause we can and if you don’t like it, we’ll do it to you too”, or “selective self-definition”).

I’m glad that Greenwald brought this up but unfortunately, the US owner-media will probably just ignore it all. In this case though, I can’t imagine even the average American somnambulistic infotainment-in formed citizen shedding any tears for this “Sheik of Arabee” leader of the oppressive Wahabist interpreters of much-abused Islam, whilst “Chop-chop square” continues as #1 public entertainment in Riyadh.

Very disappointing from Obama: I’d have expected it from Dimwits/Cheney after these revolting photos of Shrub the dumbest holding hands with the Royal Petroleum-pumpe rs, wielding a scimitar but being a lifelong incurious, clueless pinhead about the world in general.

None of them were fit to wipe Chavez’s boots!
This is proof, if any were needed, that much of International Diplomacy is forked-tongue bullshit and hypocrisy.
Good job Mr. Greenwald!

+2 # cordleycoit 2015-01-24 11:50

One has to be careful licking depots boots, Blood carries a price on the boot licker’s health. Mr. Chavez was not blameless as a leader. Of course the king shed rivers of blood to appease religious bigots men women it didn’t matter. Obama gets to supplicate to the late butcher.

+5 # Guy 2015-01-24 12:21
Nauseating is the most accurate wording for this behavior in the West .I can’t believe what I am seeing .A severe case of blindness has affected the Western view of reality.

+4 # Anonymot 2015-01-24 12:25
Well observed. Thanks.

What everyone has forgotten or never knew was how and why Abdulazis and his family became so rich. They were not poor, ever. Then came who? Richard Nixon! Wha?

After his successful re-election in 11/1973 Nixon owed a great debt to Texas oilmen who had financed his campaign. They wanted an oil pipeline from Alaska. I remember it as in the State Of The Union address, Jan. 1973 that Nixon promised to get the pipeline approved. Using the usual fear tactics he pointed out that oil prices had gone from $3 to $12 per barrel. “We cannot let OPEC have this Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.” Nixon said.

Well, the Arabs looked at each other, Abdulaziz included. They were smart like desert foxes. We didn’t realize we were a Sword of Damocles, they said – or something like that – and that was the end of cheap oil. Nixon had just given them the arms to destroy the West and they have used them ever since.

You won’t find this documented anywhere, not even in Wikipedia. I just happened to put several disparate things together when I was sitting on a veranda on the Kenya coast and said, “Whoa!!”

It was one of those great “unintended consequences” that our brilliant politicians make, like the little Vietnam War or the little topple Saddam incursion or the Arab Spring regime changes. The Ukraine, Venezuela, Putin, and China are waiting to be played out.

-9 # daruten1 2015-01-24 12:27

Why is it necessary to evaluate every ruler and country through the lenses of our own experiences and values? Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences. Who is he to tell other countries that they do not measure up to the Western world’s values? The world is a complicated place and diplomacy is but one instrument of getting along with people and countries whose views differ from our values and who are difficult. The trick in life is getting along with people whether you agree or disagree with them. Obama has shown intelligence and emotional intelligence in this instance.

+1 # reiverpacific 2015-01-24 12:58
Quoting daruten1:

Why is it necessary to evaluate every ruler and country through the lenses of our own experiences and values? Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences. Who is he to tell other countries that they do not measure up to the Western world’s values? The world is a complicated place and diplomacy is but one instrument of getting along with people and countries whose views differ from our values and who are difficult. The trick in life is getting along with people whether you agree or disagree with them. Obama has shown intelligence and emotional intelligence in this instance.

“Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences.”
Au contraiare, it’s his job as an investigative and world-respected reporter, who has had his own share of Imperialist persecution and fingers pointed at him, to comment on what he perceives as inter-cultural hypocrisy!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Middle East | News Analysis

New Saudi King and U.S. Face Crucial Point in the Relationship

By HELENE COOPER, ROD NORDLAND and NEIL MacFARQUHAR, of The New York Times – January, 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — Almost a decade ago, an Arab diplomat famously likened the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia to a Catholic marriage “where you can have no divorce.”

But there can be estrangement. As the Obama administration begins the arduous task of assessing the newly reconstituted House of Saud after the death of King Abdullah on Friday, the relationship between the United States and its most important Arab ally, one fostered with great care and attention to detail over the years, is at a critical and tumultuous point.

Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman, 79, inherits both the policies put in place by the more assertive brother he is succeeding and the conflicts that in recent years have characterized relations with Washington. On issues from Iran to the Arab Spring, from Syria to domestic issues within Saudi Arabia like the recent flogging of a journalist, there have been significant differences between American officials and the Saudi royal family.

The close ties once nurtured so lovingly by the Bush administration have given way to complaints from the Saudis about an aloof American president who should have done more to unseat President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and less to unseat former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. The Saudis also remain deeply skeptical about President Obama’s efforts to negotiate an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.

“The Saudis are hard pressed to think of any country or collection of countries that can do what the United States can do,” said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “At the same time, they are worried that the United States’ intentions are changing at a time when they don’t have an alternative or even the structure to find an alternative.”

Yet Saudi Arabia is still managing to change the global economy at a crucial time by flooding oil markets, keeping oil output so high that it is aiding Mr. Obama on a number of fronts. By depressing oil prices, Saudi Arabia has given him a boost at home. The Saudis have helped Mr. Obama abroad as well, because those lowered prices help pressure Iran over its nuclear ambitions and Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. As a result, Obama administration officials are treading carefully as they navigate the Saudi succession. While Mr. Obama is going ahead with a long-planned trip to India, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will lead a delegation to Saudi Arabia to pay respect and offer condolences.

“The president certainly hopes, and we expect, that the strong relationship that exists between the United States and Saudi Arabia will endure under the leadership of the new king,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Friday. The Saudis have long relied on the United States as their military umbrella. But that relationship soured after King Abdullah felt that Mr. Obama was ignoring the region, or at least Saudi concerns. According to a leaked diplomatic memo, in 2008 King Abdullah urged the United States to weigh military action against Iran to “cut off the head of the snake.” Now the Saudis worry about an American deal with Iran, and Saudi Arabia, like Israel, relishes the split between Congress and the White House over more sanctions and the possibility that they could scuttle an agreement.
Continue reading the main story

And the interests of the two countries tend to diverge on other issues, especially combating Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations, which receive some of their funding from Saudi sources. “I think the Saudis and the Americans have developed the habit of coexisting with their disagreements,” said Khalid al-Dakhil, a political-science professor in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

White House officials said they were confident that the United States and Saudi Arabia would continue to work together on a range of issues, including the fight against the Islamic State and the response to the recent instability in Yemen. And they said the relationship had improved in recent months, in part because of Mr. Obama’s decision to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, a campaign that Saudi Arabia has joined and that King Salman’s ascension to the throne was not expected to derail.

“We are much closer now,” a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I wouldn’t say we are completely aligned, but it’s far less than it was at times.”

Others are not so sure.

“The recent shift in Saudi regional and foreign relations is not how outspoken it has become, but how muscular it has become,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It has long prided itself on acting behind the scenes.”

An annual “intelligence” dinner at a hotel in Washington every year illustrates that point. The host is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, the guests a group of American and Arab spies and intelligence officials, Middle East policy experts and top national security officials in the American government like John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director who served as the agency’s Saudi Arabia station chief in the late 1990s. Save welcoming remarks by Mr. al-Jubeir, there is no set program, no keynote speech, just high-level national security officials and foreign policy experts networking. Attendees describe the affairs as a Saudi show of force.

“There’s no desire even to talk to the gathered public,” said one foreign policy expert who attended last year’s dinner, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to lose his invitation to this year’s dinner. “The point seems to be to say, ‘Hey, we can get 300 important people in a room. Now let’s move on.’ ”

Lacking American support in key areas, Saudi Arabia is increasingly striking out on its own. Without the military means to sway events in Syria, and with Mr. Obama balking at forcibly removing Mr. al-Assad in Syria, Saudi Arabia used oil to try to influence Syria’s two main backers, Iran and Russia. As worldwide demand softened, Saudi Arabia continued pumping, even as prices tumbled to around $50 a barrel from more than $100.

To maintain its own social spending, including $130 billion in benefits designed to ensure domestic stability, the kingdom needs an oil price of $100. But given its foreign reserves of around $730 billion, it could hold out for a few years with lower prices, analysts say.

Saudi Arabia has not been drawn directly into the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, which is relatively stable, or Libya, although that may yet occur. Its main problem is next door in Yemen.

Militiamen from the Houthis, a Zaydi sect of Shiite Islam and traditional rulers of Yemen, have seized power. Seeing the Houthis as modeled on Hezbollah in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia had already cut off the $4 billion in annual aid to the pro-American government. The United States has seemed much more inclined to try to reach an agreement with the Houthis, at least on the fight against Al Qaeda.

But despite these differences, the pattern of accommodation that emerged under King Abdullah is likely to endure. “The default setting for the Saudis is always the status quo,” added Eugene L. Rogan, the director of the Middle East Center at St. Antony’s College, Oxford.

Still, the days when American and Saudi leaders acted in unison in the Middle East, and when Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador, was the toast of Washington and a constant presence at the Bush White House, are in the past. And if King Salman is anything like his brother, a certain amount of friction will be a given. Late in January 2011, King Abdullah became so angry during a phone call with Mr. Obama over the president’s determination to abandon support for Mr. Mubarak that he hung up on him.

Saudi aides were quick to leak the anecdote.

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Helene Cooper reported from Washington; Rod Nordland from Amman, Jordan; and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow. Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from Washington, Ranya Kadri from Amman, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo.

Related Coverage:

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2007.
New King in Saudi Arabia Unlikely to Alter Oil PolicyJAN. 23, 2015
King Abdullah in 2014.
King Abdullah, a Shrewd Force Who Reshaped Saudi Arabia, Dies at 90JAN. 22, 2015.
Yemen Calm but Confused After President’s ResignationJAN. 23, 2015

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  readersupportednews.org/opinion2/… January 23, 2015


Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

23 January 15


Showing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.

Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress – scheduled for Feb. 11 – {now seemingly re-scheduled for March 3, 2015} - was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.

Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.

Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.

Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.


Favoring Sunni Extremists

Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s newfound alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.

Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.

That has put him in a different de facto alliance – with Iran and the Syrian government – since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.

What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.


But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.

The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies – because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”


Working with Putin

Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.

So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.

He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”

    At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).

    But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

    The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.

    “American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”

    Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict – from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.

    Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

    If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.

    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutiona l.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    =================================

    And Some of the Comments:

    +26 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:45
    .
    So Boehner is actually bringing a foreign leader into the — US — House of Representatives ‘ chamber? … to challenge the US President.

    Say it ain’t so, Joe.
    .

    +18 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:49
    .
    Or is it that this foreign leader will simply take the opportunity to challenge the President, even though he/she is in the US House of Representatives ‘ chamber?
    .

    +24 # ericlipps 2015-01-23 18:42
    Netanyahu is coming to Congress to give its new Republican members the opportunity to kiss his ring before he puts one through their noses. And of course to sound off against President Obama, something Republicans are always happy to hear someone do (they’d feel the same way if it were Bashir Assad)—but that’s just a bonus.

    +15 # X Dane 2015-01-23 19:52
    nice2bgreat.
    I am beyond furious. Why has nobody pointed out that Boehner and the republicans are TRAITORS. They are asking a warmongering prime minister of ANOTHER COUNTRY to dictate how we should conduct our foreign policy.

    This is what happens when so many in congress has dual citizenship with Israel. They do not grasp that they owe loyalty to USA …..NOT Israel.

    Traitors used to be thrown in jail and hanged for actions like this. Something is seriously wrong. And Netanyaho forgets who is propping up his country with BILLIONS annually.

    I can’t believe that Boehner is allowed to get away with this. It is sickening.

    -1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:04
    I too am beyond furious! Our Congress is full of people who should be charged with TREASON!! Those corrupt creatures deserve to so charged and if guilty PUT TO DEATH!!

    The United States has no business to be sending billions of dollars and our armed forces to the Middle East. Day by day we are causing the growth of terrorist forces who have damn good reason to hate Americans. We are killing people day and night all over the Middle East. We sure as hell are not winning the hearts and minds of those people. We need to get the hell out and take care of our problems here at home. That money for the endless wars could be used to put Americans to work rebuilding our failing infrastructure.

    Don’t vote for anyone in Congress now. NO ONE! They are not working for us. They work for their Israeli paymasters.

    +3 # LGNTexas 2015-01-23 21:04
    Just another example of the racist reich-wing delegitimizing our first black president.

    +6 # Interested Observer 2015-01-23 19:52
    It will save the time usually spent getting our Mid-east policy translated from Hebrew.

    +34 # indian weaver 2015-01-23 14:35
    Hard to believe Boehner would do this – not. I think crass now amounts to treason, or sedition? Where is our worthless spineless AG now? Time for being cute is over. Attack Netanyahoo criminally, whatever it takes. Such is the state of the union – what union?

    +39 # MEBrowning 2015-01-23 18:20
    Yes! During Dubya’s presidency, the Republicans constantly harangued anybody they thought didn’t have “respect for the office of the president.” In other words, anyone who dared to criticize neocon chickenhawks who pandered to the 1% and ignored everybody else. Where’s their respect for the office of the president now? Hypocrites all.

    +14 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:32
    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    +1 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:43
    Quoting wrknight:

    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    I presume you mean loyalty to Israel.

    +25 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:30
    “Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East.”

    Boehner’s ignorance extends far beyond foreign policy. In fact, one should question whether he is simply ignorant or just plain stupid.

    +20 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:35
    Along with those who vote for him.

    +20 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:33
    Makes you want to re-open the 9/11 and Iraq invasion investigations, doesn’t it? Sniff, sniff…

    +26 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:34
    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    +2 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:45
    Quoting fredboy:

    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    I hope the doghouse has a big, tough lock on the door and a high fence topped with razor wire around it.

    +24 # Ausmar 2015-01-23 19:05
    Boehner’s action is despicable. He has snubbed the president, impaired his diplomatic efforts with Iran, and implicitly acknowledged the Congress subservience to the Israeli lobby. Clearly, by calling on Netanyahu, his aim is to put pressure on some hesitant, AIPAC intimidated Democrats to fall in line with right wing Israeli policy and thereby have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto on further immediate sanctions on Iran, thus opening the way to armed intervention in Iran alongside Israel. Hopefully, enough of the American people will support the president in expressing their disdain for this kind of devious, dangerous, and servile behavior by the US Congress, so as to put a strain on American-Israel i relations. It would be about time for the US to stop being a lackey of Israel.

    +12 # angelfish 2015-01-23 19:16
    WHO the Hell does Boehner think he IS? WHAT gives him the ability OR the right to invite foreigners to speak to our Congress? Murderous NAZI foreigners, at that? It smacks of subversion and outright TREASON! I am appalled at his lack of judgment in taking it upon himself to do this. My only hope is that this might be the beginning of the end of the ReTHUGlican Party. Sane Americans EVERYWHERE should rise up and demand that he be REMOVED as Speaker and that they search High and Low for a ReTHUGlican with Bat’s sense! I know it’s a stretch but there has GOT to be someone out there with a modicum of intellect and sense of decorum. God help us and save us from these intellectual defectives!

    +13 # NOMINAE 2015-01-23 19:34
    From the article : “The Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.”
    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutiona l.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    +10 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 19:44
    Isn’t Mr “Cancer-bed-sun tan” Boner actually doing what he accused Obama of and wants to sue him for, as in “Overreaching his power” over the ACA, which actually helped a lot of people, it’s imperfections notwithstanding?
    All Nutty-Yahoo and his proto-Fascist and by default Rabidly Nationalist LIKUD party has done is press for “Israeli Exceptionalism” in committing attempted genocide, mass-murder, apartheid destruction of habitat and livelihood on a people forced to live in “The biggest open-air prison in the World”!
    They should both be locked up in the Abu-Grahib Country Club for delusional rogue leaders!

    0 # angelfish 2015-01-23 21:48
    Thank you reiverpacific, you are right ON the money!

    +1 # Paul Larudee 2015-01-23 20:18
    Can we commission a suitable crown that quickly?

    +2 # Activista 2015-01-23 20:19
    Great analysis and focus on the problem – this is essential – USA can NOT fight another war – can not afford it morally and economically.
    We are not helping Israel by solving their problems with neighbors by killing them.
    2014 killing of Gaza – 2140 Palestinians, mostly civilians – is direction where Netanyahu wants to go.
    Hope that people of Israel (and USA) wake up and stop this psychopath.

    +1 # Jayceecool 2015-01-23 20:31
    Does anyone else see the portents of a coup-de-etat here?

    +3 # jdd 2015-01-23 20:38
    While Boehner’s move is disgraceful, the bigger threat at this time if Obama’s quite open admission of financial warfare against Russia and his support for Unkrain’s assault on the Donbas region and intent to send advisors to the “National Guard.” Obama also made threatening statements against China. So while it is true that Obama realizes that he needs Russia’s help to defeat ISIS, he continues to threaten and harden relations with two of the world’s greatest nuclear powers.

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:54
    Obama is not a foreign policy mind – he has none. The CIA dictates to him. His own policy advisors are all CIA oriented or simply stupid in the field of diplomacy.

    The last real foreign policy we had was Dick Cheney’s – who had a brain transplant as a boy. I think he got Palin’s.

    +2 # Shorey13 2015-01-23 20:43
    Boehner is both stupid and a traitor. He either doesn’t understand our democracy or chooses to violate it. Foreign policy is the province of the Executive Branch, with Congressional approval of Treaties, Wars and other formal matters. Boehner clearly has no interest in responsible governance.

    But, I was not really unhappy when the Republicans won the last election, because I like to see stupid, evil people given enough rope to hang themselves. The Republicans will be roundly defeated in 2016. You can bet on it.

    +1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:14
    I hope they will be defeated but not by Democrats. The two corporate parties are equally bad. We need to follow the foot steps of Spain and Greece and form a new political party to represent the working people and throw the plutocrats out of our government. We don’t need endless wars and austerity. We need a government to serve the people of this nation and protect our mother the Earth. Down with this rotten government!

    0 # Saberoff 2015-01-23 21:14
    The world may well not last that long.

    0 # shgo 2015-01-23 21:36
    setting up for 2016 – hope it all backfires – on all these fools who purport to represent the people of this country. NONE OF THEM DO. They represent the corporate plutocracy. Maybe more of us will take to the streets, phones, legislators offices, and come together in a movement that says NO to all of it – but with a vision for social and economic justice for ALL!

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:39
    All of this is historically normal. Mussolini invited Hitler to speak before the Italian parliament. Franco and Hitler were close allies in the Spanish Civil War. Fascists stick together. We and the CIA have always embraced dictators. So what’s new?

    I assume that Obama alone doesn’t have the power to shut off our payments to Israel.

    0 # CarolYost 2015-01-23 21:54
    I’m thrilled to see intelligent comments in relation to Israel, for once–no Zionists. Of course Boehner is stupid and treacherous. I would love it if, while Netanyahu’s away from his home, there was a coup d’etat in Israel and a good leader put in his place!–One who would work toward a single state for all, Jews, Palestinians, everybody, as there should have been all along. No Jewish state for Jews only. When you have a country set up on behalf of one religion or group, the results are ugly. The Holocaust taught us that.

    Yes, let’s rise up against the Boehner-Netanya hu fraud. And let’s end the US devotion to Israel once and for all. Buchanan was so right when he called Congress–what? –Israeli-occup ied territory.

    Refresh comments list

    ======================================

    Pincas Jawetz <pjawetz@gmail.com>

    5:50 AM (5 minutes ago)

    to Uri, Uri
    Dear Uri

    IN CASE YOU DID NOT SEE THIS ALREADY – I THOUGHT IT MIGHT INTEREST YOU .

    Pincas

    from:  readersupportednews.org/opinion2/… January 23, 2015

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo: AP)

    Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo: AP)

    go to original article

    ALSO SEE: Obama to Netanyahu: Stop Pushing Congress Toward New Sanctions on Iran

    Congress Seeks Netanyahu’s Direction

    By Robert Parry, Consortium News

    23 January 15

    howing who some in Congress believe is the real master of U.S. foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session and offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s comments on world affairs in his State of the Union speech.

    Boehner made clear that Netanyahu’s third speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress – scheduled for Feb. 11 – was meant to counter Obama’s assessments. “There is a serious threat in the world, and the President last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said on Wednesday. “And the fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”

    The scheduling of Netanyahu’s speech caught the White House off-guard, since the Israeli prime minister had apparently not bothered to clear his trip with the administration. The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

    In the past when Netanyahu has spoken to Congress, Republicans and Democrats have competed to show their devotion by quickly and frequently leaping to their feet to applaud almost every word out of the Israeli prime minister’s mouth. By addressing a joint session for a third time, Netanyahu would become only the second foreign leader to do so, joining British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who never used the platform to demean the policies of a sitting U.S. president.

    Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East. Boehner doesn’t seem to realize that Netanyahu has developed what amounts to a de facto alliance with extremist Sunni forces in the region.

    Not only is Israel now collaborating behind the scenes with Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist leadership but Israel has begun taking sides militarily in support of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian civil war. A source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria said Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces that control territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

    The quiet cooperation between Israel and al-Qaeda’s affiliate was further underscored on Sunday when Israeli helicopters attacked and killed advisers to the Syrian military from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran. In other words, Israel has dispatched its forces into Syria to kill military personnel helping to fight al-Nusra. Iran later confirmed that one of its generals had died in the Israeli strike.

    Israel’s tangled alliances with Sunni forces have been taking shape over the past several years, as Israel and Saudi Arabia emerged as strange bedfellows in the geopolitical struggle against Shiite-ruled Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and southern Lebanon. Both Saudi and Israeli leaders have talked with growing alarm about this “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon.

    Favoring Sunni Extremists

    Senior Israelis have made clear they would prefer Sunni extremists to prevail in the Syrian civil war rather than President Bashar al-Assad, who is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam. Assad’s relatively secular government is seen as the protector of Shiites, Christians and other minorities who fear the vengeful brutality of the Sunni jihadists who now dominate the anti-Assad rebels.

    In one of the most explicit expressions of Israel’s views, its Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, a close adviser to Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post in September 2013 that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad.

    “The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

    Saudi Arabia shares Israeli’s strategic view that “the Shiite crescent” must be broken and has thus developed a rapport with Netanyahu’s government in a kind of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship. But some rank-and-file Jewish supporters of Israel have voiced concerns about Israel’s newfound alliance with the Saudi monarchy, especially given its adherence to ultraconservative Wahhabi Islam and its embrace of a fanatical hatred of Shiite Islam, a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that dates back 1,400 years.

    Though President Obama has repeatedly declared his support for Israel, he has developed a contrary view from Netanyahu’s regarding what is the gravest danger in the Middle East. Obama considers the radical Sunni jihadists, associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to be the biggest threat to Western interests and U.S. national security.

    That has put him in a different de facto alliance – with Iran and the Syrian government – since they represent the strongest bulwarks against Sunni jihadists who have targeted Americans and other Westerners for death.

    What Boehner doesn’t seem to understand is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have placed themselves on the side of the Sunni jihadists who now represent the frontline fight against the “Shiite crescent.” If Netanyahu succeeds in enlisting the United States in violently forcing Syrian “regime change,” the U.S. government likely would be facilitating the growth in power of the Sunni extremists, not containing them.

    But the influential American neoconservatives want to synch U.S. foreign policy with Israel’s and thus have pressed for a U.S. bombing campaign against Assad’s forces (even if that would open the gates of Damascus to the Nusra Front or the Islamic State). The neocons also want an escalation of tensions with Iran by sabotaging an agreement to ensure that its nuclear program is not used for military purposes.

    The neocons have long wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran as part of their “regime change” strategy for the Middle East. That is why Obama’s openness to a permanent agreement for tight constraints on Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat by Netanyahu, the neocons and their congressional allies – because it would derail hopes for militarily attacking Iran.

    In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama made clear that he perceives the brutal Islamic State, which he calls “ISIL” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the principal current threat to Western interests in the Middle East and the clearest terror threat to the United States and Europe. Obama proposed “a smarter kind of American leadership” that would cooperate with allies in “stopping ISIL’s advance” without “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.”

    Working with Putin

    Thus, Obama, who might be called a “closet realist,” is coming to the realization that the best hope for blocking the advances of Sunni jihadi terror and minimizing U.S. military involvement is through cooperation with Iran and its regional allies. That also puts Obama on the same side with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has faced Sunni terrorism in Chechnya and is supporting both Iran’s leaders and Syria’s Assad in their resistance to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

    Obama’s “realist” alliance, in turn, presents a direct threat to Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran represents an “existential threat” to Israel and that the “Shiite crescent” must be destroyed. There is also fear among Israeli right-wingers that an effective Obama-Putin collaboration could ultimately force Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.

    So, Netanyahu and the U.S. neocons believe they must do whatever is necessary to shatter this tandem of Obama, Putin and Iran. That is one reason why the neocons were at the forefront of fomenting “regime change” against Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last year. By splintering Ukraine on Russia’s border, the neocons drove a wedge between Obama and Putin. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

    Even the slow-witted mainstream U.S. media has begun to pick up on the story of the emerging Israeli-Saudi alliance. In the Jan. 19 issue of Time magazine, correspondent Joe Klein noted the new coziness between top Israeli and Saudi officials.

    He wrote: “On May 26, 2014, an unprecedented public conversation took place in Brussels. Two former high-ranking spymasters of Israel and Saudi Arabia – Amos Yadlin and Prince Turki al-Faisal – sat together for more than an hour, talking regional politics in a conversation moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

    “They disagreed on some things, like the exact nature of an Israel-Palestine peace settlement, and agreed on others: the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat, the need to support the new military government in Egypt, the demand for concerted international action in Syria. The most striking statement came from Prince Turki. He said the Arabs had ‘crossed the Rubicon’ and ‘don’t want to fight Israel anymore.’”

    Not only did Prince Turki offer an olive branch to Israel, he indicated agreement on what the two countries consider their most pressing strategic interests: Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s civil war. In other words, in noting this extraordinary meeting, Klein had stumbled upon the odd-couple alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia – though he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing.

    On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama had shifted his position on Syria as the West made a “quiet retreat from its demand” that Assad “step down immediately.” The article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta noted that the Obama administration still wanted Assad to exit eventually “but facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.”

    At the center of that diplomatic initiative was Russia, again reflecting Obama’s recognition of the need to cooperate with Putin on resolving some of these complex problems (although Obama did include in his speech some tough-guy rhetoric against Russia over Ukraine, taking some pleasure in how Russia’s economy is now “in tatters”).

    But the underlying reality is that the United States and Assad’s regime have become de facto allies, fighting on the same side in the Syrian civil war, much as Israel had, in effect, sided with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front by killing Hezbollah and Iranian advisers to the Syrian military.

    The Times article noted that the shift in Obama’s position on Syrian peace talks “comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism.

    “American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.”

    Yet, as Obama adjusts U.S. foreign policy to take into account the complex realities in the Middle East, he now faces another front in this conflict – from the U.S. Congress, which has long been held in thrall by the Israel lobby.

    Not only has Speaker Boehner appealed to Netanyahu to deliver what amounts to a challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy but congressional neocons are even accusing Obama’s team of becoming Iranian stooges. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democratic neocon, said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”

    If indeed Netanyahu does end up addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, its members would face a stark choice of either embracing Israel’s foreign policy as America’s – or backing the decisions made by the elected President of the United States.
    __________________________________________

    And Some of the Comments:

    +26 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:45
    .
    So Boehner is actually bringing a foreign leader into the — US — House of Representatives ‘ chamber? … to challenge the US President.

    Say it ain’t so, Joe.

    +18 # nice2bgreat 2015-01-23 13:49
    .
    Or is it that this foreign leader will simply take the opportunity to challenge the President, even though he/she is in the US House of Representatives ‘ chamber?
    .

    +24 # ericlipps 2015-01-23 18:42
    Netanyahu is coming to Congress to give its new Republican members the opportunity to kiss his ring before he puts one through their noses. And of course to sound off against President Obama, something Republicans are always happy to hear someone do (they’d feel the same way if it were Bashir Assad)—but that’s just a bonus.

    +15 # X Dane 2015-01-23 19:52
    nice2bgreat.
    I am beyond furious. Why has nobody pointed out that Boehner and the republicans are TRAITORS. They are asking a warmongering prime minister of ANOTHER COUNTRY to dictate how we should conduct our foreign policy.

    This is what happens when so many in congress has dual citizenship with Israel. They do not grasp that they owe loyalty to USA …..NOT Israel.

    Traitors used to be thrown in jail and hanged for actions like this. Something is seriously wrong. And Netanyaho forgets who is propping up his country with BILLIONS annually.

    I can’t believe that Boehner is allowed to get away with this. It is sickening.

    -1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:04
    I too am beyond furious! Our Congress is full of people who should be charged with TREASON!! Those corrupt creatures deserve to so charged and if guilty PUT TO DEATH!!

    The United States has no business to be sending billions of dollars and our armed forces to the Middle East. Day by day we are causing the growth of terrorist forces who have damn good reason to hate Americans. We are killing people day and night all over the Middle East. We sure as hell are not winning the hearts and minds of those people. We need to get the hell out and take care of our problems here at home. That money for the endless wars could be used to put Americans to work rebuilding our failing infrastructure.

    Don’t vote for anyone in Congress now. NO ONE! They are not working for us. They work for their Israeli paymasters.

    +3 # LGNTexas 2015-01-23 21:04
    Just another example of the racist reich-wing delegitimizing our first black president.

    +6 # Interested Observer 2015-01-23 19:52
    It will save the time usually spent getting our Mid-east policy translated from Hebrew.

    +39 # MEBrowning 2015-01-23 18:20
    Yes! During Dubya’s presidency, the Republicans constantly harangued anybody they thought didn’t have “respect for the office of the president.” In other words, anyone who dared to criticize neocon chickenhawks who pandered to the 1% and ignored everybody else. Where’s their respect for the office of the president now? Hypocrites all.

    +14 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:32
    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    +1 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:43
    Quoting wrknight:

    With Republicans, loyalty trumps hypocrisy.

    I presume you mean loyalty to Israel.

    +25 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:30
    “Besides this extraordinary recognition of another country’s leader as the true definer of U.S. foreign policy, Boehner’s move reflects an ignorance of what is actually occurring on the ground in the Middle East.”

    Boehner’s ignorance extends far beyond foreign policy. In fact, one should question whether he is simply ignorant or just plain stupid.

    +20 # wrknight 2015-01-23 18:35
    Along with those who vote for him.

    +20 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:33
    Makes you want to re-open the 9/11 and Iraq invasion investigations, doesn’t it? Sniff, sniff…

    +26 # fredboy 2015-01-23 18:34
    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    +2 # randrjwr 2015-01-23 20:45
    Quoting fredboy:

    Get ready for a huge backfire if this happens. Putting both Israel and the GOP in the doghouse. Dumb bastards.

    I hope the doghouse has a big, tough lock on the door and a high fence topped with razor wire around it.

    +24 # Ausmar 2015-01-23 19:05
    Boehner’s action is despicable. He has snubbed the president, impaired his diplomatic efforts with Iran, and implicitly acknowledged the Congress subservience to the Israeli lobby. Clearly, by calling on Netanyahu, his aim is to put pressure on some hesitant, AIPAC intimidated Democrats to fall in line with right wing Israeli policy and thereby have enough votes to overcome a presidential veto on further immediate sanctions on Iran, thus opening the way to armed intervention in Iran alongside Israel. Hopefully, enough of the American people will support the president in expressing their disdain for this kind of devious, dangerous, and servile behavior by the US Congress, so as to put a strain on American-Israel i relations. It would be about time for the US to stop being a lackey of Israel.

    +12 # angelfish 2015-01-23 19:16
    WHO the Hell does Boehner think he IS? WHAT gives him the ability OR the right to invite foreigners to speak to our Congress? Murderous NAZI foreigners, at that? It smacks of subversion and outright TREASON! I am appalled at his lack of judgment in taking it upon himself to do this. My only hope is that this might be the beginning of the end of the ReTHUGlican Party. Sane Americans EVERYWHERE should rise up and demand that he be REMOVED as Speaker and that they search High and Low for a ReTHUGlican with Bat’s sense! I know it’s a stretch but there has GOT to be someone out there with a modicum of intellect and sense of decorum. God help us and save us from these intellectual defectives!

    +13 # NOMINAE 2015-01-23 19:34
    From the article : “The Boehner-Netanyahu arrangement demonstrates a mutual contempt for this President’s authority to conduct American foreign policy as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.”
    ___________________________________________

    Precisely, and therefore the Boehner-Netanya hu arrangement is *illegal* by the simple *reason* of being obviously, and egregiously Unconstitutional.

    As Indian Weaver notes above, if the Justice Department and the White House bend over, lie down and accept *this* “rogering”, they deserve everything they get.

    And we, the American “observers” of Government, get a full shout out about the fact that Obama and Holder are COMPLICIT in this bullshit – simply demonstrated by their refusal to ENFORCE against a clearly cut violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    This Kabuki Theater that *IS* U.S. Government is really beginning to grow quite threadbare. It now takes nothing to “see through” all of the phony posturing.

    +10 # reiverpacific 2015-01-23 19:44
    Isn’t Mr “Cancer-bed-sun tan” Boner actually doing what he accused Obama of and wants to sue him for, as in “Overreaching his power” over the ACA, which actually helped a lot of people, it’s imperfections notwithstanding?
    All Nutty-Yahoo and his proto-Fascist and by default Rabidly Nationalist LIKUD party has done is press for “Israeli Exceptionalism” in committing attempted genocide, mass-murder, apartheid destruction of habitat and livelihood on a people forced to live in “The biggest open-air prison in the World”!
    They should both be locked up in the Abu-Grahib Country Club for delusional rogue leaders!

    0 # angelfish 2015-01-23 21:48
    Thank you reiverpacific, you are right ON the money!

    +1 # Paul Larudee 2015-01-23 20:18
    Can we commission a suitable crown that quickly?

    +2 # Activista 2015-01-23 20:19
    Great analysis and focus on the problem – this is essential – USA can NOT fight another war – can not afford it morally and economically.
    We are not helping Israel by solving their problems with neighbors by killing them.
    2014 killing of Gaza – 2140 Palestinians, mostly civilians – is direction where Netanyahu wants to go.
    Hope that people of Israel (and USA) wake up and stop this psychopath.

    +1 # Jayceecool 2015-01-23 20:31
    Does anyone else see the portents of a coup-de-etat here?

    +3 # jdd 2015-01-23 20:38
    While Boehner’s move is disgraceful, the bigger threat at this time if Obama’s quite open admission of financial warfare against Russia and his support for Unkrain’s assault on the Donbas region and intent to send advisors to the “National Guard.” Obama also made threatening statements against China. So while it is true that Obama realizes that he needs Russia’s help to defeat ISIS, he continues to threaten and harden relations with two of the world’s greatest nuclear powers.

    0 # Anonymot 2015-01-23 21:54
    Obama is not a foreign policy mind – he has none. The CIA dictates to him. His own policy advisors are all CIA oriented or simply stupid in the field of diplomacy.

    The last real foreign policy we had was Dick Cheney’s – who had a brain transplant as a boy. I think he got Palin’s.

    +2 # Shorey13 2015-01-23 20:43
    Boehner is both stupid and a traitor. He either doesn’t understand our democracy or chooses to violate it. Foreign policy is the province of the Executive Branch, with Congressional approval of Treaties, Wars and other formal matters. Boehner clearly has no interest in responsible governance.

    But, I was not really unhappy when the Republicans won the last election, because I like to see stupid, evil people given enough rope to hang themselves. The Republicans will be roundly defeated in 2016. You can bet on it.

    +1 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-01-23 21:14
    I hope they will be defeated but not by Democrats. The two corporate parties are equally bad. We need to follow the foot steps of Spain and Greece and form a new political party to represent the working people and throw the plutocrats out of our government. We don’t need endless wars and austerity. We need a government to serve the people of this nation and protect our mother the Earth. Down with this rotten government!

    0 # Saberoff 2015-01-23 21:14
    The world may well not last that long.

    0 # shgo 2015-01-23 21:36
    setting up for 2016 – hope it all backfires – on all these fools who purport to represent the people of this country. NONE OF THEM DO. They represent the corporate plutocracy. Maybe more of us will take to the streets, phones, legislators offices, and come together in a movement that says NO to all of it – but with a vision for social and economic justice for ALL!

    Refresh comments list

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An AIC Update comes at a very important time. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech on January 4 in which he indirectly took issue with the Supreme Leader’s call for “resistance economy,” saying that Iran cannot live in “isolation” and still hope for economic development. Crippled by mismanagement, corruption and sanctions, Iran’s economy must now also cope with falling oil prices.

He also said that the Constitution (Article 59) anticipates a “referendum” on important issues facing the nation but failed to single out one and mention that any such referendum must pass two thirds of the conservative Parliament. Rouhani surely had the nuclear issue in mind, but given that he still has no deal and the negotiations are held in secret, his hint toward a nuclear referendum is premature.

Mr. Rouhani and his “hard line” rivals disagree on the extent of compromises Iran must make or gain. It is in this context that Dr. Amirahmadi’s article (below) is a must-read. He gleans the basic parameters of an emerging deal and posits that the negotiations will gradually “melt away” Iran’s nuclear program to a symbolic level in return for a phased lifting of some sanctions and Iranian assets.

Further, we agree with the basic assumption of AIC founder – Professor Amirahmadi -that Iran is a much more complicated case then Cuba and that here there cannot be a full one-piece agreement. It is rather an easing into such an agreement by stages that will make it eventually possible in the reality that opposition to an agreement lurches in every corner with serious non-forgiving stake-holders involved.

The Nuclear Negotiations: The Melting Strategy and the Missiles Time Bomb.
By AIC News – Posted on December 31st, 2014

by Hooshang Amirahmadi
Founder of The American Iranian Council

Melting Strategy-AIC – Given the secrecy of the P5+1 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, it is hard to surmise the concessions being made or the structure of a final settlement. However, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: the path to a nuclear deal will involve many “mini deals” by which Iran’s nuclear program will be slowly “melted” away to a symbolic level in return for a measured release of its frozen oil money and lifting of some sanctions. This “melting strategy by default” is becoming increasingly attractive to both sides, given that the US and Iran cannot publicly and quickly succumb to each other’s “maximum” demands, knowing it will be seen as a “bad” deal by their respective opponents and thus not implementable. Besides, the word “comprehensive” is too loaded with expectations and has by itself become an obstacle.


As a sign that this strategy is at work, both sides are avoiding grand results and are making compromises in increments, with Iran offering disproportionate concessions. For the Rouhani government, this approach helps conceal its concessions from domestic radicals, while at the same time glorifying the meager concessions it receives from the US. For the Obama Administration, the approach helps minimize pressure from the Congress and stakeholders like Israel and Saudi Arabia, who demand tougher measures against Iran. In the face of these “opponents,” it would have been, and will be, hard if not impossible for the two sides to arrive at the desired “comprehensive deal” in a rush.

To maintain the “incremental momentum,” negotiations have resumed in Geneva after a short lull despite the fact that Iran and the P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) “missed” their second deadline on November 2014 to reach a comprehensive deal on the basis of the Geneva Joint Plan of Action (JPA) signed in November 2013. The first deadline had been set for last July, only 4 months apart from the second. A third deadline has now been set for July 1, 2015, seven months later from the second. Reportedly, Iran, pressed by economic woes, wanted a shorter interval, but France convinced others that a longer time interval was needed. With Iran “disarmed” of its “nuclear ambition,” the urgency has also rescinded.

The temporal dimension is certainly a crucial issue as the parties need more time to figure out what extra compromises they can make in the next stage towards the desired comprehensive deal. However, for that groundwork, Iran and the US in particular would also need to bring on board their apathetic opponents, who would only acquiesce if the concession increments are seen to their political advantage. These obstacles also existed when the parties negotiated the JPA but that agreement, which was reached in a rush, had an urgent and temporary character, and was billed as a “framework” rather than a “comprehensive” deal.


The JPA gave the first indication that a “melting strategy by default” was at work. Iran committed to “never” and under “no circumstances” develop or seek nuclear weapons. It also agreed to nullify most of its 20 percent enriched uranium, reduce operating centrifuges to half and remove all advanced IR2 centrifuges from operation, cap the amount of enriched uranium to less than 10,000 Kg, stop work on and accept modifications on the Arak Heavy Water Plant, halt enrichment at the Fardo underground facility, and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unrestricted inspection. In return for downsizing and halting its nuclear program, Iran was promised access to less than 5 percent of its frozen oil money and temporary relief from a few sanctions; significantly, the list did not include sanctions on banking, oil, and the UN resolutions.

As the IAEA has confirmed, Iran over-implemented its commitments in the subsequent months. Even if the issue of Iran’s possible intention to weaponize before 2003 was not explicitly included in the JPA, Iran has in vain tried to cooperate with the IAEA to settle this disputed matter. The agency is asking for inspection of certain military sites and access to scientists and unspecified documents. Iran has provided massive information, allowed inspection of the Parchin site, and has also offered access to the Marivan region, where Iran is suspected to have tested certain explosives. However, it has insisted that no secret documents exist and that interviewing scientists could lead to their identification and subsequent murder as in the past.

The P5+1, mainly the US, has also delivered on its commitments though with stiffness and delays. In one case, the US, using the “loophole” in the JPA, even imposed fresh sanctions on a number of Iranian entities who had allegedly violated the US sanction regulations. In spite of this cooperative spirit, the successive negotiations were increasingly inhibited by tougher demands by the US and stiffer resistance by Iran. The standard argument for why they failed to reach a comprehensive deal this last November is that they could not agree on the final scale and scope of Iran’s enrichment capacity, and on the extent and timing of sanctions relief for Iran. The dispute over Iran’s missile programs was certainly another obstacle.

For the US, concern regarding Iran’s enrichment capacity is directly related to the so-called breakout time – the time it would take Iran to develop a bomb clandestinely. For Iran, lifting of sanctions was more than just an economic concern; it would silence the so-called hardliners in Iran who continue to argue that the US cannot be trusted. Lacking trust in the Islamic regime, the P5+1 is seeking a “bullet proof” deal that eliminates Iran’s ability to ever develop clandestine bombs and missiles capable of delivering them. This requires that Iran is left with a symbolic enrichment capacity and smaller missile programs. To achieve this “normal” condition, the US insist that key sanctions will have to remain including the UN resolutions.

These “standard” arguments about why a comprehensive deal could not be reached have merits but they do not tell the full story. A deeper concern of the negotiators was how to “sell” the deal they would reach to their respective domestic and foreign opponents who would invariably view it as a “bad deal.” To them, there was only one sure solution: forego a comprehensive deal in favor of letting sustained negotiations gradually melt Iran’s nuclear, and hopefully its missile, programs in return for gradual trickle of sanctions relief. This “melting strategy by default” would also save the “huge investment of time and prestige” the parties had put into the nuclear negotiations while preventing a disastrous collapse.

Hence, despite the “vast differences,” the parties emphasized the “significant progress” being made and agreed to another extension of the negotiations. However, to move forward, another mini deal had to be struck. Thus, the JPA was extended and a new set of concessions was agreed upon. Accordingly, Iran committed to giving up certain other parts of its nuclear program in return for access to another small percentage of its frozen oil money. Specifically, Iran agreed to eliminate the remaining stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, stop research and development on advanced centrifuges, forgo laser enrichment technology, and permit the IAEA to double the frequency of its snap inspections.

Significantly, Iran has reportedly even considered the US proposal to ship part of its low enriched uranium to Russia for re-importation in the form of fuel rods. If true, this concession will be the sign that with the nuclear program melting away, the Islamic Revolution is fading away as well. The key aim of the 1979 revolution was national “independence,” a slogan directed at the colonial practices to which Iran had been subjected. One such practice, which has been said to have caused the country’s underdevelopment, is the so-called old international division of labor. Accordingly, Iran was forced to produce raw and semi-finished materials for conversion into final products by the imperial powers.

This last extension of negotiations also includes an interesting twist to the process: instead of setting one seven-month deadline, it actually sets two deadlines within that same time interval, one for arriving at a “political framework” and another one for arriving at a “comprehensive deal.” This innovation is intriguing because arriving at the political framework will be easier and its achievement will be heralded as a sign of a major success to come, which will in turn allow for subsequent concessions to be made easier. Significantly, this twist will reinforce the “melting strategy by default” and help negotiations to move to another future deadline.

Indeed, as the “comprehensive” approach has failed, the “melting strategy by default” has become the “melting strategy by design,” helping sustain the negotiations. Thus, the next round of negotiations may not also end in a “comprehensive deal,” but rather to yet another mini deal and extension, setting the next deadline with a longer time interval within which a few deadlines will be incorporated. In other words, negotiations will not simply collapse or produce a comprehensive deal but continue in a step-wise fashion producing mini deals. The only wild card in this scenario is the Supreme Leader; he could withdraw support for the melting approach as concessions reach his “red lines” for the Rouhani government.

One such red lines relates to Iran’s missile programs. As was reported in an important interview by Parliamentarian Mahmoud Nabavian with the Raja News, Iran has agreed to have its missiles discussed but demands for their downsizing will suggest a push for “disarming” Iran and will result in a breakdown of the negotiations. As Nabavian disclosed, Secretary John Kerry “crossed many of Iran’s red lines” during his meeting with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Oman, making Zarif leave the meeting thinking that the negotiations would have to stop. Iran subsequently returned to the Vienna negotiations and agreed to further nuclear concessions in return for more money. Most likely, the missile time bomb has been left for the current negotiations.

This article was published in Payvand News

Curious why normalization of relations with Iran will be fundamentally more challenging than with Cuba? Click here to read Dr. Amirahmadi’s article “Iran is no Cuba”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Turkey is no American Ally
Originally published under the BESA title, “America’s Unacknowledged Problem.”

by Efraim Inbar
BESA Center Perspectives
January 4, 2015

for article please see - www.meforum.org/4955/turkey-is-no…


Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a Shillman/Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency – for what it is worth this December (2014)

News Brief: Iran unveils monument to Iran-Iraq War Jewish ‘martyrs’
December 18, 2014 5:40pm

(JTA) — Iran unveiled a monument to Jews who died during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

IRNA, the official Iranian news agency posted photos of the ceremony Monday, headlined “Monument to Jewish Martyrs Unveiled in Tehran.”

The page was captioned, “Iran on Monday unveiled a monument to the Jewish citizens who lost their lives in the 8-year Iraqi imposed war on Iran.”

The monument, a gold colored slab with inscriptions in Persian and topped by an artistic representation of the Hebrew phrase, “Peace Forever,” appears to be set in a Jewish cemetery.

Another slab bears a tiled depiction of a gold seven-stemmed Menorah set against a royal blue background.

There also are photos of officials speaking at a podium next to a large seven-stemmed Menorah, and of Jews praying and paying respects at tombstones in the cemetery.

The Iranian parliament’s vice-speaker, Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard, praised the relationship between the government and Iran’s Jewish community during an address at the ceremony.

“The explicit stances of the Jewish community in supporting the Islamic Republic’s establishment and their obedience to the Supreme Leader of the (Islamic) Revolution demonstrate the bonds originating from the teachings of the divine religions,” he said, the Tasnim news agency reported.

He also praised the Jewish community for its condemnation of U.S. demands on Iran, Israeli actions visa vis the Palestinians, and the “violent and inhumane” behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Read more: www.jta.org/2014/12/18/news-opini…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Jihadi Connection between Sinai, Gaza and Islamic State.

by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
November 1, 2014

There is a burgeoning and violent salafi jihadist subculture that encompasses northern Sinai and southern Gaza.

 www.meforum.org/4876/the-jihadi-c…

What kind of relations do the jihadists of northern Sinai and Gaza have with Islamic State, and with Hamas? Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month national emergency this week, following the killing of over 31 Egyptian soldiers in a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists in northern Sinai.

No organization has issued an authoritative claim of responsibility for the bombing, but it comes amid a state of open insurgency in northern Sinai, as Egyptian security forces battle a number of jihadist organizations. Most prominent among these groups are Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen; the attack on the Sinai military base came a few days after an Egyptian court sentenced seven members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to death for carrying out previous attacks on the army.

In subsequent days, Egyptian officials pointed an accusing finger at the Hamas rulers of Gaza, asserting there is “no doubt that elements belonging to Palestinian factions were directly involved in the attack.” Cairo is now set to build a new barrier separating the Strip from northern Sinai.

In a number of Arabic media outlets, unnamed Egyptian government sources openly accused Hamas members of aiding the assault, assisting with planning, funding and weapons supply.

Are the Egyptian claims credible? Are there links between Hamas or smaller jihadist movements in the Gaza Strip and the insurgents in northern Sinai? And no less importantly, is the armed campaign in northern Sinai linked to Islamic State? First, it is important to understand that jihadist activity in northern Sinai is not a new development. Long before the military coup of July 3, 2013, and indeed before the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, this area had become a lawless zone in which jihadists and Beduin smugglers of people and goods carried out their activities.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis emerged from this already existing jihadist milieu in the period following Mubarak’s ouster.

At this time, Egyptian security measures in the area sharply declined.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has not confined its activities to the Sinai area; rather, it has directly engaged in attacks on Israeli targets. Recently, the group beheaded four Sinai locals who it accused of being “spies for the Mossad,” also carrying out two rocket attacks on Eilat this past January.

The claim of links between Hamas and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has been raised in the past. In September, Egyptian security forces claimed to have found uniforms and weaponry identifiable as belonging to Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam brigades.

It is worth remembering that the current Egyptian government has, since its inception, sought to link salafi jihadist terrorism with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as part of its strategy of marginalizing and criminalizing the Brotherhood.

The current statements seeking to link Hamas directly to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis may form part of this larger strategy.

For its part, Hamas indignantly denies any link to this week’s bombing.

But what can be said with greater confidence is there is, without doubt, a burgeoning and violent salafi jihadist subculture that encompasses northern Sinai and southern Gaza – with various organizations possessing members and infrastructure on both sides of the border.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis itself and Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen both have members in Sinai and Gaza. Working tunnels smuggling goods and weapons exist between Gaza and northern Sinai, despite Egyptian attempts to destroy them.

It is also a fact that Hamas is aware of these tunnels and makes no attempt to act against them, benefiting economically from their presence.

From this standpoint, Hamas authorities in Gaza are guilty by omission of failing to act against the infrastructure supplying and supporting salafi guerrillas in northern Sinai, whether or not the less verifiable claims of direct Hamas links with them have a basis.

Given this reality, it is also not hard to understand the Egyptian determination to build an effective physical barrier between the Strip and Egyptian territory.

What of the issue of support for Islamic State? Should these jihadist groups be seen as a southern manifestation of the Sunni jihadist wave now sweeping across Iraq, Syria and increasingly, Lebanon? From an ideological point of view, certainly yes.

From an organizational point of view, the situation is more complex.

According to Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an expert on jihadist groups currently based at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Middle East Forum, neither Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis nor Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen have formally pledged their allegiance to the caliphate established by Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nevertheless, Tamimi confirmed, both organizations have expressed “support” for Islamic State and its objectives, while not subordinating themselves to it through a pledge of allegiance.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is known to maintain contacts with Islamic State, which has advised it on the mechanics of carrying out operations. Islamic State, meanwhile, has publicly declared its support for the jihadists in northern Sinai, without singling out any specific group for public support.

Tamimi further notes the existence of two smaller and more obscure groups in Gaza with more direct links to Islamic State.

These are Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis (The Group of Helpers/ Supporters of the Islamic State in Bayt al-Maqdis), which carries out propaganda activities from Gaza and helps funnel volunteers to Syria and Iraq, and the Sheikh Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi Battalion, a Gazan contingent fighting with Islamic State in these countries.

So, a number of conclusions can be drawn: Firstly, Hamas, in its tolerance of and engagement with smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai, at least indirectly permits the jihadists networks operating these tunnels to wage their insurgency against Egypt – even if the claims of a direct Hamas link to violent activities in Sinai have not yet been conclusively proven.

Secondly, the most important organizations engaged in this insurgency support Islamic State, and are supported by them, though the former have not yet pledged allegiance and become directly subordinate to the latter.

Islamic State is not yet in northern Sinai, but its close allies are. Their activities are tolerated by the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip – as long as they are directed outward, against Egypt and Israel.

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Jonathan Spyer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s told the 69th United Nations General Assembly on September 29th, 2014:

Thank you, Mr. President. Distinguished delegates, I come here from Jerusalem to speak on behalf of my people, the people of Israel. I’ve come here to speak about the dangers we face and about the opportunities we seek. I’ve come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this very podium against my country and against the brave soldiers who defend it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel pray for peace, but our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace are in danger because everywhere we look militant Islam is on the march. It’s not militants. It’s not Islam. It’s militant Islam. And typically its first victims are other Muslims, but it spares no one: Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Kurds. No creed, no faith, no ethnic group is beyond its sights. And it’s rapidly spreading in every part of the world.

You know the famous American saying, all politics is local? For the militant Islamists, all politics is global, because their ultimate goal is to dominate the world. Now, that threat might seem exaggerated to some since it starts out small, like a cancer that attacks a particular part of the body. But left unchecked, the cancer grows, metastasizing over wider and wider areas. To protect the peace and security of the world, we must remove this cancer before it’s too late.

Last week, many of the countries represented here rightly applauded President Obama for leading the effort to confront ISIS, and yet weeks before, some of these same countries, the same countries that now support confronting ISIS, opposed Israel for confronting Hamas. They evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.

ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control. Listen to ISIS’ self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This is what he said two months ago: A day will soon come when the Muslim will walk everywhere as a master. The Muslims will cause the world to hear and understand the meaning of terrorism and destroy the idol of democracy. Now listen to Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas. He proclaims a similar vision of the future: We say this to the West — by Allah you will be defeated. Tomorrow our nation will sit on the throne of the world.

As Hamas’ charter makes clear, Hamas’ immediate goal is to destroy Israel, but Hamas has a broader objective. They also want a caliphate. Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists, and that’s why its supporters wildly cheered in the streets of Gaza as thousands of Americans were murdered in 9/11, and that’s why its leaders condemn the United States for killing Osama bin Laden whom they praised as a holy warrior.

So when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common all militant Islamists share in common. Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia, Hezbollah in Lebanon, al-Nusra in Syria, the Mahdi army in Iraq, and the al-Qaida branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere.

Some are radical Sunnis, some are radical Shiites, some want to restore a pre-medieval caliphate from the seventh century, others want to trigger the apocalyptic return of an imam from the ninth century. They operate in different lands, they target different victims and they even kill each other in their battle for supremacy. But they all share a fanatic ideology. They all seek to create ever-expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance, where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice, convert or die. For them, anyone can be considered an infidel, including fellow Muslims.

Ladies and gentlemen, militant Islam’s ambition to dominate the world seems mad, but so too did the global ambitions of another fanatic ideology that swept into power eight decades ago. The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith. They just disagree who among them will be the master of the master faith. That’s what they truly disagree about. And therefore, the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions.

There is one place where that could soon happen — the Islamic State of Iran. For 35 years, Iran has relentlessly pursued the global mission which was set forth by its founding ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini, in these words. “We will export our revolution to the entire world until the cry ‘there is no god but Allah’ will echo throughout the world over.” And ever since, the regime’s brutal enforcers, Iran’s revolutionary guards, have done exactly that.

Listen to its current commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari. And he clearly stated his goal. He said “Our imam did not limit the Islamic revolution to this country, our duty is to prepare the way for an Islamic world government.”

Iran’s President Rouhani stood here last week and shed crocodile tears over what he called the globalization of terrorism. Maybe he should spare us those phony tears and have a word instead with the commanders of Iran’s revolutionary guards. He could ask them to call off Iran’s global terror campaign, which has included attacks in two dozen countries on five continents since 2011 alone.

You know, to say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees. This is — this bemoaning by the Iranian president of the spread of terrorism has got to be one of history’s greatest displays of doubletalk.

Now, some argue that Iran’s global terror campaign, its subversion of countries throughout the Middle East and well beyond the Middle East, some argue that this is the work of the extremists. They say things are changing. They point to last year’s election in Iran. They claim that Iran’s smooth-talking president and foreign minister, they’ve changed not only the tone of Iran’s foreign policy but also its substance. They believe that Rouhani and Zarif (generally/genuinely ?) want to reconcile with the West, that they’ve abandoned the global mission of the Islamic Revolution. Really?

So let’s look at what Foreign Minister Zarif wrote in his book just a few years ago:

We have a fundamental problem with the West, and especially with America. This is because we are heirs to a global mission which is tied to our raison d’être, a global mission which is tied to our very reason for being.

And then Zarif asks a question — I think an interesting one. He says: How come Malaysia — he’s referring to an overwhelmingly Muslim country — how come Malaysia doesn’t have similar problems? And he answers: Because Malaysia is not trying to change the international order.

That’s your moderate. So don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offensive. It’s designed for one purpose and for one purpose only: to lift the sanctions and remove the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb. The Islamic Republic is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will remove the sanctions it still faces and leave it with a capacity of thousands of refugees — of centrifuges, rather — to enrich uranium. This would effectively cement Iran’s place as a threshold military nuclear power. And in the future, at the time of its choosing, Iran, the world’s most dangerous regime, in the world’s most dangerous region, would obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons. Allowing that to happen would pose the gravest threat to us all. It’s one thing to confront militant Islamists on pickup trucks armed with Kalashnikov rifles. It’s another thing to confront militant Islamists armed with weapons of mass destruction.

I remember that last year, everyone here was rightly concerned about the chemical weapons in Syria, including the possibility that they would fall into the hands of terrorists. Well, that didn’t happen, and President Obama deserves great credit for leading the diplomatic effort to dismantle virtually all of Syria’s chemical weapons capability. Imagine how much more dangerous the Islamic State, ISIS, would be if it possessed chemical weapons. Now imagine how much more dangerous the Islamic state of Iran would be if it possessed nuclear weapons.

Ladies and gentlemen, would you let ISIS enrich uranium? Would you let ISIS build a heavy water reactor? Would you let ISIS develop intercontinental ballistic missiles? Of course you wouldn’t. Then you mustn’t let the Islamic state of Iran do those things either, because here’s what will happen. Once Iran produces atomic bombs, all the charms and all the smiles will suddenly disappear. They’ll just vanish. And it’s then that the ayatollahs will show their true face and unleash their aggressive fanaticism on the entire world.

There’s only one responsible course of action to address this threat. Iran’s nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled. (Applause.) Make no mistake: ISIS must be defeated. But to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war. (Applause.) To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against militant Islam is indivisible. When militant Islam succeeds anywhere, it’s emboldened everywhere. When it suffers a blow in one place, it’s set back in every place. That’s why Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just our fight, it’s your fight. Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries may be forced to fight tomorrow. For 50 days this past summer Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel, many of them supplied by Iran. I want you to think about what your countries would do if thousands of rockets were fired at your cities. Imagine millions of your citizens having seconds at most to scramble to bomb shelters day after day. You wouldn’t let terrorists fire rockets at your cities with impunity, nor would you let terrorists dig dozens of terror tunnels under your borders to infiltrate your towns in order to murder and kidnap your citizens. Israel justly defended itself against both rocket attacks and terror tunnels. (Applause.)

Yet Israel faced another challenge. We faced a propaganda war because in an attempt to win the world sympathy, Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. It used schools — not just schools; U.N. schools — private homes, mosques, even hospitals to store and fire rockets at Israel. As Israel surgically struck at the rocket launchers and at the tunnels, Palestinian civilians were tragically but unintentionally killed. There are heartrending images that resulted, and these fueled libelous charges that Israel was deliberately targeting civilians. We were not. We deeply regret every single civilian casualties.

And the truth is this: Israel was doing everything to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television, all this to enable Palestinian civilians to evaluate targeted areas. No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies. (Applause.)

Now, this concern for Palestinian life was all the more remarkable given that Israeli civilians were being bombarded by rockets day after day, night after night. And as their families were being rocketed by Hamas, Israel’s citizen army, the brave soldiers of the IDF, our young boys and girls, they upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world. (Applause.) Israel’s soldiers deserve not condemnation but admiration, admiration from decent people everywhere. (Applause.)

Now, here is what Hamas did. Here is what Hamas did. Hamas embedded its missile batteries in residential areas and told Palestinians to ignore Israel’s warnings to leave. And just in case people didn’t get the message, they executed Palestinian civilians in Gaza who dared to protest. And no less reprehensible, Hamas deliberately placed its rockets where Palestinian children live and play. Let me show you a photograph. It was taken by a France 24 crew during the recent conflict. It shows two Hamas rocket launchers, which were used to attack us. You see three children playing next to them. Hamas deliberately put its rockets in hundreds of residential areas like this — hundreds of them.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a war crime. And I say to President Abbas, these are the crimes, the war crimes, committed by your Hamas partners in the national unity government which you head and you are responsible for. And these are the real war crimes you should have investigated or spoken out against from this podium last week. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, as Israel’s children huddle in bomb shelters and Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense knocked Hamas rockets out of the sky, the profound moral difference between Israel and Hamas couldn’t have been clearer. Israel was using its missiles to protect its children. Hamas was using its children to protect its missiles. (Applause.)

By investigating Israel rather than Hamas for war crimes, the U.N. Human Rights Council has betrayed its noble mission to protect the innocent. In fact, what it’s doing is to turn the laws of war upside down. Israel, which took unprecedented steps to minimize civilian casualties — Israel is condemned. Hamas, which both targeted and hid behind civilians — that’s a double war crime — Hamas is given a pass.

The Human Rights Council is thus sending a clear message to terrorists everywhere: Use civilians as a human shield. Use them again and again and again. And you know why? Because, sadly, it works. By granting international legitimacy to the use of human shields, the U.N. Human Rights Council has thus become a terrorist rights council, and it will have repercussions — it probably already has — about the use of civilians as human shields. It’s not just our interests. It’s not just our values that are under attack. It’s your interests and your values.

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world steeped in tyranny and terror where gays are hanged from cranes in Tehran, political prisoners are executed in Gaza, young girls are abducted en masse in Nigeria, and hundreds of thousands are butchered in Syria, Libya and Iraq, yet nearly half — nearly half of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s resolutions focusing on a single country have been directed against Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East; Israel, where issues are openly debated in a boisterous parliament, where human rights are protected by the — by independent courts, and where women, gays and minorities live in a genuinely free society.

The human rights — that’s an oxymoron, the human — U.N. Human Rights Council, but I’ll use it just the same. The council’s biased treatment of Israel is only one manifestation of the return of one of the world’s largest prejudices. We hear mobs today in Europe call for the gassing of Jews. We hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis. This is not a function of Israel’s policies. It’s a function of diseased minds. and that disease has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism. It is now spreading in polite society where it masquerades as legitimate criticism of Israel.

For centuries the Jewish people have been demonized with blood libels and charges of deicide. Today the Jewish state is demonized with the apartheid libel and charges of genocide — genocide. In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy civilian population to get out of harm’s way, or ensuring that they receive tons — tons of humanitarian aid each day even as thousands of rockets are being fired at us, or setting up a field hospital to aid their wounded?

Well, I suppose it’s the same moral universe where a man who wrote a dissertation of lies about the Holocaust and who insists on a Palestine free of Jews — Judenrein — can stand at this podium and shamelessly accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing. In the past, outrageous lies against the Jews were the precursors to the wholesale slaughter of our people, but no more. Today, we, the Jewish people, have the power to defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves against our enemies on the battlefield — (applause) — we will expose their lies against us in the court of public opinion. Israel will continue to stand proud and unbowed. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, despite the enormous challenges facing Israel, I believe we have a historic opportunity. After decades of seeing Israel as their enemy, leading states in the Arab world increasingly recognize that together, we and they face many of the same dangers, and principally, this means a nuclear-armed Iran and militant Islamist movements gaining ground in the Sunni world. Our challenge is to transform these common interests to create a productive partnership, one that would build a more secure, peaceful and prosperous Middle East. Together, we can strengthen regional security, we can advance projects in water and agricultural, in transportation and health and energy in so many fields.

I believe the partnership between us can also help facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Now, many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world. But these days, I think it may work the other way around, namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace. And therefore, to achieve that peace, we must look not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah but also to Cairo, to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere.

I believe peace can be realized with the active involvement of Arab countries — those that are willing to provide political, material and other indispensable support. I’m ready to make a historic compromise, not because Israel occupies a foreign land. The people of Israel are not occupiers in the land of Israel. (Applause.) History, archaeology and common sense all make clear that we have had a singular attachment to this land for over 3,000 years.

I want peace because I want to create a better future for my people, but it must be a genuine peace — one that is anchored in mutual recognition and enduring security arrangements — rock solid security arrangements on the ground, because you see, Israeli withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza created two militant Islamic enclaves on our borders for which tens of thousands of rockets have been fired at Israel, and these sobering experiences heightens Israel’s security concerns (regarding ?) potential territorial concessions in the future.

Now, those security concerns are even greater today. Just look around you. The Middle East is in chaos, states are disintegrating, and militant Islamists are filling the void. Israel cannot have territories from which it withdraws taken over by Islamic militants yet again, as happened in Gaza and Lebanon. That would place the likes of ISIS within mortar range, a few miles, of 80 percent of our population.

Now think about that. The distance between the 1967 lines and the suburbs of Tel Aviv is like the distance between the U.N. building here and Times Square. Israel is a tiny country. That’s why in any peace agreement, which will obviously necessitate a territorial compromise, I will always insist that Israel be able to defend itself by itself against any threat. (Applause.)

And yet despite everything that has happened, some still don’t take Israel’s security concerns seriously. But I do and I always will — (applause) — because as prime minister of Israel, I’m entrusted with the awesome responsibility of ensuring the future of the Jewish people and the future of the Jewish state. And no matter what pressure is brought to bear, I will never waiver in fulfilling that responsibility. (Applause.)

I believe that with a fresh approach from our neighbors, we can advance peace despite the difficulties we face. See, in Israel, we have a record of making the impossible possible. We’ve made a desolate land flourish, and with very few natural resources, we’ve used the fertile minds of our people to turn Israel into a global center of technology and innovation, and peace, of course, would enable Israel to realize its full potential and to bring a promising future not only for our people, not only for the Palestinian people, but for many, many others in our region.

But the old template for peace must be updated. It must take into account new realities and new roles and responsibilities for our Arab neighbors.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new Middle East. It presents new dangers but also new opportunities. Israel is prepared to work with Arab partners and the international community to confront those dangers and to seize those opportunities. Together, we must recognize the global threat of militant Islam, the primacy of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons capability and the indispensable role of Arab states in advancing peace with the Palestinians. All this may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth, and the truth must always be spoken, especially here in the United Nations. (Applause.)

Isaiah, our great prophet of peace, taught us nearly 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem to speak truth to power. (Speaks in Hebrew.) For the sake of Zion, I will not be silent, for the sake of Jerusalem, I will not be still until her justice shines bright and her salvation glows like a flaming torch.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us light a torch of truth and justice to safeguard our common future. Thank you.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Middle East

Can the Middle East Redraw Itself?

 

11

 

Amre Moussa, the former Arab League head from Egypt, is calling for a Middle Eastern equivalent of the 1814 Congress of Vienna, in which Europe’s great powers established a new order to prevent wars between empires following the defeat of Napoleon. Admittedly, Moussa quickly backtracked to say the plan couldn’t initially include Iran, Turkey or Israel, making it really just another Arab League meeting. Still, I think he’s onto something.

For years, the people of the Middle East have complained that the U.S. and Europe treat it as a kind of colonial playground, while the West has moaned the region must take more responsibility to regulate and provide security for itself. This week, reports of United Arab Emirates airstrikes in Libya, launched from airstrips in Egypt, suggest that is beginning to happen — but in precisely the wrong way. The airstrikes pit the more secular client of one Persian Gulf state, UAE, against Islamists supported by another, Qatar.

This is a recipe for a long and bloody civil war in Libya, at a time when the Middle East is imploding and the U.S. is no longer willing or able to police it alone. Divisions among the Sunni states and an expanding proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia have already resulted in a vortex of human suffering and instability in Syria that has spawned the Islamic State.

So Moussa’s idea of a congress “emanating from the Middle East” itself, rather than from the U.S. or Europe, and focused on how to ensure stability in the region makes sense. As a model, the Congress of Vienna has an attractive echo for the Middle East’s monarchies and dictators, as it was designed mainly by conservative autocrats as they sought ways to contain the subversive republican fervor unleashed by the French revolution. Old regime leaders in the Middle East see the Arab Spring in much the same light.

“We are talking about a major change in the Middle East,” Moussa said at a conference I’m attending this week in Salzburg, Austria, on lessons to be drawn from the Vienna Congress and the outbreak of World War I, hosted by the International Peace Institute and the Salzburg Global Seminar. “We have to discuss this like grownups: What are we going to do when this wave of change comes to its end?”

The Congress of Vienna was also used to redraw the map of Europe after the Napoleonic wars, and then fix borders and establish a mechanism to agree on changes. In this light, Moussa was adamant that proposals to break up Iraq along sectarian lines would be infectious and disastrous for the region. A deal in in which the likes of Iran and Saudi Arabia guaranteed the non-violation of borders is appealing.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. For one thing, Iran and Saudi Arabia are involved in what they see as a zero-sum contest for power, and a meaningful agreement between them seems fantastical: The empires of Europe were driven to reconciliation only after nearly 20 years of defeats forced them to learn the value of alliance. Indeed, while Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki al-Faisal, also in Salzburg, supported Moussa’s idea, his focus was on how to create a united Arab front toward Iran — a poor starting point if the goal is to reconcile Iranian and Saudi interests

So long as the focus is on getting the Arab house in order, this is unlikely to get anywhere. A more serious attempt would focus not on Arab identity but on who needs to be at the table so that any deal that is reached would be meaningful. At a minimum, that means Iran, Israel and Turkey must be present. Inviting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to facilitate and hold the ring would also be smart. It’s crazy, and it’s worth a try.

 

To contact the author: Marc Champion at  Bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Tobin Harshaw at  bloomberg.net

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 From Daniel Pipes:

Dear Reader:

The article below began life as a presentation at a Muslim conference in Toronto a week ago and is today published in Turkish and English by a newspaper in Turkey.

Also: I appeared August 22 on Sun News Network’s The Arena with Michael Coren, and discussed “Hamas and ISIS on the Rampage.” It’s studio quality and 8 minutes long. Click here.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes


The Caliphate Brings Trauma.

by Daniel Pipes
Ayd?nl?k (Turkey)
August 24, 2014

www.danielpipes.org/14791/caliphate-trauma

Without warning, the ancient and long powerless institution of the caliphate returned to life on June 29, 2014.
What does this event augur?

The classic concept of the caliphate – of a single successor to Muhammad ruling a unified Muslim state – lasted just over a century and expired with the emergence of two caliphs in 750 CE.

The power of the caliphate collapsed in about the year 940 CE. After a prolonged, shadowy existence, the institution disappeared altogether in 1924. The only subsequent efforts at revival were trivial, such as the so-called Kalifatsstaat in Cologne, Germany. In other words, the caliphate has been inoperative for about a millennium and absent for about a century.

 

“The Kaplan Case,” a German magazine cover story about the “Caliph of Cologne.”


The group named the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria conquered the city of Mosul, population 1.7 million, in June; days later, it adopted the name Islamic State and declared the return of the caliphate. Its capital is the historic town of Raqqa, Syria (population just 220,000), which not-coincidentally served as the caliphate’s capital under Harun al-Rashid for 13 years.

Under the authority of an Iraqi named Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim, the new caliphate projects boundless ambition to rule the entire world (“east and west”) and to impose a uniquely primitive, fanatical, and violent form of Islamic law on everyone.

 

{Harun al-Rashid was the fifth Abbasid Caliph. His actual birth date is debatable, and various sources give dates from 763 to 766. His surname translates to “the Just,” “the Upright” or “the Rightly-Guided.”  He died: March 24, 809 AD, Tous, Iran.

Al-Rashid ruled from 786 to 809, during the peak of the Islamic Golden Age. His time was marked by scientific, cultural, and religious prosperity. Islamic art and music also flourished significantly during his reign. He established the legendary library Bayt al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”) in Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, and during his rule Baghdad began to flourish as a center of knowledge, culture and trade.

In 796, he moved his court and government to Ar-Raqqah in modern-day Syria.

Since Harun was intellectually, politically, and militarily resourceful, his life and his court have been the subject of many tales. Some are claimed to be factual, but most are believed to be fictitious. An example of what is factual, is the story of the clock that was among various presents that Harun had sent to Charlemagne. The presents were carried by the returning Frankish mission that came to offer Harun friendship in 799. Charlemagne and his retinue deemed the clock to be a conjuration for the sounds it emanated and the tricks it displayed every time an hour ticked.  Among what is known to be fictional is  The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, which contains many stories that are fantasized by Harun’s magnificent court and even Harun al-Rashid himself.

Amongst some Shia Muslims he is despised for his role in the murder of the 7th Imam, Musa ibn Ja’far.

(These lines above were  added by PJ when editing this material for SustainabiliTank.info as we wonder how the ISIS fighters reconcile their deeds with the historic image that put the Ar-Raqqah town on the Caliphate’s map?)}

Caliphs of Baghdad
(749–1258)

 

 

Harun al-Rashid as imagined in a 1965 Hungarian stamp.

 

I have predicted that this Islamic State, despite its spectacular rise, will not survive: “confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, [it] will not last long.” At the same time, I expect it will leave a legacy:

No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.

 

Looking ahead, here is my more specific forecast for the current caliphate’s legacy:

1. Now that the ice is broken, other ambitious Islamists will act more boldly by declaring themselves caliph. There may well be a proliferation of them in different regions, from Nigeria to Somalia to Afghanistan to Indonesia and beyond.

2. Declaring a caliphate has major implications, making it attractive to jihadis across the umma (the worldwide Muslim community) and compelling it to acquire sovereign control of territory.

3. The Saudi state has taken on a quasi-caliphal role since the formal disappearance of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. With the emergence of the Raqqa caliphate, the Saudi king and his advisors will be sorely tempted to declare their own version. If the current “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (as the Saudi king like to be called), who just turned 90, does not indulge this claim, his successors might well do so, thereby becoming the first caliphate in a recognized state.

 


Pope Benedict XVI (right) met in 2007 with Saudi king (and future Caliph?) Abdullah.
{is this picture a sign of things to come – the Saudi King’s ambition to speak for all Islam?}


4. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the great Shi’ite power, might well do the same, not wanting to be conceptually out-gunned by the Sunnis in Riyadh, thus becoming the second formal caliphal state.

5. This profusion of caliphs will further exacerbate the anarchy and internecine hostility among Muslim peoples.

6. Disillusion will quickly set in. Caliphates will not bring personal security, justice, economic growth, or cultural achievement. One after another, these self-declared universal states will collapse, be overrun, or let lapse their grandiose claims.

7. This caliphate-declaring madness will end some decades hence, with a return to roughly the pre-June 29, 2014, conditions. Looking back then on the caliphal eruption, it will appear as an anachronistic anomaly, an obstacle to modernizing the umma, and a bad dream.

 

In short, declaring the caliphate on June 29 was a major event; and the caliphate is an institution whose time has long passed and, therefore, whose revival bodes much trauma.

—————————–

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. This paper was first delivered at a QeRN Academy conference on “The Caliphate as a Political System: Historic Myth or Future Reality?” in Toronto on August 16, 2014. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Related Topics:  History, Islam This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Islamic State Fighter: Hezbollah and the Jews Are Next.

The Algemeiner as per Globes which is the Israeli business journal – August 18, 2014

“From Syria, we’ll expand the caliphate, Allah willing, and Hizbullah and the Jews will meet their fate, and soon,” vowed an American-born 26-year-old Islamic State (IS) fighter in Aleppo, Syria to a disguised Israeli reporter, Israel’s Globes reported Monday.

Posing as “Abed al-Islam Afifi,” 26, from Paris, the reporter contacted Abu Turab via a cellphone app.

“Of course, it’s great to be here [in Syria],” Abu Turab said. “Jihad in our generation is a personal duty. While I can’t directly recommend it to you, Allah, praised be His name, told all Muslims to follow in his path.”

When the reporter asked for more information on how to join IS and the group’s goals, he was told, “First, go to Turkey, and there, I’ll give you a number of someone to call, and they’ll do the rest. It’s that simple,” he was told.

IS boasts that dozens of American youths, and hundreds from various countries in Europe have joined its ranks and have already entered Syria and Iraq to fight alongside various factions, in part, thanks to easy access to information on the internet.

The reporter said he found Abu-Turab on a European social network dedicated to offering questions and answers on joining the worldwide terrorist scourge. Abu-Turab is a star on this particular network, according to the report, with hundreds of answers posted to questions about the group’s aims and goals.

“What happens of Bashar [Assad's] dogs reach you?” one person asked.

“They haven’t got to me yet, but I pray to Allah that it doesn’t happen,” Abu Turab replied.

According to the report, Prof. Meir Litvak of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, said,”These young people are highly alienated from their environment.”

“They’re attracted to whatever is the most ‘anti’ to whatever is in front of them,” he said. “And radical Islamic fundamentalism represents it – [opposition] to the ‘totally rotten and corrupt America,’ in their view.”

The easiest explanation for the attraction of young people to jihad is an economic rationale, but Professor Litvak argues that “most of them are not poor; no economic crisis pushed them into despair. Not at all. These youngsters are middle class.”

“For example the British of Pakistani origin who perpetrated the attacks in London – it’s same thing. While there are the typical ‘marginal’ Americans or Europeans youth, the majority are young Muslims from families who feel alienated from bourgeois society.”

Dr. Muhammad Al Atawneh, a senior faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, suggested that these young people understand Islam and organizations like IS via non-religious sources.

“For these young people, this is a protest. They see radical Islam as an alternative to the failure of nation-states. They go to the edge of the edge, talking about the caliphate, but no one there knows what ‘caliphate’ really means,” he said.

“There is tremendous ignorance on the subject,” Al Atawneh said. “They’re very confused in matters of religion. The distortions and gaps are so abysmal, it is impossible to understand what texts people who chop off heads are following.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Presided upon by Mr. Richard N. Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, a panel of six of the Council’s experts in front of two rooms full in audience – one in New York the other in Washington DC, a whole gamut of Middle East problems was put on display and dissected.

The six experts were – Elliott Abrams who started out as staff member of Senators Henry M. Jackson and Daniel P. Moynihan and then moved on to the White House under Presidents Reagan and G.W. Bush;  Steven A. Cook who started out at the Brookings Institution, developed an expertise on Egypt, Algeria and Turkey, and is running a blog “From the Potomac to the Euphrates;    Robert M. Danin who started out as a journalist reporting from Jerusalem then worked at the State Department on Middle East Affairs and with Tony Blair as his Jerusalem based representative of the Quartet;   and Ray Takeyh, a widely published professorial expert on Iran – in Washington D C and Isobel Coleman who at CFR covers Civil Society, Markets and Democracy, comes from the business world, has written extensively on policy, was track leader at the Clinton Global Initiative, was named by Newsweek as one of 150 Women Who Shake the World and her blog is Democracy in Development; and Richard N. Haass who served in the White House at ambassadorial level but argued in a book that Foreign Policy starts at Home – the last two were with us in New York.

This discussion takes place at the beginning of the third week since this latest flare-up of Israel’s war against the Hamas of Gaza. A very fast consensus was reached among the four members of the Washington DC panel that to cool the situation without giving Hamas some credit is really difficult. Israel wants really to destroy the infrastructure of tunnels into Israel. Hamas points out that they managed to-date to beat Israel at that as just a day earlier they demonstrated they are capable to infiltrate Israel through such tunnels. Richard Haass evoked Henry Kissinger who said that what is needed to create a lasting equilibrium is (a) a degree of balance, and (b) a degree of legitimacy that comes from mutual recognition between the forces. The latter point does not exist here. Israel is united and out to eliminate Hamas – but if the fighting continues it is expected that the demand for change in the status quo will get louder in Israel – or just a return to a system that allows only breaks in the fighting will be unacceptable.

Asked about how to bring the Palestinian Authority back into Gaza – the prediction expressed was that Hamas demonstrating that only resistance keeps you in authority will allow Hamas to emerge as winner.  Today’s news that Israel bombed a UN managed school filled with displaced Palestinians, and probably also arms bearing Palestinians, will nevertheless put some more outside pressure on Israel.

Further, the news I get today from Vienna is that Saturday there will be large pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Europe on the occasion of the yearly celebration of the Al-Quds Day. This is a PR success for the Hamas – the show of harm done to the Palestinians that are being used as shield to those missiles, and then their misery exploited in order to achieve PR gains based in part also on the unleashing of an existing undertow of Antisemitism-comes-naturally to some layers of Christian Europe. These are aspects that were not looked at by the panel but which play now very seriously a role within Israel. My bet is that Israel will demand that the PA is reintroduced to Gaza at least at its borders – with a minimum role of making sure there are no tunnels. If this becomes part of the US and Egypt brokered solution, the other part will have to be a transparent start to the dissolution of some West Bank settlements. The military defeat of the Hamas can then be viewed as a success of the political leadership of the Hamas in ways acceptable to Israel.
Again – these ideas were not expressed at the Town-Hall meeting.

Steven Cook said that the present ruler of Egypt – President Abdel Fattah Saed Hussein Khalil al-Sisi, former Chief of the Army and Minister of Defense – is much more decisive then Mubarak was, and can be counted on to be more decisive in matters of Hamas. Now we have a situation that Egypt and the Saudis hate in full view the Muslim Brotherhood and their off-shoot – the Hamas,  while the Amir of Qatar is backing them.  So, now we have beside the Sunni – Shia Divide also a Sunni – Sunni Divide which is going and deepening and creates a further Divide between the Brotherhood & Hamas on the one hand and more extremist ISIS & Al Qaeda on the other hand. These latter without an official sponsor from any State.  Here again real life went beyond what was said at the CFR panel.

I made it my business to tell the organizer about the day’s news at the UN, the finding by investigative journalist Matthew R. Lee that the UN Secretary General’s charter flight to the Middle East was bankrolled by the Amir of Qatar, a sponsor of Hamas, does in effect put a notch in the UNSG effort in posing as an honest broker on Gaza. I thought this ought to be brought up at the Town Hall meeting and said I can volunteer to raise this as a question – but I could not – this because I was there as Press, and only Members of the CFR are allowed to ask questions. Members come from Think-Tanks but mainly from business. The reality is that the business sectors represented at the CFR are mainly those that belong to old establishments – Members of the International Chamber of Commerce, but no businesses that could profit from an economy less reliant on fossil fuels. The whole concept of energy seems here to still mean those conventional fuels – and it shows. It came up here as well when a question about Energy Independence was answered that though an Energy Revolution did happen lately in the US, we will never be Independent of “Energy” because the World Economy runs on “Energy.”

Many other points came up – and I will now highlight some of them:

  -  Iran was mentioned in the context that July 20th Vienna meeting was the rage at that time – but then came the Ukraine and Gaza wars. Now Iran was delayed to November 25th and is barely noticed. It was noted that it is only a 4 months delay while it was technically possible to delay it for 6 months. The Iranians believe that they already agreed to the red lines. Can these Red lines be adjusted?

  -  The Kurds will make now moves to go their own ways. The Turks now play more favorably to the Kurds – but the Kurds continue to be split and fight among themselves.

  -   Winner Takes All has been disproved for the Middle East. Maliki in Iraq learned it does not work, so did Morsi in Egypt who saw his Brotherhod and himself ousted merciless.  I found this an extremely valuable observation for all combatants of the region.

  -   New forms of COLD WAR. there is one between the Saudis and the Gulf States (Intra Sunni – Sunni) – and there is one between the Saudis and the Iranians. Like in the US-Soviet case this is not a fight between States. mainly it goes on now on Syrian Territory between parts of Syria a country that will be dismembered like Iraq was.  In the past governments were oppressive and economically weak, but had power internally – now this did collapse.

  -  Now we reached a favorite question about the UN. Are there any useful capacities remaining for the UN? Elliot Abrams said that if appointed to the UN he would try to get another job. UNRWA has become more and more controversial – specifically when there is a cease-fire.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program – as reported by Irith Jawetz who participated at the UN in Vienna Compound July 15th Meeting .

 

The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and Search for Common Ground  invited us to attend a panel discussion titled “A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program,” which was held on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 13:00 at the Vienna Center for Disarmament & Non Proliferation (VCDNP).

 
As P5+1 and Iran are meeting in Vienna at Foreign Ministers level to resolve the outstanding issues preventing a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before the 20 July deadline, a group of renown experts on the technical and political aspects of the negotiations have met at VCDNP to discuss and identify possible compromises.

 

Panelists: 
 
Dr. Frank von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security 
 
Mr. Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Coalition to reduce Nuclear Dangers, and the Director of Security Programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility.
 
Ambassador (ret.) William G. Miller, Senior Advisor for the US-Iran Program, Search for Common GroupHe is a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Middle East Institute. He is the co-Chairman of the Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America and a Director of The Andrei Sakharov Foundation. He has also been a senior consultant for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

This was a very timely event, as the Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 group of Nations – the U.S., U.K., France. Germany, China, and Russia – spent the weekend in Vienna  discussing follow ups to the interim agreement reached between them and Iran in advance of this July 20th deadline.


At the start of the Panel discussion, it was announced that at that very moment Secretary of State John Kerry is giving his Press Conference before flying back to Washington to report to President Obama about the negotiations. He is willing to come back next weekend for the July 20-th continuation of the discussions.

———–

Ambassador Miller was the first speaker, and he gave a rather optimistic view of the situation. His presentation had more of a political nature.  In his presentation he said that the basic principles of the negotiations is to assure that Iran has no nuclear weapons . Iran has the capability, brain, expertise and knowhow but has no strategic moral or ethical reason to develop nuclear weapons to be used as weapons of mass destruction.
It is a fact, though, that the Iranians insist on use of peaceful nuclear energy – to what extent it is peaceful and how can the rest of the world be sure that it will be peaceful, this is why the negotiations have to succeed. Ambassador Miller is hopeful that, after 35 years of the current regime in Iran, those negotiations will result in a positive answer.
Ambassador Miller commended all the participating teams, the Press and Academia. First he mentioned the top quality Iranian team at the negotiations, many of the participants he knows personally. They were able, motivated, and anxious to find a solution. The US team, led by Secretary Kerry did a  remarkably good job, as did the rest of the teams. He commended the Press who were persistent – fully covered the negotiations and were very professional – and academia who helped with background information.
—————

Mr. Daryl G.Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association talked about a solution for the Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Puzzle. In his presentation he stressed that “Solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, lower the risk of yet another major conflict in the region, and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a realistic, peaceful nuclear program are within reach” – he said.
Progress has already been achieved on several key issues – stregthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at existing and undeclared sites.  …   Iran has agreed to modify its Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output, and a general framework has been developed to waive, and eventually lift, sanctions against Iran.   …  Nevertheless, the two sides have more work to do to bridge differences on the most difficult issue: limiting Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity.As part of a comprehensive deal, Iran and the P5+1 have to agree on several steps to constrain Iran: limit uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5% – keep stocks of its enriched uranium near zero – and halt production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to research-only facility.

He shares Ambassador Miller’s hope and positive outlook that the negotiations will succeed. Anything less than success will be a catastrophe.

—————-
The last speaker was Dr. Frank von Hippel who is a Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.Dr. von Hippel gave a very technical presentation about the Possible elements of a compromise on Iran’s Nuclear Program.

Potential sources of fissile material from Iran’s nuclear energy program are:

1. Plutonium presence in reactor fuel (current issue is Arak reactor)

2. Iran’s centrifuge enrichment complex.

There are two stages in rationalizing the Current situartion:

Stage I

Iran currently has installed 18,000 IR-1 centrifuges  – the compromise would be:

1) to retire IR-1  and replace it with already installed IR-2ms to support research-reactor LEU needs.

2) Continued transparency for Iran’s centrifuge production – possibly as a template for enhanced transparency for centrifuge production worldwide.

3) Continued minimization of stocks of low enriched UF6.

Stage 1 will provide time to cool down an inflamed situation and would provide Iran and the West an opportunity for a cooler assessment of the costs and benefits of diferent possible paths.

In stage II, negotiations might agree on a solution currently beyond reach and also lay a base for a new global regime for enrichment.

Stage II

 

National or Multi-National enrichment? A global Issue.

National – Every  state has the right to enrich fuel for power reactor fuel. However today only Brazil, China, Iran, Japan and Russia have completely independent national civilian enrichment programs.

Multinational – Urenco (Germany, Netherland, UK) . Today Urenco owns the only operating U.S,. civilian enrichment plant.

Building in Flexibility for Iran:

1. Iran should have access to nuclear reactor and fuel vendors worldwide – to ensure that it is getting a good price and reliable delivery.

2. Iran could build up stockpile of fabricated fuel for Bushehr. That would take care of Iran’s fuel security concerns and make it easier for Iran to postpone a large domestic enrichment capacity or depend on a multinational enrichment plant – perhape equiped with Iranian centrifuges in another country in the Middle East.

Dr. von Hippel COPLIMENTED his theory with  charts.

The consensus at the end of the discussion was that the negotiations seem to go well, and all panelists, as well as some members of the audience expressed their hope that they will indeed succeed. Ambassador Miller even went as far as to state that Iran at the moment is the most stable nation in the region, and we have to take advantage of it, make sure the negotiation succeed,  and bring Iran back to the International community.

In the news today it was reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Washington to brief President Obama on the negotiations – rather then on a prior advertised new effort in the Israel-Palestine arena. He was hopeful, but also said there are still some points which need to be clarified.

==========================
Further last comment by SustainabiliTank editor – we add – taken from a Thom Friedman article about a different issue:
We accept that in the future the World true powers of today – The US, China, India, Russia, Japan and the EU – and we like to add Brazil as well – will have to meet their minds and harmonize what ought to be a global leadership for a safe future planet. Just ad hoc chaperoning specific issues will be proven to be not enough.

The way to find a solution to the issue of a nuclear Iran shows that in the globalized world of today there must be an international guiding force. But on this much more has to be written for the sake of Sustainability.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

However you cut it ISIS or ISIL (the second S for Syria, the L for the Levant) – this is a Sunni anti-Western and anti-Shiia organization that was sprung originally on the World by the Saudi Wahhabism.  Call it Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda alikes – these are Sunni anti-colonial fanatics who believe that all of Western Asia Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, that were formed after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, are basically one State or Arab Nation of Sunni Islam. To them the Shiia reform movement was actually another foreign intrusion. They understand the fact that the area was divided by colonial western powers for reasons of oil. To them all Western Asian  oil is Arab and they claim it now.

The US never acknowledged this self determination will of the Sunni Muslims as we in the West believe in human rights as an ethic that is beyond religion, but supported by Nationalism based on Democracy that can accept diversity of religions as long as they adhere in common to a Wahhabi style  of a capitalist economy. The Arabs say – all this is rubbish. ISIS or ISIL want just one Muslim-Sunni State based on religion and the Sharia Laws Wahhabi-style. For now the aspirations of ISIS/ISIL end at the borders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia – perhaps also leaving out all of the Gulf States.
By destroying Iraq that never was a true Nation State, the US allowed for an eventual unleashing of these Sunni forces that are being directed now against Iran and enclaves of non-Sunni communities in Lebanon and Syria. The US is now pushed to change sides from originally backing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that was business friendly to the US, to the practicality of working with Iran in order to disrupt the regional Sunni movement that does not want the US as part of the power structure in the region. The US still fights for the post-Ottoman division into so called States, which to them felt as manageable Administrative units. Syria like Iraq can exist only when headed by a dictator – so the US will back now the one running Syria because they saw what happened when they tried to change the government of Iraq.  Switching bedfellows makes life interesting in Washington – but seems very fishy to these Middle Easterners. The following article is a good description of the present “is.”

 

 

Syria Bombs Iraq, US Doesn’t (It Says).

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

25 June 2014

 

US lines up to ally with Iran and Syria in support of Iraq.

In the current round of fighting, it seems the first international aerial bombing of Iraq was carried out June 23 by the Syrian Air Force, acting at the behest of the Iranian government in support of the Iraqi government, which the U.S. government has sort of pledged to support, just as soon as the Iraqi government purges itself to U.S. satisfaction, which may or may not please the governments of Iran and Syria to which the U.S. government has pledged clear opposition.

The Syrian attack apparently went unreported in almost all media. All the same, this escalation marked a widening of the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria, which already involves, at a minimum, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States (as well as Israel and Lebanon), either overtly or covertly.

The Pentagon has denied reports of U.S. drone strikes along the Iraq-Syria border, according to The Jerusalem Post, which noted that:

BBC Arabic reported earlier on Tuesday [June 24] that unmanned American aircraft had bombed the area of al-Qaim, which was overrun over the weekend by Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Syrian bombing of Iraq continued on June 24, this time reported by The Wall Street Journal (alone at first), which referred to the earlier attacks:

It was the second consecutive day of airstrikes by Syria, which has joined Iran in coming to the aid of the embattled Baghdad government. Tehran has deployed special forces to help protect the capital and the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala, which Shiites revere. [Najaf and Karbala are each a hundred miles or more from the bombing targets.]

The Syrian Air Force comprises mostly Russian and French planes

Syrian bombs reportedly killed at least 50 people and wounded at least 132 others when they hit targets including the municipal building, a market, and a bank in Al Rutba, a town of about 55,000 in western Iraq, captured by ISIS forces June 21. Al Rutba (also Ar Rutba or Al Rutbah) is strategically located on the prime east-west highway across vast and mostly desert Anbar Province. It is about 90 miles from both the Syrian and Jordanian borders, and more than 120 miles from Baghdad.

U.S. forces occupied Al Rutba during most of 2003-2009.

In December 2013, a complex ISIS suicide attack on Iraqi military forces in Al Rutba killed at least 18 officers, including two commanders. Even though the current ISIS offensive has apparently surprised many – including the U.S. government – it’s part of a long campaign, as documented in The Long War Journal in December 2013:

The ISIS continues to display its capacity to plan and execute coordinated operations against Iraq’s security facilities. These attacks are part of multiple ‘waves’ of al Qaeda’s “Destroying the Walls” campaign, which was announced by emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who is also known as Abu Du’a, on July 21, 2012.

Another purported bombing target, Al Qaim, is located about 100 miles to the northeast, on the Euphrates River and the Syrian border. The city of about 250,000 was reportedly the site of Iraq’s Uranium refining complex during the 1980s. Americans bombed the city and destroyed the complex during the 1991 Gulf War.

For most of 2003-2006, Al Qaim was occupied by American forces, who used it as a base for raids into Syria (tactics reminiscent of Viet Nam, where U.S. forces covertly raided Cambodia). When an Iraqi general there turned himself in to Americans in 2003, in an effort to free his two sons, Americans eventually tortured the general to death, without releasing his sons.

Al Qaim was scene of fierce fighting during last Iraq War

In 2005, insurgents took Al Qaim from the Iraqi forces left in charge by the Americans. American Marines were unable to fully re-take the city in the face of fierce resistance. American bombing of Al Qaim in August killed at least 47 people. Late in the year, a sign outside the city reportedly said, “Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim.”

Forces of ISIS took control of Al Qaim on June 21.

The American denial of drone strikes on Al Qaim is explained by RT (Russian Television) this way:

Unidentified bombers have reportedly launched an air strike on ISIS positions in the northern Iraqi city of al-Qaim. Iraqi television has claimed they are US planes, but the Pentagon has denied responsibility.

US planes were identified by Iraqi television, but the Saudi Al-Arabiya network claims that the raid was carried out by Syria, citing local tribal chiefs.

The Iraqi Air Force has bombed the Iraqi city of Baiji, about 130 miles north of Baghdad, on the Tigris River. Americans bombed the city in 1991, destroying most of its oil refinery, which was quickly rebuilt. Americans occupied Baiji for most of 2003-2009, putting down significant resistance in 2003.

ISIS and Iraqi forces have been fighting for control of the Baiji oil refinery since June 11. With ISIS in control by June 20, the Baghdad government over 100 miles away decided to start bombing. The United Nations has reported that the Iraq death toll for June is already the highest in years, with more than 1,000 killed, most of them civilians.

Meanwhile, Israel has bombed Syria, killing civilians, in retaliation for an attack from Syria that killed Israeli civilians in the Golan Heights.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Second Iran-Iraq War and the American Switch

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

13 June 14

 

SEE ALSO: Obama ‘Urgently’ Considering Air Assault on Targets in Syria and Iraq

ran has decided to intervene directly in Iraq and has already sent fighters to the front, according to the Wall Street Journal, based on Iranian sources. It is alleged that Iranian special forces have helped the Iraqi army push back in Tikrit, the birth place of Saddam Hussein that was overrun earlier this week by ISIS, which captured the city’s police force. These reports come on the heels of President Hassan Rouhani’s pledge on Thursday that Iran would not stand by and allow terrorists to take over Iraq. The hyper-Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters are closing in on a major Shiite shrine in Samarra and have pledge to take Baghdad, the capital, itself.

Iran has allegedly supplied small numbers of advisers and even hired Afghan fighters to the Syrian regime, and encouraged Lebanon’s Hizbullah to intervene in Syria to prevent the fall of Homs to Sunni extremists. These Iranian interventions in Syria did shore up the al-Assad regime and reverse rebel momentum. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps may believe it can use the same tactics to roll back ISIS in Iraq. Iran is largely Shiite and has a Shiite religious ideology as the basis of the state. Iraq is 60% Shiite and the ruling government since 2005 has come from that community. Sunni Arabs in Iraq are probably only 17% or so, but had been the elite for most of Iraq’s medieval and modern history, until George W. Bush overthrew the predominantly Sunni Saddam Hussein regime and allowed the Shiites to come to power.

Iraqi Shiites predominate in Baghdad and parts south. Shiites are more like traditional Catholics in venerating members of the holy family and attending at their shrines. Contemporary Salafi Sunni Islam is more like the militant brand of Protestantism of the late 1500s that denounced intermediaries between God and the individual and actually attacked and destroyed shrines to saints and other holy figures, where pleas for intercession were made. The shrine in Samarra is associated with the 12th in the line of vicars of the Prophet Muhammad, called Imams in Shi’ism, Muhammad al-Mahdi, a direct descendant of the Prophet himself. Shiites have a special emphasis on a millenarian expectation that the Twelfth Imam will soon return to restore justice to the world (rather as Christians believe in the return of Christ). When the Samarra shrine was damaged by Sunni militants in 2006, it threw Iraq into civil war, in which 3000 civilians were being killed every month. Baghdad was ethnically cleansed by 2008 of most of its Sunnis, becoming a largely Shiite capital. ISIS wants to reverse that process. Baghdad was founded by the Abbasid caliphate, who claimed to be vicars of the Prophet, in 762 AD and is a symbol of the glories of early Islam. ISIS leaders are threatening also to destroy the shrine of Ali in Najaf and the shrine of Husain in Karbala (Najaf for Shiites is the equivalent of the Basilica of St. Peter for Catholics).

The specter of Iranian troops on Iraqi soil can only recall the first Iran-Iraq War.

From September of 1980, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army invaded Iran’s oil-rich Khuzistan Province, until summer 1988 when Ayatollah Khomeini finally accepted an armistice, Iran and Iraq fought one of the Middle East’s longest and bloodiest wars. Its trench warfare and hidden naval encounters recalled the horrors of World War I, as did the Iraqi Baath government’s deployment of mustard gas against Iranian soldiers at the front and sarin gas against Kurdish civilians suspected of pro-Iranian sentiments.

The Reagan administration in the United States largely backed Iraq from 1983, when Reagan dispatched then Searle CEO Donald Rumsfeld to shake Saddam’s hand. This, despite Iraq being the clear aggressor and despite Reagan’s full knowledge of Iraqi use of chemical weapons, about which George Schultz at the State Department loudly complained until he was shushed. Then, having his marching orders straight, Schultz had the US ambassador to the UN deep-six any UN Security Council resolution condemning Iraq for the chemical weapons deployment. The US navy fought an behind the scenes war against Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, becoming a de facto appendage of the Baath military.

Just because the Reagan administration was so Machiavellian, it also gave some minor support Iran in the war. Reagan stole anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry from the Pentagon storehouses and illegally sold them to Khomeini despite Iran being on the US terrorism watch list. He then had Iran pressure the Shiite militiamen in Lebanon to release American hostages. Reagan sent the money received from Iran to death squads in Nicaragua fighting the people’s revolution there against a brutal American-installed dictatorship. This money was sent to Nicaragua in defiance of the Boland Amendment passed by Congress forbidding US monies to go there. Ollie North, whom you see prevaricating on Fox News these days, was a bag man for the operation.

They may as well have broken into the National Archives Nick Cage style, broken out the original copy of the constitution, and put it through a shredder several times in a row till small confetti pieces were all that were left.

It is unclear how many people Saddam’s bloody war killed off. A quarter of a million on each side seems plausible. So many young men were part of a “missing generation” that the Iranian regime had to let women into the workforce and universities in very large numbers despite its preference for them to remain home and secluded. In Iraq, there were many widows, and some were forced to become low-status second wives, or single heads of household, or, among Shiites, temporary wives. Iraq depleted its currency reserves in the war and went into debt with Kuwait among others, then in 1990 invaded and tried to annex Kuwait. Saddam dealt with his creditors the way organized crime might deal with its.

In the looming second Iran-Iraq War, the US will be de facto allied with Iran against the would-be al-Qaeda affiliate (ISIS was rejected by core al-Qaeda for viciously attacking other militant vigilante Sunni fundamentalists in turf wars in Syria). The position of the US is therefore 180 degrees away from what it was under Reagan.

In fact, since ISIS is allegedly bankrolled by private Salafi businessmen in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Oil Gulf, the US is on the opposite side of all its former allies of the 1980s. In some ways, some of the alleged stagnation of US policy in the Middle East may derive from a de facto US switch to the Iranian side on most issues, at the same time that US rhetoric supports Iran’s enemies in Syria and elsewhere in the region.

It is possible that a US-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda-like groups in Iraq and Syria could clarify their budding new relationship and lead to a tectonic shift in US policy in the Middle East. The Indeed, Reuters says Iranian officials are offering the possibility of security cooperation with the us. One things seems clear. Without Iran, the US is unlikely to be able to roll by al-Qaeda affiliates and would-be affiliates in the Fertile Crescent, who ultimately could pose a danger to US interests.

=================================

 

Oil strikes nine-month peak on Iraq violence.

MENAFN – AFP – 13/06/2014

 
 

(MENAFN – AFP) Global oil prices surged to fresh nine-month high points on Friday as traders eyed worsening violence in OPEC’s second biggest crude exporter Iraq.

Brent crude for July delivery soared to 114.69 per barrel in morning deals, touching the highest level since September 2013. It later stood at 113.57 in London afternoon deals, up 55 cents from Thursday, as traders booked profits.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July added 42 cents to 106.95 a barrel.

“Prices are still being driven up by the events in Iraq, where militants from the Sunni terrorist group ISIL have seized further territory and are now said to be just a few kilometres away from the capital, Baghdad,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

“The US is now considering air strikes by way of supporting the Iraqi armed forces in their fight against the ISIL. The Iraqi government increasingly appears to be losing control of the country.”

- Jihadists near Baghdad -

The Iraqi government bolstered Baghdad’s defences on Friday as jihadists pushed towards the capital and President Barack Obama said he was exploring all options to save Iraq’s security forces from collapse.

Predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran will combat the “violence and terrorism” of Sunni extremists who have launched an anti-government offensive in neighbouring Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani warned.

“This is an extremist, terrorist group that is acting savagely,” Rouhani said, without elaborating on what steps Tehran would take to thwart a bid by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to push toward Baghdad after seizing several cities and towns to the north.

The International Energy Agency meanwhile cautioned that oil supplies from Iraq may not be at immediate risk.

Iraq is the second biggest oil exporter in the 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after kingpin Saudi Arabia.

- IEA plays down impact -

“Concerning as the latest events in Iraq may be, they might not for now, if the conflict does not spread further, put additional Iraqi oil supplies immediately at risk,” the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly oil market report on Friday.

It pointed out that Iraq’s relatively small output from the north of the country has been off the market since March due to violence while output from the south has been on the rise and production has hit a 30-year high.

However the IEA, the energy monitoring and policy arm of the OECD group of advanced nations, pointed to the long-term importance of Iraq for the global energy market.

It calculated that “roughly 60 percent of the growth in OPEC crude production capacity for the rest of this decade will come from Iraq”.

The 12-nation oil cartel, which pumps one third of the world’s crude, earlier this week decided to hold their collective production target at 30 million barrels per day (bpd), where it has stood since late 2011, as they said the oil market was stable.

Oil producing nations have expressed their satisfaction with prices above 100 a barrel — where they have been for most of this year — as it brings them in sufficient revenue while appearing not to crimp growth in consuming nations.

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FURTHER ON THE OIL MARKET:

NPR NEWS

Militants’ Advance In Iraq Agitates Oil Markets

by

When Sunni militants began seizing broad swathes of territory across northern Iraq last week, global oil markets shrugged it off. After all, instability in Iraq is nothing new.

But that all changed on Wednesday, when the insurgents swept into the oil refinery town of Baiji, says Robert McNally, president of the Rapidan Group, an energy consulting firm. The price of oil climbed nearly 4 percent in just a few short days.

“This jaw-dropping blitz assault … and the threat it posed to the Baiji refinery, the Baiji electrical power plant, and really the stability of Iraq itself, just caused the market to panic,” McNally says.

Insurgents surrounded the refinery, but were not able to seize it. For now, it remains under government control, guarded by Iraqi special forces. The refinery is the largest in Iraq, but it’s used only for domestic purposes.

The real concern for the global markets — and the entire global economy — is about securing the flow of crude oil out of Iraq’s main oil fields. They are clustered around the city of Basra, in the far south of the country at the tip of the Persian Gulf. It’s a relatively long way from militant positions now.

But Amrita Sen, chief oil market analyst with Energy Aspects in London, says that distance doesn’t provide much relief, for two reasons.

“One, the militants are progressing towards the south very, very quickly,” Sen says. “And two, the Iraqi army’s complete inability to stop them … The fear factor is huge in the market at the moment.”

There’s also concern the Sunni militants’ all-out charge through Iraq could spark widespread sectarian violence, possibly pulling in regional players, says McNally.

“The specter now is one of a sort of broad fragmentation and disintegration in Iraq, which eventually could spill over to the south and to Iraq’s oil exports,” he says.

Jim Burkhard, head of global oil market research at IHS, says militants don’t have to occupy the oil fields; they can simply launch small attacks on the pipelines, much as they’ve done on export pipelines in the northern city of Kirkuk. But Burkhard says global oil markets would feel the pinch if anything happened to Iraqi exports.

“This summer we estimate the world will have about 2 to 2.5 million barrels per day of spare crude oil production capacity,” he says. “That’s the oil markets’ shock absorber. That’s how much we have to call on in case there’s a disruption. … Iraq exports about 2.5 million barrels per day, so that’s why the market is particularly sensitive to these fast-moving developments in Iraq right now.”

Iraq has the potential to double the amount of oil it exports each day, but the industry has been plagued with problems despite investment from western companies. Burkhard says the escalating violence not only adds to Iraq’s woes, it’s part of a broader geopolitical story that’s unfolding.

“The situation between Russia and Ukraine is not settled … Libya is in a very desperate situation right now; oil production is just a trickle,” Burkhard says. “There’s also concerns about Nigeria and Venezuala as well.”

President Obama said on Friday that if there are disruptions in Iraq’s oil supply, other producers in the Gulf are able to pick up the slack. But that will do little to calm market jitters that are driving up prices.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Europe

 

Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

 

 

Photo

A natural gas worker in Chaslovtsy, the largest transit point in Ukraine for Gazprom exports to the European Union. Credit Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

 

CHASLOVTSY, Ukraine — As Ukraine tries to contain a pro-Russian insurgency convulsing its eastern region, a perhaps more significant struggle for the country hinges on what happens beneath the ground here in a placid woodland in the far west, on the border with Slovakia.

This is where about $20 billion worth of Russian natural gas flows each year through huge underground pipelines to enter Europe after a nearly 3,000-mile journey from Siberia. It is also, the pro-European government in Kiev believes, where Ukraine has a chance to finally break free from the grip of Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy behemoth.

In an effort to do this, Ukraine has for more than a year been pushing hard to start so-called reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe via Slovakia to Ukraine, thus blunting repeated Russian threats to turn off the gas tap.

An agreement signed last week between Slovak and Ukrainian pipeline operators opened the way for modest reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe, where prices are much lower than those demanded by Gazprom for its direct sales to Ukraine.

But the deal, brokered by the European Union and nudged along by the White House, fell so far short of what Ukraine had been lobbying for that it left a nagging question: Why has it been so difficult to prod tiny Slovakia, a European Union member, to get a technically simple and, for Ukraine and for the credibility of the 28-nation bloc, vitally important venture off the ground?

Some cite legal and technical obstacles, others politics and fear of crossing the Kremlin, but all agree that a major obstacle has been the power and reach of Gazprom, which serves as a potent tool for advancing Russia’s economic and geopolitical interests, and is ultimately beholden to President Vladimir V. Putin.

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Gazprom not only dominates the gas business across the former Soviet Union, but also enjoys considerable clout inside the European Union, which gets roughly a third of its gas imports from Russia and is itself vulnerable to Russian pressure.

Major Gas Lines

Uzhgorod and Chaslovtsy are the most West-Side dots in above map of The UKRAINE.

All the same, a fog of mystery surrounds the reluctance of Slovakia to open up its gas transit corridor — through which Russia pumps a large portion of its gas to Europe — for large reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Built during the Soviet era to link Siberian gas fields with European markets, Slovak pipelines, according to Ukrainian officials and experts, could move up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Europe to Ukraine a year — more than all the gas Ukraine is expected to import from Russia this year.

Instead, the majority state-owned Slovak company that runs the system, Eustream, has offered only a small, long-disused subsidiary pipeline that still needs engineering work before it can carry gas to Ukraine. Once the work is finished in October, Eustream will provide just a tenth of the gas Ukraine has been looking for from Europe. The company says that small amount can be increased sharply later.

Here in Chaslovtsy, in southwestern Ukraine, where technicians from Ukraine’s pipeline company, Ukrtransgaz, and Gazprom monitor the flow of Russian gas into Slovakia, the Ukrainian head of the facility, Vitaly Lukita, said he wondered if gas would ever flow the other way.

“We are all ready here, but I don’t know why the Slovaks are taking so long,” Mr. Lukita said. “Everyone has been talking about this for a very long time, but nothing has happened.”

Andriy Kobolev, the board chairman of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company, said he was particularly mystified by the recalcitrance of Eustream because in 2011 the company had put forward the idea of using spare capacity in its trunk pipelines for reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine.

He said the Slovaks had rejected this option in recent negotiations, citing secret contracts with Gazprom. He added that he did not know what the problem was exactly, because he had not been allowed to see the contracts.

Eustream executives declined repeated requests for interviews. Vahram Chuguryan, the company’s spokesman, declined to comment on the apparent change of heart or on whether it was related to an ownership shuffle in early 2013, when a group of wealthy Czech and Slovak businesspeople purchased a 49 percent stake in Eustream. At the time, Czech news media speculated that they were acting as a stalking horse for Gazprom.

Daniel Castvaj, a spokesman for Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding, the company that made the purchase, denied Ukrainian assertions that Eustream has sought to limit reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine, describing these as “not only untrue but nonsensical” since the pipeline operator, which makes its money off transit fees, has a strong commercial interest in boosting flows regardless of direction.

He said he was unaware of any 2011 offer by Eustream to use the trunk transit system to deliver gas to Ukraine, but added that such an option has always been technically and legally impossible “without the consent of Gazprom,” which has not been given.

European Union officials, frustrated by months of haggling and worried about possible legal problems raised by Gazprom’s contracts with Slovakia, hailed last week’s modest deal as offering at least an end to the logjam. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, described it as a “breakthrough” but also called it a “first step,” signaling hope that Slovakia may, over time, allow more substantial reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s dependence on Gazprom to heat homes and power factories — it buys more than half its supplies from Russia — has not only left the country vulnerable to sudden price changes, which fluctuate depending on whether Moscow wants to punish or favor the authorities in Kiev, but has also helped fuel the rampant corruption that has addled successive Ukrainian governments.

When Gazprom raised the price of gas to Ukraine by 80 percent last month and threatened to cut off supplies if Kiev did not pay up, Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, blasted Moscow for “aggression against Ukraine.”

“Apart from the Russian Army and guns, they decided to use one of the most efficient tools, which are political and economic pressure,” he said.

   Ukraine Crisis in Maps

By pushing to buy the bulk of its gas from Europe instead of from Gazprom and murky middlemen endorsed by Gazprom, Ukraine hopes to protect what it sees as a dangerously exposed flank from Russian attack.

The best-known of those middlemen, the Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash, was detained in Austria in April and has been fighting extradition to the United States.

“Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told Ukrainian legislators during a visit to Kiev last month. “It would be a very different world you’d be facing today.”

 

Nearly all the gas Washington and Brussels would like to get moving into Ukraine from Europe originally came from Russia, which pumps gas westward across Ukraine, into Slovakia and then on to customers in Germany and elsewhere. Once the gas is sold, however, Gazprom ceases to be its owner and loses its power to set the terms of its sale.

 

Russia is currently demanding $485 per thousand cubic meters for the gas Ukraine buys directly — instead of the price of $268 it offered the Ukrainian government under President Viktor F. Yanukovych before his ouster — while “Russian” gas sold via Europe, which should be more expensive because of additional transit fees, costs at least $100 per unit less.

Russia denies using gas as a political weapon and says all Ukraine needs to do to secure a stable supply at a reasonable price is pay its bills on time and clear its debts, which Gazprom said total $3.5 billion.

Ukraine has already started taking reverse-flow deliveries from Poland and Hungary. But the quantities, around 2 billion cubic meters last year, have been too small to make much of a difference. Only Slovakia has the pipeline capacity to change the balance of forces.

“We have been struggling for a long time to convince them to find a solution,” said Mr. Kobolev, the Ukrainian gas chief. “We have now identified the problem, which was obvious from the beginning — restrictions placed by Gazprom.”

Ukraine’s energy minister, Yuri Prodan, dismissed Gazprom’s legal and technical arguments as a red herring. “I think the problem is political. We don’t see any real objective obstacles to what we have been proposing,” he said.

Opposition politicians in Slovakia, noting that 51 percent of Eustream belongs to the Slovak state, attribute the pipeline company’s stand to the country’s prime minister, Robert Fico, a center-left leader who has sometimes seemed more in sync with Moscow’s views than those of the European Union.

“Fico thinks that it is necessary to be very nice and polite to Mr. Putin,” Mikulas Dzurinda, a former prime minister of Slovakia, said in a telephone interview. “This is the heritage of old communists in a new era: The big guys are still in Moscow,” he said.

At a news conference in April, Mr. Fico insisted that Slovakia was “really ready” to help assist reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine. But he added, “We naturally protect our own interests” and will not risk punishment by Gazprom for moves that violate Slovakia’s own deals with the Russian energy giant.

Slovakia depends on Gazprom for around 60 percent of its gas supplies and worries that upsetting the Russian company would lead to higher prices for itself or even cuts in supplies.

Alexander Medvedev, the head of Gazprom’s export arm, said he had no problem in principle with reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine but said such arrangements “require the agreement of all parties involved,” including Gazprom.

“Normally, you can’t arrange a physical reverse flow without a new pipeline,” he added, indicating Gazprom’s opposition to the use of existing Slovak pipelines.

Watching over workers in Chaslovtsy as they laid new underground pipes, Ivan Shayuk, a Ukrainian engineer for Ukrtransgaz, shook his head when asked why the scheme was taking so long.

“What is the problem? The problem is simple — Putin,” he said.

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Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague, and Alison Smale from Berlin.

A version of this article appears in print on May 5, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

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comment from: orbit7er

Here is another piece of the farce being pushed by the plutocratic elite in denial of the realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change. To ship…

And you know – the comment is right – it is those that refuse to let Europe move away from the use of gas that keep watch the umbilical cord to Russia is not broken. This umbilical cord to an unpredictable Russia is the undoing of the EU, and EU member-States that stand up for to hang on this umbilical cord are the un-doers of Europe.
Strange, as it might seem, Austria may be one of these European States that like Slovakia take real interest in conserving the is. Our eyes opened up Sunday May 2nd thanks to two articles in the Austrian news-papers:

(a)  “A Pipeline that Splits Europe” by Veronika Eschbacher, in the venerable and historic Wiener Zeitung, and

(b)  “How Russia wants to Renew its Might via Gas” by Guenther Strobl in the respected Business pages of Der Standard

Both articles give the facts about the Austrian National Oil Company OEMV, that is in the process of planing with the Russian Gazprom to build a new pipeline – “The Southern Stream” – that will shoot directly under the Black Sea, from Russia’s Caucasus near Socchi, to Bulgaria’s port at Varna. Then from there go directly through Serbia and Hungar to Austria – the town of Baumgarten on the border with Slovakia. The achievement here is that this line does not touvh the Ukraine, Moldova, Poland or Rumania which are inclined to be most reluctant to stay under the Russian boot.

So where in this is the Austria of the very active young Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who is laboring at finding an amicable solution in the conflict between The Ukraine and Russia?

Will an Austrian Government that listens to its own Oil Company be so influenced by it that it works against the better interests in Europe – that try to distance themselves from too close relationship with Russia and understand that Energy Independence in Europe means independence of imports of gas – specially if this gas originates in Russia – pipeline A or Pipeline B – there is no inherent difference in this?

The media has yet to explain this, and the politicians running in Austria for the European Parliament have yet to mention it.   Absolutely – not a single politician in Austria has yet had the courage to say that OEMV is not the source of Foreign policy or the guru of futurology and sustainability for Austria, the EU …  for Europe.

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May 5, 2014, at the Wirtschaftsmuseum (the Economy Museum) at Vogelsanggassee 36, 1050 Vienna, Austria, a panel chaired by Dr. Patrick Horvath, included the Editor of the Wiener Zeitung, Mr. Reinhard Goeweil and titled “EU-Elections 2014 – The Role of the Media” gave me the opportunity to raise the importance of the OEMV in Austrian Government policy and the fact that the media just does not point it out. Dr. Horvath, PhD in Social Studies of Communication, is Head of the Union of Scientists dealing with Economic Policy (WIWIPOL) and the panel included as well Mr. Wolfgang Greif (a last minute addition) – Head of the Europe Section at the Employees and the Employers involved in Company Boards and wrote the book on the subject fighting for the right of the Employees to get information about their Companies; Professor Fritz Hausjell of the Vienna University Faculty of Journalism; and Mr. Wolfgang Mitterlehner – Head of Communication at the Viennese Workers’ Union Central Office.

Professor Hausjell pointed out that the Wienner Zeitung is the best provider of information among the Austrian Media and this is something I argue as well, so it made it easier for me to formulate my question by starting with my own congratulation with the paper’s editor right there on the panel. In effect, founded in 1703 under the name “Vienna Diarium” the WZ is worldwide the oldest newspaper still in print(!) (it appears now 5 times a week with Friday and Sunday excluded and carries the official announcements of use in legal Austria); Mr. Goeweil is editor since 2009 and by background a writer on economics.

As excited as I was by the paper’s expose last weekend of the “Southern Stream” pipeline plans intended to keep the Russian gas flowing to Europe under conditions that exclude the Ukraine, Moldova, and Rumania, while using Russian friendly Serbia, and safeguarding the position of Slavic Slovakia – a multibillion project that might become active by 2017, but can kill all development of Renewable Energy in Europe right now, I realized that further involvement in the subject, even by a paper like WZ, will not come as long as even the good people of that paper take for granted the oil lobby arguments that there is not possible to replace the gas because there is not enough sun, wind, hydro-power etc. If nothing else, the Fossil and Nuclear lobbies have numbed the inquisitiveness of even the good media in the EU States, like they did in the US. Why not bring Jigar Shah over here and have him talk of CLIMATE WEALTH?  Why are not more active businesses that stand to flourish ? Are we the only ones to still say YES WE CAN?

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And Vienna is again the Center of Europe!

May 5-6, 2014 the Council of Europe is meeting in Vienna. 30 Foreign Ministers, including those of Russia and the Ukraine, are meeting here under the chairmanship of Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, the second most popular politician of Norway and a person that has held all possible political positions in Norway and many in all of Europe who is trying to manage the States of all of Europe with the help of the resourceful Austrian Sebastian Kurz.

Norway is not part of the EU and is an outside gas supplier to the EU. Interesting that Mr. Kurz started his meetings on Sunday with meeting first the current Norwegian Foreign Minister – was this a line-up on gas policy? Is that what the New York Times had in mind when publishing their article? Is it all about lining up interests with Russia and Norway so gas continues to flow in those pipelines and The Ukraine pushed aside, isolated and neutralized?

We shall see and so far as Europe is concerned, we will keep a close eye on these developments because in them we see
a make or break not just for the Ukraine but even more important – for the European Energy Policy that some, like the Prime Ministers of Poland and Slovakia, think of as just a gas policy.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

PLEASE VOTE NEVERTHELESS !
WE ALL KNOW THAT THE FOLLOWING IS TRUE BUT BY NOT VOTING AT ALL YOU DO NOT ACHIEVE A THING BEYOND ASSURING THAT DECISIONS WILL BE TAKEN WITHOUT ANY CONSIDERATION TO  WHAT YOU HAVE IN MIND. IF YOU VOTE YOU MIGHT OPEN THE DOOR FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

 

This is the eighth elections to the European Parliament – and perhaps the forst really important election as it will lead to the establishment of the FIRST PRESIDENT of the EU.
There are many subjects of first line importance that will have to be decided by the new Parliament but some of the most important topics are not mentioned in the election campaigns – this because they might be too controversial  for the constituencies.
We will deal here just with one such topic – the need for an European energy policy that is not based on imports of gas.The insecurity of Russian supplies ought to teach Brussels that best energy policy is one of efficiency in the use of energy and supplies that are local and from Renewable Energy sources. If this lesson is not forthcoming in days of constraints applied who is full enough to believe in promisses that such policies will be made posible in a calmer future – if this ever comes?
Just see:

Russian gas supplies ‘not guaranteed’, EU commissioner warns.

The EUobserver May 2, 2014.

By Valentina Pop

 

BRUSSELS – A first mediation attempt by the EU between Russia and Ukraine on their gas price dispute on Friday (2 May) in Warsaw ended with no results other than the willingness to meet again.

  • Guenther Oettinger at a press conference after meeting the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers (Photo: European Commission)

“It is with concern that we see the security of supply for end consumers in EU and non-EU states like Ukraine is not guaranteed,” EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger told press after the meeting.

The energy ministers of Ukraine and Russia, for the first time at a table since the annexation of Crimea and the Russia-backed separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, decided to hold separate press points rather than join Oettinger in a common press conference.

Still, when asked about the atmosphere in the meeting, Oettinger responded that “we are all adults” and emphasised the willingness of both sides to meet again mid-May.

“The European Commission will stabilize Naftogaz [Ukraine's state-owned gas company] and Ukraine and will be a fair mediator for justified and fair gas prices,” Oettinger said.

At the core of the current dispute is how much Ukraine owes and has to pay for current and future gas deliveries from Russia: 485 US dollars per cubic meter of gas as Gazprom demands or roughly half of it, the price Kiev used to pay before the political turmoil that started late last year.

For the Russian side, the price is “clear, set in the contract signed until 2019″ and any negotiations are “odd”.

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak told press after the meeting that Ukraine has not paid for any gas it imported in the last quarter of 2013 and the first three months of this year.

“There is a 16 May deadline when an invoice will be issued to pay for the gas by 31 May and to prepay for the consumption in June. If by June these payments are not made, Gazprom will have the possibility to restrict supplies to Ukraine,” Novak said.

He added that European supplies should not be affected as they are paid for until September 2014. Any disruptions in gas flows to the EU during this time should only be blamed on Ukraine, if it “illegally” taps these supplies or diverts them to storage.

Novak also questioned plans by the EU to reverse the flow of gas and supply Ukraine with Russian gas via Slovakia.

“If such contracts are executed, we’ll look at them very attentively and reserve our right to address courts and institutions of arbitration,” he said.

As for Ukraine, its energy minister Yuriy Prodan said the doubling of the gas price by Russia was “discriminatory” and “abusive” and that Kiev will take the matter to the international court of arbitration in Stockholm.

“It is possible that in arbitration we can change the volume of our debt to Gazprom, possibly no debt at all,” Prodan said.

He insisted that “Ukraine is a reliable partner, a transit country and it will fulfil all its obligations to its European partners.”

Ukraine is the main transit country for Russian gas supplies to EU countries, with previous price disputes having translated into gas cuts at the height of cold winters, leaving citizens in Bulgaria and Slovakia in the cold.

The situation has since improved, with increased reserves and the capacity to reverse the gas flow from less-dependent EU countries to the ones totally relying on Russian imports.

But with pro-Russian separatists shooting down two Ukrainian helicopters and with Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring a Geneva peace deal “no longer valid”, the chances of a solution to the gas dispute are low.

Related   —  Ukraine signs gas deal with Slovakia.

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Above is a fine description of the situation when all what Brussels is ready to talk about is the supply of new gas to old pipelines – “in reverse.”  we find this ridiculous because we did not hear of any of the parties running in the elections for the European Parliament saying in full light that Energy Policy is not a synonim for Gas Policy. Where is the call for investment in a long term solution that makes the gas unneeded? YES, THEY CAN – AND IT IS POSSIBLE TO DO IT!

In Austria we follow this topic closely by monitoring the position of the top people in the various parties – and even having picked up in private this topic with them – we found something that until today I used to call a Chicken’s attitude.

I said that “until today” and this because my eyes opened up when the papers today  wrote about -
“A PIPELINE SPLITS EUROPE” – it is the Austrian Oil Company OEMV that has a contract with the Russian GAZPROM to build the SOUTH STREAM PIPELINE to bring Russian Gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria – and from there via Serbia, Hungary to a branch to Austria -  that will link to Central Europe,  and another branch to Slovenia – that will supply Italy and West Europe.

The First leg is to follow the route: Bergowaja near Sochi in Russia – all the length of the Black Sea to Varna in Bulgaria -Pleven in Bulgaria – Subotica on the Serbian/Hungarian border – to Baumgarten in Lower Austria.

The idea is to bypass the Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania. This is an answer the Russians think to apply to their relations with their pesky Ukrainian neighbors,  and Austria is playing the European partner in this scheme.  With OEMV having strong connections to the Austrian political system – voila – the reason the Austrian parties are not keen to do more then just speak with low voice about true ENERGY INDEPENDENCE. I find this very disturbing, and though I do not want to be the first to point fingers – suffice to say that this might undermine many good positions Austria has in its attempt to help solve in a logic way the Ukraine/Russian controversy – something that becomes impossible if the government ends up speaking for the National Oil Company.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Brazen Hamas Billboard Links Hamas to Turkey, Qatar.

April 3, 2014    1 comment
Hamas's publicity billboard that reads, 'Jerusalem is Waiting for Men.' Photo: Screenshot.

Hamas’s publicity billboard that reads, ‘Jerusalem is Waiting for Men.’ Photo: Screenshot.

In a rather conspicuous propaganda stunt, Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, foisted a new billboard showing the heads of its Islamist leadership, along with the leaders of Turkey and Qatar, with a caption that implies their help has been recruited to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control.

The billboard shows Hamas political chief  Khaled Meshal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, alongside previous and current Qatari leaders Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The billboard reads ”Jerusalem is Waiting for Men,” along with a photo of the Dome of the Rock.

The massive banner was photographed in Gaza by the Palestinian News Agency, and flagged on Thursday by blogger Elder of Ziyon.

The blogger wrote that the sign also implies two other messages.

First, the belittling of leaders of other Arab countries, especially Egypt, where Hamas gained under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and is now being shunned after that group, its political “big brother,” was expelled last year.

And, second, that Hamas, which played second fiddle to Islamic Jihad in last month’s shelling of Israel, is the stronger of the two groups and will be on the winning team to, one day, take Jerusalem.

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Egyptian Entrepreneur Laments Lack of Open Business With Israel.

April 3, 2014   3 comments
Cairo International Airport, where sources spied Israeli and Egyptian security officials meeting to discuss cooperation to fight terrorists in the Sinai. Photo: Cairo International Airport.

Cairo International Airport, where sources spied Israeli and Egyptian security officials meeting to discuss cooperation to fight terrorists in the Sinai. Photo: Cairo International Airport.

An Egyptian entrepreneur said he resents his country’s hostility to Israel which prevents him from openly conducting any business with the Jewish state, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported late last week.

“It is very unfortunate that we cannot be pragmatic and say this particular country has good quality and inexpensive commodities and we are going to import from it because it is in our interest,” said the unnamed Egyptian, who still does business with Israel on the down low. “After all these years an Israeli commodity on, say, the shelf of a supermarket would not be picked up except by a few people — if we assume that any supermarket would at all dare to carry, say, Israeli fruit juice.”

Like most Egyptian businessmen who work with Israelis, he insisted on remaining anonymous for fear of being “stigmatized as dealing with the enemy,” he told Al-Ahram.

“I really don’t understand; we have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit of their agricultural expertise,” he said.

Trade between Israel and Egypt dropped after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, but government officials in Cairo say the fall was possibly a result of the subsequent political turmoil, according to the report.

Despite any current animosity Egypt may harbor toward Israel, an independent economic source told Al-Ahram that Egyptian authorities are considering all options in dealing with the country’s current severe energy shortages, not excluding the import of natural gas from Israel.

“Cooperation in natural gas has been very stable for many years despite the suspension and trade dispute that occurred after the 25 January Revolution removed Mubarak — but this is the case with trade cooperation in general, limited and stable,” said a government official.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Palestinian students visit Auschwitz in first organized visit.

Visit is part of program that aims to teach Israeli and Palestinian students
about the other side’s suffering in effort to study how empathy could
facilitate reconciliation.

By Matthew Kalman | Mar. 28, 2014

A group of 30 Palestinian students arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on
Thursday (yesterday), in what is believed to be the first organized visit by Palestinian
students to a Nazi death camp.

The students are spending several days in Kraków and O?wi?cim guided by two
Jewish Holocaust survivors.

A news blackout on the trip was requested by the organizers. The presence of
the Palestinian group at Auschwitz-Birkenau is being reported here for the
first time.

The students from Al-Quds University and Birzeit University, near Ramallah,
are participating in a joint program on Reconciliation and Conflict
Resolution with the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, and
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The program’s aim is for Israeli and Palestinian students to learn about the
suffering that has helped shape the historical consciousness of the other
side.

Last week, a group of Israeli students visited the Dheisheh refugee camp,
located south of Bethlehem,  to learn about the Palestinian experience of
suffering during the founding of Israel in 1948 ­­– known to Palestinians as
the Nakba (“the catastrophe”).

The reactions of each group will be studied by a group of PhD psychology
students to see whether exposure to the conflicting historical narrative
helps the students to understand their enemy, and facilitates efforts toward
reconciliation and coexistence.

The Palestinian side of the program is directed by Mohammed S. Dajani,
professor of American Studies at Al-Quds. Because of the Palestinian freeze
on joint projects with Israeli universities, the Palestinian students are
participating under the banner of Prof. Dajani’s Wasatia movement of
moderate Islam.

Israeli groups regularly visit refugee camps in the West Bank searching for
cross-border understanding, but the Palestinian visit to Auschwitz is
unprecedented. It grew out of a visit by Prof. Dajani as part of a large
Jewish-Muslim-Christian delegation in 2011, after which he coauthored a New
York Times op-ed entitled “Why Palestinians Should Learn About the
Holocaust.”

Since then, Prof. Dajani has written what he believes to be the first
objective introduction to the Holocaust for Palestinian students in Arabic,
which he hopes will become a textbook used in Palestinian schools and
universities.

“Basically, we want to study how empathy with the Other could help in the
process of reconciliation,” Prof. Dajani says. “I feel I would like
Palestinians to explore the unexplored, and to meet these challenges where
you might find that within their community there will be a lot of pressure
on them not to do it or questioning why they are doing it, or that this is
propaganda. I feel that’s nonsense.”

Prof. Dajani says more than 70 students applied for the 30 places on the
Poland trip, but five later dropped out because of peer pressure.
He says the choice of Dheisheh for the Israeli students was not meant to
suggest there was an equivalence or even a direct link between the Holocaust
and the Nakba. They were chosen as the symbolic events that have deeply
affected the psyche on both sides of the conflict.

“We are seeking knowledge,” he says. “We are seeking to know what has
happened; why did it happen; how can it be prevented from happening again? I
believe it is very important to break this wall of bigotry, ignorance and
racism that has separated us from crossing over to this new realm.”

“One of my students asked me why we should learn about the Holocaust when
the Israelis want to ban even the use of the word ‘Nakba,’” he adds. “My
response was: ‘Because in doing so, you will be doing the right thing. If
they are not doing the right thing, that’s their problem.’”

Prof. Dajani, who was banned from Israel for 25 years for his activities for
Fatah in Lebanon in the 1970s and ’80s, says the student program is a
practical expression of his belief that Israelis and Palestinians can settle
their differences through compromise, moderation and human contact. He says
his own visit to the Nazi death camp had a profound effect that he wishes to
share with his students.

“I was also raised in the culture of denial, so for me, to go and see and
look and be on the ground – it was a very sad experience for me.
It had a lot of impact,” he admits. “I was shocked about the inhumanity of
man to man. How can this happen? Why did it happen? Why would man be this
cruel?

“It was shocking for me, because it showed me the deep, deep, dark side of
human evil,” he adds.

Prof. Dajani has a track record of espousing views that are unpopular with
the Palestinian academic mainstream. He is one of the few Palestinian
professors to openly oppose the call for Palestinians and others to boycott
Israeli universities.

Hanna Siniora, a veteran campaigner for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation,
says Prof. Dajani’s initiative should be welcomed.

“It’s very important for people to see the viciousness of such acts,”
he says. “It should touch them in their humanity, in their sense of
understanding that human beings don’t do evil things like that. This has
caused a major problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because the
psyche of the Israelis is so tormented by what happened to the Jewish people
that they cannot trust anybody.

“This is an educational trip. It opens the eyes and minds,” he adds.
“If there is an empty place, I’d like to come along,” he says.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Mixing Music in Istanbul: 
Turkish Jews and Their Sacred Songs
lecture/demonstration featuring
Maureen Jackson
special musical guest: Munir Beken (oud)
Monday, March 24, 7:00PM

at Center for Jewish History

15 W 16th Street in Manhattan

Admission is free – RSVP to info@jewishmusicforum.org

This lecture-demonstration explores the linked histories of Istanbul, its Jewish community, and historical musical traces of multi-religious music-making in Ottoman and Turkish society.  Author of Mixing Musics: Turkish Jewry and the Urban Landscape of a Sacred Song (Stanford University Press; winner of the National Jewish Book Award in Sephardic Culture, 2013), Dr. Maureen Jackson focuses on the Jewish religious repertoire known as the Maftirim, which developed in interaction with Ottoman court music. Her research in Istanbul illuminates the people, places, and practices that shaped an Ottoman music world, Jewish cultural life, and continuities and ruptures experienced across the 20th and 21st centuries. 
 
Munir Beken, an oud virtuoso and ethnomusicologist at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music will be on hand to perform musical examples that bring to life the Turkish musical forms at the heart of Dr. Jackson’s study.

Dr. Maureen Jackson has received the Sabanc? International Research Award 2nd Prize in 2008 as well as grants from the Fulbright Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Turkish Cultural Foundation.

The Jewish Music Forum is a project of the American Society for Jewish Music, with the support of he American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History. Founded in 2004, the Jewish MusicForum is now in its tenth season.

For more information please visit www.jewishmusicforum.org/

This event has received promotional support from the American Sephardi Federation American Sephardi Federation and CTMD.

Panel Discussion

Passing the Torch: Jewish Music Archives

and the Future of Yiddish Song

moderated by

Mark Slobin

Sunday, April 6, 11:00AM

at Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street, Manhattan

Admission: $10

click here to reserve tickets

 

Around 1900, East European Jews became acutely aware of the impact of modernization and urbanization on their culture: on their songs, their tales, and customs. They set in motion a wide range of projects and institutions to gather, archive, and study fading folklore. YIVO was a pioneer in this push, along with a galaxy of Polish and Russian (later Soviet) activists. Today, with the loss of the original population and the huge demographic and cultural shifts of world Jewry, the surviving archives both preserve and channel a rising tide of interest, even a hunger, for what’s called “Yiddish” music and folklore.

This symposium brings together archivists, scholars and performers to discuss the history and creation of Yiddish folk music archives, and the future of the study and performance of Yiddish song today. What is the role of Jewish music archives in fostering new scholarship and Yiddish music?

Wesleyan University ethnomusicologist  Mark Slobin will moderate the panel which will also feature CTMD artistic director Ethel Raim, Lorin Sklamberg (YIVO, The Klezmatics), Robert Rothstein (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Gila Flam (National Library of Israel) and Lyudmila Sholokhova (YIVO).

 

The event is dedicated to the memory of Chana Mlotek, YIVO’s Music Archivist from 1978 until her recent passing at age 91 in 2013. This program is made possible with the generous support of the Mlotek family. It is co-sponsored by the American Society for Jewish Music.  

Bessarabian Klezmer:
Tantshoyz Dance Party
featuring Master Klezmer Clarinetist/Accordionist
Isaac Sadigursky
 Dance leading by Michael Alpert
Tuesday, April 22, 7:30PM-10:00PM 
Isaac Sadigursky
At the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 
30 W. 68th St. (btw Columbus and Central Park West on Manhattan’s Upper West Side)   
Admission $15 

CTMD’s An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture is excited to bring back clarinetist/accordionist Isaac Sadigursky for a special program on Bessarabian* klezmer. Born in Belts, Moldova, the Los Angeles-based clarinetist/accordionist Isaac Sadigursky is a major exponent of the Bessarabian klezmer tradition and its rich Ottoman/Balkan-influenced repertoire.

 

Lace up your dancing shoes for a special Tantshoyz Yiddish Dance Party as Sadigursky will lead an all-star band with dance leading by Michael Alpert. Folks new to Yiddish Dance absolutely welcome! 

 

Instrumentalists can come at 5:30PM for a special workshop (extra charges apply), and hang around for a jam session at the end of the evening.

 

Presented as part of the New York Klezmer Series, curated by Aaron Alexander.

*Bessarabia, a historic region between the Prut and Dniester Rivers, named after the Basarab ruling dynasty is geographically equivalent to today’s Republic of Moldova, inclusive of the contested Transnistrian Republic.  The region has been a fascinating cultural crossroads for centuries, fought over by the Ottoman and Romanov empires, then Romanian and later Soviet until the fall of the USSR. The region’s largest city is Chisinau (Yiddish: Kishinev).

Yiddish Song of the Week
The Internet’s leading site for Yiddish folksong!

 

Online at www.yiddishsong.wordpress.com

 

Hundreds of Yiddish song enthusiasts from all over the world participate in an online community surrounding CTMD’s Yiddish Song of the Week blog – the internet’s leading destination for information, recordings and transcriptions of rare Yiddish folksong repertoire. Blog editor Itzik Gottesman of the Yiddish Forverts newspaper and a group of leading song researchers post their favorite field recordings of important traditional folksingers such as Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, Tsunye Rymer, Josh Waletzky, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman and many others. 

Sponsors and Credits
Major support for the An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture is provided to the Center for Traditional Music and Dance by the Keller-Shatanoff Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the Atran Foundation as well as public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Scherman Foundation, Con Edison, the Hearst Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Friends of Cantor Janet Leuchter and the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation. We are grateful additionally to the Forward Association for providing seed funding for the Institute. Photo of Isaac Sadigursky courtesy of YiddishkaytLA. Photo of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman courtesy of Itzik Gottesman.

For more information about upcoming events, what’s happening in New York City’s traditional music and dance scene, to join or to donate, go to CTMD’s website, or contact Pete Rushefsky at 212-571-1555, ext. 36 (office), 917-326-9659 (cell) or prushefsky@ctmd.org (email).

 

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