Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

As China’s Xi Jinping Heads to the U.S., Activists Hope For Discussions on International Disputes, Human Rights, Rule of Law

August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

On July 9, Wang Yu, a celebrated human rights lawyer in Beijing with a history of defending religious minorities and political dissidents in China, sent a text message to her friend. Her electricity had been cut off and her phone line was dead: “People are trying to break in,” she said.

Wang, 44, had returned from dropping her husband and son off at Beijing airport and neighbours later said that there was a heavy police presence in the neighbourhood. When they asked why, officers said that there had been a drugs bust nearby and that one person had been detained.

Wang Yu has not been seen since her arrest almost five weeks ago (Getty)

Wang has not been heard from since, even by her lawyers, who have claimed that not only had they been forbidden from seeing their client but they still hadn’t been told what she had been charged with. Her husband and son were arrested at Beijing airport but later released.

Her arrest came ahead of a crackdown in China that saw 200 lawyers detained in just seven days. As of this week, activists say, most of those that were detained a month ago have been released, but Wang and at least six other lawyers have not. Albert Ho, the chairman of the China Human Rights Lawyer Concern Group in Hong Kong, said that the current crackdown is China’s worst yet.

“The crackdown is on the widest scale that we have ever seen. At least 270 lawyers were arrested, detained, intimidated. Up to now at least seven are still detained under the pretext of violation of the law relating to the protection of national security,” Ho said.

In Wang’s case, according to an August 10 letter from her lawyers to the Tianjin Public Security Bureau, which is believed to be responsible for her arrest, the charge appears to relate to a court case in the north-eastern city of Shenyang City, when Wang is accused of branding the police “animals and thugs”.

Her lawyers argue that not only is it unusual to classify a loss of temper as a national security issue, but rather that it is Wang’s record of defending religious minorities including the Falun Gong, Christians and political dissidents against the government and local officials that is behind her arrest.

She has been handling political cases for almost five years, and has defended scholar Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2014 for his role in the Uighur movement in western China, and five LGBT activists who were jailed in January for “creating a disturbance” when they organised an anti-sexual harassment campaign for International Women’s Day.

“She is a brave, forthright, selfless human rights lawyer. Most of the time she is on the road, seeking justice and defending the rights of wronged individuals, despite authorities having insulted her, stolen her phone, kicked her out courthouses, and even illegally detained her,” a friend and former colleague, Wang Quanping, said in a statement following her arrest.

“She was never afraid, and continued to fight against violations committed by the authorities. She does not care for fame, or to make big money, but tirelessly works on many difficult and risky rights cases, in pursuit of legal justice. […] She is the pride of Chinese lawyers.”

Barack Obama Xi Jinping China US

US President Barack Obama pats Chinese President Xi Jinping on the shoulder at the end of their news conference in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

According to her profile on the website of activist group China Human Rights Defenders, Wang switched from commercial to human rights law after she was physically assaulted by ticket inspectors in 2008 while trying to board a train. She made a complaint to the police but was herself arrested for assault, fined US$20,000 and jailed for three years. She was only released in 2011.

A few days after Wang’s arrest in July, state-owned Xinhua news agency published an article attacking the law firm that she worked for, Fengrui, which is known for handling human rights cases. Immediately following Wang’s arrest, 100 of her colleagues had signed a petition calling for her release and many were then arrested themselves.

In the article, Xinhua compared Fengrui to “a major criminal gang” that “aim[s] to create disturbances and disturb order” in the name of “defending [human] rights.” A week later, the state media arm carried a confession by one of the firm’s directors, Zhou Shifeng, in which he said that the firm “had broken the law” and “brought great risks to social stability.”

It is believed that the crackdown was provoked after Chinese state security shot dead a young man in the northern Heilongjiang province in late June, claiming that he had been resisting arrest. A video was later uploaded to the internet by human rights lawyers that called into question the police account of events. A protest was held at the train station by the victim’s family and claims of a cover-up spread.

“I think this was the straw that broke the camel’s back because the human rights lawyers had been causing a great deal of problems for the government for years,” said Ho, most controversially a campaign against illegal detention of political activists in so-called “black jails”.

“For years, the number of lawyers in the movement has been increasing. I am seeing young faces coming in,” he said.

When Chinese president Xi Jinping took power in 2012 there was little indication that he would any more inclined to political reform than outgoing premier Hu Jintao, but the speed with which political freedom has been eroded in China under Xi has shocked many observers, including US President Barack Obama, who warned of Xi’s “clout” inside China as recently as December 2014.

In a speech in the US, Obama said that the new president had consolidated power in the country faster than any Chinese premier since Deng Xiaoping, the reformist leader that opened China to capitalism with a series of market reforms in the 1980s after the death of Mao. Obama warned of the threat that Xi Jinping presented towards human rights in particular.

Although Xi’s anti-corruption drive, which has seen many high-ranking officials stripped of their positions and dragged through China’s courts, was received positively when it was launched in 2013, it has increasingly been seen as a tool for removing political opponents and crushing dissent. The case of dissident artist Ai Wei Wei, who was charged with tax evasion in 2011, is a case in point.

It has come at a time when China’s nationalist sentiments have been stirred by arguments with Japan over the possession of islands in the South China Sea and the protests in Hong Kong,which came after Beijing attempted to vet candidates ahead of the islands’ 2017 elections. Xi’s premiership has also come as hacking accusations have soured relations between China and the US.

For China’s human rights lawyers, the wave of arrests do not bode well.

“Things are much worse under Xi. I don’t know why, but this is the situation. They are saying that he is far more dictatorial then the other leaders,” said Ho.

But he speculated that while Xi has total control over the army, he has less sway over the country’s internal security apparatus, which has increasingly become a law unto itself inside China.

“He is not in complete control of the security forces [and] some people seem to be doing things without his blessing,” he said.




US government ‘developing sanctions against Chinese companies for cyber theft of trade secrets’

August 31, 2015

By Ellen Nakashima
The Washington Post

The Obama administration is developing a package of unprecedented economic sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals who have benefited from their government’s cyber theft of valuable US trade secrets.

The US government has not yet decided whether to issue these sanctions, but a final call is expected soon, perhaps even within the next two weeks, according to several administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Issuing sanctions would represent a significant expansion in the administration’s public response to the rising wave of cyber-economic espionage initiated by Chinese hackers, who officials say have stolen everything from nuclear power plant designs to search-engine source code to confidential negotiating positions of energy companies.

READ MORE: White House should threaten Great Firewall to curb Chinese cyber attacks, experts say as Obama-Xi summit nears

Any action would also come at a particularly sensitive moment between the world’s two biggest economies. President Xi Jinping of China is due to arrive next month in Washington for his first state visit — complete with a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House and an elaborate state dinner.

There is already tension over a host of other issues, including maritime skirmishes in the South China Sea and China’s efforts to devalue its currency in the face of its recent stock market plunge. At the same time, the two countries have deep trade ties and the administration has sometimes been wary of seeming too tough on China.

But the possibility of sanctions so close to Xi’s visit indicates how frustrated US officials have become over the persistent cyber plundering.

The sanctions would mark the first use of an order signed by President Obama in April establishing the authority to freeze financial and property assets of, and bar commercial transactions with, individuals and entities overseas who engage in destructive attacks or commercial espionage in cyberspace.

President Xi Jinping pictured with Barack Obama during a meeting in November last year in Beijing. China’s head of state is due to visit Washington next month. Photo: AP

The White House declined to comment on specific sanctions, but a senior administration official, speaking generally, said: “As the president said when signing the executive order enabling the use of economic sanctions against malicious cyber actors, the administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront such actors. That strategy includes diplomatic engagement, trade policy tools, law enforcement mechanisms, and imposing sanctions on individuals or entities that engage in certain significant, malicious cyber-enabled activities.

“The administration has taken and continues to introduce steps to protect our networks and our citizens in cyberspace and we are assessing all of our options to respond to these threats in a manner and timeframe of our choosing.”

China is not the only country that hacks computer networks for trade secrets to aid its economy, but it is by far the most active, officials say. Just last month, the FBI said that economic espionage cases surged 53 per cent in the past year, and that China accounted for most of that.

The expected sanctions move will send two signals, a second administration official said. “It sends a signal to Beijing that the administration is going to start fighting back on economic espionage and it sends a signal to the private sector that we’re on your team. It tells China, enough is enough.”

Zhang Hao, a professor at Tianjin University, has been charged in the US with industrial espionage. He denies the charges. SCMP Pictures

The sanctions would be a second major shot at China on the issue. The Obama administration has secured indictments on economic spying charges against five Chinese military members for hacking into the computer systems of major US steel and other firms.

“The indictments were a strong move,” said Rob Knake, a former White House cyber official and currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is going to be an even stronger move. It’s really going to put China in the position of having to choose whether they want to be this pariah nation — this kleptocracy — or whether they want to be one of the leading nations in the world.”

Some officials within the government urged caution, arguing that sanctions would only create unnecessary friction. But everyone is on the same page now, officials said.

“Let’s be honest, I can see the White House saying, ’Let’s not do [sanctions] while the head of state is here,” one administration official said. “I can see maybe they’d shift the timing by a few days, but I can’t imagine they’d shift the overall decision.”

READ MORE: Six Chinese, including university professor, charged with industrial espionage in US

Officials from national security agencies, as well as at Treasury, which is the lead agency on economic sanctions under the executive order, have been eager to push ahead. The administration’s goal is to impose costs for economic cyber spying. And the best strategy for doing that, officials said, is to use a variety of tools – indictments, sanctions, maybe even covert cyber actions.

Sanctions alone will probably not change China’s behaviour, some officials said. “Done in tandem with other diplomatic pressure, law enforcement, military, intelligence, then you can actually start to impose costs and indicate that there are costs to the bilateral relationship,” the first official said.

Some experts warn, though, that there are risks attached to imposing sanctions.

If sanctions are imposed, “I’d say the chances of Chinese retaliation are high,” said Jeffrey Bader, Obama’s principal adviser on Asia from 2009 to 2011.

But, he said, “if a Chinese company was a beneficiary of stolen intellectual property from an American company and the evidence is clear cut, then actions or sanctions against that Chinese company strike me as appropriate”.

While some officials fear that China might retaliate by discriminating against US companies or freezing them out of contracts or markets, other officials counter that China has long discriminated against foreign companies, including US firms, restricting access and procurement opportunities to create protected markets for domestic companies and instituting polices that require companies to turn over technology and intellectual property as a condition of doing business there.

READ MORE: Obama vows to boost US cyber defences amid signs of China hacking

The executive order authorises the Treasury secretary, in consultation with the attorney general and secretary of state, to impose the sanctions on companies, individuals or entities that have harmed national security, or the nation’s economy or foreign policy. It’s not clear how many firms or individuals will be targeted, although one official said the Chinese firms would be large and multinational.

heir activity must meet one of four “harms”: attacking critical infrastructure, such as a power grid; disrupting major computer networks, stealing intellectual property or trade secrets; or benefiting from the stolen secrets and property.

It is that last prong, in particular, that has potential to be quite effective, sanctions experts say. “Obviously, there’s no silver bullet,” said Zachary Goldman, a former policy adviser at the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and now executive director of New York University’s Centre on Law and Security. But if the sanctioned companies are large and global, “they will effectively be put out of business”.
In practice, he said, most significant financial institutions refuse to do business with individuals who have been sanctioned by the US. “So any company that’s been targeted under this authority,” he said, “will likely find it very difficult to participate in the international financial sector.”

The designations are being drawn up by a number of agencies, including the Treasury and Justice departments, the White House and the intelligence community. Evidence that the Justice Department has assembled over the past year or so in preparing possible indictments for economic espionage against Chinese companies and individuals is being used in support of the designations, officials said.

Chinese hackers have been accused of accessing the data of at least four million former and serving federal employees in the US through the Office of Personnel Management. China has denied the allegations. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Sanctions provide government officials a greater ability to protect classified sources and evidence than a criminal prosecution might. But, analysts point out that there will probably be significant pressure on the administration to release as much evidence as possible to back up its designations to convince skeptics.

It is possible, some officials said, that entities or individuals from other countries besides China could be included in the sanctions package.

The sanctions would not be imposed in retaliation for China’s hacks of the Office of Personnel Management databases, which compromised the personal and financial data of more than 22 million current and former government employees and family members. The data heists, which took place last year but were discovered this year, were judged as having been carried out for traditional intelligence purposes — not to benefit Chinese industry.

Nonetheless, the severity of the incidents helped convince wavering officials that firm action in the economic spying realm was warranted.

The US government’s response to the personnel data hacks has been much more muted. Rather than a public naming and shaming, it is considering covert cyber action. Officials have hinted at this, saying they may be taking steps that are not public.

The administration plans to raise the issue of China’s behaviour in cyberspace at the upcoming Obama-Xi summit, just as it has done at every major meeting between the two nations’ governments. Cybersecurity is one of the top policy issues in the relationship and also among the thorniest.

Ruan Zongze, a former Chinese Embassy official in Washington, said in an interview that separating economic from political espionage in cyberspace was impossible. “It’s really difficult to tell one from the other,” he said.

Ruan, vice president for the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the Chinese foreign ministry, said the two sides should talk about this. “Finger-pointing is not the best way.”

The first US official said there were bound to disagreements between the two countries.

“There are going to be areas where we have cooperation and disagreement all at the same time. That’s just the reality of the relationship. The economic espionage and cybersecurity issues are going to continue to be a major irritant to the bilateral relationship.’

Israel’s Former Military Intelligence Chief Suggests U.S., Israel Bilateral Agreement on Responses to Future Nuclear Activities

August 30, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media from the Colonnade outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Because Iran nuclear agreement is so problematic, suitable response to future dangers is required, argues Amos Yadlin.

The U.S. and Israel should enter into a bilateral, parallel agreement in response to the highly problematic Iran nuclear agreement, former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin said over the weekend.

In a paper published at the International Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, which Yadlin directs, the former senior defense official said a parallel agreement “should provide a suitable response to future dangers inherent in the agreement with Iran.”

“The agreement signed between the P5+1 and Iran is very problematic for Israel,” Yadlin stated in his paper, adding that it nevertheless appears as if President Obama will be successful in getting the deal through Congress.

“Though convinced that the agreement entails potential dangers for Israel, I stand by my previous position, namely, that the Israeli government should avoid interfering in the United States internal debate about this very charged issue. I therefore call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to take measures now toward formulation of a ‘parallel agreement’ between Israel and the United States that mitigates” the Vienna agreement’s weak points, he added.

A side agreement should clearly spell out a response to scenarios in which Iran seeks to break out to nuclear bomb production before the agreement lapses, Yadlin wrote. Additionally, it should provide a response to Iran’s regional positioning as a nuclear threshold state, led by a fundamentalist regime that sticks by its call to annihilate Israel. Thirdly, Yadlin said, a parallel agreement should “specify what constitutes a significant breach of the nuclear agreement, detailing the nature and scope of the response to that breach.”

A fourth clause would be dedicated to enhancing American – Israeli intelligence cooperation, and “efforts to close the gaps expected in the verification regime imposed by the IAEA in Iran. Fifth, the parallel agreement will have to enhance intelligence and operational cooperation to prevent Iranian nuclear development outside of Iran, as well as a nuclear arms race in other Middle East states.”

An effective parallel agreement would tackle the negative role played by Iran’s Quds Force in the region, which organizes hostile activity against Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.

“This goal will best be achieved by removing Assad’s murderous regime in Syria – an Iranian strategic asset of the highest degree – and by weakening Hezbollah through the interdiction of its weapon transfers and the undermining of its activities in Lebanon and Syria,” Yadlin wrote.

“As part of US-Israel cooperation, it is also necessary to emphasize the strengthening of moderate, pragmatic partners in the region, such as the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan, Sisi’s regime in Egypt, and moderate factions in Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority,” he added.

“Within the framework of the parallel agreement, it is necessary to establish a joint annual review forum that would examine the status of the threat from Iran. It would assess the probability of a scenario in which Iran breaks out to the bomb and the possibility of Iran sneaking toward it. It will periodically review trends and changes in the nature of the Iranian regime, and evaluate the scope of Iranian subversive and terrorist activities in the Middle East and beyond,” Yadlin said.

“Israel is a powerful nation, strong enough to confront the challenges that lie ahead, including those expected from implementation of the [Vienna] agreement,” the former Military Intelligence chief said.

“Nonetheless, the best way to do so runs through Washington, and requires US-Israeli cooperation that manages the risks and maximizes the strategic possibilities expected after the agreement goes into effect,” he added.

Assessing the threats inherent in the Vienna agreement, Yadlin warned that “once it expires (10-15 years), Iran will consolidate a legitimate nuclear infrastructure of unrestricted scope. This infrastructure will include unlimited numbers of advanced centrifuges and vast amounts of 20 percent enriched uranium, placing Iran at what President Obama termed ‘almost zero breakout distance’ from a bomb.”

“Another hazardous scenario is one in which Iran violates the agreement before it expires, either by creeping, sneaking, or breaking out to the bomb. The weakness of the IAEA supervision procedures, especially at undeclared Iranian sites, makes it imperative to supplement the inspection efforts with the highest levels of intelligence possible, such that a good picture of Iran’s nuclear status is maintained at all times.”

Iran could also move to establish military nuclear capacity through acquisition or development efforts in a third country, Yadlin cautioned.

“On the conventional level, the financial boost expected in Iran upon the lifting of sanctions will generate and reinforce threats to Israel. A conventional arms race between Iran and the rich Gulf states that feel threatened by Tehran’s armament is quite likely, and the first signs of Iranian buildup are already visible.”


Evidence mounts that soon-to-be flush Iran already spurring new attacks on Israel

By Paul Alster
Fox News

An unsettling surge in terrorism by Iranian proxies has many Israelis convinced the release to Tehran of tens of billions of dollars in frozen funds is already putting the Jewish state in danger.

In recent days, rockets have rained down on Israel from Gaza in the south and the Golan Heights to the north, Israeli forces foiled a bomb plot at the tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph, and Gaza-based terrorist groups that also have a presence in the West Bank have openly appealed for aid on Iranian television. Israeli officials fear the terrorist activity is spiking as groups audition for funding from Tehran, which is set to receive the long-frozen funds as part of its deal to allow limited nuclear inspections. They say the international focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions has left its more conventional methods of attacking regional adversaries unaddressed.

“The nuclear context is just one aspect of the negative Iranian activities in the region,” Emmanuel Nahshon, senior Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told “We can see the demonstration of this on a daily basis in Syria, in Yemen, and in Iraq. We see it also when we see the [Iranian] support of Hezbollah and other groups who operate against Israel.”

Last month, National Security Adviser Susan Rice admitted that some of the money due to be released as part of the deal negotiated by the U.S. led P5+1 “would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region.”

Shi’ite cleric wearing military uniform with Hezbollah members. Reuters photo

Aside from the soon-to-be-released billions, Iran’s finances will also be strengthened by the easing of trade embargoes that have seen a horde of major international business – many from P5+1 countries – rushing to sign lucrative deals with the ayatollahs. Earlier this week, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond scoffed at the fears of Israel and many Arab countries in the Middle East, saying the deal would “slowly rebuild their sense that Iran is not a threat to them.” Less than 24 hours later, the spokesman for Iran’s top parliament member said, “Our positions against [Israel] have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated.”

If that remains Iran’s intention, terror groups Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are showing a renewed eagerness to continue as its proxies. Four rockets apparently fired by the PIJ from Syria into northern Israel last week – two into the Golan Heights and two more into the Upper Galilee – were the first such attacks since the start of Syria’s bloody civil war more than four years ago. Israel responded with targeted missile strikes, including one which hit a car killing “five or six PIJ terrorists.”

On Aug. 18, Iranian state TV broadcast images of a new, 2.5-mile tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel. Dug by the Fatah-linked terror group the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and seemingly competing with arch-rivals Hamas for a share of the imminently unfrozen Iranian funds, the terrorists made an unabashed appeal for more cash. In a segment translated by Palestinian Media Watch, the terror group’s representatives said, “This is why we are asking [for money]… especially [from] Iran, which is a known long-time supporter of the resistance and the Palestinian cause.”

On Tuesday, Israeli officials revealed that a joint Israeli internal security and military operation thwarted a potentially lethal bomb attack planned by the Islamic Jihad on visitors to Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, the resting place of the biblical figure revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

The pace of attacks, as well as the diversity of their perpetrators, has prompted speculation that terrorist groups are competing for Iranian funding, and trying to show they are capable of giving Tehran bang for its buck. The terrorist groups however operate on budgets that are tiny given the scale of Iran’s financing capability.

“The amount that Iran gives Hezbollah is not very much – around $200 million – not even 1 percent of Iran’s budget last year,” Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Israeli expert on the region who writes at, told “If you want to stop Iranian support of Hezbollah you would need to have inspectors on the ground in Syria and Lebanon, the most dangerous of places, checking Hezbollah’s arsenal, bank accounts, bases, and Syrian bases which Hezbollah uses. I don’t see any UN force, or anyone else volunteering to do that.”

Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @paul_alster and visit his website:

Dick Cheney: Iran Deal Will Lead To First Use Of Nuclear Weapon Since Hiroshima And Nagasaki

August 30, 2015


“Nearly everything the president has told us about his Iranian agreement is false.” — Dick Cheney

David Cameron, liberal agenda to blame for ISIS — former head of Britain’s Armed Forces says

August 30, 2015

  • General Sir David Richards launches attack on Cameron’s Libya record
  • Said PM was too interested in pursuing a ‘Notting Hill liberal agenda’
  • Revelations come in an explosive new biography by Sir Anthony Seldon
  • Book provides dramatic account of behind-the-scenes rows in Cameron’s Government

The former head of Britain’s Armed Forces has blamed David Cameron for the rise of Islamic State, saying he lacked ‘the balls’ to crush them militarily when they first emerged as a threat.

In a scathing attack on Cameron’s record on Libya and Syria, General Sir David Richards, ex-chief of the defence staff, said the Prime Minister was more interested in pursuing a ‘Notting Hill liberal agenda’ than showing serious ‘statecraft’. Richards was backed by Britain’s spy chief, who delivered an astonishing personal slap-down to Cameron in a bitter Downing Street clash over Libya.

The revelations come in an explosive new biography of Cameron by Britain’s leading political biographer Sir Anthony Seldon, which is serialised in The Mail on Sunday starting today.

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Taking different sides: Cameron and Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards in 2010

Taking different sides: Cameron and Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards in 2010

Seldon’s book, based on unprecedented access to Cameron, George Osborne, fellow Ministers, military and diplomatic chiefs, Downing Street officials and mandarins, provides a dramatic account of behind-the-scenes rows in Cameron’s Government.

The book, Cameron At 10, reveals that:

  • The Prime Minister was in a bitter feud with Sir David over how to deal with ISIS and over his ‘half-baked’ campaign to oust Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi.
  • The general was echoed by the then head of MI6 John Sawers who told a shocked Cameron to his face that his plan to attack Libya was not in the ‘national interest’ but was purely for ‘humanitarian reasons’.
  • Barack Obama repeatedly refused to take Cameron’s calls, leading to a rift between the PM and the President. Cameron regards him as ‘too rational and considered’ and Obama is cruelly nicknamed ‘Spock’ by the Foreign Office.

An extraordinary bid by Tony Blair to arrange a ‘deal’ for Gaddafi to get out of Libya is also revealed by Seldon.

He says the former Prime Minister approached No 10, but the proposal was turned down by Cameron.

Cameron has vehemently defended his decision to lead the attack on Libya, though some experts say the fall of Gaddafi is linked to the huge rise in migrants trying to reach Europe by boat from Libya.

An extraordinary bid by Tony Blair to arrange a ‘deal’ for Gaddafi to get out of Libya is also revealed by Seldon

An extraordinary bid by Tony Blair to arrange a ‘deal’ for Gaddafi to get out of Libya is also revealed by Seldon

Critics are divided over whether earlier intervention in Syria would have halted the rise of Islamic State.

Seldon reveals a series of clashes between Cameron and the general over Cameron’s stance on Libya and Syria.

During lengthy interviews with Seldon for the book, Sir David castigates Cameron for failing to back plans for tougher military action when the Syrian crisis erupted in 2012.

The general tells the author: ‘If they had the balls they would have gone through with it… if they’d done what I’d argued, they wouldn’t be where they are with ISIS.’

He adds: ‘In Ukraine, as in Syria and Libya, there is a clear lack of strategy and statecraft. The problem is the inability to think things through. Too often it seems to be more about the Notting Hill liberal agenda rather than statecraft.’

In a showdown over Libya at a meeting of the National Security Council, headed by the PM, Sir David and MI6 chief Sawers challenge him head on.

Told bluntly by Cameron that his call for military action to depose Gaddafi is ‘in the British national interest, speak now or hold your peace’, they take up the gauntlet. Using the most direct language, Sawers delivers an astonishing personal rebuke to the Prime Minister, telling him it has nothing to do with ‘the national interest’ and saying Cameron is acting for ‘humanitarian reasons,’ pointedly drawing attention to the gulf between the two political motives.

Seldon also discloses a series of disputes between Cameron and Osborne. The author suggests Osborne initially resisted Cameron’s plan for an EU referendum because he feared it would damage him if he succeeded Cameron as Prime Minister of a UK that had left EU.

According to the book, Cameron was ‘angry’ with Osborne over the notorious ‘omnishambles’ Budget of 2012 and insisted on a bigger say in future Budgets.

Seldon lifts the lid on new details of personal squabbles between other senior Tories. He says furious Cameron warned Boris Johnson he risked helping Ed Miliband become Prime Minister and told Johnson to ‘f****** shut up’.

And he writes that Osborne regards Theresa May’s leadership ambitions as ‘ludicrous’ as tempers fray over immigration. Seldon and co-author Peter Snowdon do not pull punches.

Seldon writes that Osborne regards Theresa May’s leadership ambitions as ‘ludicrous’ as tempers fray over immigration

Seldon writes that Osborne regards Theresa May’s leadership ambitions as ‘ludicrous’ as tempers fray over immigration

They lambast Cameron’s ‘abject judgment’ in ignoring warnings not to appoint former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson, later jailed in the phone hacking trial, as his Downing Street spin doctor.

The book also provides a fresh insight into the dramatic events of Election Day on May 7.

The authors have obtained the contents of a pre-prepared speech conceding defeat to Miliband, delivered by Cameron to tearful Tory aides on the patio of his Oxfordshire home hours before he learned that, in fact, he would be heading back to No 10.

The book is the latest in a series of biographies by Seldon. His accounts of the Premierships of John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and now Cameron, have cemented his reputation as the most influential and respected political author in modern times.

Sir Anthony Seldon has had unprecedented access to David Cameron and George Osborne

Sir Anthony Seldon has had unprecedented access to David Cameron and George Osborne

If Cameron and his Notting Hill liberals had balls they would not be where they are with I.S.

Authoritative yet uncompromisingly tough, Sir Anthony Seldon is our leading political biographer. His books on Major, Blair and Brown have established an unrivalled reputation. Now, with co-author Peter Snowdon, he has had unprecedented access to David Cameron and George Osborne. Today we publish their compelling new biography of the Prime Minister – a gripping and at times astonishing account of the people who rule us…

During the Libyan uprising against Colonel Gaddafi in 2011, David Cameron works particularly closely with his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, who could draw on his experience as an adviser to Paddy Ashdown, when he was high representative to Bosnia in the early 2000s.

Cameron is full of zeal: weighing heavily in his mind is the human cost of inaction.

General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, believes Llewellyn is egging on Cameron. He believes they have a model of the Balkans in their heads. By acting now, they think they can prevent another Srebrenica massacre in Benghazi.

The National Security Council, a body set up after the election to co-ordinate defence and security policy, meets daily and a split opens up. Richards and John Sawers, head of MI6, warn of the risks of ‘half-baked’ military intervention. Other NSC members – including Cameron, Nick Clegg and Llewellyn – are all in favour of action.

Some military and intelligence officials believe Cameron’s team are ‘20 years out of date when it comes to dealing with conflict’, having not been immersed in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.


Close bond: Cameron pushes Ivan as he goes shopping with his family in 2006 

Close bond: Cameron pushes Ivan as he goes shopping with his family in 2006

Cameron’s profoundly disabled son, Ivan, died at the age of six in 2009. Nothing in the Prime Minister’s life has affected him as deeply as the birth, life and death of his son.

‘David was just another talented Etonian until Ivan,’ says Andrew Feldman, chairman of the Conservative Party and one of Cameron’s oldest friends.

‘What Ivan gave him was compassion and humanity,’ says Feldman.

Cameron spoke movingly of Ivan in his 2012 conference speech, regarded as one of his best.

Feldman takes some credit for persuading him to open up.

‘I’m always telling him to bring out his inner Semite,’ he says, referring to Cameron’s Jewish ancestry (his great-great-grandfather was the Jewish financier Emile Levita), which Feldman thinks explains Cameron’s inner warmth.

Cameron becomes impatient with the Whitehall machine. At an NSC meeting in March, he declares that ‘intervention in Libya is in the British national interest, speak now or hold your peace’.

He is confronted by Sawers who tells him bluntly it is not a matter of ‘national interest’ and that Cameron is acting purely for ‘humanitarian reasons’. Cameron is surprised by the challenge, but quickly answers somewhat unsatisfactorily, ‘Yes, yes, but it is important that we do these things.’

It is statements like this that lead many in the intelligence and defence community to worry that the whole situation is ‘not clearly thought through’.

Progress against Gaddafi becomes bogged down and when Benghazi is secure, Richards says hostilities should cease and talks be opened with Gaddafi. Cameron rules out the suggestion.

Richards complains that he is not being listened to. Number 10 suspects he is talking to the press. Cameron’s frustration is rising by the week.

Whitehall is placed on a war footing, and what William Hague dubs the ‘anaconda strategy’ – squeezing Gaddafi to death – is launched.

Number 10 argues that they should be denying oil to forces loyal to Gaddafi, and taking out fuel lines and depots. Cameron agrees.

The military reply is that this is a NATO-led campaign and that these actions are inconsistent with the UN resolution. Cameron is frustrated and in favour of cutting loose from NATO and taking action unilaterally.

Tony Blair telephones Number 10 to say he’s been contacted by a key individual close to Gaddafi, and that the Libyan leader wants to cut a deal with the British. Blair is a respected voice in the building and his suggestion is examined seriously.

Cameron had been repulsed by Blair’s decision to rehabilitate Gaddafi, and as opposition leader had argued strongly in 2009 against the Scottish government’s return of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya on the grounds of illness.

Policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was killed by a Libyan outside their embassy in London in 1984, when Cameron was still at Eton. Four years later came the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 killing 270 people. When the bomb was proven to be planted by a Libyan, Cameron became still more angry.

Gordon Brown claimed the Scottish government took the decision on al-Megrahi. Cameron did not believe him, and once inside Number 10, ordered a review into the episode. It concluded that the previous government ‘did all it could to facilitate’ the release of al-Megrahi’.

Cameron decides not to follow up Blair’s approach regarding a deal with Gaddafi: he wants to avoid doing anything which might be seen to give the Libyan leader succour. Richards’ complaints do not let up: he feels Cameron and the NSC are interfering with the military operation even down to the most tactical level.

Libya is a formative experience for Cameron. Rose-tinted spectacles have been removed from his eyes about fellow world leaders.

He cannot rely on Obama, nor Merkel, and Sarkozy’s ego knows no bounds.

Plan rejected: IS fighters march through the streets in Raqqa, the terrorist group's de facto capital

Plan rejected: IS fighters march through the streets in Raqqa, the terrorist group’s de facto capital

He is more sceptical of the MoD and the service chiefs than before. At the conclusion of hostilities, in an attempt to show that there are no hard feelings, he presents Richards with a signed photograph, and a first edition of T. E. Lawrence’s book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

But it is not the last of their battles. They differ again in 2012, over Syria, when the British military considers using Western ‘boots on the ground’ and air power.

When Richards presents his plan to the NSC, the response from Number 10 is that it would be unsellable to Washington as well as contrary to Parliamentary and public opinion.

Richards says: ‘If they had the balls they would have gone through with it… if they’d done what I argued, they wouldn’t be where they are with ISIS.’

Cameron’s foreign policy is becoming roundly criticised.

To Richards, the reasons are clear: ‘In Ukraine, as in Syria and Libya, there is a lack of strategy and statesmanship.

‘The problem is the inability to think things through. Too often it seems to be more about the Notting Hill liberal agenda rather than statecraft.’


Star trekkie: Obama gives Spock’s V-sign with Nichelle Nichols, who was Lt Uhura

Star trekkie: Obama gives Spock’s V-sign with Nichelle Nichols, who was Lt Uhura

‘It’s amazing to think they are doing this for us,’ says George Osborne to David Cameron’s communications chief, Craig Oliver, as they stand on a White House lawn in March 2012.

President Obama’s team is telling the world that Cameron is their friend, and that they are giving him the biggest party for an overseas leader of Obama’s first administration.

A senior White House aide says: ‘David Cameron is the first person the President wants to talk to on any issue.’ Number 10 doesn’t always see the relationship in such roseate hues. Obama’s business-like tone gives the impression of a lack of warmth and collegiality. If Cameron comes up with a good idea, Obama might say: ‘We’ve already thought of that,’ or ‘We will come back to you on it.’

Even Cameron often finds Obama too rational and considered. Obama loves the emotionless, logical Mr Spock from Star Trek and there is more than a passing resemblance between the two. His nickname at the Foreign Office has been Spock for years.

There is not the warmth between him and Cameron that existed between Thatcher and Reagan. It had started promisingly. Obama was the first foreign leader to phone the new Prime Minister on May 11, 2010. When they met, in Canada in June, Cameron had travelled in Obama’s helicopter and was boyishly excited. But Libya is to teach Cameron that he cannot fully rely on Obama.

Cameron and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy want to act militarily, but not without US support. However, Obama is sitting on the fence and won’t play ball. By March, it seems that Obama has had a change of heart, although it is still unclear whether the US would take part.

Obama’s unclear position causes anxiety in Downing Street.

‘He won’t take our calls because he doesn’t know where he stands. It’s not very impressive,’ spits out one aide.

The British ambassador tells Obama there will be military action from the British and the French with or without the Americans. Then, at last, Number 10 receives the message that Obama wants to speak to Cameron. America will help for the first week of action. ‘After that, it’s a British and French operation.’

On the weekend of March 19-20, 2011, UK, US and French forces launch air strikes in Libya. But by the end of July there is no conclusion in sight.

Both Cameron and Sarkozy are frustrated. ‘David, we are not schoolboys in short trousers. We are men,’ Sarkozy tells Cameron, to contrast their resolve with that of the fickle Americans. Eventually, Gaddafi is killed and NATO operations cease. Cameron feels vindicated but his relationship with the US president has taken a knock.

In May 2013, growing unrest in Syria prompts Cameron to travel to Russia to see Vladimir Putin to propose a peace conference.

Putin seems open to the idea. But Number 10 is disquieted to hear that US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Moscow two days before. Cameron’s pitch is diminished. Then, on August 21, reports come in of a chemical attack on Damascus with as many as 1,300 killed.

But for the next three days, Cameron is unable to reach the President. On the evening of Saturday August 24, Obama eventually calls. Cameron speaks to him at Chequers.

Typically, Obama has spent three days deliberating and is now simply informing Cameron that the US will be making a cruise missile strike on Monday. Cameron writes to Obama to welcome this ‘decisive action’ but asks for reassurances. Cameron’s advisers are uncertain whether the US will strike the next day. No one knows exactly what is happening in the White House. Parliament is recalled but the Commons votes against military action in Syria.

Cameron camp ire is directed at Obama: they blame him for his prevarication which put them in an almost impossible position. A message is received that Obama wants to speak to Cameron. He calls and says: ‘Hey brother, I know you had a tough few days. I totally get it.’

But there is also deep American frustration with the British.

Had the vote not been lost, US missiles could have been fired against chemical weapons targets in Syria the following day. History would have been different. Assad and IS might not have been emboldened. The debacle causes the relationship between the White House and Number 10 to fracture.

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US Falls Behind Canada, Finland, And Hong Kong In Human Freedom Index

August 30, 2015

By  Tyler Durden

The United States lags far behind other developed countries in terms of personal, civil and economic freedoms, according to a study released this month. Its neighbor to the north, for example, ranked 14 spots ahead of the so-called “Land of the Free.”

Three international think tanks — the U.S.-based Cato Institute, Canada’s Fraser Institute, and Germany’s Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom — released the Human Freedom Index earlier this month. In addition to major civil liberties, the study considers safety and rule of law, relative size of government and capitalist values like the soundness of money, property rights, and access to international trade. The authors used a total of 70 data sources ranging from 2008 to 2012, the most recent year for which all necessary data is currently available.

According to the report,

“The top 10 jurisdictions in order were Hong Kong, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.”

The U.S. ranks 20th, while Myanmar, Congo and Iran round out the bottom of the list of 152 countries.

Commenting on Canada’s high ranking compared to the U.S., Fred McMahon, the editor of the study, told the Toronto Sun:

“Canada doesn’t lead in a single area, but it’s high on all areas, like economic freedom … We have a very strong rule of law, good on safety and security. You can’t really have freedom without safety and security. And of course, in what you might call political freedoms and associations, speech and so on, we’re also top of the class.”

McMahon cited the U.S. war on terror, recent changes to property rights, and the ongoing effects of the 2008 financial crisis for the country’s poor ranking. “The U.S. has declined incredibly over the past decade- and-a-half,” he told the Sun last week, adding:

“The U.S. is known as the ‘Land of liberty’ and Canada is known as ‘The land of good governance,’ so it’s a little surprising that a country whose motto hinges on good government as a motto is well-ahead of a country whose motto hinges on liberty.”

Hong Kong’s high ranking may seem surprising, but the index does not attempt to measure democracy, and this year’s report doesn’t take into account recent pro-democracy protests in the country and the subsequent government crackdown.

This wasn’t the only recent study to take issue with civil liberties in America. In February, Reporters Without Borders announced that the U.S. had dropped three places in its “World Press Freedom Index” as a result of a “‘war on information’ by the Obama administration” and a crackdown on reporters’ abilities to freely report on events like the Ferguson protests, where trespassing charges were recently leveled against two journalists for their work documenting last year’s uprising following the death of Michael Brown.

Restoring American Exceptionalism

August 30, 2015


President Obama has dangerously surrendered the nation’s global leadership, but it can be ours again—if we choose his successor wisely.


Nations Compete for Big Payoff in Arctic Wealth — U.S. Lags Behind

August 29, 2015


The Arctic has become a theatre for rival claims over a sea floor believed to be rich in minerals, oil and gas. PHOTO: AFP

By David J. Lynch
Bloomberg News

  • Obama heading to Alaska to talk climate change as ice melts
  • Warming promises shipping shortcuts and energy production

Even as melting Arctic glaciers threaten to swamp shorelines, nations from Russia to the U.S. are betting that warming temperatures also will unlock trillions of dollars in new wealth.

“It is potentially the biggest strategic opportunity in America since the Louisiana Purchase in 1803,” said Scott Borgerson, a former Coast Guard officer and now an adviser at Catalyst Maritime.

President Barack Obama begins a three-day Alaska trip on Monday to underscore the urgency of combating climate change. His visit comes as the Arctic’s potential for oil and gas production and shorter trade routes when the ice melts puts it at the crossroads of economics and geopolitics.

Already, the polar economic dawn includes server farms for companies such asFacebook Inc. and Google Inc., which enjoy lower cooling costs in the north. Possible future rewards include an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil and 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that await discovery in the Arctic, with the vast majority located offshore, according to a 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report.

Any big financial payoff, however, is probably decades away. Falling commodity prices are discouraging exploration for Arctic oil and gas, while new trade routes across the top of the world are falling short of expectations.

“Arctic development is a lot slower than people thought,” says Malte Humpert, executive director of the Arctic Institute, a Washington-based policy group. “The hype is wearing off. It’ll be many, many years before we see the development people have been talking about.”

Russian nuclear icebreaker Yamal in the Arctic

Russian nuclear icebreaker Yamal in the Arctic. The scramble to secure resources in the high north as the Arctic ice melts has already produced international tensions. Photo: Getty

Assertive Russia

That hasn’t deterred Russia, which has been the most assertive, and theatrical, in advancing its claims. In 2007, a pair of Russian mini-subs descended more than two miles below the polar icecap to plant a titanium flagpole on the North Pole’s seabed, a purely symbolic gesture.

Russia, which boasts half the Arctic coastline and depends on the region for roughly a fifth of its national economic output, is expanding its Northern Fleet, upgrading regional facilities and staging unannounced military exercises.

“The Arctic’s incredibly important to Russia,” says Heather Conley, a former State Department official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They’re basing their future economic development on it.”

Russia’s not alone. Canada and Norway are preparing their militaries to defend territorial claims and forestall a 19th century-style resource grab. The cash-strapped U.S. Navy is concentrating for now on improving its ability to operate in the unforgiving north.

U.S. Preoccupied

Preoccupied by Islamic State and the rise of China, the U.S. has been an Arctic laggard. On April 24, however, the U.S. assumed the rotating two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the eight-nation body responsible for environmental, maritime and emergency preparedness policies.

The council, which operates by consensus, has agreed on procedures for dealing with oil spills and conducting maritime search and rescue despite rising tensions between Russia and other members over Ukraine.

Obama will be the first sitting president to visit Alaska, and is set to address an international Arctic conference on Monday. The gathering, meant to draw attention to climate challenges facing the Arctic, will end with a joint statement that U.S. officials hope will add momentum to the United Nations Climate Change Conference set for December in Paris, said a U.S. official who briefed reporters Friday on the condition of anonymity.

Melting Ice

The climatic thaw that’s bringing the Arctic new prominence is unmistakable. Temperatures above the Arctic Circle are rising twice as fast as elsewhere, according to the Arctic Council.

As a young Coast Guard officer in July, 1976, Robert Papp gazed from the town of Kotzebue and saw unbroken ice from the shore to the horizon. When he returned 34 years later as Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Papp scanned the sea again.

“There was no ice to be seen whatsoever,” Papp, who’s retired and now the administration’s special representative for the Arctic, told a Washington audience this month.

No Stampede

Nevertheless, the Arctic gold rush pales alongside the Klondike stampede that drew 100,000 prospectors north between 1896 and 1899.

Oil prices below $50 per barrel– less than half the price a year ago — discourage exploration efforts that incur high costs in the harsh Arctic climate.

One exception is Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which is spending more than $1 billion annually on Arctic exploration. On August 18, the company won U.S. approval to drill in Arctic waters for the first time since 2012 after its efforts were derailed by the grounding of a drilling rig.

“Shell is a bit of an outlier,” James Henderson, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, said in an e-mail. “Other companies have taken a much more cautious approach, for environmental and cost reasons, and this caution will only be further underlined in a low oil-price environment.”

Shipping Shortcut

The increasingly ice-free Arctic seas have opened a shortcut between Europe and Asia for ships bearing cargoes such as diesel fuel and iron ore. The sailing distance from Rotterdam to Yokohama via a northern route that hugs the Russian coastline is almost 40 percent shorter than the one through the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Yet only 31 vessels transited that route last year, down from 71 the year before, according to the Northern Sea Route Information Office in Murmansk, Russia. Those dozens are dwarfed by the more than 17,000 ships that passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal in 2014.

“We cannot compare the volumes of cargo transported through the Suez Canal to the volumes transported through the NSR,” said Sergey Balmasov, head of the information office.

A second polar route — the fabled Northwest Passage sought for centuries by mariners such as Henry Hudson — has seen only a handful of vessels. Submerged ice formations that rise from the seabed and complex channels discourage traffic.

Encountering Ice

Despite the thaw, the northern route is still open only four-and-a-half months each year. Even then, the possibility of encountering ice makes it poorly suited for container cargo ships, which require precise scheduling. Shallow waters and a lack of navigational aids further complicate the journey.

While the route makes sense for trade between ports such as Japan’s Yokohama and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, many major export hubs in Vietnam and Indonesia are too far south, says Sverre Bjorn Svenning, research director at ship brokers Fearnleys in Oslo.

“If you go south of Hong Kong or south of Rotterdam, it’s cheaper on the traditional route,” he said.

Much of the activity on the Northern Sea Route involves the export of natural resources or voyages between Russian ports such as Murmansk and Vladivostok, Balmasov said.

Meager Traffic

In June, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev conceded that the Arctic route’s traffic to date was “nothing to shout about.”

Still, some analysts say the U.S. hasn’t done enough to position itself for the region’s emerging opportunities. Borgerson, the former Coast Guard officer, says the Obama administration is beginning to recognize the Arctic’s significance but needs to do much more.

The nearest U.S. deepwater port to the Arctic is in Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, almost 1,000 miles from the Chukchi Sea that separates Alaska and Russia. Two of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers already are beyond their 30-year operational lifespans, even as Russia plans a trio of new nuclear-powered vessels by 2020.

New satellite communication networks, navigation aids, runways and modern maritime charts also are needed.

Territorial Claims

Political infighting in Washington that’s prevented the U.S. from joining the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea means the U.S. — unlike every other Arctic nation — is unable to file territorial claims for the region’s contested resources.

Russia submitted a revised claim to 1.2 million square kilometers (463 million square miles) of the Arctic continental shelf on Aug. 4, arguing that the territory is a natural continuation of the Russian continental shelf.

The UN rejected a similar submission in 2002, though Russia says it has conducted extensive research since then to gather supporting data.

Though not an Arctic nation, China also is hedging its bets by cozying up to Iceland. In 2013, the island nation became the first European country to recognize China as a market economy, and the two nations signed a free trade agreement.


US Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley

U.S. Is Seen as Laggard as Russia Asserts Itself in Warming Arctic

ABOARD COAST GUARD CUTTER ALEX HALEY, in the Chukchi Sea — With warming seas creating new opportunities at the top of the world, nations are scrambling over the Arctic — its territorial waters, transit routes and especially its natural resources — in a rivalry some already call a new Cold War.

When President Obama travels to Alaska on Monday, becoming the first president to venture above the Arctic Circle while in office, he hopes to focus attention on the effects of climate change on the Arctic. Some lawmakers in Congress, analysts, and even some government officials say the United States is lagging behind other nations, chief among them Russia, in preparing for the new environmental, economic and geopolitical realities facing the region.

Read the rest:



Iran president opposes parliament vote on nuclear deal — Fears parliamentary vote would make the agreement a legal obligation

August 29, 2015


The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — President Hassan Rouhani has opposed a parliamentary vote on the landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers, saying terms of the agreement will turn into legal obligation if it is passed by the house.

Rouhani said at a news conference Saturday that the deal was a political understanding reached with world powers, not a new pact that requires parliamentary approval.

A special committee of the parliament has already begun studying the deal before putting it to a vote. But the legality of such a move is in doubt because the government has not prepared a bill to parliament for vote on.

Rouhani said the Supreme National Security Council, the country’s highest security decision-making body, is already studying the agreement.

Barack Obama to Seek Repair of U.S.-Israel Relations After Iran Vote

August 29, 2015

By Carol E. Lee
Wall Street Journal Blog

Barack Obama, shown in a file photo, said he would understand Jewish people’s trepidation about the Iran deal if his grandparents had been Holocaust survivors.

President Barack Obama said Friday he plans to move quickly after next month’s congressional vote on the Iran nuclear deal to repair U.S. relations with Israel, following months of strained relations over his diplomatic outreach to Tehran.

In an interview with Jewish American leaders, the president said that U.S. and Israeli officials have been in talks about how to “re-energize relations” once lawmakers vote on the Iran deal in mid-September and that both sides recognize “the importance of getting back on track.”

“Those conversations I think will move rapidly and they will move smoothly,” Mr. Obama said.

The president, in a webcast hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, made a personal case to convey his understanding of concerns about the Iran deal expressed by Israel and its supporters.

If his grandparents were Holocaust survivors and Iranian leaders were denying that happened, or if he lived in Israel where “rockets rain down on homes,” Mr. Obama said, “I’ve got a visceral reaction that says how can I do business with someone like that?”

“I understand it. It’s loathsome. As an African American I think I understand,” Mr. Obama said. “History teaches us that man can be very cruel to man. But what history also teaches us is that sometimes the best security is to enter into negotiations with your enemies.”

Mr. Obama also disputed charges from his critics that he has likened opponents of the deal to “warmongering.”

Rather, he said, he has made the case that the only alternative to implementing the July 14 Iran nuclear deal is eventual military action.

“And this I won’t apologize for,” Mr. Obama said.

And he took a softened tone on U.S.-Israel relations, with a message to Israelis: “Understand that regardless of the position people are taking on this issue, the friendship, the love between the Israeli people and the American people that manifests itself in so many different ways — that’s not going anywhere,” he said.

Includes “Where U.S. Senators Stand on the Iran Deal” at the link
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