Iranian President Rouhani: outwitting the West
* Haaretz’s lead columnist slams Obama’s “march of folly” deal that will almost certainly see Iran going nuclear unless changed:
“Iran is not an Israel-only issue. Iran should not be a Republican, or conservative or a hawkish issue. If Iran goes nuclear, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf states will go nuclear. If Iran goes nuclear, Israel will have to change its responsible and restrained nuclear policy. If Iran goes nuclear, the Middle East will become a multi-player nuclear arena, that no one can manage and no one can control. Worried about ISIS? Anxious about Al Qaeda? Shocked by the carnage in Syria? Imagine what will happen when the most unstable region in the world becomes nuclearized… the proliferation of nuclear capabilities in the hands of non- state players that will use them, sooner or later, to catastrophic results… This is not a passing, marginal international crisis, but the most urgent challenge facing our civilization.”
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
1. ISIS beheads a Hamas leader in Syria
2. Washington Post: With this deal “the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state”
3. Delusions about Iran’s moderate Islamic regime
4. In the words of Bill Clinton
5. Clinton’s North Korea, Obama’s Iran?
6. Israel proposes terms for a “more reasonable” Iran deal
7. “No online cameras allowed at nuclear sites: Zarif”
8. Air strikes and the media
9. John Oliver visits Moscow
10. Israeli model Gal Gadot to become new face of Gucci
11. “Iran is America’s new Iraq: With his nuclear deal, Obama is making as big a mistake in the Mideast as George W. Bush did” (By Ari Shavit, Politico, April 2, 2015)
12. “Why is Obama’s stance on Israel questioned by so many?” (By Jonathan Tobin, Commentary, April 6, 2015)
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
ISIS BEHEADS A HAMAS LEADER IN SYRIA
Hamas – the organization that has reveled in throwing political opponents off the tops of Gaza high-rises, or dragging Palestinian democracy activists at high speed through Gaza streets chained to the back of motorcycles until they meet a painful death, or blowing up Israeli schoolchildren – seems to have met its match.
ISIS fighters have posted a photo holding up the severed head of Sheikh Abu Salah Taha, a Hamas leader and one of scores of pro-Hamas militants (together with some civilians) who have been executed in the Yarmouk southern suburb of Damascus, which is home to a large Palestinian population.
ISIS has been involved in fierce clashes in Yarmouk since Wednesday, as it seeks to capture it from a Palestinian Islamist militia aligned with Hamas. Thousands of civilians have fled the area and Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi has described the attacks on Yarmouk as “a crime against humanity”. Some of the fighting there is now occurring between rival Palestinian factions. There have been no flotillas launched by pro-Palestinian European groups.
At an earlier stage of the civil war in Syria, Israel offered to help airlift Palestinians from Yarmouk and resettle them in the West Bank, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declined the offer, claiming it would violate his aim of resettling Palestinians within pre-1967 Israeli borders, the so-called right of return.
WASHINGTON POST: WITH THIS DEAL “THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC WILL INSTANTLY BECOME A THRESHOLD NUCLEAR STATE”
The European media have in general been rather one-sided in their reporting on the Iran nuclear issue, as has the New York Times. Other media have been much more skeptical about the wisdom of the capitulation to the Iranian regime by the Obama administration and its allies.
Here, for example, is the editorial the morning after the agreement, by the centrist Washington Post:
“The ‘key parameters’ for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities – including the Fordow center buried under a mountain – will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.”
Full editorial here.
DELUSIONS ABOUT IRAN’S MODERATE ISLAMIC REGIME
All this is very different from New York Times columnist (and former NYT foreign editor) Roger Cohen who gushes about the Iran deal in today’s International New York Times. He praises the Iranian regime leader for his “courage” and “resourcefulness,” and adds that the Iranian “revolution… is promising once again” -- in much the same way as his predecessors at the New York Times such as the infamous Pulitzer-prize winning correspondent Walter Duranty used to praise the Soviet Union in the 1930s.
While Cohen and the New York Times praise the Iranian government, they fail to tell us that just yesterday the Iranian regime praised with glee yet another cartoon competition they have organized to make fun of the Holocaust and Holocaust survivors.
Britain’s equivalent to the New York Times, The Guardian, is also trying to persuade us that Rouhani is a moderate and a reformer (forgetting to inform readers about the increased numbers of political prisoners and human rights activists being held in Rouhani’s torture centers, which are in many ways every bit as horrific as ISIS’s prisons).
Reminder: it wasn’t too long ago that The Guardian was also trying to persuade us that Syrian President Assad was some kind of reasonable reformer, for example, in this interview with him in 2009.
IN THE WORDS OF BILL CLINTON
In the wake of Barack Obama’s Iran deal, various commentators have drawn attention to President Bill Clinton hailing the virtues of the nuclear deal with North Korea, which was supposedly going to prevent the regime from developing a nuclear arsenal.
Here is a clip from October 21, 1994.
“Before I take your questions, I’d like to say just a word about the framework with North Korea that Ambassador Gallucci signed this morning. This is a good deal for the United States. North Korea will freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program. South Korea and our other allies will be better protected. The entire world will be safer as we slow the spread of nuclear weapons.”
“South Korea, with support from Japan and other nations, will bear most of the cost of providing North Korea with fuel to make up for the nuclear energy it is losing, and they will pay for an alternative power system for North Korea that will allow them to produce electricity while making it much harder for them to produce nuclear weapons.
“The United States and international inspectors will carefully monitor North Korea to make sure it keeps its commitments. Only as it does so will North Korea fully join the community of nations.”
CLINTON’S NORTH KOREA, OBAMA’S IRAN?
Tom Gross adds: We all know how wrong President Clinton’s predictions turned out to be, but at the time the views of those (including myself) who expressed skepticism that such a deal could be workable with a regime such as North Korea’s, were dismissed.
Yet Obama’s Iran deal is, for a host of reasons I have outlined in previous dispatches, much more dangerous than Clinton’s North Korean deal, not least because at least six Sunni states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, etc) may now look into the possibility of buying their own nuclear weapons (from Pakistan, or North Korea, or Russia) to counter the Iranian threat.
The west’s foolishly weak diplomacy not only allowed North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, but as a result of going nuclear, the regime’s grip on power was cemented, and millions of north Koreans have died (many through manmade starvation) – not that the so-called human rights groups in the west seem to care too much.
Should the Iranian regime become a nuclear weapon power this will also likely cement their grip on power, making the regime very difficult to overthrow, hence the widespread opposition to Obama’s policies by Iranians in exile in America and elsewhere.
Contrary to what some Western media would have us believe, it is not only Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who thinks the deal is a bad deal: virtually the entire Israeli political spectrum, together with commentators all over the Arab world and Turkey do too.
Below, for example, is an article by the left-wing commentator Ari Shavit, who is lead columnist for Israel’s Haaretz daily. In an article in Haaretz, Shavit had already called the Iran deal “Munich”. Now the somber and level-headed Shavit, has published an article in Politico in Washington, titled “Iran Is America’s New Iraq: With his nuclear deal, Obama is making as big a mistake in the Mideast as George W. Bush did.”
He writes: “Iran is not an Israel-only issue. Iran should not be a Republican, or conservative or a hawkish issue. If Iran goes nuclear, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf states will go nuclear. If Iran goes nuclear, Israel will have to change its responsible and restrained nuclear policy. If Iran goes nuclear, the Middle East will become a multi-player nuclear arena, that no one can manage and no one can control. Worried about ISIS? Anxious about Al Qaeda? Shocked by the carnage in Syria? Imagine what will happen when the most unstable region in the world becomes nuclearized… the proliferation of nuclear capabilities in the hands of non-state players that will use them, sooner or later, to catastrophic results… This is not a passing, marginal international crisis, but the most urgent challenge facing our civilization.”
In a further article in today’s Haaretz, Shavit writes: “Only a last-moment awakening of public opinion in the free world in the face of Iranian audacity can stop the most abject march of folly of our time.”
The Onion’s humor and photo here are not too far from the truth.
NO ONLINE CAMERAS ALLOWED AT NUCLEAR SITES: ZARIF
One gets a very different reading of the Iranian nuclear accord by reading the Iranian press than by following liberal media in the West such as the BBC.
To cite one example, here is a story from today from the Mehr News agency in Iran:
No online cameras allowed at nuclear sites: Zarif
“[Iranian Foreign Minster] Zarif stressed that Iran would allow no online cameras to be installed in nuclear facilities as the country had have several tragic experiences in which Iranian nuclear scientists had been assassinated due to having been identified.”
ISRAEL PROPOSES TERMS FOR A “MORE REASONABLE” IRAN DEAL
Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel’s intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz yesterday proposed terms for a final nuclear accord with Iran which he said would be an improvement on the outline drawn up last week.
Steinitz told journalists that President Obama’s pledge to back Israel’s security was appreciated, but it did not outweigh the potential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“If Iran will produce nuclear weapons, this is an existential threat to Israel,” Steinitz said. “Nobody can tell us that backing and assistance are enough to completely resist or to neutralize such a threat”.
“A comprehensive analysis of the Lausanne framework reveals the extent of the irresponsible concessions given to Iran and makes clear how dangerous the framework is for Israel, the region and the entire world,” he said.
“We are going to do an additional effort to convince the US administration, to convince Congress, to convince Britain and France and Russia not to sign this bad deal, or at least to dramatically change it and fix it.”
Steinitz proposed that the emerging deal between Iran and world powers should incorporate a halt to research and development on a new generation of centrifuges, a cut in the number of existing centrifuges and the closure of the Fordo facility for enrichment of uranium.
He also proposed that Tehran detail its past nuclear arms research and allow international inspectors to make spot-checks “anywhere, anytime”.
If such terms were accepted, Steinitz said, “it will not be a good agreement but it will be a more reasonable agreement.”
Steinitz said Israel preferred a diplomatic solution to the issue but it reserved the right to take military action against Iran if necessary. “It’s still on the table, it’s going to remain on the table,” he said. “It’s our right and duty to decide how to defend ourselves, especially if our very existence is under threat.”
Tom Gross adds: Israelis also remember how President Obama promised that should Assad use chemical weapons it would be a red line, but then did nothing after Assad murdered thousands of civilians with them. (And indeed Assad continues to use chemical weapons and nerve agents in small quantities until today.)
AIR STRIKES AND THE MEDIA
At the present time, several governments are conducting airstrikes in the greater Middle East and many civilians are dying, being injured and fleeing.
- The Saudi government is bombarding Shia-aligned positions in Yemen.
- The U.S. is conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
- The Syrian government is conducting airstrikes in Syria, including using horrific barrel-bombs.
- The Iraqi government is conducting airstrikes in Iraq against rebel targets.
- The Egyptian government is conducting airstrikes against Sunni Islamist militia in both Libya and in the Egyptian Sinai.
- The Kenyan is conducting airstrikes in Somalia against Sunni militia.
I mention this because of the marked contrast with the lackluster interest shown by the media, international organizations and NGOs to all this, compared to the hysteria last summer when Israel conducted airstrikes against Hamas. And unlike these other governments, Israelis were being bombarded by Hamas rockets and Israel responded after months of restraint. None of these other governments are protecting their civilian population from indiscriminate rocket fire.
The Saudi strikes alone in the last few days have hit refugee camps, schools and hospitals, killing scores of women and children. I mentioned this last week in an interview on i24 news’s “Evening Debate” show. (The interviewer is Lucy Aharish, the first Hebrew-speaking Muslim Arab news presenter on mainstream Israeli television.)
Within hours of the commencement of Operation Protective Edge last July, in almost every report the BBC began using phrases such as “Israeli war crimes,” “collective punishment,” and “disproportionate response”. With Yemen, the BBC’s lead Middle East correspondents Jeremy Bowen and Lyse Doucet can’t be bothered to even turn up, despite incredible suffering now occurring there among civilians, and the death of and maiming of hundreds of children.
JOHN OLIVER VISITS MOSCOW
On Sunday night, news-comedian John Oliver devoted the entire half hour of his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” to the subject of American domestic surveillance, and the upcoming vote in the U.S. Congress about whether to reauthorize the Patriot Act, including its provision allowing the U.S. government to collect private information of all citizens.
Whatever your views on this subject, Oliver seems to me right that this has not been discussed nearly enough. And as Oliver illustrates with on-the-street interviews, many Americans appear to be ill informed about the whole subject and many have no idea who whistleblower Edward Snowden is.
It is worth watching the whole half-hour show if you have time, here.
If you don’t, you might want to skip to the part where, right across from a former KGB headquarters, Oliver interviews Snowden (from about 13 minutes into the video).
And a lighter item…
ISRAELI MODEL GAL GADOT TO BECOME NEW FACE OF GUCCI
It has been announced that Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot, who will be starring as Wonder Woman in the upcoming movie “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” is the new face of Gucci Fragrances.
Last July, Gadot was targeted in a hate campaign by anti-Israel activists during the fighting between Israel and Hamas after she posted a Facebook photo of herself and her daughter lighting candles, accompanied by a message saying she was sending her “love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens. Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children.”
I attach two articles below.
-- Tom Gross
“THIS IS NOT A PASSING, MARGINAL INTERNATIONAL CRISIS, BUT THE MOST URGENT CHALLENGE FACING OUR CIVILIZATION”
Iran Is America’s New Iraq
With his nuclear deal, Obama is making as big a mistake in the Mideast as George W. Bush did.
By Ari Shavit
April 2, 2015
Ten days after the Iraq War began, I happened to be in Washington on a work visit. I had the chance to observe up close the imperial capital that had just embarked on the most perilous adventure of the new century. I read newspapers, watched television, spoke with colleagues – and was amazed to discover how not only Fox News but every other major media outlet had wrapped itself in the red-white-and-blue. I met with administration officials, spoke with well-known strategists, and dined with advisors to the White House – and was amazed to discover how utterly without doubt they all were.
To this day, I remember how torn I felt about the fanfare of war. On the one hand, as an Israeli, I am always grateful to America for being a staunch and steadfast ally to my small and often imperiled nation. On the other hand, as an Israeli, I sensed what a terrible historic mistake America was making. Arriving from the Middle East to the banks of the Potomac, I watched fretfully as the city I love blithely led the nation I love into the treacherous sands of the tribal, fanatical and violent part of the world in which I live.
This is how I feel now, as the news from Lausanne arrives. More so than many of my American friends, I look upon America with profound appreciation. I always remember that in World War I and then again in World War II, it was America that saved humanity. And it was America that prevented World War III. I am thankful that America gave the world the best 70 years it has ever had: 1945-2015. Despite the mistakes in Vietnam, in Iraq and in other places, the post-Nagasaki Pax Americana has given more humans more peace more prosperity and more liberty that at any other time in history. Not only as an Israeli but also as a citizen of the free world, I want a strong America to protect freedom, maintain world order and remain the global leader in the 21st century, as it was in the 20th century.
But what should I do when Washington might once again make another terrible historic mistake? What should I do when my understanding with the Middle East allows me to see that the capital city I love is once again leading the nation that I love into the treacherous sands of the tribal, fanatical and violent part of the world in which I live?
Iran is not an Israel-only issue. Iran should not be a Republican, or conservative or a hawkish issue. If Iran goes nuclear, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf states will go nuclear. If Iran goes nuclear, Israel will have to change its responsible and restrained nuclear policy. If Iran goes nuclear, the Middle East will become a multi-player nuclear arena, that no one can manage and no one can control. Worried about ISIS? Anxious about Al Qaeda? Shocked by the carnage in Syria? Imagine what will happen when the most unstable region in the world becomes nuclearized. One outcome will be even more extremism. A second outcome will be unceasing conventional wars. A third outcome will be the proliferation of nuclear capabilities in the hands of non- state players that will use them, sooner or later, to catastrophic results. The overall outcome will be a strategic nightmare that will first disrupt the everyday life of Tel Aviv and Riyadh, then Paris and London and finally New York and Chicago. So the most urgent issue of day should not pit Israelis against Americans, Democrats against Republicans, liberals against conservatives. If Iran is nuclearized, everyone’s values and way of life will be endangered. If the Middle East is nuclearized, the 21st century will become a century of nuclear terror and nuclear horror.
The deal that Obama announced on Thursday does not do enough to prevent this. Does an agreement that allows Iran to keep 6,100 spinning centrifuges really lock under 1,000 locks and bolt behind 1,000 bolts the Iranian nuclear project? Does an agreement that allows Iran to maintain research and development capabilities and an underground facility on Fordow really fully take advantage of Iran’s economic frailty in order to ensure the dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure?
Regarding Iran’s nuclear plans no mistakes can be made. This is not a passing, marginal international crisis, but the most urgent challenge facing our civilization. But the sad truth is that in the face of Iran’s nuclear threat, the United States, Israel and all of their allies have made countless mistakes over the last decade. President George W. Bush invested all of America’s resources and energy in the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – instead of focusing on a vigorous diplomatic-economic campaign against Tehran. Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert believed mistakenly that a James Bond-like mission could defuse the ticking bomb of Natanz. President Barack Obama did not exploit the unprecedented opportunity presented by the democratic uprising in Iran in June 2009 – when American interests and American values suddenly aligned. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu well understood the Iranian threat but turned it into an Israeli issue with an over-emphasis on the military option.
Only in the years 2011-2012 did Washington begin a strategic and effective diplomatic effort against Tehran, but the moment it began to bear fruit, it was abandoned. A decade of strategic shadowboxing between Iran and the West ended in 2013 with an almost-technological-victory for Tehran. The 19,000 centrifuges it managed to produce and install are testament to the fact that the great American democracy and the frontier Israeli democracy failed in their struggle against the Shiite theocracy.
NO FRIEND OF ISRAEL
Why Is Obama’s Stance on Israel Questioned by So Many?
Jonathan S. Tobin
April 6, 2015
Yesterday in an interview with the New York Times Thomas Friedman, President Obama purported to be aggrieved that anyone would question his support for Israel or his respect for concerns about its security. Not satisfied with merely asserting his devotion to the Jewish state, he said it was “personally difficult” to hear such criticism and that he would consider his presidency “a failure” if anything he did weakened it. Six years of endless attempts to undermine Israel’s diplomatic position and the last few months of bitter, personal and even vulgar criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu culminating in threats to leave it isolated at the United Nations made his protestations absurd if not completely disingenuous. But Israelis could at least console themselves that in the course of trying to sell his appeasement of Iran to Congress, he was trying to downplay the crisis in the alliance that he had created. But it only took 24 hours for Obama to answer his own question about why so many Americans and Israelis question his attitude about Israel. In another interview, this time with another friendly questioner from the reliably liberal NPR, Obama was dismissed the suggestion that Iran be asked to recognize Israel as part of the nuclear deal he is promoting. His reason: doing so would mean asking Iran to change the nature of its regime. To which critics must respond that this is exactly why it can’t be trusted with a nuclear infrastructure.
Obama said the following to NPR’s Steve Inskeep:
“The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”
Obama went on to say that he believed the reason why the deal couldn’t be struck in that matter was because his goal was to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and that he couldn’t count on it changing.
That makes a sort of superficial sense. And if the as yet unwritten deal actually ensured that Iran could never get a nuclear weapon, he might have a strong case for ignoring the nature of the Iranian government. But despite his ardent salesmanship, he can’t honestly claim that it does. Obama has made an endless string of concessions that have allowed to keep its nuclear infrastructure, included its fortified bunker at Fordow, not forced it to export its stockpile of nuclear fuel, reveal the extent of its nuclear research and put an expiration date on the restrictions on its program. All this means that Iran can, if it is patient, build up its nuclear capabilities and then have a bomb in short order at the end of the agreement. Or, if it is not that patient, it can easily cheat its way to a weapon due to the weakness of the deal and the lack of a truly strict inspections regime or the ability of the West to quickly reimpose sanctions.
At best, all Obama has accomplished is to delay an Iranian bomb. At worst, he has allowed it to get close to one with Western permission and after having made it impossible to reassemble the international coalition that might have brought Iran to its knees had it been led by an American president with the guts to stick to a tough line rather than one that folded at every opportunity. The reason for this was that Obama’s goal throughout this process was détente with an aggressive, anti-Semitic and tyrannical regime rather than an effort to keep his 2012 campaign promise to eliminate its nuclear program.
Thus, the question about forcing it to recognize Israel is actually an apt one. Having empowered Iran at a time when its quest for regional hegemony via actions in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and now Gaza are scaring Israelis as well as moderate Arabs, it is fair to ask why the deal ignored Tehran’s support for terrorism and its frequent threats to obliterate Israel.
The president is right that to ask Iran to give up its rhetoric about Israel, let alone its policies aimed at bringing its dream of its elimination about, is to seek to change the nature of its theocratic government. But that is exactly why any deal that leaves people who have such goals in possession of thousands of nuclear centrifuges and a stockpile of nuclear fuel and a free pass to build a bomb in 15 years is tantamount to saying you don’t give a damn about Israel’s legitimate worries about Iran.
It was beneath the dignity of the presidency for Obama to feign hurt feelings about criticism for his efforts to undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance. Had he not spent most of his presidency (with the exception of the one year grace period of a Jewish charm offensive that accompanied his re-election campaign) sniping at Netanyahu, tilting the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians and ignoring the latter’s consistent rejection of peace, there would be no justifications for questioning his bona fides as a friend of Israel.
But when he treats the vile threats against Israel as an insignificant detail about his prized negotiating partner, he betrays his own mindset that sees the Jewish state’s existential worries as a tiresome drag on his diplomatic ambitions. The president would probably prefer that the Iranians pipe down about their desire to destroy Israel but he doesn’t feel strongly enough about it to let it derail his grand design for a rapprochement with Tehran.
The president can complain about his hurt feelings as much as he wants though to do so strains even the credulity of his most fawning interviewers. But by agreeing to a deal that makes Iran a threshold nuclear power without insisting on it dropping its ideology of hate, the president has answered questions about his negative attitude toward Israel by confirming the worst fears of his critics.