Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Iran’s President Rouhani Speaks to International Group on Iran Nuclear Deal, Removal of Sanctions

March 26, 2015

LAUSANNE, Switzerland Thu Mar 26, 2015 5:33pm EDT

(Reuters) – Iran’s president spoke with the leaders of France, Britain, China and Russia on Thursday in an apparent effort to break an impasse to a nuclear deal between Tehran and major world powers.

He also raised the Saudi-led military operation against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen, as did U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of nuclear negotiations in Switzerland with Tehran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The United States is pushing for a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers before a March 31 deadline, and officials close to the talks said some kind of preliminary agreement was possible.

However, a senior British diplomat acknowledged: “There are still important issues where no agreement has so far been possible.

“Our task, therefore, for the next few days is to see if we can bridge the gaps and arrive at a political framework which could then be turned into an agreement,” the diplomat told reporters on the sidelines of negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The six powers, which include Germany and the United States, hope to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement by June 30.

Western powers fear Iran wants to build nuclear bombs, though Tehran says its atomic research is for peaceful purposes. The powers hope to persuade Iran to scale back its nuclear activity in return for the removal of economic sanctions.

Israel is believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal and has in the past threatened Iran with military attack.

The spokeswoman for U.S. President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, confirmed that “a letter from President Rouhani to President Obama was passed to the U.S. negotiating team in Lausanne.” She offered no details.

In a rare direct exchange between Paris and Tehran, French President Francois Hollande said Iran had a right to civilian nuclear power but insisted on a “lasting, robust and verifiable Iranian nuclear program that guarantees Iran will not get an atomic weapon”, a statement from the French presidency said.

Last week officials close to the negotiations said France was demanding more stringent conditions than its Western allies for any future agreement.

Rouhani reiterated Tehran’s principal demand – that the most crippling sanctions be lifted immediately.

“All unjust sanctions against the Iranian nation should be lifted,” he said on Twitter. “Lifting all sanctions is the main issue that can help us reach the final solution.”

Western powers insist that sanctions relief must come gradually, though European and U.S. measures against Iranian energy and financial sectors and some U.N. sanctions could be suspended quickly, officials close to the talks said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman told reporters after the call that the two sides agreed it was possible to conclude a framework nuclear deal by end-March.

Rouhani also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said. On his Twitter feed, Rouhani said he raised military operations in Yemen launched by Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia with all four leaders.

KERRY MEETS ZARIF

Kerry and Zarif met twice on Thursday in Lausanne and Kerry raised the Yemen crisis, a State Department spokesman said, though a senior U.S. official told Reuters the issue did not have any impact on the nuclear negotiations.

Washington and Tehran take opposing stands on Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen against Shi’ite Houthi rebels allied to Iran who are fighting to oust Yemen’s president.

Earlier, Iranian media quoted Zarif as condemning the Saudi-led military operation and demanding that it stop.

Kerry spoke to the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council members and welcomed their action against the Houthis, a senior U.S. official said.

Iran and the six powers are seeking a political framework accord by the end of this month that would lay the foundations for a full nuclear deal by June 30.

Under a final settlement, Tehran would halt sensitive nuclear work for at least a decade and in exchange, international sanctions would be lifted.

Speaking to reporters traveling with Kerry from Washington on Wednesday, a senior State Department official said the six powers would not rush to complete a framework agreement just because there was a March 31 deadline.

But the official said: “We very much believe we can get this done by the 31st … We see a path to do that.” The official added, however, that there was no guarantee of success.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, also said a deal was possible but not certain. “It is difficult to forecast whether we can reach a result at this round of talks but we are moving toward reaching a mutual understanding in all technical issues,” he told Iranian state television.

Israel, Saudi Arabia, France and the U.S. Congress have all raised concerns that the Obama administration might be willing to conclude a deal that would allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability in the future.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara, Jason Bush in Moscow and Kylie Maclellan in London; editing by Andrew Roche/Ruth Pitchford)

Obama’s Mideast Realignment

March 26, 2015

His new doctrine: Downgrade ties to Israel and the Saudis while letting Iran fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat.

Meeting the press at the White House, March 24.  
Meeting the press at the White House, March 24. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Zuma Press
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By Max Boot
The Wall Street Journal
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Let’s connect the dots.

Data point No. 1: President Obama withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 and is preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016, even while keeping a few more troops there this year and next than originally planned.

Point No. 2: The Obama administration keeps largely silent about Iran’s power grab in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, even going so far now as to assist Iranian forces in Tikrit, while attempting to negotiate a nuclear deal with Tehran that would allow it to maintain thousands of centrifuges.

Point No. 3: Mr. Obama berates Benjamin Netanyahu for allegedly “racist” campaign rhetoric, refuses to accept his apologies, and says the U.S. may now “re-assess options,” code words for allowing the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state over Israeli objections.

Taken together, these facts suggest that Mr. Obama is attempting to pull off the most fundamental realignment of U.S. foreign policy in a generation. The president is pulling America back from the leading military role it has played in the Middle East since 1979, the year the Iranian hostage crisis began and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. He is trying to transform Iran from an enemy to a friend. He is diminishing the alliance with Israel, to lows not seen since the 1960s.

Call it the Obama Doctrine: The U.S. puts down the burden, and Iran picks up the slack.

Perhaps the least disputed of these points is the notion that Mr. Obama is stepping back from the Middle East. He has repeatedly said as much, promising to “rebalance” our commitments by shifting forces to the Pacific. The U.S. still maintains substantial forces in the Persian Gulf, as it has done since the early 1980s. But the number of troops in Iraq has fallen from 142,000 when Mr. Obama took power to fewer than 3,000 today, after an interregnum of zero between 2011 and 2014. The number of troops in Afghanistan tripled to 100,000 in 2010 but has since fallen to 10,000 and is supposed to hit zero before the president leaves office. This will be disastrous and destabilizing, but it will allow Mr. Obama to claim that he “ended” the war. In reality, pulling out U.S. troops will only fuel the conflict.

A corollary to Mr. Obama’s vow to make the “tide of war” recede is his determination, if forced to fight, to employ air power alone. The U.S. took part in the NATO air campaign to depose Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but afterward Mr. Obama refused to send a peacekeeping force, a decision that has consigned the country to anarchy. Now Mr. Obama is launching airstrikes against Islamic State while refusing to commit to any ground troops—even though they are essential to ensuring the success of airstrikes.

This brings us to the second part of the Obama Doctrine. The U.S. has regarded Iran as its enemy since our embassy in Tehran was stormed and our diplomats taken captive. The Iranians have sponsored numerous terrorist attacks on American targets, in Lebanon in the 1980s and Iraq in the 2000s.

In response, successive U.S. presidents have backed Israel and Sunni allies, notably Saudi Arabia. Mr. Obama is bucking this foreign-policy consensus. He is offering Iran extraordinarily generous terms in the current negotiations, suggesting that he will lift sanctions if Iran merely slows down its nuclear-weapons program for a decade.

Mr. Obama is also doing little to contest Iran’s growing imperium in the Middle East, symbolized by the ubiquitous presence of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, which is charged with exporting Iran’s revolution. Tehran backs proxy militias such as Hezbollah, which has moved from its Lebanese base to support Iranian client Bashar Assad in Syria; the Badr Organization, which is leading the charge against Islamic State in Tikrit; and the Houthi militia that has taken over San’a, the capital of Yemen, and is now at the gates of Aden, a strategically vital port near the entrance to the Red Sea.

All U.S. officials will say in response is that Iran’s actions are “helpful” as long as they are not too “sectarian”—akin to praising Al Capone for providing liquor to the thirsty masses while piously expressing the hope that his conduct isn’t too criminal. Now the U.S. is even supporting the Iranian-directed offensive against Tikrit by providing surveillance flights and airstrikes for attacking forces.

The flip side of this shift toward Iran is a move away from longtime allies, most notably Israel, which views the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat. The president vowed to put some “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem, and boy has he delivered. His aides deride the Israeli prime minister as a “chickens—” and a “coward,” and Mr. Obama has exhibited more visceral anger at Mr. Netanyahu than he has at Vladimir Putin or Ayatollah Khamenei.

Mr. Netanyahu has sometimes played into Mr. Obama’s hands—for example, by agreeing to address Congress without first running it by the White House and then vowing, in the closing days of his campaign, that there will be no Palestinian state while he is prime minister. What Mr. Netanyahu meant, as he later explained, was that the Palestinians have not shown a commitment to peace that would make him comfortable giving up further land in the West Bank at the moment. But by appearing to flip-flop on his pledge to seek a two-state solution—a bedrock of U.S. policy under Mr. Obama and George W. Bush—Mr. Netanyahu has provided ammunition for those in the White House who maliciously insist on painting him as a crazed warmonger and ethnic cleanser.

Will Mr. Obama succeed in pulling off his sweeping diplomatic realignment? He still has almost two years in office and considerable presidential prerogative to reorient foreign policy as he sees fit. Ironically, the biggest obstacle in his path may be the Iranian mullahs. If they reject his extraordinarily generous offer for fear of doing any deal with the Great Satan, the folly of his foreign-policy revolution will be brutally exposed.

Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present” (W.W. Norton, 2013).

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Yemen rebels threaten revenge on ‘Zionist’ Saudis after airstrikes

March 26, 2015

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As Saudi Arabia carried out airstrikes in Yemen Wednesday against Houthi forces, an official from the Shiite rebel group said they would exact revenge on “the Zionist Saudi regime,” the Israeli Ynet news site reported.
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Saudi Arabia launched an operation early Thursday to save the government of embattled PresidentAbedrabboMansourHadi as the country teetered on the brink of civil war after the Iran-backed separatists overran the southern stronghold of Aden.The Houthi official promised there would be no pilgrimage to the holy Saudi city Mecca this year.

Another Houthi official, a member of the Houthi political council, said on Al-Jazeera that “we will threaten you in your own homes.”

Anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish rhetoric is common among the Houthis. The slogan “Death to Israel. A curse on the Jews.” is common on flags and other propaganda materials.

Last week, video of the bombing of a Houthi mosque in Yemen showed the crowd chanting “Death to America. Death to Israel. Curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam. Allahu Akbar,” before a suicide bomber detonated himself, killing scores.

The United States is coordinating closely with Saudi Arabia and regional allies in the military action against Houthi rebels in Yemen, including providing intelligence and logistical support, the White House said Wednesday.

“President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Condemning the Houthi rebels, a Shiite militia that launched a power grab in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in February, Meehan said Washington had also been in close contact with the embattled Hadi.

US forces were not taking direct military action in Yemen, she stressed, but were “establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support.”

“We strongly urge the Houthis to halt immediately their destabilizing military actions and return to negotiations as part of the political dialogue,” added Meehan.

“The international community has spoken clearly through the UN Security Council and in other fora that the violent takeover of Yemen by an armed faction is unacceptable and that a legitimate political transition — long sought by the Yemeni people — can be accomplished only through political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all of the parties.”

Two senior US Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, endorsed the attacks. But they also used the occasion to criticize what they called a lack of US leadership in the region.

“We understand why our Saudi and other Arab partners felt compelled to take action. The prospect of radical groups like Al-Qaeda, as well as Iranian-backed militants, finding safe haven on the border of Saudi Arabia was more than our Arab partners could withstand,” the senators said in a joint statement.

“Their action also stems from their perception of America’s disengagement from the region and absence of US leadership,” they wrote.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowed in Mashhad, eastern Iran, Saturday.  
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowed in Mashhad, eastern Iran, Saturday. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

http://www.timesofisrael.com/yemen-rebels-threaten-revenge-on-zionist-saudis-after-airstrikes/

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U.S., Iran resume talks on preliminary nuclear deal as deadline looms

March 26, 2015

LAUSANNE, Switzerland Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:50am EDT

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) holds a negotiation meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) over Iran’s nuclear programme in Lausanne March 19, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

(Reuters) – The United States and Iran resumed negotiations on Thursday aimed at clinching a nuclear deal before a March 31 deadline, and officials close to the talks said some kind of preliminary agreement between Tehran and six powers was possible.

As the talks began, Washington and Tehran took opposing stands on Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen against rebels allied to Iran who are fighting to oust the country’s president, but it was unclear whether this would affect the nuclear talks.

The goal of the negotiations, underway for nearly 18 months, is an accord under which Iran would halt sensitive nuclear work for at least a decade. In exchange, international sanctions on Iran would be lifted under the deal to end its 12-year nuclear standoff with the West and reduce the risk of another war in the Middle East.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz met their Iranian counterparts, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi in the Swiss city of Lausanne.

Earlier, Iranian media quoted Zarif as condemning the Saudi-led military operation against the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters in Yemen, and demanding that it stop.

By contrast, Kerry spoke to the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council members on Thursday and welcomed their decision to take action against the Houthis, a senior U.S. official said.

However, neither Kerry nor Zarif responded when asked by a reporter in Lausanne to comment on the air strikes.

Speaking to reporters traveling with Kerry from Washington on Wednesday, a senior State Department official said the six powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – would not rush to complete a framework agreement with Iran just because there was a March 31 deadline.

But the official said the parties had made progress at last week’s inconclusive round of negotiations in Lausanne.

“We very much believe we can get this done by the 31st,” the official said. “We see a path to do that.” The official added, however, that there was no guarantee of success.

Israel, Saudi Arabia, France and U.S. Congress have all raised concerns that the administration of President Barack Obama might be willing to conclude a deal that would allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability in the future.

The official said: “Any political understanding needs to address in some way all of the elements of a final agreement.”

“We do not know what form this will take … We have always said it needs to have specifics. We will need to communicate as many specifics as possible in some form or fashion (to the public and U.S. Congress).”

Those elements include the different ways to a nuclear weapon, ensuring that it would take Iran at least one year to produce enough high enriched uranium for a single bomb, research and development into advanced centrifuges, transparency measures and monitoring, and sanctions relief for Iran.

FABIUS TO JOIN TALKS

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, opposes the idea of a two-step process. Iranian officials say they fear a written framework accord would curtail Tehran’s negotiating space for a final deal by the end of June.

Iranian officials have also suggested they could accept some kind of statement or political declaration in Lausanne, as opposed to a formal written agreement.

Officials close to the talks said deep disagreements remained between Tehran and the powers, while divisions had also emerged in recent weeks between the United States and France on what to demand of Tehran.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will go to Lausanne on Saturday to join the talks, a ministry spokesman said.

Iran denies Western allegations it is seeking the capability to procure atomic weapons. But Israel, which is believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, has previously threatened Iran with military attack.

With the Republican-led U.S. Congress threatening to vote on new sanctions against Iran if there is no agreement this month, the Obama administration is pushing hard to secure a deal. Obama has vowed to veto any new sanctions moves.

Other officials said some kind of agreement in Lausanne was possible. “The aim is to get a sort of memorandum of understanding that would be enough for Americans to take to Congress and the Iranians to keep to Khamenei’s demand,” said a Western diplomat involved in the talks.

“The aim is to get something out by Sunday, although the deadline is March 31,” the official added.

The main obstacle, Western officials say, remains Iran’s refusal to compromise on sanctions, research and development and other issues.

Even if there is a deal in the next few days, the U.S. official said much work will remain between now and the end of June to work out technical details. And there was no guarantee the talks would not collapse later.

The six powers and Iran have twice extended talks on a long term accord after missing deadlines in the wake of an interim agreement struck in 2013.

(additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Hay and David Stamp)

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Dangerous Precipice: Obama Declares War on Israel, Continues Talks With Iran, As Saudi Arabia Starts Airstrikes on Iran-Backed Rebels in Yemen

March 26, 2015

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The United States has been a friend and ally of both Israel and Saudi Arabia since the 1940s. Saudi Arabia and Israel have long known that “America has our back,” and the men and women of the United States, be they U.S. military personnel, business people or tourists; have always known that they can count on the Saudis and Israelis whenever the need arises.

Now, with the Obama Administration’s prolonged negotiations with the nuclear weapons threshold state of Iran, Middle East leaders are openly questioning the role of the United States in what may be the most difficult neighborhood on Earth. President Obama’s focus seems too often to be about removing troops without solving problems and criticizing decades old allies as they try to maintain peace in the Middle East.

American diplomats have died at the hands of jihadists in American consulates while other diplomatic post are closed or evacuated under duress.

In Iraq, the U.S. rush to draw down U.S. military end strength and widespread criticism of the Iraqi leadership has pushed Iraq into the arms of Iran. Iran’s most notorious spymaster and military fighter, General Qasem Sulaimani, is orchestrating movements of Iranians, Iraqis and militia in Iraq — all who have no love or allegiance to the United States. Americans are wondering if all the American blood spilled in Iraq has been in vain.

President Obama has turned his back on Israel and Saudi Arabia — except when he is condemning or criticizing their leaders. Even U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress are starting to openly question Mr. Obama’s dangerous path.

Today, the Saudi government started airstrikes on Yemen, to stop the rising tide of pro-Iran jihadists. Iran and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria condemned the Saudis in the international media. The U.S. has largely remained silent.

Without strong American leadership, the people of the United States may no longer be able to influence or participate in charting the course of the future in the Middle East. By passing up opportunities, like Syria’s use of chemical weapons that violated an Obama “red line,” and blindly continuing the negotiations with Iran, the signal has been sent that America has departed from decades of strong resolve and meaningful actions that many  Middle East leaders have come to expect — and admire.

Now we know less about the future of the Middle East than at almost any time in the last fifty years. One thing we do know is that Iran continues to proclaim “death to the Great Satan” and “death to Zionists.”

And America may have unwittingly given the Iranians the tools and opportunities they need to carry out their threats.

Peace and Freedom

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by Bassam Tawil
March 24, 2015 at 5:00 am

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5435/obama-war-israel

Translations of this item:

Instead of congratulating the Israeli people for being one of the few countries in the Middle East to hold real free and democratic elections, Obama has decided to inflict collective punishment not on Netanyahu, but on all Israelis, even its Muslim and Christian citizens, for having an election that came out not the way he wanted it to.

The terrorists have also been following with great enthusiasm reports that the Obama Administration is considering reassessing its policy — that the U.S. no longer considers Israel a strategic ally in the Middle East.

In short, Obama’s anti-Israel stance is the best gift the Americans could have given to Muslim terrorists and radical Arabs.

Obama also seems not to want to face the fact that because of his withdrawals and neglect, the situation in the Middle East today, with the rise of Islamic State and other terror groups, is not the same as it was even five years ago.

Thanks to Obama’s policies, the Iranians and their friends are now in control of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and much of Bahrain, and have surrounded the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile the U.S. has been forced to close down its embassies in three Arab countries — Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Even Palestinians and Arabs are aware of the fact that under the current circumstances a Palestinian state would sooner or later be controlled by jihadists and Islamic terrorists, whose dream is the destruction of Israel, Europe and the U.S.

The last thing the Americans and Europeans need is another Islamic extremist country that exports terrorism — with nuclear weapons — to all parts of the earth.

The real enemy is not Netanyahu. The real enemy is Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Islamic State.

Many Arabs and Muslims are rubbing their hands in joy as they watch U.S. President Barack Obama declare war on Israel after the victory of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party in last week’s general election.

They do not see the rising tensions between Obama and Netanyahu as the result of a personal dispute between two leaders. Instead, the dispute is seen by many Arabs and Muslims as part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to undermine Israel and force it to make territorial concessions that would pose an existential threat to Israel.

At the beginning of his first term in office, he raised high hopes in the Arab and Islamic countries when he rushed to deliver an apologetic speech at the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al-Azhar University in Cairo. His speech left many Arabs and Muslims with the impression that here, finally, is an American president who is prepared to sacrifice Israel for the sake of appeasing its enemies.

Muslims have long considered Obama to be on their side in the conflict with Israel. They were expecting him to become the first U.S. president to abandon Israel in favor of Arabs and Muslims. But since the 2009 speech in Cairo, there has been great disappointment with Obama in the Arab and Islamic countries for failing to “do something” about Israel.

Now, at long last, the Obama Administration’s increased hostility toward Israel is being welcomed in many Arab and Islamic capitals. They are overjoyed to see that after failing the Arabs and Muslims for the past six years, Obama seems finally to be moving in the “right” direction.

Terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad are also expressing satisfaction with what they see as Obama’s “declaration of war” against Israel. Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank are also celebrating over the fact that Israel has become the number one enemy of the Obama Administration.

This week, a Palestinian Authority official was quoted as saying that the Palestinians would not be surprised if President Obama himself joined their campaign to file war crimes charges against Israel before the International Criminal Court. The official was reported to have told a Ramallah-based Western diplomat that Obama hates Israel and this was good news for the Palestinians.

Israel’s enemies have been sitting on its borders and waiting for an opportunity to attack. One of the reasons they have been reluctant until now to wage an all-out war to destroy Israel was their fear that the U.S. would come to Israel’s rescue. But now, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Islamic State and other terror groups are hopeful that Obama has finally decided to abandon Israel.

The terrorists also have been following with great enthusiasm reports that the Obama Administration is considering reassessing its policy in the Middle East in the wake of Netanyahu’s electoral victory. This is exactly the kind of news they have been waiting to hear for so many years — that the U.S. no longer considers Israel its main strategic ally in the Middle East.

BassamTawil writes that President Obama’s anti-Israel stance is the best gift the Americans could have given to Islamist terrorists. Above, Israeli PM Netanyahu meets President Obama at the White House, May 20, 2011. (Image source: Israel PM office)

Reports that the Obama Administration will no longer support Israel in international forums and agencies, especially in the UN General Assembly and Security Council, are seen by a growing number of Arabs and Muslims as the beginning of the end of the partnership between the U.S. and Israel. This partnership has worried Israel’s enemies for decades because it stands in the way of achieving their goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth.

In short, Obama’s anti-Israel stance is the best gift the Americans could have given to Islamist terrorists and radical Arabs. For the first time ever, the Obama Administration has created hope among Israel’s enemies that the U.S. will at last give them his wholehearted support, just as he has been doing with Iran.

The sharp crisis between the Obama Administration and Israel has been taking place at a time when the U.S. is losing most of its Arab and Muslim friends, especially in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, as well as other countries. It is also taking place at a time when Iran is capturing one Arab country after the other, and has now surrounded all the oilfields in the Persian Gulf, as well as having quietly for years infiltrated South America.

Thanks to Obama’s policies, the Iranians and their friends are now in control of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and much of Bahrain, and have surrounded the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been forced to close down its embassies in three Arab countries — Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Instead of facing the dangers of the Iranian drive to export the Islamic revolution to as many Arab and Islamic countries as possible — with the help of an accelerating operation to acquire nuclear weapons — Obama has turned Israel in general, and Netanyahu in particular, into the main threat to world peace and stability.

And instead of congratulating the Israeli people for being one of the few countries in the Middle East to hold real free and democratic elections, Obama has decided to inflict collective punishment not on Netanyahu, but on all Israelis, even its Muslim and Christian citizens, for having an election that came out not the way he wanted it to.

What Obama does seem to want is to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state that would pose an existential threat to it and become the source of instability and tensions in the region. Obama also seems not to want to face the fact that because of his withdrawals and neglect, the situation in the Middle East today, with the rise of Islamic State and other terror groups, is not the same as it was even five years ago.

Even Palestinians and Arabs are aware of the fact that under the current circumstances a Palestinian state would sooner or later be controlled by jihadists and Islamic terrorists, whose dream is the destruction of Israel, Europe and the U.S.

If Obama is interested in reconsidering his Middle East policy, he should start by examining the repercussions of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on regional and international security. The last thing Americans and Europeans need is another Islamic extremist country that exports terrorism — most probably with nuclear weapons — to all parts of the earth.

Obama needs to wake up. The real enemy is not Netanyahu. The real enemy is Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Islamic State. Unfortunately, Obama — as he continues undermining moderate Muslims and Arabs in the free world — has decided to side with the wrong side.

Iran Condemns Saudi Arabia’s Military Intervention in Yemen — Things more difficult since Obama switched allies

March 26, 2015

Iran foreign minister says military action will escalate tension in the region

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, second right, before a meeting with a U.S. delegation in Lausanne during negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program earlier Thursday.   
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, second right, before a meeting with a U.S. delegation in Lausanne during negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program earlier Thursday. Photo: Reuters

By Aresu Eqbali in Tehran and Asa Fitch in Dubai
The Wall Street Journal

TEHRAN—Iran has condemned military intervention in Yemen by Saudi Arabia, calling it a dangerous development that will further destabilize a region already reeling from conflict.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday called for an immediate stop to military action after Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against targets around the capital, San’a, and a southern military base.

The strikes targeted military assets of Yemen’s ruling Shiite-linked Houthi militants after the country’s Saudi-backed president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled by boat from the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday. The Houthis, who had made a military push toward Mr. Hadi in Aden in recent days, are thought to receive support from Iran, a majority-Shiite Muslim country.

“It is necessary that military actions end as quickly as possible and talks start to find solution,” Mr. Zarif told the state-owned IRINN news channel. “We believe these types of military actions can only escalate tension in the region and they will give no advantage to any country that involves itself in these actions.”

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After the airstrikes Thursday morning, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain—five of the six countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council—said in a joint statement that were forming a coalition to intervene in Yemen in response to a request by Mr. Hadi.

Egypt is also coordinating participation in the campaign by its air force and navy, and could send a ground force if necessary, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement. Jordan, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan have also “declared their willingness to participate” in the operations, which Saudi Arabia has dubbed “Decisive Storm,” according to a statement by Saudi Arabia’s official SPA news agency.

Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham warned on Thursday that the attacks risked compounding an already tense regional security situation.

“These attacks will expand terrorism and accelerate insecurity all over the region,” Ms. Afkham was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency. “This is a dangerous move and against international responsibilities and respect for national sovereignty of countries.”

Write to Asa Fitch at asa.fitch@wsj.com

 

South China Sea: U.S. dawdles as China extends its maritime domination

March 26, 2015

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A general impression of American retreat does not  inspire confidence

This handout photo by Philippine military western command shows newly-constructed radar dome on Chinese-controlled Subi Reef, around 15 nautical miles northwest of the Philippine-controlled Pag-asa islands on the disputed Spratly islands in 2012.  
This handout photo by Philippine military western command shows newly-constructed radar dome on Chinese-controlled Subi Reef, around 15 nautical miles northwest of the Philippine-controlled Pag-asa islands on the disputed Spratly islands in 2012.
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Editorial
The Wall Street Journal
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China is building military bases on artificial islands hundreds of miles off its coast, in waters claimed by six other countries. These new fortresses in the South China Sea raise the risk of war, yet Washington seems to have no strategy to address them. Are the U.S. and its allies ceding the nearly 1.35 million square miles claimed by China without legal merit, including some of the busiest sea lanes on the planet?

Over the past year Chinese dredging and other landfill techniques have transformed tiny reefs into potential homes for military aircraft, ships, radar facilities and other assets. Formerly underwater during high tide, Johnson Reef is now a 25-acre landmass. Nearby Hughes Reef has grown big enough to host two piers and a cement plant. Gaven Reef is now 28 acres, with a helipad and antiaircraft tower. Fiery Cross Reef has grown 11-fold since August, with what appears to be a three-kilometer airstrip under construction. All are part of the Spratly islands, a cluster of rocks between the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, often some 650 miles from China.

U.S. Senators John McCain, Jack Reed, Bob Corker and Bob Menendez last week wrote a bipartisan letter asking Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry not to overlook China’s behavior. At stake, the Senators note, is the security of U.S. allies in Asia, the continued free flow of $5 trillion a year in oil, iPhones and other trade through the South China Sea, and the principle of “peaceful resolution of disputes.”

U.S. executive officials have done little more than politely ask Beijing to stop, citing a 2002 pledge by China and its neighbors to avoid provocative actions. Some in Washington don’t even see a problem. Former Obama Pentagon official Shawn Brimley has quoted an unnamed former colleague dismissing China’s Spratly fortresses as “a bunch of easy targets that would be taken out within minutes of a real contingency.” That is hardly comforting since the purpose of the bases is to change the status quo during peacetime.

The Senate letter asks the Administration to report on “specific actions the United States can take to slow down or stop China’s reclamation activities.” It further suggests publicizing relevant intelligence more regularly, calibrating U.S.-China security cooperation to encourage better Chinese behavior, and deepening U.S. partnerships across Asia.

However, U.S. defense cuts and a general impression of American retreat don’t inspire confidence. Asian states know they have to live next to China, so they hesitate to resist Chinese ambitions unless they feel Washington is a reliable partner.

The U.S. would help security in Asia if it began imposing costs on Chinese aggression. That would require accepting greater risk in U.S.-Chinese relations, but the alternative is watching China continue what it intends to be a gradual march to domination of the Western Pacific.

Washington could start by expanding training for the threats posed in the South China Sea, where China uses military, coast guard and civilian vessels to challenge others (such as the Philippine marines on Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys) and extend its military and economic reach (as with the oil rig it planted in Vietnamese waters last year). The U.S. could also jointly patrol the area with forces from the Philippines, Japan or other willing partners. Trying to work through the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations is probably futile.

The U.S. could also invite Taiwanese participation in the next Rim of the Pacific naval exercise set for 2016. China earned its first invitation in 2014, despite its adversarial record, while Taiwan was left out. Washington could also finally sell Taiwan upgraded F-16 fighter jets and help it field modern submarines, something first promised in 2001.

“The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” Hillary Clinton said in 2010. Five years later China is imposing its will more forcefully than ever. The U.S. and its partners may not have another five years to dawdle.

Related:

 (June 2013)

 

 

Bowe Bergdahl Charged With Desertion

March 25, 2015

Reuters

The Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef reports that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, according to his lawyer, who said he was informed at 1 p.m. The Army will announce its charges against Bergdahl at 3:30 p.m. Bergdahl went missing from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was soon captured by the Taliban, remaining prisoner until 2014 when the Obama administration traded him for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay. A soldier who served with Bergdahl accused him of deserting, adding that fellow soldiers died looking for him.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2015/03/25/bowe-bergdahl-charged-with-desertion.html

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 March 25, 2015, 2:09 PM ET

 

 

 

 

 

Kerry on historic mission for Iran nuclear deal

March 25, 2015

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After months of closed-door negotiations, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his team was headed once again for talks in Switzerland with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

By Joe Biddle

Washington (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry left Washington on Wednesday for a date with history, hoping to seal a deal reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions for years to come.

After months of closed-door negotiations, Kerry and his team was headed once again for talks in Switzerland with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The two nations broke diplomatic ties more than three decades ago during a 444-day hostage taking in the American embassy in Tehran and have remained foes ever since.

But now, negotiators from six world powers hope to meet a March 31 deadline for a landmark political agreement Iran to stop the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear bomb.

In return, Tehran wants a labyrinth of crippling economic sanctions to be eased or lifted, to free up billions of dollars frozen in bank accounts and to regain access to lucrative oil markets and global trade.

Any deal that brings Iran in from the cold will face opposition from key US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia and from hawks in the US Congress who see it as a naive capitulation.

But Kerry will mount a robust defense, telling an audience of senior US diplomats before he left: “Anybody standing up in opposition to this has an obligation to stand up and put a viable realistic alternative on the table.

“And I have yet to see anybody do that”

An accord would cap more than a decade of painstaking negotiations which, after protracted delays and hurdles, have gathered fresh impetus since the 2013 election of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

It would also mark a legacy-making foreign policy coup in the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, and a personal triumph for veteran politician and diplomat, Kerry.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told CNN Wednesday that “it’s a key week” for the negotiators who aim to increase the so-called “breakout time” for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon to about a year.

“The fact is, without these negotiations Iran was moving towards a nuclear weapon,” Psaki said, saying opponents of the deal were not offering any other solutions.

“What we’re doing here is extending the period of time giving us more time, giving the international community more time to track and watch what they’re doing.”

– Opposition gathers steam –

As the clock has ticked down to Tuesday’s deadline, simmering tensions with opponents of a deal have reached boiling point.

And Obama’s Republican foes in Congress are lining up to vote on new Iran sanctions next month, should diplomacy fail.

Washington has also found itself at odds with allies like France, wary that Obama’s administration may be making too many concessions in its haste to reach an agreement.

At best, opponents argue the deal will only delay Iranian nuclear ambitions for a decade or so. At worst, they say, the country’s leaders will be able to covertly move ahead with developing a nuclear weapon.

Kerry’s return to Lausanne to resume the talks with Zarif on Thursday will only fuel speculation that now an agreement is within sight in the coming days.

Other foreign ministers from the so-called P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — are reportedly expected to arrive in the lakeside Swiss town over the weekend.

The complex deal on the table would likely involve Iran reducing its nuclear activities, allowing strict, and perhaps even unannounced UN inspections, while mothballing sophisticated equipment needed to enrich uranium.

Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, and says its atomic energy program is purely for civilian purposes.

Iran Nuclear Deal: Despite Resistance From Iran, Allies and U.S. Lawmakers, Kerry and Obama Push to Complete By March 31

March 25, 2015

“It’s a question of Obama’s legacy at this point,” an official said.

Reuters

WASHINGTON/PARIS — The United States will struggle to secure a framework nuclear deal between Iran and major powers by a March 31 deadline due to resistance from Tehran and scepticism among other countries, officials said.

With the two sides resuming negotiations this week, Washington is under heavy pressure as it pushes for the political framework accord that would lay the foundations for a full deal with Iran by June 30.

The aim is to curb Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities for at least a decade in exchange for an end to sanctions that have crippled its economy. However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected the idea of two accords, fearing a framework agreement would remove Tehran’s ability to negotiate on details, Iranian officials say.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (C) departs his hotel to return to Iran following days of negotiations with United States Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran’s nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland March 20, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

France, which blocked an interim deal in 2013 until changes were made, has doubts about trying to secure the framework agreement at the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland. It has suggested focusing on the June deadline.

“(Saying that) an agreement has to be reached by the end of March is a bad tactic,” French Ambassador to Washington and former nuclear negotiator Gerard Araud said last week, warning against putting “pressure on ourselves to conclude at any price”.

Israel, Saudi Arabia, France and the U.S. Congress have all raised concerns that the administration of President Barack Obama might be willing to conclude a deal that would allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability in the future.

The talks are expected to start on Thursday with a meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Ministers from some other members of the six power group are expected to arrive later.

The Obama administration admits the task will not be easy. “We believe we can get a political framework done by the end of March,” a senior U.S. official told Reuters. “It doesn’t mean we’ll get there, but we’re not working for anything less.”

Iran’s FARS news agency cited an Iranian official as saying that something less substantial would emerge. “It is very likely that they sign a joint statement in Lausanne and not an agreement,” the official said.

Officials from some of the six powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – have echoed this view with some suggesting a memorandum of understanding could be agreed.

“TWO STEPS BACK”

The main problem, Western officials complain, is Tehran has not budged from positions it held 18 months ago when negotiations began amid hopes that the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, wanted a deal to rescue Iran’s economy.

“The Iranians take two steps forward, one step back, then two steps back and one step forward. We’re not moving,” a senior Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told the Security Council on Tuesday that there were deep disagreements with Iran, especially on the issues of research and development of advanced centrifuges and lifting U.S., U.N. and European Union sanctions.

Iran wants all sanctions on its energy and financial sectors lifted immediately if there is a deal, while Western powers want them removed gradually.

Despite the Israeli and Saudi concerns, officials say the U.S. delegation does not believe an agreement is inevitable.

“There are still significant gaps and important choices that need to be made in these negotiations and as we have said many times no deal is better than a bad deal,” U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, David Pressman, said on Tuesday.

The negotiations pick up from last week’s unsuccessful round. Officials close to the talks said the Iranians left because of tensions within the six-power group. The Americans remain concerned that France, whose positions are closest to Israel’s, could once again block a deal, they added.

If there is no deal, the Republican-led Congress has said it would press ahead with new U.S. sanctions despite Obama’s vow to veto any such moves.

President Obama used a Persian New Year video to make the case for a nuclear deal directly to the people of Iran. But the House of Representatives and the Senate at home have “grave doubts.”  Credit Chris Jackson/Getty Images North America

Several Western officials said they were worried that Obama sees a deal with Iran as one of the few trophies he could claim before he leaves office in January 2017. “It’s a question of Obama’s legacy at this point,” an official said. “Middle East peace is unachievable. Iran is achievable.”

U.S. administration officials insist those fears are groundless and say they are working for a deal that would make it impossible for Iran to construct a nuclear weapon swiftly. Tehran denies harboring any such ambitions but has refused to halt uranium enrichment as demanded by the U.N. Security Council.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; writing by Parisa Hafezi and Louis Charbonneau)

Related:

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/File)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/File)
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