Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Growing Fears From Israel Over Iran Negotiations

Growing Fears Of U.S. Role In Iran

For years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has compared Iran to the biblical Persia, the ancient kingdom where the Jewish people were nearly annihilated through the evil designs of the arch-villain Haman.

But when an American-born rabbi, widely seen as a religious moderate who built one of the most innovative Orthodox synagogues in the United States, compared Obama to Haman in a speech on Saturday night, reaction was swift.

Liberal American rabbis slammed Shlomo Riskin, and the North American human rights group T’ruah collected over 260 signatures for an online petition demanding he apologize.

“The president of the United States is lashing out at Israel, just like Haman lashed out at all the Jews,” said Riskin, now the chief rabbi of Efrat, a religious West Bank settlement home to a large number of English-speaking immigrants. “And I’m not making a political statement. That’s OK. I’m trying to make a Jewish statement.”

Riskin reversed himself in an interview Wednesday with JTA, saying that it is Iran – not Obama – that should rightfully be compared to Haman. But his view reflects increasing Israeli mistrust of Obama — particularly as the president struggles to reach an accord concerning Iran’s nuclear program — that occasionally invites comparisons with the ultimate enemies of the Jewish people.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that 61 percent of Israelis had some or a lot of confidence in Obama. Nearly two years later, only one-third of Israelis viewed him favorably, according to a poll by The Times of Israel. In 2014, a Times of Israel poll found that 64 percent of Israelis did not trust Obama to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. A year later, the number had risen to 72 percent.

“There is widespread fear and outrage that Obama is allowing Iran to become a nuclear threshold nation,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the the Shalom Hartman Institute, a pluralist education center and think tank in Jerusalem. “The extreme statements comparing Obama to historical enemies of the Jews emerge from a widespread sense among Israelis that this president has betrayed us.”

Harsh criticism of Obama among Israel’s settler community is hardly new, nor is the evocation of Haman in commentary about the American president.

In 2009, Shlomo Aviner, a leader of the religious Zionist community and the rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Beit El, invoked the Purim story in criticizing Obama’s opposition to Israeli settlement expansion. Israel should act like Mordechai, who “would not bow down and prostrate himself” to Haman, Aviner said.
In 2012, Israel’s Army Radio reported that Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, had also compared Obama to Haman.

As an accord with Iran has grown more likely — despite fervent Israeli objections — criticism of Obama has spread even to leaders of the Israeli peace movement. In March, David Grossman, an influential author and prominent critic of Netanyahu, defended the prime minister’s opposition to the Iran deal, calling Obama “clumsy” and “naive” in his handling of negotiations.

“It demonstrates an even criminal naivete in groping to understand the complexities of the Middle East,” Grossman told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Riskin’s remarks on Saturday added a biblical dimension to the critique of Obama. But though Riskin made the comments to a religious crowd, allusions to foundational Jewish stories resonate with secular Israelis as well.

The Israeli public has not always viewed Obama unfavorably. The 2013 Pew study, published two months after Obama’s visit to Israel, found that 82 percent of Israelis believed American policy in the Middle East was either fair or favored Israel. Nearly half wanted Obama to play a larger role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama’s handling of the Iran situation, Halevi says, has caused the president’s standing to plummet.
“There is no real debate here about whether Obama can be trusted,” he said. “It’s not true that Israelis were hostile to Obama from the beginning. The closer we get to a deal, the more he’s losing us.”

Dutch Watchdog Finds 71% Rise In Anti-Jewish Incidents

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands rose last year by 71 percent, and some police officers are unwilling to intervene, the Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism said.

The Hague-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, recorded 171 incidents in 2014 compared to 100 in 2013, CIDI wrote in a statement sent to the media on Wednesday about the group’s annual report on anti-Semitism.

The statement noted “a worrisome phenomenon — Police officers’ failure to intervene in cases of evident anti-Semitism. Some police officer prefers to look the other way.”

Congress Delegations Shares Concerns About Iran's Nuclear Capability

At least one member of a bipartisan congressional delegation from the US visiting the Middle East has a personal concern for Israel’s security. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who holds a senior position on the House Armed Services Committee, told President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday that she has a daughter and son-in-law living in Tel Aviv plus a grandson born in Israel and another on the way.

Five years ago, when she and delegation leader Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, had approved the money for the development of the Iron Dome missile defense system, she never imagined that it would be used to protect her own family.

Responding to remarks made by Rivlin about Israel’s worries about Iran’s ability to produce nuclear arms, Sanchez (D-California) said that Iran is a matter of deep concern, and “we hope that nuclear weapons will be kept out of the hands of Iran.”

Turner said that this was his 10th visit to Israel since the 1990s, and that the neighborhood had changed significantly since his first visit.

He is pleased to have worked with Sanchez on the Iron Dome, he said, adding that it is inspiring to see Israel’s accomplishments in missile defense.

Like Sanchez, he also appreciates Israel’s concerns regarding Iran, whose nuclear capability, he said, would also put the United States and the whole world at risk.

Palestine Gets ICC Membership, Opening Door To Israel War Crimes Prosecution

Palestine is soon to have its day in court, after securing long-awaited membership at The Hague. Plagued by constant setbacks to a peace deal with Israel, the ICC newcomer wants to see Tel Aviv on the stand for alleged war crimes in Gaza.

The April 1 accession to the International Criminal Court is the most substantial step to date in Palestine’s international legal campaign to seek justice for Israel’s operation ‘Protective Edge’ last summer, in which thousands of civilians were killed.

Shortly before the summer assaults, Israel insisted that Hamas was firing rockets into its territory and answered with massive bombardment, complete with a ground phase that saw destruction on a scale not seen for decades. After 50 days, a ceasefire was agreed upon.
Speaking to RT, ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said that Palestine now gets all the same rights as well as obligations that member countries have. He also added that the “ICC jurisdiction of Palestine has already started because Palestine had made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of ICC with retroactive effect starting from 13 of June 2014. And based on this declaration the ICC prosecutor has already started a preliminary examination to decide whether or not the legal criteria are met to open investigation.”

ICC membership has been years in the making. It comes after Palestine gained UN observers status, followed by an increasing number of European countries recognizing them as an independent state or considering it. Israel’s operation tipped the balance in the Palestinians’ favor.

It remains unclear how soon Palestine will be filing complaints against the Israelis, but an initial probe into war crimes by both sides is already in progress. The deadly July-August assault on Gaza has never been subject to a thorough, independent investigation, and the occupation of disputed territories and settlement-building by Israel is also ongoing.

Netanyahu: How Dare The World Keep Talking To Iran - Even As It Threatens To Destroy Israel

The deeper we get into this evolving story, the more we may be seeing alignment with biblical prophecy. This entire episode has managed to make Israel even more isolated, as we knew would happen eventually. Perhaps more importantly though, it seems to serve as a backdrop which may force Israel's hand in taking desperate military action to take out the nuclear facilities in Iran. If they are forced to take such action, the powder-keg in the Middle East will be officially ignited. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday excoriated world powers over their dogged pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, pointing to recent statements by officials in Tehran — notably their calls to eliminate Israel — as evidence of the Islamic Republic’s unwillingness to compromise and seek peace in the region.

In tones of moral outrage, he protested the continuation of the talks, even as Iran has reiterated its insistent goal of destroying the Jewish state.

“Yesterday an Iranian general brazenly declared, and I quote, ‘Israel’s destruction is nonnegotiable,'” Netanyahu said, referring to a statement by Mohammad Reza Naqd, the commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

“But evidently, giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb isnegotiable,” he said. “This is unconscionable.”

Netanyahu’s comments came as diplomats from Iran and a group of six world powers resumed negotiations over the terms of a nuclear deal, hours after a deadline for such a deal elapsed.

He charged that Iran’s actions and ongoing “aggression” across the Middle East proved it did not intend to give up its nuclear and regional ambitions.

“I agree with those who have said that Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes doesn’t square with Iran’s insistence on keeping underground nuclear facilities, advanced centrifuges, and a heavy water reactor,” he said. “Nor does it square with Iran’s insistence on developing ICBMs [Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles], and its refusal to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its past weaponization efforts.

“At the same time, Iran is accelerating its campaign of terror, subjugation and conquest throughout the region, most recently in Yemen,” he continued.

The prime minister claimed that “the concessions offered to Iran in Lausanne would ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world,” and called on the international community “to insist on a better deal… which would significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure” and “link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to a change in Iran’s behavior.”

He called on world powers to ensure that Iran “stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world, and stop its threats to annihilate Israel.”
That should be nonnegotiable. And that’s the deal that the world powers must insist upon,” he concluded.

The negotiators resumed talks in the Swiss resort town of Lausanne Wednesday, just hours after abandoning a March 31 deadline to reach the outline of a deal and agreeing to press on. However, as the discussions dragged on, three of the six foreign ministers involved left the talks, and prospects for agreement remained uncertain.

Claiming enough progress had been made to warrant an extension after six days of intense bartering, and eager to avoid a collapse in the discussions, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his British and German counterparts huddled in Lausanne to continue a marathon effort to bridge still significant gaps and hammer out details of a framework accord.

The foreign ministers of China, France and Russia all departed Lausanne overnight, although the significance of their absence, particularly when the broader group meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, was not clear.

Asked how high the chances of success were, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “I cannot say.” And British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Iran might still not be ready to accept what is on the table.

Officials say their intention is to produce a joint statement outlining general political commitments to resolving concerns about Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, and their intention to begin a new phase of negotiations to get to that point. In addition, they are trying to fashion other documents that would lay out in more detail the steps they must take by June 30 to meet those goals.

The additional documents would allow the sides to make the case that the next round of talks will not simply be a continuation of negotiations that have already been twice extended since an interim agreement between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany was concluded in November 2013. President Barack Obama and other leaders, including Iran’s, have said they are not interested in a third extension.

Mixed messages on the Iranian nuclear negotiations were emerging from Lausanne, Switzerland Wednesday, where talks between high-ranking international and Iranian diplomats — working through a midnight deadline to reach a political framework for a deal — were adjourned.

Russia and Iran’s foreign ministers claimed in the early hours of Wednesday a breakthrough in talks, but the US said not all issues had been agreed upon.

“One can say with relative certainty that we at the minister level have reached an agreement in principle on all key aspects of the final settlement of this issue,” Russian media quoted Sergey Lavrov as saying at talks in Switzerland.

This came after Russia’s top diplomat and the foreign ministers of five other major powers and Iran missed a midnight (2200 GMT) deadline to agree the main outlines of what they hope will be an historic accord but continued working through the night.
The powers hope this final agreement, due to be finalized by June 30, will see Iran scale down its nuclear program in order to prevent Tehran developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.

The stakes are high, with fears that failure to reach a deal may set the United States and Israel on a road to military action to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive, which Tehran says is purely peaceful.

The “agreement in principle… will be put on paper in the coming hours or perhaps within one day,” Lavrov said, quoted by Ria Novosti after a lengthy day of talks in Lausanne.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he hoped to complete later on Wednesday the framework nuclear agreement, allowing the process of drafting a final accord by the June 30 deadline to begin.
“We have accomplished quite a bit but people needed to get some rest and start over early in the morning. I hope that we can finalize the work on Wednesday and hopefully start the process of drafting (a final accord)”, Zarif told reporters.

A senior US official however said there was not yet full agreement on key points of the framework accord.
“All issues have not been agreed,” a senior US official told AFP.

As Iran nuclear talks reached a deadline that was blithely extended by the US on Tuesday, an investigative media report indicates that one of US President Barack Obama's top Iran advisers may have worked for a pro-Iranian regime lobbying group in the recent past.

The White House released a list of the top National Security Council (NSC) officials who held a video conference with Obama late Tuesday to update him on the talks with Iran in Switzerland's Lausanne.
On the list, which was published by The Daily Beast, the name Sahar Nowrouzzadeh stands out alongside the title "NSC Director for Iran."

A picture of Nowrouzzadeh with US Secretary of State John Kerry, in which she is seen explaining Iranian traditions, was posted on March 20 to the Twitter account of US Envoy for the anti-Islamic State (ISIS) coalition Brett McGurk.

Breitbart News media site decided to take a closer look at Nowrouzzadeh, and in an investigative exposé found that she appears to have previously worked for the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), an organization that is accused of lobbying for the Iranian regime.

The site documented how a person with the same name was credited with authoring a number of publications for NIAC.

The connection to NIAC is particularly troubling given that the group has been accused of being a mouthpiece for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

NIAC paid $200,000 to put out a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of his Congress address warning against the Iran nuclear deal.

Jailed Iranian dissident Amir Fakhravar told American Thinker last month that regarding NIAC, "you cannot find any difference between their statements and the Iranian regime’s statements. Either officially or unofficially, they are following the path of the regime.”

John Kerry On Iran Deal: 'If Allah Wills It'


When asked about an Iran deal, Secretary of State John Kerry, says: "Inshallah" (Translated as "If Allah wills it") in Arabic.

 It's not every day that the United States Secretary of State invokes the Islamic deity, but as reported, that's just what John Kerry did. As reported by the Western Journalism news portal on March 30, 2015, Secretary Kerry gave the
one word response in Arabic when asked the chances are for a deal with Iran.

As sent via her micro-blogging site on TwitterVoice of America reporter Negar Mortazavi cited that when John Kerry was asked on the fly in the streets of Lausanne, Switzerland what the chances were of an agreement being reached in regard to the talks between a number of world powers and Iran, Kerry responded with a simple "Inshallah," which is Arabic for "If Allah wills it." Secretary Kerry has taken fire from American conservatives for what they perceive as Kerry being more than willing to broker a weak deal with Tehran.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Deadline Extended, U.S. Threatens To 'Walk Away', Iran Militia Chief: Destroying Israel Is 'Nonnegotiable'

Deadline Extended In Marathon Nuclear Talks With Iran

The US abandoned late Tuesday a midnight deadline to agree the outlines of a nuclear deal with Iran but insisted that “enough progress” merited extending marathon talks into Wednesday.

“We’ve made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday. There are several difficult issues still remaining,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

The announcement came late on a sixth day of talks in Switzerland aimed at laying the groundwork for a deal that world powers hope will prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.

The stakes are high, with fears that failure to reach a deal may set the United States and Israel on a road to military action to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive, which Tehran says is purely peaceful.

A German diplomatic source also said the talks were “difficult” with a “changeable atmosphere” and “frequent breaks to negotiate in smaller groups.”

A Western diplomat said the army of technical and sanctions experts would continue plugging away “for (the) next hours. All parties (are) working hard and (are) committed to finding a solution.”

Senior Iranian negotiator Hamid Baidinejad said: “The negotiations will end when solutions have been found… We are ready to continue. We are not watching the clock.”

Top P5+1 diplomats worked past a midnight deadline into the early hours of Wednesday seeking to agree on the outlines of a nuclear deal with Iran, while the US threatened to “walk away” from negotiations if an accord could not be reached.

As the world powers were negotiating on a sixth day of talks in Switzerland aimed at laying the groundwork for a deal that they hope will prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program, the White House indicated that should a deal for a political framework not be reached, the US would leave the talks ahead of the final deadline in late June.

“If we’re not able to reach a political agreement, then we’re not going to wait … until June 30 to walk away,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Tuesday.

Meanwhile the US has denied that Iran was given an ultimatum late Tuesday to decide whether to accept the deal offered by the P5+1 lest its representatives leave Switzerland by dawn.

According to Reuters, two European diplomats said that the major powers “did not want to continue negotiating beyond the early morning on Wednesday.”

A US official told the news agency that the report was “false.”
Earlier, the US said “enough progress” was made so as to merit extending marathon talks into Wednesday.

The commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable,” according to an Israel Radio report Tuesday.

Militia chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi also threatened Saudi Arabia, saying that the offensive it is leading in Yemen “will have a fate like the fate of Saddam Hussein.”

Naqdi’s comments were made public as Iran and six world powers prepared Tuesday to issue a general statement agreeing to continue nuclear negotiations in a new phase aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord by the end of June.

In 2014, Naqdi said Iran was stepping up efforts to arm West Bank Palestinians for battle against Israel, adding the move would lead to Israel’s annihilation, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
“Arming the West Bank has started and weapons will be supplied to the people of this region,” Naqdi said.
“The Zionists should know that the next war won’t be confined to the present borders and the Mujahedeen will push them back,” he added. Naqdi claimed that much of Hamas’s arsenal, training and technical knowhow in the summer conflict with Israel was supplied by Iran.
The Basij is a religious volunteer force established in 1979 by the country’s revolutionary leaders, and has served as a moral police and to suppress dissent.